Weekend Wanderings: The start of the 2018-19 season

Last week, football came back as the English Football League arrived with a bang although, in truth, it never really went away.

The delirious chants of “it’s coming home” and the exuberant French finale at the World Cup seem like they were only yesterday.

In reality, it was little more than three weeks since the Fifa circus came to an end in Russia and this weekend the circus that we hold so dear – namely the Premier League – kicks off once more.

So, with another eagerly anticipated season ahead of us, what can we expect to see in this week’s weekend wanderings?

1) Loco Bielsa takes on ‘Super Frankie’

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Championship onlookers have been staring at the division with a bit of disbelief this year.

Rocking up at Leeds United is the hipster’s favourite manager Marcelo Bielsa, who’s exuberant and exciting tactics have thrilled fans already – though not quite as much as his post-match interview technique.

In their first Championship outing, Leeds dismantled title-favourites Stoke 3-1 and they will be hoping to build on that promising start immediately.

Meanwhile, in the opposing dugout lies managerial newbie Frank Lampard – a man who achieved pretty much everything as a player.

He got off to a flyer as Tom Lawrence’s 94th-minute header sealed a 2-1 win over Reading in Derby’s opening game. The Chelsea legend will want to keep the momentum up.

Saturday evening’s clash is very much a tie between a novice and a man with bags of experience but – with bags of talent on display – there is sure to be some excitement.

2) Can the Potters live up to their favourite’s tag?

Newly-relegated Stoke City pulled off what was largely considered a masterstroke by luring Gary Rowett in as manager following their relegation to the Championship. However, outing number one against Leeds didn’t exactly go to plan.

This Saturday they are back on home turf but the task ahead of them looks to be another daunting one.

Dean Smith’s Brentford – a team many people consider dark horses for promotion – blew Rotherham away 5-1 in week one.

They play good football and, should Stoke defend as they did at Elland Road, they could be set for more misery.

However, if Gary Rowett turns things around quickly this could be step one in the road to promotion.

3) Are Aberdeen still the best of the rest?

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Ever since Rangers’ demise, Aberdeen, under manager Derek McInnes, have firmly established themselves as the best team in Scotland – behind Celtic of course.

Even with Rangers back in the top flight, the Dons have continued to keep the Ibrox side at arm’s length by cementing runner-up spot year after year.

However, with Steven Gerrard now in the Rangers hot seat, and renewed optimism around the club, Aberdeen’s status as “best of the rest” is under threat.

Their first outing against Gerrard’s Rangers ended up 1-1 as the Dons managed to equalise late on with their first shot on target against a team with ten men.

They may have given Burnley a run for their money in the Europa League but McInnes’ side need to start playing to their full capability and that starts on Saturday away to Dundee.

The Dens Park side, on the other hand, face a challenging season and could be spending more time looking down rather than up.

4) Welcome to the Emery way

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Thanks to some fixture schedulers who clearly love a blockbuster this Sunday, we are gifted a clash between two giants – Arsenal and reigning champions Manchester City.

There are countless plot lines in this game and plenty quality on show.

Can Guardiola’s side continue to perform at last season’s standard? What will Riyad Mahrez bring to the champions?

However, it’s with the Gunners where the biggest question of all arguably lies- what on earth will life be like without Arsene Wenger?

We are about to see what new man Unai Emery brings to the party.

5) Hey big spender!

The first Premier League clash on Sunday gives another intriguing clash between two of the biggest spenders – Liverpool and West Ham United (yes you read that right).

Liverpool have widely been considered to have had the best transfer window of all the clubs in the country by spending big on quality acquisitions such as Fabinho, Naby Keita and Alisson.

However, West Ham – now under the guidance of Manuel Pellegrini – have also splashed huge amounts of cash.

With supporters hounding the owners for not spending last year, the two David’s have responded by breaking the club’s transfer record twice and sealing a host of new additions.

In comes man-mountain Issa Diop, Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko and Jack Wilshere on a free, among other names.

Optimism is sky high for both sets of fans ahead of this clash, but who will be left disappointed on opening day?

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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