New faces spark title charge for Liverpool
Thanks to the feast of football provided by the World Cup this summer, the wait for the Premier League to resume has not seemed quite as long as normal.
Manchester City have boosted their squad with the purchase of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester and are hot favourites to claim back-to-back titles, but they may not get things quite as easy this time around.
Liverpool, who finished 25 points behind the champions last season, should narrow that gap considerably and this could prove to be a make-or-break season for manager Jurgen Klopp, who has plenty of new talent to work with.
One of his new signings, Brazil goalkeeper Alisson, is a welcome replacement for Loris Karius, who produced the worst display in Champions League Final history in May (if you believe he was suffering from concussion, it’s you who needs your head tested).
With Naby Keïta, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri to also throw into the mix, Liverpool could go close to winning their first title since 1990.
11am kick-offs unless stated
Manchester United v Leicester City (4pm)
Despite spending just over $90 million this summer, José Mourinho has spent most of the close season moaning about a lack of new signings and is talking down his team’s chances of challenging for the title.
Leicester could be without Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy, who returned late from the World Cup, but they may have found a star to replace Riyad Mahrez in James Maddison. The 21-year-old former Norwich City midfielder is one to consider for your fantasy team. Prediction: 2-1
Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur (8.30am)
With nine Spurs players in action during the final weekend of the World Cup, manager Mauricio Pochettino faces fitness issues and selection headaches. His Newcastle counterpart, Rafa Benítez, has drafted in striker Salomón Rondón from West Brom, but has been hampered by a lack of transfer funds. Prediction: 1-1
Bournemouth v Cardiff City
Is it too early for a relegation six-pointer? These two teams look likely to struggle for survival this season and a draw is the value call. Premier League referees must have been sickened by Cardiff’s promotion as running battles with manager Neil Warnock await. Prediction: 1-1
Fulham v Crystal Palace
A London derby to start the season. Fulham have strengthened the spine of their team ahead of a Premier League return by signing centre back Alfie Mawson, midfielder Jean Michaël Seri and striker Aleksandr Mitrovic, while teenager Ryan Sessegnon could be one of the sensations of the season. Their opponents will be ecstatic to have kept hold of Wilfried Zaha, while Germany midfielder Max Meyer looks a shrewd free transfer. Prediction: 1-1
Huddersfield Town v Chelsea
Chelsea could again struggle to achieve Champions League qualification this season under new manager Maurizio Sarri. With Thibaut Courtois departing and Eden Hazard and Willian probably disappointed to be staying, Sarri will need to win over his dressing room. Huddersfield know they will be battling for survival but have done well to resist offers for top-class manager David Wagner. Prediction: 1-1
Watford v Brighton & Hove Albion
Watford could be in for a hard season given manager Javi Gracia has won just four of his 15 games since taking charge and key player Richarlison has been sold to Everton. They will be hoping some bargain summer signings hit the ground running. Brighton excelled in their first season back in the Premier League but might find things tougher. Both teams will settle for a point. Prediction: 1-1
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton (1.30pm)
Sleeping giants Wolves have been awoken by significant Chinese investment and will have hopes of a top-half finish. With Portugal stars João Moutinho, Rui Patrício and Rúben Neves forming the backbone of their team, they should rattle the cages of some bigger clubs. Prediction 2-1
Liverpool v West Ham United (9.30am)
Two of the summer’s big spenders do battle on the opening day. West Ham smashed their transfer record when signing Brazil winger Felipe Anderson from Lazio for $46 million and will expect a top-half finish at the very least, However, it is tough to imagine them making a winning start at Anfield. Prediction: 2-1
Southampton v Burnley (9.30am)
Last season’s surprise package Burnley now have European football to contend with, which will harm their chance of repeating last year’s heroics. Southampton fans will be hoping for better under Mark Hughes and they may win here, but they might be disappointed in the long term. Prediction: 1-0
Arsenal v Manchester City (noon)
Arsenal will surely do better this season under new manager Unai Emery, Some shrewd defensive signings allied to tremendous attacking talent should get them back in the top four and it will be interesting to see how they fare against last season’s runaway winners. Prediction: 1-1
n Apologies, but we had some technical difficulties with our code for new entrants to Fantasy Premier League. Te enter go to www.premierleague.com, pick your squad and enter The Royal Gazette League (the correct code is 2737873-626046).
There is a $3,000 prize pot up for grabs. The champion receives a prize worth $1,000, second collects $500, third $300 and fourth $200. In addition to this, the best manager each month wins a prize of $100.
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