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EPL Game Week 1 Pre-Deadline Chat: Here We Go!

Don’t look now, but the season kicks off in just a few hours. It’s time to stop chopping and changing your squads and settle on a final starting 11! Inside you’ll find a rundown of the season’s first round of fixtures, and in the Comments the hive will post all the late-breaking team news you need to avoid fantasy traps and pitfalls.

Arsenal Unveil New Signing David Luiz - Premier League
David Luiz could make his debut as a Gunner tomorrow. Will Calamity Dave shore up Arsenal’s defense, or turn it into a clown show?
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

What did you do on your summer vacation? Well I’ll tell you what we did here at NMA: We tracked all the English Premier League transfers and team news so that we could help you prepare your fantasy squads for the start of the season. And now the day has finally arrived — the opening kickoff of the 2019-20 season looms before us!

Below is an overview of the opening week’s slate of fixtures, as well as fitness updates for key players. And remember, it’s not too late to join our fantasy leagues!


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Friday 9 August 2019

Liverpool vs Norwich

The first match of the 2019-20 season will pit the champions of Europe against a team that played in the Championship last season. Even worse for Norwich, the Reds are on a 40-game unbeaten streak at Anfield. And although it was the Canaries’ free-wheeling offense that punched their ticket to the top-flight, they’ll find the going tough today. Over Liverpool’s 40-game home unbeaten stretch, the Reds have allowed only 122 shots on target and 38 goals.

Clearly this game has all the makings of a badly-lopsided mismatch then, especially if Daniel Farke keeps the faith with his open style of play. But to profit, fantasy managers will have to make the right decisions. Will there be a clean sheet for Alisson and his defenders if the Canaries press for a consolation goal? Will Liverpool’s flying fullbacks add attacking points to their defensive returns? Will Virgil van Dijk nod one in off a set piece? Who will partner him in the center of defense? Who will deputize for Sadio Mané, who has just returned to the squad after playing in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations?

Fortunately, we should have confirmed lineups for this match ahead of the Fantrax deadline, so those fantasy managers who tune in here will know the answers to many of these questions in time to react. But here’s something we can’t know: How many minutes Mo Salah will play. With the UEFA Champions Super Cup looming on Wednesday, and with the Egyptian having played the full 90’ in the Community Shield last Sunday after a summer’s worth of national team duty, will you put the FPL armband on someone whose minutes might be limited today?

Get that decision wrong and you could find yourself heading into Game Week 2 already chasing the pack.


Liverpool: Sadio Mané (fatigue), James Milner (muscle tightness, expected to be available)

Norwich: Timm Klose (hip, expected to be available)


Saturday 10 August 2019

West Ham vs Manchester City

Former Manchester City gaffer Manuel Pelligrini welcomes his old club to London Stadium tomorrow. Last season Pelligrini was able to lift West Ham into the top half of the table. This year he’ll target European tournament qualification. He has significantly strengthened his squad since taking the reins last summer, including the July 2018 acquisition of Brazilian midfielder Felipe Anderson who’s blossomed into a real-life and fantasy star. The Marko Arnautovic saga has finally come to a conclusion now too, as the prolific but disruptive striker has moved along to China. Tomorrow we’ll get our first glimpse of his replacement, Sebastian Haller, who was brought in last month from Eintracht Frankfurt.

West Ham’s Chilean gaffer has been dealt a difficult opening fixture though, having to kick off the campaign against the league’s defending champions. The Citizens have won each of their last six matches with West Ham across all competitions, and they just defeated Liverpool (on penalties) to claim the 2019 Community Shield. And although Sergio Aguero might rest after a summer’s worth of national team duty, Raheem Sterling is ready and in scintillating form, with five goals and two assists in preseason play. Many FPL managers will captain him this week, despite City’s sometimes merely very-good form away from the Etihad.


West Ham: Lukasz Fabianski (groin), Mark Noble (dead leg; Pelligrini rates him as unlikely)

Manchester City: Aymeric Laporte (knock), Leroy Sané (ruptured ACL requiring surgery), Benjamin Mendy (knee)


Bournemouth vs Sheffield United

Bournemouth sprinted out to a strong start last season, winning six of their first ten matches and accumulating almost half of their campaign’s points in the first quarter of the schedule. They host EPL newcomers Sheffield United tomorrow, so the schedule is again set for them to come out of the gate strongly. Many fantasy managers are backing players such as Nathan Aké, Ryan Fraser, Callum Wilson, and Josh King for big returns.

But it has been two decades since the Cherries last defeated the Blades, so Chris Wilder will hope that his attacking brand of football will find the flaws in a Bournemouth defense that gave up 70 goals last season. Will former Cherry Lys Mousset be the one to sink his former side?


Bournemouth: David Brooks (ankle), Lewis Cook (ACL), Simon Francis (ACL), Dan Gosling (hip), Junior Stanislas (knee)

Sheffield United: fully-fit squad


Burnley vs Southampton

Burnley and Southampton were both fortunate to emerge safely from last year’s relegation scrum, so both managers will view today’s match as an important step toward another season in the Prem.

But Burnley look the more likely winners today. Although the last three meetings between these two clubs ended tied, the home team has claimed the three points in 7 of the last 8 meetings in which there was a winner. Indeed, the Saints are generally awful on the road regardless of the opposition, winning only 3 of their last 20 official away matches. They haven’t won at Burnley since the year Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair at 10 Downing St (2007).

Interesting fact for fantasy managers: Burnley have never failed to ripple the net when hosting Southampton.


Burnley: Robbie Brady (rib), Steven Defour (calf)

Southampton: fully-fit squad


Crystal Palace vs Everton

Everton have dominated this fixture recently, with three wins and three draws over the last six meetings. Palace are breathing a sigh of relief after hanging on to star man Wilfried Zaha, but one wonders what effect a summer’s worth of transfer speculation has had on his mindset. And the Eagles have lost fullback Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United. His raids down the right flank made him a fantasy darling, and although Joel Ward is experienced and reliable, he cannot match the 21 year-old Englishman’s electric play.

Marco Silva will have his sights firmly set on a European finish this season after the Toffees fell just short in the last campaign. One major problem with last year’s squad was the lack of an effective striker, but Silva hopes he has solved that issue by acquiring 19 year-old Moise Kean, regarded as one of Europe’s brightest young talents. We may get our first glimpse of the youngster tomorrow.


Crystal Palace: James Tomkins (groin), Mamadou Sakho (match fitness)

Everton: Fabian Delph (groin), Leighton Baines (knock)


Watford vs Brighton

Ironically, this game is a repeat of the same teams’ opening fixture from last season. Watford won that one, and odds are they’ll do it again. It has been 12 years since the Hornets lost an opening day match, and Brighton’s away form was terrible last season — they picked up only 13 points on the road and were nearly relegated.

But Graham Potter is in charge of the Seagulls this year, and that will bring a shift away from the tighter, more cautious approach of Chris Hughton. The result could be a match that is fun to watch, with plenty of fantasy points on offer.

Lewis Dunk’s low price has made him a very popular choice among FPL managers, but owners of Roberto Pereyra, Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu will hope to spoil the Brighton center back’s clean sheet.


Watford: Danny Welbeck (match fitness), Nathaniel Chalobah (match fitness)

Brighton: Jose Izquierdo (knee)


Tottenham vs Aston Villa

Bronze medal winners in the Premier League, and runners-up in the Champions League, Tottenham will be licking their chops at the prospect of hosting a newly-promoted side to open their 2019-20 campaign in their first full year within the friendly confines of their new, state-of-the-art stadium.

But could this fixture be a banana peel for Spurs? Across all competitions, Mauricio Pochettino’s side have the worst 2019 record of any current EPL team (W 14, L 13, D 2), and Aston Villa’s tactics and lineup will be an enigma after a summer that saw them spend well over £100M to sign 12 players.

Many fantasy managers will have high hopes for Harry Kane tomorrow, even placing the armband on Tottenham’s striker. But Kane is notorious for his summer doldrums. Will he remain true to form and disappoint his fantasy managers again this August? Or will his first summer off in five years be just the tonic to dispel Kane’s August drought?


Tottenham: Juan Foyth (suspended), Son Heung-Min (suspended), Victor Wanyama (knee), Eric Dier (unspecified procedure), Ben Davies (groin), Serge Aurier (hand), Dele Alli (hamstring)

Aston Villa: James Chester (hamstring, out)


Sunday 11 August 2019

Leicester vs Wolves

Both of these sides are undefeated since the end of the 2018-19 EPL campaign, with Leicester winning all three of its summer friendlies, and Wolves winning all of their Europa League qualifying matches and beating Manchester City on penalties to claim the EPL’s Asia Trophy.

The loss of Harry Maguire to Manchester United will be a blow to Leicester’s popular new manager Brendan Rodgers, but his side will be bolstered by the permanent signing of Youri Tielemans and the recruitment of Ayoze Pérez.

Wolves fans who had been sweating over the fitness of Raul Jiménez and Matt Doherty were relieved to see both men start and score in the first leg of the third-round of Europa League qualifiers yesterday (Jiménez scored twice, in fact). But beware: that match required Nuno Espíritu Santo’s men to make a 6,000 mile round trip journey to Armenia. These new European commitments could render Santo’s lineups less easy to predict than the set-and-forget S11 that fantasy managers came to count on last time around.


Leicester: Nampalys Mendy (knock)

Wolves: Morgan Gibbs-White (knock)


Newcastle vs Arsenal

The last time these two teams met, Aaron Ramsey scored the winner in a 2-0 victory for Arsenal on January 4th. Ramsey is gone now, having joined Juventus on a free after the Gunners allowed his contract to run out, and Unai Emery is placing his trust in loanee Dani Ceballos to fill his shoes. The Gunners also brought in Kieran Tierney, David Luiz, and Nicolas Pépé, adding depth and quality across their entire squad.

On the other hand, Steve Bruce’s marquee signing was a 19 year-old who scored 7 goals in the Bundesliga last season. Joelinton will be expected to account for the firepower lost when the bulk of Newcastle’s attack headed for the exits this summer. With Ayoze Pérez and Salomón Rondón alone accounting for 23 league goals last year, it seems unreasonable to pin Newcastle’s hopes for 2019-20 on an unseasoned teenager, especially since he will not be surrounded by a ton of creative talent.

Bruce’s delight at the free acquisition of the aging and chronically-crocked Andy Carroll tells us everything we need to know about the desperate state of affairs at St. James Park right now. Match 1 is going to be a struggle for the Geordies, and unfortunately that is likely to be the theme for them all season, or at least until the club is sold to new ownership.


Newcastle: Florian Lejeune (knee, out), DeAndre Yedlin (groin, out), Matt Ritchie (hamstring, will be assessed), Jack Colback (groin, doubt)

Arsenal: Alexandre Lacazette (ankle, expected to be available), Hector Bellerin (knee, out), Rob Holding (knee, out),


Manchester United vs Chelsea

While the final match of Game Week 1 might not be the most appealing one from a fantasy perspective, it is definitely the week’s marquee fixture — the only one in which two of the Big Six square off. When the Red Devils host the Blues on Sunday, two men who battled each other as players for these clubs will face each other again as developing managers.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has enhanced his defensive corps with the additions of Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace and Harry Maguire from Leicester, but the sale of Lukaku to Inter MIlan leaves his offense thin for cover. Frank Lampard was handcuffed by a transfer ban over the summer, so although Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic have returned from their loan spells and Mateo Kovacic was signed permanently, there are no new names among the ranks at Stamford Bridge this season. And David Luiz, a staple of last year’s starting 11, made a shock buzzer-beater transfer to Arsenal yesterday after reportedly falling out with Lampard.

There will be intense pressure on both of these young managers to take a scalp on Sunday, and with each of them subscribing to a philosophy of open and positive football, this match is probably going to be entertaining regardless of whether you have fantasy assets in play.


Manchester United: Paul Pogba (“back spasm,” expected to be available), Eric Bailly (knee, out)

Chelsea: Callum Hudson Odoi (Achilles, out), Ruben Loftus-Cheek, (Achilles, out), Antonio Rudiger (knee, out), Willian (knee, expected to be available), N’Golo Kanté (match fitness, could be available)


Tinkering at the last minute? Are you a Fantrax manager here for the chat in the deadline hour when we see the Liverpool starting XI? BTW, you can still sign up and build a team in just a few minutes! Have any questions? Seen any late-breaking news? Please let us know in the comments below!