Well the time has arrived, the Olympics have come and gone and the anticipation and tinkering of the last few weeks turns into trepidation as we await those team sheets being revealed for Gameweek 1. They’ll be a sleepless night ahead as we wonder if Hazard and Kagawa will make their Premier League debuts? Just who will be appearing at the back for Mancini’s men? Will Begovic or Sorensen be Stoke’s no.1 between the sticks? Which of Wenger’s new recruits will be handed a start? And will RVP start alongside Rooney? Will Premier League managers play with our emotions with their rotation policies as they did so much last season? Have we spent our £100m wisely? The list of concerns is seemingly never ending in the tough world of fantasy football management!
Let’s have a look around the grounds at what we can expect from this week’s matches.
Arsenal v Sunderland (Sat 18 Aug 15.00)
We start at the Emirates where Gunners fans will be hoping the departure of talisman RvP will be more than compensated by the arrival of Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud. In his press conference on Friday, Arsene Wenger has said that Laurent Koscielny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have joined Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshire and Thomas Rosicky on the treatment table and are therefore unavailable for the game. Theo Walcott is expected to be fit while checks will be made on Cazorla after he played a full 90mins for Spain in the week. We would expect Per Mertesacker to replace Koscielny and partner Thomas Vermaelen at the back – Gunners fans will surely be hoping Johan Djourou doesn’t get the nod instead! Wenger also revealed that midfielder Alex Song could well leave the club, suggesting he may not play on Saturday.
Sunderland will be somewhat depleted by the absence of Wes Brown, David Bardsley and David Vaughan and Martin O’Neill will be desperate for last years’ hero Stephane Sessegnon to regain full fitness, while new signing Louis Saha will be expected to feature….until he gets his next injury! Much of the service to the attackers will again be likely to be provided by James McLean and Seb Larsson.
Fulham v Norwich (Sat 18 Aug 15.00)
Over in West London, Fulham entertain Norwich at the Cottage with both sides having plenty to prove. Fulham’s impressive home form last season was dominated in most games by either Clint Dempsey and Pavel Pogrebnyak – now with Pog choosing to play a few miles down the M4 at Reading and Dempsey looking for a move away, the focus will be on new signings Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega to provide the fire power – Petric has particularly impressed in pre-season. Martin Jol has confirmed that Dempsey is definitely out of Saturday’s game, as is defender Philippe Senderos and midfielder Kerim Frei. FPL managers will also be keen to see who starts at right back with Stephen Kelly and Aaron Hughes both in the frame and both offering potential FPL bargains. Midfielder Steve Sidwell is fit and will be hoping for a place in the starting XI as will Alex Kacanikic, who has played well in pre-season and may be the short-term replacement in the Dempsey role.
Norwich meanwhile will be hoping to impress new-boss Chris Hughton and will be relying on Grant Holt to again lead the line with support from new midfielder Robert Snodgrass. Hughton will be hoping that new defender, Javier Garrido, signed on Thursday on a season-long loan from Lazio will fit straight into the line-up and help secure a defence that was breached way too frequently last season.
QPR v Swansea (Sat 18 Aug 15.00)
A short bus ride away at Loftus Road, Mark Hughes threatens to unleash a whole team of new signings! It has been an intriguing few weeks trying to guess which of his new recruits gets the call, with Fabio, Ryan Nelson, Ji-Sung Park, Junior Hoilett and Andy Johnson all available as is popular FPL keeper Robert Green. Hughes added to his new signings today by securing the signature of the attack minded defender Jose Bosingwa – a great signing for QPR. Armand Traore, Bobby Zamora and Samba Diakite all face late fitness tests, but Saturday’s game comes too soon for midfielder Alejandro Faurlin. With a tough set of games against Man City, Chelsea and Spurs coming up, Rangers will be keen to start the season on a positive note, and get some points on the board, and Djibril Cisse may be the crucial element to QPR kicking off their campaign well.
Michael Laudrup has the tough task of a) replacing Brendan Rogers and b) leading Swansea in their second season in the Premier League, which often proves to be harder than the first. All eyes will be on new midfielders Michu and Jonathan De Guzman to see if they can replace two of last season’s departed heroes Gylfi Sigurdsson and Joe Allen, while Danny Graham has been banging in goals for fun pre-season. Having been granted a relatively straightforward-looking run of fixtures to begin with, FPL managers will be keen for the Swans to continue their impressive defensive performances – whether this occurs with attack-minded Laudrup in charge, remains to be seen. We await to see if new signing Kyle Bartley gets a starting berth in defence.
Reading v Stoke (Sat 18 Aug 15.00)
Reading start their double opening gameweek by hosting Stoke and those FPL managers who have gambled on Pog as their third striker will be hoping he hits the ground running with a goal or two. Other attention will be on their defence to see if Ian Harte or Nicky Shorey get the left-back spot and to see if new signings (and cheap defensive options) Chris Gunter and Adrian Mariappa can force their way into the starting XI.
Stoke meanwhile have defensive issues with Robert Huth facing a late test after suffering from illness, which could see Matthew Upson taking his place if required. FPL favourite and attacking midfielder Jon Walters will again be expected to return solid points, whilst Peter Crouch will be hoping to continue his good form he showed at the end of last season – though to be fair we’d all rather watch his Mrs play on a Saturday afternoon in the sun. There is still a question mark over who will be first choice keeper for Stoke, with Asmir Begovic probably the small favourite over Thomas Sorensen.
West Brom v Liverpool (Sat 18 Aug 15.00)
This match is as much about new managers as it is about new players with Steve Clarke and Brendan Rogers taking charge of their clubs for the first time in the Premier League. For Albion, Clarke has been talking up his attacking options, saying that Romelu Lukaku is in contention for a starting spot after coming off the bench for Belgium and scoring vs Holland on Wednesday – Albion fans will be excited by the prospect of Lukaku forging an explosive relationship with Peter Odemwingie. Clarke will also be hoping that midfielder James Morrison recovers from an ankle injury sustained whilst playing for Scotland during the week.
They will be up against a Liverpool side who have been buoyed by the arrival of Joe Allen and Fabio Borini, but who have been equally depressed by their failure to get rid of Andy Carroll. Daniel Agger is, as we speak, still at Liverpool, despite alleged interest from Man City and Barcelona. Expect Rodgers to install a more positive attitude around Anfield this year with Allen and Lucas expected to sit in front of the defence and allow Gerrard, Downing, Suarez and Borini to do their thing higher up the pitch.
West Ham v Aston Villa (Sat 18 Aug 15.00)
The battle of the “claret and blues” at Upton Park sees a happier and Alex McLeish-free (the two are definitely connected!) Aston Villa start a decent-looking opening run of fixtures. A fit Darren Bent is expected to lead the assault on the Hammers defence, while better things are expected of the Villa youngsters, namely Clark in defence and Bannan in midfield, while new manager Paul Lambert will be hoping to breathe life into the previously lagging careers of Charles N’Zogbia and Steven Ireland. Lambert revealed on Friday that Richard Dunne, Marc Albrighton and Gabby Agbonlahor are definitely out, while Nathan Delfouneso is “touch and go” after he picked up a thigh strain.
Big Sam is relying on Jussi Jaaskelainen to keep things tight whilst hoping that his reliable midfielders Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble can assist Carlton Cole, Ricardo Vaz Te and exciting new recruit Modibo Maiga in terrorizing Shay Given in the Villa goal. As we speak, it is being reported that the Hammers have had a bid turned down by Wolves for winger Matt Jarvis, while Allardyce says Jack Collison is out and could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.
Newcastle v Spurs (Sat 18 Aug 17.30)
Managers Alan Pardew and AVB will just be hoping to get vital members of their squads off the treatment table as soon as possible. Alan Pardew admits he is still unsure of his starting line-up, with new midfield signings Vurnon Anita, Romain Amalfitano and Gael Bigirimana all in contention to make their debuts, with Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba all doubtful and Papiss Cisse only returning to training on Thursday.
AVB will be hoping Gareth Bale shakes off his back injury suffered whilst on Wales duty in midweek, while holding midfielder Scott Parker remains sidelined until at least mid-September with an Achilles injury. The “will he/ won’t he sign” transfer of Emmanuel Adebayor hasn’t yet materialized, leaving Jermain Defoe as the only senior striker in the squad and he will be hoping to take advantage of a rare opportunity to stake his claim in the first team. AVB has suggested that youngster Harry Kane may also feature at some point in the game.
Wigan v Chelsea (Sun 19 Aug 13.30)
Wigan entertain Chelsea on Sunday with their only injury concern being midfielder James McArthur. Chelsea target Victor Moses is still a Wigan player and has been playing pre-season. Roberto Martinez will hope things stay pretty much injury free, and will be relying on Moses, loanee Ryo Miyaichi and new signing Arouna Kone to provide the European Champions with a proper test.
Meanwhile, if anyone can predict the Chelsea starting line-up, then they should be writing this preview – with Juan Mata, Frank Lampard, Ramires, Eden Hazard, Raul Meireles, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda, Jon-Obi Mikel, Yossi Benayoun and Oscar to choose from in midfield, all I can think is “why the hell do they need Victor Moses?” Anyway to make our lives easier I’m glad to report that one of the new midfield signings, Marko Marin, has a hamstring injury, while the Chelsea website said that Oscar only appeared at the training ground for the first time on Friday, so we think its doubtful he will feature, although di Matteo says he is available. Fernando Torres is expected to lead the line alone, with Daniel Sturridge rated doubtful.
Man City v Southampton (Sat 19 Aug 16.00)
Champions City entertain Premier League new-boys Southampton with a spring in their step after defeating Chelsea in last week’s Community Shield. Micah Richards and Gareth Barry are both definitely out with injuries while Mad Mario is unlikely to feature with an eye infection. So that leaves Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez likely to start up front, whilst the bigger conundrum appears to be who plays in defence and what system Mancini decides to play. Both Gael Clichy and Joleon Lescott were left out in last week’s game and it is believed that Aleksandar Kolarov may well keep his place in the team. Joe Hart, who also missed the Community Shield win, is expected to play despite suffering from a slight back strain – he will have a fitness test ahead of the game.
Southampton have no injury worries, so all eyes will be on how the free-scoring Saints can adapt to life in the Premier League, with boss Nigel Adkins hoping Adam Lallana and Ricky Lambert can continue their sensational form of last season. Friday morning, the Saints revealed they have agreed a fee with Bologna for Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Ramirez, but (at the time of writing) it looks like the deal has not gone through in time for him to play at the weekend.
Everton v Man Utd (Monday 20 Aug 20.00)
Will Fergie unleash the dream-team strikeforce of Wayne Rooney and RVP? That is the question on United fans lips. SAF has insinuated that RVP will play some part – we shall see. All eyes too will be on other new recruit Shinji Kagawa and how he fits into the United midfield, though be aware he did play 90mins for Japan in the week. Equally as interesting will be what defence Fergie can put together. Fergie has said that Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans will all miss the start of the season. It is also worth noting that Rafael has only just returned from Olympic duty and Nemanja Vidic is still regaining match fitness after missing the majority of last season. Fergie will therefore be pleased that Rio Ferdinand has escaped a ban for his Twitter comments and probably had a wry smile at the £45k fine!
Everton welcome back midfielder Steven Pienaar from Spurs and with Steven Naismith also joining and linking up impressively with Nikica Jelavic in pre-season, David Moyes will be hoping that the Toffees start the season better than they traditionally do. Recognising this, Phil Neville tweeted last week that they have already held their Christmas party!! So maybe we can expect more from Everton this season. Moyes reveals that he has a fully-fit squad from which to choose from, with both Marouane Fellaini and ex-United midfielder Darron Gibson shrugging off injuries.
Chelsea v Reading (Wed 22 Aug 19.45)
Wednesday evening sees Reading make the short trip to Chelsea for what is the second game of the week for both teams, thus representing an opportunity for FPL managers to take advantage of an early Double Gameweek – is this a good strategy so early on or not? We shall see. Although, expect a certain amount of rotation, especially in the Chelsea midfield! Who knows, maybe even Victor Moses will make a surprise appearance!
I hope you find the preview helpful. Bear in mind that managers will quite often reveal snippets of information later in the day and tomorrow, so keep ‘em peeled. Plus I take no responsibility for managers making surprising team changes at the last minute!!
Good luck !!
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This article was written by Cookie