Will Gary Lineker keep his promise and present Match of the Day in his underpants when the show returns to BBC One on Saturday evening?
The new Premier League season starts this weekend and former England captain Lineker is rueing a rash tweet from back in December.
He had so little faith in Leicester – his former team, who he scored 95 goals for in 194 appearances – holding on to their lead in the Premier League that he pledged to “do the first MOTD of next season in just my undies” if they won the championship.
The Foxes went on to win their first top-flight title by 10 points.
So, will he go ahead with it live on BBC One at 22:30 BST?
“I am doing my best to pluck up the courage to go there with just my undies on, as I said I would,” Lineker told BBC Sport.
“When I tweeted that silly bet back in December, I categorically knew there was zero chance of Leicester winning the league. Zero chance. It happened but it was magical, it was great.
“It is a one off and a sporting miracle that has landed me in my underwear.”
Judging by this Instagram post, it hasn’t escaped Lineker’s mind…
Even Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri is keen to see what happens.
There have been messages of support – or concern – from fellow ex-professionals. We expect Ian Wright and Alan Shearer will have some words of encouragement in the studio.
But the man himself is keeping his cards close to his chest – for now.
And just in case you miss it, don’t worry. There will be a second chance.
This season you will be able to watch Match of the Day on the BBC iPlayer from midnight on Sunday – and Match of the Day 2 from midnight on Monday.
The Premier League won’t be short of egos this season.
Jose Mourinho has taken over at Manchester United and signed former Paris St-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and £89m Paul Pogba – while across town former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola is the new man in charge of Manchester City.
The other new managers to keep an eye on are David Moyes at Sunderland, Antonio Conte at Chelsea, Claude Puel at Southampton, Ronald Koeman at Everton and Walter Mazzarri at Watford.
The level of managerial experience in the dugouts lurches from one extreme to another in the Premier League this season.
Eight managers are set to take charge of their sides for the first time in the top flight this weekend – Mourinho, Conte, Guardiola, Aitor Karanka, Ronald Koeman, Puel, Moyes, and Mazzarri.
Untested? Yes – but also unbeaten…
In addition, Hull City will have caretaker Mike Phelan in charge for their first game back in the Premier League.
There were just three new boys on the first day of last season, with six in 2012-13 the most recent until now.
Arsene Wenger’s total of 752 Premier League games in charge of Arsenal dwarves the rest of the Premier League, with 12 managers racking up just 236 games between them. That’s an average of 19.6 games each.
New – and old – faces on the pitch?
So, Pogba is back at Old Trafford just four years after the 23-year-old midfielder left United for Juventus for £1.5m – that’s a cool £87.5m profit for the Italian champions.
Shortly after that deal was announced in the early hours of Tuesday morning, John Stones was named in Manchester City’s official Champions League squad, published on the Uefa website before City confirmed that the 22-year-old England international had indeed joined for £47.5m.
Ibrahimovic, Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka, Belgium’s Michy Batshuayi, Germany’s Leroy Sane, Armenia’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pogba – some big names of European football have arrived in the Premier League this summer.
And we can expect a few more yet.
At the end of July, before Pogba’s record arrival and Stones’ move to City – and exactly one month before the close of the 2016 summer transfer window – Premier League gross spending stood at £475m according to Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
That was actually slightly down on £515m at the same stage last year.
One significant transfer that you may have missed is the return to these shores of Alex Manninger.
The 39-year-old goalkeeper was signed by Liverpool this summer a huge 14 years after leaving Arsenal.
He made 39 Premier League appearances for the Gunners, winning the double in 1998.
If Manninger plays in the league this season – and with fellow new signing Loris Karius injured, he is currently backup to Simon Mignolet – he will set a record for the longest gap between Premier League appearances.
But he would not be the current player with the longest Premier League career. Stoke keeper Shay Given made his Premier League debut for Blackburn against the mighty Wimbledon on 14 December 1996. He last featured on the last day of last season. Still going strong…
Who will win it?
Yes, it did really happen.
Three months on, it still hasn’t sunk in for many that Leicester City really are the defending Premier League champions. Their whole lives were a 5,000-1 shot eh?
But how will they go on this season?
One of their holy trinity of star players – N’Golo Kante – has left but Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy remain and the Foxes have a Champions League campaign to look forward to this year.
And if the history books are anything to go by, then they certainly won’t lose their opening game against Hull on Saturday lunchtime.
The defending Premier League champions have never lost their opening game the following season. In fact, the defending champions have won all but four games on the opening weekend.
Guardiola’s Manchester City side are favourites at the bookies, while Chelsea – not in Europe this season – could have an advantage.
If Leicester retain their title it would be the seventh time the feat has been achieved, while Chelsea’s 10th-placed finish last season is the worst defence.
Friday night lights – so what else is new?
Saturday & Sunday – Premier League. Monday – Premier League. Tuesday & Wednesday – Champions League. Thursday – Europa League.
And now Friday – Premier League
Yes, the set is now complete and there never need be a day of the week without live football again. Live Premier League matches on a Friday night are perhaps the biggest change to the top-flight season this year as a new £5bn TV deal kicks in.
Under the new contract, 168 games will be shown live per season, at an average cost to the broadcasters of £10.2m per match.
The now sponsorless Premier League has a new logo to mark the new season, while there are some rule changes which kicked in on 1 June.
Kick-offs can now be taken backwards, a professional foul in the penalty area is not now necessarily a sending-off and players who feint to kick the ball once they have taken a run-up when taking a penalty will now get booked for unsporting behaviour.
Finally, there is a new stadium to enjoy. Or endure.
The Olympic Stadium will be the 55th venue to host a Premier League match and new tenants West Ham will become the 10th Premier League club to play home games at two different stadiums.
Arsenal, Bolton, Derby, Fulham, Leicester, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Southampton and Sunderland.
What does £15m get me these days?
In the summer of 1996 Alan Shearer became the world’s most expensive footballer when he joined Newcastle from Blackburn for £15m.
Twenty years on and the same fee will barely stretch to a promising youngster. Bournemouth broke their transfer record this summer to spend that on Liverpool winger Jordon Ibe.
Between them, Premier League clubs have signed close to 20 players for fees of £15m or more so far this summer.
But of course there is still value
Of course, you don’t need to spend £15m to sign a player who can make a real impact in the Premier League. There have been some impressive signings for less than that this summer.
Stoke paid £13m for Liverpool and Wales midfielder Joe Allen, who you may have heard was in the Euro 2016 team of the tournament. The former Swansea player could excel as a regular starter, he only started eight Premier League games last season.
Nathan Redmond feels like he hasn’t reached his true potential yet but Southampton paid £10m to take him from Norwich and, based on their record in the past five years, he will be a £30m player by 2018. Likewise for their £12.8m midfield signing from Bayern Munich, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
But the Saints did lose a player who had 12 months left on his deal for a cut-price fee – midfield enforcer Victor Wanyama joining Tottenham for £11m.
Manchester City paid £13.8m to get regular La Liga scorer Nolito, who notched double figures in Spain’s top flight for the past three seasons despite being a winger (14 in 13-14, 13 in 14-15 and 12 in an injury-hit 15-16). Barcelona also wanted to sign the Spain international.
Even if we look at the cheaper (by Premier League standards) players who cost £2m or less there are some potential stars. Crystal Palace have paid a reported £1.5m to get the four-time French Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the year, Marseille legend Steve Mandanda. At 31, the France international has time to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s top keepers.
Stoke have paid up to £5m to get 19-year-old Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi, who has already made 71 first-team appearances for Al Ahly. West Ham have got a potential star in Sofiane Feghouli, who they picked up from Valencia. The 26-year-old Algeria winger has had disciplinary problems but on his day can be unplayable.
A real mixed bag of promoted clubs
There has never been a better time to join the Premier League party as the £5.136bn TV deal starts this summer, although there is a clear hierarchy of who is best placed to do well.
Middlesbrough’s nine signings have included some big names, including Euro 2012 winners Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes. They spent £12m on Atalanta midfielder Marten de Roon, while attacking duo Viktor Fischer and Gaston Ramirez have also come in.
Burnley have brought in a handful of players – youngsters, loanees and Football League players – and Hull, well, where to start? In the week leading up to the Premier League opener, they had no manager and 13 fit players. The squad is weaker than it was last season, with star midfielder Mo Diame heading to Newcastle and nobody of note coming in.
But how do promoted teams do generally?
Of the 71 promoted teams to play in the Premier League, 44% of them – 31 – have been immediately relegated. Or to give it a more positive spin, more than half of them stay up. The average finishing position is 15th.
None of Boro, Burnley or Hull can realistically hope to be the most successful promoted Premier League team – Newcastle (1993-94) and Nottingham Forest (1994-95), finished third.
Only twice have all three stayed up – 2001-02 and 2011-12 – and only once have they all gone down – 1997-98.
In recent years there has been an upturn in fortune for top-flight newbies and returnees. Since 2008-09, there has been only one season in which two of the three promoted clubs have gone straight back down (2014-15). In the five seasons prior to that, it happened four times (2003-04, 2004-05, 2006-07 and 2007-08).
How to follow the action on the BBC
Last season, Match of the Day host Gary Lineker promised to present the first show of the 2006-17 season in his pants if Leicester City won the title. Will the former England and Leicester striker be true to his word?
Tune in for the first show of the new season at 22:30 BST this Saturday on BBC One to find out.
But that is far from the only thing to look out for this season – with football covered 24/7 on TV, radio and digital platforms.
The Premier League Show is the BBC’s new midweek magazine programme -and will feature in-depth interviews with Premier League players. Gabby Logan will present the BBC Two show, which will call the National Football Museum in Manchester its home, while Gary Lineker will front a regular slot looking at some of the big current talking points.
The first show is on 25 August and will feature former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright while Lineker meets Liverpool’ manager Jurgen Klopp.
And don’t forget this season’s FA Cup will once again be shown on the BBC, with 16 live matches and highlights of every round.
BBC Radio 5 live will have commentaries of 144 Premier League games – starting with Hull against Leicester on Saturday at 12:30 BST – while Jermaine Jenas will present The Friday Football Social, previewing all the weekend’s action.
And the BBC Sport digital offer will be bigger than ever, with an improved predictor game, the new team selector, alerts and a more personalised service in addition to the staple diet of news, live coverage and analysis,
Do you know the score when it comes to football? Play the Premier League Predictor this season and challenge your friends by joining or creating leagues.
The Premier League starts again on Saturday, with surprise champions Leicester City defending the title they won by 10 points last season.
Who will win it this time, and how will the Foxes fare? We asked 33 BBC TV and radio pundits, presenters, journalists and commentators – and one super-computer for their one-two-three-four and an explanation of their selection.
The predictions were made on the basis of how each squad shaped up on Friday 12 August, before the opening weekend and with more than a fortnight to go before the transfer window shuts.
Nobody is backing Leicester to repeat their title success – their average expected position is seventh – and it is Manchester City who are favourites, with 18 votes. Manchester United get 12 votes, Chelsea three and Tottenham one.
Dean Saunders: Leicester have got some excellent players, plus they work hard and have got a formula that works, so they will not just disappear. They have only lost three out of 38 league games under Ranieri so they will carry that on, especially because they have kept Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. They are going to challenge for the title again.
Danny Murphy: This season Leicester will want to maintain a high level but they are in the Champions League too. If they finish in the top eight again and have a decent run in Europe, then their fans are still in dreamland.
Manish Bhasin: Eighth would be a minor miracle – but frankly after last season, who cares?! Seriously though, as long as we don’t let Champions League commitments derail us (still sounds absurdly beautiful) I once again expect the sheer pace in the squad to cause opponents all sorts of problems.
Foxes fan Manish presents the first MOTD2 of the season at 22:30 BST on Sunday, featuring highlights of Bournemouth v Manchester United and Arsenal v Liverpool.
Pat Nevin: I would applaud them to the heavens if they make the top half again. The Champions League changes everything – they have got more games, and less rest – they will not be able to play the same team every time like they did last season. Also, when you take one player out of a unit like that then it makes one heck of a difference, especially if that player is N’Golo Kante.
Danny Mills: The Champions League is going to affect them mentally as well as physically – getting up for for big games in Europe is easy, but to then come back to a Premier League game is tough and hard to get used to. Yes they have made signings but they still don’t have strength in depth, they will miss Kante and are heavily reliant on Mahrez and Vardy.
Match of the Day commentator Alistair Bruce-Ball: Leicester showed in the Community Shield that they are still a very good side despite seeing Kante go to Chelsea, but will they be as lucky with injuries as they were last time?
Jermaine Jenas: If you look at the other contenders, they are all looking a lot stronger than they were so it is going to be harder for Leicester. If Claudio Ranieri can get them back in the Champions League again then it would be another amazing achievement – but I don’t see it.
Former Liverpool Ladies and Everton Ladies goalkeeper and Women’s Football Show pundit Rachel Brown-Finnis: I would not be surprised if they end up in the top four. You don’t win a title on luck, you win the league based on something solid and consistent, which is what they had last season, and I think they will have it this season too.
BBC Radio 5 live sports reporter Juliette Ferrington: This season will be a huge test for their squad but a top-10 finish would not be too shabby.
You can listen to Ferrington – and all the Premier League goals as they go in around the grounds – every Saturday afternoon on BBC Radio 5 live.
Why do so many people fancy Man City?
City are the only team to feature in everyone’s forecasted top four for this season. In fact, no-one we asked thinks Pep Guardiola’s side will finish lower than third.
Jermaine Jenas: When I look at everyone’s squad and the transfer business that has been done, I cannot see City not winning it. People might say John Stones is not a sure-bet defensively, but he is a brilliant player and he is going to thrive under Guardiola – that signing clinched it for me – I expect them to be champions.
Chris Sutton: First of all I think this this is probably the hardest Premier League to predict of all time but if I was picking anyone, I would pick City – Guardiola has come over for a reason and he does not really know what failure is. They were massive under-achievers last season in the league and this season I think he will get far more out of a talented group of players.
Guy Mowbray: It will be harder for Pep than it was at Barcelona or Bayern but he has the players and the financial clout behind him to win the title and all the signs from pre-season and in training are that he has settled into his new club straight away, and means business.
Trevor Sinclair: Guardiola is probably the best manager in the world and these are exciting times at the Etihad Stadium but I have gone for Chelsea to finish above City because not only have they got a lot of new players, their whole squad needs to get used to Pep’s system, and I just think it might take a bit of time to get used to his complex and pretty demanding style.
BBC Radio 5 live’s senior football reporter Ian Dennis: Pep talks about a “mix” of his squad adapting to his style and likewise him adapting to them. It can take time for everyone to adjust, which is why I am going for United instead.
Danny Mills: This season depends on how quickly they settle in but Pep will win the league with City at some point – it is a question of when, not if.
Jason Roberts: I think United will win the League as Jose Mourinho has adapted his squad quickly into his philosophy by bringing in an effective spine of quality acquisitions, much like he did at Chelsea previously. This time Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will give Mourinho the quality and the physical presence his teams are known for.
Match of the Day commentator Conor McNamara: Jose has cleverly brought in some big egos in Ibrahimovic and Pogba. This will give United some of their old swagger back.
Mark Lawrenson: They have got a chance of the title because I think Mourinho is the type of manager who will not be bothered about the Europa League. With all those games to play, he will not let it get in the way.
John Hartson: They will certainly get a Champions League spot this time but I am not quite sure they will be as strong as City over 38 games.
Chelsea Ladies forward and BBC Sport columnist Eniola Aluko: I think the Premier league trophy will return to Manchester either way and United will have an edge over City primarily because Mourinho knows what it takes to win it (and did so recently) whereas Guardiola, despite his strong squad, will not have the experience of winning the Premier League. Away matches against awkward opposition like Stoke may be the difference in terms of Guardiola’s acclimatisation to the competitiveness of the league.
Pat Nevin: I have gone for City but it could just be goal-difference between the two Manchester clubs again like in 2012 when City won – I really do think it will be that close. City are the better team but United have got Mourinho’s nous of winning the title before which will help them a lot.
Danny Mills: Mourinho has not just been there, seen it and done it, he also has a point to prove after what happened to Chelsea last season.
Chris Waddle: He knows how to get results, but will United be as exciting as the fans want them to be? I don’t think he will care too much about that, because he is there to win things.
Final Score presenter Jason Mohammad: I’m going for United because I think they have made the perfect choice in Mourinho. The man loves winning trophies, and he has got one already after Sunday’s Community Shield.
Final Score is live online and on the red button from 14:30 BST on Saturday, and on BBC One from 16:00 BST.
Ruud Gullit: Chelsea will have ups and downs, they are in a transition – they have a new coach and a new philosophy.
Pat Nevin: I am not picking them in my top four now because they are a player or two short but if they get a left-back and some cover at left centre-back then I would say they definitely will be. I have watched every one of Chelsea’s pre-season games and I have already seen big improvements in really good players in a short space of time, and also the adaptability of Conte. He will try all sorts of different things and if you are capable of manipulating your players like that you have got a real chance of doing something special.
Chelsea Ladies forward and BBC Sport columnist Eniola Aluko: I don’t think Conte will tolerate under-performance and he will bring out the best in the top players like Eden Hazard but I think top four is the best Chelsea will get to without a reliable 20+ goals a season striker. Diego Costa is still the main striker but isn’t always prolific enough and is susceptible to disciplinary issues. If he doesn’t play, where will the goals for Chelsea come from?
Trevor Sinclair: From what I have seen of Italy under Conte they were very strong mentally and if he can give his Chelsea players the same they would be my choice. Also, Kante is an excellent signing and gives them what they missed in midfield last season.
Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson: Conte is an intriguing addition to the fold. Chelsea have been relatively conservative in the transfer market so far, but I predict a spectacular return to form after their dire last campaign.
Ian Wright: Arsenal could not manage a title challenge in a season where Leicester won the league and this time it is going to be a lot harder for them. Chelsea are going to be back in the mix and with United’s outlay and City also spending big, all three of them are going to be strong under Conte, Mourinho and Guardiola. As things stand, with no significant signings since Granit Xhaka, no new striker and injuries to their top three centre-halves, the best I can hope for Arsenal is that they make the top four again.
Chris Waddle: If their top players stay fit for the season then they have got a great chance of winning it, no doubt about that. Their problems will come when they get a few injuries again, which we are seeing already. They don’t seem to have the same depth in their squad as the other leading sides.
Jermaine Jenas: As good as Arsenal are going forward, defensively I am very worried for them at the moment with all the injuries they have got. I don’t think they will be far away from the top four but it will be hard for them to recover if they make a bad start.
Chris Sutton: We know what a great side they are on their day, but they just don’t have the character or the ambition to win the league. Until Arsene Wenger goes, I don’t see Arsenal really pushing for the title.
Kevin Kilbane: The big clubs have all strengthened a lot, apart from Arsenal – how often do we say that? This might be the year they finally miss out on the top four and Arsene Wenger’s contract is up next summer. His future is up in the air and that would be a sad way for him to finish. Even if they win the league, as unlikely as that is, I still think he will go – it looks to me like this will be his last year.
John Hartson: They need another centre-half and striker but I picked Arsenal to finish second because I think they will add another couple of players before the window closes at the end of August – I think Wenger may surprise us there.
Chris Waddle: A lot of people associate me with Spurs because I played there and will be thinking I am just favouring my old club but I think they will be stronger for what happened last season. They came very close and just blew up at the end but they have a lot of young players who will have learned a lot from that and will also be hungry to make amends, not just for missing out on the title but also finishing below Arsenal.
I know City have got Guardiola and United have got Mourinho but they are both at new clubs – at Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino has got a settled squad who have played under him for two seasons already.
Jermaine Jenas: What they have in their favour is that they will hit the ground running. Pochettino is not going to change the way he plays and everyone at the club buys into it and the players love playing that way.
Chris Sutton: They were a breath of fresh air last season but it is a big ask for them to repeat their success, mainly because of what the other top sides have done. I cannot see them finishing above City, United and Chelsea again, but I still put them in the top six – I have room for them there.
John Hartson: I might be doing them an injustice to put them fifth but there will be a lot more pressure on them this season and, along with having to cope with the Champions League, that will not help. You know what fans are like – they get a bit of success and expectancy level goes through the roof. It is the same with West Ham, who finished seventh last season – it will be very hard for them to repeat that, let alone improve on it.
Has Klopp lifted Liverpool back into the mix?
Liverpool made it into just one top-four prediction last season. This year, 13 BBC experts think they can crack the Champions League places. One of them – John Motson – thinks they will finish as runners-up and three of them are tipping the Reds to finish third.
Jermaine Jenas: I went with them for my top four because I like what they have done in the transfer market so far and this is Jurgen Klopp’s team now. This is his first full season after his first pre-season working with the players – and that makes a huge difference.
Chris Sutton: With the momentum Klopp gathered this season, it would not surprise me if they make a flying start. I don’t think they are good enough to win it, but they will certainly be in the top four.
Trevor Sinclair: Sadio Mane is an excellent signing who can just ghost past defenders and he reminds me a little bit of Luis Suarez. Liverpool look like they mean business – they blew away some top teams under Klopp last season and he has had a bit more time with the players now to help them find some consistency.
Mark Lawrenson: I think they are looking at fifth or sixth unless they can make a couple more top-quality signings. They are desperate for a left-back, for starters. Having no European football will help Jurgen Klopp because he will have more time to prepare his players to play his pressing style, but I think a top-four place is 50-50 at best. If Daniel Sturridge has more injury problems then, as things stand, I don’t think he has another regular goalscorer without him.
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