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EPL: Arsenal, Leicester meet as League kicks off Friday

The Premier League returns after its summer vacation on Friday, with Arsenal taking on Leicester City in the 2017-18 season opener.

Both teams will be boasting summer arrivals and, potentially, forwards with one eye on the exit door.

Alexis Sanchez has been told he is staying this summer while Riyad Mahrez will be allowed to leave for the right price, and both could play from the off this weekend.

Elsewhere, £52million Alexandre Lacazette will lead the line in the Premier League for the first time, trying to get the better of new Foxes signing Harry Maguire.

Both teams will be keen to start the season with a win, having suffered opening-day losses 12 months ago. The Gunners haven’t lost to Leicester in the league since 1994.

Leicester City boss Craig Shakespeare has plenty of selection options ahead of the season opener at Arsenal.

The arrival of £25 million striker Kelechi Iheanacho has provided another dimension to City’s attacking threats, although the Nigerian international is expected to be eased into action by Shakespeare, especially as his ankle knock on his pre-season debut cut short his much-needed game time.

Iheanacho is expected to recover ahead of Friday’s game but a spot on the substitute’s bench seems likely.

Islam Slimani’s cut behind his knee, picked up during the friendly at Wolverhampton Wanderers, has also hampered his preparations for Friday, leaving Leonardo Ulloa, Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki as fully fit striking options.

Okazaki and Vardy look likely to be the two starters should Shakespeare opt for the more familiar 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 option, but with such a tough curtain-raiser at the Emirates, where City have lost on every visit, Shakespeare could opt for a more defensive looking five-man midfield.

Ozil is a major doubt with an ankle injury while Alexis Sanchez has not played during pre-season due to Confederations Cup commitments.

Aaron Ramsey’s calf will keep him out of the Friday game, but Per Mertesacker will be fine after suffering a nasty cut in the Community Shield.

Francis Coquelin told Standard Sport hopes to be fit but remains unlikely to feature. Santi Cazorla, Gabriel Paulista and Jack Wilshere remain sidelined.

However, Chelsea will attempt to retain the title after success in manager Antonio Conte’s first season in charge. The champions welcome Burnley in their opening fixture at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with the Blues desperate to get off to a perfect start.

Conte’s men face a tricky first match in the Premier League, with Burnley making the trip south from Lancashire.

Chelsea has added the talents of Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko to their squad, but Conte has not expanded on his flair options, instead opting to strengthen his core.

Morata will be expected to lead the goal count after arriving from Real Madrid, and the move to the Bridge is a huge opportunity to prove himself as a world-class striker.

The 24-year-old hit 15 goals in La Liga last term, according to WhoScored.com, and Conte will need the player to increase his tally for the season in England.

New boys Brighton & Hove Albion host Manchester City in their first game in the top flight, and Manchester United open up against West Ham United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Liverpool travel to Watford for their first encounter of the season, and neighbours Everton will battle Stoke City.

 

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