The top European leagues are back. The Premier League and Ligue 1 kick off this weekend, while we still have to wait a little for Spain, Italy and Germany. But there’s a lot to look forward to, and here are some of the games to keep an eye this weekend.
Hull City – Leicester City (Premier League Matchday 1):
Newcomers Hull are in for a big challenge right out of the gate, as they host champions Leicester City at the KC Stadium in the first game of the 2016/17 Premier League season.
Hull has had some offseason problems, with manager Steve Bruce leaving the club just three weeks before the start of the campaign after a lack of signings. With no additions to the squad, it looks to be a bumpy ride for the Tigers.
Leicester have added some depth to their squad during the summer. The Foxes did have to say goodbye to key midfielder N’Golo Kante who joined Chelsea, but the £32 million the club got for the Frenchman has been reinvested in the squad with players like Ahmed Musa, Nampalys Mendy and Ron-Robert Zieler arriving to the King Power Stadium.
Everton – Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League Matchday 1):
New Everton manager Ronald Koeman will look to get off to a good start as Tottenham comes to Goodison Park on Saturday.
Koeman left Southampton after two successful years to take on the challenge of managing an Everton side that had been underperforming the past two seasons under Roberto Martinez. The Toffees got a boatload of money (£47.5 million) from Manchester City for defender John Stones, and they reinvested some of that money by signing experienced centre back Ashley Williams from Swansea City.
Tottenham fizzled out at the end of last season and ended up finishing third. With the added experience, manager Mauricio Pochettino is looking for his young side to take the next step and become champions. Spurs have made two good signings this summer in midfielder Victor Wanyama from Southampton and Dutch striker Vincent Janssen from AZ Alkmaar.
Bournemouth – Manchester United (Premier League Matchday 1):
Bournemouth managed to avoid the relegation zone last season as newcomers, but they have a difficult task on Sunday as they host a star-studded Manchester United on Sunday at the Vitality Stadium.
The Cherries did a great job last season, and managed to stay up despite several difficult injuries to key players. With everyone back fit and healthy, they will look to extend their Premier League stay at least another season. They’ve brought in several interesting young players, including Jordon Ibe, Emerson Hyndman and Lewis Cook.
Manchester United have also made some signings over the summer, and none bigger than the record-setting signing of Paul Pogba from Juventus. United ponied up £89 million to bring the Frenchman back to Old Trafford. They’ve also added some flair in Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic who joined on a free transfer, and Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan who they brought in from Borussia Dortmund. United will be without Pogba, as he’s serving a one-match suspension that carried over from Italy.
AS Nancy – Lyon (Ligue 1 Matchday 1):
Lyon will try to do the impossible and give Paris Saint-Germain a run for the title in Ligue 1 this season. They start off the new season by traveling to Nancy on Sunday.
Lyon used to be the dominant force in French soccer, picking up seven straight Ligue 1 titles between 2001-08. They were a regular feature in the Champions League and made it to the quarterfinals on three occasions, and even reached the semifinals in 2010.
They are holding onto dear life to striker Alexandre Lacazette, but if a good enough bid comes in, they might have to let go of their top scorer. Lyon finished second last season with 65 points, a whopping 31 points behind PSG.
Newcomers Nancy won Ligue 2 last season, picking up 21 wins, 11 draws, and six losses.
Arsenal – Liverpool (Premier League Matchday 1):
Arsenal takes on Liverpool in a high-profile matchup on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners finished second last season, but without significant additions to the squad except midfielder Granit Xhaka, it could be a long season for the Arsenal faithful.
With centre backs Per Mertesacker and Gabriel out injured, along with Laurent Koscielny being rested after playing in the Euros with France, Arsenal is expected to start with Rob Holding (20) and Calum Chambers (21).
Liverpool have made several signings, including the arrival of Sadio Mane from Southampton and Georginio Wijnaldum from Newcastle. Jurgen Klopp took over during last season, and has now had a full preseason to work with the squad and get them used to his system. Expectations will be higher on the Reds this season, and an 8th place finish like last season won’t cut it.