Weekend Boxset: Premier League 2017/18 Match Day 1



Seven great matches to take you from Friday to Sunday. It's the Sound of Football Weekend Boxset.

All times are BST (GMT +1)


Friday



Premier League: Arsenal v Leicester


19.45 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event


Both teams have made shrewd acquisitions this summer. For the Gunners, Alexandre Lacazette - a proven goal scorer at the top level - looks relatively good business at €53 million; but the performance of powerhouse wingback Sead Kolašinac, a free transfer from Schalke, in last weekend's Community Shield penalty win over Chelsea, looks like the bargain of the transfer window. Leicester too have strengthened with another attack-minded defender, Harry Maquire, who impressed in Hull's relegation fight. They've also spent £25 million on Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City who, at just 20 years old, could prove an excellent investment for the Foxes. While rumours still surround Monaco's Lemar, Arsenal's business in the transfer market from now on looks purely outbound as they look to trim the fat from a bloated and mostly fit again squad. Leicester will be looking to break their Emirates duck having lost their last ten League visits to Arsenal.
 



Saturday



Premier League: Watford v Liverpool


12.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event


Although failing to keep Hull in the Premier League, Marco Silva impressed enough to be given another opportunity, this time in charge of Watford. Another 17th place finish would be good enough for the Hornets this season and their purchases seem to reflect their modest ambitions. Among their buys are two mainstays of the England U21 side, Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah. At 22, Chalobah has ended his England under age career having turned out 97 times for the Three Lions at various levels. After six loan spells and just 1 Premier League start in six seasons at Chelsea, this looks like an excellent opportunity for him. Liverpool have bought another Chelsea and England youngster, Dominic Solanke, who starred as the player of the tournament in England's U20 World Cup win in the summer. A big talent, though perhaps not quite ready to fill the boots of Phillipe Coutinho should he, as seems most likely, be off to Barcelona.
 



Premier League: Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City


17.30 on BT Sport 1


Brighton's only previous spell in the top flight began with a 4-0 defeat at the Goldstone Ground to Arsenal in 1979. Any improvement on that result in this fixture against the bookies' favourites to win the Premier League will be a step in the right direction. In the intervening years, Brighton have become homeless, almost driven out of business, and survived relegation from the league on the basis of goals scored. Under Chris Hughton, they matched a much more heavily-resourced Newcastle stride for stride in their promotion campaign. Staying up will be tough but is certainly not beyond their reach. City have had a huge clear out over the summer, especially in defence. While managing at Barcelona and especially at Bayern, Pep Guardiola's tactics relied on the ability of his inverted full backs - ability the players he inherited at City clearly didn't possess. Unfortunately for Pep, finding the new Philipp Lahm or Dani Alves isn't as easy as one might think for a club with the financial muscle of City. With the likes of Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo coming in, does Pep finally have the full backs he needs to play the game he wants? 
 



Eredivisie: Heracles v Ajax


19.45 on Sky Sports Football


The title race in the Netherlands was one of the few in Europe that went down to the wire last season. Ajax's dogged chase almost denied Feyenoord their first title in 18 years. That chase and their performance in the Europa League was enough to convince Dortmund to lure their head coach Peter Bosz to replace the outgoing Thomas Tuchel. Given the stellar names that have held the position in the past, the new Ajax coach, Marcel Keizer, is a relative unknown; his playing and managerial career largely limited to the Dutch second tier. He was in charge of Jong Ajax last season, leading them to second place in the Eerste Divisie but his only experience of managing in the top flight was the last three months of Cambuur's relegation season in 2016. Games like this against a comfortably mid-table-bound Heracles are ones he'll be expected to win with little effort. 





Sunday



Premier League: Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur


13.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event


In our season opening podcast, I recount a conversation I had with a group of Tottenham fans a couple of weeks ago. When I asked them what their prediction was for their side this season they all said 5th. For a side who finished clear above everyone bar Chelsea, this would, on the outside look a very pessimistic outlook but having made no additions to the squad in the summer and moving out of White Hart Lane to play at a ground where they have lost seven out of ten games, enthusiasm is understandably tempered. They have held on to their key players and their performances at the end of last season were breathtaking, home and away, so there isn't any reason they can't hit the ground running - but pessimism can be infectious. Newcastle finished 5th as recently as 2012 but Premier League survival is the main priority of Rafa Benitez on their return to the top tier. Newcastle's activity in the transfer market has been "disappointing" according to Rafa but the rumoured addition of Arsenal's Lucas Perez could give them the extra firepower they need to secure a mid-table finish.
 



Premier League: Manchester United v West Ham United


16.00 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event


Despite finishing 24 points behind Chelsea last season, Jose Mourinho's side are strongly fancied to push hard for this season's title, but then, aren't they always. Last season, this home fixture - like six others - ended 1-1. Ibramhimovic got the equaliser that day, one of 22 goals he either scored or assisted in out of the 54 the side registered in the League (fewer than Bournemouth). With Zlatan and Rooney now gone, Romelu Lukaku is the man United have pinned their hopes upon improving their goal record. He's already off the mark, scoring in the 2-1 UEFA Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid but the pressure is on especially if Jose fails to land a another big signing before the window closes. Former United back-up striker Javier Hernandez returns to the Premier League with West Ham after a successful two season spell in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen. Apparently you can get 44/1 for him to score in a 1-1 draw in this game, if you like a flutter.
 



Supercopa de España 1st leg: Barcelona v Real Madrid


21.00 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event


Given their dominance in Europe, it would be easy to imagine this curtain-raiser to the Spanish season was almost always contested between these sides. In fact, this is only the third time they have met in the last twenty Supercopa. With the transfer window still open, both sides are at least rumoured to be in business for more high profile comings and goings before the month is out. Gareth Bale's inclusion in Real's UEFA Super Cup win against United on Tuesday would suggest that he's not going anywhere. Barcelona meanwhile, even more flush than usual with their Neymar money, seem certain to land both Coutinho and Dortmund's Ousmane Dembélé but not in time for this game.
The second leg is on Wednesday, the away goals rule applies. 
 



Whatever you watch, have a great weekend



Graham (@grahamsibley)



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