EPL

Man City to open Premier League title defence away against Chelsea

By Sports Desk June 18, 2024

Manchester City will begin their Premier League title defence with a testing trip to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the opening weekend.

Pep Guardiola's side have already won a historic four straight titles and will begin their pursuit of a fifth consecutive crown with a tough away match on Sunday August 18 against a team now managed by Enzo Maresca.

Man City have won their opening Premier League match in 12 of the last 13 seasons, though the exception was an away game in London when they lost 1-0 to Tottenham in 2021-22.

This will be the first time in 53 years that Chelsea have begun a top-flight campaign with a match against the reigning champions. They last did that in 1971, losing to Arsenal at Highbury.

The Premier League fixtures for 2024-25 were unveiled on Tuesday.

Arsenal narrowly missed out to Man City in each of the last two seasons and Mikel Arteta's men discovered they will start at home to Wolves on Saturday August 17.

It is Manchester United and Fulham who will open the season on Friday August 16, with the FA Cup holders playing at home in an evening fixture.

Arne Slot's tenure as Liverpool manager starts with a trip away to play promoted Ipswich Town, who return to the top flight after a 22-year absence, while play-off winners Southampton will face Newcastle United at St James' Park.

The opening weekend concludes on Monday August 19 as Leicester City host Tottenham in a difficult start to the Foxes' Premier League return.

There are some other notable matches taking place in the early weeks of the season, with Arsenal away to Aston Villa in the two teams' second match of the campaign.

The Gunners also have back-to-back away matches against Tottenham and Man City in September, meaning they will have had road games against three of the top five sides from last season inside the first five matchweeks.

Man Utd, meanwhile, are due to face Liverpool at Old Trafford on August 31 in the standout fixture of Matchday 3.

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    City won the Premier League title last season, retaining the crown for a fourth season running, but they were undone by the reigning Scottish champions in North Carolina.

    Erling Haaland captained Pep Guardiola's team, and his header dragged City level after Celtic had taken a 3-1 lead by the interval.

    Nicolas Kuhn scored twice for the Bhoys in the opening 45 minutes, either side of Oscar Bobb's effort, with Kyogo Furuhashi also getting in on the act for Celtic.

    Bobb teed up Maximo Perrone to reduce the arrears before the Norwegian youngster supplied the cross for his compatriot Haaland to head home a City equaliser in the 57th minute.

    But the day belonged to Celtic as, 11 minutes later, Luis Palma grabbed their fourth to seal a memorable friendly victory for Brendan Rodgers' side.

    Data Debrief: City's leaky defence

    For all their attacking talent, City's success under Guardiola has been built on solid foundations, but in the absence of first-team like Ruben Dias, John Stones, Manuel Akanji Nathan Ake and Kyle Walker, their inexperienced back line failed to cope with Celtic's attackers.

    City allowed 13 shots, but they accounted for 2.4 expected goals, while Guardiola's side accumulated only 1.7 xG from 16 shots going the other way.

    Celtic created five big chances, and Guardiola will want to see improvement in that defensive solidity as pre-season progresses.

  • Bologna sign Dallinga from Toulouse as Zirkzee replacement Bologna sign Dallinga from Toulouse as Zirkzee replacement

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    Dallinga, who joined Toulouse from Excelsior having scored 32 goals in 37 appearances in the 2021-22 Eredivisie season, ends a two-year spell with Le Tefece. 

    The 23-year-old netted 19 times in 44 outings in all competitions for the French side last season, including two goals against Liverpool in the Europa League group stage. 

    The Dutch international helped Toulouse win their first major trophy with their Coupe de France success in 2023, scoring two goals in the final against Nantes. 

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  • New beginning: T&T’s Andre Raymond at home with St Johnstone after jail-time disrupted opportunity with SC Braga New beginning: T&T’s Andre Raymond at home with St Johnstone after jail-time disrupted opportunity with SC Braga

    Trinidad and Tobago's Andre Raymond knows all too well that opportunities in football often come with their fair share of challenges and setbacks. Though those setbacks are sometimes harrowing, much like his jail-time experience in Portugal, Raymond, like the professional he is, has learned to smile in the face of adversity.

    In fact, it is Raymond's resilience and determination that ensured a bad situation took a positive turn and brought him back on track to pursue his professional dreams, as he recently signed with St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership, where he had an encouraging start in a 2-0 win over Morton on Saturday.

    “I was very happy with my debut. I needed to get some minutes in the tank and build a bond with the team and the intensity was really high—it was really good,” said Raymond, whose last competitive outing was a friendly international against Guyana in May.

    “I didn’t know the coach [Craig Levein] had asked Dan [Phillips] about me. Then, in March, I got a phone call saying he was interested. He’d done some research and liked what he saw, so things started moving then. I made my mind up straight away; I wanted to join St Johnstone because the Scottish league is a top league,” he told The Courier.

    Prior to his move to Scotland, Raymond, whose speed, defensive acumen, and ability to contribute offensively made him a sought-after player, caught the eye of scouts from various clubs, including SC Braga, one of Portugal’s top football teams.

    The opportunity to sign with Braga seemed like the perfect next step in Raymond’s burgeoning career. However, his aspirations were abruptly halted by an unexpected turn of events.

    During his trip to finalize the deal with SC Braga, Raymond was detained by Portuguese authorities for overstaying on a previous visit. This oversight resulted in him being thrown into prison for two days.

    “I was at university in America and did one semester. While I was at home, my friend was going with an academy team to Spain. I was dropping him off at the airport, and the coach of his team asked me what I was doing and why I wasn’t playing football and going with them,” Raymond recalled.

    “He wanted me to go with them, so he spoke to my dad about it, but my mom was saying, ‘No way, you have to go back to school,” he shared.

    In the end, Raymond managed to persuade his parents, and a few days later, he joined the Academy team in Spain for the tournament.

    “After that, we went to Portugal, and I ended up with Braga, but then some stuff happened—I got arrested because we’d been away from home for so long, and I ended up staying for four months instead of three. I went back home to get my documents and then back to Portugal for pre-season with Braga, but they didn’t let me in and threw me in jail,” Raymond explained.

    “I was in there for two days; it was horrible. I was allowed a 15-minute phone call and locked in a cell. I know it was only two days, but that was enough. It was a new experience, that’s for sure, and I wouldn’t want anyone to go through it,” he added.

    The detention not only affected Raymond personally but also jeopardized his professional prospects. The deal with SC Braga fell through as the club, wary of the legal complications, decided not to proceed.

    For Raymond, it was a devastating blow, as the young defender was on the brink of a significant career milestone.

    “They sent me back to Trinidad, and I had to spend three months out of Europe before I could go back. But, because of the length of time it was, Braga had moved on and signed another left-back, and that left me without a club.

    “I felt like giving up football again, to be honest, but I got the chance to sign for Vilar De Perdizes, so I decided to do that. My mom wanted me to go back to school, but my dad said I should push on and keep going,” Raymond revealed.

    Through resilience and his father’s unwavering support, the now 23-year-old continued to push and inevitably caught the attention of St Johnstone through a timely referral from his Soca Warriors teammate Dan Phillips.

    Now a part of the St Johnstone squad, Raymond is eager to leverage his skills and experiences to help the Perth-based club succeed while continuing to develop as a player.

    “I spent the last few months of the season watching the team play, looking at the players, the style of play, and the atmosphere in the stadium. All the time I was speaking to the manager and hoping they would stay in the Premiership, and I was very happy that they did,” Raymond said.

    “I wanted Dan to stay, but he has goals and aspirations of his own. We still speak a lot. He told me to come here because it’s a good club and I would fit in here. He said that my style of play would match up with Scottish football, and I’m feeling that too because I like to defend, but I also like to get forward,” he ended.

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