It’s back and it’s nearly all new. We’ve got the top three with new managers, loads of new players to talk about, new technology with ’Hawkeye’ giving us the Yes or No on goal line decisions and even a new sports channel to watch some of the games on. The the one thing that hasn’t changed is that we will be here each weekend giving you the lowdown about what’s going to happen and who to put in your Sky Fantasy Football Team.

EPL Predictions & Team News 17 - 19 Aug 2013

Click for the latest Premier League Team News & Predictions.

Liverpool v Stoke – Saturday 17 August 2013 – 1245KO

If we are being honest, this is not the dream fixture to kick-off a new sports channel, but the fixture computer failed to pick out any stand out fixtures for the opening weekend.

Liverpool will be without Suarez, at least for the first 6 games and with the transfer deadline still over 2 weeks away, maybe permanently. They look to have the same troubles as last season, with a serious lack of adequate cover up front. The midfield maybe a little more settled this year with Coutinho having been at the club for a pre-season and with Allen and Henderson, perhaps being able to push on to the next level but a spot in the top four still realistically looks beyond the red half of Liverpool.

Stoke have of course parted ways with long-term boss Tony Pulis and replaced him with Mark Hughes, who has had a mixed success rate in management so far. The Stoke side does already have a bit of a Hughes style about it and will look to push on after flirting with relegation last year. They have been one of the less active sides in the transfer market this summer only adding Erik Pieters from PSV.

Premier League Team News: New signings Mignolet and Toure should both start with the latter partnering Agger at the heart of the Liverpool defence after he has overcome injury problems. Sturridge is still a big doubt and is rated no more than 50/50 for the season opener. Pieters should make his debut for The Potters but there will be no place for Under 21 stopper Butland with Begovic being given the nod in goal.
Premier League Betting Prediction: 2-0
Sky Sports Fantasy Star Man: Phillipe Coutinho

Arsenal v Aston Villa – Saturday 17 August 2013 – 1500KO

Vibes coming out of the Arsenal boardroom earlier in the summer suggested I would be previewing the likes of Higuian, Pele and Maradona, but instead the only body they have purchased so far in this window is Yaya Sanago on a free from Auxerre. Dare we say typical Wenger?

They surely have to hit the ground running this season, as they have been handed a tough passage through to the group stages of the Champions League and surely won’t be able to rely on a good run at the end of the season to nudge someone out of 4th place. After releasing a lot of fringe players, the squad is looking very thin ahead of the visit of Aston Villa which is the surprise to most.

Villa themselves will be a little bit stronger given their young squad are all a year older, but Lambert has continued to add promising youngsters to the squad this window and has signed 4 players all under 23 with Danish defender Okare demanding the biggest fee and the Holte End will be hoping he can plug some of the holes in the Villa defence that were so evident last time out, especially from set-pieces. The best bit of business for Villa though is managing to keep hold of Benteke.

Premier League Team News: Walcott is going to be fit but Arteta will definitely miss out along with defenders Vermaelen and Monreal. Villa are nearly at full strength with Herd the only player ruled out.
Premier League Betting Prediction: 2-1
Sky Sports Fantasy Star Man: Jack Wilshere

Norwich v Everton – Saturday 17 August 2013 – 1500Ko

As well as coming across as a very likable manager, Chris Hughton also appears to be quite shrewd and has tried to address the problems they had in front of goal last year by signing Ricky Van Wolfswinkel back in May and following it up with signing Gary Hooper from Celtic for a combined fee of £12.5m. It may not seem a lot to some teams but is a considerable outlay for The Canaries and looks to be a couple of shrewd signings. It is also a bit of a gamble with Grant Holt leaving as neither of the two new boys have ever played in the EPL previously. Martin Olsson appears to be a solid signing from Blackburn and Fer also joins after he saw a move to Everton fall through in January.

As with so many clubs, it is all change at Everton with Martinez replacing David Moyes and he may have a hard time shaping a dogged side into one that plays a fast moving passing game. He has brought in three players he had with him at Wigan last year in Robles, Alcaraz and Kone to help, but if Baines and Felliani are still at the club come the 2 September they will feel they have had a successful transfer window.

Premier League Team News: Captain Bassong will miss this game through injury as will Pilkington whilst new signing Hooper should have overcome a calf injury to feature. Other new boy Leroy Fer is suspended. Everton will be hoping Alcaraz can escape the treatment room in time along with Darron Gibson.
Premier League Betting Prediction: 1-1
Sky Sports Fantasy Star Man: Ricky Van Wolfswinkel

Sunderland v Fulham – Saturday 17 August 2013 – 1500KO

Both these clubs have been active so far this summer, and will be hoping that it pays off come May.

Reports coming out of the North-East say Di Canio has got his men fitter and stronger than ever before with them working a full 9-6 day but for me, being as fit and strong as you possibly can is surely a bare minimum to be a professional footballer and shouldn’t be something new.

On the signings front, Sunderland have brought in around 10 new faces with Giaccherini from Juventus perhaps being the most well-known although they have also splashed out the best part of £9m on American Altidore who didn’t cover himself in glory last time he played EPL football, but by all accounts has been impressive with AZ over in Holland.

Fulham have a new owner and Martin Jol has used his resources to put together a pretty attacking side with the additions of Bent and Taarabt on loan, which should work nicely with the attacking options of Berbatov and Ruiz.

Premier League Team News: All 10 of Sunderland’s new signings may feature at some point. The Black Cats are still without Steve Fletcher who is still recovering from last season’s injury problem, whilst Gardiner is suspended. Fulham have doubts whether loan signings Bent and Taarabt are fit enough to start, but at least one of the pair will make the bench.
Premier League Betting Prediction: 2-1
Sky Sports Fantasy Star Man: Vito Mannone

West Bromwich Albion v Southampton – Saturday 17 August 2013 – 1500KO

Both sets of fans would probably snap your hand off if you offered them last season’s finishing position. West Brom especially will find that an enormous challenge, trying to replace Lukaku who has returned to parent club Chelsea, but they have managed to snag proven Premiership pedigree in Nicolas Anelka. They have also brought in another loanee in Vydra who looked more than useful when turning out for Watford last year.

For the second season on the bounce Southampton have spent big, this time on two players’ Kenyan defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama and defender Lovren from Lyon for over £21m, and could well make The Saints a decent bet on the Handicaps list.

Premier League Team News: Anelka and Vydra could both start in a new attacking pairing for The Baggies, who will be without Zoltan Gera who is carrying a knock. Shaw and Clyne are big doubts for The Saints who will also have to assess the fitness of Ramirez who arrived back late from international duty.
Premier League Betting Prediction: 0-1
Sky Sports Fantasy Star Man: Rickie Lambert

West Ham United v Cardiff City – Saturday 17 August 2013 – 1500KO

The Hammers look like an easy side to read after the signing of Downing, and also capturing Andy Carroll on a permanent deal. Get the ball wide early to Downing and Jarvis and get it in to the box for the big man Carroll. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, except Andy Carroll is injured with a heel injury he picked up at in the final game of last season, and they look a little thin up top without him after releasing Carlton Cole in June. Ravel Morison, (or Ravel as he will have on his shirt this season) could be a steal in Fantasy Football for the opening day fixture as he is cheap and may get the nod over Maiga to start upfront.

Cardiff have broken their transfer record three times this season with the signing of young Danish striker Cornelius, England under 21 defender Caulker from Spurs and finally Chilean hardman midfielder Gary Medel who goes by the nickname ‘Pitball’. Let’s hope he is better than his pop namesake who last summer of course rhymed the word ‘Kodak’ with ‘Kodak’!

Premier League Team News: West Ham will give debuts down the left hand side of the pitch with Rat and Downing expected to start. As mentioned above the choice to replace Carroll is between Maiga and Morison. Gary Medel will start for The Bluebirds whilst Cornelius is a big doubt.
Premier League Betting Prediction: 2-1
Sky Sports Fantasy Star Man: Mark Noble

Swansea City v Manchester United – Saturday 17 August 2013 – 1730KO

One of these clubs has moved heaven and earth and broke their transfer record to bring in the top scorer in Dutch football from last season and the other is Manchester United.

On paper, Bony and Michu is probably one of the best looking partnerships in the whole league, however The Swans will be hoping Michu doesn’t suffer from second season syndrome after being the bargain signing of last summer and Bony turns out to be a Dutch import like Van Nistlerooy as opposed to a Kezman or Alves who both came with free-scoring records.

Manchester United start ‘Life after Fergie’ without adding the marquee signing they seemed desperate to make and with the Rooney situation still unsorted. How will the players react to Moyes and his new management team, there are a lot of unanswered questions around Old Trafford at the moment.

Premier League Team News: De Guzman picked up an injury whilst on international duty and is out injured but Shelvey should make his EPL debut for The Swans. All eyes will be on United’s team sheet to see if Rooney is selected! Nani, Hernandez and Young are all expected to miss out.
Premier League Betting Prediction: 1-2
Sky Sports Fantasy Star Man: Robin Van Persie

Crystal Palace v Tottenham – Sunday 18 August 2013 – 1330KO

The season is going to be a long one for Palace fans this year, at times they are going to get trounced, at times Holloway will get them playing some good football but the one thing the fans will have to get used to is they no longer have Wilfred Zaha, but instead have Chamakh!! They have also brought in raw striker Dwight Gayle who has had a rapid rise through the leagues and Selhurst will be hoping to have unearthed another Ian Wright.

I’m not going to bore anyone with Gareth Bale talk apart from he won’t be fit to play in this fixture, but Spurs have been pretty active in the market already this year splashing out over £60m on the likes of Spanish star Roberto Saldado and Brazilian box to box midfielder Paulinho who is turning out for his 7th club at the age of 25!!

AVB and new Director of Football Baldini have really put their own stamp on the squad over the summer.

Premier League Team News: Last season’s top scorer Murray will miss out for Palace, but skipper McCarthy should recover from a groin problem. Thomas and Chamakh should start. Bale is a non-starter for Spurs along with Holtby and Vetonghen.
Premier League Betting Prediction: 1-3
Sky Sports Fantasy Star Man: Roberto Saldado

Chelsea v Hull City – Sunday 18 August 2013 – 1600KO

All the ladies who read this will no doubt be glad to see ‘The Special One’ back managing in the Premier League, I am of course talking about Jose and not Steve Bruce!

He re-joins the club at an interesting time, his old guard are literally becoming the Chelsea Pensioners and I am intrigued how he will fit Hazard, Mata and Oscar into his hard working ethos. The squad has been added to from last year with Schlurre costing a tad under £20m and Van Ginkel joining from Vitesse.

Steve Bruce’s Hull or Hull City Tigers as the Chairman wants them to be known, has tried to fill his team with a British backbone including Huddlestone and Livermore from Spurs, ex Rangers keeper McGregor and Birmingham’s Curtis Davies but whether any of these will be good enough to an average squad in the league is another matter.

Premier League Team News: Chelsea have no real injuries but will check on a number of players who have had long-haul journeys for midweek international duty. Steve Bruce possibly starts the season with the fittest squad with only Stephen Quinn a doubt.

Premier League Betting Prediction: 4-0
Sky Sports Fantasy Star Man: Frank Lampard

Manchester City v Newcastle – Monday 19 August 2013 – 2000KO

In my last preview of last season I mentioned it could be fun if Mourinho and Holloway were back in the Premier League as I would have a bit of material to play with, little did I know Mike Ashley had an even bigger Joker up his card in bringing back Joe Kinnear to the club. His interview on TalkSport in the summer was Radio Gold!!!

On the footballing side City look very good going forward with Ferdandinho and Toure putting together a heavyweight midfield and Jovetic and Negrado replacing Italy bound Carlos Tevez up front. Add in the subtlety of Navas and Silva and you have a side that will go very close this year, but I still have a few reservations about them defensively.

Newcastle will be hoping not to repeat last season’s troubles, but with the appointment of Kinnear, an ever expanding French contingent at the club and having Wonga as a main sponsor it looks like we could be heading for something similar again.

They have replaced Demba Ba now with Loic Remy on loan for the season from QPR but still seem to need signings in a few areas before the window closes.

Premier League Team News: Nastasic is City’s main injury doubt now Aguero has shaken off a knee problem. Gutierrez should be fit for Newcastle who will be without new signing Remy until September.
Premier League Betting Prediction: 2-0
Dream Team Star Man: Sergio Aguero

That’s me for week one, I’ll be glad when the transfer window closes! Remember to check out our Free Fantasy Football League for a chance to win some great prizes!

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