Manchester United vs Tottenham
As the Premier League returns this weekend there is a mouth-watering curtain raiser to whet the appetite as Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United side host Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham. The Red Devils have really splashed the cash this summer, bringing in midfield reinforcements in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin, along with Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay. Meanwhile the remit for Spurs in the window has been clear. They’ve signed three defenders on the back of a season that saw only four sides concede more goals, with 53.
The fact that 3 of said tally came in this fixture last season, with United running out 3-0 winners back in March, doesn’t bode particularly well for a Tottenham side that drew a blank in both matches against Van Gaal’s men in 2014/15. With no changes made to their attacking ranks the Londoners will be pinning their hopes on Harry Kane once again, while his England compatriot Wayne Rooney looks set to be the lead striker for United following the departures of Van Persie and Falcao.
All eyes may well be on the man set to play the support role to the United skipper up front though, with much expected of new arrival Memphis Depay. The young Dutchman, who made his international bow under Van Gaal’s stewardship, has scored more goals over the past two Eredivisie seasons than any other player (34), and notched 22 times en route to a comprehensive title win for PSV last season. Garnering a WhoScored.com rating of 7.92 in the process, he is certainly one to watch.
Chelsea vs Swansea
Saturday’s action is rounded off at champions Chelsea, who host a Swansea side that enjoyed unprecedented success themselves last time out. The task for the Blues is to retain their dominance in the Premier League despite a quiet summer, while Garry Monk must now aim to better the Swans’ record points haul in a top-flight season from last time out (56).
Likely to be without star striker Diego Costa, and following an underwhelming pre-season, many feel that Chelsea won’t have it as easy this time around, and it’s certainly a tricky start to their campaign against an improving Swansea side. If the West London outfit’s last two matches are anything to go by, they have the task of picking the lesser of two evils in Loic Remy and new signing Falcao to start up front, though the former will hope to get the nod having opened his account for the club in this fixture last season.
Meanwhile, the visitors may be set to hand debuts to former Ligue 1 pairing Franck Tabanou and Andre Ayew, with the latter’s arrival on a free transfer early in the summer catching many off guard. The Ghana international has been a star of French football for some time now and netted 10 goals to help earn a rating of 7.42 from WhoScored.com last season. However, getting the better of opposite number Eden Hazard, who secured the highest score of any Premier League player last season (7.96), is an unenviable task on any debut.
Arsenal vs West Ham
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal will hope to take the momentum from their Community Shield win over Chelsea last week into Sunday’s early kick-off against West Ham. The Frenchman’s opposite number, new Hammers boss Slaven Bilic, put up a stern test for his counterpart with Besiktas in a Champions League qualifier this time last year and will hope to do the same this time around.
West Ham have also been in European action already this summer, somewhat fighting their way through 3 modest opponents - at best - in the Europa League. While they should be match fit, the signs haven’t been too encouraging thus far despite some notable new signings. Dimitri Payet certainly stands out among those and will act as a direct replacement for Stewart Downing, and significant upgrade if last season’s performances were anything to go by. The France international created more chances than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues (134) for a whopping tally of 17 assists last season, and WhoScored rating of 7.62 - enough to rank fourth in Ligue 1.
Arsenal have been far less active in comparison this summer but the arrival of former Chelsea favourite Petr Cech is tipped to give them a real shot at a return to the summit of the Premier League. The Czech keeper may only have played 7 league games last season but still boasted the second best save success rate in England’s top tier (80%), keeping 5 clean sheets in the process. Meanwhile at the other end big things are expected of last weekend’s match-winner Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who will hope to profit from the absence of Alexis Sanchez at the start of the season.
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