Welcome back to another season of Fantasy Premier League! It feels like forever ago that Chelsea lifted the trophy as winners of the 2014/15 season, which is incredible since the offseason was one of the shortest weíve ever seen.
As we did last season, RotoWire is teaming up with daily fantasy soccer powerhouse MondoGoal.com to provide our readers with player and strategy recommendations, injury news and game tips to help increase our bankrolls.
MondoGoal offers daily games covering numerous leagues and competitions, including the English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Major League Soccer, as well as the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. And if thatís not enough, they also offer multi-league contests, which allow you to create a lineup with Lionel Messi and/or Cristiano Ronaldo from La Liga, Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Ligue 1 and Francesco Totti from Serie A, though you better have some good value picks if you want them all!
Before we dive in, itís worth recognizing some great enhancements that MondoGoal has made since last season. One of the biggest improvements is the My Lineups page, which gives users the ability to view all of their lineups on a single page; this is particularly great news for multi-entry players. In addition, you can track your scores in real time from across multiple lineups and leagues on that screen.
You can also create a lineup and easily import or export it to one or numerous other contests if you think you found the right sleeper picks who will propel you to big winnings. In addition, MondoGoal has created a quick join feature which allows you to join multiple contests without having to go into each draft room.
Finally, users in the United States can play in both USD and GBP by changing the currency in the dropdown menu on the top right corner of the site. MondoGoal is offering GPPs in both currencies, so donít miss out!
MondoGoalís game is based on a $/£100 million budget for 11 players, using either a 3-4-3, 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 formation. Unlike season-long games that are very dependent on goals and clean sheets, MondoGoal awards points for a number of different statistics. Hereís the scoring breakdown:
There are a plethora of different contests throughout the weekend, so you can play just the Saturday slate, just Sunday or the entire gameweek (including Monday). The biggest GPP comes on the GBP side, with a £2 entry and a £2,000 prize for first place. The contest kicks off with the Manchester United vs. Tottenham tie, which begins Saturday at 7:45 a.m. EDT.
And while you may be fired up to get some of the game's best in your lineups, there are a few big fitness questions heading into the weekend.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has previously stated that Alexis Sanchez (£10.5m) will not feature in the opener after his trophy-winning run with Chile at Copa America. In addition to Alexis, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (£15.6m) could also have his debut delay because of the (mostly) South American tournament.
There are also a few fitness concerns with some upper-tier fantasy options, as Chelsea's Diego Costa (£10.9m) is already dealing with a hamstring injury, as is Everton's Romelu Lukaku (£9.1m). Adding fuel to the fire, the Liverpool duo of Christian Benteke (£9.6m) and Roberto Firmino (£8.3m) are both short of match fitness, so even if they start, getting a full 90 minutes seems unlikely.
Nevertheless, we still need to fill our squads out, so here are a few players from each position that look poised to make an impact this weekend:
After a season when he was moved all over the pitch, including an extended time in midfield that sapped him of most of his fantasy value, Wayne Rooney (£11.5m) is finally moving back to the striker position that made him such a valuable fantasy asset in the first place. He'll kick off the weekend against Tottenham, a club that upgraded their defense with the additions of Toby Alderweireld and Kieran Trippier, though they may be forced to use backup goalkeeper Michel Vorm, as starter Hugo Lloris continues to recover from a broken wrist. Rooney will be joined in the attack by summer-signing Memphis Depay (£12.6), who had 22 goals and five assists for PSV Eindhoven last season. The expectations are high for Depay, as evidenced by his price tag that's above Rooney's, but the England captain will line up further up, giving him a better taste for goal early in the season.
The absences of Alexis, Aguero and (possibly) Costa opens up playing time for three additional players, all of whom should be heavily considered this weekend. Theo Walcott (£10.5m) has played exceptionally well this summer and just inked a new long-term contract to stay at the Emirates. He is likely to start in place of Alexis, and while the Chilean is a world class player, Walcott has shown that he can be a dominant player in the Premier League (as long as he stays healthy). Wilfried Bony (£10.1m) looks primed to take Aguero's spot in the starting XI, and while he faces off against a tough Tony Pulis-designed defense, Bony has shown an ability to score strong goals for both Swansea and Manchester City. Yes, he was a bit of a disappointment after his January transfer, but there are elite players around him at City and he should have an excellent shot at goal. Finally, Loic Remy (£8.0m) appears to be the beneficiary of a Costa absence, though loanee Radamel Falcao (£7.8m) could also get the start. Either way, they make for solid value plays as a starting striker for last year's second highest scoring team.
And if you're looking for an even bigger value, the first place to look is toward AFC Bournemouth's Callum Wilson (£8.5m). A scorer of 20 goals and seven assists last season, Wilson will lead the line for Bournemouth, who led the Championship last season in goals scored (98) and goal differential (plus-53). He'll face off against an Aston Villa side that has big questions thanks to the summer sales of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, while failing to land at least one big-time defender to improve the team that finished with the third most goals allowed and second-worst goal differential (worse than two of the three relegated clubs) last season.
For all of the fitness issues among the forward ranks, there are plenty of midfielders to consider. Chelsea's Eden Hazard is rightfully the most expensive player on the weekend, coming in at £17.6m. He averaged an astonishing 13.34 fantasy points per game last season, with the next highest midfielder, Arsenal's Santi Cazorla (£14.0m), coming in at 10.80 points per game. You pay for Hazard, but you get what you pay for.
In order to afford the Chelsea star, it's imperative to find at least one value play that will still deliver consistent fantasy points, and Bournemouth's Matt Ritchie (£6.9m) is the first that should come to mind. Making his Premier League debut against the weak Villa side mentioned above, the midfielder comes into the match after an astonishing 15 goals and 17 assists last season. If Bournemouth are going to score this weekend, and let's remember they can do that in bunches, Ritchie will certainly be involved.
If a promoted player doesn't provide confidence, Southampton's Dusan Tadic (£7.5m) fits the bill. He had a bit of an up-and-down second half of the season, but with a starting spot likely this time around, he makes for a solid play thanks to his activity on the ball. He finished with four goals and seven assists last season, and he could be an even bigger playmaker this year if manager Ronaldo Koeman starts Graziano Pelle and Jay Rodriguez together. Additionally, he is first up for penalties, giving him even more chances to score (like he did against Vitesse Arnhem in a Europa League match last week). Southampton will travel to face a Newcastle side that allowed the second-most goals in the Premier League last season, worse than two relegated clubs, while tying Crystal Palace and Sunderland for the most goals allowed at home.
The middle tier, price-wise, has a number of intriguing options, with Juan Mata (£11.6m), Christian Eriksen (£9.0m), Jordan Henderson (£9.3m) and Sadio Mane (£10.3m) all worthy of consideration. Just note that Angel di Maria (£10.3m) is close to joining Paris Saint-Germain, so stay away from the talented Argentine.
Defenders and Goalkeepers
The strategy of stacking defenders and goalkeepers together is a popular topic in DFS soccer and one that should certainly be discussed. Maximizing your points from the players charged with stopping opponents from scoring is imperative to set a base for your goal-scorers. However, because MondoGoal only allows you to take four players from one team, I advise against going all-in on a single team. While clean sheets are the biggest consistent point-producing statistic for defenders and goalies, so much can happen in a game that ruins them immediately. There's nothing like taking the clear favorite against the worst team in the league, only to have a third-minute penalty wipe away your clean sheet before you've even settled on the couch. Additionally, if you think Chelsea will dominate Swansea City this weekend, stacking Thibaut Courtois (£9.0m), Branislav Ivanovic (£9.4m), John Terry (£9.2m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£9.1m) together means you have no available spots for Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas (£12.2m) or Diego Costa (if he's fit).
That being said, pairing at least one defender with your goalkeeper is recommended, and I don't mind doing two defenders if they're capable of adding points elsewhere. You still get points for single-goal matches, and defenders can rack up points with tackles, interceptions and passes completed. Here are some of the stacks I'm focusing on this weekend:
Southampton: Owners of the second best defensive record last season, Southampton led the Premier League with the fewest goals allowed on the road. That's where they'll be this weekend when they travel to take on Newcastle. Starting goalkeeper Fraser Forster is likely out until 2016 because of a knee injury, leaving the job to Fulham-loanee Maarten Stekelenburg, who spent last season on the bench for Ligue 1 side AS Monaco. Not only do we get a goalkeeper for one of the better defensive teams in the Premier League, but Stekelenburg costs only £4.4m on MondoGoal. He's not the best keeper available, but he represents the best value.
The Saints' fullbacks from last season were excellent fantasy contributors, but both are unavailable for Southampton this weekend. Nathaniel Clyne was sold to Liverpool this summer and Ryan Bertrand is out until at least September because of a knee injury. Cedric Soares (£6.6m) was brought in to replace Clyne, while Matt Targett (£5.9m) is expected to start at left back. The combination of the three (Cedric, Targett and Stekelenburg) are enticing fantasy options on their own, but their low prices make them even more so.
AFC Bournemouth: Wait, a promoted side playing in their first Premier League game? I know it sounds a bit crazy, but we already discussed the weak Aston Villa attack, and Bournemouth have solid fullbacks who like to be involved in the attack. Simon Francis (£5.5m) and either Tyrone Mings (£5.2m) or Charlie Daniels (£6.4m) offer solid values with the potential for big fantasy points because of their ability to move up. With Aston Villa unlikely for an offensive explosion, the Bournemouth defense could provide a GPP punch.
Arsenal: If you're against choosing a team on the road (Southampton, as well as Manchester City and Liverpool) and a newly promoted squad (Bournemouth), then your top options are Chelsea vs. Swansea City and Arsenal hosting West Ham. Of the two, I'll give the slight edge to the Gunners, who will be trotting out new keeper (and former Blue) Petr Cech for his first Premier League start in red. The Arsenal defense is strong, but you'll also pay up for it with Laurent Koscielny (£9.1m) and Nacho Monreal (£8.9m) coming in the top-15 highest priced defenders. For a little savings, focus on Hector Bellerin (£8.0) and Per Mertesacker (£7.5m). Just remember, if you go too heavily on the Arsenal defense, you'll force yourself out of getting Mesut Ozil (£13.5m), Santi Cazorla (£14.0m), Olivier Giroud (£8.8m), Aaron Ramsey (£10.7m) or Theo Walcott (£10.5m).