Excitement levels are understandably high at Bournemouth as they prepare to get their maiden Premier League campaign under way with a home game against Aston Villa.
After lifting the Championship title last season, manager Eddie Howe has strengthened his squad with a host of close-season additions.
Max Gradel and Lee Tomlin are the latest new arrivals for Bournemouth, who had previously brought in Tyrone Mings, Joshua King, Artur Boruc, Adam Federici and Sylvain Distin, a player with vast Premier League experience.
Howe has now challenged his squad to show they belong in the top flight, while acknowledging he faces a dilemma in finalising his starting XI.
“We’re keen to get going,” said the Bournemouth boss. “The team is ready and we need to prove we’re good enough.
“It will be my hardest-ever team selection. Everyone wants to play, but I haven’t finalised my team. There are still a few decisions to be made.
“We will be brave and take the game to teams. We won’t change after our success.
“Villa have had to sell players, but they have invested wisely. They have a very strong squad and we are expecting a tough game.”
Bournemouth are looking to become the third team in succession to mark their top-flight debut with a home win, after Reading and Hull City did likewise in 2006 and 2008 respectively.
By contrast, Villa have played every single Premier League campaign – although that record was in danger of coming to an end last term as the club finished 17th.
A close-season of change at Villa Park has seen the high-profile departures of last season’s top scorer Christian Benteke and captain Fabian Delph, to Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
Tim Sherwood has already begun to reinvest, with Ligue 1 imports Jordan Ayew, Idrissa Gueye, Jordan Amavi and Jordan Veretout among those to have been brought in.
Ayew – along with fellow newcomer Rudy Gestede – will be tasked with providing goals in Benteke’s absence, and Sherwood is confident the Ghanaian can deliver.
“Jordan can play a number of positions,” Sherwood told Villa’s official website. “He can play on the left side of the attack or as a number nine.
“Jordan has good pace and strength. His all-round game is what we’re looking for. He’s at a very good age with a good pedigree.
“We think we have a star in the making there.”
Villa will hope Gabriel Agbonlahor and Carles Gil shake off knocks they picked up during pre-season, but Jack Grealish is unlikely to feature due to a slight hamstring injury.
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