The EPL season is finally here and with it comes our gameweek 1 preview article! There is a six game DraftKings main slate, with a $10k first place prize up for grabs in the $50k season kickoff to get us started.
I decided to just focus on the main slate here and go a bit more in depth on each team than I typically would. Unfortunately I probably won’t be able to play this slate but I wanted to get in the swing of things early and give you all my thoughts heading into the opening weekend. This article is a lot longer than normal, so you might want to go and grab a drink before you continue!
I will rely on stats throughout the article and as always these should be treated with caution, especially with some big personnel changes taking place throughout the league. If you aren’t sure what any of the abbreviations mean, check out the glossary page here.
Chelsea vs Burnley
Last season’s champions Chelsea host Burnley in a match that should see them start their 16/17 campaign with a win. Antonio Conte’s tactics quickly turned the defense into a league-best unit (ranked 1st passes/shot, xG and SoT against) and the attack was also impressive, outperforming xG by over 20 goals on their way to a relatively comfortable title win. We can’t expect their good fortune in front of goal to continue, but even still it would be a surprise if they weren’t in the mix for another trophy this season.
It would have made sense for Chelsea to strengthen the squad with the Champions League on the horizon, but there hasn’t been a rush to bring in new players over the summer. Replacing Nemanja Matic with Tiemoue Bakayoko looks reasonable on paper but it still leaves them a bit light in midfield, meaning the club’s ability to keep Kante fit is pivotal for their season. Antonio Rudiger adds some youth and flexibility to the back line, but again he is just a replacement for the outgoing Nathan Ake (Bournemouth, sold) and Kurt Zouma (Stoke, loan). Neither player is a viable fantasy option but Bakayoko should help to progress the ball through midfield to the more exciting front three. It will be interesting to see how Chelsea manage their new fixture load and we could potentially see them field a weakened side in the EPL if a deep UCL run is on the cards.
The biggest transfer news from a fantasy perspective is the signing of Alvaro Morata to replace Diego Costa up front. Morata has never played a full season in his career so far but he has looked fantastic when given the chance and if he can manage to replicate his production in the EPL he could be even better than Costa, beating his predecessor in Sh90 (3.71 vs 3.23) and SoT90 (2.02 vs 1.19) last season. An opening day matchup with Burnley is about as good as you could ask for and Morata is one of the top options at forward on the DraftKings main slate. Chelsea didn’t give Michy Batshuayi enough opportunity to show what he can do last season, but he has featured in preseason and might well get the nod over Morata this week. He is a talented young striker who has been scorching hot in limited minutes, with 5 goals already in his short EPL career. We can’t expect him to keep scoring at will but he projects similarly in this matchup, so at $8,400 he is an easy straight-swap for Morata if he starts.
Willian and Pedro are expected to start on the wings and both are excellent options on this slate, especially as they can be used at either the midfield or forward slots. Their per 90 stats are very similar in most key areas but Willian gets the edge here with 5.96 Crs90 vs Pedro’s 3.01 and he is a core building block in all formats. Pedro is always a threat to get on the scoresheet and he could go slightly overlooked in GPPs, as he doesn’t offer any salary relief from the other Chelsea forwards. He might be a nice
UPDATE: It looks like Pedro has been ruled out, so we might see Morata and Batshuayi start together instead.
Cesc Fabregas was only trusted with around 40% of the possible minutes last season, with the more defensively solid Matic getting the bulk of the playing time. Matic is out of the picture now, so we should see Cesc get more minutes and he looks guaranteed to start this one with Bakayoko sidelined. He typically takes set pieces when he is on the pitch and only Sunderland conceded more crosses per game than Burnley last season, so there should be plenty of opportunity for fantasy points in that regard, especially given that Chelsea managed to score 22 times from dead ball situations on their way to the title. Only Kevin De Bruyne created more good quality chances per 90 minutes than Fabregas last season, so whilst he isn’t as much of a goal threat as the players mentioned above he is likely to contribute one or two assists if (when) they get on the scoresheet. At $7,500 he is a great cash game play and can be paired with a Chelsea forward in GPPs to try to take advantage of a goal + assist bonus.
Marcos Alonso was a crucial piece of last season’s title winning side and I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up as the highest scoring defender on the slate, but at $6,700 it will take something special to make spending up for him worthwhile. He is certainly a very good option if you can afford him, but I am more interested in the $2,400 discount for Azpilicueta, who should start at RWB with Victor Moses suspended. He occupied a deeper role for the vast majority of last season but will be willing to get forward in this one and is much more likely to get a clean sheet bonus than anyone else in his price range. Courtois shouldn’t have much to do here and is about as safe as they come at goalkeeper in cash games.
Burnley are bad. Really bad. They were extremely lucky last season to concede 12 fewer goals than expected and it appears from the numbers that major regression is on the way, ranking near the bottom of the list in basically every category (fewer tackles and interceptions against is often just due to less possession). Burnley somehow escaped a relegation battle last season but they should be right in the middle of one this time, fighting it out with Huddersfield to avoid being the first team to drop. The squad is made up of players that are past their peak (average age of 28) and it seems to have got worse over the summer. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Burnley fans; their club have just sold Andre Gray to relegation rivals Watford (for a decent price, I’ll admit) and are now relying on 33 year old Jon Walters to make up the difference… Sean Dyche’s main tactics seem to be a mix of ‘hoof it up there and pray’ and ‘it’s fine, Heaton will save it’; surely unsustainable and we should see the trouble start this week when they travel to Stanford Bridge. It’s hard for me to recommend any Burnley players on a good day but there is no chance I can endorse anyone here.
West Bromwich Albion vs Bournemouth
If there was a ‘most boring club’ award West Brom would probably win it more often than not, but they got the job done last season with a solid 10th place finish that no doubt surprised a few people. It’s difficult to imagine them topping that this time round but they should be fine and it would be a shock to see them fall short of Pulis’s favourite 40 point mark. Matt Phillips missed some time last season but he should start this one and is a viable option at $6,400. Chris Brunt is slightly questionable but he is a similar option to Phillips at $6,000 if starting; if not then Phillips becomes more interesting with a bigger monopoly on set pieces. Brunt could start at LB instead, which would make him basically unplayable on DraftKings.
Jay Rodriguez is the main arrival at the club this summer for a fee of £15m. He has played worryingly few minutes for a 28 year old due to a succession of serious injuries and it feels a bit risky to sign him for that much despite his talent, but if he can stay fit he should offer more going forward than anyone else in the squad. His salary is an enticing $5,100 this week and it might be worth taking the chance in GPPs instead of Brunt or Phillips. If West Brom can find the back of the net JRod is likely to be involved; he contributed 0.47 xG90 last season in limited minutes at Southampton – more than Phillips, Brunt and Chadli combined (0.43).
Nyom, Dawson and Foster are not the worst options at their respective price tags but you can certainly do better and a clean sheet certainly can’t be relied upon here. West Brom relied heavily on set pieces last year, but despite that, 6 goal man McAuley is a worse option than he appears and he is questionable for this one anyway. We could see a back four of Brunt, Evans, Dawson and Nyom then, but if new man Hegazi starts it might be worth giving a closer look to Bournemouth attackers, as the Egyptian is basically unproven at this level.
Eddie Howe’s side played some attractive football at times last season but Bournemouth’s style of play frequently caused problems at the back, leading to a bottom 5 rank in shots, shots on target, chances created and xG against. They try to do press their opponents but more often than not it ends up backfiring and leaving them exposed defensively. Asmir Begovic and Nathan Ake have been brought in to help shore things up, but it would make sense to target one or two more reinforcements before the window closes, with Surman, Daniels and Francis all now on the wrong side of 30. Unless that happens we should perhaps expect more of the same this season then, with a top 10 attack carrying the shaky defence to another mid-table finish.
The other major signing was 34 (!) year old Jermain Defoe, who has seemingly found a genie in a lamp that has granted him a year at the club for each one of his three wishes. Joking aside, agreeing to pay huge wages to Defoe for three years is madness, especially when they already have three arguably better options in the squad that are nine years younger. Afobe in particular should feel a bit unlucky to be relegated to the bench after some good performances last season and I would prefer to see him in the starting lineup than old man Defoe for fantasy purposes. Neither player stands out as being a particularly great option vs a solid West Brom defense though, with both needing to score to avoid damaging your lineup.
Josh King ran unbelievably good last year in front of goal, scoring twice as many times as expected based on his xG numbers. His stats are basically average across the board and it seems unlikely that he can reach the same level of production this season. He isn’t a bad option here but his ownership and salary will likely remain too high in the first couple of weeks, so it might be better to stay away until interest in him cools off. That said, I do (unsurprisingly) prefer him to Defoe if you are looking for a Bournemouth forward to round off your lineup.
The best option on the team is Ryan Fraser at $6,800. West Brom ranked 16th in crosses against last season and Fraser (6.07 Crs90) looks to be in a great position to take advantage. He should take most of the set pieces for Bournemouth, but he generates over half of his crosses from open play so this looks like a good spot for him regardless. Charlie Daniels and Adam Smith are a bit overpriced here given the matchup; however, Smith has been dealing with an injury in preseason so if Francis starts at RB he is far too cheap at just $2,900. We can’t rely on his game logs given that he spent most of last season at CB, but despite his age he should be willing to get forward down the right and link up with Fraser.
Southampton v Swansea
Southampton were one of my favourite teams to roster last season, but unfortunately the results didn’t quite go to plan for the south coast side. They only managed 41 goals in the league, but an xG of 59.1 suggests that they were very unlucky to finish 15 points behind Everton in 8th place. Southampton’s stats are great across the board and I like their chances to go one better this season and earn the right to be known as the ‘best of the rest’. They host Swansea in the opener and we might see the goals start to appear at last.
Aside from the Virgil van Dijk saga things have been fairly uneventful this summer for Southampton in terms of transfers. Jan Bednarek has arrived to provide some much needed depth at CB, and we have already discussed Rodriguez’s move to the midlands. Their biggest deal so far is the £20m spent on young defensive midfielder Mario Lemina; he is comparable to Bakayoko on the stats front and should help to finally connect the dots between defense and attack with his passing and dribbling ability. The other big change is the new manager; Puel was unlucky to get the sack and we will have to wait and see how well Pellegrino can do in his first season in charge. Early indications are that we can expect a similar, high tempo style to that of last season, ideally looking to focus a bit more on quality of chances instead of quantity this time round.
Gabbiadini’s Southampton career started off in an excellent fashion; he set a new club record by scoring in each of his first 4 games which resulted in him winning the PFA player of the month award in February. That was the end of the good news, however, as the goals quickly dried up afterwards. His peripheral stats remained great though (3.57 Sh90, 0.59 xG90) and he is a good option in GPPs at $6,900 after finding the back of the net in preseason. Charlie Austin spent a large chunk of the last campaign in the treatment room but he is fit again and is just as good of an option as the Gabbiadini if he starts instead (3.49 Sh90, 0.66 xG90).
It always feels like Tadic hasn’t quite done enough on DraftKings to get you excited, but he is in the conversation for all formats this week at $7,300. It is preferable to spend the extra $200 on Fabregas in cash games, but Tadic isn’t too far behind and is perhaps better suited for GPPs than the Spaniard. James Ward-Prowse is still only 22 and he is quickly developing into a versatile core member of the squad. At $5,800 he offers a significant discount from Tadic without any real differences between the two in terms of stats (0.44 and 0.49 expected goal + assist contribution respectively). The two players split set piece duty last season and with a new manager it is tough to know who will be taking them this week, but they should both be able to contribute despite Swansea’s respectable 8th best cross against ranking. Sofiane Boufal or Nathan Redmond will round out a strong front four; neither are elite plays here but both are certainly viable in GPPs. Redmond appeared to be the better option last season but if Boufal starts he is worth a hard look at just $4,000 on DraftKings.
The Southampton fullbacks are usually all viable, and this slate is no different. Cedric Soares (5.15 Crs90) is one of the best plays at the position on a weekly basis, but Jeremy Pied has been getting the nod recently in preseason and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start again here. Pied was out for almost all of last season, but he managed an impressive 4.4 Crs90 in Ligue 1 before that and at $4,300 he is one of the better options this week. Bertrand is a little pricey at $5,100 (unless he ends up taking some set pieces), but a stack of Pied/Cedric, Bertrand and Forster could pay off nicely in GPPs if Southampton get the win and a clean sheet bonuses.
From the outside Swansea seemed like a bit of a mess last season. Guidolin appeared to be doing an OK job considering the state of the squad but he was quickly sacked and replaced by Bob Bradley. That experiment looked like it would condemn Swansea to relegation before Paul Clement arrived in January with some much needed reinforcements. The team improved significantly during the second half of the season and they eventually made it look comfortable with a late season win streak resulting in a 15th place finish.
It currently looks like Swansea’s season hinges on what happens with Gylfi Sigurdsson. Siggy is an elite fantasy option on DraftKings almost every week due to his set piece dominance (just under 60% his goals + assists last season were from dead ball situations), but as we know that doesn’t necessarily mean clubs should be pursuing him. Swansea have already rejected bids in excess of £40m, which seems ridiculously high for a 27 year old that doesn’t contribute as much as he should from open play at either end of the pitch.
If the sale does eventually go through it will be a fantastic piece of business by the club for that sort of money but it is looking increasingly likely that they will be under-equipped for the 17/18 campaign at this point. Roque Mesa has come in to help solidify the midfield and add a bit of creativity but Swansea are still in desperate need of reinforcements. Leroy Fer has been occupying the no. 10 role recently in place of Siggy and I would be very concerned if that was the long term solution… Swansea should sell Sigurdsson, but they will need to find some extra goals and assists from somewhere.
The only real bit of positive news for Swansea is the loan signing of Tammy Abraham from Chelsea. Abraham is a very exciting and talented prospect that scored 23 goals for Bristol City last season in the Championship; his 0.57 xG90 was only bettered by Mitrovic (players with > 1000 minutes only) despite the fact that he was playing for a significantly worse team. He can play anywhere across the front three and provides Swansea with a much needed alternative to the aging Llorente. At just 19 he is still very young and the jury is out on whether he will adapt well to life in the EPL straight away so it might be best to avoid him in a tough away fixture, especially as he has been dealing with an injury in preseason. That said, $3,500 is the lowest you will ever see him on DraftKings so it’s hard to argue with a GPP flier and if nothing else he is someone to keep a close eye on in the next few weeks.
Swansea look like a good team to avoid this week overall given the difficulty of their matchup and lack of certainty around who will take over set piece duty. Jordan Ayew is playable in certain situations but this is not the spot to use him, and the fullbacks aren’t quite cheap enough to make them interesting. Fernando Llorente isn’t expected to play but in any case he overperformed last year in front of goal and is likely to take a step back this season, especially without Sigurdsson delivering crosses for him.
Everton v Stoke
Everton’s 7th place finish last season was about as good as they could realistically hope for. The stats indicate it wasn’t surprising to see them up there but they are a long way behind the top 6 and will do well to reach the dizzy heights of 7th again when everything is said and done. Koeman was willing to change his tactics throughout the season and he will have to do so again with a revamped forward line and European football on the cards.
It has been a very busy transfer window for Everton this summer. Losing Romelu Lukaku was inevitable and it will be hard to replicate his career-best 25 goal tally from last season. Despite this Koeman was still heavily focused on defensive reinforcements, with Cuco Martina joining on a free to provide some much needed depth at RB and Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane arriving for £30m apiece. At first glance both players feel a tad on the expensive side, but adding some young faces to an ageing back line was a must over the summer and it actually looks like good business by Everton. At 23, Pickford is already a top class goalkeeper, ranking 3rd in the league last season in expected saves and ball distribution according to goalkeeper guru Sam Jackson’s numbers here. Pickford and Keane were stand-out performers on two of the worst sides to ever grace the league and both were very good at long ball distribution which explains Everton’s interest; Sunderland and Burnley were two of the (only) five teams that showed more willingness than Everton to rely on long balls last season.
The attacking reinforcements look a lot more questionable. Everton appear convinced that the 31 year old version of Rooney can replace both Lukaku and out of favour Ross Barkley at the same time. I am not so confident and would much rather see them persist with Barkley from both a real-life and a fantasy perspective. That said, he is one of the top options on the slate against a lacklustre Stoke side, having contributed almost 3 Sh90 and 5.5 Crs90 last season. He looks likely to fight it out with Leighton Baines for set piece duty and at $7,300 he is in play in all formats.
New striker Sandro Ramirez is also in the conversation for set pieces having taken a few at previous club Malaga, but he looks less likely to get the nod in that regard. He was a valuable fantasy asset last season (13.3 FPPG) but he is another player that benefited from good fortune in front of goal and the shot-happy (3.58 per 90) forward can expect to cool off a bit in his new team (just 0.08 xG/shot according to StatsBomb). It will be a tough ask for him to get on the scoresheet in his debut but at $7,100 he is a solid option in GPPs this weekend in case he does find the back of the net.
Davy Klaassen completes the attacking overhaul and the former Ajax man got on the scoresheet 20 times last season in all competitions, adding 12 assists that helped the Dutch club to the Europa league final. A haul like that is very impressive for a midfielder but players arriving from the Eredivisie often underwhelm when they get to the Premier League and nothing in Klaassen’s stats suggest he will be able to keep going at that pace (just 1.89 Sh90 last season in a shot-happy league). He certainly could be a good signing but he is a boom-or-bust fantasy option that needs a goal to be worth rostering, so it is sensible to wait and see how well he can adapt to the league before using him.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has impressed the manager during preseason and the young Englishman looks likely to edge out Kevin Mirallas on the left wing in the season opener as a result. We haven’t seen anything special in the stats in limited minutes last season but he should be willing to run in behind Stoke’s defence and try to get on the end of some of those inevitable long balls. At just $3,800 he might be worth a GPP flier. If instead Mirallas does draw the start he immediately enters the conversation for set pieces (5.8 Crs90 last season).
Koeman has shown a willingness to mix up his defence in preseason, utilising both a back three and back four. Leighton Baines looks certain to start at LB or LWB in either formation and $5,300 is a fair price. Baines is entering the twilight years of his career but can still contribute with crosses, especially if he ends up taking set pieces from the left side of the pitch. Mason Holgate is a more budget-friendly option at $4,500 but he could end up starting at CB instead of RB, with Tom Davies likely to occupy the RWB spot if that is the case. I am not concerned with the attacking ‘talent’ Stoke have to offer and Pickford is firmly in play at $5,300.
Stoke seemed destined for mid-table mediocrity unless they get rid of manager Mark Hughes. Things were looking up a couple of seasons ago but all talk of the ‘Stokalona’ revolution has long since disappeared and the side has seen any real improvement during that time frame. They look certain to leave the fans wanting more yet again this time out.
Moving old-timers Jon Walters and Glen Whelan to new clubs proved easier than it should have been, but the squad doesn’t appear to be getting any younger with 33 year old Darren Fletcher brought in to replace Whelan and a one year contract extension offered to 36 year old Peter Crouch. Losing Marko Arnautovic weakens the first team significantly; Chuopo-Moting is a capable replacement but it will be hard for him to replicate Arnie’s 0.51 xG+xA per 90. The trip to Everton will likely come too soon for the Cameroon international so we should see Bojan or Sobhi start on the left wing; neither are ideal fantasy options this week though.
Joe Allen was good last season and at $4,100 seems cheap, but realistically there will be better spots than this to use him or LB Erik Pieters. Saido Berahino has been very disappointing since his 14/15 season at West Brom and he is someone to avoid this week too. Xherdan Shaqiri is worth a look most weeks (6.91 Crs90) but it is tough to imagine him being worthy of his $7,700 price tag in this matchup.
Crystal Palace vs Huddersfield
Crystal Palace were better than their results suggested last season, with a leaky defense and some bad luck contributing to a disappointing 14th place finish. They should be able to bounce back a bit in 17/18, with a top 10 finish not out of the question if things go extremely well. New manager Frank de Boer has made some big changes to the system over the summer, with last year’s DM Luka Milivojevic and new signing Jairo Riedewald likely to flank Scott Dann in an ambitious back three system. Yohan Cabaye is too talented to be left out of the side when fit but he didn’t provide any assistance to the defense last season, something loan signing Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be expected to help fix. Jason Puncheon has slotted in alongside him in a new central role and he is in play this week at $4,700, but you are likely to be left wishing you had stayed away in GPPs (just 0.26 xG+xA per 90).
Patrick van Aanholt and Andros Townsend have occupied the wingback spots in de Boer’s 3-4-3 system during preseason, which seems like a recipe for disaster vs good teams but could pay dividends against newcomers Huddersfield. PVA doesn’t cross much but he is a threat going forward, with his mark of 0.21 xG+xA per 90 not far behind Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso (0.25). At $4,900 he is one of the top options on the slate. Townsend isn’t a player I would want on my real-life team, but a tendency to shoot and cross from everwhere means that he is usually a great fantasy asset (8.31 Crs90). He is firmly in play in this matchup; $7,800 is a very steep price to pay for a wingback but it’s tough to see Townsend doing much defending here.
Wilfred Zaha is another Palace winger that is overrated in my opinion, but Palace seem to like him and have signed him up for another five years. He isn’t an awful player and is certainly capable of doing some damage in one of the best matchups he will get all season, but $8,200 looks a bit high for a player with underwhelming stats across the board. It might surprise you that he was below average last season in all the key metrics and he appears unlikely to repeat a 16 G+A performance in this campaign. I would rather take the chance on teammate Christian Benteke in GPPs, who comes with a $400 discount from Zaha and has more upside too (0.47 xG90 vs Zaha’s 0.18). He isn’t a must-play at that salary but there should be some goals for Palace and Benteke is more likely than anyone else on the team to bag one. It is interesting to note that the new manger wants them to play the ball on the ground more according to Benteke. We could see last season’s second best cross rank come down this time then, whilst Benteke himself might struggle to adjust to playing with the ball at his feet more often.
The final man on the front line is youngster Jason Lokilo, who has impressed de Boer in preseason and could draw the start here. He isn’t in the playerpool on DraftKings but it will be interesting to see how he grades out once we have a bit of data available. Schlupp is the other potential starter either at wingback or further forward, and he is too cheap at $3,600 if he is handed an advanced role.
Huddersfield engineered a surprise playoff victory to earn promotion thanks to manager David Wagner’s solid tactical system, ranking highly last season in all of the key stat categories. The current squad looks outmatched in the EPL, though, so it is no surprise to see them listed as the bookies’ favourites to go straight back down. We should expect a big drop off in the stats as they move into a tougher league but in general the promoted teams look more capable of survival than last season’s relegated clubs.
I haven’t watched many Huddersfield games but a quick glance at the data suggests that they could frustrate teams defensively and new signings up front at least give them an outside chance of staying up. Steve Mounie and Tom Ince have shown decent signs in their respective leagues (0.49 and 0.46 xG+xA per 90 respectively) and Ince in particular might be worth a punt in GPPs (4.12 Crs90) in case Palace haven’t got used to their new defensive system yet.
Aaron Mooy took the majority of the set pieces for Huddersfield last season, but we could see Tom Ince snatch a few from him. At $4,900 Mooy is in play but his upside is lower than Ince and it might be better to wait for his salary to come down a bit before using him. Fullback Chris Lowe also took some set pieces last year and if he gets the start he is a viable salary saver at defender ($3,900), but he is unlikely to offer much in terms of upside this week.
Brighton and Hove Albion vs Manchester City
Brighton ended the 16/17 season with two losses and a draw, which saw champions Newcastle pip them to first place. Newcastle are the better team and were deserved title winners, but Brighton could still manage to avoid relegation this season if things go well. They were solid defensively and the attack ranked in the top five last year in terms of xG, so they should certainly give teams like Burnley and Watford a run for their money in the relegation fight.
Brighton have had an impressive transfer window so far, bringing in goalkeeper Mat Ryan to replace the outgoing David Stockdale and adding some key reinforcements in other areas of the pitch. New LB Markus Suttner looks like he will be a great fantasy asset, producing 1.41 Sh90, 1.74 CC90 and 5.36 Crs90 in the German Bundesliga last season for Ingolstadt. An opening day matchup against Manchester City is as bad as it gets, though, and he can be safely avoided this week. Pascal Gross and Davy Propper are excellent signings for the money and should be a capable new partnership in the centre of the park. Frenchman Anthony Knockaert was the main set piece taker last season (6.56 Crs90) but Gross is a dead ball specialist himself (5.7 Crs90) and Propper is capable of a good delivery too (4.45 Crs90), so we will have to wait and see who ends up claiming the duties this time round. Gross has been on fire in preseason in an advanced role but it is a stretch to use him here even at a bargain basement price of $3,000. He is certainly going to be in the mix in future weeks, though.
Manchester City are clear title favourites this season and looking at the stats it is easy to see why, with Pep’s team ranking 3rd or better in shots, SoT, chances created and xG at both ends of the pitch. They were perhaps a bit unlucky at times in the last campaign but things started to click late in the season and they should start with a comfortable win against new boys Brighton.
The heavily criticised defense actually ranked 2nd or better in all key metrics and a much needed overhaul has finally happened this summer, with all four ageing fullbacks replaced by the younger and more exciting Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker and Danilo. As a City fan I was sad to see Pablo Zabaleta go, but he is past his best at this point and the fullbacks struggled to cope with the demands of a Guardiola system. Mendy is the stand-out fantasy option of the new bunch with 7.43 Crs90 for last year’s title winning Monaco side. £50m for Walker is expensive but City had a need for an English fullback so it’s hard to blame them for overspending a bit there. He is slightly overpriced on DraftKings too, but he should be safe for a clean sheet with upside for an assist or even two. Danilo offers flexibility at the position with the ability to fill in on either side; his stats don’t stand out from his time at Real Madrid but he has been getting forward a lot in preseason, so is a viable option if he starts. Error-prone Bravo has been demoted to the bench in favour of new signing Ederson to complete the revamp. Fernandinho and Toure provide experience in front of the centre-backs and with Gundogan on his way back from injury it is hard to see City giving their opponents too many chances in front of goal this season.
The attacking options are plentiful and City were predictably scoring at will during the second half of the 16/17 season. Leroy Sane impressed in the previous campaign and he could start at LWB/LM here ahead of Danilo, with Pep favouring a 3-5-2 system in recent preseason fixtures. Sane has goal and assist upside here and he even started to take some set pieces at the end of last season, so $7,200 looks like a very reasonable salary and he is probably preferable to similarly priced David Silva in GPPs. Kevin De Bruyne is the top option on the slate (8.68 Crs90, 0.7 xG+xA90), although at $10,400 he will take up a large chunk of your salary. KDB provided 18 assists in the league last season and should be able to bag one or two against a Brighton side that are out of their depth. Sergio Aguero is possibly the best striker to ever play in the Premier League and with Aguero and Gabriel Jesus contributing around 1 xG+xA90 each it would be risky to fade them in this matchup.
City look better equipped than anyone to do battle in all competitions given their squad depth, so even though a deep UCL run is likely high on the list of priorities they should be firmly in the driving seat at the top of the EPL when the season is nearing its conclusion, with Mourinho’s men across town perhaps the most likely to spoil the party.
Well, we got there eventually! That was a bit of an essay, so if you made it this far hopefully you enjoyed the article enough to share it on social media. Good luck this weekend!