Friday, 12 August 2011

Predictions For Premier League 2011/12 Gameweek 1.

It seems like such a long time since last season finished, but at last the Premier League has returned to thrill the fans for another nine months. Manchester United are the reigning champions and they will be looking to win their twentieth league title. However, they should have plenty of competition from Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and possibly even Tottenham Hotspur too.

I'll be making predictions for the outcome of every game played in the Premier League every week, and I'm also running a predictions league. The details of my prediction league can be found at the end of this article, and hopefully I get enough players in it to make it very interesting. In my weekly predictions I will also attempt to point out which players might be worth including in fantasy football teams for the upcoming week and/or season too.

Regular readers will know I'm also running a fantasy league for the upcoming season, after the success of my league last season. There were almost 800 teams in my league last season, and I'm hoping to at least match that figure this season. The league was ranked in the top 50 overall last season, out of a total of almost 250,000 leagues.

The details of my fantasy league can also be found at the end of today's article, and I wish the best of luck to all who take part.

Due to the current rioting and looting in England a number of this weekend's Premier League games could possibly be cancelled, but I will make my predictions assuming that all games will take place.

Blackburn Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Saturday August 13 3:00pm BST
Blackburn Rovers will be looking to improve on last season, and they will be glad to be starting off with a home game. Their home record was quite good last season and it will be vital for them again this season if they are to rise to the lofty heights of mid table. A few of their players might do well this week with a home game against a team that struggled on their travels last season.

From a Fantasy League perspective Blackburn have a few players who could make an impact this coming season. Christopher Samba has been their best scoring defender in recent seasons, and if he gets a move to another club quite soon he could be a real bargain at the moment. David Dunn has a great history in the competition, but his injury record can sometimes mean he rarely plays.

Morten Gamst Pedersen improved in the second half of last season, and Junior Hoilett looks like a real star of the future. Paul Robinson is also available at a reasonable price, and he gets plenty of points for all the saves he makes with Blackburn. It's probably not advisable to have more than one Blackburn player in any fantasy team at the same time.

Wolves were very close to relegation last season, but they escaped on the very last day. They have added a few players to last season's squad, and they look capable of finishing in a mid table position this season. If I had to choose any Wolves players in my team I would play them when they have a home game if at all possible.

Wayne Hennessey made the goalkeepers shirt his own last season, and if a cheap alternative is needed in goal he could fill the role. Roger Johnson was signed from Birmingham City, and of all the Wolves defenders he looks the most likely to amass points this season. Both Matt Jarvis and Stephen Hunt are players capable of getting plenty of goals and assists for Wolves, and either player would be a good addition to any team.

In attack both Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher are capable of scoring quite a few goals, but it's impossible to know if they will both play in each game. Doyle will probably be first choice, and he could be a good buy at a bargain price.

Both of these teams just about managed to stay in the Premier League last season, and they will be hoping to do a lot better this time around. I think Blackburn might just have the edge because they are the home team, but I'm predicting a draw.

Prediction 1-1
Fulham v Aston Villa
Saturday August 13 3:00pm BST
Fulham managed to finish eighth in the Premier League last season despite their poor start to the season. They have already started their Europa League campaign, and it could possibly put them in good shape at this early stage in the season. Fulham's home form is usually the one thing that keeps them safe in the Premier League, as they struggle badly on their travels.

From a fantasy perspective Fulham have a few interesting players to choose from. Brede Hangeland is always good for a few goals, and Fulham are good for a few clean sheets to go with them on occasions. Clint Dempsey is still included as a midfielder, and he is also very good for point scoring with Damien Duff being a possible outside shot if he can stay fit.

Fulham have three strikers who are all capable of scoring goals, but if Bobby Zamora can stay fit he should be their first choice. Besides him both Andy Johnson and Moussa Dembele could add quite a few points if Zamora struggles with injuries yet again.

Aston Villa were far too close to the relegation zone for their own good for much of last season, and they will be looking to improve this time around. Their form away from home was very poor, and their normally tight defence seemed far too porous at times. They have lost a few of their better players too, and it could be a tough season for them.

I think I'll be steering clear of Villa defenders for the start of the season at least, as they could be a real hindrance to any fantasy team. In midfield Charles N'Zogbia is a good addition for Villa, and Stephen Ireland could possibly do well if he can sort out his mental and physical problems. Marc Albrighton could also get a chance to shine, as others have been sold which could see him get the chance he wants.

I've never been a fan of Darren Bent, but he scores goals wherever he plays and he's well worth including in any fantasy team. He has 41 league goals in the last two seasons, while playing for teams who are mid table at best, and it's a pretty impressive record.

I think Fulham should be in a better position coming into this game thanks to their Europa League qualifiers, and I think they will edge to a narrow victory.

Prediction: 2-1
Liverpool v Sunderland
Saturday August 13 3:00pm BST
Liverpool have spent heavily in the transfer market since the sale of Fernando Torres last January, and there is pressure on them to make it back into the top four. It won't be an easy task for them, and I'm not so sure the players they have bought are good enough for the task at hand. They are never an easy team to beat at Anfield though, and they have to be clear favourites coming into this game.

It's hard to know which Liverpool players to pick, but both Jose Reina and Martin Skrtel are the pick of their defensive options in my opinion. They certainly have plenty of options in midfield and it won't be easy to know which players will play from game to game. Steven Gerrard has been their best point winner for a  long time, but he's injured at the moment and he will take some time to get back to his best.

Dirk Kuyt always seems to score for Liverpool despite being one of the least skillful Dutch players I have ever seen, and Charlie Adam had a fantastic season at Blackpool last time around. As well as them there's Stewart Henderson, Jordan Henderson, Raul Meireles and Maxi Rodriguez, although the later might not see too much game time this season. It's difficult to know which of those players to pick, but get it right and there could be quite a few fantasy points available.

Liverpool have both Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez to choose from up front, and both of them could get their fair share of goals this season. Suarez might sit out the early games after his Copa Americe exploits with Uruguay, but when he returns he is a top class goalscorer. The big question will be whether Liverpool start with both players, or alternate them from time to time.

Sunderland finished in tenth place in the Premier League last season, but it was a very strange season for them. After the sale of Darren Bent in January they tumbled from the top six, and at one stage relegation looked a very real possibility. I don't think any other team has bought more players than them this summer, but it's the quality of some of those purchases which might be called into question.

Sunderland's defence were so poor in the second half of last season that it's impossible to recommend any of them, but Phil Bardsley still managed to find the back of the net a few times and he is a possibility. In midfield Seb Larsson would be the only player I would consider, and Asamoah Gyan will carry their goalscoring hopes on his shoulders. Conor Wickham might be an outside choice if he can settle into the Premier League after his move from Ipswich Town.

I can't see anything other than a victory for Liverpool in this game, and if they click they could win quite handsomely.

Prediction: 2-0
Queens Park Rangers v Bolton Wanderers
Saturday August 13 3:00pm BST
Queens Park Rangers were promoted as winners from the Championship last season, and they will be looking to show their very wealthy owners that they're good enough to stay there. They were quite strong in defence, but it will be a lot tougher for them in the Premier League. Their priority has to be to stay in the Premier League, and build for the future.

I think Paddy Kenny could be a good choice as a reserve goalkeeper, and maybe a cheap defender from their squad would be a good reserve to have in any squad too. In midfield Adel Taarabt was their star performer last season, and they will be looking for more of the same from him. DJ Campbell was signed from Blackpool and he should be their biggest goalscoring threat, but I think they will struggle to score a lot of goals.

Bolton have done well to change their style of play under Owen Coyle, but they could have a few problems this season. With no players sold there is no money to reinvest, and Bolton need some new additions to their squad. If Gary Cahill can be sold for a decent price it could give them the chance to strengthen their team, although he is their best defender.

It's very hard to pick any Bolton players to shine this season, but Cahill could be a good fantasy buy if he is sold on to another club. Besides him I can only really think that Kevin Davies would be a good possible purchase, but any players picked up before the transfer window closes could be interesting.

I think this won't exactly be a thrill a minute game, and both teams would probably be happy to start their seasons with a point which is the most likely outcome.

Prediction: 1-1
Tottenham Hotspur v Everton
Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to get off to a flying start, as they look to finish in the top four again and sample some more Champions League football. However, it won't be in this game, as it has been postponed due to the trouble in London. Hopefully they will get to play it again very soon before the fixture pile up starts.
Spurs defenders are never a good fantasy buy, and I would steer clear of them this time too. Their striking duties are split between so many players that it's impossible to decide which one to buy, and it's probably best to avoid them too. If a new striker can be added before the end of the month he could be their first choice, and possibly worth a shot.

Their best buys are probably in midfield where Rafael Van der Vaart, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric are all worth considering for any fantasy team. Modric could be on his way to Chelsea, and Bale is very injury prone in my opinion which would mean Van der Vaart is probably the best buy from their team. He had an excellent season with 13 goals and nine assists from midfield last season and he could add to that this time.

Everton are like quite a few other clubs, as they have failed to strengthen due to a lack of funds. If they sell any of their players they might be able to reinvest the money, but otherwise it's as you were from last season. They could do without their traditional slow start this time around, as their squad is still good enough for a top six finish.

Everton weren't particularly strong in defence last season, but Leighton Baines still amassed a huge haul of points. He managed five goals and 11 assists from left back, and most midfielders would be proud of a record like that. His crossing and set pieces are his strongest points, but he isn't cheap for any fantasy manager to buy.

Besides Baines Everton also have Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta who are both capable of scoring plenty of points if they can stay fit. Up front both Jermaine Beckford and Louis Saha will probably share the striking duties, and Saha would be a very good but except for his awful record with injuries. When Saha plays he is an excellent goalscorer, but Everton need him to play a lot more often.

Wigan Athletic v Norwich City
Saturday August 13 3:00pm BST

Wigan Athletic were in the relegation zone for almost all of last season, but they finally managed to avoid the drop on the last day. They have not strengthened their squad from last season, and the loss of Charles N'Zogbia will hit them hard in my opinion. If they can't add some good players before the end of August they will be in for another season long struggle against relegation.

Ali Al Habsi performed well in goal for Wigan last season, and he is a possibility for anyone who doesn't want to spend too much on a goalkeeper. In midfield James McCarthy looks promising, and Hugo Rodallega will get his share of goals up front as usual. I think it's best to steer clear of Wigan's defenders as they are prone to conceding on a large scale a few times a season.

Norwich played some good attacking football on their way to automatic promotion last season, and they have the ability to score a few goals in their team. However, they will need to be an awful lot tighter at the back if they are to survive in the Premier League. I can see them struggling to stay up, but they might just about have enough thanks to their ability to score goals.

I think it would be best to steer clear of Norwich defenders, but they do have a few attacking players who might be of interest. Wes Hoolahan impressed last season, and if they continue to play attacking football, he will be the man to pull the strings. As regards strikers they have James Vaughan, Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson to choose from and I think Holt is the most likely to score for them but Jackson could be a dark horse.

I think Wigan will get off to the new season with a win, but Norwich won't make life easy for them.

Prediction: 2-1
Newcastle United v Arsenal
Saturday August 13 5.30pm BST
Newcastle United have had a fairly quiet summer in terms of transfers, but Joey Barton at least kept them in the media. His various mutterings on Twitter have been a source of entertainment, as he continues his row with the club. Like so many other teams Newcastle will need some new players if they are to improve on last season's 12th place finish, but there's no sign of any arriving yet.

From a fantasy football perspective Barton is probably the best of a bad bunch at Newcastle if he can sort out his problems with the club. If not he could still do well elsewhere, and as long as he keeps his cool he scores well. Newcastle's defence is nothing to write home about, and their attacking options are spread between so many players it's hard to choose one.

This is seen as a make or break season for Arsenal, but with only two days left to the start of the season their preparations are in a shambles it would seem. Their best player and captain, Cesc Fabregas, is on the verge of a move to Barcelona and Arsenal will find it almost impossible to replace one of the best players in the world. A few new players have been added, but their place in the top four is under threat and it could be a tough season for them.

Arsenal's defenders don't add much in terms of goals or assists and they don't have enough clean sheets to seriously consider buying. Thomas Vermaelen missed most of last season injured, but he could strengthen them at the back and add a few goals at the other end too. If I had to choose an Arsenal defender Vermaelen would be the obvious choice with Kirean Gibbs as an outside bet if he can stay fit.

If Cesc stays and remains fit he's an absolute certainty for any fantasy team, but the chances are he will leave. Samip Nasri is a good buy too, but it would appear he might be gone too which would leave Theo Walcott and Andrey as the best buys in midfield. Walcott has injury problems yet again, and Arshavin can be very inconsistent at the best of times.

Robin Van Persie scored 18 Premier League goals in 19 starts last season, and if he stays fit I think he will be the top scorer this season. He has never stayed fit for a full season before, and it could be a very big ask for such an injury prone player. Gervinho has looked good since signing from Lille, and he could be a good outside bet to score quite a few fantasy points.

Despite the obvious problems at Arsenal I still think they will have too much for Newcastle, as they look to banish last season's capitulation in the same fixture when they drew 4-4 after leading 4-0 at half time.

Prediction: 1-3
Stoke City v Chelsea
Sunday August 14 1:30pm BST
Stoke City had a very good season by their standards last season, as they finished 13th in the league and reached the FA Cup final. They have progressed to the next qualifying round of the Europa League which means their preseason is well ahead of that of Chelsea. Stoke are never an easy team to beat, and any team that plays them knows they have been in a battle.

Asmir Begovic isn't a bad option as a goalkeeper, as long as he keeps the Stoke goalkeeper's shirt. When it comes to defenders it's hard to see beyond the six goals and three assists Robert Huth managed last season, and with Stoke's stle of football here's sure to do well again. When it comes to attacking options it's not such an easy choice at Stoke though.

Matthew Etherington is by far Stoke's most productive midfielder, but he had quite a few problems with injury last season. I think Jonathan Walters could possibly do quite well too, as he's included as a midfielder and quite often plays as a striker. Kenwyne Jones is their star striker and he looked very good on occasions last season, but he needs to improve his goal return to be worth taking a gamble on.

Chelsea looked unbeatable before last season started, but they fell away badly in the middle third of the season and eventually finished second. New signings haven't exactly being rolling into Stamford Bridge, but they did spend a lot of money in January and there is still time to add to their squad. If Chelsea can add a couple of players to their team they have to have a real chance of regaining the title.

Peter Cech is always a good purchase in goal, and there's a huge range of Chelsea defenders to try to choose from. Ashley Cole, John Terry, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic and Alex are all good players for any fantasy team, but all five of them won't play at once. I think the best options might be Cole and Luiz, but it's not easy to pick one over the other.

In midfield both Florent Malouda and Frank Lampard always pile on the points, but Solomon Kalou is a cheaper option who doesn't do too badly either. Lampard may be past his best and Malouda's form was sporadic last season, but it's hard to leave them both out of any team with pretensions of doing well. For any team to have a real chance of doing well in fantasy football they have to have the top performers from the leading clubs in their teams whether they like them or not.

Chelsea's striking options are the envy of most clubs with Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba and Nicklas Anelka all at the club. Torres had a poor start to his Chelsea career, but he is a proven goalscorer and he should score plenty of goals this season. If Torres doesn't do the business there is always Drogba who has real Premier League pedigree and it doesn't leave much room for Anelka.

I think Stoke's home record and the fact that they have played competitive games already will stand to them, and they will manage to hold Chelsea to a draw.

Prediction: 1-1
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United
Sunday August 14 4:00pm BST
West Bromwich Albion had a very good first season back in the Premier League last season, and they managed to finish a very creditable eleventh. Things didn't look good for them until Roy Hodgson took over the reins and guided them to safety. They will be hoping to build on that progress this season, but they have a very tough first game.
Defensively West Brom players are far too dangerous to sign for any football manager, and their midfielders didn't perform particularly well last season with the exception of Chris Brunt. He fell away in the second half of the season, but he is available at a good price and could be worth a gamble. In attack Peter Odemwingie performed admirably last season and he has been joined by Shane Long.

If both players can form a partnership West Brom could score quite a few goals, but it's difficult to know which one to choose. I think Long might just be the man to buy, and he costs less than Odemwingie too.

Manchester United are the reigning Premier League champions, and they have to be favourites to retain their title. They have added some good young talent to their squad, and the players all came in early to make sure they have settled in. If they can add Wesley Sneijder to the squad they will be even harder for the chasers to catch.

In goal David de Gea cost a good deal of money, but he was far from convincing in the Community Shield last week. Of all their defenders both Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra are probably the pick of the bunch, but Vidic would have to be the best choice. United's defence was pretty strong last season, but both Chelsea and Manchester City conceded less Premier League goals.

In midfield it's impossible to look past Luis Nani, and he looked very good in the Community Shield last week when he scored twice. Ashley Young has come in from Aston Villa and he will score plenty of points too in my opinion. Any team looking to do well is going to need at least one of those two players in it.

Dimitar Berbatov was United's top scoring striker last season, but if he isn't sold his chances will be limited as Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez are clearly the favourites with the manager. Rooney is the only certainty to start among their three strikers, and if a United striker is to be picked it should be him. If Rooney is out or Berbatov is sold Hernandez could also be an excellent option.

I can't see West Brom having enough to get anything out of this game if United play like they did last week, but if they work hard enough there is a chance they will get something out of it.

Prediction: 0-2
Manchester City v Swansea City
Monday August 15 8:00pm BST
Manchester City won their first trophy in a very long time last season when they beat Stoke in the FA Cup final. They have Champions League football to look forward to as well and their transfer dealings are still far from over. The bottomless pit of money their owners have makes it hard for other teams to compete, but that won't worry City.

Joe Hart is a good choice in goal, but his price is a little prohibitive and a cheaper option might be better. None of City's defenders scored too well last season, as their manager never really had a settled back four. If any of the City defenders can make a position in the team their own they might be worth buying.

In midfield both Yaya Toure and David Silva were top performers last season, and both of them should perform well again. The rest of the City midfield is far from certain to play, and it's probably a good idea to stick to those two players. If Nasri arrives from Arsenal he should command a regular place, and he could be a very good fantasy purchase.

The striking options at City are very complicated, but there is no denying that they have four quality strikers. Carlos Tevez wants out but nobody can afford to buy him, and Mario Balotelli is a player to be avoided at all costs due to his fondness for going berserk occasionally. Eden Dzeko hasn't performed well since he signed last January, but given the chance surely he will come good.

Sergio Aguero is the new arrival who has all the hopes pinned on him, but I'm not so sure he will do as well as expected. If Tevez decides to stay and play for City I still think he will be their best striker, but it's impossible to know which City striker to pick.

Swansea did really well to win the play off final last season, and become the first Welsh side to play in the Premier League. They play a good brand of football, and they will do all they can to retain their status, but it won't be easy for them. They have very little Premier League experience in their squad, and they will have to give their all to have a chance of surviving.

It's difficult to opt for any Swansea players at the moment, but after a few weeks things should be a little clearer. They still have time to add to their squad too, and I'm sure some players worth buying will emerge.
I can't see anything other than a comprehensive City victory in this game, but hopefully Swansea can at least make a game of it.

Prediction: 3-0
That's my predictions for this week, but I'll be back next week to continue them and for every week until the end of the season. Feel free to point out where I may have gone wrong or right, as the case may be and even join in with my predictions league.

To join the predictions league just go to the site and set up your predictions. Then use the code F688F-JCO to join my league. I'll update the league table in my predictions every week.

Finally for today this season's Fantasy Premier League is up and running again. My league has over 500 teams in it already, but I will welcome any new teams. Just go to the site and use the code 125540-42785 to join my league when your team is set up.

Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter, tumblr and Facebook too.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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