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A baptism of fire awaits Bournemouth upon their return to the rarefied air of the Premier League, and the pressure is on to at least avoid defeat in their opening game, given a formidable fixture list through much of this month.
Soon faced with trips to Manchester City and Liverpool, as well as a visit from Arsenal, Scott Parker‘s side will hope to hit the ground running against Aston Villa, who they also played in the club’s first Premier League match some seven years ago.
However, despite last season’s relative success, many Cherries fans feel uneasy about a lack of signings this summer, and pundits are lining up to condemn them to relegation before a ball is even kicked in the 2022-23 campaign.
With few new faces forthcoming, Parker will rely on established regulars such as Jefferson Lerma, Lewis Cook, Philip Billing and captain Lloyd Kelly to excel at a higher level, while Dominic Solanke is expected to provide goals upon his top-flight comeback as a more experienced striker.
Last time around, Solanke managed only three after joining from Liverpool amid much fanfare, but the former England international has since racked up 44 goals in two Championship seasons.
Meanwhile Bournemouth’s supporting cast will feature the returning David Brooks and Irish goalkeeper Mark Travers, both of whom could play a major role in attempts to keep the South Coast club afloat next May.
As if Bournemouth’s dry spell in the transfer market had not antagonised Scott Parker enough, summer signings Joe Rothwell and Ryan Fredericks – both of whom joined on free transfers – have been ruled out of the Premier League’s opening weekend by injury.
Fredericks was acquired to provide competition for Jack Stacey and Adam Smith at right-back, but due to a calf problem for the former West Ham man, the latter is set to start on Saturday.
Midfielder Marcus Tavernier, who recently arrived from Middlesbrough, should at least feature at some stage; while Dominic Solanke leads the line up front. Junior Stanislas will hope to start in support of the hosts’ frontman, following his strike in the final warm-up game against Real Sociedad.
Meanwhile, Villa are expected to field their own new additions, with Diego Carlos starting in central defence and Boubacar Kamara playing the ‘number six’ role. However, Kamara’s fellow midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka has left for Chelsea after his refusal to sign a new contract.
Swedish signings Ludwig Augustinsson and Robin Olsen will provide back-up on the bench, while Philippe Coutinho should pip Emi Buendia to a place in support of the central striker.
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Whether Steven Gerrard opts for 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-3, Leon Bailey is in line to start following an impressive pre-season, but Ollie Watkins, Danny Ings and Cameron Archer must battle it out to feature up front.
Bournemouth possible starting lineup:
Travers; Smith, Mepham, Kelly, Zemura; Christie, Cook, Lerma, Anthony; Billing; Solanke
Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Cash, Chambers, Carlos, Digne; Kamara, McGinn, J. Ramsey; Bailey, Watkins, Coutinho