Belarus, Burundi, Nicaragua, Tajikistan: what do these countries have in common with each other?

None of these countries have yet had the honour of participating in a World Cup! But we need to talk about them because the Belarusian Premier League, the Burundi Premier League, the Primera División de Nicaragua and the Tajik Higher League are the only professional football leagues in the world (apart from maybe a few of the really very obscure leagues) that have not been halted yet, while the rest of the world is in lock-down.

Of course, we don’t know the ins and outs of the day-by-day situation in these countries and if their situations allow for football to go on, all the better. Still, we hope that the locals in these countries stay healthy, and manage to find a wise balance between footballing entertainment and safety.

As for our members and readers from the rest of the world, we hope you’re healthy and holding on. We said it before and we’ll say it again: this global crisis is a crisis of each and every one of us and only together can we return to relative normality again as soon as possible. Be wise, and try to take care of yourself, your loved ones, and if possible, a stranger in need.

Now, back to Belarus. FanTeam wouldn’t be Europe’s leading fantasy football provider if they were not capable of offering their members and fans some entertainment in these crazy, almost football-less times. Enter the Belarusian Premier League (200+ FanTeam tournaments) and the Belarusian Cup (60+ FanTeam tournaments). Unfortunately, the Burundian, Nicaraguan, and Tajik leagues are not available at the moment of writing.

In other words you can still play on FanTeam and learn about one of Europe’s lesser-known competitions at the same time. Like the other fantasy tournaments on FanTeam, the Belarusian tournaments come in a pay-to-play format. Amongst the available payment methods are even digital wallets, like Skrill and Neteller, that allow cryptocurrencies as a payment option. This is a good option to have, as many people including Premier League footballers invest in bitcoin and players from countries like Belarus would probably like to be paid in bitcoin as well. Not only sportsmen, many celebrities have become fans of bitcoin expecting good returns. However, trading bitcoin manually has become a concern for many of the top level investors and this is the reason they find the automated bitcoin trading software applications like bitcoin profit to be time saving and effective. These bots carry out the trade autonomously even during the non trading hours. If crypto is your preference, all you need to do is transfer the cryptocurrency of your choice to your Skrill or Neteller wallet, select it as your preferred method of payment, and voilà. Your cryptocurrency payments are ready for use.

Belarusian Premier League

Time to get into what you actually came here for, namely our view on the upcoming games in the Belarusian Premier League. We have left out this week’s Belarusian Cup games and we might cover those at a later stage, but for the moment, just keep in mind that they are taking place this week when deciding on your bets for the league games coming weekend.

To start with, the highest domestic football league in Belarus has only just kicked off. At this moment, the teams have played three league games and modest outfit FC Bgu Minsk are the only team with a perfect record so far. Behind last season’s number 12, there are six teams with 6 points. Reigning champions FC Dynamo Brest find themselves in 10th and the country’s second-biggest club, FC Dinamo Minsk are a spot below them. BATE Borisov, Belarus’s record-champions (15 titles, including an unbelievable run of 13 consecutive titles between 2006 and 2018) and probably the best-known Belarusian team, have made a more than disappointing start to the 2020-2021 campaign with a 13th place out of 16.

On FanTeam, you can pick single-game tournaments, a tournament that covers coming Saturday (April 11th) and one that covers coming Sunday (April 12th). Instead of focusing on one or more of these specific tournaments, of which there are more than 200 on FanTeam, we have opted for a more global approach. On Friday, for example, Belshina Bobruisk are playing away against number 8 Neman Grodno. The home team finished 9th last season and have won both of their home games this season (2 goals scored, 0 conceded), while the visitors are currently last with 0 points, 5 goals conceded, and 1 goal scored. In other words, Belshina look like a potential source of fantasy points coming weekend.

On Saturday, three games are taking place with the home game for current number two FK Slutsk against number six FK Vitebsk being the fixture that stands out. In reality, both teams have 6 points after three games, but Slutsk boast a slightly better goal difference (+2 vs. +0). A more telling difference so early in the season is perhaps the fact that Slutsk got six points from a home victory and an away victory, while Vitebsk recorded their six points at home. The away game against Grodno last weekend was lost (2-0). It’s probably too early to make a judgement on any kind of sustainable home/away form, but we can see Slutsk book their second home victory of the season here.

Finally, on Sunday, there are another three games to finish gameweek 4 of the Belarusian Premier League. At first glance, the afternoon game between current 3rd placed FC Minsk and BATE Borisov (13th) stands out, but we think the result of this game between a last season’s number 10 and the country’s biggest club is very unpredictable, due to the underdogs playing at home and the favourites going through a tough start to the new season.

Instead, we would focus on the encounter between FC Smolevichi and Shakter Soligorsk. Soligorsk’s first three games have ended in a victory, a draw and a loss (4 points total), while newly-promoted Smolevichi have taken just a single point over that same run, away against reigning champions Brest in GW1. Despite having played just one away game so far this season, Soligorsk top the table for away games, thanks to their 0-2 victory over FK Gorodeya last weekend. These are also the only two goals the team has managed to score up until now. Smolevichi, on the other hand, have scored just 1 goal and conceded 3 overall. We don’t expect this to be a goal-scoring bonanza by any stretch, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the visitors took at least a point from this one, if not more.

Fantasy Sports Action Continues! Courtesy of FanTeam.

Whilst all major sport is paused, FanTeam are sourcing sports action from around the world in order to bring entertainment to Fantasy Sports fans. Their offering of Daily Fantasy Sports tournaments for April currently includes Football from the Belarus Premier League and Basketball all the way from Taiwan. In the second half of March, FanTeam brought us Fantasy Football from Australia, Hong Kong, Turkey and Venezuela so are continually sourcing sports action for us to enjoy during the lockdowns. FanTeam do provide some stats information on each club to aid your choices. All tournaments have a guarantee prize level with payouts to the top 20% and have entry fees set at only 1 euro or 5 euros to help keep the boredom away.

The Fantasy Football action challenges you to choose just 4 players. This can be from just one match (i.e. 2 clubs) or from a few matches taking place that day. There are no budget constraints (meaning you have a choice of any 4 players) but so that everyone doesn’t pick the better-rated players for every €2 million less spent on a player you gain 1 point. Those managers selecting the lower priced players will thus start ahead of the managers who have selected the higher priced players – hence this entertaining format of Fantasy Football is called ‘Pursuit’. Here is an example of one of our selected teams for the Fantasy Belarusian Premier League where you can see that because we have chosen quite expensive players (from the team favourite to win) and have captained the most expensive player in the tournament (both the striker’s points and cost count double) we start with only 2.4 bonus points – unless the striker gets a goal or assist then we’re unlikely to finish in the top 20% because other managers captaining a much cheaper player will have scored more points than us due to the Pursuit bonus points system.

FanTeam’s ‘Safety Net’ and ‘Stacking Penalty’ systems are also in place menaing that a) if you were not available to check the starting line-up in the hour before kick-off and your selected player did not play then he would be substituted with the next lowest priced starting-player in the same position from the same team (assuming there is such a player) and b) if you selected more than one defensive player (Goalkeeper/Defender) from the same team then you get 1 penalty point for each extra player meaning picking a block defense is not the easy option that it would be otherwise.

FanTeam have also launched Fantasy FIFA eSports (Premier League and Champions League) on their sportsbook offering.

And launching later today FanTeam will have a new fantasy game for eEuro2020.

FPL and the postponement of the Premier League

Before anything else, we hope that anyone who reads this (and their friends and family) is in good health and remains to be so in the midst of these unprecedented times. Few times throughout the history of English football has an external occurrence like the current situation so clearly and dramatically shown us that there are more important things in life than football.

The global scale and extremely rapid evolution of this event make it seem unstoppable at times, but it’s not. Far from it, actually, but it does require each and everyone of us to behave responsibly. Listen to what your government requests, they are working on flattening the curve in order to prevent public health systems from overloading and collapsing. Take the situation seriously, but remember there is no reason to panic. Try an extra social and compassionate attitude in daily life, from regular phone calls to your elderly loved ones to volunteering some of your time to help other people and small businesses, especially the most vulnerable ones. This crisis is everyone’s crisis, regardless of beliefs, race, or wealth, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to fulfil their duties as citizens and human beings.

Now, games like the Fantasy Premier League played by over 7 million people worldwide. Sure, many things are more important than football, but we believe we’re speaking in name of more than a few FPL managers out there when we say that a postponement of the entire Premier League until at least the 4th of April has brought about a whole additional sensation of withdrawal, on top of the ongoing madness. So what’s the situation at the moment? When will our weekends have purpose again? Can the league really be declared null and void? And if so, who would tell Jurgen Klopp?

We definitely don’t have all the answers, but with this article we do hope to shed a bit more light on the current situation for you.

PREMIER LEAGUE

First things first, the Premier League. We doubt you missed this news, but last Friday morning, March 13th, the English Football Association decided to postpone all footballing action until April 4th. The first teams to go into quarantine after a squad member got infected were Arsenal, after manager Mikel Arteta was revealed to have tested positive on Thursday; Chelsea, where Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive on Thursday night; and Everton.

From a footballing perspective, the big problem is that there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the coming weeks and months. The current measures run until April 4th, but the way it is spreading throughout Europe and the world at the moment make an extension of those measures more than likely. The fact that many huge sports events are already being postponed entirely (including the 2020 Euro Cup, which we’ll cover later on) could indicate that experts and governments are expecting a period of at least several months before a return to relative normality can even be considered again.

As a senior English football executive told the Financial Times earlier this week, there is no rulebook about having to finish a season, which means a potential premature ending of the 2019/20 campaign has to be discussed amongst all teams. That discussion would almost certainly be dominated by different teams defending very different interests, from Liverpool claiming the title to the likes of Norwich and West Ham fighting to avoid relegation this way. And of course promotions to the Premier League from the Championship. Another possibility is that the remainder of this season is completed much later on, but with football calendars so cramped already, this will cause an abundance of complications as well. Or maybe there will be no relegations but still promotions and a 22 team Premier League next season with extra relegations at the end of that season?

In other words, the situation looks dire as an uncomplicated solution seems not to exist. We can’t say much about the near future of the Premier League yet, we’ll simply have to wait and see how the bigger picture evolves around the world, but what we can do, is take a look at what it would mean in an economic sense if the 2019/20 Premier League season cannot be finished, which is one of the possible scenarios.

What complicates the situation at a fundamental level is the sheer amount of money directly related to the Premier League. Here are a few parameters and their values:

Parameter Value per year Losses if PL is cancelled
     
Annual ticket sales PL £720 million 10 weeks (£190m)
TV rights in UK £1.3 billion About £9m per game
Int. broadcasting £9.2 billion  
     
Champions League spot Total prize pool of £2 billion  
Promotion to PL At least £170 million  

These are, of course, just a few of the many factors that will come into play during this discussion, but it does provide a good idea of the economic and financial consequences of cancelling the rest of this season. On top of the hugely differing interests per club, there are also the contracts with sponsors, broadcasters, and other stakeholders to take into account. How are they all going to find a compromise that is fair to everyone? We don’t know, but we do know that it’s going to be a discussion for the ages.

EURO 2020

Football leagues all over Europe have been brought to a halt over the past week or so and we might provide a more in-depth look into the situation of some of these leagues at a later point, but we felt we could not skip over Euro 2020.

Euro 2020 was postponed by a year.

The tournament was supposed to take place between June 12th 2020 and July 12th 2020, but it was decided by the UEFA today (Tuesday, March 17th) to move it to the period June 11th 2021 – July 11th 2021. On the one hand, this drastic measure could indicate that the experts and authorities have no hope of a return to relative normality before coming summer, meaning bad news for the rest of the Premier League season as well. On the other hand, postponing the European Championships potentially frees up a month this summer in which the remaining PL games could be played. This remains highly uncertain though, as it is simply impossible to know when normal life, including football and other sports, can resume. All we can say for now is to stay safe, stay healthy, be wise, keep a close eye on the news, and try to make the best of this football-less period.

Why fantasy sport and gambling are distinct – and why it matters

The fantasy sport and gambling debate is one that has been raging since before even FISO came into being 20 years ago. From a UK perspective, it’s the sort of question that might be seen as academically interesting, but where the answer makes no real-world difference either way. In the US, however, it’s another matter.

There, different States have their own laws and regulations when it comes to gambling, and in many cases, these vary according to specific activities. New and old companies are constantly looking to capitalise on the emerging market in the US, not just in sports betting, but also when it comes to lotteries, scratch cards and casinos. Sites like Bet Boss (betboss.com) provide independent reviews, and the sites are attracting global audiences.

Any topic connected with odds is liable to be thrown into the same category as those above, so when providers like DraftKings became popular, it’s unsurprising that regulators were quick to weigh in. While most States saw no harm in fantasy sport, there were some exceptions. In Washington State, playing fantasy sport is a felony, while in Arizona, efforts to allow it have stalled due to complex gambling agreements in place with Native American tribes.

Similarities between fantasy sport and gambling

You might wonder what the fuss is about. After all, selecting a fantasy team on a Saturday morning is quite different to putting a tenner on Stoke City to beat Reading. Or is it? The point lawmakers get hung up on is that the basic skills you need to succeed in fantasy sports are largely similar to those you use for sports betting.

In both cases it is about understanding form, and also the dozens of other nuances that can influence a game in order to try to predict what will happen and who will be successful. These factors might include injuries, pitch conditions, even the weather forecast. The point is that if you exercise those skills well in either the fantasy leagues or the betting shop, you’ll likely come out a winner. However, saying there are similar factors between two activities is quite a leap from saying they are the same thing.

Differences between fantasy sport and gambling

In the vast majority of cases, fantasy sports participation is done on a “just for fun” basis. Sure, there might be an entry cost and even a prize for the winner, but these are generally negligible. This is more than “gut feel” – surveys have shown beyond doubt on both sides of the Atlantic that the main reason for playing fantasy sport is for the fun of competing with friends and to derive more enjoyment from the sporting leagues.

Ultimately, this is a view with which even US federal law agrees. When George W Bush signed off the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, it made explicit reference to fantasy sports, saying they should not be classified as a form of gambling. The wording is unequivocal, but still, the debate continues to rage on in certain corners of the USA.

Poker’s growing popularity in Estonia

Rising to the top of most sports brings with it financial security, but on top of that, a fame that extends beyond your immediate fanbase. The likes of Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods and Lewis Hamilton are literally household names, and even those with no interest in their sport know who they are.

Where things get interesting is when a new sport suddenly captures the imagination. We’ve seen this recently in Mixed Martial Arts, where the formerly fringe activity was catapulted into the limelight, and suddenly everyone was talking about Conor McGregor. Poker is all set to follow a similar if less violently dramatic.

A new sport for a new world

In the internet age, physical location becomes an irrelevance, and this brings unprecedented opportunities for those in some of the less famous parts of the world. If you want to rise to the top in football or tennis or Formula 1, you need to get yourself to the UK or USA at a young age. But to be a poker pro, it really doesn’t matter. As a result, nations that do not ordinarily have a high sporting profile are becoming unexpected hubs for poker excellence.

Estonia, the smallest country in the Baltics is a case in point. Its capital, Tallinn, has built a reputation over the past decade or so as a place that mixes rich history, great nightlife and cheap prices. Where better to go to play poker?

Tallinn’s growing reputation in this regard has come at the same time as poker’s gradual transition from barroom game to sport. The World Series of Poker initially attracted the attention of sports network ESPN in the late 90s, and 20 years on it is now on the International Olympic Committee’s radar. Over the same period, public interest in poker has been piqued by online poker groups. All this has further enhanced interest in the game in Estonia, where there is an increasing availability of online gaming platforms where people initially visit to play simple slots but are then tempted to try out more sophisticated card-based games.

Estonia’s top poker pros

The net result is that Estonian players are rapidly appearing ever closer to the top of the world poker rankings. They might not be raking in the millions enjoyed by the likes of Justin Bonomo or Daniel Negreanu, but it is only a matter of time.

Markku Koplimaa is top on Estonia’s all-time money list, having taken home more than with more than $1.25 million in career winnings. The 33-year-old hit the headlines last year, winning more than €500,000 by beating all comers at the EPT Barcelona.

Second, on the list is crowd favourite Madis Müür. Unlike Koplimaa, who is mostly New York-based, Muur still lives in his native land. He’s amassed career winnings of almost $800,000, which could go some way to explaining the big smile that makes him so popular.

Estonia is also famous for its female poker pros. Catlin Müür became the first female champion last year and is one of many young female players shaking up the poker scene in Estonia and the wider world.

FPL Season 2019/2020 – Gameweek 30 Preview

“Are Steve Bruce’s men grinding out another valuable win in gameweek 30, this time at home to Palace?” (CC by 4.0). Image by Tukka.

Note: These fixtures were subsequently postponed – GW30 is now a completely blank gameweek. We assume if the EPL does restart then they will take place in a new FPL GW39 at the end. Similarly the now blank GW31 could become a new GW40.

Rarely will a double gameweek (DGW), though a small one, have been more underwhelming for FISO’s FPL Forum members than gameweek 29 has been. With Arsenal and especially Manchester City preparing themselves for a double piece of action, more and more FPL managers started talking more and more about hauls, triple captains and even Free Hits as the deadline came closer. The results? A 1-0 Arsenal victory over West Ham, City lost 2-0 to United, and Wednesday evening’s Man City vs Arsenal clash postponed due to coronavirus-related public health worries. In other words, no DGW after all. Fortunately for the gameweek average, Sunday saw Chelsea, United and Leicester book impressive victories.

What stands out this weekend is the fact that only one team from the current top seven has a home game. At the same time, Man City’s encounter with Burnley at the Etihad is also the only fixture this weekend that we would call favourable on paper. As a matter of fact, out of the current top twelve, only three teams (City, Spurs and Everton) have a home game in gameweek 30. This, of course, doesn’t necessarily need to mean anything, but it does increase the chances of a surprising weekend. What we’re saying is, gameweek 30 might be another fruitful outing for the differentials. You do though need to keep an ear out for the latest Coronavirus news – for example Arsenal’s match v Brighton has now been postponed. The entire fixture list for this weekend (and more) could be postponed.

Finally, don’t forget that the deadline for gameweek 30 is set at 11h30 (UK time) on Saturday, March, 14th, 2020.

How did our fantasy picks for the previous gameweek fare?

PICK PLAYER OPPONENT POINTS
Premium Kevin de Bruyne UTD (a) + ARS (H) 0 (injury + cancel)
Premium P-E Aubameyang West Ham (H) 2
Non-premium Raul Jimenez Brighton (H) 2
Non-premium John Fleck Norwich (H) 3
Differential Diogo Jota Brighton (H) 2
Differential Matt Doherty Brighton (H) 6
Captain Kevin de Bruyne UTD (a) + ARS (H) 0 (injury + cancel)

Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per March 12th, 2020)

  TRANSFERS OUT TRANSFERS IN POSSIBLE REASONS
GK Alisson (LIV), Ryan (BRI), Dubravka (NEW) Pope (BUR), Henderson (SHE), Patricio (WOL) Injuries to Alisson and Dubravka, good form of Pope and Patricio
DEF Robertson (LIV), Chilwell (LEI), Kelly (CRY) Doherty (WOL), Lundstram (SHE), Alonso (CHE) Chilwell has an injury doubt and Kelly is benched, Doherty and Alonso have been in good form lately.
MID De Bruyne (CIT), Bergwijn (TOT), Grealish (AST) Fernandes (UTD), Martial (UTD), Mané (LIV) Injury doubt surrounding KdB, injury to Bergwijn, Man United’s and especially Bruno’s form right now.
FOR Ings (SOU), Abraham (CHE), Firmino (LIV) Vardy (LEI), Jimenez (WOL), Jota (WOL) Good form and a game in GW31 make Wolves players / strikers some of the most appealing transfer targets, and Vardy is back amongst the goals.

Premium fantasy picks

As we wrote in our introduction to this piece that Man City is actually the only team with a clear-cut favourable fixture this weekend, it makes sense for our first premium pick to be a Cityzen. And as you might know already, when we talk about picking City assets, we talk about Kevin de Bruyne (£10.6m). The fixture-proof midfielder missed the Manchester derby last weekend due to injury, but the Manchester Evening News has reported that Guardiola’s men played an 11-a-side training game instead in which the Belgian participated as usual. We expect him to be back for the home game against the Clarets and we hope that he will mark his return with a nice haul. De Bruyne has scored 8 goals and provided no less than 18 assists so far this season, and he will get chances to improve on those tallies. Burnley are a solid side, but expect KdB to be one of the top captaincy choices this weekend.

Our second premium fantasy pick of the week was goin to be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.1m) before the Arsenal match was called-off. The Gabonese striker disappointed with just 2 FPL points in GW29, partly due to him failing to score in the 1-0 victory over West Ham and partly due to his second game of the gameweek being cancelled. In other words, it wasn’t all his fault. His replacement in our picks for this weekend is Man United’s Fernandes (£8.5m) who can just do no wrong since United splashed the cash on him and whose ownership is now up to 16%.

Non-premium fantasy picks

Our first non-premium fantasy pick for gameweek 30 is a frequent guest in this article, namely Wolves striker Raul Jimenez (£8.0m). The Mexican forward is currently in a productive patch that combines good form with kind fixtures and to make his case even more appealing, Wolves is one of the eight teams with a fixture in blank gameweek 31. His blank at home to Brighton last weekend was a bit disappointing, to be honest, but our faith in him hasn’t wavered. This Sunday, Wolves are visiting West Ham, who are coming off a narrow 1-0 away defeat to Arsenal. The Hammers have been incredibly inconsistent this season and their current situation sees them above the relegation zone only on the basis of goal difference. As far as home games go, they have conceded 26 goals in 14 games, and 6 of those came in the last three games against Southampton (1), Brighton (3) and Liverpool (2). Jimenez, on the other hand, has no problems with playing away from home: out of his current 13 goals and 6 assists, 7 goals and 3 assists were recorded during away games.

Our second non-premium fantasy pick is a defender who we chose based mainly on two factors: the improving form of his team and the seemingly rapidly approaching implosion of this weekend’s opponents. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m) has not been particularly impressive in an attacking sense this season (0 goals, 2 assists), but he does have 7 clean sheets and 12 bonus points to his name. Four of those clean sheets came in the last five games, a run over which he recorded a more than decent total of 34 FPL points. Next up is a seriously toothless Spurs side who are missing, amongst other names, Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and new boy Steven Bergwijn. On Tuesday, José Mourinho’s side lost 3-0 to RB Leipzig in the Champions League, so the Spurs won’t be brimming with confidence on Sunday. We’re counting on a clean sheet for AWB, and maybe a few points on top of that.

A differential fantasy pick or two

We’re repeating last week’s first differential fantasy pick, because a big reason for recommending Diogo Jota (£6.4m) was the kind run of fixtures Wolves find themselves in at the moment. Seeing as that run is still in full swing with West Ham away up next, followed by Bournemouth home (in BGW31, mind you) and Aston Villa away, the Portuguese forward is still a good shout. Gameweeks 27 and 28 were incredible for Jota, as he recorded just over 55% of all of his returns this season in those two games: 3 goals and 2 assists, good for 28 FPL points. That should serve as a moderate word of caution for FPL managers, but his price tag, his current ownership (9.4%), and Wolves’ form and fixtures make him one of the better differential picks out there for gameweek 30.

Our second differential pick and final pick for this weekend is also our riskiest, in the sense that before between gameweeks 3 and 26, Pedro (£6.8m) had played just 130 minutes of Premier League football. He started with two full games in gameweeks 1 and 2, but then lost his starting spot. At the moment though, Chelsea is going through a bit of an injury crisis, particularly in midfield, and Pedro took his chance. He was part of the starting eleven four out of five last PL outings, and he got a goal and 2 assists from his last two games. Chelsea’s next game is at Villa Park, home of the league’s worst defence overall. Saturday’s home team has already conceded 56 goals in 29 games and 24 of those goals were conceded in 13 games in front of their own fans. Things are looking bleak for the Villans and we can see a repeat here of Chelsea’s impressive 4-0 victory last weekend over Everton.

For further GW30 transfer ideas look at this fiso FPL forum topic.

The captaincy

As usual, when we recommend Kevin de Bruyne as a premium pick, we also give him the armband. The Belgian is just one of the most fixture-proof players in the Premier League at the moment, simply because he is one of the very best players out there. He missed last weekend’s encounter with United due to injury and yesterday’s game against Arsenal was postponed, so the expectation is that KdB will turn up fresh as a daisy against Burnley at the Etihad on Saturday afternoon. Aguero is another good pick for the armband, but we eventually discarded him due to the rotation risk.

In case you don’t feel like captaining De Bruyne or one of City’s other big guns, we would look at either Wolves or Chelsea assets as alternatives. Mr. Consistency Raul Jimenez is a good shout away at West Ham, while captaining Giroud could be a cheeky and very differential punt. The same would go for Pedro or Willian, who look like they will be starting against the Hammers. Callum Wilson (home against Palace) or Danny Ings (away to Norwich) would fit into that category as well, to a certain extent (though Ings is currently owned by 29.7% of FPL managers).

Finally if you like FPL but want to have a go at a weekly Fantasy Premier League type competition for prizes then have a look at FanTeam’s 50,000 euro Weekly Monster. FISO members could win free ‘Weekly Monster’ entries (worth 20 euros) via the FISO FanTeam forum. There are freerolls for new entrants if registered within the last 8 weeks. Read all about a fiso member who won 30,000 euros on FanTeam from just a 2 euro entry fee. FanTeam have also just launched a 500,000 euro Fantasy Premier League game.

20th Anniversary of FISO.co.uk on 10 March 2020

The website FISO.co.uk was launched 20 years ago on 10th March 2000 as the 1st website for fans of UK Fantasy Sports games and celebrates its 20th anniversary today. FISO stands for ‘Fantasy & Interactive Sports Online’. The year 2000 also saw websites such as TripAdvisor & FriendsReunited launched when there were approximately 10 million websites in existence whilst now there are about 200 million active websites.

In August 2001, FISO launched an online discussion forum for its like-minded visitors. The current version of the forum now has 300+ different forums and over 3 million posts covering many Fantasy Sports games such as the free-to-play official Fantasy Premier League game (played by over 7 million people worldwide), Telegraph Fantasy Football, Sun DreamTeam and the newer FanTeam which has a €500,000 prize fund Premier League fantasy game running in Spring 2020. Many of the people playing Fantasy Sports have similar backgrounds and interests and hence it is easy to make friends and enjoy the forum discussions or get involved in the side-games and mini-leagues created on FISO’s forum.

Background to Fantasy Football in the UK

Fantasy Football games challenge you to select an imaginary team of footballers normally within a set budget who score points based on their real-life performances on the football pitch. People who play Fantasy Sports games do so to enhance their enjoyment of watching sports events or because they enjoy competing for prizes (of up to £1m) or just for pride in beating their friends & colleagues in their mini-league.

Since its introduction to the UK from the USA in 1991, the concept of Fantasy Football has gone through several stages with continued popularity. It started with specialist books for groups of friends or colleagues to play in auction leagues (only one team in the group could have each player) before being picked up by the newspapers as a great promotional and database building tool in the mid 1990’s. David Baddiel and Frank Skinner jumped on the band wagon with their “Fantasy League ™” TV programme which topped the ratings during Euro 96. Many thought this might have been the peak but the advent of the Internet provided Fantasy Sports with a huge boost that it has not looked back from since, with the official Fantasy Premier League game now boasting over 7 million players worldwide. Since FISO.co.uk was launched in March 2000, other websites aimed at Fantasy Premier League fans were created including Fantasy Football Scout in 2006 & Fantasy Football Hub in 2017.

A Press Release about FISO’s 20th Birthday was released on 9 March 2020.

Fantasy Premier League 2019-2020 – Chip strategy from GW29 onwards

Since last weekend, when gameweek 28 blessed us with the lowest-scoring round by some difference, chip season is widely considered to be open in FPL. What do people mean when they talk about chip season though, and why is it becoming a hot topic now?

The chips this season are the Bench Boost, the Triple Captain, the Free Hit and two Wildcards (one for each half of the season) and many managers use one or more of these transfers not just to increase their weekly score, but to navigate the so-called blank (BGW) and double gameweeks (DGW). We have had a few minor ones already this campaign, like GW28 in which Aston Villa, Manchester City, Arsenal and Sheffield United ‘blanked’. The major ones are upon us now though, which traditionally sees an increase in chip usage all over. This is why some people are referring to this part of the season as ‘chip season’. How you use your chips can have a great bearing on your final team position and this article provide tips and analysis to help your strategy just like bettingtips4you has betting tips and predictions if you are serious about betting on football or other sports. Premier League football attracts a lot of followers utlising betting or fantasy games to become more involved in the action.

This FPL gameweek, for example, is a double one for Man City and Arsenal, gameweek 30 is regular round, and GW31 is possibly the biggest blank gameweek of the season. Due to different calendar clashes, only four Premier League games will be played in Gameweek 31. This was expected for some months already, which is why planning to use the Free Hit chip in that weekend, followed by the second Wildcard a few weeks later, became a popular strategy. The “problem” now is that PL club performances in the FA Cup have resulted in a possibly very complex combination of single gameweeks for some clubs and double or blank gameweeks for some other clubs between gameweeks 33 and 37. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at this strategy and at an alternative approach, as well. For more information on the Premier League calendar, FPL gameweeks and chip strategies, we sincerely recommend Ben Crellin’s Twitter account (@BenCrellin) and FISO’s FPL Forum where there is a forum topic on FPL chip strategy.

Overview of double/blank gameweeks (may be subject to adjustments)*

Gameweek Type Early-season Alternative
29 DOUBLE 1 free transfer 1 free transfer
30 normal 1 free transfer 1 free transfer
31 BLANK FREE HIT 1 free transfer
32 normal 1 free transfer 1 free transfer
33 normal 1 free transfer WILDCARD 2
34 DOUBLE 1 free transfer BENCH BOOST
35 normal 1 free transfer 1 free transfer
36 normal WILDCARD 2 1 free transfer
37 DOUBLE BENCH BOOST FREE HIT
38 normal 1 free transfer 1 free transfer

*where it says “1 free transfer”, more transfers are possible for hit points as well

FPL chip strategy: popular early-season planning

To start with, the foundation of this approach was saving at least your Free Hit and second Wildcard until this point in the season. For months, the more specialised managers among us have expected GW31 to be a BGW, GW34 to be a mixture of blank, double and single fixtures, and GW37 to be the biggest DGW. The initial idea behind this strategy was to Free Hit in GW31 to allow for one less obstacle (a gameweek with just 4 matches) when preparing for GW34 by using free transfers. This planning would have to reach until GW35, because GW36 would see the second Wildcard being activated in order to benefit optimally from the Bench Boost chip in DGW37. Like this, with a lot of good planning and a bit of luck, FPL managers would be able to navigate the fixture calendar minefield at the business end of the season. Those lucky (or patient) enough to still have their Triple Captain chip can use it to further facilitate the navigation of the upcoming period.

The problem with this strategy has only become apparent in the very recent past, once the FA Cup started reaching its more advanced stages. According to Ben Crellin and other experts, by Free Hitting in GW31 and then Wildcarding in GW32 or GW33, it is going to be a lot more difficult to set your team up in such a way that it can successfully confront GW34 and GW37. That is because, according to their calculations and expectations, only four teams can have a DGW in both of these weeks and the chances of that happening are looking extremely slim at the moment. This means that, in order to put down a half decent performance in these key gameweeks, you will need two rather different team set-ups, one for each week. With just two gameweeks in between and no Free Hit chip available, this looks like an impossible task, unless you are willing to take a considerable amount of hit points.

As a result of this development, we and some other FPL managers have started thinking about alternative strategies for chip usage. With the FA Cup’s fifth round behind us, we have a lot more clarity in regard  to each team’s blank and double gameweeks, which is essential when deciding on a chip strategy. The approach above could still very well work, but based on the latest developments in regard to the Premier League calendar, it can’t hurt to consider an alternative or two, as well.

FPL chip strategy: an alternative approach

Again, to start with, this approach assumes the availability of at least the Free Hit chip, the Bench Boost chip and the second Wildcard. Instead of Free Hitting in GW31, this strategy builds on preparing for GW31 by using free transfers (including GW29, you have three left for free) and then Wildcarding in GW33 to prepare for what looks like a messy GW34. The Free Hit chip can then be deployed in GW37.

In terms of the Free Hit, one of the big advantages of this strategy is that it can be used on a big DGW instead of as a tool to navigate what’s looking like quite a light gameweek 31. Only Burnley, Bournemouth, Palace, Liverpool, Spurs, Watford, West Ham and Wolves have a game that round. The question is whether this line-up allows you to optimally benefit from your Free Hit, in a very unpredictable week in terms of FPL.

In any case, preparing for GW31 this way is going to take some planning and nerve, seeing as there are just three free transfers left to do so, including this weekend’s. Should you manage though, then your team is set up rather well for the final stretch. You would be able to Wildcard in GW33, Bench Boost in GW34 and Free Hit in GW37. This also sounds helpful when you take into account that the end of the season is often one of the campaign’s most unpredictable periods in terms or starting elevens and rotation, as some teams will still have more to play for than others. On top of that, by using your Wildcard in GW32 or GW33, you can benefit from it for six or seven weeks instead of just two when Wildcarding in GW37. Like with the other strategy discussed earlier, the availability of the Triple Captain chip would be a bonus at this point, one that can help you, for example, to soften gameweek 31’s blows.

In the end, the chip strategy you choose will largely depend on the chips you still have left, the current state of your team, and developments still to come in regard to the Premier League calendar. The early-season approach is still valid as well, but it’s worth looking at alternatives as well. We have offered you one above, but we recommend to do further research as well, in order to come to the strategy that perfectly fits your own team and set-up. Advice is always available on the FISO FPL Forum and sub-forums.

Fanteam Weekly Monster Early Entry Team – GW29

FISO are starting a new series of weekly articles on Fanteam, Europe’s biggest daily fantasy football provider (and entering the team that we write about!). This series will focus on Fanteam’s Weekly Monster, a weekly fantasy league based on the Premier League games that kick-off on or after Saturday 3pm UK time with €50,000 worth of guaranteed prize money. That’s every gameweek, in case you were wondering. Our article will focus on a Early Entry for this weekly tournament which will help you identify game rules, tactics and the most promising players per gameweek so you can win some of that large prize money. Every gameweek, we will choose a team of eleven players from the selected Premier League matches within a virtual budget of €100 million. In that sense, the Weekly Monster is quite similar to the official Fantasy Premier League game we all know and love.

Our FISO team below will be entered into this week’s €20 entry (€50k prize pool) Weekly Monster, which has a maximum entry limit of 3,000. Every week, we’ll report back on how our team performed in the previous week. A finish in the top 20% of a given week would see us win part of the prize pool of which the winner normally takes home about €4,000. FanTeam also offer a €2 entry Weekly Monster with a lower prize pool (of which the winner normally gets about €500) for those who prefer to play with lower stakes.

Before moving onto our team selection, we want to highlight a couple of Fanteam rules that they apply to their Weekly Monster competition and that represent some of the major differences when comparing the game to the FPL.

Number one is that FanTeam have a rule called the ‘safety net’. The safety net comes into play when a selected player does not start in the Weekly Monster, because the game will then automatically replace this player with the next lowest-priced player from the same position (GK, DEF, MID, FOR) in the same team. By ‘next’ lowest we mean if our player (who doesn’t start) is priced at 7m and two players priced less than him at 6.8m and 6.5m start then our replacement will be the 6.8m player. The automatic replacement is regardless of whether or not your selected player does take to the field later in the game. This rule means people who have entered a team into the Weekly Monster need not worry too much about whether their selected players will start or not, particularly if they know there are cheaper players for that same club in that same position who should start instead.

Number two is that FanTeam also have a ‘stacking penalty’ for the Weekly Monster, which penalises teams that have selected more than one defenders/goalkeeper from the same club. The stacking penalty comes into play when you pick more than one defensive player (defenders or goalkeepers) from a particular club and this club records a clean sheet. The points awarded for this clean sheet will decrease by 1 point for each additional defensive player from the same club that you have selected. The stacking penalty has a maximum of minus 3 points. This rule helps stop multi-entrants from gaining an advantage by submitting block defence teams.

Don’t forget, the deadline for gameweek 29’s FanTeam Weekly Monster is set at 3PM (UK time) on Saturday, March 7th, 2020. You can enter a team earlier and make changes right up to the deadline. This means you have an hour to check the starting line-ups  for the 3PM games (the 1st 5 fixtures listed below), so you can change your selections accordingly up until the 3PM deadline, but not after.

Gameweek 29 Weekly Monster matches

07/03/20 Arsenal West Ham
07/03/20 Crystal Palace Watford
07/03/20 Sheffield United Norwich
07/03/20 Southampton Newcastle
07/03/20 Wolves Brighton
07/03/20 Burnley Spurs
08/03/20 Chelsea Everton
08/03/20 Manchester United Manchester Cheaty
09/03/20 Leicester Aston Villa

How did our Weekly Monster team fare in gameweek 28?

Formation: 3-4-3|  Budget used:  98.6m|  GW28 finish: 1472/2248|  Prize pool: ///

NAME (club) (opponent) RETURNS POINTS
Pope (BUR) vs. Newcastle (a) Clean sheet, 4 saves 8
Alexander-Arnold (LIV) vs. Watford (a) Goals conceded -1, Impact -1 0
Saiss (WOL) vs. Spurs (a) Goals conceded -1, Impact +1 2
Tarkowski (BUR) vs. Newcastle (a) Clean sheet, yellow card, stack penalty -1 4
C Mané (LIV) vs. Watford (a) Impact -1 4
VC Salah (LIV) vs Watford (a) Impact -1 2
Ward-Prowse (SOU) vs. West Ham (a) 1 assist, Impact -1 5
McNeil (BUR) vs. Newcastle (a) Clean sheet 4
Giroud (CHE) vs. Bournemouth (a) 1 assist, Impact -1 4
Long (SOU) vs. West Ham (a) Impact -1 2
Jimenez (WOL) vs Spurs (a) 1 goal, Impact +1 7

Our team suggestion for the Weekly Monster in gameweek 29

Formation: 3-4-3|  Budget used: 99.9m

FISO’s FanTeam Weekly Monster entry for GW29

General approach

Gameweek 29 looks to be one of those gameweeks in which the Weekly Monster budget just seems too tight to really bring in all the players you ideally want. With several favourable fixture match-ups on the calendar, plenty of fantasy Premier League assets carry (very) premium price tags this weekend. Here’s an example to illustrate the situation: the likes of Vardy (injury doubt), Maddison (last attacking return in GW21), Raheem Sterling (no returns since GW19) and Wilfried Ndidi all set you back 12% or more of your total budget. Of course, historial performance is not or barely taken into account for the Weekly Monster prices, but it gives you a bit of an idea of the budgetary situation in which we find ourselves this weekend.

For our team selection for gameweek 29, we have focused on Wolves, Sheffield United and Arsenal as our team’s backbone, and Everton as this week’s punt. The remaining two spots in the starting eleven are taken up by a Burnley and a Crystal Palace asset, respectively, partly based on their fixture and partly on each player’s capacity to put down an excellent individual performance without necessarily needing a good team performance or even victory from their respective teams.

Goalkeeper

We are starting our overview with the previously mentioned Burnley asset, goalkeeper Nick Pope. In FPL, the young Englishman is the highest-scoring goalkeeper, while on FanTeam, he is the second-best goalie after Schmeichel (133 vs 134.5 points). The Clarets’ league-high 11 clean sheets have more than a little to do with these outstanding rankings. He is one of the league’s most in-form shot stoppers at this moment, which is underlined by the fact that, on FanTeam, he has recorded 50.5 points over the past six gameweeks. That’s an average of almost 8,5 points per game. If he can maintain this average on Saturday evening at home to Spurs, we’ll be more than happy.

Defenders

Our most expensive defender this weekend is Sheffield United left wing-back Enda Stevens. The Blades are facing the Premier League’s most goal-shy travellers in Norwich this weekend. The Canaries have managed to score just 6 goals in 14 away games so far, and just 1 goal in their last 5 games away from home. Sheffield United, on the other hand, boast the league’s second-sturdiest defence overall (25 goals conceded vs. Liverpool’s 20) and the league’s fifth-best defence in home games (13 goals conceded in 14 games). As far as Stevens goes, he already has 2 goals and 2 assists to his name, but he is currently flagged as having a 75% chance of playing. We feel confident he will start on Saturday, but if he doesn’t, we’re more than covered by the Safety Net. Besides that, you will know Sheffield’s starting lineup an hour before this week’s Weekly Monster deadline.

Our second defender is the first Wolves asset in our team selection for gameweek 29. Romain Saiss has been a shrewd investment of late, both in FPL and on FanTeam. The Moroccan national team captain is a mainstay in Nuno Espirito Santo’s starting lineup, but in both games, he has remained in the relative bargain basket. Despite a home game against Brighton this Saturday, playing the full 90 minutes in 13 of the last 14 PL games, and recording no less than 24 points on FanTeam over the past four gameweeks, his price this week was still set at just 7.0M. When it comes to away games only, Brighton share a relegation spot with Bournemouth and Watford as a result of taking just 10 points from 14 games. Over that run, the Seagulls managed to score just 15 goals. A Wolves victory is expected, hopefully with a clean sheet.

The final component of our 3-men defence is Dutch defender Patrick van Aanholt, who is facing Watford at Selhurst Park on Saturday. Palace manager Roy Hodgson has managed to turn his team into a very solid defensive unit, with Sheffield United the only team currently outside of the top five that has conceded less than Palace’s 32 goals in 28 games. When looking at home games exclusively, Newcastle are the only outfit outside of the current top four that has conceded less than Palace’s 13 goals. Van Aanholt is not just a defensive pick though, because he tends to bomb forward quite often as well. His 3 goals this Premier League campaign illustrate the freedom he gets to join in attack when possible. On FanTeam, he has recorded 20 points over the past two weeks, courtesy of 2 clean sheets and a goal. Saturday’s opponent Watford will be buoyant after thrashing Liverpool 3-0 last weekend, but the Hornets have their work cut out for them against a stubborn Eagles side and it wouldn’t surprise us to see them come crashing back down to earth.

Midfielders

The most expensive pick on our midfield this week is also a first-timer in our team selection this season. Arsenal’s Nicolas Pépé has had a bit of a anonymous start to his first Premier League season, but under manager Mikel Arteta, he seems to be finding his place in the team and in the league. Back in gameweeks 16 and 17, Arsenal played West Ham and City back-to-back, just like they will now for their double gameweek. The DGW is of no concern to Weekly Monster players, but it’s worth mentioning that in the previously mentioned gameweeks, Pépé started both games, scored a goal and an assist (away to West Ham) and recorded a total of 14 points on FPL. In terms of his more recent form, the Ivory Coast international has been on fire: over the past 2 gameweeks, he has scored a goal and given 2 assists for a total of 23 points on FanTeam. Despite his hefty price tag for the Weekly Monster (12.2M), we expect Pépé to be the second-most selected Gunner this week, after Aubameyang.

Out of the three Sheffield United midfielders that seem to have nailed down a spot in manager Chris Wilder’s starting eleven, we have gone with John Fleck, who is United’s most expensive midfielder this week. When looking at the Blades midfield though, besides Lundstram’s early-season antics, there is no abundance of goal-scoring potential there. Fleck is the main man on their midfield, at least when it comes to direct goal involvement. In 24 games this season, the Englishman has scored 5 goals and provided 2 assists, which represents an attacking return every 3.4 games. This weekend, Norwich are rolling up to Bramall Lane, and we find it hard to imagine that Chris Wilder would lose this opportunity to add another three points to United’s already impressive points total. Canary confidence will have been boosted considerably by last Friday’s victory over Leicester, but the home team should win this one, in theory. Norwich have conceded 25 goals in 14 away games, and Fleck might well add a bit to their defensive misery this weekend.

The case for our third midfield pick this week is a bit similar to that of Fleck, in the sense that Joao Moutinho, despite being an excellent midfielder and a sure starter for Wolves, is not the most prolific fantasy asset. He has played 2344 out of 2520 Premier League minutes so far this season, and scored a goal and provided 7 assists over that run. The assists, in particular, are of interest, because they reveal Moutinho’s very frequent set-piece duties. The Portuguese playmaker has not returned since his back-to-back assists in gameweeks 21 and 22, so we hope that the upcoming home game against Brighton finally sees him directly involved in a goal once again. The 25 goals that the Seagulls have conceded in their 14 away games this season show us that there will be opportunities for players of Moutinho’s mould and quality.

Our 4-man midfield is completed by one of our two Everton picks this week, Richarlison. At a price of just 6.9M, the Brazilian winger/striker could be a bit of a bargain, considering the Toffees are visiting Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Chelsea have been far from comfortable in front of their own fans this season, which is underlined by the fact that, when looking at results from home game only, the Blues are actually in tenth place in the Premier League. A total of 21 points from 14 games is just not good enough for a team with Champions League ambitions. Since Carlo Ancelotti took over at Goodison, Everton have scored in every Premier League game. Over that period, Richarlison scored 4 goals and provided 2 assists for a total of 49 points in FPL and 53 points on FanTeam. It should also be noted that he missed gameweeks 23 and 24 completely due to injury. In other words, it’s a bit of a punt, but we can see Richarlison score or assist at Chelsea.

Forwards

Just like last week, we are playing with three forwards this weekend, starting with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, our most expensive pick overall. From an FPL point of view, the Gabonese Gunner is probably the best fantasy asset from Mikel Arteta’s team and he could be in for a nice haul this Saturday at home against West Ham. Auba has played the full 90 minutes in the last three Premier League games and it’s not hard to see why: 2 goals (both at home to Everton and Newcastle, respectively) and 23 points on FanTeam for an average of almost 8 points per game over that period. Arsenal have a double gameweek, but we’re confident their star man will start both games, especially considering the fact that he was rested for Arsenal’s FA Cup tie with Portsmouth last Monday. The Hammers have conceded a worrying 15 goals in their last 6 Premier League games overall and they will be more than nervous about facing the current Premier League joint-topscorer this weekend. Auba is also our captain for GW29.

Our second forward pick of the week has become somewhat of a familiar face in our weekly selection. Wolves are playing at home against Brighton coming Sunday and we’re betting on Raul Jimenez to do what he does best once again: record a modest, but sweet single-digit return over 90 minutes of Premier League football. The Mexican striker has returned in 16 different games already this season and even though that includes just three double-digit returns, this makes him one of the most consistent top performers this campaign. And consistency, especially of this kind, usually means value in fantasy football. From their last 5 away games, this weekend’s opponent Brighton have taken just 2 points, conceding 10 and scoring 6 goals in the process. We think Wolves will better them this weekend and if they do, we certainly see a key role for Jimenez. He is also our vice-captain this round.

Our final fantasy pick for gameweek 29 is partly budget-based, partly form-based and partly based on our wish to include what, hopefully, will turn out to be a meaningful differential pick. Everton are playing away at Chelsea this weekend and with the Blues’ disappointing home form in mind, we have selected Dominic Calvert-Lewin as our third striker. After 3 goals in 4 PL games between gameweeks 23 and 26, many fantasy managers expected the young Englishman to drift off the radar a bit, due to an unfavourable swing of fixtures. From GW27 onwards, the Toffees played Arsenal away, United at home, this weekend Chelsea away and Liverpool at home in GW30, but DCL didn’t mind. Two weeks into this tough run of games and the Everton forward sits on 2 goals from 2 games (1 at Arsenal, 1 against United). With a FanTeam price tag of just 6.8M this weekend and our hope that some players will overlook him, he made it into our starting eleven for GW29 along with his team mate Richarlison and we hope they link up for a goal.

As we said this team has been entered into the 20 euro FanTeam Weekly Monster and we hope to report back next week that we’ve shared part of the 50,000 euros prize pool. You can also follow discussions about FanTeam games on FISO’s FanTeam Forum. FISO members could win free ‘Weekly Monster’ entries (worth 20 euros) via the FISO FanTeam forum. There are freerolls for new entrants if registered within the last 8 weeks. Read all about a fiso member who won 30,000 euros on FanTeam from just a 2 euro entry fee. FanTeam have also just launched a 500,000 euro Fantasy Premier League game.