So, here we go again. Just 26 days after Hugo Lloris lifted the World Cup for France, it’s go time again for the English Premier League. And while Man City start the season as hot favourites to retain the Premier League title, the league regarded by many as the best in the world is guaranteed to throw up thrills and spills along the way.
Liverpool v West Ham Utd (Anfield – 12/08/2018 – 13:30 BST)
Both teams emerged from the transfer window with experts and pundits proclaiming them to have done ‘excellent business’ but now it’s time for that good business off the pitch to be translated into success on it.
West Ham have freshened up their squad with plenty of new faces, the aim being to provide Manuel Pellegrini with a squad capable of turning around the club’s recent struggles, and Iron fans are optimistic that this may finally be the beginning of a new era for the east London club. But as opening days go, they don’t get much tougher than a trip to Liverpool who, themselves, are emerging from a summer of strengthening and who see this as the start of their quest for their first title since 1990.
In terms of Sunday’s line-ups, Jurgen Klopp has fitness doubts over Ragnar Klavan, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip, although Joe Gomez, after missing out on the World Cup due to injury, should finally be back. The Reds’ England duo – Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold – could be in contention for a place in the matchday squad but are unlikely to start the game.
For the Hammers, they are likely to be without the services of the injured Andy Carroll, Winston Reid and Manuel Lanzini, while Andriy Yarmolenko is in contention after having a hip problem, but Jack Wilshere looks likely to start his first Premier League game.
In terms of head-to-heads, the Pool have won 73 times, the Hammers 28, with 36 draws, and the visitors will be looking to improve upon last season’s 8-2 aggregate league defeats.
Liverpool to win 2-0: 7/18.00+7007.007.00-0.14 with 188Bet
Mo Salah to score first: 3/51.60-1670.60-1.670.60 with 188Bet
Liverpool to win by 2 goals: 4/151.27-3750.27-3.750.27 with 188Bet
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A lot has changed for Fulham since their glorious Play-Off final win over Aston Villa. While they have retained almost all of their Wembley heroes, they now have a squad that has been bolstered with a whole host of quality signings. In fact, the Cottagers were the Premier League’s third biggest investors in the summer transfer window with a net spend of nearly £100 million. Only Liverpool and Chelsea spent more.
They smashed their transfer record twice during the window and possibly did it again a third time on deadline day when 22-year-old Cameroonian midfielder André Frank Zambo Anguissa arrived from Marseille for a fee reported to be around £27 million. Among their incredible thirteen new arrivals – some big exotic names among them – the permanent signing of Aleksandar Mitrovic from Newcastle will probably be the one that pleased Fulham fans the most, given the Serb’s key role in their promotion. The loan signing of former Chelsea winger, André Schürrle, is also an interesting one. All of which makes for a mouth-watering season ahead for Fulham fans, but it does make for a tricky opening few weeks for manager Slavisa Jokanovic as he looks to mould his new signing into a cohesive unit.
This will be less of an issue for Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace who, despite getting in a few new faces, have done far more modest business in the window. Their most notable signing has been that of Senegalese midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté from West Ham for an undisclosed fee, who will offer some serious ballast at the base of the Palace midfield but undoubtedly their best bit of business was retaining the services of flying winger Wilfred Saha.
Palace, given their relatively low player turnover, will certainly be looking to hit the ground running and will be hoping to exploit the unfamiliarity among Fulham’s many new faces. And so much depends on the starting XI that Jokanovic chooses to put out; he will likely be careful not to throw in too many newbies at once and risk losing the momentum of promotion.
In previous meetings, Fulham have the slightly better record, having won 17 of their 43 meetings, with Palace having won 11 times. The bookies see the Cottagers’ new names as the key factor and have them as favourites, but we think it’s dangerous to underestimate the continuity factor for Palace; a draw being the possible outcome.
Fulham and Crystal Palace to draw 2-2: 13/114.00+130013.0013.00-0.08 with BetVictor
Aleksander Mitrovic first goalscorer: 17/45.25+4254.254.25-0.24 with BetVictor
Wilfried Zaha last goalscorer: 11/26.50+5505.505.50-0.18 with BetVictor
Newcastle v Tottenham (St James’ Park – 11/08/2018 – 12:30 BST)
It promises to be a fascinating one at St James’, and not for all the right reasons. Both clubs have had far from ideal summers, with the Magpies having endured another frustrating summer transfer window under Mike Ashley’s ownership. For their part, Tottenham’s issues have been two-fold: a lack of new signings and players reporting back late due to their prolonged World Cup involvement.
The Toon did though manage to get in two new strikers in the form of Japanese striker Yoshinori Muto from German side FSVMainz 05 and Salomon Rondon on loan for the season from West Brom – Dwight Gayle going in the opposite direction. Rafa Benitez will be hoping that both are fit to play and raring to go in front of a packed St James’ Park, always regarded as one of the most boisterous venues in the Premier League.
Expect there to be some changes in the Newcastle back-four with Swansea defender Federico Fernandez arriving late in the window from Swansea and Swiss international Fabian Schär arriving from Deportivo La Coruna. Both may not be ready to hit the Premier League ground running following their late arrival, so it will take a careful balancing act from Benitez to find the right blend of new faces and experience for their opener.
Spurs, as mentioned above, will kick off their league campaign possibly without a host of first-team players following their exploits in Russia. With nine players involved in the Belgium/England third/fourth place play-off plus World Cup winner Hugo Lloris, most didn’t report back for training until last Monday and so, despite a vigorous week’s training, it’s unlikely that many of those will be sufficiently match fit to start in Newcastle. However, Mauricio Pochettino has hinted that out of necessity – his squad picked up several injuries on their pre-season tour of the US, Victor Wanyama and Erik Lamela among them – he may be forced to risk one or two who he would have ideally held back for a week or two.
Unlike the Toon, Pochettino was unable to bring in any new faces over the summer, despite numerous rumours surrounding the arrival of Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, but he did manage to hang on – at least for the time being – to Belgium World Cup star Toby Alderweireld.
Quite how this will all pan out is tricky to predict given the uncertainty around the two starting XIs, but it will be a Spurs line-up with a very unfamiliar look that takes the field this weekend and so, on this basis, a home win is far from out of the question. But, Tottenham under Pochettino are resilient and will not suffer from having to integrate a host of new faces, so expect it to be tight with a goal either way likely to be enough to swing it.
Tottenham lead the way in their head-to-heads, having won 68 of their previous 158 meetings.
Newcastle and Tottenham to draw 1-1: 27/56.40+5405.405.40-0.19 with 888Sport
Salomon Rondon to score: 11/43.75+2752.752.75-0.36 with 888Sport
Goals by Newcastle Over 1.5: 47/203.35+2352.352.35-0.43 with 888Sport
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