International breaks always wreak havoc on domestic league fantasy, but perhaps no such window has been as disruptive as this one. In addition to the usual knocks, strains, pulls, breaks and “fatigue” that we always fret over, fantasy managers also have to worry about COVID’s noxious influence.
But as if the risk of actual infection weren’t enough to contend with, some players are suffering a vexing Catch-22 that pits FIFA rules against British quarantine. On the one hand, players must report for international duty or be subject to domestic league bans, while on the other hand, they face 10-day quarantines if they visit red-zone countries.
Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, and Brazil have all asked FIFA to invoke the domestic ban rule after their players were not released (Raphinha actually declined), therefore the following players face ineligibility spanning from September 10-14 (if international duty had taken them to a red-zone nation, they might have missed both GW-4 and GW-5):
- Fabinho (LIV)
- Alisson (LIV)
- Roberto Firmino (LIV)
- Ederson (MCI)
- Raphinha (LEE)
- Jesus (MCI)
- Thiago Silva (CHE)
- Fred (MUN)
- Raul Jimenez (WOL)
- Miguel Almiron (NEW)
- Francisco Sierralta (WAT)
A club that disregards the ban and fields a suspended player would forfeit its match 0-3 (not gonna happen).
Argentina’s players did comply with their call-ups and are now set to miss through quarantine after visiting a red-zone country:
- Emiliano Buendia (AVL)
- Emiliano Martinez (AVL)
- Giovanni Lo Celso (TOT)
- Cristian Romero (TOT)
- Davinson Sanchez (TOT)
Fortunately, Argentina released these players to return to England early, so their periods of quarantine will not include GW-5.
This is an evolving situation, and behind-the-scenes negotiations continue. FIFA, the English FA, the clubs, the national teams, and the British government are working to find solutions (primarily reducing quarantine). This scenario is set to repeat itself throughout the season if the UK’s “red zone” rules and countries remain the same in later international breaks, or if future international fixtures are not rescheduled to be played exclusively outside of red-zone nations. Stay tuned to NMA for updates.
Of course, you can always count on NMA to report the latest team news in our Pre-Deadline and Live Chat at the FPL & Fantrax virtual pub, which will also feature confirmed lineups for the Palace v Tottenham match ahead of the Fantrax transfer deadline. Look for it early Saturday — don’t miss this one!
Okay, let’s get into the picks. Remember, this is a Fantrax buyer’s guide, and the picks are therefore driven by value. For instance, I’ll probably continue to hold Trent Alexander-Arnold at my relatively low GW-1 purchase price, but I think he’s too expensive to recommend buying at current retail.
Caoimhin Kelleher ($3.60, LEE vs LIV): If Alisson is not un-banned, then Kelleher will deputize. Meanwhile, Leeds will be without Raphinha, a main ingredient in its recipe for attack. Kelleher will be a tidy little one-week play if FIFA upholds Brazil’s request.
Bernd Leno ($7.05, ARS vs NOR): The Gunners have been comprehensively awful: They’ve scored no goals while conceding nine. But Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes, and Thomas Partey will all return to the lineup this weekend, so while offense may remain a question mark, we can at least expect their defense to tighten up.
Tim Krul ($3.60, ARS vs NOR): As I said, Arsenal’s offense remains a question mark. If Alisson’s ban is lifted and he can feature instead of Kelleher, then Krul becomes your GW-4 GK bargain play.
Kieran Tierney ($9.47, ARS vs NOR): The Gunners have conceded nine goals over three games so far, so a clean sheet could be too much to ask even against lowly Norwich. But this pick is more about the phantoms Tierney offers going forward. He has created seven chances, has ten touches inside the penalty box, and has made three goals attempts so far this season.
Virgil van Dijk ($5.00, LEE vs LIV): Amazingly, you can buy and forget one of the world’s top, nailed-on central defenders for just five bucks. This week he faces a Leeds side that should be without Raphinha, so he’s a no-brainer even though you probably already have him. If you don’t, then at least put him on this week’s barn-door list to grab before his price rises any further.
Luke Shaw ($9.51, MUN vs NEW): Like Tierney, Shaw is a two-way threat. As noted in our FPL picks, he hasn’t yet matched the heights he reached in this summer’s Euros tournament, but hosting Newcastle at Old Trafford should offer opportunity to get back on track.
Raphael Varane ($6.00, MUN vs NEW): An inexpensive route into United’s potential clean sheet. If you were prescient, you bought him at $3.80 on the barn door.
Mohamed Salisu ($5.20, SOU vs WHU): This pick isn’t very sexy, but it’s pragmatic. Salisu is good at collecting defensive phantoms, and he does best when his team plays strong attacking sides. This week the Saints welcome the league’s joint-best offense, so I expect him to return value.
Japhet Tanganga ($5.49, CRY vs TOT): Tanganga is averaging nearly 10 ppg, and there is the potential for a fourth straight clean sheet when Spurs travel to Selhurst Park on Saturday. Caveat: In future weeks, he may be superseded.
Matt Doherty, Joe Rodon ($3.60, CRY vs TOT): With Davinson Sanchez and Cristian Romero unavailable due to quarantine, Doherty and/or Rodon could be deputized to fill gaps in Tottenham’s back four. Either will be good value if he starts, and Spurs’ confirmed lineup will be available ahead of the Fantrax deadline (be sure to join our Pre-Deadline Chat in the countdown hour before kickoff).
Bukayo Saka ($9.18, ARS vs NOR): With Thomas Partey holding down the fort and Martin Odegaard pulling the strings, Saka should be free to maraud into the box. And what better team to plunder than the Canaries.
Mason Mount ($15.36, CHE vs AVL): Chelsea’s busiest bee, Mount shoots, crosses, creates chances, and takes set pieces. He’ll be all over an Aston Villa side sans Emi Buendia and Emi Martinez.
Kai Havertz ($4.79, CHE vs AVL): If Mount’s price gives you pause, then consider his much cheaper teammate. Havertz slipped one past Alisson in GW-3, so he can surely score on Jed Steer this weekend.
Mason Greenwood ($10.85, MUN vs NEW): Greenwood’s returns have exceeded his current price in each of his three games, and this week his opponent is Newcastle. CR7’s arrival could shake up United’s front four, but Greenwood’s form and versatility should secure him a berth somewhere.
Pablo Fornals ($12.17, SOU vs WHU): Fornals has been a monster this season, making a goal contribution in each of West Ham’s three games. He’s still priced less than his average return, and he faces a Saints side that has conceded six so far.
Said Benrahma ($8.95, SOU vs WHU): Like Fornals, Benrahma has also been flying high this season, registering two goals and two assists over three games. Plus, Benrahma is cheaper than his Spanish teammate.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ($6.50, ARS vs NOR): With key players returning to the squad and Mikel Arteta needing a win to save his managerial life, I’m backing PEA to come good this week. But if he can’t get the job done against Norwich, it may be time to declare him dead to us (if you haven’t already, of course).
Romelu Lukaku ($6.86, CHE vs AVL): The big Belgian is a slight doubt due to a thigh issue. But if he starts, he will strike fear into the heart of Villa’s second-string goalkeeper, Jed Steer, as well as every Fantrax manager who decided to go without him.
Diogo Jota ($8.93, LEE vs LIV): Roberto Firmino was already an injury doubt for GW-4, but he’s now also banned after failing to report for international duty with Brazil. That should make Jota a lock to start on Sunday, and he could do loads of damage for less than $9.
Michail Antonio ($16.32, SOU vs WHU): Mantonio is in blisteringly hot form, having scored and assisted in each and every one of West Ham’s games so far. Antonio threaded the needle with his Jamaica call-up: He reported for duty but was allowed to avoid red-list countries. Therefore, he will not be quarantined. He will line up against the Saints looking to add to his seven (seven!) goal contributions so far.
Cristiano Ronaldo ($3.60, MUN vs NEW): He may or may not start on Saturday, but he’ll certainly play. And even if he’s only given half an hour or so, for $3.60 you can’t go wrong backing the putative GoAT to put a stamp on his return to Old Trafford. People, I say again: CR7 for $3.60.
Ha! Ha-ha, tee-hee — CR7 for $3.60! Take a picture because that won’t last long. Now stop cackling and just buy him lest your local authorities drag you away in a straitjacket!
Stats and information referenced in this article were sourced from dailymail.co.uk, bbc.com, thetopflight.com, independent.co.uk, fantasyfootballscout.com, fantasy.premierleague.com, theathletic.com, and fantrax.com.
Whom did I miss? Whom are you selling? Where are your dilemmas? Did you really need me to mention CR7, or did you already have him? Do you have any unanswered questions about Fantrax? Please share in the comments below!