Tottenham vs. Aston Villa
Venue: Tottenham Stadium
Kick off: 5:30PM
Tottenham Hotspur head into their Premier League opener with Aston Villa looking to make a positive statement as they look to put together a sustained title challenge.
There has been frequent speculation regarding the future of Mauricio Pochettino over the past 12 months, with a mix of interest from other clubs, potential Champions League glory and issues regarding transfers all playing their part.
However, Pochettino and his squad head into the new season with supporters increasingly optimistic that they have the tools to rival the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool for the top-flight crown.
While much of that has come from the club’s run to the Champions League final, several high-profile additions have naturally heightened expectation levels in North London.
There may be an insistence in the public eye that City remain the clear favourites to win a third successive Premier League crown, but chairman Daniel Levy will want a return for the money which he has been prepared to shell out on fresh faces.
Spurs only claimed fourth spot on the final day of the last campaign, an achievement which will now be regarded as unacceptable given the level of investment.
There will, of course, be a certain level of patience with a manager who remains highly sought-after, although Pochettino now has less grounds to argue that work off the pitch is hindering his efforts on it.
Now that the transfer window has been slammed shut until January 1, focus will now turn on trying to gain as many points as possible from a difficult start, with games against City, Newcastle United and Arsenal to follow the meeting with Villa.
Such a schedule places extra importance on overcoming the newly-promoted club, but Spurs have shown in the past that they can produce a clinical streak when facing teams who have recently come up from the Championship.
While Aston Villa have spent the last three years away from the Premier League, there is a belief at the West Midlands outfit that they can quickly get themselves back up the standings during the upcoming campaign.
Despite Norwich City and Sheffield United – teams which earned automatic promotion – being satisfied with avoiding relegation, spending over £100m on a dozen new players suggests that Villa have bigger plans.
Dean Smith will attempt to play down the chances of instant progression in an increasingly competitive league, but Villa are expected to looking ahead rather than behind them towards the relegation zone.
That said, it is important that the playoff winners begin on the front foot. While Spurs represent a tough opening test, home games against Bournemouth, Everton and West Ham United come over the course of the following five weeks.
With a trip to Arsenal also thrown in there, Smith is aware that his team must be firing on all cylinders for their outings at Villa Park if they are to make any sort of impact around the mid-table area and beyond.
Tottenham possible XI: Lloris, Walker-Peters, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Ndombele, Winks, Moura, Eriksen, Lamela, Kane.
Aston Villa possible XI: Heaton, Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett, Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish, El Ghazi, Jota, Wesley.