08 Aug 12:45 Man Utd v Spurs
08 Aug 15:00 Bournemouth v Aston Villa
08 Aug 15:00 Everton v Watford
08 Aug 15:00 Leicester v Sunderland
08 Aug 15:00 Norwich v Crystal Palace
08 Aug 17:30 Chelsea v Swansea
09 Aug 13:30 Arsenal v West Ham
09 Aug 13:30 Newcastle v Southampton
09 Aug 16:00 Stoke v Liverpool
10 Aug 20:00 West Brom v Man City
As I write I’m still not sure how many participants we have this season. It looks like we’ve broken the 30 barrier which will give us a prize pot of over £600. The winner could scoop £250 this season if the maths works out. I’m considering upping the manager of the month prizes by a couple of quid. But it all depends on how many players we get. I was aiming to get 40. I’m not sure we’ll reach that figure. All prize money calculations will appear under the prize money link. I’ll update the format for the Buckets Cup once I know how many teams we have. That will appear under the Buckets Cup link – of all places.
There are some rule changes to this year’s game. There is no longer a ‘transfer window’ wildcard. Instead you have two wildcards to be used in each half of the season. Your first must be used up to and including gameweek 19 – the second from gameweek 20 onwards.
And there are also three new ‘chips’ to be used at some point during the season. The ‘bench boost’ chip brings all 15 of your players into the game. All players in your squad, including those on your bench, will score during that gameweek. The ‘triple captain’ chip means that your captain’s points will be tripled instead of doubled. And the ‘all out attack’ chip allows you to pick a 2-5-3 formation, employing all eight of your more forward thinking players.
It seems fairly obvious and sensible to suggest that each of these would be better utilised in a double gameweek, although some forward thinking tactics wouldn’t go amiss – particularly for the bench boost and all out attack. You’d need to be confident that your reserve players were also guaranteed some gametime. League Cup final weekend and FA Cup 6th round weekend are your guaranteed double gameweeks, but they don’t roll round until February and March. It’s unlikely we’ll see any before then unless the winter weather bites and games are postponed.
You could aim to play them, maybe even consecutively, during our shorter game months to give yourselves a better shot at a manager of the month prize. August, September and November are three weeks long. May is a two week shoot out.
Playing them this week might be a bit too maverick, but they could get you off to a flying start. Although, before a ball is even being kicked, this season is already throwing up some selection headaches. Prepare to carry on tearing your hair out over Diego Costa’s fitness as he looks uncertain for Chelsea’s first game against Swansea. Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero look likely to have just the one game off before coming into contention for gameweek two. Pick, wait, or just go with someone else?
There has been plenty of transfer activity to ponder over. Christian Benteke’s first outing in a Liverpool shirt produced a stunning volleyed goal. A lack of match fitness means he may not start this weekend, but some game time looks likely on the back of that goal as Brendan Rodgers tries again to fill the Suarez gap. No matter what you might think of Raheem Sterling, his pre seaosn form has been encouraging. He’s been in among goals an assists, which is good for City, because their defence looks no less creaky. John Terry suggested that Petr Cech could win Arsenal 15 more points this season. That would win them the league based on last season’s points tallies. Whether that happens remains to be seen – but 15 points – five more wins – five more clean sheets maybe? £5.5 million looks great value for one of the league’s best goalkeepers.
And that’s just scratching the surface. The season will take shape and other players will come into consideration. Someone – a relative unknown – will almost instantly start making a name for themselves – a new player brought in from abroad. And there’ll be that transfer clamour. His value will escalate. Will he keep it up past Christmas? Old favourites will fair well. There’ll be flops. There’ll be undroppables. Who will be this season’s Southampton? Who’ll be this season’s Charlie Austin? Who’ll be the mid price midfield maestro? Will anyone pick Mario Balotelli?
If any tactics are to be employed this week, try looking ahead to the first international break and work out whose opening fixtures could yield the most points, goals and clean sheets. The first split in the season comes between gameweeks four and five. That’s four fixtures neatly taking you to the end of August. Neither Chelsea, City, United or Arsenal have a run of completely winnable fixtures. Chelsea and City must play each other, whereas games against Spurs and Liverpool won’t be straightforward for the other two. Southampton’s season is up and running, having taken part in two Europa League games, both of which they won comfortably. There early run of fixtures offers good potential of clean sheets and goals, coming up, as they do, against Newcastle, Norwich and Watford. And oddly, Sunderland could provide good clean sheet options. There defensive form at the end of last season improved greatly under Dick Advocaat. They could get through their fixtures against Leicester, Norwich, Swansea and Villa with very little damage tot heir against column.
On the other hand there are also teams to be avoided. Newcastle haven’t made great strides to improve their back line and games against Southampton, United and Arsenal will be difficult. Watford have a testing opening month culminating in a trip to the Etihad and West Brom will be glad to get early season games against City and Chelsea out of the way. And Everton, despite starting with a home tie against Watford, see their run of fixtures become much more difficult from week two all the way through to week six. Everton regulars, in the long run, will get in among the points. But – don’t touch them till the Autumn.