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And so here we go... The Premier League carnival comes to town this weekend for the very first time, with Aston Villa the visiting side. Preparations are complete behind the scenes (on the pitch at least) and the curtain raises on top flight football in Bournemouth.
For the majority of us, it is the day that we felt would never likely happen. Top flight football at Dean Court will be a reality as Tim Sherwood's side come down from the midlands to face the first eleven selected by Eddie Howe as manager of a Premier League team. Sorry if I'm repeating the top flight bit, I'm trying to see if repetition makes it seem any more real.
Onto the playing side of things, and the team that we anticipate seeing today is a bit of a mystery. Harry Arter is a definite absentee through injury, although other than that Eddie Howe has a pretty much full-strength squad to call upon. A squad that includes a smattering of new signings. Whilst it is probably too early to see Lee Tomlin or Max-Alain Gradel dropped into the first team given they arrived midweek, there is a reasonable chance that we will see Joshua King handed a debut alongside Callum Wilson up front, if the friendly sides are anything to go by. Tyrone Mings - the club record signing early in pre-season - could well also get the nod ahead of Charlie Daniels down the left although it would seem unlikely that there will be any other unfamiliar players involved in the first game of the new campaign. In midfield, the absence of Arter will probably give Dan Gosling or Eunan O'Kane the chance to feature in the middle of the park, and you would imagine that the recent permanent addition Artur Boruc will start between the sticks. Eddie Howe has always been a bit of a stickler for consistency when it comes to selecting his teams whilst not afraid to change if required and so it's hard to imagine we'll see too much of a departure from last season's title-winning squad even given the step up.
The visitors meanwhile are something of an unknown quantity themselves. With the departure of Fabian Delph and Christophe Benteke in the summer, Villa are a very different proposition to last season, and it could be that their players need a little more time to settle into their new roles. Tim Sherwood's side will need to be on the ball against the Cherries this afternoon if they are to take first blood but you would sense that whilst this is early days, this first game could very much set the tone for either side in the league this season with margins so small in the bottom half of the table which both sides are anticipated to occupy.
Here goes, 38 games amongst the country's elite football clubs begins today.
Premier League. Dean Court. Today.
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