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Fantasy Football: Hart’s demise no surprise

Anyone who thought Pep Guardiola would tiptoe around issues in the style of a Xavi-Iniesta, tiki-taka love-in will now know otherwise.

He may preach the beautiful game but is clearly willing to make ugly, tough decisions.

Joe Hart, it seems, has about as much chance of being Pep's No 1 as Alberto Moreno has of becoming a defensively solid left back.

It's been coming. He was shaky last season and poor in the European Championships, although he was far from alone in that regard in the England camp. Guardiola has obviously seen enough.

Moreno, at least, has the public backing of his manager, although when Jürgen Klopp talks about James Milner filling in, that tells it's own story.

The Spaniard looked as well-prepared as his dodgy man bun against Arsenal and his days at Anfield are surely numbered.

11am kick-off unless stated
Today
Man United v Southampton

4pm

The first of ten Friday night top-flight games, Chris Smalling and Paul Pogba are available for selection after missing the first league game of the season through suspension. Mega-money signing Pogba is likely to start on the bench as he's eased into his frontline role.

United cruised to victory against Bournemouth and, in José Mourinho's first home game, one would expect them to do the same here against a Southampton team still adapting to Claude Puel's methods.

Prediction: 2-0

Saturday
Stoke City v Manchester City

8.30am

City looked plodding for most of their match against Sunderland, which many put down to a new manager and new methods. Sergio Agüero shocked himself into sharpness in midweek with a hat-trick despite missing two penalties.

Stoke have players who can hurt City but expect the away side's extra talent to win out eventually.

Prediction: 1-2

Burnley v Liverpool

The home team have an awful record against Liverpool, failing to score in any of their past four meetings and conceding 11 in the process.

Liverpool have selection issues, with Sadio Mané hurting his shoulder in training and a doubt. Daniel Sturridge and James Milner are fit, which should mean bad news for Moreno.

Prediction: 0-2

Swansea City v Hull City

Hull gave most people — including yours truly — one in the eye last week with a really impressive opening-day win over the champions. That should give them a huge amount of confidence, especially given the lack of numbers in their squad. It could get tougher away from home, but that will also depend on how well Swansea have gelled. Fernando Llorente, their striker, has serious pedigree and looked very tidy last weekend.

Prediction: 2-1

Tottenham v Crystal Palace

Spurs took 45 minutes to realise the season had started against Everton but once they did, they looked on the money once again. That said, Harry Kane looked jaded still. Palace may have new signing Christian Benteke in their starting line-up after they finally agreed a fee will Liverpool. The Belgium's firepower is desperately needed in South London.

Prediction: 2-

Watford v Chelsea

Antonio Conte looks set to give Klopp a run for his money in terms of dugout entertainment. The fiery Italian is already making an impression at Stamford Bridge even at this early stage, and even as he works out his best XI.

Perhaps while he does that he can give Diego Costa a cup of herbal tea and tell him to chill out before his spends most of the season suspended.

Prediction: 1-2

West Bromwich v Everton

Romelu Lukaku is pushing to start as are new signings Ashley Williams and Yannick Bolasie. Everton started encouragingly against Spurs and Ronald Koeman already appears to be moulding a more organised side. Bolasie is a match-winner and will add dynamism, albeit at an obscenely overpriced rate.

West Brom appear little different to last season, although Salomon Rondon may have lost some weight.

Prediction: 1-2

Leicester City v Arsenal
1.30pm

Arsenal were the only team to do the double on the champions last season but this match comes at an interesting time already. Both were beaten on the opening weekend so there are question marks.

Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have both spurned potential moves to the Gunners so what's the betting both will get on the scoresheet.

Prediction: 2-2

Sunday
Sunderland v Middlesbrough

9.30am

North East derbies are always tasty and this should be no different. David Moyes, the Sunderland manager, will get a noisy reception for his first home game in charge and will be encouraged by the way his team frustrated Manchester City last weekend.

Prediction: 1-1

West Ham v Bournemouth
Noon

First league game at the new stadium for West Ham and it will be interesting to see how the atmosphere holds up. Bournemouth leaked three against United and they have to prove themselves all over again.

Prediction: 2-1

Shocked into action: Agüero reacts after missing a penalty against Steaua Bucharest at the National Arena Stadium (Photograph by Andreea Alexandru/AP)

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Published August 19, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 19, 2016 at 7:55 am)

Fantasy Football: Hart’s demise no surprise

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