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MANCHESTER RETURNS TO PREMIER LEAGUE

After missing the first round of fixtures, both Manchester sides are in action in round two with plenty to prove.

Let’s start with Manchester United – a team that rallied to make the top four last season but ended their campaign with nothing left in the tank and a Europa League semi-final defeat to show for it.

The Red Devils’ off-season has been marred by the usual inefficiencies in the transfer market with only Donny van de Beek arriving from Ajax to bolster the squad. That leaves them short of a midfielder in the alternative to Fred and Nemanja Matic as well as with the same shortcomings in defence.

Transfer shortcomings aside, the club have been rocked by the incident involving club captain Harry Maguire in Greece and young star Mason Greenwood being sent home from England duty.

It’s hard to think that United are actually in a worse position – same lingering doubts about Paul Pogba’s desire, copy that for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s toughness for the task and David de Gea’s wobbly form over the past year – going into the new campaign. Their only shining light is that they host Crystal Palace in their league opener and should easily brush them aside.

It could be a very, very long season even if Crystal Palace offer up little threat first up. The visitors will remember fondly their first-ever Premier League win at Old Trafford last season when Patrick van Aanholt scored in stoppage time.

Suggested bet: Both teams to score at 1.95

Match details: Kick-off at 6:30pm on Saturday, 18 September

Neighbours Manchester City also have their work cut out but for different reasons. Manager Pep Guardiola is now looking to reassert his side as England’s No 1 after Liverpool reduced them to the scrap heap last term.

Guardiola added defender Nathan Ake – proven Premier League quality through his time at Bournemouth – and Spanish winger Ferran Torres. The latter though is, at this stage at least, not clearly better than Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva.

Those are not exactly the blockbuster signings that City have become synonymous with over the past decade. And not the kind of response to losing the league by 18 points.

And then comes an away trip to Wolves to start the seasons for the Citizens. The Mancunians have only beaten once in 90 minutes in the last five meetings and the hosts started well on day one. Keeping the likes of Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez quiet will be top priority for Guardiola’s shakey backline.

Suggested bet: Over 2.5 match goals at 1.70

Match details: Kick-off at 9:15pm on Monday, 21 September

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