Ah, the international break! A time for our best fantasy assets to see the world in order to risk an anterior cruciate ligament injury while playing on a pot-holed minefield of a pitch against suspect national teams more resembling the rowdy patrons of a pre-Patrick Swayze “Double Deuce” than anything like a professional futbol squad.
With everyone back seemingly safe and sound, however jet-lagged out of their minds, we’re back in business. As Coach Belichick would say, “We’re on to game week four.”
Normally, this is the match that would most resemble a game played on FIFA Easy Mode: a manic exchange of golazos between Kun Agűero, Sadio Mane, Gabriel Jesus, and Roberto Firmino. One problem: All of these players will be returning from faraway national team duty. It is possible that at least two of the quartet will be rested to start the match. For the City-zens, I will be watching David Silva, who has looked great so far this season, and Benjamin Mendy’s left-lane raids. With Liverpool, I just want to see how (if?) they integrate Philippe Coutinho back onto the team.
Southampton v Watford
Welcome back Virgil van Dijk! Neither squad features a ton of international talent, so their starting XIs should not be affected by players returning from inhumane geographic distances. These two teams are heading in opposite directions fantasy-wise: Southampton used to be a fun roster chock-full of valuable differential picks, while Watford offered far duller fare. With the tables turned, I’m looking at Richarlison, Heurelho Gomes, Kiko Femenia, Nathaniel Chalobah and Jose Holebas (or Cholevas or whatever his bloody name is) to provide good value, particularly on the Togga format.
(In an over-the-top Jesse Eisenberg voice from Batman v Superman) “Announcing a Battle Royale! Reigning EPL Champion versus EPL Champion of season past, squaring off in a duel to the...” you get the point. Both squads should feature strong starting XIs, with the expected return of Eden Hazard a welcome sight to Chelsea fans and fantasy managers alike. But wait, there’s more! How will Riyad Mahrez play after his failed transfer request?
Ahem, Mr. Rooney. Is it me, or is the most surprising detail of Wayne Rooney’s recent misadventure the fact that he was allegedly caught driving intoxicated in a VW Beetle and not, say, something a bit more exotic? Just when I was beginning to come around to Rooney as a solid fantasy play, he pulls a “Rooney” to remind me why I had originally pressed the eject button a long, long time ago. This is the type of story that could have ugly ramifications for the player and, for that reason, I’m out. As for Spurs, well, August is done and dusted so it’s time for Harry Kane to resume normal service: Goooooool! Golazo-azo-azooo!!!!
Arsenal v Bournemouth
This match pits two of the most disappointing teams in a contest neither one can afford to lose. Both squads made interesting new additions in the form of Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac for Arsenal, and Nathan Ake, Asmir Begovic and Jermaine Defoe for Bournemouth. So far, both squads have resembled a tire fire. The signs aren’t great for Arsenal: During the international break, France failed to score against Luxembourg (!?!?), so neither Lacazette nor Olivier Giroud are coming back in fine goal-scoring form. To add insult to injury, Alexis Sanchez looks neither in shape nor healthy, according to the South American press. A full-on Arkham Asylum riot would have nothing on the Arsenal camp if they manage to lose this match.
Brighton and Hove Albion v West Bromwich Albion
Attack of the Albions (the Albion derby?), featuring two of the most annoying sports teams to call by their full names. As I will every week until West Brom reach 40 points, I am predicting a 1-0 win on a header by Craig Dawson or Ahmed Hegazi.
Stoke City v Manchester United
I’m weirdly in on Stoke City this season. I think they’re being severely underrated. In Jack Butland, Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi and Kurt Zouma they feature a very sturdy defense. The Potters also roll out an adequate midfield with EPL veterans such as Darren Fletcher and Joe Allen, and their forwards are at least interesting: Xherdan Shaqiri, Eric Choupo-Moting and Jese. As for United, they’ve looked terrific, but the longer they go without an agonizingly dull nil-nil, the more my gambler’s fallacy warning lights are flashing.
This is the match I’ve been waiting for since the international break. The Clarets take on the Eagles and adlksajgknkbnkalhk... (three hours later) Sorry! I fell asleep while typing, now, where were we? Ah yes, Tom Heaton!
Swansea City v Newcastle United
This is definitely the match I’ve been waiting for since the international break! Two of the best managers in the EPL saddled with two of the worst rosters imaginable. I don’t know if this one will finish 0-0 or 3-3, but either way I expect some good fantasy-pickings here: Tom Carroll and Matt Ritchie are the respective playmakers, either of the keepers look like fine plays, and someone like Kyle Naughton or Chancel Mbemba could be swell Togga plays!
West Ham United v Huddersfield Town
Looking at this match, one can’t help but think that the EPL schedule makers need to consult a Hollywood production company to make sure that they play, you know, two good teams on a date when they own the night. Just what was the thinking process at EPL headquarters when, looking at a Monday Night Futbol fixture, someone approved Hammers v Terriers? It’s a mystery right up there with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart or Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Having said that, as a founding member of the “Steve Mounie Forever” fan club, I am happy to watch him go up against, argh, Joe Hart, argh.
Show us your lineups, post team news, and share your thinking as we help each other put the finishing
mistakes touches on our squads ahead of various deadlines!