The new season is upon us as the English Premier League and the French Ligue 1 start this week. We should be in for an exciting season with many twists and turns. Let’s sit back and enjoy the ride. This season, I will be giving you 5 things to watch for in the games each Friday. I hope you enjoy!
- The start of new campaigns for the massive managerial names in England. – One of the big story lines all season will be the managers and how they interact. No league in the world has the managers that the Premier League has this season. Think about it…Pep Guardiola vs. Jose Mourinho alone would be great television, but Antonio Conte has joined, you have Jurgen Klopp entering his first full season, Claudio Rainieri as defending champion, Arsene Wenger is still at Arsenal, and David Moyes is making his return. That leaves out the Pochittino (Tottenham), Koeman (Everton), and Howe (Bournemouth) factors. This is a storyline to watch all season, but especially after the first games of the season.
- How will Manchester United line up and will Rooney & Zlatan work? – I know that many people are picking United to win the title, but I personally am not convinced. I know that Mourinho is great at times as a manager and gets results, but sometimes it does not work out long term and he does make mistakes. This is one of his biggest projects as this United team had a lot of holes. They should be a much improved side but can the big 2 up front coexist? What does it mean for Martial and Rashford? I think we will see both Rooney and Zlatan in the lineup together this weekend, but will it work out long term?
- How will Leicester start the defense of their title? – Last season was amazing. Watching Leicester just keep on going all season was breathtaking and the best Cinderella story ever. This season, the odds seem stacked against them as well. They start the season with a trip to newly promoted and manager-less Hull City. How will they come out and play? This season Leicester will not have as much space to counterattack as teams should have figured that out by now. That was a big part of how Vardy and Leicester were so successful last season. The other big question mark with this team is the fact that Arsenal seem determined to get Riyad Mahrez this summer. That would be a big change for Leicester, so keep an eye on him this weekend.
- How will PSG start under new manager Unai Emery and without Zlatan? – A new era begins tonight in Paris as Unai Emery takes charge of the squad for the first league game. He has his work cut out for him as outgoing manager Laurent Blanc won 3 titles in each of the last two seasons but failed to deliver the Champions League. Emery’s job will be to maintain the success in the French league and add European glory to that trophy hall. The odds are stacked against him as he is without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edison Cavani is injured for the first game. He has strengthened the depth of the squad but will need a big season from Di Maria and Cavani if he hopes to win the Champions League. It will be interesting to see how the season starts for him today in Bastia.
- Can Marseille, Lyon, or Monaco start the season on a positive note? – Last season all three of these teams had dreadful starts and this meant that by Halloween the French league was basically over. They now will hope that a fresh start can lead to some success. Monaco hosts Guingamp today. Marseille hosts Toulouse and Lyon travels to Nancy on Sunday. These are all three winnable games and in fact, probably must win games if any of them want to challenge PSG. You might be saying there is no way this is a must win game, but remember PSG had the title clinched in March last season. If any of these teams drop points early, PSG could easily put them out of sight again.
5 Games to Watch This Weekend
Arsenal vs. Liverpool – The EPL starts off with a bang as two top four contenders meet in London on Sunday. Arsene Wenger is looking to end his now 12 year EPL title drought. Many people are saying he has still not got the striker and defender he needs. Jurgen Klopp takes charge of his first full season at Liverpool and with no European football, he will hope to find success in the league.
My Pick – Arsenal 1, Liverpool 1: Goals by Sanchez and Mané
Brad’s Pick – Arsenal 2, Liverpool 1: Goals by Sanchez, Giroud, and Benteke
Chelsea vs. West Ham – the first Monday night game of the season features two teams that could be in and around the top 6 of the season. Antonio Conte has the job of trying to rebuild after a disastrous season for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. He will look to re-galvanize a very strong squad.
My Pick – Chelsea 2, West Ham 1: Goals by Hazard, Costa, and Payet
Brad’s Pick – Chelsea 3, West Ham 1: Goals by Costa (2), Hazard, and Carroll
Everton vs. Tottenham – the Ronald Koeman era starts with a home game for Everton as Tottenham comes to town. Tottenham will hope to build on their third place finish and possibly win their first ever Premier League title.
My Pick – Everton 1, Tottenham 1: Goals by Barkley and Kane
Brad’s Pick – Everton 0, Tottenham 3: Goals by Kane and Dembele
Bordeaux vs. Saint Etienne – both of these teams will look to get off to a good start. Saint Etienne will hope to be in the conversation for a European place this season and possibly a Champions League place.
My Pick – Bordeaux 1, Saint Etienne 2: Goals by Plasil, Beric, and Tannane
Brad’s Pick – Bordeaux 1, Saint Etienne 1: Goals by Sertic and Roux
Marseille vs. Toulouse – both of these teams could challenge for the top 3, or be in the relegation battle. Which one gets off to the faster start will make a big difference.
My Pick – Marseille 2, Toulouse 1: Goals by Cabella, Gomis, and Braithwaite
Brad’s Pick – Marseille 1, Toulouse 1: Goals by Gomis and Pesic