The 2017/2018 Premier League season kicks off Friday with Arsenal hosting Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium. The two former Premier League champions hope to grab the first three points of the season and get themselves to the top of the table early.
Arsenal will be desperate to win the Premier League this year. With Alexis Sanchez refusing to sign a new contract, it looks like the Chilean will play out the final year of his contract and sign for someone on a free next summer. Arsene Wenger will be desperate to make the last year of Sanchez count and win the Gunners first league title since 2004.
Leicester have their sights set a bit lower. After winning the Premier League in 2016, the Foxes had a more normal finish of 11th last season, while making it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. They’ll look to propel themselves back into the top half this year and maybe even push for a Europa League spot, though many of those ambitions will be decided by whether they are able to hand onto stars Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater through the end of this transfer window.
The season hasn’t even started yet and Arsenal already have injury problems. Both Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil picked up knocks in training last week that forced them to miss the Community Shield and they could be held out of the opening day as well, according to Physioroom.com. Per Mertesacker suffered a cut above his eye and his status is unknown for Friday. Sanchez is likely to miss the first two matches of the season, while Shkodran Mustafi is a doubt after participating in the Confederations Cup this summer. Jack Wilshere and Francis Coquelin are likely out but could be back next week, according to Physioroom.com. Gabriel Paulista and Santi Cazorla are both out with long term injuries, while Laurent Koscielny is still suspended after his red card on the final day of last season.
Leicester could be without major summer signing Kelechi Iheanacho as he is a doubt with a foot injury as well as Islam Slimani who is struggling with a thigh gash, according to Physioroom.com. The Foxes will likely be without Danny Drinkwater and Robert Huth with thigh and ankle injuries respectively, according to Physioroom.com.
Arsenal: Alexandre Lacazette
Arsenal broke their transfer record with the £46.5m signing of Alexandre Lacazette this summer. The Frenchman will get off to a tough start as he could be making his debut without fellow stars Ozil and Sanchez. He will hope to solve the striker problems Arsenal have had on and off for the last few seasons. He nearly scored on his competitive debut against Chelsea, striking the post after a quick counter attack. He’ll look to finesse the ball inside the post this time and get his Premier League career off to a fast start.
Leicester City: Riyad Mahrez
Leicester were propelled to their title by N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy, and Mahrez. Kante moved on to Chelsea to win another title, while Vardy rejected a move to Arsenal last summer. This summer, it was Mahrez’s turn to be courted by the Gunners, reportedly. Mahrez has been rumoured to be the backup target to Thomas Lemar, though rumours of the Algerian moving to Arsenal have quieted significantly in the last few weeks. He’ll look to prove Wenger right to be interested in him and inflict an opening day loss an Arsenal.
If Arsenal want to be anywhere near the title they need to be winning games like this. At the end of the season it’s unlikely they’ll win the title, but they should win this game.
Prediction: 2-1 Arsenal