Fantasy managers have been heavily invested in Liverpool and Manchester United stars this season, and with good reason. This weekend the two teams face each other in a tough early tilt, leaving the subsequent affairs looking like much more attractive options for ROI, particularly with respect to your captain’s choice.
Liverpool v. Manchester United
There are plenty of ways to look at this one to make it sound pretty competitive: two Champions League representatives facing off; an explosive offense against a tight defense; Klopp v. Mourinho; Coutinho & Co v. Lukaku and lads.
That said, Manchester United has to go in as the favorite, given that:
- The Red Devils have not lost to the Reds in their past six league games, winning four times and drawing twice while compiling a 10-3 advantage in the score line.
- Liverpool has a mediocre +1 goal differential overall this season, compared to a superlative +19 for United.
- Accordingly, Liverpool’s in seventh place whereas Manchester United’s in a much loftier second.
- The Reds’ back line seems suspect, and will face a formidable task against the Red Devils’ attack, which tends to wears its opponents down and score in late torrents.
- Sadio Mane is freshly injured.
Viewing things through that prism, you have to feel good about the offensive prospects for Romelu Lukaku along with the defensive contributions of Eric Bailly, David De Gea, Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia, right?
Then again, with the game at Anfield, anything can happen:
- Liverpool has a +5 differential at home this season while United is +5 away.
- Including time at Borussia Dortmund for Klopp, along with Real Madrid and Stamford Bridge for Mourinho, Klopp actually has three victories, three draws and only one loss against The Special One.
- While Mane is injured for Liverpool, Paul Pogba remains out for United, while fill-in extraordinaire Marouane Fellaini is not expected to start.
Looks pretty even, then... maybe a draw, or a close one that could go either way, right? Perhaps Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Daniel Sturridge, et al. are worth sticking with after all?
So many questions, can’t wait for the ultimate answer!
Burnley v. West Ham
This one isn’t nearly as sexy from a fan’s perspective, but there is definite allure when it comes to fantasy. Turf Moor has been a defensive fortress this season, as the Clarets have allowed only one goal in their three home games (while also scoring only once). Meanwhile, the Hammers have felt the brunt of the ball peen on the road, scoring only twice and allowing 10 goals in their four tries.
Ultimately, when you have the (surprise!) sixth place team at home hosting the struggling 15th place side, you should know where to put your chips. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez always has a poacher’s chance, but you’ve got to be taking the likes of Ben Mee, Nick Pope and James Tarkowski all the way to the bank, while Robbie Brady and Chris Wood could also pay off nicely.
Crystal Palace v. Chelsea
In Fantrax or Togga, if you loaded up your entire XI with Blues, I wouldn’t blame you. In the wake of the Eagles losing all seven games and failing to score in a single one, here’s my painfully favorite statistic: Christian Benteke leads the league in big chances missed with six. (Yes, that’s an official statistic.) Here’s the line for Benteke so far this season: six games, 10 shots, three SOT, no goals, no assists, six big chances missed, zero crosses, and zero big chances created. Ladies and gentlemen, don’t crowd the stage as you try to get a good look at the early front-runner for the league’s Least Valuable Player award!
Of course, the out of sorts striker is currently on the shelf injured. Addition by subtraction? Perhaps, but surely not even Albert Einstein could come up with a formula to keep Palace from being demolished by the defending champs.
With Alvaro Morata and N’Golo Kante on the trainer’s table, a fully healthy Eden Hazard spearheads the assault, with plenty of help from Michy Batshuayi, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Willian, while Cesar Azpillicueta, Marcos Alonso and Gary Cahill will all look to get up the pitch to chip in (and head in, and fire in, and...)
Manchester City v. Stoke
Sergio Aguero could feature, likely from the bench, but will Pep Guardiola risk him if the Citizens are comfortably ahead by the late stages as expected? Surely Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling can rack up the score against the visiting Potters, yes?
Swansea v. Huddersfield
Five of Swansea’s seven games have featured a goal total of two or less, including two nil-nil affairs and two more 1-0 score lines. Five of Huddersfield’s games have totaled two goals or fewer, two ending nil-nil and another one going 1-0. Get me some smelling salts, I’m feeling... very... sleepy.
The only reason you should be watching is if you loaded up on one or both teams’ defenders and keepers. Never mind the orange slices: Lucasz Fabianski, Kyle Naughton, Alfie Mawson, Martin Olsson, Jonas Lossl, Zanka and Christopher Schindler will expect a feast of donuts.
Tottenham v. Bournemouth
It’s the team that can’t win at home against the side that shuns victory on the road. So... a draw, then? Spurs fans certainly hope not, fully expecting to celebrate for the first time at their temporary Wembley residence.
As much as Jermain Defoe would love to lead the visitors to glory against his former mates, Spurs have outscored the Cherries by a lopsided total of 12-1 in their Premier League matches the past two seasons, including 3-0 and 4-0 victories at White Hart Lane. So fantasy owners are surely looking to Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Ben Davies to thrive, as any among the Spurs’ stars are worthy choices for the captain’s armband.
Watford v. Arsenal
Some fun facts:
- Both teams started the season in wild fashion, with Watford drawing Liverpool 3-3 and Arsenal nipping Leicester 4-3. Aside from Watford’s 6-0 loss to Manchester City, things have settled down since then.
- There has been a clean sheet in each of Arsenal’s last six games, with the Gunners being shut out three times while keeping four successive CS on the defensive end.
- There were clean sheets in four straight Watford games from GW2 through GW5, with the Hornets being on the business end for three of them and being on the flip side twice.
- Arsenal has 13 points in the standings, compared to 12 for Watford.
- Each team has scored 11 goals.
So today’s late game, like the early one, looks pretty even, fairly up in the air and quite possibly low scoring, too? As always, we’ll see!
Who do you have going in your fantasy teams today? Which games are you expecting to be action packed, and which look like snoozers? Let us know in the comments below...