Weekend Wanderings: Return of the Premier League

For Premier League fans it’s the big weekend as the league returns after one of the shortest breaks we have ever seen.

Thanks to the weirdness of the world there are football games left, right and centre right now and so many narratives already to follow.

Here are the games you can look out for in this weekend wanderings.

West Ham Women v Arsenal Women (Saturday, 5.20pm)

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It doesn’t take much expert opinion to work out that Arsenal had a stellar start to their WSL season after putting six goals past a Reading side that were aiming to break into the top four before the season began.

While much of the attention pre-season has been on Manchester City and Chelsea, it was a quality reminder to all about just how much talent the Gunners have at their disposal.

West Ham also have big ambitions of their own and, while it wasn’t the desired start, the Hammers 1-1 draw against Tottenham has given them a solid base to start from.

Adriana Leon’s strike is already a contender for September’s goal of the month and if the Canadian international can bring more of that to the table then Arsenal will certainly have things to think about.

However, arguably the biggest talking point from this game is away from the pitch as this will be the first competitive football match to be staged in front of fans since lockdown.

A total of 1,000 fans will be allowed into Dagenham and Redbridge’s stadium, forming part of the government’s pilot scheme and it’s a step towards some sort of normality as the coronavirus situation continues to change.

Liverpool v Leeds United (Saturday, 5.30pm)

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Speaking of change, Leeds United will be gearing up for their first piece of top-flight competitive action for 16 years.

Much is expected of last year’s Championship winners – not just because of the players we get to see – but also because of a certain Marcelo Bielsa in the dugout.

However, Leeds couldn’t really have asked for a tougher start back in the top-flight as they head to Anfield to play the Premier League champions Liverpool.

But even with Jurgen Klopp’s side there are a number of questions – bizarrely – the chief of which will be whether we are going to see the same ruthless side fans watched for much of last season.

Many wonder if the Reds can keep up that relentless momentum, we might just get a glimpse of what the answer is in the long-term.

West Ham v Newcastle – Saturday, 8pm

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It may sound harsh, but the opening day sees a clash between the two Premier League clubs who always seem to be moments way from existential crisis. If you’re a fan of dark comedy this one is probably for you.

Rewind back to the start of last season and Newcastle were the club in turmoil, with fans unhappy about Steve Bruce’s appointment and there was a real air of demoralisation about the season’s prospects.

Of course, Bruce ended up proving many people wrong – though there’s debate over the inspiring nature of his work – but this time around West Ham are very much the club entering the season as the nominated calamity side, despite Newcastle’s takeover drama.

Much of it centres around the sale of Grady Diangana to West Brom and the further souring of relations between fans and the ownership, but that was only exacerbated when captain Mark Noble and several players spoke out publicly about it.

That is not a great recipe for squad morale ahead of a new campaign.

Tottenham v Everton – Sunday, 4.30pm

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If you’re looking for a big, opening day match-up then Everton v Tottenham is the one that stands out.

Not only do you have some of the most decorated managers in the business, in Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, but these are two clubs who also harbour lofty ambitions.

Everton, for one, have essentially signed a new midfield in recent days with the arrival of James Rodriguez particularly eye-catching.

For Spurs fans, many will be interested to see how Matt Doherty and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg fit into the team – as well as seeing how Mourinho’s colourful language has developed after being aired in all its glory on All or Nothing.

PSG v Marseille – Sunday, 8pm

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The Ligue One season may be up and running but again, thanks to a certain pandemic you might have heard about, things have not gone smoothly.

This Sunday, PSG are set to host Marseille – which is a big rivalry in itself – but the French champions are yet to kick a ball in the league.

Put simply their squad has been decimated with seven star players testing positive for coronavirus, including Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi.

That means, with a different PSG line-up very much set for this game, Marseille could well have a chance of snatching some points off the reigning champions if they play to the best of their ability.

Andre Villas-Boas’ side secured a surprise second last year, after the cancellation of the league, and the side would love to make a statement after winning their opening match.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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