I don’t bite my nails, but if I did, they’d probably be down to the nub. My Official FPL team has been set for a few days, but Fantrax is another story entirely, where I’m waiting until the last minute... or at least the final 45 minutes, depending on how effective my alarm is. It’s always exciting when the early game involves a team that we fantasy managers actually care about. What is there to mull over in the meantime? Let’s have a look-see at the state of affairs...
Wolverhampton v. Manchester City
As our editor Jeff aptly noted in the comments section of David’s Fantrax Player Picks post, Manchester City has the early game, so in Fantrax at least you can see the confirmed starting XI before your team is locked in. (Wait, I have to get up WHEN on the West Coast to do that? Maybe I’ll just stay up...) [The Fantrax deadline is 15 minutes before the first game’s kickoff, compared to one hour beforehand in Official FPL.]
Do you really care about Wolves? Seriously, are you going with any of their players against mighty Manchester City? Sorry, I know that they do have some fantasy-worthy players in general, but not this week (unless you hold someone at a huge discount from GW-1). Alright, alright, Adama Traore should earn his first start in wing attack with Helder Costa likely making way. Otherwise the XI should remain the same; Leander Dendoncker provides an option in central midfield, but is more likely to be eased in from the bench.
As for Manchester City, the Citizens are much more attractive in Fantrax than in Official FPL, owing to the deadline mentioned above. Rotation is always a worry, making it extremely difficult to put too much faith in the starting status of big-name players such as Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi and Kyle Walker. Eight players (Sergio Aguero, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy, and Ederson) have started both games, but Ederson and Fernandinho are probably the only two who you would expect to see in the XI ahead of time with anything close to absolute certainty. This week Fernandinho is a “recovering from tired muscles” doubt (see Guardiola’s Friday briefing), leaving things even more unsettled than usual.
However, as noted, all will be revealed just in time for Fantrax managers to
panic coolly make adjustments while their FPL bretheren weep and gnash their teeth! C’mon boys (and girls, if we have any), I expect some vibrant, well-attended chatter in the comments at deadline time!
[Ed. note: I’m also in the Pacific TZ near Portland OR, but I’ll be here at 0-dark-whatever to confirm / fix my Man City and Wolves Fantrax picks (Yes, I still hold Neves and Jota, not in doubt).]
Arsenal v. West Ham
The rumbling regarding Petr Cech was pretty loud after a poor performance in the opener. While he allowed three goals to Chelsea, he really couldn’t have done anything about them, and he didn’t make any big mistakes or even near-gaffes. And while it seems like the pro-Bernd Leno rumbling has become even louder, it appears that Cech’s job is safe for now. With a favorable schedule in the near weeks, he could cement things with a good run... or otherwise doom himself to the bench. Mesut Ozil has failed to impress, and could move to the bench if Unai Emery chooses to shake things up by starting Aaron Ramsey or inserting Alexandre Lacazette in the XI paired up front with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Personally I expect Ozil to be given at least one last chance, though. Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Tourreria will be expected to start in defensive midfield.
After a rough start, Manuel Pellegrini may be desperate to ring in some line-up changes, and he has plenty of options with which to do so, such as wing-back Aaron Cresswell, midfielders Michail Antonio and Carlos Sanchez, and forward Lucas Perez. Mark Noble is questionable with injury, and otherwise Arthur Masuaku, Robert Snodgrass and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez seem most at risk of losing their starting status.
Bournemouth v. Everton
Wing back Diego Rico serves the final match of his three-game ban, allowing Charlie Daniels his final match to start without any doubt. Defensive midfielder Jefferson Lerma seems to be up to fitness, but it is a coin toss as to whether he will be handed a start or see his first action as a substitute.
For the traveling Toffees, Phil Jagielka serves the second of a three-game suspension, while wing back Lucas Digne and central defender Kurt Zouma are both expected to be in the 18-man team. Marco Silva may prefer to have them available on the bench instead cracking the starting XI just yet, which would be welcome relief for Leighton Baines and Mason Holgate, respectively. Those of you waiting on Yerry Mina or Andre Gomes, sorry, you’ll have to keep waiting.
Huddersfield v. Cardiff
This season’s new #1 Ben Hamer had an atrocious game against Manchester City, yet David Wagner avoided making a definitive call as to which would face Cardiff; however, the fact that he made a point of calling into question Lossl’s fitness from the summer would lead me to believe that he will stick with Hamer for this game and only turn to Lossl if Hamer has another poor performance. Aaron Mooy, Zanka and Jonathan Hogg have passed fit, so look out Cardiff City!
The visitors’ David Hoilett faces a late fitness test, but Cardiff should expect a fully or fairly unchanged XI.
Southampton v. Leicester
Central defender Janik Vestergard has recovered from illness and should replace Jack Stephens in the XI. Wing midfielder Mohamed Elyounoussi is expected to feature, but a start may be too much to ask this weekend.
Jamie Vardy misses out in the first of a three-game red-card ban; Kelechi Iheanacho is the most likely to fill in, but Shinji Okazaki offers another alternative, or perhaps even Demarai Gray in the dreaded false nine role.
Liverpool v. Brighton
We have all been wondering when Jordan Henderson would return to the XI and displace either Georginio Wijnaldum or James Milner. Then again, Jurgen Klopp may feel something more along the lines of: If it’s not broke, why fix it? Should you believe any of the clickbait rumors of Daniel Sturridge replacing Roberto Firmino, please repeat after me: Daniel (Daniel) Sturridge (Sturridge) is (is) made (made) of (of) glass (glass). Dejan Lovren will be out at least the next two games, with Joe Gomez expected to continue filling in.
Lewis Dunk is out injured for the visitors, and young center back Leon Balogun will continue to fill in after featuring most of last weekend’s Manchester United game in relief. The injury situation otherwise has not changed, so the rest of the starting XI should remain the same. After all, you might think that Brighton may want to adopt a more defensive line-up than usual against Liverpool, but has Brighton been playing a particularly attack-minded XI? No? I didn’t think so either.
Watford v. Crystal Palace
There is no new injury news with Watford, but speculation is that Javi Gracia may consider one or two changes to the starting XI. Wing backs Darryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas may have to worry over losing their spots to Marc Navarro and Adam Masina, respectively, but likely just a bit.
Wing back Aaron Wan-Bissaka serves the first of his three-game red card ban for the Eagles, with Joel Ward likely to fill in, while Martin Kelly would be more of a longshot. Max Meyer could also be handed a start in midfield, but is unlikely to displace anybody you have in fantasy unless you really, really stocked your team deeply with Palace players.
Fulham v. Burnley
As far as team news go, Fulham seems to be a black hole this week. So, expect the same? Sure!
Sean Dyche made a rash of changes to the XI for the mid-week loss to Olympiakos, with keeper Joe Hart, defenders Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, and midfielder Aaron Lennon among those missing out. The regulars are expected to return for the weekend, but Tom Heaton could throw a wrench into things and retake the #1 spot after Hart conceded three goals last weekend. Then again, Heaton allowed three goals to Olympiakos. What has happened to the Clarets’ once-vaunted defense?
Newcastle v. Chelsea
Isaac Hayden begins his three-game red card suspension, but you didn’t have him in fantasy, right? Please say yes. I get it if you have Kenedy, but he also misses out against his parent club. DeAndre Yedlin should return at wing back following his GW1 injury. The biggest questions are on offense where Joselu would love to hold on to his starting spot ahead of Salomon Rondon, while Yoshinori Muto is also pressing for a position in the XI. Against Chelsea, though, Rafa Benitez would be expected to play conservatively, which means not making changes.
Surely influenced by the injury to Belgian Kevin De Bruyne, Maurizio Sarri has resisted starting KDB’s national teammate Eden Hazard in the first two games, and now it looks like he is ready to hand the influential dynamo his first start, but limit him to roughly 60 minutes. Mateo Kovacic is in a similar situation, so the two midfielders could start together, but will Sarri really be willing to put two players in the XI who he thinks will have to be substituted with about half an hour to go? Maybe, but that sounds like a bit of a risky proposition, doesn’t it? That could point to the more dynamic Hazard starting (instead of either Willian or Pedro), with Barkley retaining his role and Kovacic coming off the bench. In case you were wondering, Sarri has pledged allegiance to his 4-3-3 formation, so don’t expect to see any more defenders fitted into the line-up as in the Antonio Conte days.
Manchester United v. Tottenham
The Monday game always makes things extra tricky, and unfortunately Manchester United has no shortage of entries in that department, with Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia all in facing varying degrees of doubt. The most uncertainty appears to be in defense, with Matteo Darmian, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly all seemingly under threat of losing their starting jobs following uninspiring performances, which could see Phil Jones among others perhaps nicking a start.
After a drunk driving charge, Hugo Lloris is facing a possible suspension, leaving Michel Vorm on standby. Heung-min Son remains at the Asian Games, with goal-scoring Lucas Moura expected to continue in his absence, unless Mauricio Poccetino switches to assist-providing Eric Lamela.
Where are you set with your fantasy team line-ups, and what last-minute changes are you pondering? Be sure to share any late-breaking news in the comments section!