And so onto the teams and fixture themselves. Let’s begin with a very straightforward fixture tracker spreadsheet:
We have colour coded the fixtures in a simple fashion to allow you to judge your transfer and team selection plans accordingly:
Green – We deem these to be winnable fixtures for the given team and should, in theory at least (!), harvest good fantasy points for you in the opening games. Aim to have a good nucleus of these players in your initial squad.
Yellow – These are the fixtures that could go either way and do not stand out as being either particularly good or poor. If you have a player from a team in this category then do not be afraid to play them but take a considered view that it may not be an explosive week for them.
Red– These are the teams that we consider to have a difficult fixture and as such may be best avoided from a fantasy perspective. Aim to minimise any players that have a run of reds in the opening games.
Southampton – QPR (h), Tottenham (a), Sunderland (h)
Southampton took a massive step forward in our eyes this week. They have looked impressive so far, particularly in the two games prior to this with big wins over West Ham and Newcastle. A game away at fellow high fliers Swansea looked like a test but they came through that with flying colours. Ok, so it was a 0-1 win on the back of playing against 10 men for the most part and one that had little immediate fantasy impact but it showed that whilst they may be able to turn it on at home they are also capable of keeping it tight when needed away from home against opposition who are intent on attacking. That all bodes well if you own a Saints defender.
Two home games in the next three should see them cut loose a bit though, especially give the opposition – QPR and Sunderland. They will take the game to both of them and don’t be surprised to see the likes of Tadic and Pelle get points from both of those. The Spurs game in-between will probably represent more of their Swansea form and performance as per this weekend as they keep it tight whilst trying to nick a goal.
Pelle and Tadic look good prospects here with the two home games while the likes of Clyne and Bertrand offer both clean sheet potential and their usual attacking threat. Alderweiereld was omitted at the weekend due to a hamstring problem but it isn’t thought to be serious and he is expected back for GW6.
Burnley WBA (a), Leicester (a), West Ham (h)
Burnley seem to have settled on an early season policy to keep things tight. A first day defeat to Chelsea was inevitable but then they tried out the ’0-0′ game plan at Swansea and came up short by just 1 goal. Since then they’ve nailed it in fine fashion – three consecutive 0-0′s. Some teams come up from the Championship and feel that a gung-ho approach is best. Read Blackpool circa 2011. Whilst they were great from a fantasy perspective with the likes of Charlie Adam they were ultimately relegated. There are many ways to skin a cat and Burnley seem intent on a defence first approach which is equally dangerous. It smacks of a lot of narrow defeats if we are being honest.
That said the next three games look ideal candidates for a 0-0 scoreline in each! The three beyond that look more difficult but for the immediate future we would not hesitate to play a Burnley defender.
Manchester United – West Ham (h), Everton (h), West Brom (a)
They’d turned the corner they said. They’re back, and a force to be reckoned with they said. All this was on the back of a 4-0 home win against QPR. Well we could have had twenty stabs at the scoreline away at Leicester and probably still wouldn’t have come up with a 5-3 defeat! The new philosophy seems to be built around the old Keegan / Newcastle mantra of ‘you score 4, we’ll score 5′ which is mainly due to this summer’s transfer policy of buying loads of fantastic attacking players but ignoring the fact that the likes of Evans, Jones, Smalling and Blackett really just aren’t up to the job of replacing the departed Ferdinand and Vidic. The result is that we may all have some fun watching United this season and it may actually lend a hand to fantasy managers, so long as you pick their attacking players that is!
Up next for them it’s West Ham at home. You’d have to expect that United can score well here, on paper at least. West Ham actually looked quite impressive last time out and managed to get three goals against United’s ‘partners in comedy defending’ Liverpool. With this in mind we could be looking at another cricket score here. Same goes for the next game really as Everton are leaking goals left, right and centre also. West Brom away is anybody’s guess but the three fixtures all point to goals for us fantasy managers. The obvious thing here then is that United attackers are at a premium but if you have any of their beleaguered back-line we would stay away. It’s worth noting that Falcao started against Leicester along with both Rooney and RvP, while Mata was the one to drop out and the Colombian grabbed an assist too. This saw Rooney drop deeper throughout and it remains to be seen how this dents his fantasy appeal, but if Falcao is now nailed on he could be fantasy gold in the Costa mould if United continue with the ‘Keegan way’.
It is worth noting though that after the next three games United then face Chelsea (h) and Man City (a) so maybe plan to capitalize upon them short term.
Leicester – Crystal Palace (a), Burnley (h), Newcastle (a)
It seems quite apt then that we move straight onto United’s conquerors Leicester. The newly free-scoring Leicester. We shall point out the obvious here – they won’t play United every week! In fact they had only scored four league goals prior to that game so maybe don’t get too excited, but at the same time, maybe get excited about one guy in particular. Jose Leonardo Ulloa. He’s now got 5 in 5 and at £5.7m he is promising to be THE bargain of the season. He seems to have appeared out of nowhere so it’s maybe worth a quick look at his recent history to see whether this is a flash in the pan thing or if he has the pedigree to stay the course. (He does! ) –
His last three seasons stats prior to this, according to Wiki at least, are –
Castellon, played 78, scored 30
Almeria, played 90, scored 39
Brighton, played 50, scored 23
That shouts consistency regardless of the level and he’s clearly picked up the pace at Premier League level. The next three games suggest opportunities aplenty. Palace have shipped 10 goals thus far, Burnley have been frugal with just the 4 but Newcastle are bottom and have seen 11 go in. We fancy Leicester and in particular Mr ‘who are you?’ Ulloa will do well in the upcoming games. Don’t let that £5.7m tag put you off – you don’t have to cost the earth to be a fantasy God sometimes. If you can’t stretch to £5.7m (!) then perhaps James Vardy is also worth a look. At just £4.9 Vardy was surely the best value for money player around this week racking up an astonishing 21 points!. This was his first start this season but given his overall performance he will surely have done enough to cement his place. After all not many players can claim to have scored one goal and assisted four others in one game, never mind against Man Utd.
LESS FAVOURABLE FIXTURES
Aston Villa – Chelsea (a), Man City (h), Everton (a)
Ah, and so finally we get to the point where there is only so much a scary bloke with a badger beard can do… We kept putting Villa in this section and they kept making us look silly. Not just us to be fair – they made Liverpool, Hull and Stoke look equally as daft recently but they finally came unstuck in a ridiculous three minute spell against Arsenal towards the end of the first half on Saturday. Those three minutes aside you could argue that they had been dogged throughout and done what they have been doing so far which is keeping teams at bay and counter attacking with pace to good effect.
Roy may need to perfect his scowl from behind Lambert’s cloak in the coming weeks though as their fixture schedule still looks daunting. Chelsea, City and Everton in the next three still looks incredibly difficult for them. Villa have posted 10 points on the board already which is roughly a quarter of their target for survival, which is surely their No.1 priority, so they may view the immediate games ahead as ‘nothing to lose’. That may be as well and we expect they will. Certainly against Chelsea and Man City in the next two. Still no love for any Villa players here though given their run ahead.
QPR – Southampton (a), West Ham (a), Liverpool (h)
We worry for QPR. We don’t lose any any sleep over it to be fair as we couldn’t care less, but we worry about them in terms of their FPL prospects. We feel they are on the precipice of becoming the whipping dogs. If Harry gets a grip then maybe they won’t but the next three games are crucial to them. Southampton look great at home and we expect they will have more than enough to put QPR away. West Ham away will be difficult and then they pitch up at Anfield. Liverpool should in theory have Sturridge back by then and be firing once more. All in all we wouldn’t recommend any QPR coverage for your FPL team either in terms of attack or defence for the foreseeable future.
Everton – Liverpool (a), Man Utd (a), Aston Villa (h)
Truth be told we don’t actually know if this is a good or bad run for Everton. On paper, in previous seasons, seeing Liverpool and Man Utd away should be a poor run. Given that each is giving goals away like candy at the moment though we just don’t know! Everton themselves have conceded 13 so that would suggest high scoring encounters against both Liverpool and United.
If you have Everton defenders then it’s likely to be either Baines or Coleman and let’s face it you don’t play them to get clean sheets anyway – they are essentially midfielders and should be played every week regardless of fixtures so we would suggest you do so. If you have attacking coverage (most likely just Lukaku!) then again the same applies, probably best just to play him / them given the oppositions propensity to concede. So yeah, while they started life in the ‘poor’ fixtures section they may well be considered as having a decent run depending on your personnel…
Spurs – Arsenal (a), Southampton (h), Man City (a)
West Brom at home should have been a banker and many saw a Chadli / Adebayor ‘open goal’ which was understandable but Spurs managed to conspire an improbable 0-1 defeat. Much has been made of the Europa League hangover but in reality Spurs rested the majority of their team for Thursdays game but unfortunately the ones that did rest forgot to clock back in come Sunday.
The next three look particularly tricky too as they have a London derby against Arsenal up next followed by a difficult game against their managers former club and ‘in-form’ Southampton. Man City away rounds it off which speaks for itself. We wouldn’t be too confident on playing any Spurs assets throughout this run to be honest.
This week sees a raft of Capital One Cup fixtures. Our advise would be to wait until Thursday if you can to make any transfers once we have got these games out of the way. It is worth noting that any cards or suspensions incurred in this competition do count as a domestic suspension and could rule players out of the weekends Premier League games. The following all play this week: