Crystal Palace and Huddersfield will both walk out at Selhurst Park on Saturday believing opening day victory is possible.
The Eagles couldn’t have asked for an easier opening game on paper. A home fixture against the Championship’s play-off winners from last season is a perfect opportunity for three points.
However, the Terriers will not go into the game fearing their opponents. Palace are not one of the division’s so-called “big boys” and they managed just two home wins in 13 attempts at the start of last season.
This year the Eagles have a new man in charge. The fixture against Huddersfield will be Frank de Boer’s first competitive fixture as Palace manager, and he’ll be keen to make the best possible first impression.
In the opposite dugout will be Huddersfield’s David Wagner. The charismatic German led his side to play-off glory just three months ago and will relish his first taste of top-flight management.
The two managers will face their very own tactical showdown on the sideline, but on the pitch there will be battles covering every blade of grass.
Of these, there are three key battles which will have a big influence on who leaves South London victorious.
Riedewald vs Mounie
Two new signings, both with bright futures, make their competitive debuts for the respective clubs on Saturday.
Jaïro Riedewald signed for the Eagles from Ajax in July for an undisclosed fee. The 20-year old is expected to go straight in as de Boer’s first-choice centre-back. The defender already has three caps for The Netherlands under his belt and will be an exciting player to follow this season.
His first job in the red and blue of Crystal Palace will be to keep Steve Mounie quiet.
The Beninese international signed for the Terriers for a club-record fee and big things are expected of the striker. The 22-year old has 25 goals in 69 league games out in France whilst playing for Montpellier and Nimes, including 14 last season.
The winner of this battle could well decide the winner of the match. If Riedewald can stop Mounie finding the back of the net it will go a long way to helping Palace secure victory. However, if Mounie can bag a goal or two Huddersfield will be in a great position to open their season with a win.
Loftus-Cheek vs Mooy
Perhaps the most important battle at Selhurst Park on Saturday will happen in the middle of the park. For this key battle, two more signings go head to head, though Aaron Mooy did spent last season on-loan at Huddersfield.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek signed a season-long loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea this summer and the midfielder will be hoping for an impressive campaign. Loftus-Cheek may still have a future at Chelsea and in an England international shirt but for now he must wait.
The 6ft 3in midfielder is a big presence in midfield and stands almost half a foot taller than Mooy, but that won’t phase the Australian international.
The Terriers’ midfielder made 45 appearances for the club last season whilst on loan from Manchester City. He impressed so much last season that Wagner convinced the board to fork out £8million for the 26-year old.
Neither player is afraid of a tackle and both look to control the game for their team, but in this head-to-head only one will finish the 90 minutes victorious.
Benteke vs Hefele
The final battle will be one Palace need to win if they are to cruise to victory.
Christian Benteke and Michael Hefele have spent a single season settling in at their respective clubs. Both were mightily impressive last year and will be hoping to avoid second-season syndrome for their team.
The Belgian striker scored 10 goals more than any other Eagles’ player last season and at times single-handedly kept Palace away from danger.
Hefele, as well as being a rock at the back, contributed at the other end. From centre-back the German scored five goals last season making him the Terriers joint-third top scorer.
However, Hefele is now in the Premier League, and the strikers bearing down on him will be that much better. Aguero, Kane and Lukaku are just some of the top-class players he will have to contend with in the next few months.
His first task though will be to handle Benteke. If the Belgian international gets his way the game could be over before its started.