It’s hard to believe another season of Premier League football is already upon us. We’ve got just a few days remaining until the action resumes, and with it comes the need to save our first fantasy lineups. No matter the game you’re playing, whether it’s the Official FPL game, Fantrax or Perfect XI (yes, it’s coming back!), you should be looking at the fixture list from week to week to plan your squad for maximum fantasy returns.
The opening week of the season is always a tricky proposition, with managers contending with new arrivals, late returners, injury concerns and players who may have had their heads turned by the nefarious rumo(u)r mill. That said, there’s still plenty of information available to make some educated guesses as to how the results will shake out.
Week 1 Fixtures
Hull City v. Leicester City
Burnley v. Swansea City
Crystal Palace v. West Bromwich Albion
Everton v. Tottenham Hotspur
Middlesbrough v. Stoke City
Southampton v. Watford
Manchester City v. Sunderland
AFC Bournemouth v. Manchester United
Arsenal v. Liverpool
Chelsea v. West Ham United
Based on the matches above, I’ve highlighted the top teams you should avoid (Pass), as well as the top places to spend your funds (Shoot).
The Tigers have not had the return to the top flight they would have dreamed of, with manager Steve Bruce leaving his post over a dispute with the owners over transfer funds and a few key players, like Mohamed Diame, following suit out the exit door. To make matters worse, the promoted club hardly has enough first-team players to field a full team. Without a manager and facing the defending champions, you’d be very brave to buy in on Hull players this week.
Following a second-place finish last season, Arsenal could be expected to have a good amount of investment from fantasy managers to begin the 2016/2017 season. However, it may be a good idea to steer clear in the season opener as a number of factors are at play against them. Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny recently returned from their Euro 2016 exertions, while Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel are all sidelined through injury. Add uncertainty around who will start in attack to the makeshift defense and Arsene Wenger’s side doesn’t look like going into the match against Liverpool in title-challenging form.
West London Rivals
Chelsea will be looking to rebound from their disappointing campaign last term, and have made some major moves, including bringing in new manager Antonio Conte. However, it remains to be seen who the Italian prefers in his starting lineup, as well as if his team will need time to adapt to the change in tactical approach. West Ham have made some big moves of their own and have regularly caused problems for their West London rivals. As the Hammers’ squad quality climbs with additions like Andre Ayew, so too should their chances of getting a result out of their neighbors in blue.
The Foxes may have lost one of their key men in N’Golo Kante (and rumors are swirling about Riyad Mahrez leaving as well), but it’s hard to see the reigning Premier League champions faltering against a Hull City side in complete disarray. While Claudio Ranieri’s team started last season with some defensive issues, the back line should be much more reliable heading into the new campaign, particularly if Kante’s replacement, Nampalys Mendy, can emulate the holding midfielder’s impressive displays.
The Manchester Clubs
Both clubs have invested massively in improving their results for this season, with new managers and expensive new signings signalling the intent of the ownership. While I was hesitant to recommend another club with new management in Chelsea, their match up in week 1 is much more difficult on paper than either Manchester club. While there are still a few question marks around when the marquee signings will be ready to start for their respective sides, there should be plenty of quality on hand to dispatch the likes of Sunderland and Bournemouth.
The Clarets were the best defensive side in the Championship last season, keeping a clean sheet in 20 league matches. That back line has been largely retained heading into the Premier League campaign, with the addition of Liverpool fullback Jon Flanagan on loan. Sean Dyche’s side will face off against Swansea in the opener, who will have a new-look attack after the departures of Andre Ayew, Bafetimbi Gomis and Alberto Paloschi. Expect the newcomers to have a strong showing week 1, especially in defense.
The matches not mentioned here may yield great fantasy returns if you choose wisely, and they may warrant careful investment, but are either too close to call or may be better suited to playing a waiting game until starting lineups become more clear.
Where are you planning on investing your funds for week 1?