Weekly segment: The three most exciting matches of the week!
The 2023/24 football season is finally starting to get under way! This weekend, English football is back, with all but the Premier League commencing their new seasons, alongside a fascinating match up in the Community Shield final. Here are the most exciting games of the week (and where you can watch them)…
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Southampton (Friday, 4th August. 8pm. Sky Sports)
Our first offering of English football this season comes from the Championship, as we see newly-promoted Sheffield Wednesday host Premier League dropouts Southampton. The Owls enjoyed a 9 year run in the 2nd tier of English football before being relegated in 2021, but they return from a 2 year absence under new manager Xisco Munoz. After the surprise departure of manager Darren Moore, Munoz will be looking to start the season strong with a result against one of the favourites for the title or promotion, where home advantage will be a key factor in causing an opening day shock.
Southampton, however, will be anything but an easy conquest. The Saints suffered an appalling end to their 11 year stay in the Premier League last season, but still have a number of high-quality players at their disposal. They’ll be able to lineup for this weekend’s match with the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Kyle Walker-Peters, and the returning Nathan Tella, who helped Burnley to a Championship title last season with 22 goal contributions in 31 starts. The title-chasers will be demanding of themselves under new manager Russell Martin, and will hope to send a strong message to the rest of the league, come the opening day of the season.
Key stat: Sheffield Wednesday are winless in the last 4 meetings between the two sides, with their last win over Southampton coming back in April 2009, in The Championship.
Players to watch: Michael Smith made 34 starts in League One last season, scoring 17 goals and creating 6 assists. Nathan Tella scored 17 goals and assisted 5 goals for Burnley in the Championship last season, as the Clarets cruised to the title.
Leicester City vs. Coventry City (Sunday, 6th August. 12pm. Sky Sports)
Game two takes us to the East MIdlands, as Premier League relegated Leicester City play host to last season’s Championship playoff final losers, Coventry City. The Foxes bowed out of the top tier of English Football last season, after a 9 year run which saw them become unlikely Premier League champions and win the FA Cup, and it came with the loss of some integral players in the form of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, and Youri Tielemans. While Leicester have been left scarce in the midfield department, they have brought in some fresh faces, such as Harry Winks, Callum Doyle, and Stephy Mavididi alongside the remaining Premier League experience in the squad. Like Southampton, the former Premier League champions are heavily backed to bounce back this season and are one of the frontrunners for the Championship title, with the added interest of being under the management of ex-first-team coach, Enzo Maresca.
Coventry, on the other hand, will be raring to go again this season after falling at the final hurdle last season, suffering defeat in the playoff finals at the hands of Luton Town. While they still hold the majority of the squad that pushed them toward Premier League status last season, they have suffered notable losses in the form of superstar striker Viktor Gyokeres and young CB starlet, Callum Doyle. Gyokeres was instrumental in the Sky Blues’ Championship ascent last season, contributing 21 goals and 10 assists in 44 starts. The promotion hopefuls have brought in Ellis Simms in hopes to replicate something close to that level of goalscoring, but losing two of their most important players could be cause for concern this year.
Key stat: Coventry are winless in 4 meetings with Leicester since 2010, with Leicester winning the last 2 in 2011 and 2012.
Players to watch: Kelechi Iheanacho bagged himself 10 goal contributions in 11 starts in the Premier League last season (5 goals, 5 assists). Ellis Simms contributed 7 goals and 2 assists in 14 starts for Sunderland last season, in the Championship. With a point to prove, and 4 pre-season goals for Coventry, he’ll be looking to make his mark.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 6th August. 4pm. ITV1/ITVX)
We round off the opening weekend of football in England with a clash of champions, in the Community Shield final! 17 time winners Manchester City face 15 time winners Arsenal at Wembley, for the first English trophy of the season. It’s a match up of the Community Shield’s two most successful teams clash in what will be an insightful match with the Premier League season starting just 5 days later. Manchester City won an esteemed treble last season, as they secured the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup in an unprecedented season of dominance. Fans and neutrals alike will be keen to see where the side is at going into the 2023/24 season, and how they plan to set up to retain their titles.
Their opponents, Arsenal, suffered a late collapse last season as they chased their first league title in almost 20 years. The Gunners have attracted praise during the summer transfer window, as they’ve strengthened greatly with the arrivals of Declan Rice, Jurrien Timber, and Kai Havertz. This will be the best insight fans have had into the North London side before the league season starts, and a chance at a trophy for Mikel Arteta and co. to start the new campaign. The final is sure to be a fiery affair, with the last five meetings between the two sides averaging 4.8 cards per game and 3.6 goals.
Key stat: Manchester City have won the last 8 meetings between themselves and Arsenal, scoring 21 goals and conceding only 4 times.
Players to watch: Erling Haaland lit up domestic and European football last season, resulting in him securing the Premier League golden boot with a record 36 goals in 33 starts. He also won the UEFA Champions League golden boot after scoring 12 times in the competition. Bukayo Saka was integral to Arsenal’s success last season, with 14 goals and 11 assists in 37 Premier League starts.