Preview and Predictions for Matchweek 1 of the 2021-22 Premier League Season

Shane Evans@@shanevansContributor IAugust 12, 2021

Preview and Predictions for Matchweek 1 of the 2021-22 Premier League Season

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    Manchester United-Leeds United is a great way to start your Saturday
    Manchester United-Leeds United is a great way to start your SaturdayVisionhaus/Getty Images

    We have finally reached the first week of the English Premier League season.

    After a summer that has flown by thanks to international tournaments, transfer sagas and everything in between, we can return to the familiar comforts of league play in the English top flight.

    The most popular football league in the world begins its latest campaign in the days ahead, with Arsenal and Brentford first up on Friday. Manchester City, as you may have read in Bleacher Report's season preview, is going for an impressive fourth title in five seasons. Trying to prevent that from happening are Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Co.

    To start the season, we will be treated to a strong set of matches. In this piece and each week going forward, we'll be running through the top three games of the upcoming matchday, with predictions for all fixtures to get you set for the action.

    We'll kick things off at Old Trafford.

Manchester United vs. Leeds United

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    The Red Devils will want to see big things from Mr. Sancho this season.
    The Red Devils will want to see big things from Mr. Sancho this season.Ash Donelon/Getty Images

    Saturday, Aug. 14, 7:30 a.m. ET

    TV/Streaming: NBCSN 

    Saturday's early match may be the best of the day as Manchester United welcome old rivals Leeds United to Old Trafford in what should be a thrilling contest.

    Manchester United has been one of the most active teams in the league during this summer, with Jadon Sancho finally completing his $100 million transfer and Raphael Varane's $47 million move closing imminently—two impactful additions that may be the missing pieces in the club's title push. The Red Devils haven't been Premier League champions in nearly a decade (2012-13). That's well below the standard that fans of the team have come to expect. Bringing in this pair, however, is a statement of intent, and the club will want to start the season with a big victory.

    This is the first time fans will be in attendance for this historic rivalry in Premier League action since 2004, and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will want his team to jump out of the gates and aggressively lay down a marker. A preseason that had its share of goals, including a 4-0 win in the club's last warm-up match against Everton, will give them confidence entering the year. If Paul Pogba is able to go from the start, he'll have Bruno Fernandes to join him in midfield and should see a good amount of the ball as they work to break down Kalvin Phillips in his roving position across Leeds' central areas. 

    It's unlikely that we'll see Varane from the start, but Sancho could certainly contribute, particularly with Marcus Rashford sidelined for the opening two months of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

    Leeds has been relatively quiet in the transfer market and will be relying on master tactician Marcelo Bielsa to guide it to an improvement on an impressive ninth-place finish in 2020-21.

    That climb will have to wait another week, though, as the Red Devils will be too powerful for the visitors from Yorkshire.

    Match Prediction: Manchester Utd 3, Leeds 1

Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace

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    This is what good momentum to start the season looks like.
    This is what good momentum to start the season looks like.Charles McQuillan - UEFA/Getty Images

    Saturday, Aug. 14, 10 a.m. ET

    TV/Streaming: Peacock Premium

    With Chelsea fresh off another trophy triumph in the UEFA Super Cup, which it won Wednesday against Villarreal, the club will want to begin its quest to unseat Manchester City atop the Premier League on a high note against fellow Londoners Crystal Palace.

    Chelsea wasn't its typical assertive self with transfers this summer, as it only added Romelu Lukaku for a cool $135 million. This is on the heels of a busy summer last season, and the Belgian's addition looks like the cherry on top of a reworked squad, which is set for its first full season under the guidance of Thomas Tuchel. Balanced, deep and motivated, the Blues will hope winning the UEFA Champions League and Super Cup was just the beginning.

    Against Palace, now managed by Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, Tuchel's men should feel confident about getting the season started on the right foot. They are just too strong in all areas of the pitch to get caught out this early in the season. Like Manchester United, Chelsea had an impressive preseason run, going undefeated in five matches.

    Palace, whose main addition was defender and former Fulham loanee Joachim Andersen from Lyon, may have a bit more trouble gaining a foothold in the hyper-competitive top flight this season. As noted in the B/R season preview, Vieira could be the first manager sacked as the squad may struggle to stay afloat. The Eagles, too, had an undefeated preseason, but a win on a trip to Stamford Bridge with fans back in the seats on the first day of the year against the European champions will be a bit too much to ask.

    Match Prediction: Chelsea 2, Crystal Palace 0

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City

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    So much to fawn over in one photo
    So much to fawn over in one photoJames Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

    Sunday, Aug. 15, 11:30am ET

    TV/Streaming: NBCSN 

    And this leaves us with the marquee game of the opening matchday of the season, with champion Manchester City traveling to London to take on Nuno Espirito Santo's Tottenham Hotspur.

    Will Harry Kane, subject of much transfer speculation over the summer, play for the home side? His team seems to think so, but the England captain didn't return to London until this week and will have little or no time to train before Sunday's match.

    Either way, we should be in for a cracker of a match, as Spurs have strengthened their squad and City will want to start its title defense with a positive result.

    Fresh from a disappointing 1-0 loss in the Community Shield against Leicester City (it's just a glorified preseason match depending on who you ask), Pep Guardiola's charges will be eager to restate their claim as the best team in the land. British-record signing Jack Grealish only made a cameo appearance against the Foxes, but don't expect the same against Spurs, where he'll likely get the nod from the opening whistle in Guardiola's system, which lacks a true No. 9 presence following Sergio Aguero's departure. 

    Grealish will look to combine with the likes of Riyad Mahrez (still very good), Ferran Torres (becoming very good) and Ilkay Gundogan (always very good) to create opportunities in the Spurs area. We're still a few weeks away from seeing Grealish working with Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne, but the City side Guardiola trots out at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium won't be anything to scoff at.

    On Nuno's side, most of the talk has been about the action off the pitch, with talisman Kane squarely top of mind for all Spurs fans. His transfer saga has gone the full length of the summer, with his run to the UEFA Euro 2020 final with England prolonging the drama. Reports are wavering between Kane being open to a new contract and a move to Manchester City being the only option. Very fun for all those in white or "cosmic galaxy." 

    Whether Kane is in the squad remains to be seen, but Spurs have other firepower besides the Englishman. Fan favorite (that's all fans, to be clear) Heung-Min Son has had a productive preseason with three goals in four matches. He'll be tasked with breaking down Ruben Dias and the rest of City's typically stingy back line. We could also see new Tottenham signing Bryan Gil, though the exciting attacking option will likely come off the bench given that he only recently joined the team.

    Expect a tight contest that could be broken wide-open with an individual display or two by one of the match's many stars. Should that happen, the game will obviously change, and we will be the beneficiaries. Spurs will want a result at home against the champions, and the Kane undertones will keep the emotions high throughout.

    In the end, the points are shared in an exciting match with positives for both sides.

    Match Prediction: Tottenham 1, Manchester City 1

Other Fixtures and Predictions

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    A big season is coming for this group of Foxes
    A big season is coming for this group of FoxesVisionhaus/Getty Images

    Friday, Aug. 13

    Brentford vs. Arsenal (3 p.m. ET): 2-1 Arsenal


    Saturday, Aug. 14

    Burnley vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (10 a.m. ET): 2-2

    Everton vs. Southampton (10 a.m. ET): 2-1 Everton

    Leicester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers (10 a.m. ET): 2-1 Leicester City

    Watford vs. Aston Villa (10 a.m. ET): 3-1 Aston Villa

    Norwich City vs. Liverpool (12:30 p.m. ET): 2-0 Liverpool


    Sunday, Aug. 15

    Newcastle United vs. West Ham United (9 a.m. ET): 2-2