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Seven things we’re looking forward to this season

Premier League football is back and once again football fans are strapping in for a season that promises no lack of drama and compelling narrative.

Despite Manchester City’s recent grip on the title, English football’s top flight has arguably never been as competitive from top to bottom with sides across the division containing standout talents and coaches.

Further afield European competition will soon return, with eight English teams in UEFA competition this season after continental triumphs for Manchester City and West Ham last season.

As the action prepares to get underway, here are seven things we’re looking forward to this season:

Champions League nights at St James’ Park

Newcastle performed above all expectations to secure Champions League football last season, with Eddie Howe’s organised overachievers securing a place in Europe’s elite for the first time in two decades.

St James’ Park can be a raucous place on any occasion, but the prospect of welcoming European football’s superpowers to the North East will have the place rocking. The Magpies have been here twice before in the Champions League era and on each occasion left their mark.

Who can forget Faustino Asprilla’s famous hat-trick against Barcelona? Or Craig Bellamy’s Rotterdam rescue act to send Newcastle through when elimination was just seconds away.

Sandro Tonali, a semi-finalist with AC Milan last season, has arrived as the marquee recruit of the summer so far, while Harvey Barnes and Tino Livramento add depth to Howe’s options. Newcastle will enter the competition with limited expectations and that might just suit the Magpies, whose fans will be loud and proud on their Champions League return.

All together now, is this the way to Barcelona…

Luton Town and their tiny, tiny stadium

Luton Town have had quite the rise across the last decade. A non-league side as recently as 2013/14, the Hatters have become the first team in history to rise from the fifth-tier of English football and into the Premier League.

Luton have, of course, been a top-flight team before but a disastrous period of financial issues that threatened the club’s existence meant dreams of a return to this stage were little more than fantasy not so long ago. Rob Edwards built on the foundations Nathan Jones created to take Luton up, with a commendable work-ethic ensuring his side competed with Championship sides on far bigger budgets.

The gulf in resources is even more apparent now Luton are mixing it with England’s giants and survival will be the sole aim. Premier League fans will also get the novelty of visiting the smallest ground ever to host fixtures in the division, with Kenilworth Road possessing a capacity of just over 10,000. Tucked between terraced housing, it has already become a talking point before a ball has even been kicked. Luton will hope to make home advantage count in their bid to beat the drop.

Postecoglou-ball

It’s fair to say Ange Postecoglou received an underwhelming reaction upon his appointment at Tottenham this summer. After flirtations with former favourite Mauricio Pochettino – who moved to rivals Chelsea – Julian Nagelsmann and Luis Enrique, Spurs appointed the Premier League’s first-ever Australian head coach and one with zero experience of top-level football.

Postecoglou’s coaching credentials are far better than his résumé would suggest however, and not just because of two decorated seasons at Celtic. The 57-year-old has a proven track-record of improving teams and doing so in aesthetic fashion, with his recent berating of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in pre-season an example of his non-negotiable demands to keep possession and play.

Postecoglou, if nothing else, will remain loyal to his principles and those who have studied his methods will report of attractive front-footed football. Spurs have stagnated under the management of the pragmatic Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte and Postecoglou at least points towards a move, stylistically, in the right direction.

The expected loss of Harry Kane, alongside Postecoglou’s honest demeanour, could provide the new coach with additional patience at a transitional Tottenham. For the first time in some time, Spurs should be fun to watch this season.

Jude Bellingham at Real Madrid

Jude Bellingham’s evolution into genuine superstar is almost complete, with a big-money move to Real Madrid as close to an anointment as there is in European football.

Bellingham has turned down the chance to move to the Premier League in favour of a switch to Spain, calling Real Madrid the ‘greatest club in history’ and deciding to take the number five shirt once worn famously by Zinedine Zidane.

For any 20-year-old this would feel a daunting step and more established names than Bellingham have been swallowed up in the Spanish pressure-cooker that is the Bernabeu. Bellingham, however, is no normal talent and has proven time and time again that he has the maturity to handle each step in his progression.

Watching how he adapts to the demands at Real Madrid will be a fascinating watch, a club where nothing but the ultimate success is accepted.

Liverpool’s midfield reboot

Liverpool’s much-needed midfield overhaul has taken shape this summer, perhaps faster than most had anticipated. While Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and James Milner were expected to move on, the sales of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to the Saudi Pro League were not part of the initial plan.

After withdrawing from a long pursuit of Jude Bellingham, Liverpool reinvested that cash into Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai. The addition of the World Cup winner and talented Hungarian for a combined fee of £95m looks like sensible business from the Reds, while a £110m British transfer record offer has been lodged for Brighton’s Moises Caicedo.

Liverpool’s midfield make-up is one very much in the developmental stage. Thiago Alcantara aside, the average age of the club’s central midfield options is just 21.

Once the heartbeat of Klopp’s heavy-metal football, the pace of Liverpool’s game has slowed as their midfield has aged. A rebirth was required for the Reds to challenge once again and a return to the red-shirted swarm once seen at Anfield is back on the agenda.

The Europa Conference League

Football fans scoffed at the idea of the Europa Conference League when it was first announced, a third UEFA competition and yet more fixtures added to a calendar already struggling to cope.

It has, however, proven to be a breath of fresh air for participating clubs. Roma were crowned winners of the first edition and celebrated wildly at a first-ever European trophy, before West Ham took centre stage to end a 43-year wait for silverware last season.

The scenes that followed West Ham’s triumph will have surely whet the appetite for those involved this time around, particularly Aston Villa. The club’s last major trophy came in 1996 and Villa have both the talent and manager – Unai Emery is a four-time winner of the Europa League – to go far into the tournament.

Fiorentina – runners-up last season – Eintracht Frankfurt, Lille, Club Brugge and Fenerbahce will be among the teams confident of a cup run, as Europe’s lesser names relish the chance to give their fans an occasion to remember.

The toughest Championship, ever!

The Championship is an unforgiving league.

English football’s second tier is often called the most difficult league in the world, a division so competitive and so gruelling that only the toughest survive. This season shapes as arguably the best Championship season ever, with unexpected arrivals from the Premier League and sleeping giants rising from beneath.

Leicester, Leeds and Southampton will all consider themselves top-flight clubs despite relegation last season, with the former Premier League winners just seven years ago.

Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich are back after promotion from League One, while Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Coventry will hope to build on encouraging campaigns last term and earn a place in the Premier League next season.

Expect another unpredictable and unmissable Championship season.

Read – Seven Premier League players to watch out for in 2023/24

Read Also – Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 1 preview and tips

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