The World Cup has ended just 26 days before the start of the Premier League season, and somewhat inevitably, this is going to have a massive impact for Fantasy Premier League managers.
24 players managed to break the 150 point barrier in Fantasy Premier League last season. Of those, 10 could be absent from the start of the season. FPL managers need to use this knowledge wisely to navigate the opening weeks and pick up some under the radar players.
Back in 2014, the World Cup ended five weeks before the start of the Premier League season, with some notable absentees from Gameweek 1. Here’s a summary of return dates to the starting line up for those PL players involved in the semi final/final stages.
Germany: Mertesacker (GW2), Ozil (GW2), Schürrle (GW1)
Argentina: Zabaleta (GW2), Aguero (GW3)
Netherlands: van Persie (GW2)
Brazil: Fernandinho (GW4), Ramires (GW3), Willian (GW3), Oscar (GW1)
Prediction: The majority of players who were at the semi finals won’t be in the starting XI at club level until around Gameweek 3 onwards. Those players involved at the Quarter Finals are also at risk of missing at least Gameweek 1.
The teams who may struggle the most at the start of the season, given significant involvement in the World Cup Semi Finals and beyond are: Spurs (9), Manchester United (7), Manchester City (7), Liverpool (4) and Leicester (2).
Spurs – Newcastle (A), Fulham (H), Manchester United (A), Watford (A)
Spurs are set for the most challenging start of the season, given that they’ve had 9 players involved in the latter stages of the World Cup. Unfortunately, this includes the main spine of their squad: Lloris, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Trippier, Alli and Kane. These six players have played a significant number of minutes out in Russia.
To complicate things further, with their new stadium not yet completed, they have three away fixtures in their opening four games, plus a “home” match at Wembley against Fulham. There’s also no guarantees that their new home will be ready for the visit of Liverpool in Gameweek 5.
Pochettino will be hoping to get the big players back for their Gameweek 3 trip to Old Trafford. Son is also set to miss the start of the season, as he participates in the Asian Games.
Their opening two fixtures have some appeal, but with the likely absentees, many FPL managers will be looking elsewhere. In general, I’m looking to avoid Spurs players altogether, but there could be a couple of early differential attacking players. Steer clear of the defence, including Ben Davies, as clean sheets will be tough to achieve without their first choice goalkeeper and centre backs.
Watchlist: Eriksen (9.5), Lamela (6.5), Sissoko (5.0), Llorente (6.0).
Manchester United – Leicester (H), Brighton (A), Spurs (H), Burnley (A)
Manchester United should be fine from a defensive perspective to start the season, with depth at centre-back and Left-back to overcome the absence of Jones and Young. It’s a different story in attack though: Pogba, Lingard, Rashford and Lukaku could all be missing for the early games.
The fixtures don’t look the easiest on paper, but Leicester and Spurs will also be missing key players in those games. Burnley could well be suffering fatigue, if they are involved in the latter stages of Europa League qualification.
The Manchester United defence were resolute last season, meaning investment will be tempting from the off. In attack, there are some differential stars that could shine early on: Rashford and Lukaku could miss Gameweek 1 and 2, so someone else will need to lead the line.
Watchlist: Bailly (5.5), Shaw (5.0), Sanchez (10.5), Martial (7.5), Mata (6.5)
Manchester City – Arsenal (A), Huddersfield (H), Wolves (A), Newcastle (H)
Manchester City have the strength and depth in attack to cope without Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. However, the defence could be more problematic, with potential absences for Stones, Kompany, Walker, Mendy and Delph.
The full backs are crucial to Pep’s system, but as it currently stands, they may be struggling against Arsenal in Gameweek 1. Pep may opt to shift to 3-5-2 for the early games, utilising midfielders Sane and Mahrez/B. Silva for the early games, which could dent their appeal.
With an easier schedule following the season opener at the Emirates, Pep may be patient with his returning stars, which could allow some cheaper differential players to enter our thoughts. There may be the opportunity for the star strikers to feature alongside each other up until the first International Break. The fixtures couldn’t be much better for the Champions!
Watchlist: Laporte (5.5), D. Silva (8.5), Aguero (11.0), Jesus (10.5)
Chelsea – Huddersfield (A), Arsenal (H), Newcastle (A), Bournemouth (H)
Maurizio Sarri hasn’t got an easy start on his hands, with the most influential players in his side all at risk of missing the start of the season: Courtois, Kante, Hazard and Giroud.
The defence is relatively unscathed, but with Caballero having a disastrous World Cup for Argentina, it may be hard to trust in them for clean sheets. Keep an eye on the transfer market for incoming players that could improve the appeal of the Blues.
Sarri will be doing his best to get his World Cup stars ready for Gameweek 2, as Arsenal visit Stamford Bridge. Expect a big tactical battle here between the two new managers in the Premier League. Differentials in attack could do well in the opening games.
Watchlist: Azpilicueta (6.5), Fabregas (6.5), Pedro (6.5)
Liverpool – West Ham (H), Crystal Palace (A), Brighton (H), Leicester (A)
Liverpool have got off lightly compared to the other big Premier League sides, with just 4 players advancing to the final stages: Mingolet, Lovren, Alexander-Arnold and Henderson.
Their overall squad and shape should be relatively unaffected by the World Cup, allowing them to field strong starting XI’s for the kindest set of fixtures all the big teams.
I’d recommend at least two Liverpool players for the start of the season. Mo Salah is pretty much essential, having amassed over 300 points last season. His ownership is already around 50%.
Watchlist: Robertson (6.0), Salah (13.0), Mane (9.5), Firmino (9.5)
Leicester – Manchester United (A), Wolves (H), Southampton (A), Liverpool (H)
Leicester have snuck into our thoughts, having two key players involved late on in the tournament: Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire. With Riyad Mahrez now at Manchester City, it’s going to be a difficult start for the Foxes.
Vardy, Mahrez and Maguire were the three highest scoring Leicester players in FPL last season, and will be a massive loss. Vardy may manage to get involved early in the season, since he didn’t play a huge amount of minutes for England.
Maguire will be a big absence in the defensive line up, he was very important for Leicester last season. Given the fixtures, it may just be the attackers who could be worth a punt in the early parts of the season.
Watchlist: Albrighton (5.5), Gray (5.5), Okazaki (5.5)
Here are my top tips for FPL managers:
- Avoid players involved in any of the Knockout Rounds of the World Cup.
- Keep an eye on pre season for returning players and potential minutes.
- Build a squad for the opening four games and consider an early wildcard.
- The Community Shield may give clues for Manchester City and Chelsea line ups.
- Follow your potential FPL players on social media to see when their holidays have ended and training has started.
Written by @FFCommunity_