Starting off their Premier League campaigns at Vicarage Road this Saturday are Watford and Brighton. Finishing 14th and 15th respectively last season, both will hope to push on and attack the top half this time around.
Javi Gracia has been with the Hornets since January of this year, and will look to place his philosophy onto the team in his first full season as boss. On the south coast, Chris Hughton has continued to build at the Seagulls. With the club for four years now, the former Republic of Ireland international is one of the English top division's good guys.
Both sides have made additions, getting some deals done early, with others on deadline day. Amongst others, Watford have brought in Ben Foster from West Brom for £4m and Ken Suma of Ostersunds FK. Brighton broke their transfer record, with the signing of £17m man Alireza Jahanbakhsh from AZ Alkmaar. Other stand outs include Bernardo of RB Leipzig and Ivorian Yves Bissouma for an undisclosed fee.
A few injuries for one side, will get on to that later. However, both will be going all guns blazing as they look to entertain their fans. As a new campaign brings with it emotions good and bad; it's time to buckle up for the ride.
Here is all you need to know ahead of the clash:
Both clubs have had fairly successful pre-season campaigns. Watford went up against German sides 1. FC Koln and Fortuna Dusseldorf early on, followed by wins on home soil against Stevenage and Brentford. Most recently, they drew 1-1 with Sampdoria in a special Graham Taylor match day.
Brighton's form has been slightly more patchy, but impressive none the less. Three 1-1 draws against the likes of Chartlon, Birmingham and St. Gallen of Switzerland allowed players to find fitness. Not to forget two 2-1 wins versus AFC Wimbledon and Nantes, which have seen many a new face make an appearance.
Starting with the home side, the big news is that influential midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure is fit to play. Watford's player of the season for last year passed a fitness test on Thursday, and is in Javi Gracia's first team plans. New signings Ben Foster, Adam Masina, Ken Sema and Marc Navarro could all see debuts too.
Injuries are still a problem though, with Tom Cleverley not ready to make a return from his Achilles injury. Manager Gracia also spoke the media about other players in his match presser: “Okaka is not ready, but I trust he will be ready in one or two weeks, I'm sure,
“Gerard [Deulofeu] started to train with the team last week, but had a little problem. I think he will be ready in two, three, four or five days. For Saturday I don't think he will be ready. Chalobah is training with the team but he needs more time.”
Brighton come into the game with very few injury worries, causing a selection headache for manager Chris Hughton. Forward Glenn Murray was substituted against Nantes with a back injury, but has recovered well.
Talking about Albion's business, the boss seemed pleased with completed deals: "We’re a stronger squad now, but what we’ve also managed to do is bring down the average age. Bernardo is 23, Jakhanbakhsh and Andone are in their mid-20s, while Bissouma is 21."
Both these teams will likely see this match as a viable opportunity to hit the ground running this season.
Promising in preseason, Watford and Brighton fans will travel to Vicarage Road on Saturday confident of a result. At the moment, the squad advantage is with the Seagulls, due to the Hornets' injury concerns. However, home comforts should play a large role in deciding the victor of this game, with Albion's away form last term very sketchy.
Watford will likely utilise a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Andre Gray leading the line. Important to the Hornets will be the fitness of Abdoulaye Doucoure - who didn't play a single minute in pre-season - and the creativity of Will Hughes. Likely starting on the right side, the Englishman will slot in more centrally if formation changes are needed.
Brighton will likely utilise a 4-3-3 formation, with Solly March and Anthony Knockaert set to start out wide.
Prediction: Watford 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion