The new Premier League season is so close I can taste it. No more transfer window, more more preseason, no more full season predictions, we’re close enough to focus in on a real life game that’s happening this Friday. Manchester United will host Leicester City at Old Trafford for the first match of the 2018/19 Premier League season.
Even with a number of international players possibly missing from both sides, it promises to be a great way to get the new season underway, but who will take the points and get their year off on the best foot?
We’ve broken down some of the key areas and individual match ups that could decide the outcome.
1. Wes Morgan vs Marcus Rashford
The Foxes are a little thin at the back right now, but I wasn't so worried about Morgan. He matches up very well strength-for-strength with United frontman Romelu Lukaku and has dealt with him well enough in the past.
The World Cup finalist, however, is not expected to start. Marcus Rashford will most likely step in and offers something very different. His quickness, in particular, could give a defender of Morgan’s size and age absolute fits. The Foxes will have to have a very good plan to hold the England youngster in place.
2. Alexis Sanchez vs Leicester FBs
United may be without their first choice fullbacks. I’m sure Puel will be looking to exploit this, particularly by bringing his own forward thinking fullbacks, Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell, up on the overlap, as they have done effectively in preseason.
The other side of this is equation is Sanchez. The Chilean winger is dangerous enough to cause even the best defenders problems. Pereira and Chilwell, even with help with Wilfred Ndidi, are not the best defenders. If United’s wingers can keep them pressed into the back four all game, Leicester’s attacking options could be slim.
3. James Maddison vs a lack of Nemanja Matic
Another player we know won't play for the Red Devils is Matic. The key defensive midfielder will miss out through injury, and that could create a little more space in front of the home side’s defence. That’s where Maddison will be planning to spend most of this game.
There’ll be no Vardy to set off lightning fast breaks, the fullbacks may be forced back giving the wingers no help, and our midfield pair will have more than they can handle against United’s three. In the end the Foxes may end up completely reliant on new signing Maddison for any creative input.
Iheanacho has looked in good nick through the summer, but if Madders can't get him the ball, it could be a very lonely day for him.