Barclays Premier League kicks off with an intriguing matchup between two teams with big hopes entering this year.
Arsenal enters play with a few major additions at the forward spots, and with that the large expectations that come with major acquisitions on the transfer market.
Arsenal cannot afford to start the year as poorly as it did last year, which attributed to yet another season falling short of its title hopes.
Sunderland enters the match with a young developing squad full of potential, and its youth will be tested by the juggernaut Arsenal.
The Black Cats expectations aren't nearly as high as the Gunners, but the low expectations could help them in this matchup.
Whether or not Robin van Persie will be playing, this matchup looks to have the makings of a classic given the competitive personalities each team possesses.
Where: Emirates Stadium, London, England
When: Saturday, August 18, 10:00 a.m. EDT
Live Stream: ESPN3
Arsenal Team Breakdown
Arsenal enters this game having not gained a cup since 2005 and uncertainty over Van Persie and his playing status.
Van Persie's presence would be missed, and it remains to be seen if it would affect this Arsenal team despite its good offseason transfer news.
Adding Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud gives them much needed forward help if the super star Van Persie does not play.
The addition of the talented winger Santi Cazorla should also pay big dividends early for the Gunners.
Arsenal must stay aggressive and allow its strong group of midfielders led by Mikael Arteta to work quickly in space.
The Gunners' best bet of dominating this game is staying patient and allowing Sunderland's youth up front to make mistakes.
Sunderland Team Breakdown
Sunderland does not carry the expectations the Gunners do, which means its young core up front will be looking to make a name for themselves against the favored Arsenal.
Dong Won Ji could be the star of this game, as the dynamic scorer is one of the most aggressive Sunderland players.
The experienced tough defense Sunderland boasts must keep the Arsenal attackers in check.
The veteran group led by Titus Bramble has to be nearly perfect to hold off the strength of Arsenal's attack.
Sunderland cannot let its lack of success in past league play affect the opening match of this season.
Prediction: It's hard to imagine a "must-win" scenario for the opening match, but that is the case for this Arsenal team. Arsenal is simply too talented at forward to be stopped, and the youth at key spots for Sunderland could backfire in a big way. Arsenal wins 2-0.
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