Big names jostle for Premier League title as Leicester open defence

The new Premier League season begins this weekend with, perhaps for the first time in history, all 20 teams dreaming of glory.

Leicester City's stunning run to the title last season, having begun as 5,000-1 outsiders, has opened everyone's eyes to what might be possible.

"Who expected Leicester to be champion last season? Nobody," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports.

"So you would say today to take into account seven or eight teams who can win it. There is always a surprising team, and then you have six or seven big clubs who have the ambition to win it."

Three of those six teams - Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea - have new managers and each have spent big over the summer in order to contend this season.

City, led by Pep Guardiola after his arrival from Bayern Munich, are the bookmakers' favourites and begin their title challenge with a home match against Sunderland on Saturday.

Former Barcelona star Xavi, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, says the new manager can change City for the better.

"He is a purist, a radical," Xavi told The Guardian. "He has the leadership, the personality.

"He makes huge demands of himself and that's contagious - it spreads to everyone. He has a vision and knows how to transmit that."

Two of Guardiola’s summer signings - Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane - will miss the Sunderland game through injury, but two others, Nolito and John Stones, are likely to start.

City will vie for local bragging rights, as always, with Manchester United, who begin away to Bournemouth on Saturday with expectations sky high after Jose Mourinho took over as manager in the summer.

Mourinho has spent more than any other club in the off-season, mostly down to the 89 million pounds they paid Juventus for Paul Pogba.

The Portuguese coach, who left Chelsea just before Christmas during last season, said he was delighted with his new signings, which also included Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Paris St Germain.

"I couldn't be happier with the way we did our market because we got four players that we really believe in," he said.

"We thought about the profile - the tactical profile, the physical profile, the personality and we got them all before the start of the Premier League."

The third new manager, Antonio Conte, made his mark immediately at Chelsea by signing N'Golo Kante from champions Leicester, a midfielder who was integral to their title win last season.

The Italian, who believes any one of six or seven sides can win the league, gets his first taste of Premier League action on Monday night against London rivals West Ham.

Arsenal meet Liverpool in the first blockbuster match of the season on Sunday, with Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp hoping for big things from his squad, after a number of changes over the summer.

Klopp will monitor the fitness of striker Daniel Sturridge, who has a minor hip problem, while Arsenal will wait on midfielder Jack Wilshere to prove his fitness after an injury in pre-season.

Tottenham, who pushed Leicester for so long last season before finishing third behind Arsenal, start at Everton, who also have a new manager in Ronald Koeman.

And Leicester start the defence of their title with a trip to newly-promoted Hull.

The other two promoted sides - Burnley and Stoke - begin the season at home to Swansea and away to Middlesbrough respectively, while Crystal Palace face West Brom and Southampton take on Watford.

Last update: Thu, 11/08/2016 - 10:28
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