With four matches today, this is the extinction burst before we go into that barren, endless, anxiety-inducing desert known to fantasy managers as the “international break”. This means we’ll have to go two full weeks without a single Premier League match, and it also means we’ll have to survive two unrelenting weeks of panic every time our most prized fantasy assets step into some unkempt pitch somewhere in faraway Eastern Europe or South America: “Please Harry Kane, don’t step into that gaping pothole near the penalty spot where the grass no longer grows, don’t go twisting that ankle or worse!” Ugh!
The other nightmare scenario is when our beloved fantasy stud has to face a vastly inferior national team whose sole objective for the game is to accumulate as many reckless tackles as the referee will allow - and then go for more. You won’t have to look too hard to spot the chain-smoking 1980s-mustachioed opposition manager instructing his most hulking central defender to “sweep the leg” Cobra-Kai-style of your Sergio Aguero or Henrikh Mkhitaryan hope and dream.
West Bromwich Albion v. Stoke City
Reason to Watch: Unless you are a supporter of either team, or are an avid fan of physical central defenders, you’re not watching this game.
Player to Watch: A bit of buzz has been building following Jese’s maiden GW2 game. He’s probably the most skilled player on show. As I wrote in an earlier Togga Forwards article, I’m a bit nervous about Jese’s fantasy prospects this week.
Fantasy Stud: Goalkeepers Ben Foster and Jack Butland are playable, as are the central defenders. If I had to pick one player, I’d say Craig Dawson, partly because of his clean sheet prospects, but mainly because he is such a great aerial target on set pieces.
Chelsea v. Everton
Reason to Watch: This match and the aforementioned Albion v. Potters match kick off simultaneously. I’m going to guess most of us will choose to follow this one! I’m still not sure exactly what Ronald Koeman’s best XI looks like, or who the striker is, or why Davy Klaassen is on this team (at least he’s hurt this week). Will the real Chelsea please stand up? I’m guessing Chelsea will be a top four team this year, but they looked terrible in the opening match against Burnley. It’s hard to wash off that much stench.
Player to Watch: Alvaro Morata. In extremely small sample size (two whole games!) we have learned that when Chelsea play terribly, Morata can score and assist at will. When Chelsea play well and beat teams like Tottenham, he’s awful. I may or may not have been facetious with that commentary.
Fantasy Stud: It feels like a midfielder or a wingback game to me. There won’t be too many goals for the forwards and maybe not enough shots on target for the keepers to save. Marcos Alonso is the obvious choice following his stunning brace last week, but I’m going to go with Cesc Fabregas for Chelsea and Gylfi Sigurdsson for Everton. However, I won’t hold a grudge if you choose Alonso.
Tottenham Hotspur v. Burnley
Reason to Watch: Since the other match kicks off simultaneously, this game is only for Spurs or Burnley supporters (or anyone who positively hates Liverpool or Arsenal). I am mildly curious to see which Burnley shows up. Is it the team that beat Chelsea in the opening week, or the one that lost to West Bromwich Albion last week?
Player to Watch: Kane! Will he ever score a goal in August? I believe he will this week against Burnley!
Fantasy Stud: I’m starting the Official Christian Eriksen Fantasy Fan Club, right here and right now. He’s a points magnet. Nothing in fantasy says “a whole heap of points are coming” more than the sight of the classy Dane with the ever-changing hairline standing calmly and solemnly beside the ball before any free kick or corner.
Liverpool v Arsenal
Reason to Watch: Because you love golazos, like, a lot of golazos. If you love 3-3 games where neither goalkeeper can make a save, and if you love video-game-style soccer where every winger and striker is running on turbo, then this is the game for you. Now that I’ve jinxed it, this one ends in a drab nil-nil as all the stars can’t wait to finish the game, shower, and get on chartered flights to far-off national team locations.
Player to Watch: Alexis Sanchez. He will feature prominently, either performing magic tricks on the pitch or chewing gum from a stadium suite in an act of defiance as he nurses a “knock” or a “virus” while sitting next to a supermodel or two.
Fantasy Stud: Get six small pieces of paper. On each one, write down one of the following names: Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette, and Olivier Giroud. Place the pieces of paper inside of a hat, close your eyes, and draw one piece at random. What name did you get? That’s your fantasy stud!
How do you think things will play out today? Do you have big fantasy investment in the big boys from Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal? Or are you hoping to take advantage of the less-heralded players from West Brom, Stoke City and Burnley? What about the Everton contingent? Tell us in the chat below!