The summer break is over and the opening gameweek of the Premier League is here. Harry Kane might still be at Tottenham Hotspur but Jack Grealish could make his debut for Manchester City after his £100M move from Aston Villa, while Chelsea could feature new £97.5M striker Romelu Lukaku. We’ve put together this first part of our previews for all the matches the first gameweek along with betting tips to help you beat the bookies.
Brentford vs Arsenal
The first game of the Premier League season takes place on Friday night, with Premier League new boys Brentford playing Arsenal at the Brentford Community Stadium. It’s a huge game for the Bees who were promoted to the top flight from the EFL Championship via the playoffs last season, while Mikel Arteta will be expecting his team to show how much they have improved since last season.
The big news from Brentford is that striker Ivan Toney is fit having missed the last pre-season friendly with Valencia due to a neck problem. Toney scored 31 times for Brentford in 45 league games following his £5M move from Peterborough and he will be looking to make a bigger impression on the Premier League than he did back in 2015-16 with Newcastle United. He could be partnered up front with Congolese forward Yoane Wissa but key midfield pair Mathias Jensen and Josh Dasilva will miss out with injury.
Arsenal could field as many as three debutants with defenders Ben White and Nuno Tavares along with midfielder Albert Lokonga all vying for a starting place. However, defender Gabriel, midfielder Thomas Partey along with striker Eddie Nketiah are all out for the first month of the season. Bernd Leno will start in goal despite rumours linking him with a move away from the club, after Arsenal failed to secure the signing of Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United.
Manchester United vs Leeds United
The opening Saturday game is one that was once a big rivalry, although the time Leeds spent away from the Premier League has lessened its impact somewhat. Even so, both sides will want to start the season well and Marcelo Bielsa’s side will want nothing more than to get one over the Red Devils to kick off their season.
England winger Jadon Sancho only joined training with Manchester United on Monday, but he could be called into the team immediately due to his England colleague Marcus Rashford having to have surgery. Raphael Varane has yet to wrap up his move to Old Trafford from Real Madrid and will not be playing, while defender Alex Telles is also injured. It will be interesting to see how Paul Pogba starts now it seems certain he will stay at Manchester United for at least this season; Pogba has often been poor when there hasn’t been the prospect of a move or a new contract to motivate him.
Leeds have doubts over three players; new left-back Junior Firpo has a minor injury as does his Spanish compatriot in central defence Diego Llorente. However, Jack Harrison should play his first game as a permanent Leeds player having made the £11M move to Elland Road from Manchester City this summer. Harrison knows the surroundings well, having played over 100 league games on loan for Leeds in the last three years on loan from the Citizens.
Leicester City vs Wolves
The Foxes come into the game on a high having won the Community Shield last week at Wembley, with Kelechi Iheanacho scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot. Brendan Rodgers will want a good league start from his charges and against a Wolves team seemingly in transition will be hopeful of three points.
Leicester do have injuries to contend with. Timothy Castagne could come back back into the team having suffered a double fracture of his eye-socket, although he would have to play in a mask if he does get picked. However, central defender Wesley Fofana is out until 2022 having damaged ligaments, while Jonny Evans is ruled out until the international break. Rodgers could stick with the partnership of Daniel Amartey and Caglar Soyuncu in defence, while new signings Boubakary Soumare and Patson Daka are both vying for debuts.
Wolves lost coach Nuno to Spurs in the summer break, bringing in Bruno Lage for his first managerial role since being sacked by Benfica in July 2020. That followed a shocking run of form, equalling Benfica’s worst ever series of results which will no doubt have Wolves fans wondering what he can do. Keeper Rui Patricio has departed for Roma and will be replaced as first choice by compatriot Jose Sa following his move from Olympiacos. Much for Wolves will depend on how well Raul Jimenez has recovered following his fractured skull and how well Barcelona loanee Francisco Trincao settles into the team.
Chelsea vs Crystal Palace
The Eagles come into this season with a new manager following the retirement of Roy Hodgson along with fresh investment into the playing squad. Patrick Vieira has done well so far with New York City FC and Ligue 1 outfit Nice but this will represent his toughest test. He brings his Crystal Palace side to face a Chelsea team that was reinvigorated by Thomas Tuchel to such an extent that they won the Champion’s League. Now it’s on the German to show how far he can take the Blues in the Premier League with Chelsea not having won a title since 2016.
The big signing this window has been the return of Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku to Stamford Bridge following his transfer from Inter. Although Lukaku wrapped up his transfer on Thursday this game has probably come too soon for him and Chelsea could continue with Timo Werner in the centre forward slot. However, Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech is definitely out having picked up an injury in the Super Cup win against Villareal. He was replaced by Christian Pulisic in that game and the American forward could continue in that position.
Palace will be without young attacking midfielder Eberechi Eze, who damaged his Achilles at the end of last season and as yet has not been given a return date, while new signing Michael Olise is also out with a back injury. Midfielder Conor Gallagher is ineligible to make his debut due to Palace playing his parent club, but defender Marc Guehi should start in the central defence following his permanent move from Stamford Bridge. Wilfried Zaha should lead the line once again having again failed to move in the summer window.
Watford vs Aston Villa
Watford return to the Premier League with this match against Aston Villa having finished second in the Championship last season. A large part of that success was the appointment of Xisco Munoz as head coach, with the Hornets winning 18 of the 27 games he took charge of following his appointment as coach. They face a Villa side facing up to life without their talismanic forward Jack Grealish and heightened expectations from fans after more heavy spending.
The Hornets will be without forward Josh King who just misses out with injury while midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah is out with illness and striker Joao Pedro remains out with a knee injury picked up in a friendly last month. However, both left back Adam Masina and midfielder Domingos Quina have returned to training and could be in the squad. Ashley Fletcher could make his full debut up front following his transfer from Middlesbrough.
Villa manager Dean Smith is without a few players for this game, although both forward Ollie Watkins and new midfielder Emi Buendia could be fit enough to make the squad. Douglas Luiz is definitely out having only recently returned from the Olympics while Jamaican winger Leon Bailey hasn’t yet trained with his new teammates. Danny Ings should make his debut up front following his move from Southampton.
Everton vs Southampton
It’s been a tumultuous summer for both teams in this game. Everton lost manager Carlo Ancelotti to Real Madrid and made the controversial choice to replace him with Rafa Benitez, who famously managed the Toffees’ arch-rivals Liverpool. That decision has not gone down well with the Goodison faithful and Benitez will need a good start to his season. That could come against a Southampton team which has seen a few of their best players leave and who might be struggling this year.
Brazilian forward Richarlison will not play having played in both the Copa America and the Olympics for his country, while England forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin is rated as a doubt with a foot injury. Moise Kean could come back into the side having returned from a year playing for PSG but a knock means the Italian is also a doubt.
The big question for Southampton is just how well will Adam Armstrong fill the gap left in the strike force by the departure of Danny Ings. Like Che Adams, Armstrong has a good record in the Championship having scored 28 times for Blackburn Rovers last year but Adams showed last year how hard the step up to the top flight can be. Ralph Hassenhuttl can also call on on-loan forward Armando Broja but talismanic skipper James Ward-Prowse is an injury doubt.