LONDON – Frank Lampard might have hoped to ease his way into the Chelsea hot seat at his beloved Stamford Bridge but his top-flight managerial bow takes place on hostile territory against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The return of Chelsea’s record goalscorer to west London as manager was the most intriguing development of the summer and Sunday’s blockbuster is the standout clash as the Premier League cranks back into life.
It all begins on Friday when last season’s runners-up Liverpool host newcomers Norwich City and continues on Saturday when champions Manchester City go to West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur host Aston Villa.
Few would bet against City and Liverpool slugging it out for the title again — such was the unforgiving nature of last season’s duel when they won their last 14 and nine leagues respectively to finish with 98 and 97 points.
Chelsea, then under Maurizio Sarri, was a distant third on 72 points, ahead of Totten ham (71) with Manchester United sixth after a woeful finish in which they won none of their last five games, signing off with a home defeat by relegated Cardiff City.
While Sarri’s methods were never embraced by the fans, the Italian steered Chelsea into the Champions League and won the Europa League so he can hardly be deemed a failure.
Lampard will start with goodwill aplenty but needs only to look as far as the united bench during Sunday’s baptism of fire to know that being a club great takes you only so far.
Writer: Himani Ranade