Who will win the opening game of the 2018/19 EPL season?
Last updated: August 8, 2018 by Leon Marshal
|Coverage:||Sky Sports 1|
|Last Meeting:||Leicester 2 – 2 Man Utd|
After a long wait, the Premier League is back with a bang on Friday night as Manchester United host Leicester.
The wait for the EPL to start up again was made much easier by an enthralling FIFA World Cup over the summer, but Premier League managers, especially José Mourinho, aren’t too happy. Manchester United are one of hardest hit of teams missing players who joined up late with the squad after going deep in the World Cup. Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, and Marouane Fellaini are all unlikely to start here, while the problem is compounded by a number of injuries in defence. Mourinho has publicly voiced his displeasure at the services available to him, the team’s performances and the lack of transfer activity, but we know by now that could just be a distraction.
That said, things aren’t looking great at Old Trafford. A string of poor results and poor performances in pre-season, combined with Mourinho’s rants, mean there’s a dark cloud over the red side of Manchester. We shouldn’t be too much stock in pre-season results though, and while it will be a largely second string team, there’s still bags of talent. Alexis Sánchez has been the stand out performer and could start up front, but Mourinho’s defensive tendencies may nullify his potential somewhat. Should United set up to grind out a result as they often have under Mourinho, then it will not be easy, and it will likely not go down well with the fans either. Mourinho has publicly stated that this will be a difficult start to the season due to the problems outlined. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!
Leicester too are likely to be without two World Cup players, Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy. Those two reached the semi-finals with England and have only recently joined up with the squad. The big news for Leicester this season is there’s no more Riyad Mahrez. He has been the chief creative threat for Leicester over the last three seasons and his replacement, James Maddison, has a knock and may miss this one. Leicester have also added Rachid Ghezzal in midfield and Jonny Evans in defence, though the latter is also injured.
That means that the Foxes’ defence may also be weakened and must pay particular attention to Sánchez. Up-front, Kelechi Iheanacho has been in great form in pre-season, netting a number of times, and should start ahead of Vardy. He will be hoping to stake a claim for a starting spot by continuing his goal-scoring run in the Premier League.
United have defensive injuries, with Valencia, Rojo, Bailly and new signing José Diogo Dalot Teixeira all injured.
But the Red Devils are also hit by the World Cup, with Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku two of the biggest names who have only just returned to the squad and probably won’t feature.
Leicester have two England World Cup heroes of their own in the form of Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire, who are both also unlikely to start.
That should give Kelechi Iheanacho, who has been in great form in pre-season, the chance to start. New signing James Maddison could miss out with a knock.
|Man Utd (4-4-2):||De Gea, Smalling, Lindelöf, Shaw, Darmian, Fred, Pereira, McTominay, Sánchez, Mata, Rashford|
|Subs:||Romero, Martial, Herrera, Bailly, Mitchell, Garner, Chong|
|Doubtful:||Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Herrera|
|Leicester (4-4-2):||Schmeichel, Chilwell, Morgan, Simpson, Pereira, Albrighton, Gray, Ndidi, Maddison, Iborra, Ihenacho|
|Subs:||Jakupovic, Evans, Fuchs, Silva, Amartey, Ghezzal, Vardy|
So Far This Season
|Man Utd This Season||Leicester This Season|
|0 (0)||Wins (away)||0 (0)|
|0 (0)||Draws (away)||0 (0)|
|—||Top Goal Scorer||—|
|Y0, R0||Discipline||Y0, R0|
|—||Failures to Score||—|
|—||Both Teams to Score Games||—|
|—||Over 2.5 Goals||—|
|—||Under 2.5 Goals||—|
- It’s the first game of the season, so there are no stats to help us predict what might occur here. That said, United have been poor in their last five pre-season friendlies, winning just once.
- Leicester have looked better in pre-season, though they are now without star man Riyad Mahrez. He has been chief creator over the last few years, so it remains to be seen just how much he will be missed.
- With a wealth of attacking unavailable, and knowing Mourinho’s tendencies, we could be set for a very defensive approach from United here.
- James Maddison is the man bought to replace Mahrez, while Kelechi Iheanacho has scored plenty in pre-season, and should start ahead of Jamie Vardy.
Head to Head
|Last 5 meetings between the two sides|
|Date||Competition||Game Result||First Goal-scorer|
|23/12/2017||EPL||Leicester 2 – 2 Man Utd||Vardy 27′|
|26/08/2017||EPL||Man Utd 2 – 0 Leicester||Rashford 70′|
|05/02/2017||EPL||Leicester 0 – 3 Man Utd||Mkhitaryan 42′|
|24/09/2016||EPL||Man Utd 4 – 1 Leicester||Smalling 22′|
|07/08/2016||Community Shield||Leicester 1 – 2 Man Utd||Lingard 32′|
Conclusion & Betting Tips
It’s always difficult to predict results in an opening game of any season, but with a number of different factors at play, it’s especially difficult here. Leicester will be sensing disorder in the United ranks and could have success if they were to go for the win. But United have home advantage and despite Mourinho’s constant bemoaning of almost everything, they should bring something to the table.
Mourinho has a fantastic record in season openers that he won’t want to mess up. A defensive strategy is both his natural approach and will maintain his record, so we think this will be a tight game that United will do anything not to lose. With that in mind, we’ll be going for under 2.5 goals, which you can get at Coral.