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Premier League Fantasy Preview - The Opening Fixtures

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It's not how you start but how you finish they say. Nice thought but we should aspire better. Lets see if we can start well bu addressing the best of the early games for 2015/16

Must have?
Must have?
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

With the Premier League fantasy game's starting to launch this week, we will soon be able to start building our sides and sharing our views.

There are so many changes to the league this season with many huge managerial changes and likely huge transfer activity before the end of August.  All of this will make predicting the best fantasy options even more tricky in the most unpredictable league in the world.

With player prices not available just yet let's have a look at the information we know, the opening fixtures.  Which sides assets should hold our focus before the first international break?

First the sides who finished in the top 4 last season

Leicester City

Hull City (a)

Arsenal (h)

Swansea (h)

2 of the 3 games are at home and in front of a fantastic home support they take some beating.  Arsenal were the only side who figured out how to beat the Foxes last season, doing the double over them.

Jamie Vardy immediately tempts against a Swans side who defended poorly away from home and a Tiger's side that will be spirited but exposable.   Vardy also scored in the Gunners fixture last season so that will hold him no fear.

You can also see a couple of clean sheets possibly making Christain Fuchs a temptation once more.

Arsenal

Liverpool (h)

Leicester (a)

Watford (a)

Not ideal could be the way Arsenal Wenger describes the trio of opening games.  Klopps Liverpool and their swift counter attacks ripped sides apart at times last season.  The Champions Leicester owe them one as they say and even the Watford game is away.

Maybe the Gunners will finally set the transfer window alight but based on the players they have now it will be their prices that decide my interest.  Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech and Mesut Ozil are their quality fantasy players and the only ones I'd likely pick are Alexis/Ozil.  However, Olivier Giroud had a decent end to the season and a decent Euro 2016.  Priced cheap enough I may look at him.

Tottenham Hotspur

Everton (a)

Crystal Palace (h)

Liverpool (a)

The young spurs side had a long season.  The club had more participants in Euro 2016 than any other EPL club.  A tough start will challenge them further.  Two away games and a home game against an Eagles side that lost 1-0 last September but beat Spurs at White Hart Lane in the FA cup are off putting.

Like all englishmen Harry Kane had a Euros to forget and we saw last season he may be a slow starter.  748 minutes had passed when he scored his opening goal so Everton away may not be the best fixture for him but he will tempt many a fantasy player.

Manchester City

Sunderland (h)

Stoke City (a)

West Ham United (h)

Pep's hot favourites have 2 homes in 3 but face sides that do have recent success against them.  Whilst that's a thought of caution, I really like them to hit the ground running.  Pep is a mighty impressive and influential manager.  Assuming he has a fit Kun and Kompany  3 straight wins are possible, although i will say being the EPL nothing should be taken for granted.

Kun is the obvious pick.  Still the league's best proven player and capable of racking up multi goal hauls.  He will be super expensive and in FPL his cost will weaken other areas of your side.  Still it's a bold move not to go with him.

Kevin De Bruyne.  City were simply a much better attacking side with KDB fit last season in my view.  A fantasy darling his cost in FPL could leave you with a choice between him and Kun, one of those decisions that we may make on opening day morning.  In Fantrax he is a must for me.

Aleksandr Kolarov.  A big question is who will start at left back for City.  Can you imagine Kola's returns should he get the nod playing in a Pep system?

The bigs boys hoping to bounce back

Manchester United

B'mouth (a)

Southampton (h)

Hull City (a)

A world class manager a number of expensive signings and a whole load of pressure on the young devils shoulders.  For all of the players now available and those rumoured it's the manager Jose Mourinho that causes optimism for fantasy returns.  Since 2002 and bar last year at Chelsea, he has had successful season after season.  Before any summer signings were made people were already tipping them to compete for titles with a young side lacking quality in many areas.  Expectation is a killer.

The fixture computer has been kind and whilst United face 2 aways in 3 the club will be targeting 3 wins.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be 34 but he is a player who has never used pace as his main style more technique and fitness.   In the modern day 34 isnt old and having not had an injury prone career should mean he still has plenty to offer.  His goal scoring record is excellent and while he will find the EPL tough I'm not thinking that will be the case in the early summer months.  He will probably take penalties and I'm thinking a league season with 15 goals and perhaps 12 assist would be the expected return - ZLATAN disagrees I bet.  I said you may have a problem fitting Kun and KDB into a balanced side, even more so if you like Zlatan.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan "miki" from here on was player of the year in the Bundesliga last season.  He will be well rested with no summer competition and I would imagine a certain starter.  He has some fantastic stats for a fantasy player it's just a question of how quickly will he settle in the league style and under the spotlight.  Based on his stats he would seem likely to be priced high in FPL.  In Fantrax where most actions score you points I'm expecting similar fantasy returns to KDB.

Any Jose side defends first so we better pick one of the options.  If I was sure Luke Shaw is fully fit and will start the season I would go with him.  Chris Smalling is still young and has room to improve.  I think we may also see a better goal return from him under Jose.  But it has to be the main man David De Gea for me.  A fantastic keeper that is still improving can increase his clean sheets but to be fair may have fewer saves this season.

Liverpool

Arsenal (a)

Burnley (a)

Tottenham (h)

Boy is this tough on the reds,  3 straight away games and 2 of those against last seasons 2nd and 3rd finishers.  The thing is, Klopps teams just play wonderful fearless football.  At times they will get ripped apart on the counter and the defending is shocking at moments.  Regardless his team's style means they are perhaps the league most likely side to beat up opposition teams.  I won't touch the defence but the attack is a different matter.

I'd bet Daniel Sturridge needs an arm around his shoulder with an occasional kick up the backside to get the best of him.  I think we saw Klopp do so last season and he will get the best from a very talented player IF he stays fit.

It's competition for places in the pool attack but Philippe Coutinho seems the most reliable to start.  He is a player that may become one of the top players in the sport if he can kick on further.

Chelsea

West Ham (h)

Watford (a)

Burnley (h)

As super impressive new manager and a squad of players who won the title the season before last.  The blues will be contenders this season and 2 home games in 3 give them a set of games they could return 9 points from.

The Hammers could be party poopers on matchday 1 but they also give you so many chances defensively.

Eden Hazard.  Best player in the EPL last season, looked himself once more at the Euro's and certain starter.  Hopefully priced not too high in FPL he looks like a bounce back player this season.

Conte's chosen formation will influence the rest of the players who tempt.  If he goes with a 352 formation the player who plays behind the forwards and both wing backs will interest me.

The best of the rest

Crystal Palace

West Bromwich Albion (h)

Tottenham (a)

B'mouth (h)

Alan Pardew sides are either white hot or stone cold.  2 home games are great and a decent showing at Spurs last season suggest game 2 isn't scary for them so let's assume hot it is.


Andros Townsend was a fantasy machine in Fantrax late season in 2015/16.  He seems a perfect fit to the Eagles system and in Fantrax as good an options as any midfield player early season.

Yohan Cabaye. As good early season as Townsend was late, he hold pen duties and set pieces to go with.

WBA

C Palace (a)

Everton (h)

Middlesbrough (h)

Tony Pulis is still a manager many of the fans don't want.  I do understand their desire to play attacking football but being brutal, WBA fans have seen in recent seasons what has happened to them when the right manager isn't in charge.  It is hard to see them going down under Pulis and from a fantasy view his defenders/keeper will always be of interest.

2 homes in 3 guide you to looking for a cheap way into their reliable defence looking for at least 1 clean sheet in the trio of games.

Craig Dawson is a still improving player who offers returns at both ends of the pitch.  He will be the premier price of the WBA defence.  Now can we find a cheap option.

Everton

Tottenham (h)

WBA (a)

Stoke (h)

The appointment of Ronald Koeman immediately improves the fantasy returns of the Everton players in my view.  The fixtures are not easy at first glance but I smell an opening day upset over Spurs and possible clean sheet on match day 2 and/or 3.

Leighton Baines looked a player on the down side last season.  Injury and a unusual management saw him dropped and off penalties.  I think Koeman will bring him back at left back and while Baines may not be the force of old as a player in the real world, I do think we will see more of the old Baines in his fantasy returns.  Will he take pens back from Troll King though?

Ross Barkley is a player brimming with talent unfulfilled but even in a poor season his goal/assist returns were on par for a player of his age.  Of all the players at Everton it's Barkley that I think will improve the most under Koeman.   He was expensive in Fantrax and overpriced a little for his returns in FPL last season.  Hopefully his price will drop a little this time and he is one I think may break through next season.

Southampton

Watford (h)

Man Utd (a)

Sunderland (h)

The Saints progressive side's next step it to try and break into the top 4. That seems a huge ask but as we saw with Leicester never say never.

The utd fixture is an obvious worry but I think they can win the 2 home games possibly with 2 clean sheets over the games.

Virgil Van Dyke had an excellent opening season for the Saints and if you are prepared to spend a little more on defenders may return a branch of clean sheet and/or a goal over the opening games.

Elsewhere Dusan Tadic had the tricky second season last time.  Assuming he settles once more we may see him go back to consistent fantasy returns,

Finally the team to bet against?

Watford

Southampton (a)

Chelsea (h)

Arsenal (h)

I don't like the way the club are handling management replacement.  A number of successful managers have left and whilst the owners can point to results to prove me wrong, I smell trouble ahead.

Quique Flores was a popular manage with fans and players alike.  Replacing him will take some doing.  Club captain Troy Deeney hasn't moved yet but the stories continue.  Odion Ighalo went cold after a brilliant 1st half to the season.

Then you look at the fixtures.  2 of 3 at home is nice but they are against Arsenal and Chelsea.   I think they lose all 3 games and there will be fantasy points to be plundered from the Hornets early season.

So I just who do I miss out on picking from this off the top of my head list?

DDG, Baines, VVD, Kompany, Smalling, Kolarov, Ivanovic, Dimitri Payet, Ozil, KDB, Micki, Hazard, Sanchez, Townsend, Coutinho, Sturridge, Zlatan, Kun and Kane

Not going to be easy is it!

What fixture match ups tempt you?   What players are your must haves based on those thoughts?

Stall