All 20 teams, another 10 games, which is the best fixture for fantasy purposes?
Manchester City v. Liverpool (David)
The most entertaining fixture should be City at Liverpool, a meeting of the two highest-scoring teams in the league. Philippe Coutinho is gone and Mohamed Salah is a doubt, but it’s a home game for ‘Pool, so Jurgen Klopp won’t be looking to sit deep and counterattack... and neither will City. I’m hoping for an open game with end-to-end action and hopefully lots of chances for both teams. I think City’s superior defensive organization will see the Citizens leave Anfield with the points, but we should nonetheless have ample opportunity to see if/how Virgil van Dijk’s addition improves the Reds’ back line.
On paper, the most lopsided game should be Stoke at Man U. No team has conceded more goals than Stoke, and only City and Liverpool have scored more than United. Stoke should be staring at another blowout then, and fantasy investment in United’s attacking assets seems wise. But having just sacked Mark Hughes, will Stoke benefit from the famous “new manager bump?” As Renegade recently said, never bet against the team with a new manager.
Manchester United v. Stoke (Chris)
Despite being in second place, Manchester United hasn’t enjoyed particularly good form lately, winning only once in their past four league games along with uninspiring home draws against Southampton and Burnley plus a stalemate at Leicester. But if the Red Devils are looking for a tonic, a handy one comes in the form of Stoke. With the worst goal differential (-24) in the league, the Potters could consider themselves lucky to be in 18th. Not surprisingly, they’re on a very poor run, having taken only four points from their past seven games.
What really stands out in this case is that Stoke has been absolutely blitzed when visiting “Big Six” teams this season, losing 5-0 at Chelsea, 5-1 at Tottenham, and 7-2 at Manchester City. That’s the wrong end of 17-3 in only three games! Just five other teams have given up as many goals in all of their away games so far. With or without Hughes, this has serious blowout potential written all over it. So feel free to load up on United stars. Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Phil Jones, David De Gea and whomever else starts are all good bets to return fantasy bonanza at Old Trafford. Just be sure to check team/injury news, particularly in the back where Antonio Valencia is a doubt and Ashley Young is suspended.
Manchester United v. Stoke (Santiago)
As Monday night’s lone fixture, you just know Garett Southgate will be watching, and the players know as well. It’s a big game for the likes of Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones and, surprisingly Luke Shaw who may not be out of England’s plane to Russia with former incumbents Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand flattering to deceive. It’s also a big game for Jack Butland, who simply cannot concede 3-5 goals if he harbors dreams of being England’s #1.
We should also learn a lot about Stoke going forward. Was it a managerial change they needed, or are they just a horrible squad? Stoke is a possible fantasy goldmine, but it could also be a deadly trap: an oasis in the middle of an endless thirsty desert. A graveyard for brave but foolhardy fantasy bargain and differential hunters.
Bournemouth v. Arsenal (Darryl)
Bournemouth have scored seven goals in their past three fixtures while conceding six. Arsenal have scored six while conceding five. Both teams play a style of football that should guarantee goals and push us to invest in players like Alexis Sanchez and Callum Wilson.
Bournemouth v. Arsenal (Alexey)
My pick is the game at the Vitality Stadium, where Bournemouth will be hosting Arsenal. The Cherries have been fun to watch lately, as they concede and score almost proportionally. Arsenal are historically fun to watch and were just on the end of the rather humiliating defeat to Nottingham Forest, crashing out of the FA Cup. The Gunners will want an immediate response, while Bournemouth are fighting for every point. Their latest encounter ended up as a 3:3 draw, and I expect a similar result.
Bournemouth v. Arsenal (Stall)
Arsenal have conceded 8 in their last 4 and are really missing Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny. They have a very vulnerable look about them at the back. The phrase “as much use as a chocolate teapot” pretty much sums up their recent defensive performances. Even with the duo they haven’t looked a whole lot better during the season, conceding 16 in 11 away games.
Bournemouth, meanwhile, have conceded 10 in their last 4 and 17 in 11 home games all season, showing they can complete on the chocolate teapot stakes. If we are going to bet against woeful defenses, then we need strong attackers to take advantage. The Cherries have scored 7 in their last 3 matches, and they had 26 shots in their 2-2 draw at Brighton. In the 3 games they have totaled an eye-catching 59 goal attempts.
Arsenal have 44 shots in their last 3 matches and 9 goals in their last 4 league games. The Gunners beat an out of sorts Bournemouth 3-0 in September, and the two played out a dramatic 3-3 in the reverse fixture last season. Arsenal have scored 13 goals in their last 5 games with Bournemouth.
It all points to goals galore, so any of Alexandre Lacazette, Callum Wilson, Josh King, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez (unless he moves to Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (against his old team), Ryan Fraser and bombing full backs like Charlie Daniels or Hector Bellerin are fine picks. The game will be so open that even one of the keepers coming up in added time and scoring wouldn’t surprise.
I’m looking at this match for (Fantrax) investment on both sides of the deadline: tweaks before and barn-door after. Beforehand, I have several Spurs left over from their double week. I will evaluate their prices vs. potential and decide if any are worth holding against the renewed Toffee defense. At home... maybe Christian Eriksen or Son Heung-min (I couldn’t afford Harry Kane).
After the deadline is actually more interesting. Hype-magnet Cenk Tosun is expected to make his first appearance. On the road, at Wembley, facing Spurs, and new to the league... Not where I want to put my cash before the deadline, even at the default price.
However, I want to see him play, how he moves in his new uniform. If, despite the tough fixture, he shines (or even looks suitably threatening), then I’ll be looking to free up a precious striker slot in each of my Fantrax teams before the barn door closes. His price may never be this low again.
Are you jumping on one of the fixtures we’ve picked above for fantasy investment, or is another game even more attractive to you? Will you load up on players from that single game or spread things around more? Let us know in the comments!