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Fantasy football: a time of hope

Savour this time of year, Premier League fans; these special few weeks when optimism abounds before exciting new signings become flops and your team crushes you amid a litany of errors and tactical ineptitude.

Or is that just me?

Anyway, Portugal have barely finished their open-top bus parade and already the English season is upon us.

José Mourinho has already had a pop at fellow managers and Jack Wilshere has already picked up a niggle. Business as usual then.

Except this year feels a little different. Increased television money has sparked some obscene player bids and the league can now boast headline acts such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a returning Paul Pogba.

The league can also boast arguably the best managers in the game, with the likes of Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jürgen Klopp, Antonio Conte, Arsène Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino all aiming to outwit each other with a “false full-back” ... or, as Leicester proved, by playing 4-4-2.

As usual it promises fireworks. Let the games begin.

11am kick offs unless stated
Tomorrow
Hull City v Leicester City
8.30am

Has a team had a worst preseason than Hull? Have the champions ever had a kinder opening fixture? No, is the answer you're looking for. Anything other than an away win will be a shock as Leicester adapt to new faces and the significant loss of the indefatigable N'Golo Kante.

Prediction: 1-3

Burnley v Swansea City

Second bite of the Premier League cherry for Sean Dyche and his men. Have they learnt the lessons of last time?

Swansea have let lynchpin Ashley Williams go to Goodison, but have done some impressive-looking business at the other end of the pitch with new signings Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston arriving from Spain.

Prediction: 0-1

Crystal Palace v West Brom

Palace look set to continue their negotiations for Christian Benteke and hang on to Yannick Bolasie in the faces of a monster bid from Everton. Andros Townsend should make his debut for the south Londoners. West Brom have been relatively quiet during the summer apart from being taken over by Chinese investors!

Prediction: 1-0

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur

Ronald Koeman takes over the home side with a bulging wallet at his disposal. How he attempts to take the club forward should be fascinating to watch, especially with even more cash from the sale of John Stones to Manchester City.

Tottenham fans will expect at least a repeat of last season's title challenge.

Prediction: 2-2

Middlesbrough v Stoke City

Boro have been busy with a host of new signings, although there has to be a little question mark over the manager after the bizarre, albeit successful, end to last season when he reportedly fell out with senior players.

Stoke have signed the Welsh Pirlo, so there's only one winner, right?

Prediction: 1-2

Southampton v Watford

Claude Puel and Walter Mazzarri are both new to the league but come with good reputations. Secretly, both clubs will be thinking they can have good seasons. Proof is in the pudding, though. St Mary's support to tip this one.

Prediction: 2-0

Manchester City v Sunderland
1.30pm

The coming of Pep ... finally. What became a boring saga will actually happen tomorrow when Guardiola takes charge of City for the first time, and he can't complain about having no money to spend.

Luckily for him, Abu Dhabi still has plenty of oil reserves! Sunderland also have a new manager in David Moyes, who they hope will do well enough to stick around for longer than six months and therefore become a rare breed at the Stadium of Light.

Prediction: 3-0

Sunday's games
Bournemouth v Man United

9.30am

The coming of José ... finally. What became a bor ... you get the idea. One suspects the likes of Bournemouth's defence will leave a certain Swedish striker salivating. However, much focus will be on whether United can ditch the stodgy style of the Louis van Gaal era.

Prediction: 2-3

Arsenal v Liverpool
Noon

Probably the headline act this weekend — a real test for both teams first up. There is frustration once again that Arsenal don't seem to have embraced the transfer market, while Liverpool fans must be eagerly waiting to see what Klopp can orchestrate after a preseason with his players.

Sadio Mane looks like the perfect Klopp player and should make an instant impact.

Prediction: 1-2

Monday's game
Chelsea v West Ham United

4pm

Conte's coronation in West London has almost gone unnoticed such was the noise from the north after the Euros. However, the Italian is arguably the sharpest tactically and will have his team well drilled from the off.

West Ham's best bit of business was hanging on to Dimitri Payet.

Prediction: 2-0

Fresh blood: Mourinho, right, and Ibrahimovic will be hoping to make a fast start to the new season (Photograph by Tim Ireland)
<p>Test your mettle</p>

IF you haven’t done already, now’s your chance to join The Royal Gazette Fantasy Football League on the eve of the new season.

As in previous years, there are $3,000 worth of prizes on offer for the top managers among us.

Matthew Black was the dugout king last season, pocketing a first prize worth $1,000, which is again on offer for the overall winner. Second prize is worth $500, third $300 and fourth $200.

The pot of goodies also includes a prize worth $100 for each of our monthly winners, who will be announced in these sports pages.

So what are you waiting for? Head to www.premierleague.com, choose your team and sign up to our league using the code 1558661-382758.

Our competition is open to fans of all ages and in Friday’s edition before each Premier League game week there will a rundown of the weekend matches with some helpful — or otherwise — score predictions.

Any questions e-mail jburton@royalgazette.com

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published August 12, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 12, 2016 at 4:36 pm)

Fantasy football: a time of hope

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