Goal takes a look at the best players to pick – or avoid – on the opening gameweek of the new Premier League season and selects an XI to tackle this week’s fixtures
|START ‘EM – WHICH PLAYERS SHOULD YOU PICK?
For those looking to make a quick start in the Goal Fantasy Football game, loading your team with Chelsea players (a maximum of three is allowed) is a great way to ensure short-term gains. The west Londonders take on Hull City and Aston Villa in a double gameweek that promises lots of of goals. In attack, Romelu Lukaku (7.5) has been the Blues’ outstanding striker in pre-season, notching five goals and providing two assists, and could be the best value pick from any of the top six clubs.
Chelsea boasted a +9 goal difference over Villa last season, conceding just one goal in their two encounters, while Steve Bruce’s side were the lowest scorers in the top half of the Championship last term. That bodes well for the Blues’ back line and those in need of a solid goalkeeper need look no further than Petr Cech (6.0).
Another newly promoted side, Crystal Palace, found clean sheets hard to come by last season as they shipped a whopping 62 goals in the second tier last season – the joint-worst record in the top 10. The Eagles’ probable centre-back partnership of Danny Gabbidon and Damien Delaney could really struggle to deal with the movement, acceleration and goal threat of Tottenham’s £25.9 million record signing Roberto Soldado (8.0).
One of the most in-form players during the close-season has been Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho (8.0). The reasonably priced Brazilian, who scored or assisted every 92 minutes last term, takes on a Stoke City side who have shown little form in pre-season and it remains to be seen whether Tony Pulis’s negative, long-ball tactics were holding the Potters back or simply keeping them afloat.
|SIT ‘EM – WHICH PLAYERS SHOULD YOU AVOID?
Gareth Bale (11.0) was a must-have player last season, and a Premier League fixture against most people’s tip to finish bottom of the Premier League would normally have Fantasy Football managers salivating. But Tottenham will be without the injured Welshman when they face Crystal Palace on Sunday and, with his future in doubt, he is not worth selecting.
Meanwhile, any member of the Manchester United back line is best avoided. David Moyes labelled the club’s opening fixtures as “the hardest start for 20 years” and they begin their title defence with a tricky away trip to the Liberty Stadium where they face a Swansea City side who have scored more goals (28) than any other team in pre-season.
United’s attackers remain appetising, however, but Shinji Kagawa‘s (8.0) absence from the Community Shield starting XI could signal a lack of faith in the Japan international.
Aston Villa may have a double gameweek but they face Arsenal and Chelsea – both away – in the space of just five days. In the respective fixtures last season, the Villans shipped a combined 10 goals and their defence, despite receiving much-needed reinforcements this summer, should be given a wide berth.
Villa will likely face a Chelsea team that is bereft of Juan Mata (10.0). The Spaniard, as well as countryman and Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla (9.5), have been given little game time in pre-season after their Confederations Cup exploits and are unlikely to feature much in the first few gameweeks.
Every team need to have their share of cheaper players, though some are more valuable than others. With Sunderland’s main man last term, Steven Fletcher, injured, the stage is set for new signing Jozy Altidore (6.0) to have a big impact on Wearside. The USA international has been a handful in pre-season and scored a fantastic hat-trick for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men on Wednesday night that will have boosted his confidence.
No team has picked up more wins in pre-season than West Ham, scoring 25 goals en route to eight victories. The Hammers start the new season with a home tie against last year’s Championship winners, Cardiff City, who could be in for a rough ride. Matt Jarvis (5.0) has been one of the east London club’s best performers and, even accounting for the probable absence of target man Andy Carroll, could be a shrewd selection.
Few players are as undervalued as Tottenham’s Danny Rose (4.0) this year. The 23-year-old was in brilliant form for Sunderland last season and appears to have dethroned rival left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto upon his return to White Hart Lane. Adventurous and attacking, he won a penalty in Spurs’ final pre-season tie against Espanyol and has a kind opening match against the now Wilfried Zaha-less Crystal Palace.
|CAPTAIN’S CHOICE – TOP TIP FOR DOUBLE POINTS
There is only one team worth looking at when exploring your captain candidate options and that’s Chelsea. The Blues have a favourable double gameweek, with both matches at home, and have been in brilliant form in pre-season. They take on newly promoted Hull at the weekend before facing Aston Villa on Wednesday – in the same fixture last season, they recorded an 8-0 win over Paul Lambert’s men.
Eden Hazard (9.5) has been in top form in pre-season, bagging a couple of goals and several more assists, and looks the surest bet to start of Chelsea’s horde of attacking options. If Frank Lampard is not on the field, then the Belgian winger will also take on penalty duties. Last season, the 22-year-old made an outrageous start to the season, picking up a goal and six assists in his first three games, and could easily match that return this term.
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