The opening weekend of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, and there are so many storylines swirling around.
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Here are a few you need to focus on over the next few days.
Christian Pulisic‘s debut
- Man United v. Chelsea, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN
The USMNT star is set to start for Chelsea at Man United on Sunday, and Christian Pulisic has had a very impressive preseason for the Blues. After starring for the U.S. at the Gold Cup this summer, he cut short his summer break to head straight on Chelsea’s preseason tour of Japan. He scored twice against Red Bull Salzburg and his pace and trickery has impressed Frank Lampard. There’s a window of opportunity for Pulisic at the start of the season as Willian returned late from international duty with Brazil this summer, so the Pennsylvanian native has to hit the ground running. The American superstar, 20, is about to announce himself to the world. He will get plenty of chances to shine for Chelsea this season but adapting quickly to life in the PL is key. He is the first bonafide U.S. superstar in the PL and his potential is limitless. Pulisic has plenty of expectations on his shoulders.
Stars may be eased in
- Liverpool v. Norwich, Friday, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN
- West Ham v. Man City, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN
Both Liverpool and Man City have been missing stars for most of preseason and we are likely to see Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola manage the minutes of their key men early in the season. Salah, Mane, Firmino and Alisson all returned late to preseason, and Liverpool’s front three may have a slightly different look, with Mane potentially coming off the bench on Friday. Man City will have to decide whether to risk the likes of Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho against West Ham, and there is probably no need to risk them. Liverpool and Man City should get off to flying starts to the new season and having their stars fresh for the festive period and final months of the campaign is more important than the first few weeks of August.
First-look at new signings
- Newcastle v. Arsenal, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN
- Tottenham v. Aston Villa, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC
The likes of Harry Maguire, Giovani Lo Celso, David Luiz, Nicolas Pepe and Alex Iwobi will all get the chance to play for their new teams this weekend and it will be very exciting to see how they fare. Record amounts of money were spent this summer and plenty of new faces have arrived in the PL. Get ready for snap judgments from fans on new players within the first 15 minutes of the first game of the season. That’s just how things work. For players, how you start a campaign usually sets the tone for what’s to come.
Promoted teams have taken different paths
- Bournemouth v. Sheffield United, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN
Norwich have spent hardly anything. Sheffield United have spent a little. Aston Villa have spent a lot. All three newly-promoted teams have approached life back in the PL differently and Villa’s 12 new signings seems to have strengthened their squad considerably. Norwich have kept the bulk of their squad together as they rely on Pukki to score the goals. Sheffield United’s marauding center backs will cause quite a stir in the PL this season, as Chris Wilder has brought in plenty of lower-league talents. All in all, you never know how the new boys teams will settle and how much momentum they will have from promotion over the summer. Getting off to a fast start is crucial for all three teams.
Early audition for top six hopefuls
- Leicester v. Wolves, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN
Both Wolves and Leicester fancy their chances of breaking up the top six monopoly this season, and they square off on Sunday at the King Power Stadium. Wolves travelled to Armenia on Thursday as they continue their Europa League qualifying campaign, and juggling Europe and the PL will impact Nuno Espirito Santo‘s rather small squad. As for Leicester, they’ve lost Harry Maguire but Brendan Rodgers has added real quality in Tielemans and Praet in midfield and Perez up top. Leicester and Wolves, along with Everton and West Ham, are primed to push the top six all the way this season. A Midlands derby will be a good indicator as to which team is better prepared to crack the top six, or go even higher, this season.