Manuel Pellegrini speaks! “It’s a new season. All the teams are stronger. But I am confident we have a good squad, and I hope we are more consistent. We have a lot of new signings and players who couldn’t play for us last season because of injury. I hope with Sebastien Haller’s quality and with our technical midfield he will be a successful player here.”
The first Pep talk of the new season: “We have seen this much together, the guys always try to do their best. Manuel Pellegrini is an experienced manager, his teams always play in the proper style. First games of the season are always tricky, especially when you play away. But it is what it is. We will try to focus, and improve from here.”
Sebastien Haller, West Ham’s £45m record signing makes his debut … but never mind that! Jack Wilshere starts his first game in 11 months. Jack Wilshere! As for the champions … Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva are on the bench. Gabriel Jesus and new boy Rodri go at it from kick-off.
West Ham United: Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Cresswell, Wilshere, Rice, Antonio, Lanzini, Felipe Anderson, Haller.
Subs: Zabaleta, Hernandez, Snodgrass, Roberto, Sanchez, Fornals, Ogbonna.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko, De Bruyne, Rodri, Silva, Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Sterling.
Subs: Bravo, Gundogan, Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Otamendi, Foden.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).
Manchester City don’t half love the London Stadium. Since West Ham United moved into their new gaff back in 2016, City have paid a visit on four occasions. They’ve gone back with the spoils every time, always enjoying themselves immensely in the process: 0-5, 0-4, 1-4, 0-4. Throw in three wins at the Etihad, and City are on a seven-game winning streak against the Hammers.
Factor this in too: Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning champions are effectively on a 14-match winning streak in the Premier League. For that is how they finished off last season, how they finished off Liverpool. They’re not half bad, this lot. West Ham – who have lost an unprecedented 12 opening-day fixtures in the Premier League era – have their work cut out today.
But if City are allowed to carry over their 14-match winning streak from last season, then West Ham must be allowed their three-win sequence at the end of the previous campaign too. And that’s not the only reason for optimism in the east end. Having finished comfortably tenth in 2018-19, Manuel Pellegrini has made some significant summer upgrades, including £45m record signing Sebastien Haller and former Villarreal midfielder Pablo Fornals. Both are expected to make their debuts today. Jack Wilshere is fit! And losing streaks are there to be snapped. So, y’know.
The wind is forecast to be up, though bookies have the champs as strong favourites to breeze through anyway. Will the conditions be a leveller? Will the hosts cause a shock and hit the ground running? Or will City chalk up the first three points of yet another huge title-winning haul? We’ll find out soon enough. It’s the Premier League! It’s back! It’s on!
Kick off: 12.30pm BST.