Arguably the pick of the matches on the opening weekend of the 2022-23 Premier League campaign will take place at London Stadium on Sunday (today) afternoon, as West Ham United welcome the champions Manchester City.
The Citizens will be looking to defend their title this season, while West Ham will again be bidding to be relevant in the discussion for a European finish come the end of the campaign.
West Ham finished seventh in the Premier League last season, in addition to making the fifth round of the FA Cup, quarter-finals of the EFL Cup and semi-finals of the Europa League during a strong campaign.
The Hammers will feel that they should have finished sixth due to Manchester United’s struggles towards the end of the season, but David Moyes’s side ultimately settled for seventh and a position in the playoff round of the Europa Conference League rather than a spot in the group stage of the Europa League.
West Ham will be hoping to push close to the top four in the league this term, and the club have been impressive in the transfer market this summer, bringing in Gianluca Scamacca, Nayef Aguerd, Flynn Downes, Maxwel Cornet and Alphonse Areola.
The capital giants have also managed to crucially keep hold of Declan Rice, who was again excellent during the 2021-22 campaign, and a busy pre-season saw them play seven matches in total, including a goalless draw with Lens last weekend.
West Ham will follow their clash with Man City with a trip to newly-promoted Nottingham Forest on August 14, before taking part in their playoff match in the Europa Conference League three days later.
Man City, meanwhile, will enter this match off the back of a 3-1 loss to Liverpool in the Community Shield last weekend, with the Reds managing to land the first blow in what could be another fascinating battle between the two best sides in English football this season.
The Citizens only actually played two pre-season fixtures, beating Club America 2-1 on July 20 before recording a 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich three days later, and it will be fascinating to see whether that has an impact on their performances early in the campaign.
Man City managed to pip Liverpool to last season’s title on the final day by coming from two goals behind against Aston Villa to win 3-2, ultimately finishing one point clear of their rivals, boasting a record of 29 wins, six draws and three defeats from their 38 matches.
Pep Guardiola’s side will again be title favourites this term, and they have boosted their squad with the arrivals of Erling Braut Haaland, Kalvin Phillips, Stefan Ortega and Julian Alvarez.
A victory on Sunday would lead the team nicely into a home match with Bournemouth on August 13, while they will also take on Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest in the opening month of the campaign, and it would certainly not be a surprise to see them head into September on 15 points.
West Ham boss Moyes said during Friday’s press conference that patience would be needed when it comes to new signing Scamacca, who will not be considered for a start this weekend.
Angelo Ogbonna is making excellent progress in his recovery from a long-term knee injury, but the experienced centre-back is also out, while new signing Aguerd is missing due to an ankle problem.
As a result, the starting side is expected to have a familiar look to it, with Michail Antonio likely to lead the line, while Rice will captain the team from the middle of the park.
Said Benrahma is likely to be given the nod on the left, with Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals also set to feature in the positions behind Antonio.
As for Man City, Aymeric Laporte is out until at least September following a knee injury, while John Stones is lacking match fitness, so Nathan Ake should again feature alongside Ruben Dias in the middle of defence.
Guardiola has big decisions to make in the positions further forward; Haaland is set to make his Premier League debut at centre-forward, while Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez are also likely to feature in the final third, which could leave Jack Grealish on the bench.
Bernardo Silva is likely to start in midfield despite the speculation surrounding his future, while the likes of Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo, Kevin De Bruyne, Ederson and Rodri will also be in the side.