The 2018-19 fixtures, announced on Thursday morning, handed Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking team an Emirates Stadium opener on the weekend of August 11/12 – a match which will also mark the Premier League bow of the Gunners’ new Spanish boss Unai Emery.
City, who amassed 100 points and 106 goals en route to finishing 19 points clear of Manchester United in 2017/18, do not face another top six side until the trip to Liverpool in October. Games against newly-promoted trio Wolves, Cardiff and Fulham are part of a sequence which also includes Huddersfield, Newcastle and Brighton – the three teams who came up the previous season.
It is a similar story for neighbours United, who begin at home to Leicester. The 2017/18 runners-up have Tottenham at home in their third game, with Brighton, Burnley, Watford, Wolves, West Ham and Newcastle are their other early season opponents.
Liverpool’s start appears more challenging. After hosting West Ham, Jurgen Klopp’s men face Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City in a run which also includes Crystal Palace, Brighton, Leicester and Southampton.
Tottenham, who have until Friday to decide whether to return to Wembley next season while work on their new stadium is completed, have been given an away opener – starting their second successive campaign at Newcastle.
Spurs are due to move back to their rebuilt home on the site of White Hart Lane for the new season, with Fulham their first scheduled visitors on the weekend of August 18/19.
North London rivals Arsenal face a tough first two games without Arsene Wenger. After the Gunners host the champions, the team now managed by Emery are at Chelsea.
Antonio Conte’s Blues travel to Huddersfield on the opening day and after the trip to Arsenal come Newcastle, Bournemouth, Cardiff, West Ham, Liverpool and Southampton.
The promoted sides were all spared a daunting sequence of games to start the season – although all face one of the ‘big six’ in their opening four matches.
Championship-winning Wolves have a home opener against Everton, before trips to Leicester and West Ham sandwich the visit of Manchester City to Molineux.
Cardiff start at Bournemouth and have Newcastle at home and Huddersfield away, before the visit of Arsenal.
Fulham, who booked their place in the top flight with victory over Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final, begin at home to Crystal Palace, before the trip to Spurs is followed by Burnley at home and Brighton away.
The other first day fixtures see Southampton host Burnley and Watford take on Brighton at Vicarage Road.
Among the final round of matches, scheduled for May 12, Manchester City are at Brighton – where they started last season – while Cardiff and Wolves are at
Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.
The 22-year-old French forward, who joined United from Monaco for £36million in September 2015, scored 11 goals across 43 appearances in all competitions for the Premier League giants last season.
But his representative Philippe Lamboley claims that Martial and United have failed to reach an agreement on a new contract in recent months, saying “the time has come” for the player to move on.
Lamboley told RMC Sport: “After thinking about all the factors and possibilities, Anthony wants to leave Manchester United. There are lots of factors, and right now it’s too early to talk about them.
“Manchester United want Anthony to extend his deal and do not want him to leave but we have not reached an agreement for several months.
“I think that when Manchester United, the most powerful club in the world, do not find an agreement after eight months of negotiations then they do not really want to keep such an important player in their squad. That’s why this decision has come – it’s a well-thought-out decision.
“It’s important to remember that he is under contract and that Manchester United will have the last word. We will respect the club’s decision and he will stick with his commitment to the end.
“Anthony is disappointed because he has shown his love for the club and the supporters for three seasons. Without the unconditional support of the fans he would have already asked to leave United.
“But he got hooked and showed great professionalism and was successful. I think he has done his best for three years and it is important to remember that he scored 11 goals and made 10 assists in five months of last season.
“Everyone will have their opinion but I think he needs to resume his career. The time has come.”
Martial has 11 France caps but is not part of the squad which will compete at the World Cup in Russia.
The former Napoli chief was high on Chelsea’s list of managerial targets, but talks broke down over a £7 million release clause in the Italian’s contract with the Serie A club. Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis is insisting that clause be paid, even though it expired on May 31 – not to mention, Napoli have hired Carlo Ancelotti as a replacement.
Chelsea have reportedly sounded out former Paris Saint-Germain boss Laurent Blanc and current Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic, with Blanc having spoken to potential assistants in case he gets offered the role. Ex-Barcelona manager Luis Enrique and Roma‘s Eusebio Di Francesco have spoken to the club about the vacancy, but have reportedly been ruled out.
Instead, the Blues continue their pursuit of Sarri, even as it holds up their transfer business. The club has final say on transfers regardless of who the manager is, but Sarri has reportedly singled out a few targets – Napoli defenders Kalidou Koulibaly and Elseid Hysaj.
Eden Hazard, meanwhile, has said Chelsea’s decision on a manager will affect his future at the club, with the Belgium star wanting to play under a more attacking manager after two seasons under Antonio Conte.