Continuing the Fantasy Premier League 2018/19 team preview series, I look at the best picks, gambles and those to avoid completely for Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle.
There is a RealSport league again this year, with another cash prize of £50. Head to the FPL site and use the code 20571-70568 or click here to enter.
Manchester United (A); Wolves (H); Southampton (A); Liverpool (H); Bournemouth (A); Huddersfield (H)
Leicester have a tough opener travelling to Old Trafford, but all is not well on the red side of Manchester and I’m tempted to put something on Leicester coming away with a point at least.
After that they have a decent run of fixtures that lasts until GW16, with only Arsenal and Liverpool from the top six in that period.
Jamie Vardy (FWD, 9.0m)
Nobody will be more crucial to Leicester this season than their indefatigable striker. Jamie Vardy has been Leicester’s top scorer for each of the last three seasons and this has led to his deserved England call up for the Euros and World Cup squads.
This year he has lost his partner in crime following the big money move Riyad Mahrez has been angling for throughout the last two seasons, so his role will be even more vital. He had the fifth most penalty box touches of all strikers and a 50% shot accuracy last year.
James Maddison (MID, 6.5m)
The man who Leicester have pinned their hopes on to replace their creative dynamo is James Maddison. The youngster moved from Norwich over the summer for £25 million and could be FPL gold!
Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs
He scored 14 goals and got eight assists in an average Championship side last year, helped a lot by his proficiency at set pieces. It's likely he will also be on these at Leicester now Mahrez is gone and that could lead to plenty of points.
Harry Maguire (DEF, 5.5m)
England’s World Cup run had plenty of star turns, but none were more surprising than the meteoric rise of Harry Maguire. He was imperious in the air, calm on the floor and comfortable carrying the ball out of defence into dangerous areas.
Finally, he also had plenty of headed chances from corners and we know Leicester have a good dead-ball man. Last year he had the second most shots of all centre backs.
West Ham (H); Crystal Palace (A); Brighton (H); Leicester (A); Spurs (A); Southampton (H)
Liverpool have a great opening run including West Ham and Brighton at home. Mohamed Salah has already been firing in pre-season and if you’re still holding out on owning him due to the price, you desperately need to reconsider.
Mohamed Salah (MID, 13.0m)
The most expensive player in the game this season also holds the record for the most FPL points in a single season. What more can you say about Salah that hasn’t already been said?
Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
He is a singular talent playing in a dangerous attacking team with plenty of opportunities to improve upon his tally from last year! He has to be in your team for GW1. While he scored 20 big chances last year, he also missed 23 so there is definitely more to come.
Roberto Firmino (FWD, 9.5m)
Roberto Firmino had his best season in the Premier League last year as he grew into his role as Liverpool’s number nine. He was the perfect foil for the pace and dynamism of Salah and Sadio Mane, allowing the Reds to steamroll a lot of teams and propelling Salah forward to the heady heights he reached
He is still priced at a very kind 9.5m, which would allow you to double up on the Liverpool attack. Last year he created more chances than any other forward.
Sadio Mane (MID, 9.5m)
Mane is not much of a gamble as he is a strong, powerful winger with a decent history in FPL. However, selecting Mane means you must either double up on the Liverpool midfield or go without Salah, and neither are tempting prospects for me!
Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
There’s also the introduction of Xherdan Shaqiri, who could take some of Mane’s minutes and reduce his appeal even further. He had a penalty box touch every 15.5 minutes last year, so he's not letting Salah have all the fun.
Andrew Robertson (DEF, 6.0m)
The young Scot had an incredible break out season last year and managed 111 points with just over half a season.
With a new, more assured goalkeeper behind him and Salah and Firmino still there to put away the chances he creates, the sky is the limit for Robertson. 6.0m is pretty steep, but I’m willing to pay up to secure his services as Robertson put in a cross every 22 minutes last year.
Virgil van Dijk (DEF, 6.0m)
The alternative to Robertson is the world’s most expensive defender. Virgil van Dijk does not offer the continual attacking presence of Robertson, but he is strong in the air and can be a danger from set pieces.
He is also more of a magnet for bonus points with his excellent defensive stats. Last year he made a clearance every 14 minutes and a recovery every 16 minutes.
Arsenal (A); Huddersfield (H); Wolves (A); Newcastle (H); Fulham (H); Cardiff (A)
After the trip to the Emirates on the opening weekend it looks very rosy for Manchester City. In weeks two to seven they play every newly promoted side this year and every side who came up the season before.
They also won’t be missing as many players as some of their rivals with Leroy Sane and Mahrez not going to the World Cup, while Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva did not go deep enough into the tournament to miss the opening weeks of the season.
Kevin De Bruyne (MID, 10.0m)
He may not be the name on everybody’s lips for City, but he really is the beating heart of the team and his consistency under Pep Guardiola is phenomenal. He topped 200 points for the first time last year, with eight goals and 18 assists.
Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
He might not explode like Aguero or Raheem Sterling, but he will bring you attacking returns most weeks and is less likely to be a victim of Guardiola's roulette.
He had the most successful passes in the opposition half and the final third and he created more chances and more big chances than any other midfielder.
Sergio Aguero (FWD, 11.0m)
City’s star striker hit 200 goals for the club in the Charity Shield against Chelsea, and now he needs to push on and help them become the first team to retain the title since Manchester United in 2008/09.
He is one of a select few who has scored five goals in a Premier League match — what a day that was in FPL — and despite injuries and rotation with Jesus he has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last four seasons.
The only worry is rotation, but surely the Community Shield showed who Guardiola trusts the most to get the job done?
Riyad Mahrez (MID, 9.0m)
Does Guardiola really need another attacking midfielder? Mahrez joins the ranks of Bernardo, David Silva, Sterling, Sane and De Bruyne, but I’m picking the Algerian to go big early on for a few reasons.
Firstly, he has finally achieved his big money move and will be desperate to impress his new boss. Secondly, he had no World Cup, so he has had a good rest and a full pre-season.
Finally, Guardiola thinks he can play in any attacking role, either behind the striker or out wide, so he could avoid some rotation issues.
It is a gamble but for 0.5m less than Sane it could be worth it. Last year he was only behind De Bruyne, Eriksen and Salah for shots on target.
Bernardo Silva (MID, 7.5m)
If you want a more dangerous City pick the Bernardo Silva could be your man. The Portuguese winger is getting a lot of love from Guardiola in pre-season and could be in line for more minutes this season, especially while De Bruyne and Sterling are taking their time returning to the fold.
It is a gamble because its unlikely he’ll be first choice once the full range of attacking options becomes available, but in that opening run he could be a great asset with <5% ownership.
Benjamin Mendy (DEF, 6.0m)
City kept a whopping 18 clean sheets last year, showing how difficult it is to score when you just don’t have the ball.
Benjamin Mendy was not involved in many of those shut-outs because he picked up a severe knee injury early on, but he’s back now and can finally show why City paid over £50 million for him.
He will pick up all those clean sheets and add more width and pace to City’s attack, putting in tantalising low crosses for his teammates to put away.
Ederson (GK, 5.5m)
He might not get the save points that David de Gea gets, but Ederson is a great choice as a premium goalkeeper. He is a strong shot stopper and his distribution is outstanding, so there’s always a chance of a cheeky assist.
Leicester (H); Brighton (A); Spurs (H); Burnley (A); Watford (A); Wolves (H)
The fixtures don’t look too daunting for Manchester United. They have a visit from Spurs as their only contact with the rest of the top six, but there are some potential banana-skins with Leicester at home and a trip to Burnley.
There’s also the matter of Jose Mourinho's traditional third season meltdown, which could already be starting as he looks to belittle as many of his players as possible and blame them for United’s shortcomings in pre-season. Maybe it will all be alright on Friday night…
Alexis Sanchez (MID, 10.5m)
The monster of FPL in 2016/17, Alexis Sanchez had a rough time last year as he couldn’t get out of Arsenal until January and then struggled to fit into the United set up.
However, he has had a summer off — the first in a while for him — and will surely look to start building his reputation at his new club.
Romelu Lukaku (FWD, 11.0m)
Romelu Lukaku managed 16 goals and seven assists last year, and yet it still felt a little like an underwhelming season from the Belgian.
He failed to reach the heights of his final year at Everton and was often left isolated by his team’s defensive tactics. However, he is still Mourinho's main man up front and surely will be the key to a sustained title challenge for the Red Devils.
Jesse Lingard (MID, 7.0m)
Jesse Lingard was a key part of England’s run to the semi-finals in Russia and scored one of the goals of the tournament against Panama.
This year he will be aiming to nail down his place in the Red Devils' starting line-up and kick on from whirlwind summer. Last year he had ten big chances in just half a season.
David de Gea (GK, 6.0m)
He is the only goalkeeper worth more than 5.5m and there is a reason. De Gea was incredible last season and outscored Sanchez, David Silva, Aguero and a host of other big name on points.
He’s a guaranteed route into Mourinho’s stingy defence and is probably the most rotation proof player in the game. If you can get past spending 6.0m on a GK, he’s definitely worth it.
Anthony Martial (MID, 7.5m)
There was a scramble to bring in the Frenchman a few weeks ago as Mourinho announced that he would be starting the season up front as they waited on the return of Marcus Rashford and Lukaku.
However, his manager is now denouncing him in the media as he left their pre-season tour to attend the birth of his second child, the monster! Mourinho’s history of player spats is well known, and it’s difficult to predict how long this one will last.
Spurs (H); Cardiff (A); Chelsea (H); Manchester City (A); Arsenal (H); Crystal Palace (A)
Oh dear. Four of the top six, the other two matches away from St James Park. Even if the team wasn’t in open revolt against the Mike Ashley regime, it would be worth staying away.
Matt Ritchie (MID, 6.0m)
There aren’t many outstanding options at Newcastle, but Matt Ritchie is a solid choice with a respectable history in the Premier League.
He won’t set your team on fire any time soon, but he will chip in with occasional goals and assists to justify his spot as third or fourth midfielder. Last year he created ten big chances, on a par with Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas.
Jamaal Lascelles (DEF 5.0m)
Newcastle’s captain and the one man capable of getting the team geared up for the new season, Jamaal Lascelles would be an interesting option if it wasn’t for those dreadful fixtures.
Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith
They look a lot better from GW9 onwards, so at that point Lascelles could come into his own and offer a viable alternative to the template team that will already be forming. Last year he had eight shots on target, not bad for a centre back.
Jonjo Shelvey (MID, 5.5m)
Shelvey is the classic FPL troll. His YouTube highlights clips make him out to be a world beater, but his attitude can swing wildly between and even during matches.
I’m not denying he is an incredibly talented player with a superb eye for a pass, but he needs to get his head down and focus on consistency before he becomes a decent option. Last year he was one of only two midfielders to receive two red cards.