The Premier League finally kicks off, and newly promoted side Bournemouth host Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa. It was a joyous campaign for Steve Parker’s team last year, finishing second in the Championship and securing automatic promotion to the English top tier. However, concerns have been raised as to whether the Cherries have the necessary quality to stay up in arguably the world’s most competitive division. A meagre transfer window so far, which has only seen the likes of Marcus Tavernier and Ryan Fredericks sign for the club, has only served to add to those concerns. Bournemouth have also failed to impress in their preseason friendlies, losing three of the four games they played and conceding goals in all of them. Their league form however is impressive and should they carry it into the top tier, they will have no trouble surviving. Specifically, the hosts ended the Championship with an eight game unbeaten run, keeping clean sheets in six of those games, and their defence will be a focal issue when it comes to securing their Premier League status for next year too.
The appointment of Steven Gerrard is still viewed as a significant turning point in Aston Villa’s history. The Liverpool legend, who took over from Dean Smith in the middle of the season and amidst relegation fears, calmly guided them to a 14th place finish and ten points clear of the relegation places. However, the ambitions are much higher this time around, and with additions such as Diego Carlos and the permanent transfer of Philippe Coutinho, Villa have their eyes set on a top ten finish. They were certainly strong during their preseason, ending their preparation friendlies unbeaten and winning four of the five they played. They will need to address their defensive form however, which has seen them concede in their final five Premier League matches of last season.