The Premier League returns with a bang on Saturday lunchtime as Manchester United welcome Tottenham Hotspur in a blockbuster opening to the 2015-16 season.
Two of last season’s top five, separated by only six points last term, will do battle at Old Trafford in a game which has a series of fascinating subplots.
Louis van Gaal has revealed that David de Gea will not feature for United as speculation continues to link the goalkeeper with a transfer to Spanish giants Real Madrid.
But Hugo Lloris, the favourite to replace De Gea at Old Trafford, should be fit to start for Tottenham after overcoming a wrist injury suffered in pre-season.
The France international, now captain at Spurs, has indicated that he would be interested in a switch to United as he has ambitions to play in the Champions League again.
This campaign may be Tottenham’s last chance to break that top-four ceiling and persuade Lloris to stay. They have finished fifth or sixth in the three seasons that he has been at the club.
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2015-16 Premier League title & top 4 battles predicted: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool & Man U in the mix
Man United squad numbers
United have also been sniffing around Tottenham hero Harry Kane, who will be looking to prove to his doubters that he is more than a one-season wonder after his amazing 31-goal exploits of last term.
Maurico Pochettino has as yet been unable to sign a striker to ease the burden on the 21-year-old. Most of Tottenham’s transfer business so far has been focussed on shifting deadwood.
Of their three summer signings to date – Kieran Trippier, Kevin Wimmer and Toby Alderweireld – arguably only the latter improves the first team, and he will be given a debut alongside fellow Belgian and former Ajax teammate Jan Vertonghen in defence. The pair won two titles together in Holland.
The Red Devils have been much more active in the transfer market – bringing in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Matteo Darmian – three of whom are in line for debuts. Van Gaal has confirmed that Schweinsteiger, along with Marcos Rojo are short of match fitness.
However, they are still yet to address gaping flaws that could prevent them from mounting a title charge. Wayne Rooney is shockingly short of support up front, and their defence is missing a leader.
Chris Smalling will be expected to step up in the meantime, and may have Daley Blind as his partner. Behind them, either Argentina’s Sergio Romero or 22-year-old Sam Johnstone will deputise for De Gea.
United beat Tottenham 3-0 in this fixture last season, prior to which they had gone five matches against Spurs without victory and lost to them in their previous two league games at the Theatre of Dreams.
Whoever prevails this time will top the Premier League. For a couple of hours at least…
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