Brighton & Hove Albion in a pre-season friendly this week before their EPL debut.
By TAS MAVRIDIS
THE world’s biggest football competition returns this weekend with fans right across the world eagerly anticipating kick off. Here’s five things to look out for in this season of the EPL
1. New boys on the block
After winning promotion last season, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town will make their English Premier League debut. For Brighton, the heartbreak of missing promotion two seasons ago on a goal difference was put to rest as they comfortably won automatic promotion just behind Newcastle United.
Under the management of Chris Houghton, Brighton have been building steadily towards promotion and now have a chance in the top flight. On the other hand, Huddersfield’s promotion surprised many – winning the promotion play-offs despite their negative goal difference, relying on two penalty shootout victories.
Under the guidance of coach David Wagner, they will need to score more goals if they have a chance of surviving in the EPL. Two years after suffering relegation, Newcastle are back in the EPL. Traditionally one of the biggest clubs in England, Rafa Benitez will be hoping his side can remain in the top flight pushing into potential European nights at St James’ Park.
Brighton goalkeeper – Australian Mathew Ryan – in action with his new club last weekend.
2. Australian presence returns
For many years, Australians in the EPL had become a rare sight. With the likes of former Socceroos Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and more recently Mile Jedinak being regulars in the past, two key Socceroos will pave the way for a new crop of Aussies in the EPL.
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan and midfielder Aaron Mooy have signed for newly promoted clubs Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield respectively. The pair will be hoping to earn regular spots in the starting 11 heading towards the World Cup in 2018.
Ryan’s transfer from Valencia should pave the way for him to play regular football, while Mooy was at the centre of Huddersfield’s promotion campaign last season and will be aiming to continue his meteoric rise.
3. Derbies and rivalries
The Premier League is chock-full of derby games right throughout the season, headlined by the Manchester Derby. Both Manchester clubs are heavy spenders in the transfer seasons and both sides are stacked with elite talent, with pundits suggesting that the two clubs will be vying for the title.
The North London derby has seen Arsenal traditionally dominate Tottenham, however the Spurs are steadily improving and the tide may be beginning to turn. Separated by only Stanley Park, the Merseyside derby is another action-packed game not to miss.
The clash between Liverpool and Everton is always a heated affair, with a staggering 21 red cards handed out between the two teams in their EPL clashes. On field, Everton have struggled, not recording a win over Liverpool since 2010.
Wayne Rooney back at Everton last weekend in a pre-season friendly.
The return of the prodigal son – that’s what many of the England’s papers were saying after Wayne Rooney returned to Everton, 13 years after leaving for Manchester United. While he isn’t the player he once was, the England international will look to pass on his experience and aim to recapture some of his finer form.
Another player returning to the EPL is fan favourite Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. While he won’t be returning to Old Trafford, West Ham supporters will be optimistic of his signing. With a proven scoring record in the EPL, the Hammers will be hoping Chicharito can set them up for a fast start to the season.
5. Mega Money Recruits
Every season brings about new signings with mega money transfers in the EPL growing year by year. Manchester City have signed defenders Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker and Danilo – totalling a whopping £117 million.
Romelu Lukaku’s transfer to Manchester United has been one of the most notable signings in the offseason, costing the Red Devils £72 million.
At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea also signed striker Alvaro Morata for £55 million. With the transfer window remaining open, expect an abundance of deals to be signed as deadline day approaches.