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Fantasy Premier League: The hottest tips for the opening weekend

Welcome to Fantasy Premier League Tips Game-Week 1. Ah jaysus we’re not back here again?! Last season the majority of us endured 38 game-weeks from hell and you’d think this would have been enough for us to call it a day. But no, we’re clearly gluttons for punishment as yet again we’re back to trip the light fantastic.

So, how did you while away the hours over the summer months? Do anything exciting? It’s been a somewhat exciting summer in the Premier League. Pep & Jose are now shacked up in Manchester trying to see who can spend the most money. With United spending almost £100m on a kid they let go for nothing a few years back I suspect they’ll win.

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Liverpool continue to buy attacking midfielders, maybe one of them can play at left back? Arsenal continue to tell us who they’ve missed out on in the transfer market. Antonio Conte has rocked up at Chelsea, hopefully to transform Eden Hazard back into the player he once was. But that’s enough about real life we’re here to discuss fantasy.

It promises to be an exciting FPL season as there appears to be more options than ever before. The only issue appears to be choosing the correct options! We’re not going to tell you how to spend your money and we’re not going to tell you what strategy to adopt but we will attempt to highlight the players we believe will score well over the coming weeks. Hopefully our tips will be of some use but if this season turns out to as unpredictable as last season you can print them out and use them as toilet paper. Enjoy!

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We’ll start with some good news and that is that the premium keepers have dropped from last year’s price of £6.0m to £5.5m. Now, I realise most of you already knew that, but I promised the lads that I’d start the season on a positive note and there it is. Don’t get used to it! So of the five (Petr Cech, Thibaut Courtois, David de Gea, Joe Hart & Hugo Lloris) who do you choose? There is a case to be made for all five but we can’t tip all five and instead we’ve narrowed it down to two. Having finished last season with the joint best defence in the league it will hardly come as a surprise that our first tip this season is Manchester United’s David de Gea.

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Despite enduring a poor season by their own standards, United only missed the top four on goal difference and de Gea undoubtedly played his part in this, in fact he singlehandedly kept United in a number of games. With Jose Mourinho now firmly ensconced at Old Trafford the widely held belief is that United are likely to even more difficult to break down this season.

As we’ve seen in the past particularly during his first stint at Chelsea his back- four are well drilled and give little away. United have a great start to the season and it won’t come as a surprise should de Gea pick up three or even four clean sheets from the opening six games. Given all of this it’s no surprise to see that the Spaniard is currently the most popular keeper by some distance with an ownership of 42%.

Next up is Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris. For much of last season Spurs had the best defence in the league and with just 35 goals conceded over the entirety of the season they finished with the joint best defence. The problem was that this did not always translate into clean sheets and Lloris finished with 13 shutouts and, while this was impressive, it was bettered by Cech, Schmeichel, Hart & de Gea.

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Of the top sides, Spurs probably boast the best and certainly the most settled defence. Granted Vertonghen is currently injured, but it would appear as though he has a chance of being fit for GW1. The addition of Victor Wanyama to the Spurs midfield is likely to further solidify the defence and this in turn will hopefully see the Frenchman improve on the 13 clean sheets. Before we move on, we would like to note that should you opt for one of the premium keepers it might be best advised to pick up a £4.0m keeper as your 2nd keeper as, in all honesty, the chances of you benching your premium keeper are quite remote.

And so we move onto the mid-priced keepers, which is those keepers priced at £5.0m. Personally I don’t see a huge degree of value in these keepers at this point of the season and I’d rather pay the extra £0.5m for a premium keeper or shell out 2x £4.5m for a couple of budget keepers, but that’s just me.

For those of you happy to spend the £5.0m I’d consider Everton’s Maarten Stekelenburg and Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel. Everton were nothing short of terrible last season, conceding a total of 55 goals and keeping just seven clean sheets in the process. The majority of Evertonians place the blame firmly at the feet of former manager Roberto Martinez. With the Spaniard having been replaced by Ronald Koeman it is generally accepted that Everton will improve at the back. Stekelenburg will replace the much maligned Tim Howard and with Everton’s opening set of fixtures there’s every chance he’ll hit the ground running.

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Can Leicester replicate last season’s heroics? In all honesty, that is unlikely, but it’s worth remembering that they haven’t become a bad team overnight. The loss on N’Golo Kante will certainly have an impact and this will possibly see a reduction in the amount of clean sheets Schmeichel picks up this season. However, the back-four is still intact and, given their opening fixtures, they should get off to a reasonably solid start.

Finally we come to the budget-friendly keepers of whom there are a whole host, but our picks are West Brom’s Ben Foster and Burnley’s Tom Heaton. Last season was something of a struggle for West Brom and to date they haven’t been very active in the transfer market, so there’s every chance they will struggle yet again this season. However they’ve got a decent start to the season and clubs managed by Tony Pulis typically tend to get off to a solid start.

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On paper it would appear as though Burnley have three easy fixtures and three difficult fixtures in their first six games so if you can identify a keeper who rotates with Heaton you might be onto a winner. Back in 2014/15 Heaton picked up a respectable 10 clean sheets and averaged over three saves per games. He also picked up 11 bonus points – a figure which was only bettered by three keepers last season. Should he replicate these numbers this time around he could be an interesting pick. Are these the two best keepers priced at £4.5m? Possibly not, but the situation at both Palace & Middlesbrough is unclear.

For those of you wanting to pair a £4.0m keeper with a premium option you really do only one option and that is Hull’s Eldin Jakupovic. He’s unlikely to pick up many points over the course of the season but that’s ok as he’ll be warming your bench.

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Our first defender is an old fantasy favourite, but one who has dropped off our radars over the past season or two. Of course, we’re speaking about Leighton Baines. In seasons gone by he was a player we all owned at some stage. Back in 2010/11 he ended the campaign with 178 points, thanks to five goals and 11 assists – an effort that gave him a final valuation of £8.1m! Last season was a season he will want to forget as he made just 18 appearances.

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This was largely due to injury but he also had a falling out with Roberto Martinez with the Spaniard constantly making excuses towards the end of the season as to why Baines wasn’t in the team. With the new Belgium head coach now out of the equation, there is much hope that Baines can recapture the form of seasons past. In the seven seasons prior to last term he scored 23 goals and picked up 50 assists – sometimes the figures speak for themselves.

With Ronald Koeman now in charge at Goodison, Everton will surely improve on the 55 goals conceded last season, which saw them keep just four clean sheets. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be back on dead ball duties but if he’s given a share of corners, free kicks and penalties he could prove excellent value for money at £5.5m. After the visit of Spurs on the opening day of the season the Toffees have a great run of fixtures which should see Baines pick up a decent points haul.

As we’ve already alluded to above, United have a decent run of fixtures over the opening game-weeks and, with Jose now in charge, I suspect they’re defence will continue to be as solid as it was last season. Despite their impressive defensive record last season there is still value for money to be had from their rear-guard, primarily from their full-backs.

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After moving to United back in June 2014 much was expected of Luke Shaw last season, but unfortunately the youngster suffered a double leg fracture in mid-September which ruled him out for the season. He has enjoyed a solid preseason and his pace and willingness to get forward could see him pick up his share of assists over the course of the season.

It would appear as though Antonio Valencia is set to start the season as first choice right-back. He’s not a typical Mourinho full back but he’s good a pro and is likely to do everything Jose asks of him. We all know he likes to get forward and this was once again demonstrated in the recent friendly against Galatasary, in which he claimed three assists. Both are priced at £5.5m and while Shaw would certainly appear to be the safer pick Valencia’s attacking threat down the right flank is difficult to ignore. For that reason I’d go with Valencia.

A couple of other premium defenders who should be part of your thought process are John Terry and Kyle Walker. Terry looked set to leave Chelsea at the end of the last season, he’d even hired Stamford Bridge for a farewell game with his friends. Injury limited him to just 24 appearances and he was rarely an FPL option. However, with an Italian now in charge Terry could still be playing at 40. It’s assumed that Conte will shore up their shaky defence and despite a somewhat tricky start to the season they should still pick up a number of clean sheets.

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For some unknown reason Walker has been priced at £0.5m less than Danny Rose and at £5.5m he appears to be the best route into the Spurs back-four. Pochettino had a habit of rotating his full-backs last season and, while that could very well happen later in the season, I don’t see it being an issue in the first month or two.

At the bottom end of the market there are a considerable number of options, but we’ve narrowed the field down to Crystal Palace’s Pape Souare, West Brom’s Gareth McAuley and Middlesbrough’s George Friend.

Not only do Palace have the world’s greatest manager they’ve also got a great set of fixtures to start the season and they will surely pick up a number of clean sheets over the opening game-weeks. With some confusion over who will start the season between the sticks for the Eagles, Souare would for now appear to be the cheapest route into the Palace defence. The Senegalese international made 34 league appearances for the Eagles last season and managed just one assist, but for £4.5m we’ll be happy with a few clean sheets.

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Meanwhile, Tony Pulis teams are always a good bet for a clean sheet – so the story goes. Last season they picked up 11 in total, but perhaps somewhat of a concern is the fact that six of these came in the opening 10 game-weeks. However we’ve taken a look at their early season fixtures and there’s every chance they could have a similar start.

Middlesbrough secured promotion on the back of a well organised defence which conceded just 31 goals in 46 games. Friend picked up a goal and two assists in the Championship and, if he can manage to improve his end product, we could very well see an improvement on these numbers. Boro have a reasonable start to the season and, at £4.5m, Friend is an interesting prospect.

For those penny pinchers amongst you might want to consider getting yourself a shovel and digging a hole! Why? Well, why not? It will be about as useful as any £4.0m defender. On the face of it Swansea’s Jordi Amat would appear to be your best bet. Swansea do face Burnley and Hull in their opening two games so he might even pick up a clean sheet. The problem is their next six fixtures are shocking. The fact is, if you pick any £4.0m defender, don’t expect much in return.

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Thanks to a paltry return of five goals and four assists last season, Eden Hazard has seen his value drop to £10.0m. Thanks to a hip injury he struggled for consistency last term and scored just once in the first 34 games. Five goals in the last five games wasn’t enough to save Chelsea’s season but it did remind us all of his talents. He followed this up with a couple of impressive performances for Belgium at the Euros.

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Thanks to the Euros, the Belgian has had limited game time in pre-season, but against Real Madrid he gave us all another reminder of his talents with two well taken goals. Interestingly he was handed a role through the middle in Conte’s 4-2-4 formation, with the new gaffer saying after the game that he likes him in that position – like a forward. It remains to be seen whether this is a role he is given once the season kicks off. Even if he’s not he could still prove to be a bargain if he can recapture his form of seasons past.

Chelsea have a mixed bag of fixtures over the opening game-weeks but, as we’ve seen in the past, when Hazard is on form, he is fixture proof. If, for some reason, you can’t stretch to the Belgian, you could always take a punt on Oscar. I’d call it a punt as we’ve all seen how flaky the Brazilian has been in previous seasons. He has been fielded in the hole a number of times during pre-season and this has seen him score three times. Interestingly he took and scored a penalty against AC Milan when Hazard was on the pitch. If he can make this spot his own he could prove to be a shrewd investment at £7.5m.

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If Liverpool are to have any chance of a top four finish they’re going to need to score plenty of goals, as lord only knows they’ll concede the odd one or two. They scored 17 goals across nine pre-season games and only four of these were scored by their forwards. This is a trend we expect to continue over the course of the season, particularly if Daniel Sturridge continues to spend the majority of his time on the sidelines.

Therefore, we will need to pay particular attention to their attacking midfielders over the course of the campaign, but which one of them is best? Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana and perhaps even James Milner could play in the three or four attacking midfield spots.

I’ll immediately rule out Lallana & Milner. With Liverpool’s opening fixtures on the tough side I expect Klopp to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and there’s a chance Wijnaldum could be fielded in the double pivot role, therefore I’ll rule him out too, for now. Coutinho is perhaps Liverpool’s most important player, but from an FPL point of view he’s not consistent enough. I’m sure he will get a mention in this article over the course of the season but for now we’ll concentrate on Firmino & Mane.

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Firmino got off to a slow start last season, but following the arrival of Jurgen Klopp he averaged 5.8 points per appearance and finished the season with 10 goals and eight assists. As we saw a number of times last season and again during pre-season, Klopp has no hesitation in playing the Brazilian as a false 9 and this is something that is likely to happen over the course of the 2016/17 campaign. Mane is certainly more of a gamble but he brings something that Liverpool lacked at times last season, real pace. Klopp wants Liverpool to press high up the pitch and break with pace. Mane’s clever movement & work rate should see him become a favourite of the Kopites and I suspect he’ll soon be an FPL favourite.

Three midfielders who set the Premier League alight on various occasions last season were Riyad Mahrez, Dimitri Payet & Dele Alli and all three deserve to be in your thoughts ahead of GW1. Mahrez played an integral part in Leicester winning the title last season and finished the season with 17 goals and 11 assists. He deservedly won player of the season. The Foxes haven’t enjoyed the greatest of pre-seasons, but they have played the likes of PSG and Barcelona. Although, against Celtic a few weeks ago Mahrez gave us a reminder of his talents with a worldie.

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They’ve got a mixed bag of fixtures over the opening game-weeks but they do face the likes of Hull, Swansea and Burnley and it shouldn’t be forgotten that they are the reigning champions! The one drawback is the fact we don’t know whether Mahrez will still be with the Foxes come September and this could potentially impact on his performances.

Payet took his debut Premier League season by storm and his nine goals and 13 assists ensured West Ham are playing Europa League football this season. He carried this form into the Euro’s where he was named in the team of the tournament. His involvement in France has meant he only returned to training last week and has played just 16 minutes in preseason. Ordinarily I would suggest to steer clear of such a player but Bilic will want to get off to a winning start on Monday night against Chelsea and the Hammers are a different proposition when Payet is on the pitch.

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Meanwhile, for some reason Alli only features in just under 13% of teams, which is significantly less than Mahrez and Payet. I realise he’s suffered a jump in price, but so too have Mahrez & Payet, and at £8.5m he’s £1.0m cheaper than both. Spurs have had a pretty quiet pre-season, but against Inter Milan last weekend they demonstrated that they haven’t forgotten where the goal is.

It would appear as though there is a plethora of mid-priced midfielders available this season but we’ve managed to narrow it down to Erik Lamela (£7.0m), Andros Townsend (£6.5m) and Nathan Redmond (£6.5m).

Lamela has struggled for consistency since arriving at Spurs but in fairness to the Argentine he has improved season on season. When Spurs break he is effective with both his passing and his dribbling while he also reads the game extremely well. Tottenham have only played three preseason games but Lamela has shone in two of them and I suspect he’ll have a big role to play for his club this season.

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With Palace expected to set up with a 4-2-3-1 position Townsend is likely to be deployed on the right of the three, while a switch to 4-4-2 will see him on the right of a midfield four. Having been left out of the England squad for the Euros he’ll surely have a point to prove and with Palace’s opening fixtures being rather tasty he’ll have plenty of opportunities to impress early doors. If Palace can sign the top striker they clearly need, Townsend can only but benefit.

New Southampton manager Claude Puel has trialled a midfield diamond in pre-season. You would think that such a formation would be to the detriment of a winger such as Redmond. But no, Puel has pushed Redmond further up the pitch into a forward role with the Frenchman quoted as saying “he played always wide but I think he is a very good striker”. Should Redmond continue in this role he could be a steal at just £6.5m.

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For those of you who want a £4.5m midfielder to sit on your bench as your 5th midfielder, we’re tipping Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Watford’s Etienne Capoue. Hojbjerg has been playing as the deepest lying of the Saints’ four-man midfield during pre-season. Granted this won’t see him get forward very often, but his wide range of passing skills could see him pick up the odd assist. Meanwhile, Capoue isn’t renowned for his goal scoring, but with Watford playing a 3-5-2 system in pre-season he has been given licence to get forward and this has seen him score twice.

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We’ve somehow managed to get as far as the forwards without including a single Manchester City player! Given the fact that they are favourites for the league and are now managed by Pep Guardiola, I suppose we should at least include a token City player and who better than Sergio Aguero. If we asked 100 of you to pick who you believe will be the top scorer come the end of the season I’d be quite surprised if at least 75% didn’t pick the Argentine. Some folk will say that he’s always only a kick away from an injury but you can’t deny that when he’s on the pitch he scores goals.

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Last season Harry Kane played 1,001 minutes more than Aguero and scored just one goal more. As we’ve just pointed out Aguero is the first City player to be included this week but that’s not because of a tough fixture list. Quite the opposite in fact. With games against Sunderland, Stoke, Bournemouth & Swansea in their opening six games we’re predicting that City will get off to a lightening start and, should that happen, those without Aguero in their side will be ripping their team apart in an effort to squeeze him in. Forget his price tag. He’s fit, pick him.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Need we say more?! I’ll nail my colours to the mast here, I can’t stand Ibrahimovic. I never have and I never will. However I can’t deny his talents. He scores goal and wins trophies, that’s just what he does. He’s scored 393 goals in 678 appearances which is an average of a goal every 1.7 games, while he’s also scored 62 international goals. He has also won 13 league titles (two of which were subsequently revoked) with six different clubs.

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If, as expected, Mourinho uses a 4-2-3-1 system Ibra will play as the lone striker with the likes of Martial, Rooney, Mkhitaryan & a certain Paul Pogba creating the chances for him. It’s a recipe for goals. One criticism levelled at United last season was they played the game at such a slow pace but the acquisition of the Frenchman will surely change that and this injection of pace into their game will surely create issues for opposition teams.

Jose has already said that United will play to Ibra’s strengths stating that “He needs the team to play and produce chances for him. We need to change this”. The Swede already features in just over 37% of teams so given his pedigree & United’s opening fixtures it will take a brave manager to go without him. The question is, can you afford both Kun & Ibra?

Staying with the big money men and we must include Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane. Can Jamie Vardy reach the heights of last season? I would suggest not, but that’s not to say that he should be ignored. Last season he finished with 24 goals including an incredible run early in the season when he scored in 11 consecutive games. Don’t expect such feats this season, but he should still score on a regular basis. I feel both Leicester and Vardy need to get off to a good start this season to prove the doubters wrong and they’ve certainly got some decent early fixtures which should allow them to do just that.

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Only one man scored more goals than Vardy last term and that, of course, was Harry Kane, who finished with 25 goals. Kane looked like a spent force in France this summer but there’s a world of difference between being managed by Roy Hodgson and by Mauricio Pochettino. Don’t expect to see Kane taking any corner kicks or free kicks over the coming weeks or months. Many will argue that the arrival of Vincent Janssen will be bad news for Kane owners, but I would argue otherwise. His arrival will mean that Kane will not have to play every game and can be rested for cup ties. Of all the teams expected to challenge for the title Spurs perhaps have the easiest start to the season and this should see Kane fire from the get go.

We’re now going to jump straight to the budget strikers as there are issues with a number of the mid-priced options. If the rumours are to be believed Chelsea are attempting to offload Diego Costa. Chelsea in turn are openly pursuing Romelu Lukaku which could unsettle the Belgian. Olivier Giroud is yet to return to training and there’s always the slim chance of Arsenal buying another forward. Actually, Wayne Rooney potentially deserves some consideration. For those of you who want to invest in the United attack but don’t want to shell out on Ibra, Rooney might be the one. A word of warning though…he was crap in the Charity Shield!

As always there are plenty of options to consider when picking up a budget striker. The key is to identify this season’s Jamie Vardy, as soon as possible. I’ve had a look and we didn’t tip Vardy ahead of GW1 last season so hopefully we can do better this season. We’re going with Burnley’s Andre Gray (£6.5m), West Ham’s Andy Carroll (£6.5m), Southampton’s Shane Long (£6.5m) and Connor Wickham of Crystal Palace (£6.0m).

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Gray arrived at Turf Moor last summer for a club record fee of £9m and quickly repaid the fee scoring 23 goals as Burnley won the Championship. He’s been in impressive form throughout pre-season, scoring nine goals in six games. Now this, of course, is no guarantee that he’ll score goals in the top flight – we all remember Mauro Boselli and Danny Graham – but at least it proves he’s on form. Burnley’s home fixtures over the opening game-weeks suggest he’ll get chances.

Ok, so Carroll is never going to be the next Jamie Vardy, but assuming he can stay fit he will score goals. Unfortunately that’s a big assumption! On his day the big man can be unplayable and he will give the best of centre backs a tough time. With Big Sam now in charge of the national side there’s every chance Andy will earn a recall if he’s scoring goals, so he’ll have plenty of motivation.

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There has been speculation that Long may not be first choice, but with Charlie Austin playing for the under-23’s on Tuesday night, I’m pretty certain that Long starts the season as first choice. The Irish international found the back of the net on 10 occasions last season and should he manage to nail down a permanent place in the side I can see him finishing this season with 15+.

Wickham is clearly more of a punt than the others particularly as Palace are in the market for another striker, although I suspect that they may be forced to wait until Deadline Day to get their man. Therefore, for those of you intent on wildcarding ahead of GW4 Wickham might be worth some consideration as he’s only £6.0m, he’s shown some form in preseason and has a couple of easy fixtures.

Make sure you check out Fantasy Football 24/7‘s website if you want more excellent hints and tips.