Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football is a wonderful thing. I also hate it intensely. Welcome to a weekly feature where I offer my thoughts on the week’s fantasy football picks – a growing cause of stress amongst addicts around the world.

There are many brilliant fantasy football resource sites around, offering everything from detailed fixture trackers to expected price changes. Expect none of that here. For you see, I make what in my mind are very logical decisions, but they regularly turn out to be infuriatingly bad. It was this time last week that I opted for Olivier Giroud over Harry Kane, just to give you a flavour of what you’re dealing with. As of this writing, I sit 300,811th in the world on the official FPL game, which is nothing to shout about. It also means you could get advice from 300,810 more suitable people, but let’s assume they are unavailable and you are stuck with me. Just call me David Moyes.

The Dilemma
Diego Costa threw an onion in the ointment last weekend with what is officially being called a bad back but sounds like a case of wanted-to-move-to-China-itis. Fantasy Managers headed for the metaphorical hills and transferred the Spaniard out, but with reports surfacing that he is back in training, a recall is surely on the cards. With Chelsea hosting Hull, it’s pretty close to being a must have. His price has tumbled to £10.3, but I have a fear that Conte will prove a point by leaving him on the bench and keeping faith with the side that dispatched Leicester last week. I’ll be waiting to see what Conte says in Friday’s pre-match presser, but if you can afford Hazard, I’d get him in instead. Hull have the clumsiest defence around and he’ll fancy a penalty, as well as wreaking havoc in open play.

An alternative to Costa is Giroud (£8.7), who has supposedly shaken off an ankle injury to take his place at home to Burnley. Giroud is a flat track bully and this is the sort of game he thrives in, especially with Burnley’s woeful away form, but will that injury prevent him playing the full game?

Must Haves
With Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal having favourable home fixtures, you don’t need me to tell you about the merits of having the players from these teams. But imagine the hell that will have been West Brom training this week, after a 4-0 thrashing. The baseball-capped Mourinho will have been drilling defensive discipline all week no doubt, and with a favourable 5 fixture run coming up starting at home to out of form Sunderland, I’d say make sure you’ve got some WBA coverage. Chris Brunt is down as a defender despite spending most of his time swinging in set pieces and playing on the wing, but he’s carrying a knock at present.

Here are some alternatives to think about if you don’t have loads of money in the bank. Jose Fonte has left a big European Championship winning hole in the Southampton defence which is being filled by Maya Yoshida. At £4.2, he’s a real bargain with perennial away losers Leicester the visitors this weekend. Likewise, a painful looking injury for Jan Vertonghen at Spurs has opened the door for either Kevin Wimmer (£4.6) or Ben Davies (£4.7). With Spurs away at Man City this weekend it might be worth holding off to see who is given the nod before a more favourable fixture at Sunderland.

In midfield, how about Everton’s FM re-gen Tom Davies? At just £4.3 he’s one of the cheapest midfielders in the game, but his place is set to come under scrutiny due to the arrival of Morgan Schneirderlin (£4.6). A slightly pricier option is Chelsea’s Pedro, who is in great form and a very reasonable £7.0 if you can’t afford Hazard.

Up front, Sadio Mane’s ongoing absence at Liverpool has left space for Divock Origi (£6.6) but his contender for worst penalty of the season at Plymouth might lead to Klopp opting for the more expensive Daniel Sturridge (£9.7). Going back to WBA, Rondon (£6.8) must fancy his chances of having the ancient John O’Shea as a tasty Saturday afternoon snack, or you could take advantage of Bournemouth’s back to back home fixtures (starting with a woeful Watford side), but only if you can figure out which striker Eddie Howe will go with. Howe has done a lot of rotation recently, to no real success.

I hate the captaincy pick. It’s actually worse in weeks like this where any number of top players could fill their boots. I don’t have Hazard, who would be my choice, so I’m going to go for Sanchez. With Man City and Tottenham clashing sometimes the top clashes end up being tight affairs, but with Bravo and Stones about I’d be very surprised if Tottenham don’t score. Kane is in great form, so I’d never write him off. Liverpool don’t look the same without Mane, and with Coutinho making his way back to full fitness I don’t think they have captaincy credentials this week. The undroppable Zlatan is away to Stoke, which isn’t the test it used to be but still not as favourable as some other fixtures this weekend.

So there you have it, do with my advice what you will. Sadly, I have to follow my own advice, but you very much have a choice. Good luck!