The English Premier League officially kicks off on Saturday, August 8 as Manchester United hosts Tottenham Hotspur at 7:45 AM (ET).
Here’s 5 stories to watch as the season unfolds:
1. Dizzying Heights for AFC Bournemouth: “The Cherries” achieved amazing feats last season. First, they reached “The Championship” division — the league below the EPL — for only the second time in team history. They went out and won the title, earning their first promotion to the Premier League or “First Division” of English football in team history. The club’s Dean Court ground seats just 11,000 and it’ll be interesting to see how these upstarts fare during their first year the top flight. Chances are, it’ll be a brief stay, but weirder things have happened. Great story about AFC Bournemouth’s incredible rise from near-extinction here.
2. Norwich City back on the bounce: The Canaries are back after a year in The Championship. Can the East Anglia club make the stay a little more permanent this time? They will try to do it without adding many big-name signings. Many of the players who were relegated remained with the club and will give it a second chance. You know what Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over again, right?
3. Raheem Sterling’s Return to Liverpool: Hard to feel sorry for either side in this one as Liverpool fans still take time to remind rivals how they dominated European football in the 1980’s while Man. City fans are keen to flash their new-found purchasing power thanks to owner Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan aka Sheikh Mansour’s endless supply of cash. City purchased Sterling, the England international and Liverpool goal-grabber for more than $75 million (US). Not a bad pay day for a player who scored 23 goals over 129 appearances. Liverpool now has a war chest of funds to help keep them relevant with the likes of Chelsea, both Manchesters and Arsenal. We’ll see if Sterling can live up to the pressure of being one of the most expensive signings in English history. Liverpool visits Man. City on Nov. 21, but we’ll have to wait until March 1st for Sterling’s Anfield return (barring any FA or League Cup fixtures).
5. Relegation Candidates: Who’ll be fighting for survival in the bottom three? The most-recently promoted — Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich — serve as excellent suspects. West Brom, Leceister, Newcastle, Sunderland, Aston Villa and West Ham all need to improve on last year’s efforts if they want to escape the bottom three comfortably.