Gameweek 1 Fantasy Preview

Posted by John Culea

Stanley Chou/Getty ImagesChelsea's Eden Hazard is a fantasy star who is likely to play two games in the first week.

At last! The season is about to begin. There are seven games on Saturday, two on Sunday, one on Monday night and the week concludes with a Wednesday night match. Here we go for the first of 38 game weeks, the opener being a double game week for Chelsea and Aston Villa.

Saturday, August 17
Liverpool-Stoke
The early game means you only get to check two teams for announced lineups.
Liverpool is minus suspended Luis Suarez, gone for the first six games. Good fantasy picks are new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and defenders Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique. Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger are injury doubts. Midfielder Philippe Coutinho teams with Steven Gerrard to get the ball in the net or to forward Daniel Sturridge.

Stoke is in relegation trouble before the season begins. Awful on offense and defensively worn down at the end of last season, only goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and defender Ryan Shawcross are recommended fantasy picks.

Arsenal-Aston Villa
The Gunners made few moves in the off-season but have solid fantasy picks in midfielders Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott and defender Per Mertesacker. Midfielder Mikel Arteta is out injured.
Villa opens the season at Arsenal and Chelsea and is likely to be 0-0-2, but have an upgraded team and signed their key player, fantasy point giant, forward Christian Benteke.

Norwich-Everton
The Canaries will debut big scoring potential in transfer forward Ricky van Wolfswinkel. They also have fantasy bargain defender Sebastien Bassong.
Everton's midfielder Kevin Mirallas seems primed for a big fantasy season. Arouna Kone is a new forward who excelled at Wigan. Defender Leighton Baines is fantasy points in the bank, but midfielder Marouane Fellaini's role for his new manager seems muddled.

Sunderland-Fulham
Forward transfer Jozy Altidore (coming off a hat trick for the USA and a strong preseason) is the big hope for the Black Cats, while Fulham is all about forward Dimitar Berbatov.

WBA-Southampton
The Baggies debut Nicolas Anelka (seven goals in seven preseason games) while Southampton has fantasy favorite, forward Rickie Lambert.

West Ham-Cardiff
Big Sam's team is without injured Andy Carroll; but has newcomers Stewart Downing and Razvan Rat and should open well against newcomer Cardiff.

Swansea-Manchester United
This should be the most interesting match of the first week. Swansea's fantasy revelation Michu now has impressive newcomer Wilfried Bony up front.
Manchester United's first PL game under David Moyes has fantasy giant Robin van Persie in top form. Wilfried Zaha, the exciting winger, looks ready and should start. Wayne Rooney, who looked bad against Scotland is not likely to start.

Sunday, August 18
Crystal Palace-Tottenham
Barring a miracle, Crystal Palace's losing season begins in the early game on Sunday.
With "I-want-to-leave" Gareth Bale out with an injury, Spurs will debut transfers Roberto Saldado, Paulinho, and Etienne Capoue. Their best defender, Jan Vertonghen has been injured and Emmanuel Adebayor will not play.

Chelsea-Hull
The first of Chelsea's double games should be a romp over Steve Bruce and his promoted Hull. The well-stocked Chelsea roster has fantasy managers wondering about Jose Mourinho's rotation, especially midfielder Juan Mata who is dealing with a knock. Midfielder Eden Hazard had an exceptionally strong preseason and forward Romelu Lukaku played well. Will Frank Lampard start in midfield and will he play in both games? And how about Fernando Torres and Demba Ba up front? And the defensive rotation will have fantasy managers on the edge of their seats. Petr Cech will be in goal. Awaiting their debuts are midfielders Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel.

Monday, August 19
Manchester City-Newcastle
Manchester City and its new manager Manuel Pellegrini should have an easy time against relegation candidate Newcastle. New to City are midfielders Fernandinho and Jesus Navas. Forward Sergio Aguero likely returns from an injury. Midfielder David Silva is a fantasy disappointment. Forward Edin Dzeko has been promised a bigger role in the attack. Joe Hart is terrific in goal and the City defensive line is strong although Matija Nastasic is injured.

Wednesday, August 21
Chelsea-Aston Villa
Game number two in the week for the teams and a chance for Chelsea to go 2-0-0 out of the gate.

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