With just a few days to go until the big kick-off, the wait is almost over for football fans.
The Premier League is back and despite uncertainty over the impact of plonking the World Cup in the middle of the season excitement and hype levels are already heading through the roof.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal gets the campaign up and running on Friday night, but here are four of the most enticing matches to watch on the opening weekend of the 2022-23 league season.
Fulham v Liverpool: Saturday, 12.30
The Cottagers were glorious in romping to promotion back out of the Championship last term, but they might come back to earth with an almighty bump when they come up against Liverpool.
After £100 million of spending on new players failed to secure survival for the club last time, Fulham have been more circumspect in the transfer market this time, leading to the obvious frustration of Marco Silva. Sacked by Watford in 2018 and Everton in 2019, Silva knows that time is limited when results are bad in the Premier League and Fulham are highly unlikely to get off to a winning start against a Reds side boasting a refreshed front line after Sadio Mane’s sale.
Darwin Nunez could make his debut in attack for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who know the margins are fine as they attempt to do battle with Manchester City for the Premier League title again. Liverpool may also hand a first club appearance to Fabio Carvalho, the 19-year-old who provided 10 goals and eight assists for Fulham in their promotion campaign last season.
Newcastle United v Nottingham Forest: Saturday, 15.00
Having been promoted via the play-offs, Forest returned to the Premier League after 23 years away. They have been among the busiest teams in the transfer market, spending in excess of £70 million on arrivals for Steve Cooper’s squad, and ambitions are high at the City Ground.
Though survival should be the top priority after such a long absence, Forest’s owners are insisting they are not here to make up the numbers. A good result at St James’ Park would be a statement of intent at the start of a campaign likely to be full of ups and downs for Forest.
Despite being dubbed the richest club in the world after a long-awaited takeover, Newcastle have steered clear of the temptation to splash huge amounts of money on star signings. Sven Botman is the headline arrival so far, with Newcastle reportedly pipping the likes of AC Milan to the £32 million centre-back, while bringing in goalkeeper Nick Pope looks to be a solid upgrade.
Newcastle have struggled to land the elite attacker their fans crave, though, with Eddie Howe admitting it has been difficult to get deals done despite a virtually unlimited budget. Efforts to sign Alexander Isak from Real Sociedad and Reims starlet Hugo Ekitike have fallen short.
Everton v Chelsea: Saturday, 17.30
Chelsea have a surprisingly terrible record at Goodison Park, losing on their past four visits. Blues legend Frank Lampard led the Toffees to a crucial 1-0 victory in this fixture in May.
Richarlison scored the only goal and the Brazilian forward has since been sold to Tottenham to help address the financial issues at Everton, who look set for another season of struggle. Everton conceded eight goals in their first three pre-season friendlies, suggesting the leaky defence that plagued them last term will need more help than the signing of James Tarkowski.
Chelsea also have problems at the back, having lost Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen at the end of their contracts, though Kalidou Koulibaly is a high-class signing from Napoli. Tensions between Thomas Tuchel and new owner Todd Boehly can already be seen in the German’s statements to the press after a 4-0 thumping against Arsenal during pre-season.
Both of these teams are in transition and are unlikely to hit the ground running this season.
Manchester United v Brighton: Sunday, 14.00
All eyes will be on Old Trafford on Sunday as new manager Erik ten Hag makes his bow. The Dutchman had a phenomenal record at Ajax but the summer has been overshadowed by a transfer saga surrounding veteran forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who hit 18 Premier League goals last term but whose presence seemed to have a detrimental impact on the team as a whole.
United made a flying start to pre-season with a 4-0 win over rivals Liverpool – who had a callow team out – but Ten Hag was frustrated by his side throwing away a lead against Aston Villa. The extremely high standards demanded by Ten Hag may cause friction in United’s dressing room.
Having finished an impressive ninth last term, Seagulls fans will be hoping for another season of progress under their highly-rated manager Graham Potter. But a touch more excitement would not go amiss: only Wolves scored fewer goals than Brighton last season and avoided relegation.