Gameweek 26 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 26 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

First a Gameweek 25 Review

Liverpool returned to winning ways in the league with a crucial 2-0 win over Tottenham. This allowed Man City to move into second above Spurs with an away win at Bournemouth. They’re 8 points behind leaders Chelsea, while just 2 points separate Tottenham in third to Man United in sixth.

Swansea’s defenders dominate the backline in the Dream team of the week, with Mawson, Olsson and Fernández picking up 39 points between them (and at a combined cost of just £13.2m). The star performer of the week was Sadio Mané as he scored both goals in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Spurs to pick up 16 points, while Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez also scored a brace in a 2-0 win, but his yellow card meant that he finished the week on 15.

Gameweek 26 Preview

There are no early kick-offs this week so the transfer deadline is 2pm on Saturday, giving you plenty of time to study the team news and hopefully ensure all of your first XI are in action over the weekend. With the EFL Cup Final taking place there are two matches postponed from this weekend too, so be sure to bench or ditch any Man United, Southampton, Arsenal or Man City players!

Chelsea will open up an 11-point gap at the top if they beat Swansea at home on Saturday afternoon, a task which they should achieve with relative ease. They’re up against the league’s leakiest defence and Diego Costa (£10.6m) will be looking to end his mini goal drought in this one. He hasn’t scored in any of his last three league games, but before this run he hadn’t fired blanks in back to back games all season.

At the same time Everton host Sunderland at Goodison Park, and there’s every reason to captain Romelu Lukaku (£9.9m) this week. He scored 1 and assisted 2 in Everton’s 6-2 win in this fixture last season and also bagged a hat trick earlier this season when the Toffees won 3-0 at the Stadium of Light. His recent form is excellent too, having scored in each of Everton’s last 3 home fixtures including a 4-goal haul last time out against Bournemouth. At the back Everton have kept 4 clean sheets in their last 6 league games so Seamus Coleman (£5.9m) could well pick up points here. His attacking prowess is not be underestimated either, with the Irishman claiming 3 assists and a goal in his last 5 league games.

On Monday evening a fully-rested Liverpool should be too strong for a Leicester side in terrible form and returning from a midweek Champions League encounter with Sevilla. Sadio Mané (£9.3m) is the obvious choice here, with the Senegalese winger playing a starring role in Liverpool’s victory over Tottenham last time out. He’s scored exactly 11 goals in each of his three Premier League seasons, but the difference this year is that he’s reached that total in just 22 appearances. The Reds missed him while he was away at the African Cup of Nations and they’ll be hoping that the win against Spurs is a sign of things to come over the remaining 3 months of the season.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Crystal Palace v Middlesbrough – Fabio (£4.4m)
Hull v Burnley – Andrew Robertson (£4.3m)
West Brom v Bournemouth – Chris Brunt (£5.1m)
Watford v West Ham – Manuel Lanzini (£6.3m)
Spus v Stoke – Harry Kane (£11.2m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update next week.

When Hollywood meets Fantasy

From board games, to clubs, and even dexterous draft scouting, fantasy football can bend and shape itself to attract any kind of competitive fan, and big screen stars are no different when it comes to serious involvement with what’s a multi- dollar national and international obsession.

Stateside, some of the key names in Hollywood are self-confessed fantasy football addicts, although ‘aficionados’ is probably a more stylish term for these top-level fans of imaginary games.

The roll-call of Tinseltown players includes stars of both the big and small screen for whom the art of crafting their virtual or imaginary teams is crucial

Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe is a huge NFL fan and has put a twist on the name of Greater Boston’s New England Patriot’s outside linebacker for his fantasy team, Barkevious Mingo’s Mum. Generous with his knowledge, the wizard actor has also been known to offer draft advice to paparazzi and autograph hunters who are in on the fantasy scene.

‘Ant-Man’ actor Paul Rudd is another serious player and has brought his son into the fold, although there’s competition between who has the best fantasy team. Rudd has three teams in his portfolio, and has been known to express the high level of fun it is to ‘care about a game that you would not usually care about’. With all the necessary apps on his phone, he regularly streams the games on his TV when at home in New York.

Jon Hamm, star of ‘Mad Men’ had a tricky time a few years back when he was unceremoniously dumped as a member of the John Simmons’ Fantasy football league. After being voted out by the winner, Hamm has said in an interview; “I closed my laptop, got in my car and drove away”. A mature response to what is a serious business for those in the Hollywood frame.

Even comedian and late night TV host Seth Meyers has an annual ritual of meeting up with old friends to create a face-to-face fantasy football draft. It’s a sociable habit that’s much more convivial than the man who’s known as the ‘Dragon,’ whose real life daily sporting ritual is to drink his own urine.

Dedication is key, and Hollywood’s serious player’s list goes on. Actor, producer and venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher is such a big-time player, he hosted a show called ‘Fantasy Fooball Live’ – although he hired an assistant to do the research and effectively run his team.

Who knows whether comedian David Spade did the same for his ‘Fantasy Football Uncensored’ show, which he hosted alongside teammates made up of a mix of fellow comedians and actors.

Jerry Ferrara, comedian and actor best known for his role as Turtle on HBO’s ‘Entourage’ also produced a series of spin-off minisodes of the ‘Gentlemen’s League’, which followed him and his Entourage cast mates playing the fantasy game.

Of course, it’s not just Hollywood that’s in on the fun. Other big names come from the world of music, and what bigger celeb could here be in the fantasy arena than Shawn Cory Carter (Jay-Z)? With a global list of gigs and music deals under his belt, he still has time for fantasy playing, which he does with an ultra-exclusive league that features a number of key real life players. That’s one advantage that puts the mogul high up on the fantasy football draft success stakes, but there are others who also hold something of an advantage.

Elizabeth Banks of ‘The Hunger Games’ is married to sportswriter Max Handleman, author of ‘Why Fantasy Football Matters (And Our Lives Do Not)’. Both are avid players, although she took a hiatus after their children were born.

NFL players themselves aren’t just the topic of the fantasy drafts; many of them have also taken a punt. Former running back Maurice Jones-Drew was famously drafted into a fantasy team by a fan, even after he retired, but the former player has long been a keen football fantasist, even drafting himself while he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders. Now a keen fantasy player and analyst, he hosts his own radio show and has appeared on Fantasy NFL to talk about his drafting strategies.

Former quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, is another player who in the past – while still playing – benched himself in his fantasy team – only to go on and score four touchdown passes, gaining some serious fantasy points.

The fantasy is real, and with Hollywood thrown into the mix of what’s essentially a recession-proof craze, the estimated £1billion a year industry is set to just keep on growing.

Improving fitness with football

Recently, more and more people are looking to expand the active wear section of their wardrobe. It’s becoming increasingly more popular to have a myriad of kits to style – new gear means a new-found motivation to get yourself moving. The bright colours, and myriad of different cuts can really be the persuasion you need to get yourself off to training.

Now that the look is sorted, it’s often difficult to figure out where you want to put your focus when it comes to your workout of choice, and many forget that working on your fitness doesn’t necessarily have to be gym orientated; there are so many ways to get exercising.

It’s clear to see that the days are getting lighter, brighter, with a little bit of warmth hanging in the air. This is often more of a motivation to get moving; be it running, netball, football or hockey. Superdry has created a fun quiz to determine what sport would best suit you.

Research shows the UK’s most popular sport is swimming, followed by running, football and cycling – sports that Team GB succeeded at, at The Olympic Games last year.

FACT FILE:

● 15.74 million people play a type of sport in the UK
● Over 2.5 million people implemented swimming as part of their weekly routine in 2015/16
● Over 1.8 million people in the UK love to play football at least once a week
● Interest in athletics has risen by an incredible 85% since 2005/6

Although it might feel like a lot of effort, focusing on your health and fitness can be fun, and you can reach your goal if you’re persistent.

To get you in the warm weather mood, try brighter tones in your active wear. Deep sea blues, bright oranges and lime colours are a sure-fire way of staying ahead of the game with your style when you’re getting yourself ready for a good exercise session.

According to research, football has a myriad of fitness benefits including:
-building endurance and bone strength
-improves health due to the HIIT aspect of the sport – walking, running and sprinting
-improves your cardiovascular health
-improves muscle tone and decreases body fat

The quiz considers the basics: your age, height, current exercise routine, and the more unusual: your preferred stamina, agility and team or individual sport preference.

Superdry said:

“We understand that many of us are at a loss with where to start when it comes to starting a fitness journey. Getting an exercise kick can come from both the gym or a particular sport, so we wanted to show you that there is so much on offer that you could try. Your health is incredibly important, so whether you’re up for a five minute HIIT session or a full 90-minute kick about, our quiz is worth trying!”

 


Sports Personality Quiz


The Top Fantasy Picks for Cheltenham Festival

Handicap chase
Source: Flickr

With the big news that Irish trainer Willie Mullins has pulled both Faugheen and Min out of Cheltenham this year, many a punter will have to rethink their bets. There were hopes that Faugheen could reclaim his Stan James Champion Hurdle crown and Min was expected to run in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy but injuries have ruled both horses out of the festival.

There’s still a few weeks to go but, it’s probably about time to take a look at what should be your top fantasy picks for the meet’s five most valuable races.

Ryanair Chase – £300,000

The Ryanair Chase is a two-mile, five furlongs steeplechase and this year it looks like the Willie Mullins’ trained Un De Sceaux is the hot favourite. Un De Sceaux also holds an entry for the Champion Chase, but in that race, he will face much stronger competition.

The other entrants in the Ryanair Chase, on the other hand, are quite a distance behind and we fully expect him to win this race comfortably.

Our tip – Un De Sceaux

Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle – £300,000

The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle is a two-mile, seven furlongs and 213 yards hurdle race that many consider one of the most prestigious of its kind in the racing calendar. While Unowhatimeanharry is the clear favourite, we’re of a mind that Ballyoptic will beat him. This horse clearly has plenty of stamina having won four of his eight hurdle races, yet his two recent falls seemed to affect his confidence a little.

Having said that, this horse has shown that he can compete against Unowhatimeanharry and although he finished four and a half lengths behind him in the Long Walk Hurdle, we fancy that he could spring a surprise at Cheltenham.

Our tip – Ballyoptic

Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase – £350,000

This two-mile steeplechase is the highlight of day two at the festival and last year’s race gave us an epic finale as Sprinter Sacre produced a stirring comeback to reclaim his crown. There’s no place for the now retired Sprinter Sacre this year, so all eyes will turn to Willie Mullins’ Douvan.

Unbeaten in 13 starts, Douvan is the clear favourite especially considering that the second favourite Fox Norton doesn’t seem to have what it takes. In their two previous meetings, Fox Norton hasn’t managed to get within eleven lengths of him.

Our tip – Douvan

Stan James Champion Hurdle – £400,000

Run over two miles, the Champion Hurdle was to be Faugheen’s chance to reclaim his crown, but with a stress fracture ruling him out of the Festival it’s time to change our bets. Yanworth is looking good of late and so far has won eight of his 11 career starts.

This race requires stamina and Yanworth’s win on Boxing Day shows that he’s got it in spades but can he overcome race favourite Annie Power? Last year’s winner will be tough to beat, but with Faugheen out of the race, it could be Yanworth’s time.

Our tip – Yanworth

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup – £575,000

And so we come to the biggest race of all, The Gold Cup. Worth over half a million and run over three miles and two furlongs, the stage is set for a memorable race. With Willie Mullins dominating the last four festivals it’s very tempting to pick either Vroum Vroum Mag or Djakadam.

However, a quick look at Betstars odds for the race shows us that neither of Mullins horses is the favourite. That honour goes to Thistlecrack, the jewel of Colin Tizzard’s stable but as we all know, in the Gold Cup, anything can happen. It’s a tough one to call, but we’re going with Djakadam who was runner-up in this race in both 2015 and 2016. His good form and consistency this season should see him make it third time lucky.

Our tip – Djakadam

Gameweek 25 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 25 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

First, Gameweek 24 Review

Chelsea moved a step closer to the Premier League title with a 3-1 victory over Arsenal helping to maintain their 9-point lead. Tottenham and Manchester City scraped victories and are in second and third positions respectively. At the bottom of the league it was a huge result for Sunderland, who hammered Crystal Palace 4-0 away from home to move level on points with them. There are now just 2 points splitting the bottom 5 teams in what is sure to be a tense relegation battle from now until the end of the season.

There’s no doubts about who was the Fantasy Football star of the week, with Romelu Lukaku amassing 21 points with his 4 goals in Everton’s 6-3 victory against Bournemouth. He’s joined in the Dream Team of the Week attack by Jermain Defoe and Gabriel Jesus, who each scored a brace to pick up 13 points. each. All 4 midfielders were directly involved in 2 goals each while Lamin Koné’s goal and clean sheet ensured he was the highest-scoring defender of the week.

Gameweek 25 Preview

An intriguing match to get us underway this weekend when Arsenal host Hull City at lunchtime on Saturday. A few weeks ago this would have been a game in which Alexis Sánchez would have been captained by the vast majority of Fantasy managers, but with Arsenal losing their last 2 and Hull picking up an impressive 4 points from their last 2 fixtures, against Manchester United and Liverpool, there could be some second thoughts on this. Despite Hull’s 0-0 draw at Old Trafford last Wednesday they’ve still not won any of their last 10 away games in all competitions and indeed lost 9 in a row before that draw. For that reason it’s hard to see past an Arsenal win. The standout choices from this game are either the aforementioned Sánchez (£11.8m), who has 3 goals and an assist from his last 5 league games, or Olivier Giroud, who’s scored 5 and assisted 2 in his last 7.

At 3pm Man United are at home to Watford in a game they’ll be desperate to win to keep in contention for a top 4 finish. They’re undefeated in their last 15 league games and should be too strong for a Watford side who have won just 1 of their last 8 away in the league. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£8.8m) scored and assisted last time out against Leicester and should cause plenty of problems for Watford’s defence. At the back though United look vulnerable having failed to keep a clean sheet in 8 of their last 11 league games at Old Trafford. Watford should have some chances on the counter attack so Tom Cleverley (£5.1m) could be an interesting pick, having assisted 2 goals from his 3 starts since signing from Everton.

The big match of the weekend is Saturday’s evening game, with Liverpool hosting Tottenham. Spurs have 9 wins and 2 draws from their last 11 games in all competitions while Liverpool are in wretched form, winning just 1 from their last 10. Another defeat would seriously dent their top 4 hopes and on form there’s no doubt about which team we should be looking at for Fantasy Football points here. Harry Kane (£11.3m) has scored on each of his last 2 visits to Anfield and also has 7 goals from his last 7 league games so should be a reliable source of points up front. At the back Ben Davies (£4.7m) could be a cheap source of points in the absence of the injured Danny Rose.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Middlesbrough v Everton – Romelu Lukaku (£9.7m)
Stoke v Crystal Palace – Marko Arnautovic (£7.1m)
Sunderland v Southampton – Maya Yoshida (£4.2m)
West Ham v West Brom – Andy Carroll (£6.3m)
Burnley v Chelsea – Marcos Alonso (£6.7m)
Swansea v Leicester – Fernando Llorente (£6.2m)
Bournemouth v Man City – Gabriel Jesus (£9.2m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update later this week.

Liverpool vs Tottenham Betting Preview – Back Spurs to stay in title contention

Just what damage a bad month in the Premier League can do. January’s winless run has continued into February for Liverpool following a dire 2-0 defeat at Hull last Saturday. Jurgen Klopp’s men look in no shape to even claim a home point against Spurs this weekend.

Chelsea are playing the role of the run-a-way train very well this season, but if there is any side that has enough fuel to catch them, then it is Tottenham.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have won seven of their last nine fixtures, and remain unbeaten in 11. Tottenham are best priced at 9/4 with BetFred, and this represents excellent value, particularly when considering how efficient they have been against the Premier League big-boys this season.

Victories against Chelsea and Manchester City have been complimented well by solid stalemates against Arsenal and Liverpool.

The stalemate against Liverpool came at a time when the Red’s were flying, but this is anything but the case now. As documented before, Liverpool are having a torrid time currently, mainly caused by a shaky defence which has already shipped in 30 goals this season (the most of any team in the top 8.)

The fluent football of Tottenham has allowed goals to be equally spread between the team, with Kane and Alli sitting fifth and sixth in the Premier League top scoring charts so far this campaign. With chances likely to come thick and fast, both look a good bet to hit the onion bag.

Back Harry Kane to score first at 11/2 with Paddy Power, and Deli Alli to score at anytime, with best odds of 5/2 at Boylesports.

Whilst Liverpool have been poor at the back this campaign, they have not struggled upfront. The Reds have dominated games, averaging 62% possession over the course of the season. They have used this heavy pressing style to score in all but 4 of their 24 league games. With the deadly combination of Coutinho and Mane expected to start on Saturday, the Reds should be good enough to bag a goal in front of their home crowd.

Back both teams to score at 4/6 with Betfair, whilst a Tottenham 2-1 win is available at 12/1 with Bet365.
Those punters looking for value in other markets may be well off looking at the “half time-full time” bets on offer for the match.

Tottenham have been notoriously slow at the start of matches this season, leading after 45 minutes mark just 38% of the time this campaign. Contrastingly Liverpool’s high tempo approach has served them well at the start of games, as they more often than not lead at half-time.

Liverpool half time, Tottenham full time, looks a massive price at 33/1 with Ladbrokes, especially when considering Liverpool’s inabilities to perform at their optimum level for a full 90 minutes. You can enjoy online betting at William Hill, and make sure to check past sports results on their site too.

Saturday’s clash should prove to be an excellent encounter between two top Premier League teams, with Tottenham eventually coming out as the victors.

Gameweek 24 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 24 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

First a review of Gameweek 23

There were some big shocks in the Premier League in week 23, with only one team from the top half managing to win. That team was Man City, and their 4-0 thrashing of West Ham puts them level on points with Liverpool in fourth and only 1 point from second.

With goals quite scarce this week (aside from Man City the rest of the 19 teams in the league only got 15 goals between them) it was defensive players who shone, and this is reflected in the week’s Dream Team lining up in a 5-3-2 formation. Hull’s Eldin Jakupović thwarted Man United at Old Trafford to pick up 11 points in goal, while Scott Dann was the standout player of the week with his goal and clean sheet earning him 15 points in Crystal Palace’s crucial 2-0 win over Bournemouth.

Gameweek 24 Preview

The opening game of this weekend is a big one, with Chelsea hosting Arsenal at Stamford Bridge at lunchtime tomorrow. The last time these two sides met was a hugely significant day in the title race – Chelsea slipped to a 3-0 defeat but subsequently changed formation to 3-4-3 and went on a devastating 13-match winning streak in the league. That’s put them firmly in pole position in the title race and they now sit 9 points clear of closest challengers Tottenham and Arsenal. They’ve won their last 8 home games in the league by an aggregate score of 24-3 and despite the defeat earlier in the season will have little to fear from an Arsenal side who’ve won just one of their last 4 away games in the league and were beaten at home by Watford in midweek. Furthermore, Arsenal have a wretched record at Stamford Bridge; Chelsea have won 6 of the last 7 meetings here and in the last 3 of those have scored 10 goals without reply. Gary Cahill (£6.5m) could therefore be the pick here, having scored in each of Chelsea’ last 2 home games and holding experience of keeping Arsenal’s attack at bay.

At 3pm Everton are at home to Bournemouth and the home side should be confident of picking up 3 points here, They’re on an unbeaten run of six games in the league and have kept clean sheets in four of those. In their last two home games they’ve put three past Southampton and four past Man City, and a defence as leaky as Saturday’s visitors’ provide further opportunities for goals. Bournemouth have won just one of their last eight games in all competitions and conceded 3 goals in five of their last six away. Seamus Coleman (£5.7m) has a goal and two assists from his last three games, and with clean sheet points in three out of four and a favourable fixture list coming up he could be a shrewd choice.

In the evening game Tottenham host Middlesbrough in a game that features the league’s joint-best defence against the worst attack. Spurs have conceded just 16 goals in their 23 league games so far and have kept 10 clean sheets, while Boro have scored only 19 goals and have failed to score in 9 of their 23 matches. The smart money is on another Spurs clean sheet, and the standout defensive player in terms of Fantasy Football points is Kyle Walker (£6.2m). He’s contributed 6 assists this season, as well as playing the full 90 minutes in each of the 10 games that in which Spurs have kept clean sheets. In the attacking third Dele Alli (£8.9m) is still very much in form, with 8 goals and an assist from his last 7 appearances.

On Sunday Manchester City’s impressive home run (just 1 defeat in their last 20 at the Etihad) should be extended against Swansea. The Swans have picked up recently under Paul Clement, winning 3 of their last 5, but this is still 5th against 17th and the likes of Kevin de Bruyne (£10.5m) and Raheem Sterling (£7.7m) against a side who’ve conceded 52 league goals this season. That’s 5 more than Hull City and at least 10 more than anyone else in the league! Jesus (£9.1m) was impressive on Wednesday night against West Ham, scoring and assisting in the 4-0 rout, and if he gets the nod ahead of Agüero (£12.8m) again then he could pick up more points here.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Crystal Palace v Sunderland – Patrick van Aanholt (£5.0m)
Hull v Liverpool – Sadio Mané (£9.0m)
Southampton v West Ham – Shane Long (£6.1m)
Watford v Burnley – Daryl Janmaat (£4.5m)
West Brom v Stoke – Peter Crouch (£4.9m)
Leicester v Man United – Paul Pgoba (£8.4m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update later this week

Gameweek 23 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 23 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

First a review of Gameweek 22:

Chelsea and Arsenal were the big winners last week as they were the only sides from the top 6 to secure victories. Manchester City and Tottenham played out an entertaining 2-2 draw while Wayne Rooney became the outright leading goalscorer for Manchester United with his 250th goal for the club providing his team with a last-gasp equaliser against Stoke City.

It was a week for defenders to shine in Fantasy Football, with the Dream team lining up in a 5-3-2 formation. Everton’s Seamus Coleman and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill both scored and kept clean sheets in their sides’ victories over Crystal Palace and Hull respectively. Roberto Firmino was the highest-scoring attacking player of the week, with his 2 goals helping him to 14 points, despite Liverpool suffering a shock 3-2 home defeat to Swansea.

Gameweek 23 Preview

The first fixture to take note of this week is Arsenal’s home game against Watford. The Gunners are in fine form having won 6 and drawn 1 of their last 7 games in all competitions, thrashing Southampton 5-0 in the FA Cup on Saturday evening. This is in stark contrast to Watford’s 1 win in 9 games, and even that was an FA Cup win against a side battling relegation from the Championship. They’ve lost 5 of their last 6 away in the league and should be put to the sword by Arsene Wenger’s team here. Theo Walcott (£7.4m) scored a hat trick at the weekend and that should be enough to ensure that he takes a starting spot on Tuesday evening. He’s missed the last 5 league games through injury but scored 3 times in the 5 league games prior to that and should get chances against a side who’ve not kept a league clean sheet away from home since October.

Also on Tuesday, Burnley will be looking to continue their impressive home record against a side who have been awful away all season. Burnley have picked up 25 of their 26 points this season at Turf Moor while Leicester haven’t won away in the league, losing 8 and drawing 3 of their matches away from the King Power Stadium. Burnley’s defence is key to their record here; they’ve kept clean sheets in 4 of their last 5 home games in all competitions and have conceded less league goals per game at home than the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Tom Heaton (£5.0m) has picked up 93 Fantasy Football points so far this season, a goalkeeping total only bettered by Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois. Ben Mee (£4.6m) is also a bargain buy, having completed 90 minutes in every game for Burnley and scoring 61 points in the process.

The big game of Tuesday night is undoubtedly Liverpool v Chelsea. Liverpool here have faltered in recent weeks, winning just one of their last 8 games in all competitions and losing 3 games at Anfield in the last 8 days. They’re still just about clinging onto a place in the top 4, but defeat in this one would mean that they’ll slip to fifth if Man City win on Wednesday. The last thing they want at the moment is a visit from Chelsea, a side who are top of the table, have won 15 of their last 16 league games and are undefeated from their last 5 trips to Anfield (winning 3 and drawing 2). Eden Hazard (£10.2m) scored in the 1-1 draw here last season, and with 9 goals and 5 assists to his name this season will be a real threat to Liverpool’s defence.

On Wednesday Manchester United face Hull City in what should be a routine victory for the home side. They’ve gone 17 games without losing at Old Trafford, which is once again becoming a place that visiting teams fear. United beat Hull here 3 weeks ago in the EFL Cup Semi Final and have won all 5 of their home meetings with them, scoring 16 goals in the process. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£8.9m) and Zlatan Ibrahimoiv (£11.7m) will be the key attacking threats in a game that promises goals.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace – Charlie Daniels (£5.3m)
Middlesbrough v West Brom – Ben Gibson (£4.9m)
Sunderland v Spurs – Dele Alli (£8.8m)
Swansea v Southampton – Fernando Llorente (£6.1m)
West Ham v Man City – Kevin De Bruyne (£10.5m)
Stoke v Everton – Mason Holgate (£4.1m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update later this week.

Big Data, VR, and Bitcoin – How Sport Became High-Tech

Arsenal Vs Watford
Arsenal Vs Watford” (CC BY 4.0) by joshjdss

With goal-line technology in football, rugby’s try review system, and the seemingly physics-defying cameras – Skycam and Spidercam – at major events, sport is certainly already taking advantage of new tech. However, the spectating of live events is still quite a traditional industry; fans either sit in front of a TV or buy a ticket and join the regulars in the stands.

However, the next few years could alter the way people consume sport in dramatic ways. The development of virtual reality (VR) devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive has thrown up a few unique possibilities for spectating, while so-called “big data” and Satoshi Nakamoto’s cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, are revolutionising sports betting.

Let’s take a closer look:

Bitcoin

Bitcoin made the news in early 2017 after it became the most valuable commodity on earth, out-valuing gold. While banks in particularly have been cagey about the currency (the fact that Bitcoin is not owned by anybody means that adding interest, banks’ main source of income, isn’t possible), the enigmatic token is now difficult to ignore.

But what does that mean for sport? The benefits of trading in Bitcoin, things like irreversible transactions, immediate payments, and the enhanced security innate to currency built on “blockchain” technology, has already produced a number of sportsbooks that operate in the currency exclusively.

For example, BitCasino.io, a joint mbtc casino and sports betting brand, allows people to play games and wager on their favourite teams using Bitcoin. In fact, they use Bitcoin exclusively. . A range of unique promotions – a first and second deposit bonus, a VIP scheme, and a 2,000 mbtc raffle – help players get the most from their cryptocurrency.

Tech giant Intel is also trialling the use of blockchain, a type of digital database, in fantasy sports games using a Bitcoin-like currency called “mikels”.

Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City goalkeeper
Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City goalie” (CC BY 4.0) by Ben Sutherland

Big Data

Big data has to be the very definition of a buzzword – it’s thrown around a lot on the internet without much regard for what it actually means. In brief, big data is simply the collection and analysis of statistics to reveal patterns – or not, as the case may be. It’s easy to see how knowledge of trends might give pundits and punters an advantage.

The perceived benefits of big data even prompted Premier League side Arsenal to create an analytics team to monitor player actions and movements on the pitch. Some related solutions, like Prozone, can collect 1.4m pieces of information per match. It’s debatable whether there’s any value in indiscriminate data collection, though. The point is how this data is analysed and how it can help coaches and players improve.

Not all statistics are useful. Possession, i.e. the length of time a team has control of the ball, might mean that a side is so skilful they’re never caught off-guard or that they’ve parked the bus and are timewasting in their own half. There’s very little that can be inferred from the possession stat in isolation.

For the likes of Arsenal and Leicester City, who placed analytics at the centre of last season’s title-winning campaign, it can be useful to know that a player like Oliver Giroud is avoiding using his head at corners or that Kasper Schmeichel is off his line for free kicks (for example) but, for sports betting fans, the fact that Mesut Özil runs so many kilometres per match isn’t particularly interesting – unless there’s an in-play market specifically for that metric.

Millennium Stadium
Millennium Stadium” (CC BY 4.0) by zoonabar

Virtual Reality

VR spectating is sport’s chimaera at present. The technology, however advanced, still struggles with a few aspects fundamental to the experience, like representing the person’s body and creating a compelling multiplayer environment. However, that hasn’t stopped the industry’s innovators dreaming up ways to incorporate the tech into sport.

The beginnings of VR spectating were in evidence at the 2016 Six Nations tournament, when the BBC used 360-degree cameras to film Wales and Scotland’s national anthems. It’s an encouraging development but it nevertheless highlighted the difficulties involved in creating a fully immersive experience for fans.

360-degree videos are pre-recorded; VR events must be played live if companies are going to sell tickets for them. Also, ignoring the expense (360-degree camera rigs use up to six GoPro cameras arranged in a cube), recording in the format requires adherence to strict production rules that wouldn’t work in a fluid environment like a football field. In theory, though, VR technology could allow fans to watch the World Cup Final from the stands without ever leaving the sofa.

It’s still early days for VR, Bitcoin, and big data in professional sport but the three technologies already represent some of the more interesting developments in the industry from the past few years.

Gameweek 22 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 22 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

Gameweek 21 Review

Chelsea got straight back to winning ways with a 3-0 win at Leicester, despite being without their star striker who has been the subject of a lot of media coverage regarding a move to China and a bust up with manager Antonio Conte. In the rest of the top 6, Manchester United and Liverpool played out a 1-1 draw while Tottenham and Arsenal were both 4-0 winners against West Brom and Swansea respectively. Manchester City were the big losers at the top end of the table, suffering a 4-0 hammering at Everton to drop to fifth position.

Some huge Fantasy Football points hauls this week, with the Dream Team scoring 150 points between them. Marcos Alonso’s 2 goals and clean sheet ensured he was the star man with 21 points and Harry Kane wasn’t too far behind him on 17 after notching a hat-trick. Elsewhere Abel Hernández and Marko Arnautovic scored 2 goals each and Michail Antonio got a hat trick of assists.

Gameweek 22 Preview

The first game of the weekend sees the Premier League’s best attacking side Liverpool (49 goals from 21 games this season) at home to the worst defensive side Swansea (who’ve conceded 49 goals from 21 games this season). There’s surely only one outcome here, and the returning Philippe Coutinho (£8.3m) is a man to seriously consider for your midfield. He scored or assisted 11 goals in 11 league games at the start of the season and should be back in the starting line-up on Saturday after missing 7 games through injury. Alternatively, Adam Lalllana (£7.7m) or Roberto Firmino (£8.4m) should be able to pick up good points in this one. At the back Liverpool have improved considerably since the start of the season, keeping 8 clean sheets in their last 14 games in all competitions. Simon Mignolet (£4.7m) and Ragnar Klavan (£4.6m) are both available at good prices and should be able to keep Swansea’s attack at bay fairly easily.

The late game should provide plenty of entertainment as Manchester City take on Tottenham at the Etihad. Pep Guardiola’s City team have become consistently inconsistent, summarised by their last 2 games in which they thrashed West Ham 5-0 away from home in the FA Cup and followed that up with a dismal 4-0 hammering away at Everton. They’ve won 9, drawn 6 and lost 7 of their last 22 games in all competitions and conceded 3 or more goals in 5 of those. It’s anyone’s guess which City turn up on Saturday evening, but it’s still hard to ignore Sergio Agüero (£12.8m) for your Fantasy team. He has an excellent record against Spurs, scoring 10 goals in 10 games against them and also has 11 league goals this season from 1,231 minutes, an average of a goal every 112 minutes. For the away side Harry Kane (£11.1m) is in top form, bagging 6 goals in his last 4 games, and is well on the way to scoring over 20 league goals for the third season running.

On Sunday Arsenal are at home to Burnley and will be strong favourites to claim the three points. Burnley have the worst away record in the league this season, losing 8 and drawing 1 of their 9 games. They’ve scored 3 and conceded 20 those 10 matches, so Arsenal players at both ends of the pitch should pick up Fantasy Football points this weekend. Alex Iwobi (£5.9m) could be an interesting option; the Nigerian is enjoying an extended run in the side and assisted twice in last week’s 4-0 win at Swansea. Olivier Giroud (£8.7m) is a doubt with an ankle injury, and if he’s not available then Alexis Sánchez (£11.9m) could move back into the central striking position in which he’s been so effective this season and could well add to his league tally of 14 goals and 8 assists. Bearing in mind Burnley’s awful attacking record away from home Gabriel (£4.8m) could provide clean sheet points at a bargain price. He’s started 8 of Arsenal’s last 9 league matches, including filling in for the injured Héctor Bellerín (£6.5m) at right back last week.

The final game of the weekend is another home banker, and one in which goals should be on the cards for title favourites Chelsea. They’re up against a Hull side who are ill-equipped for life in the top flight and have lost 8 successive away league games. With 23 goals conceded in those 8 games it’s difficult to see how they’ll keep Chelsea at bay. Diego Costa (£10.3m) is back in contention for the Blues, and if he starts expect him to find the net at least once. Pedro (£7.0m) has 2 goals and an assist from his last 3 appearances so is worth a look in midfield, and at the back Marcos Alonso (£6.6m) continues to impress. His 2 goals at Leicester last week mean that he now has 3 league goals to match his 3 assists for the season so far, and he’s also played the full 90 minutes in all 11 of Chelsea’s league clean sheets this campaign.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Bournemouth v Watford – Ryan Fraser (£4.8m)

Crystal Palace v Everton – Tom Davies (£4.3m)

Middlesbrough v West Ham – Fabio (£4.4m)

Stoke v Man United – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (£11.6m)

West Brom v Sunderland – Matt Philips (£5.8m)

Southampton v Leicester – Nathan Redmond (£5.8m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update next week.