With Euro 2016 spiriting away plenty of the Premier League’s elite stars during June and July, and no fewer than seven new managers taking over top-flight teams ahead of the coming campaign, pre-season was the ideal time to make an impression.
Going by their friendly appearance record this summer, the five guys below clearly managed as much:
Riyad Mahrez – 362/450 minutes for Leicester
It will be interesting to see how Mahrez goes against Hull this weekend, following reports that the 2015/16 Premier League Player of the Year is increasingly unsettled at the King Power Stadium after turning down a new contract earlier this summer.
He didn’t exactly shine in the 2-1 Community Shield loss to Manchester United, but you can’t fault the Moroccan’s pre-season work rate, with Mahrez starting all five of Leicester’s practice matches, scoring once.
He’s 6/1 to bag the opener against the Tigers.
Antonio Valencia – 367/450 minutes for Manchester United
Avid pre-season viewers will have been unmoved by Jose Mourinho’s decision to start Valencia at right-back in the Community Shield, leaving Italy international Matteo Darmian out of the squad altogether, as the Special One clearly rates the Ecuadorian.
Nominally a winger, Valencia faces a battle to keep young Dutchman Timothy Fosu-Mensah, a firm fans’ favourite at Old Trafford following some impressive performances last season, out of the United XI long term, but he may have already seen off Darmian.
Sam Clucas – 625/720 minutes for Hull
This much-travelled 25-year-old has racked up more friendly minutes than any other player at a top-flight team since mid-May, having played a part in 44 of his side’s 46 Championship fixtures last term, starting 39 times.
Midfielder Clucas, a Conference Premier player with Hereford just three years ago, will be hoping to keep his place and land a top-flight debut for the visit of champions Leicester.
Etienne Capoue – 456/540 minutes for Watford
The former Tottenham full-back not only started every pre-season fixture under new Watford coach Walter Mazzarri, he even popped up with a couple of goals.
Capoue is 6/1 to score at any time during the Hornets’ opening-day fixture at Southampton with Ladbrokes, which looks cracking value.
Willian – 414/540 minutes for Chelsea
Another ever-present pre-season starter, although one assist from the Brazilian’s six summer fixtures hardly sets the world alight.
That shouldn’t worry Blues boss Antonio Conte too much, with the winger-loving Italian surely planning on pitching one of Chelsea’s most consistent performers straight into the Premier League 2016/17 action at home to West Ham.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.