Man City get a head-start to their title defence

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The start of a new Premier League season is always a time of hope and dreams, even if defending champions Manchester City will probably be three points clear before their main rivals have kicked a ball this weekend.

Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning side travel to promoted Burnley, with former City captain Vincent Kompany now in charge at Turf Moor, on Friday night as they start the chase of a fourth title in a row and sixth in seven years.

Arsenal, runners-up last year after leading for much of the campaign, host Nottingham Forest in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff while fourth-placed Newcastle United are at home to Aston Villa in the evening.

Liverpool, fifth last season, are at Chelsea on Sunday while Manchester United, third at the final whistle last May, must wait until Monday for their opening game at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Manchester City lost the Community Shield on penalties to Arsenal at Wembley last weekend, hardly a bad omen given that they also lost the previous two and still ended the season as winners.

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For Arsenal, however, it was an important statement.

“It’s a marker to know we can go and beat Manchester City in a big game when it matters,” said goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. “I’m not sure what it’ll be like this season. But that mental block is gone.”

City still start as clear favourites and when they played Burnley in an FA Cup quarter-final at the Etihad last March they ran out 6-0 winners with goal machine Erling Haaland scoring a hat-trick.

There will be plenty of interest elsewhere in the performance of big-money signings and what kind of results new managers bring.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal splashed around 100 million pounds on signing England midfielder Declan Rice from West Ham, as well as 65 million on bringing Kai Havertz from Chelsea and 40 million on defender Jurrien Timber from Ajax Amsterdam.

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Former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino will be making his Chelsea league debut, with Blues fans eager for signs that last season’s nightmare is over but facing an immediate big challenge against Liverpool.

“We are in a good way; we are building something special I think,” he said at the weekend.

“We know we are Chelsea and even if young players are involved against Liverpool, the mentality is to win.”

Juergen Klopp has lost captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to Saudi Arabia but the Liverpool boss still has plenty of ammunition as he too seeks to put behind him the failures of the previous year.

Chelsea, who finished 12th last season, have Reece James as their new captain after Cesar Azpilicueta left in a general clear-out.

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Over at Spurs, Australian Ange Postecoglou takes up the baton with a trip across London to Brentford, with or without England captain and record goalscorer Harry Kane after repeated approaches from Bayern Munich.

Wolves also have a new manager, with former Bournemouth coach Gary O’Neil appointed only on Wednesday after Julen Lopetegui abruptly left.

Promoted Sheffield United are at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday while Luton Town are at Brighton & Hove Albion for the Hatters’ first game in the top flight since 1992, pre-Premier League.

Everton host Fulham also on Saturday, with West Ham United travelling to Bournemouth.

-Reuters

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