The Premier League is back and so, at last, are packed-out stadiums as the 2021-22 campaign gets under way.
Here, the PA news agency picks out five of the main talking point ahead of the opening round of fixtures.
Supporters are back
For the first time since coronavirus took hold in March 2020, top-flight matches will be played out in front of full stadiums. Last season was almost entirely played behind closed doors as the country wrestled with the pandemic, but the easing of restrictions after initial incremental loosening means grounds will again be packed to the rafters. There will be measures in place aimed at preventing any potential outbreaks during what is sure to be an emotional weekend for many.
Bees buzzing for the big time
Among the most excited fans will be those of promoted Brentford who host Arsenal in Friday’s Premier League curtain raiser. The south-west London club were in League Two as recently as 2009 and dusted themselves down after last year’s play-off final loss to Fulham by beating Swansea at Wembley to go up via that route in May. The Bees’ first top-flight season since the 1946-47 season will also see fans fill the Brentford Community Stadium which replaced Griffin Park last September. Arsenal make the trip across the capital looking to be the party poopers.
Uniteds do battle at Old Trafford
The biggest attendance of the first weekend will come at Old Trafford, where old foes Manchester United and Leeds go toe-to-toe. Big-money summer signings Jadon Sancho and – assuming he is finally announced – Raphael Varane will be hoping to make their debuts for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, who are desperate to build on last season’s second-placed finish. The Europa League runners-up welcome Marcelo Bielsa’s free-flowing Leeds in what is sure to be a cauldron-like atmosphere on Saturday.
Kane cloud hangs over Spurs against City
The future of Spurs star Harry Kane has dominated the summer as Manchester City look to whisk the unsettled striker to the north-west. The England captain could join his Tottenham team-mates for training on Friday for the first time since last season if he tests negative for coronavirus, leaving him precious little time to prepare to face suitors City. Kane and new boss Nuno Espirito Santo were due to hold talks earlier this week, with the Portuguese keen to “solve all the situations”. Whether that can be done before Sunday against the reigning Premier League champions is a key question, with £100million man Jack Grealish pushing for his first City start.
Blues cruise against Palace?
Thomas Tuchel’s men kick-off their domestic campaign fresh from adding the Super Cup to their Champions League crown, thanks to Wednesday’s penalty shoot-out victory against Villarreal in Belfast. The toll of extra-time was clear on his players in Northern Ireland, where goalscorer Hakim Ziyech was forced off injured during a tougher evening than Chelsea would have liked. Romelu Lukaku’s return should be confirmed before Saturday’s Stamford Bridge opener and pressure will be on the west Londoners to get off to a quick start against Crystal Palace as Patrick Vieira takes charge of his first competitive match in charge.