11 Sep Can Marcelo Bielsa boost Leeds legacy as Liverpool fend off Premier League foes?
Just 48 days after the curtain came down the strangest Premier League season ever, the eagerly-anticipated 2020-21 campaign gets under way this weekend.
Ahead of the opening round of fixtures, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the main talking points.
Can Leeds make an early dent on Liverpool’s title defence?
While the coronavirus pandemic rocked the world of sport, there was no stopping Saturday’s opponents at Anfield romping to their respective titles. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds racked up 99 points – an eye-watering 18 more than nearest rivals Manchester City – on their way to their first league title in 30 years. Liverpool kick off their defence against Leeds, who ended a long wait of their own by sealing promotion from the Sky Bet Championship by a 10-point margin. There is much excitement about Marcelo Bielsa’s men as United return to the top flight for the first time since 2004.
Aubameyang-inspired Arsenal to ruin Fulham’s return?
Given the way Mikel Arteta’s men were ripped apart by City as ‘Project Restart’ got under way, the manner in which they rallied, defeated Pep Guardiola’s men in the FA Cup semi-finals and went onto win the competition was impressive. Beating Liverpool in the Community Shield underlined the fine work being done by the Spaniard, who appears to have convinced free-scoring skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to sign a new deal at a club who kick off the campaign at Fulham. Promoted at the first time of asking after Scott Parker steered the side through the play-offs, the Whites will be looking to make a solid start to the campaign having made some intelligent-looking signings.
How will the new blue boys do?
In a transfer window impacted by the bite of Covid-19 on income streams, Chelsea have made the biggest and most impressive splash in the market. With the Eden Hazard money still swilling around Roman Abramovich’s pocket as well, along with the savings made during the Blues’ transfer ban, they have spent big on Germany internationals Timo Werner and Kai Havertz having long since got a move for Hakim Ziyech over the line. Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell have bolstered a defence that could soon be playing in front of a new goalkeeper, albeit Kepa Arrizabalaga may line up in Monday’s season opener at Brighton. Graham Potter’s men have done some smart business themselves this summer, with experienced Joel Veltman and Adam Lallana signing deals at a club who pinned highly-rated defender Ben White to a new deal.
All or nothing as Mourinho starts season against Everton?
Jose Mourinho has been box office throughout his career – and the Tottenham manager has lived up to the billing in Amazon’s docuseries about the club’s 2019-20 campaign. Fans of Spurs and beyond have been captivated by the behind-the-scenes look at life at a club who are looking to get back on track after a challenging campaign. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Matt Doherty have bolstered a squad who have the talent to challenge for silverware this term, with Everton’s arrival on Sunday offering an interesting glimpse of what they could achieve. Carlo Ancelotti will also get a better idea about his side’s capabilities, having made some major moves in the transfer market. James Rodriguez – a player he knows well from spells together at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich – has joined to much fanfare, while the stabilising influence of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure in midfield could have a big impact.
Can Bilic bag win on WBA’s return against Leicester?
Slaven Bilic takes charge of his first Premier League match since being sacked by West Ham in November 2017 as the Baggies make their top-flight return after a two-year absence. West Brom finished runners-up to Leeds in the Championship but have yet to noticeably strengthen that squad. The impressive trio of Matheus Pereira, Grady Diangana and Callum Robinson have made loan moves permanent, but Cedric Kipre of Wigan is the only new face. Among the favourites for relegation, they host Leicester on Sunday as Brendan Rodgers’ men look to make up for a chastening end to the season. Injuries bit as the Foxes dropped out of the Champions League places at the death, while they continue to juggle absentees entering 2020-21.