It all looks set to be incredible and highly atmospheric afternoon in deepest Dorset as Bournemouth play their first ever match in the top-flight of English football, with a new-look Aston Villa providing the opposition.
Nobody could have begrudged the Cherries from winning the Championship title last term, as they produced the most free-flowing, entertaining and potent style of football the second tier had to offer. The pace and finishing ability of striker Callum Wilson, inspired midfielder Marc Pugh and the sheer unpredictability of Matt Ritchie were among the facets that stood out most as they achieved the unthinkable.
Manager Eddie Howe saved them from the prospect of non-league football just six years ago, and his staggering record in each of his spells in charge suggests that the sky is the limit for this relatively modest club. Survival is the primary aim, and while Howe will be aware that his side must refine their play a little and not leave themselves open, his manner of instilling confidence in his players stands them in good stead.
And his refusal to oversee a massive influx of new players outlines that faith in his squad, with goalkeeper Artur Boruc arriving on a permanent basis from Southampton and experienced defender Sylvain Distin among their signings so far. Needless to say, it will be another unforgettable occasion should the hosts take all three points here.
While there was relief at Aston Villa that they staved off the threat of relegation in May, finishing fourth from bottom was far from ideal and in the wake of their awful showing in the FA Cup final, manager Tim Sherwood has decided to ring the changes and has signed no fewer than nine players ahead of what looks set to be a opening clash between two attack-minded teams.
Scott Sinclair has joined permanently from Manchester City along with Micah Richards, who is quite a coup. Rudy Gestede arrives after a strong season in the Championship with Blackburn Rovers, while Idrissa Gueye is among four players brought in from Ligue 1 – upon all of whom Villa have high hopes.
These new players will be under pressure, especially as the West Midlands club now have to make do without arguably the three most important members 0f their squad from last season. Ron Vlaar’s contract expired, with Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph both tempted by the lure of clubs in the top six.
Max Gradel and Lee Tomlin have both been signed by the hosts in recent days and could make their debuts here. Loanee Christian Atsu is doubtful, and Harry Arter definitely misses out.
Defender Jores Okore is absent for Villa having undergone knee surgery, and they may decide not to risk the fitness of midfield trio Carles Gil, Jack Grealish and Carlos Sanchez.
Get upto £200 in free matched bets with bet365 - Click here to find out more