Welcome to game-week three of the 2019-20 English Premier League fantasy campaign! Have the first two weeks gone well for you, or are you already struggling to catch up with the pack? Are you surprised by some of the clubs near the top of the table, or near the bottom? How do you feel about the impact of VAR so far? Buckle your seat belts and get ready for the next round of games to generate a whole new set of talking points for next week!
Aston Villa vs Everton
Having lost their first two matches of the campaign, Aston Villa will be looking to pick up their first points of the season today. Their midfield pivot of Jack Grealish and John McGinn will be key elements of that effort, and many fantasy managers have backed them for rewards this week.
Everton trail the league leaders by just two points, but that fact belies an alarming truth: The Toffees have scored but one goal so far. Owners who have kept the faith with Everton’s attacking assets will be counting on popular players such as Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson to finally come good today. Might new-boy Moise Kean make a splash?
Norwich vs Chelsea
All eyes will be on red-hot Teemu Pukki tomorrow to see if he can sustain his blistering form against a top-six side that’s had a chance to watch Norwich’s earlier matches. His fortunes will depend in part on whether Frank Lampard’s team of youngsters can continue to build confidence and momentum as they work toward their season’s first win.
Brighton vs Southampton
Both of these teams skidded to the finish last season, ending on long winless streaks and barely escaping the drop. The rot at Southampton continues, the Saints having lost both of their league matches so far. But Brighton are undefeated in this campaign and currently sit in 5th. Has Graham Potter turned the Seagulls around?
Manchester United vs Crystal Palace
The drama around Paul Pogba continues. This time it’s because the Frenchman stepped in front of Marcus Rashford to take, and miss, a PK, costing the Red Devils a crucial 2 points. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was diplomatic about the matter in public afterwards, but according to rumors he blew Pogba’s hair back in the dressing room. How will Pogba react? (Also, fun fact: Paul Pogba is terrible from the spot. In fact, among players who have taken at least ten, he’s the sixth-worst penalty taker in Premier League history, with a conversion rate of just 64%. If you own Marcus Rashford, that stat makes you smile.)
“Crystal Palace Nil” is one of only two teams in the Prem that haven’t scored yet. Luka Milivojevic and Wilfried Zaha have been anonymous, while Christian Benteke has been downright poor. For the Eagles to finally take flight tomorrow, Zaha will have to get the better of his former teammate, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (and Zaha’s inability to do that on the training ground at Selhurst Park is how AWB first caught Roy Hodgson’s eye).
Sheffield United vs Leicester
Surprise! Newly-promoted Sheffield United are undefeated and sitting in the top half of the table, just two points off the pace. And they’ve done it playing positive football rather than by parking the bus in front of goal.
On the other hand, Leicester, champions of the EPL in 2017, are yet to win a game this season and have scored only one goal. James Maddison has been a stand-out among a midfield that is stacked with talent, but striker Jamie Vardy hasn’t scored a league goal since his brace against Arsenal back in April. If he tenders another blank today, many of his owners will head for the exits.
Watford vs West Ham
The Hornets have conceded four goals while scoring zero, so they sit bottom of the table with losses in both of this season’s games. Worse, Troy Deeney has been ruled out for several weeks after undergoing knee surgery. But Deeney’s absence might offer fantasy managers a cheeky differential in the form of Danny Welbeck, who could now be given a chance to juice the Hornets’ sputtering offense.
West Ham haven’t fared much better, perched just two spots above the drop zone after managing a solitary point so far. Manuel Pelligrini has passed Sebastian Haller fit, and tomorrow would a nice time for the French striker to prove he is worth his £45M transfer fee.
Liverpool vs Arsenal
The two teams at the top of the table are also at the top of the weekend’s fight card: The Reds vs The Gunners. Both have collected full points from each of their games so far, but both have faced weak opposition: Newcastle and Burnley for Arsenal, Norwich and Southampton for Liverpool.
Liverpool have scored twice as many goals as Arsenal, but have also conceded twice as many. Given those stats, Jurgen Klopp may decide that his best bet is to blitz Arsenal, while Unai Emery may be sensing vulnerability in Liverpool’s defense. With each team going for the other’s jugular, and with players like Mo Salah, Sadio Mané, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette on the pitch, this one has all the makings of a real cracker.
Bournemouth vs Manchester City
Last year Bournemouth finished below Newcastle and conceded 70 goals. The Cherries are undefeated so far this season, but both of their matches pitted them against newly-promoted sides. The opposition will stiffen considerably this time, with league champs Manchester City coming to pay a visit.
The Citizens have a reputation for allowing their form to dip away from the Etihad, but in their one away game this season they demolished West Ham 5-0. Bournemouth could suffer a similar fate, which is a prospect that has fantasy managers salivating. Those who can divine which of City’s assets will start and deliver should find themselves in good stead on Monday.
Tottenham vs Newcastle
This should be the weekend’s most lopsided match. So far Newcastle look like early relegation candidates, while Tottenham finished third in the Prem last season and were runners-up in the Champions League. Many fantasy managers will be jumping on the “anybody against Newcastle” bandwagon this week, and we have Heung-Min Son to add to the menu of likely Spurs options such as Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen.
Wolves vs Burnley
Wolves sit in 13th after sharing the spoils in both of the tough league games they’ve played so far. Although fatigue may be a factor after their Europa League playoff game against Torino last night, one can’t help but feel that they’re primed to explode on Burnley. Raúl Jiménez and Diogo Jota both scored in last night’s game and were subbed off after the victory was safely tucked away, so their owners will hope they can equal their European performances in front of their home fans on Sunday.
How are your fantasy squads doing so far? Did you pile into Teemu Pukki after his hattrick last week, or did you decide not to chase the points? What heavy-hitters are you expecting big returns from today? Any clever differentials you slipped into your side? Please let us know in the comments below, and then stick around to watch the action unfold with all your friends here at NMA!