GW5 has come and gone, and those who had Sergio Aguero still can’t wipe the smiles off of their faces. (I’m not smiling, by the way).
But win or lose, with the arrival of a new week we wipe the slate clean and start again. Here is the list of fixtures on tap for us this time around:
West Ham United vs Tottenham
Burnley vs Huddersfield Town
Everton vs Bournemouth
Stoke vs Chelsea
Swansea vs Watford
Leicester vs Liverpool
Brighton vs Newcastle
To my eye, the plum GW6 fantasy sides are MC and Spurs. But despite their lack of glamour, I also think the BRN/HUD, EVE/BOU, SWA/WAT, and BRI/NEW fixtures offer potential. My player picks are as follows:
Ederson (MCI). No need to overthink this one. Five games into the season, Crystal Palace remain winless and scoreless—the worst start in EPL history. This week they take their sorry show on the road to face the top-of-the-table Citizens at the Etihad. Is there any reason to expect this to be the week that the The Eagles start winning (or even scoring)?
Honorable mention: Jordan Pickford (EVE) was shelled by Manchester United on Sunday, but his match-up this week looks much more promising.
Vincent Kompany (MCI): He is back to full training and should be passed fit for the visit of hapless Crystal Palace. If so, he’s a cheap route (in Fantrax anyway) to a probable clean sheet: As I mentioned, Palace are still searching for their first league goal. Follow team news, but Pep is saying the Belgian could even be in contention to play in the League Cup tonight.
Jamaal Lascelles (NEW): The turnaround is in full swing at Newcastle, and their captain has played a big role, scoring in each of their last two games. He’s nailed on to start, he’s a scoring threat off of set pieces, and Brighton’s offense ranks among the more timid in the league. I’m in.
Michael Keane (EVE): Everton have spent the last 4 games trying to contend with the best 4 sides in the league. It hasn’t always gone well, but with 9 interceptions and the most tackles of any Toffee defender, Keane has produced even when his team has been demolished. Everton’s fortunes should change this week when they host Bournemouth, and Keane’s owners should reap the rewards of their softening schedule.
James Tarkowski (BRN): With 12 blocked shots so far this year, Tarkowski is another defender who racks up points even without clean sheets. Burnley’s only shutout was achieved against Crystal Palace, but the chance will be there again this week when they host league newcomers Huddersfield.
Lewis Dunk (BRI): Yet another defender who doesn’t rely on clean sheets to produce, having posted 2 shots on target, 9 interceptions and 9 blocked shots so far. Brighton host in-form Newcastle this week, so perhaps a CS would be a little much to expect. But the returns should be there for Dunk either way.
Kyle Naughton (SWA): Swansea’s right-wing marauder has 3 crosses to his credit, as well as 7 tackles and 10 interceptions. He’s nailed on to start, and when he lines up as a fullback instead of a wingback, he’s eligible for clean sheet points in Fantrax.
Ben Davies (TOT): With 10 crosses, a goal, and an assist so far, Davies had been crushing it for Spurs this season. But he he picked up an ankle knock in the Champions League prior to the Swansea game, failing to make the squad for the Premier League match. Davies is expected to recover in time for the game with struggling WHU this weekend. If he does, then he would be a top defensive choice for GW6. Be sure to follow team news.
Phil Jones (MU): Jones makes my list because his European ban makes him the most certain starter among United’s defenders for the trip to Southampton. With 4 clean sheets in 5 games, United’s chances for another shutout seem pretty good.
Laurent Koscielny (ARS): Koscielny is Arsenal’s #2 Fantrax defender despite missing the first two game of the season. Two of the three games he’s played have resulted in clean sheets—Arsenal’s only shutouts of the season. The Frenchman is a key stabilizer of the Gunners’ back line, and as long as he’s healthy, he’s certain to start. Home hosting West Brom, a third consecutive clean sheet seems a real possibility.
Dele Alli (TOT): With the Champions League and Carabao Cup tournaments underway, players will be rotated and their minutes managed. Not so for Alli though, whose 3-match UEFA ban makes him a shoo-in for EPL starts during this period. And no team has given up more goals than WHU this season, so London Stadium could be fertile ground for Alli on Saturday.
Kevin De Bruyne (MCI): Now that he’s tallied 4 SOTs, 3 assists, 9 tackles, and a whopping 14 crosses, early doubts over KDB’s fantasy value have been put to rest. Expect him to add to those stats when the Eagles land at the Etihad this weekend. If you can’t squeeze the Belgian’s high price tag into your budget, David Silva provides a great alternative. One or the other must be in your squad for what is surely one of the biggest mismatches of the season.
Pascal Groß (BRI): As I researched my preseason article on the promoted teams, I grew very excited about the prospects for Pascal Groß. It ended up taking him a few games to materialize, but he finally exploded in GW4, with 2 goals and an assist. Last weekend he added another assist and 3 crosses. On Sunday, Brighton welcome red-hot Newcastle to Falmer Stadium, but it was at home against a stingy West Brom side that the German notched his brace. He’ll start and should continue to perform.
Matt Ritchie (NEW): To get a sense of how remarkable the transformation has been at Newcastle, consider this: The team that seemed to be imploding after the first couple of games now sits tied with Tottenham for fourth place. Matt Ritchie hogs set pieces, takes pens, and is the most creative player on the team. He is a strong bet this weekend away to Brighton.
Nathaniel Chalobah (WAT): Watford are on the road this week, but they are better than their 11th place ranking in the table, and their opponent is Swansea. Chalobah has quietly been doing consistent business underneath most folks’ noses, so this week I’m putting him on your fantasy radars.
Robbie Brady (BRN): With 2 assists and an eye-catching 15 crosses, Brady is Burnley’s main creative engine. He also takes corners and free kicks, and he scored an injury-time free-kick goal last night to send Burnley’s Carabao Cup match with Leeds into extra time (BRN lost on pens). Burnley have beaten Chelsea and drawn with Liverpool and Spurs. They will not fear the visit of Huddersfield Town, and you shouldn’t be afraid to put Mr. Brady in your squad: Although the Cup match went 120 minutes, Brady started on the bench and was subbed in late.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (EVE): Though he was a fantasy god at Swansea, Siggy’s returns have taken a serious dip since his transfer to Everton: He has failed to reach double-figures in Fantrax in any game yet. Part of the reason is that his role as a Toffee is different, and part of the reason is that in his first four matches faced the four best teams in the league. The daunting run of fixtures is over now. On Saturday, Everton play 19th-ranked Bournemouth on home turf. Circumstances seem ripe for Gylfi to finally break out.
Wayne Rooney (EVE): Rooney scored in each of his first two games back in the shirt of his boyhood club, but since then he has utterly failed to deliver the fantasy goods. However, his real-life work rate and distribution never sagged, and his effort should be rewarded now that Everton have seen their way clear of a murderous run of fixtures.
Harry Kane (TOT): Hopes for a September revival were dashed after Kane followed up his GW4 brace in with yet another unrewarding performance in GW5. Folks are even starting to murmur the “troll” word. I’m not there yet. No team has conceded more goals than West Ham, and I think this week Kane pays off those who keep the faith.
Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus (MCI): Two of the most lethal strikers in the EPL gang up, at home, against the worst team in the league... against the worst team in league history. Owning one is mandatory, and going for both wouldn’t be the worst decision you could make this weekend.
Richarlison (WAT): By far the best fantasy asset among Watford’s stable of forwards, he seems to thrive against weaker sides. Swansea fits that description.
Mohamed Salah (LIV): Flourishing in Jurgen Klopp’s system, in five games Salah has notched 3 goals and 13 shots-on-target. Although at times he’s had his minutes managed, Saudio Mane’s suspension narrows Klopp’s options for league play, and only two sides have conceded more goals than Leicester so far. The Egyptian is a strong play this week.
Joselu (NEW): The Spaniard still hasn’t played more than 80 minutes of any match yet this season, but that hasn’t stopped him from averaging almost 8 points per game in Fantrax. And he can return points away from home, regardless of whether or not he scores. Facing Brighton this week, he could merit investment.
Alexis Sanchez (ARS): The Chilean has had his minutes managed this season as he navigated injury, transfer drama, and travel fatigue. But he is fit now, and I think Danny Welbeck’s groin tear means Alexis starts on Monday. Sanchez is the kind of player who instinctively snaps into beast mode when he hears the whistle for kickoff, so any residual frustrations about his failed transfer will be set aside for 90 minutes when Arsenal welcome West Brom to the Emirates. The Gunners will dominate this game, and Sanchez should be the star of the show.
Keep in mind that all teams except Newcastle, Southampton, and Watford play Carabao Cup games this week, and that next week brings Champions League games for TOT, MUN, LIV, MCI, and CHE, and Europa League games for ARS and EVE. Be sure to monitor injury news, and follow the Carabao Cup lineups for insight into rotation possibilities for the weekend.
Finally a word on two players who are usually default members of any player picks list. In a planned move intended to avoid overexertion, Coutinho was was withdrawn at halftime in Liverpool’s loss to Leicester in the Carabao Cup last night. Before his substitution, his performance had been the best of any player on the pitch. I’d expect Coutinho to start this weekend then, but with a Champions League fixture vs. Spartak Moskva looming on Tuesday, Klopp may decide to curtail the Brazilian’s minutes again on Saturday.
Over at Stamford Bridge, Antonio Conte has revealed that he will start Eden Hazard in Chelsea’s Carabao Cup game tonight, hoping to get a full 90 minutes from him. But with the Blues set to face Atletico Madrid in a week, a complete game tonight may mean that Conte shall restrict Hazard‘s pitch time this weekend.
So that’s the list of players I expect to do well this weekend. What do you think of it? What do your fantasy squads look like? Will you play Hazard or Coutinho? Tell us in the chat below!