Premier League set to begin with new faces and challenges

DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
ISTANBUL
Published 06.08.2019 00:05

The Premier League opens Friday and the veterans of the English topflight are each grappling with their own set of problems, something new additions may help resolve eventually

The Premier League, one of the most prestigious leagues in the world, starts Friday after a brief summer break. From Manchester City to Tottenham Hotspurs, high flyers have their own share of challenges in the new season while new faces in the league wait for their time in the spotlight.

In the last big game ahead of the regular season, reigning champion Manchester City won the Community Shield with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win over Liverpool after a 1-1 draw at Wembley Sunday.

With little to separate treble winners City and European champions, Liverpool in Sunday's ferociously-fought "friendly," the expected battle for the Premier League title between the rivals is likely to go down to the wire once more.

Raheem Sterling and Mohamed Salah were two of the driving forces behind Manchester City and Liverpool's success last season and they look set to lead the way again after the star forwards were at the heart of the best moments at Wembley. Sterling always shines at Wembley for club and country and the England winger, who started upfront before moving to the flanks after Leroy Sane's injury, was a constant menace with his pace and movement.

But with the Premier League starting next Friday, earlier than any of the other major leagues, when Liverpool host Norwich, Liverpool boss Klopp once again made it clear he believes the authorities are being unfair on the players by having such a small break before the domestic season begins.

And coach Pep Guardiola of Manchester City, whose team opened its league season at West Ham on Saturday, totally agreed, slamming a "crazy" schedule he hopes won't detrimentally affect City's title defense.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard faces a daunting task on his return to Stamford Bridge as the club's midfield great tries to keep his team competitive despite a host of issues on and off the pitch. Despite securing a third-place finish in the Premier League and winning the Europa League with a rout of London rivals Arsenal, Maurizio Sarri's decision to join Juventus in the close-season went unlamented by Chelsea fans.

A large part of their relief at seeing Sarri return to Italy after only one season lay in the belief that Lampard would be the man to replace him. The Blues' faithful got their wish as Lampard was hired after just one season in charge at second-tier Derby. Lampard is well-established as a Chelsea icon, with the midfielder's 13-year spell bringing the club's goal-scoring record, three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and their first Champions League crown in 2012. But the 41-year-old's appointment is a significant gamble by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and his top aide Marina Granovskaia.

The summer exit of star playmaker Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and an ongoing transfer ban leaves the inexperienced Lampard up against it, especially as he looks set to use gifted but raw youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount to spearhead his reign.

With Chelsea's two-window transfer ban underway for breaching rules in relation to youth players, Christian Pulisic is the only new arrival in Lampard's squad, putting him firmly in the spotlight as the successor to Hazard. The promising U.S. winger signed from Borussia Dortmund for 58 million pounds in January but was allowed to finish the Bundesliga season before finally linking up with his new club in the close-season. The 20-year-old has the daunting task of filling the void left by Hazard's move to Real Madrid. Just months after Callum Hudson-Odoi appeared headed for an acrimonious departure, the England winger is set to become a leading member of Lampard's youth revolution. The 18-year-old Londoner handed in a transfer request in January after Chelsea rejected a bid from Bayern Munich, but he is now keen to stay after Lampard convinced him he would play a major role in his team. Hudson-Odoi, who felt marginalized by Sarri, is set to sign a new long-term contract according to Lampard.

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