Manchester City kick-off the new Premier League season at Burnley on Friday to begin their bid to become the first side to ever win four consecutive English top-flight titles. Arsenal appear best-placed to capitalise if City’s grip on the English game is to come to an end and will expect to get off to a flier at home to Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Liverpool and Chelsea face an early test of how they will bounce back from disappointing seasons when they face off at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
AFP Sport looks at the pick of the action from the opening weekend of the Premier League campaign.
Kompany plans to burst City bubble
City are still riding the wave of euphoria from the end of last season as they added the club’s first ever Champions League to go with Premier League and FA Cup glory.
The summer has not been without its challenges for Pep Guardiola as captain Ilkay Gundogan departed to Barcelona and the riches on offer in Saudi Arabia was too much for Riyad Mahrez to turn down.
City have also had to fight to retain Kyle Walker and Bernardo Silva, while Croatian duo Mateo Kovacic and Josko Gvardiol are the new only two new arrivals in the transfer market so far.
Guardiola’s opposite number in the dugout on Friday already has a statue outside the Etihad from his playing days, but Vincent Kompany has quickly established himself as one of the brightest coaching talents on the continent.
The former Belgian captain turned around a club in crisis during his first season at Turf Moor to return Burnley to the Premier League with seven games to spare.
The Clarets are a very different proposition to the side that punched above their weight to survive for six seasons in the top flight under Sean Dyche between 2016 and 2022.
Inspired by Guardiola, Kompany has transformed Burnley into a side that dominate the ball.
“I would play every week of every month of every year against a team the level of Man City,” said Kompany. “That is the best way to improve.
“You won’t get them all right, it’s impossible with the quality of that team — possibly the best team at the moment in world football — but that’s the best challenge so I wouldn’t want it any different.”
Burnley, though, did see the downside of opening up against City when they lost 6-0 in the FA Cup quarter-finals last season.
Chelsea’s Nkunku blow
Optimism around Chelsea’s positive performances in pre-season under new boss Mauricio Pochettino has been punctured by the news that Christopher Nkunku will be sidelined for up to four months after undergoing knee surgery.
The French international was brought to Stamford Bridge to ease the Blues’ goalscoring woes after they finished 12th last season – their lowest since 1994.
Pochettino’s time in charge gets off to a testing start when Liverpool visit looking to put their own disappointment from last season behind them.
But all is also not well at Anfield with fans frustrated at the lack of new arrivals.
Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai are Jurgen Klopp’s only two new signings to help fill the void left by the departure of captain Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Roberto Firmino.
The array of attacking weapons on offer to Klopp has shown in a free-scoring pre-season, but the Reds have also looked defensively weak with little protection for the back four from the midfield.
“I can understand some people having doubts,” said new skipper Virgil van Dijk.
– Wolves in crisis –
Manchester United begin their quest for a first league title in a decade on Monday against a Wolves side who were left without a manager just three days before the season begins.
Julen Lopetegui stepped down on Tuesday after becoming disillusioned with the lack of resources to spend in the transfer market.
Gary O’Neil has stepped into the hotseat at Molineux tasked with repeating his success in keeping Bournemouth up against the odds last season.
United will expect to get off to a winning start at Old Trafford, but the home crowd will have to wait for their first sight of new striker Rasmus Hojlund.
The Dane is suffering a back injury that is set to keep him out for a few weeks.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Burnley v Manchester City (1900)
Arsenal v Nottingham Forest (1130), Bournemouth v West Ham, Brighton v Luton, Everton v Fulham, Sheffield United v Crystal Palace (all 1400), Newcastle v Aston Villa (1630)
Brentford v Tottenham (1300), Chelsea v Liverpool (1530)
Manchester United v Wolves (1900)