The Premier League sure does love giving the big name teams early billing, right? The first time it had a Friday match-up back in GW2, Manchester United hosted Southampton. This time around we have a real cracker with two of the league’s storied teams.
Chelsea v. Liverpool
After three straight wins to open the season, Chelsea sputtered last weekend, settling for a surprise draw at struggling Swansea, with Diego Costa scoring his fourth goal of the young campaign...as he also saw yellow for the third time and yet again easily could have been sent off for a combination of simulation/petulance/rough play. With 15 fouls against Costa, it would appear that teams are trying to wind him up. Then again, even when the star striker passes that so-called breaking point, referees are clearly reluctant to give him red.
Liverpool, meanwhile, has had a more Jeckyll and Hyde season, with an opening win at Arsenal followed by a shock home loss to Burnley and a solid away draw at Tottenham with a subsequent a rousing 4-1 demolition over the defending champs. Unlike Chelsea which has relied heavily on Costa, Liverpool has turned to a more balanced assortment of heroes, with four players scoring twice each thus far (Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane) while James Milner has also opened up his account.
It’s second place versus sixth place in the standings and two teams which are tied for the second-most goals, so this one could definitely be a barn burner with plenty of fantasy spoils in the works!
Hull City v. Arsenal
Like Liverpool, Arsenal is on 7 points, tied for sixth place. That may not be a surprise as the Gunners are no strangers to slow starts attributed to injury, fatigue and late transfer activity. What may be more of a shock is that the North Londoners are matched in the standings by newly promoted Hull City which has overcome its own litany of injuries and drama.
For Hull City, it’s all about packing the back — it has given up more goals than only Everton and Tottenham — and hoping for a glory strike from Robert Snodgrass. Meanwhile the Gunners’ array of international stars is still fighting through the aforementioned fatigue from the summer, the international frame and the recent mid-week Champions League fixture in France Olivier Giroud was sent off. That followed a lackluster display by new striker Lucas Perez against Southampton.
After the unexpectedly strong start, Mike Phelan has been offered the permanent job as Tigers coach. Can he best the iconic and long-tenured Arsene Wenger in front of the hopeful home fans or will the class of the visiting North Londoners prevail?
Leicester City v. Burnley
While the Foxes have managed only four points out of the first four games in getting off to a sluggish start defending their Cinderella story title, they hope to be turning things around with a comfortable mid-week Champions League victory in Bruges, with last season’s fantasy and real life Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez scoring twice.
Burnley is the only team without a goal on the road thus far (though that statistic is certainly skewed since the Clarets have played at home thrice already) so if things go to form, Leicester City could provide returns on both ends of the pitch. Then again, Burnley upset Liverpool for its only win, so it will hold a measure of confidence of repeating the feat in this case.
Manchester City v. Bournemouth
Who needs Sergio Aguero? Not first place Manchester City, apparently, when Kevin De Bruyne, Kelechi Iheanacho, Nolito and Raheem Sterling are firing on all cylinders. At 12 points — with 11 goals for and only four against — the Citizens have established themselves as the early title favorites as Pep Guardiola is loving life at the Etihad, and he could look to integrate new signings Ilkay Gundegon and Leroy Sane into the side.
Bournemouth is buoyed by last week’s return of Junior Stanislas from injury as well as Callum Wilson’s return to the score sheet, having notched the winner against West Brom which was his first goal in nearly a full calendar year, having seen his 2015-16 season interrupted by injury.
West Brom v. West Ham
Is West Brom actually the favorite in this one? After all, Albion is at home and also sits above the Hammers in the standings. It’s definitely a contrast in style here, with West Brom’s defensive-minded approach (two goals scored, three allowed) against West Ham’s more open style (five and nine, respectively).
Michail Antonio will look to add to his impressive tally of four goals (in five shots on target) as playmaker Dimitri Payet gets his second straight start of the season following fatigue and injury and newcomer Simone Zaza gets another chance to impress. But Slaven Bilic should be most interested in locking things down in the back following the defensive debacle against Watford, so a low-scoring affair could be in order as Albion looks to put on a strong show in front of its new ownership group.
Everton v. Middlesbrough
While Southampton has struggled mightily, mired in 18th place, Everton is tied for the second spot with new manager Ronald Koeman having come over from the Saints. All eyes will be on Romelu Lukaku following his dominant hat trick performance at Sunderland, but the real change of attitude may have come on the defensive side as the Toffees are tied for the fewest goals allowed in the league after leaking the 14th most last season. All the more impressively, this has come with Swansea import Ashley Williams only having played once.
Mid-table Middlesbrough could very well be punching above its weight at the moment, having battled a quartet of lesser sides (Stoke, Sunderland, West Brom and Crystal Palace). Everton marks a turning point in the schedule, beginning a brutal stretch with Tottenham, West Ham, Arsenal, Manchester City and Leicester City interspersed with only Bournemouth and Watford for relief in the Smoggies’ fixture list through November. Those of you who jumped on the Alvaro Negredo or George Friend bandwagon, it might be time to hop off.
Foster / McAuley, Van Dijk, Walker / Eriksen, Payet, Snodgrass, Tadic, Townsend / Ibrahimovic (V), Kane (C) Bench: Heaton, Gray, Amat, Kone [OFFICIAL BPL]
Lloris / Amat, Davies, Janmaat / Cazorla, De Bruyne, Hazard, Payet, Pogba / Ibrahimovic, Kane [FANTRAX]
So what do you think? How do you see these games playing out and who are you looking to provide big performances for your fantasy teams? Jump in with some chatter, folks!