As the biggest league in the world returns, so do PlayON’s EPL competitions. I’ve cast my eye towards the opening round, looking at the must-have guns and sneaky value picks for the games ahead, along with one or two Point of Difference (“POD”) picks to set you apart from the competition.
Saturday sees the Premier League really get back into full swing, with 12 teams playing their first games of the season, starting with a repeat of a Gameweek 1 matchup from last year.
Let’s break down each match and the players you should be locking into your daily fantasy lineups.
Newcastle v. Tottenham
This is a matchup between two of the lower spending teams in the window so far, with Spurs bringing in nobody as of yet and the Magpies dealing largely in loan deals with future options and letting almost as many players go as they have brought in.
Given Harry Kane hates August, it’s probably not the best time to play him. That said, Tottenham have enough depth to get the job done, with the lack of firepower upfront a worry for the home side.
Backing Kane to his August hoodoo would take a big gambler, or a very brave/stupid person. Whilst I am a big gambler, and definitely stupid, I’m not taking him in this one. Instead, I’m looking at Christian Eriksen (£13.6m) who actually averages 300 more than Kane due to not being allergic to passing. With ten goals and ten assists last season, the Dane is someone I’d be looking at most weeks.
I’m torn with this one as to who’s going to score the goals for Newcastle this season. Last year it was Ayoze Perez (£9.1m) with a ‘whopping’ eight, topping the Magpies’ scoring charts and adding five assists to boot. At £9.1m, an average of 1700+ is not a bad return. What works against him this year is that Newcastle have just signed (and given the number nine to) Salomon Rondon. If Benitez sticks with one striker, as it most likely, Perez may find game time hard to come by. Keep an eye on final lineups for this one.
Despite being capable of some ridiculous passing, Jonjo Shelvey (£7.6m) often flies under the radar due to a perceived lack of work rate and dodgy temperament at times. Whilst that may be the case, what he could now have in Rondon is a solid target man to hit with his 40-yard wonder-balls. It could go horribly wrong, but if it went right I don’t think he’d be in too many teams, giving you a low-owned POD.
Bournemouth v. Cardiff
Coming up in one of the automatic spots last year, Cardiff’s summer spend so far, and overall squad, doesn’t give me a great deal of confidence. They’d be my early favourites for bottom spot.
The Cherries haven’t overly bolstered either (as I write that, I’ve just noticed the news of them breaking the club record to sign Jefferson Lerma, but it’s too soon to comment, I’m waiting until he plays), but they retain the goalscoring pedigree of Defoe, Wilson and King. There are more exciting games this weekend for me, but the home ground should see a Bournemouth win here.
Gun is probably used loosely here, but Ryan Fraser (£7.8m) averaged 1200 last season and probably remains the best Cherries pick until the return of Junior Stanislas, or pre-2017 Jermain Defoe.
Within a fairly low-key squad and transfer window, the Bluebirds signed Bobby Reid (£7.5m), who managed 19 goals in the Championship last term, making the league’s team of the season. He might to have what it takes at this level, but if he does, that price is not too much.
Fulham v. Crystal Palace
After progressing through the play off final, Fulham won’t be too disappointed with this opening draw, having not lost against Palace since 2004, although they’ve only met three times since.
The Eagles will want to start this season better than last and will hope to pick up where they left off, with four wins from five to end last term. The Cottagers have spent big in this window though, and will be up for it. Firmly on the fence here and tipping a draw.
The talent of Wilf Zaha (£10.1m) is unquestionable. On his day he has the ability to single-handedly win games and did so many times last year, with nine goals and three assists. Likely to be the main man again this season, he will look to kick on even further in a side that ended last year on a high.
The desire of Patrick van Aanholt (£7.6m) to push forward means he’s often a chance of a goal or assist and led to an average of over 1250 last season. I can’t see any reason he changes how he plays this year.
Speaking of attacking left-sided players, Ryan Sessegnon (£8.9m) has scored 20 in 70 for Fulham, despite starting as a left back. Consensus would be he can perform at this level, and will only get better being just 18. A starting price of £8.9m will likely keep ownership down, so having him in when he goes big will be a bigger boost to your side.
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Huddersfield v. Chelsea
Chelsea have a new manager, but not too many other new faces, with just one big name signing so far. The biggest transfer talk around the Blues was the departure of first-choice keeper Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid. Not the ideal pre-season preparation!
Huddersfield have been fairly more active than their opponents in the window, bringing in six new players so far as they look to progress in their second season at this level.
Chelsea were unbeaten in this fixture last season, with one win and a draw, and I can see another win this weekend.
The form of Eden Hazard (£14.5m) and Alvaro Morata (£12.2m) mirrored that of the club, who missed out on a Champions League spot. The form was also reflected in their DFS scores, with averages of 960 and 690 not good enough for players of their calibre. Both will be desperate to bounce back this season – Morata will want to show he can produce in this league and Hazard knows he can. One or both of them will go big this season, and I think it will begin in Gameweek 1.
Compared to the classic fantasy scoring, daily fantasy awards more points that suit the attributes of a solid defensive midfielder. And none are more solid than N’Golo Kante (£7.4m), who made more than 2,000 passes, 100 tackles and 100 blocks/interceptions last season, while also chipping in with a goal and an assist. He scored at an average of 1100, well above either of the guns above with far less price risk.
Watford v. Brighton
Watford were the surprise package to start last season, before sacking their manager and falling away in the second half. Brighton were good odds to drop straight back to the Championship, but made it to the Nirvana of 40 points and another season at the top.
Richarlison, one of the drivers behind the Hornets’ good start in 17/18, has followed his old manager to Everton, but Watford have secured Delofeu form Barcelona on a permanent basis. The Seagulls have made a few signings across all positions as they look to secure another year of Premier League football.
The two games between these sides produced just one goal, coming in the form of Pascal Groß’s winner in Brighton’s home game, and in all likelihood this could also be settled by the odd goal.
Neither side boasts a bona-fide ‘Gun’ in terms of averaging up around the 1500 mark last season, with Roberto Pereyra (£8.3m) the only one averaging over 1000 from the two sides. In terms of key players, I find myself looking at Groß (£9.8m) as the player who can change a match on his own. Yes, he was quiet after January, but for the first few weeks he seemed to be involved in everything Brighton did. If he does that again to start this season, he’ll pick up some points.
Etienne Capoue (£7m) had a quieter season in 17/18, managing only one goal after seven the season before. He still managed a DFS average score of 875, though. With Richarlison gone, he could step back up as the midfield threat and picking him up for just £7m seems like a no-brainer if you need the salary cap relief.
After a fairly under-the-radar loan spell last season, Gerard Delofeu (£7.6m) is back at the Hornets and probably not in the minds of many when picking their teams. That said, he’s a player with the potential to be a game changer if let loose. With a winnable home game to start, he could get going straight away.
Wolves v. Everton
Topping the Championship last season, Wolves return to play their first top flight game since 2012 against an Everton side undergoing a bit of change since the end of last season.
Wolves have bolstered their squad with the likes of Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio. They also spent £10m on Benik Afobe before loaning him out 11 days later with a purchase option.
After an attempt in January, Everton have finally landed their man in Marco Silva. He’s also recruited Richarlison from ex-club Watford and Lucas Digne from Barcelona – despite him allegedly having a Liverpool-related tattoo on his chest.
The Toffees have only lost one of eight in this fixture, although it was at Molineux. I’m leaning towards an away win, but anticipating a good game for the neutral.
A quiet first season by the standard we’d come to expect, Gylfi Sigurdsson (£10.5m) still managed to average over 1000 DFS points. He’ll come good this year. (I hope.)
You can pick up Ruben Neves (£6.8m) and all his talent for just £6.8m. He scored six from midfield last season, and surely is worth a go if you need the salary cap relief.
An average of just 530 is very deceptive, given he did nothing last season. Reunited with his old manager and in an arguably better side, I see Richarlison (£8.7m) being more engaged and firing for the Toffees this season. I can’t see him staying at a discounted price for too long.
That’s all for the Saturday preview. Stay tuned for picks for Sunday’s Gameweek 1 action, but in the meantime be sure to get your lineups in!