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.

Could Bitcoins Change The Way You Bet?

Sports betting is almost as much fun as the games themselves. It ups the stakes, and lets you use the wisdom of your inner sports nerd in a way that can really pay off. For some, betting on sports goes beyond the pleasure of putting a few quid on a game, and can itself become a rich and challenging enterprise, with real money on the line to boot!

If you are this type of person, then chances are you’re probably consumed by equations, statistics, and mathematical know-how. But one new development might have passed you by. The bitcoin does not represent a change in the fundamentals of betting per se, but it can make the way you bet a whole lot simpler.

Below, we look at what a bitcoin is, and why it might be the stress-free alternative to traditional currencies.

So what is a Bitcoin?

Bitcoins are a digital form of currency created via complex mathematics. They were invented in 2008 by a developer called Satoshi Nakamoto, who to this day remains mysterious. Bitcoins can be “mined” using specialist equipment, and many do just that. However, for most us, the simpler option would be buying bitcoins from any of the trusted vendors.

The next question is why you should use bitcoins over regular currency, and this breaks down into 4 main points.

Bitcoins Transfer is Fast, Flexible, and Under Your Control

Bitcoin transfer knows no boundaries, which means you can transfer your money across international borders, on bank holidays, and to anyone you please. Not encountering any of the usual red tape also means your transfers will happen fast, and the fact that there’s no central authority in the bitcoin network means that no one will be changing this anytime soon. This all makes betting on international games a lot easier, and lets you place your bet at the exact right time.

Bitcoins are Actively Encouraged by Merchants

Because of the high level of security, many merchants are pro-bitcoin, as it can prevent them losing out to fraud. Especially in the case of sports betting, sites like the VegasCasino, available online here even offer a bitcoin bundle in exchange for sign-up, and from there it’s an easy process to place bitcoins directly from your desktop or mobile. In addition to sports betting, the site offers bitcoin slots, blackjack and a variety of other casino games.

Bitcoins are Secure

Merchants are unable to add extra fees without first letting you know – avoiding hidden charges. On top of that, your personal information doesn’t have to be tied to your bitcoin transaction, so the dangers of identity theft are lower than with traditional payment methods. For the extra cautious, there is even a way of backing up your bitcoins, removing nearly 100% of the stress associated with making betting transactions online.

Bitcoins Cost Virtually Nothing to Transfer

Winning big, then losing out due to high transfer fees can be a real blight. Just so, even small transfer fees add up for the betting veteran. Bitcoin fees are often zero, or so close to zero as to be nominal, making them a real money saver for seasoned pros. Moreover, if time is an issue, fees can be increased to ensure your transfer goes through when you need it to, adding that element of flexibility once again.

So, if you’re a walking sports almanac or just a happy-go-lucky punter, it makes sense to put your money where your router is.

Gameweek 21 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 21 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

This is the first Fantasy Football update of the New Year, incorporating a summary of the last 3 weeks of action:

Gameweeks 18-20 Review

Chelsea failed to set the new record for successive Premier League wins when they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham last time out. They are still out in front and have a 5-point lead at the top of the league, then the chasing pack are becoming tightly-bunched with only 5 points splitting the teams in second to sixth. Hull have dropped to the bottom of the table having not won in 9 Premier League games.

Tottenham’s Dele Alli has been the form Fantasy Football player over the last few weeks, having bagged a brace in each of his last three matches. He was the joint highest-scoring player in gameweek 18 when he and Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked up 15 points each. In gameweek 19 Burnley’s Andre Gray helped himself to a hat trick and 17 Fantasy Football points against Sunderland, whilst in the last round of matches it was a 4-way tie between Ryan Shawcross, Leighton Baines, Dele Alli and Olivier Giroud, who all scored 15 points

Gameweek 21 Preview

After a break for FA Cup and EFL ties the Premier League returns this weekend and the lunchtime game on Saturday pits Tottenham against West Brom. Spurs are in a rich vein of form having won their last 6 games in all competitions. They’ve scored 17 times and conceded just 3 in that run, so are in good condition at both ends of the pitch. They’ll be firm favourites against Tony Pulis’ men, but it’s not likely to be a massively one-sided affair – the Baggies may have only won 3 of their last 13 away games in all competitions but they haven’t lost any of those by more than one goal. A cagey game may be on the cards, and bearing in mind that West Brom lost 1-0 away to both Chelsea and Arsenal last month a repeat scoreline is the most likely outcome. The man most likely to score that goal has got to be Dele Alli (£8.5m). He’s scored twice in each of his last 3 league appearances and now has 10 goals and 4 assists from 19 league appearances this season. At the back the likes of Hugo Lloris (£5.5m), Danny Rose (£6.0m) and Jan Vertonghen (£5.7m) should be good for clean sheet points.

From the 3pm kick-offs Arsenal look to be the standout team to which you should be looking for Fantasy Football points. They’re away to a Swansea side who’ve lost 5 of their last 6 games in all competitions and have the worst home defensive record in the league, conceding 23 times in 10 games. Coincidentally that’s the same number of goals that Arsenal have scored on their travels in the league this season, so this game is pitching the league’s most prolific away attack against its most porous home defence. Olivier Giroud (£8.6m) is in fine form for the Gunners, having scored in each of his last three games, whilst Alexis Sánchez (£11.9m) has been consistently brilliant throughout the season, claiming 13 goals and 8 assists so far in this league campaign.

Onto Sunday and there’s two massive games to finish off the weekend. Everton host Manchester City at 1:30pm, and the Toffees will be looking to extend an impressive home record that’s seen them lose just once in their last 13 league games at Goodison Park. City have lost 3 of their last 6 away games in the league, so there’s every chance that the home side can pick up at least a point here. Neither side look particularly impressive defensively, so it’s all about the attacking choices here. Everton’s Romelu Lukaku (£9.5m) has 2 goals and an assist from his last 3 league games and scored when these two sides met earlier in the season, while for the visitors Sergio Agüero (£12.8m) came off the bench to claim the winner in their last league game against Burnley and will expect to be restored to the starting line-up this weekend.

The last game of the weekend is the one everyone will be watching, as Manchester United take on bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford. United are unbeaten in their last 15 games in all competitions and have won the last 9, while Liverpool had only lost 1 of their previous 23 games before losing to Southampton in the EFL Cup last night. Neither side can really be faulted on their current form, so Sunday should be an lively encounter. Again it’s the attacking players who are likely to be picking up points, with United scoring in all of their last 10 league fixtures and Liverpool in all of their last 8. Paul Pogba (£8.5m) is dominating games from midfield for United now that Mourinho seems to have found a formation that suits the world-record buy. He has 3 goals and 3 assists from his last 10 league games and has picked up bonus points in 5 of those matches. Meanwhile Zlatan Ibrahimovic (£11.6m) is excelling up front, banging in 9 goals and assisting 4 times in his last 9 league games. Liverpool will be without Sadio Mané (£9.2m) as he is competing in the African Cup of Nations for Senegal, but will be boosted by the return of Philippe Coutinho (£8.2m), who has 5 goals and 6 assists to his name so far this season despite missing the last 7 games through injury.

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

Burnley v Southampton – Jay Rodriguez (£6.3m)
Hull v Bournemouth – Junior Stanislas (£5.2m)
Sunderland v Stoke – Erik Pieters (£4.5m)
Watford v Middlesbrough – Fabio (£4.4m)
West Ham v Crystal Palace – Yohan Cabaye (£5.6m)
Leicester v Chelsea – Diego Costa (£10.7m)

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

2017 Australian Open Murray to Win 40/1

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Andy Murray at the Australian Open (CC 4.0) by Nick Hewson

The new tennis season gets its first taste of Grand Slam action next week, as the world’s best convene in Melbourne for the Australian Open. 2016 was a landmark year for Andy Murray, who won a second Wimbledon title and Olympics gold medal, before closing the year out with a knighthood from the Queen. He travels to Oz looking to end the curse that has seen him lose in five finals at the Rod Laver Arena, including the last two. He’s proven he has what it takes to beat the best, so will this finally be his year? As always, Coral have the best promotions for the biggest sporting events, so read on to find out more about their new customer offers…

New Customer Offer 2017 Australian Open Andy Murray to Win – 40/1
Max bet £/€1
Winnings Paid In Free Bets
Plus £/€5 free bet if your bet loses

Start Time: 12:00 GMT Monday 9th January
End Time: 12:00 GMT Sunday 15th January

FA Cup – Win £250,000 with Super 6!

About To Kick Off

Hull v Arsenal FA Cup Final 2014 (CC 4.0) by Dom Fellowes

It’s the 2017 FA Cup 3rd round this weekend and this week’s Super 6 includes 5 former FA Cup winners. Did you know that the 32 teams that qualify from the 3rd Round will receive £67,500 in prize money? You can earn more than triple that for predicting 6 correct scores.

Get your entry in before 3.00pm today for a chance to win the £250,000 Jackpot. If the jackpot isn’t won there’s a guaranteed £5,000 prize for the highest points scorer.

Gameweek 18 and 19 previews of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 18 and 19 previews of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

First a Gameweek 17 Review

For the second week running Arsenal lost 2-1 after scoring first and were the only team in the top 6 who failed to win. They’ve now dropped to a very familiar fourth position, while Chelsea continue to set the pace after their 11th successive league victory.

The Fantasy Football Dream team this week lined up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford in goal and Patrick van Aanholt in defence. van Aanholt was actually the joint-highest scoring player of the week along with Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez. He got 2 goals, as did both of the strikers, Alvaro Negredo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Gameweeks 18 and 19 Preview

With 2 gameweeks in quick succession (gameweek 18 takes place from 26 December to 28 December and gameweek 19 from 30 December to 1 January), we take a look at those teams who have a favourable festive fixture list and therefore should provide potential for Fantasy Football points aplenty:

Manchester United have two home games, against north east sides Sunderland and Middlesbrough. United have won three successive league games and with both of the visitors in the bottom half of the table they should have no problems in taking maximum points. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (£11.4m) is back in form with 7 goals in his last 6 league games and has played the full 90 minutes in every one of his 16 league games for the Red Devils so far. There’s little likelihood of him being rested as United chase the leading pack, so expect him to feature on the scoresheet over Christmas! It’s also worth noting that only bottom club Hull City have scored less than Sunderland and Middlesbrough in the league this season, so United’s defenders should be a safe bet. Phil Jones (£4.8m) and Antonio Valencia (£5.4m) will be hopeful of clean sheets in both matches.

Burnley could be the club to look to for points at a budget cost over the next 2 gameweeks. The only two visiting teams to have won at Turf Moor since the opening day of the season are Manchester City and Arsenal and the Clarets have won 5 of their last 8 at home, including the notable scalps of Liverpool and Everton. They have the same opponents over the next week or so as Manchester United, with Sunderland and Middlesbrough both visiting. In goal Tom Heaton (£4.8m) has 3 clean sheets and a penalty save to his name so far in this campaign and has claimed the maximum 3 bonus points in 3 separate matches. He actually has the second-highest points total of any goalkeeper in the game this season and with two goal-shy teams to face he will be confident of further points.

Another team with two favourable home fixtures are Arsenal. Alexis Sánchez (£11.8m), the highest scoring player in this season’s game, will be relishing the games against West Brom and Crystal Palace. His record of 6 goals and 3 assists from his last 5 games speaks volumes about the form he’s in, and he’s excelled in the striking position entrusted in him this season by Arsène Wenger. Theo Walcott (£7.8m) could also be a good option, with the England man bagging 3 goals in his last 5 appearances. Key points to note here are that the Gunners have won each of their last 5 home games against West Brom and haven’t lost at home to Palace since 1994.

Finally, league leaders Chelsea will also play at home twice, against Bournemouth and Stoke. It’s hard to see them losing another game all season with the kind of form they’re in right now, and considering Stoke have won only 2 of their last 7 away and Bournemouth just 1 of theirs, it would be a massive shock if either of these were to return back from Stamford Bridge with points in the bag. Diego Costa (£10.8m) is suspended for the game against Bournemouth and Eden Hazard (£10.4m) is a doubt with a knee injury, so the best options for these 2 games could be defenders César Azpilicueta (£6.5m) and Marcos Alonso (£6.4m). Both have played every minute of Chelsea’s 11-game winning streak and contributed to 9 clean sheets in that run. They’ve also chipped in with 3 assists between them in that time, so there’s lots of points-scoring potential from the two of them.

Best of luck for the festive period, and we’ll bring you another update early in the New Year.

Fantasy Sports is Growing and Growing and Growing…

It’s late December, and if you play fantasy sports then you know that can mean only one thing – it’s time for the playoffs in your NFL Fantasy Football league. From your draft back in August, to the hours you’ve spent pouring over waiver wires, injury reports, and head-to-head matchups each week, it’s finally time for the payoff. And if all goes well over the next two weeks, the pay day you’ve been working for.

There is money being spent, and money to be made throughout the fantasy sports industry. Back in 2012 IBISWorld predicted that growth patterns would lead to fantasy sports becoming a $1.7 billion industry just in the United States. Well, according to Juniper Research in this year that is just about to end, revenue actually exceeded $1.7 billion by 52%, bringing in $2.6 billion in 2016. And that is projected to reach $5.3 billion by 2020. And that’s just daily fantasy sports, and that’s just the United States.

With places like Fan Duel and Yahoo Daily Fantasy Sports given the green light for launches in the UK this past year, and the expansion of Premier League related products associated with those launches, the worldwide pie is only going to grow. And what began as a seasonal game between friends, with maybe a trophy presentation at the end for the winning team owner, is now one of the most recognized ways to gamble on sports. In fact the NFL Week 1 entry fees for Fan Duel and Draft Kings actually outpaced what was spent at Las Vegas casinos by more than double.

As online access becomes faster, more readily available, and much more secure, the ways to gamble and make money only become more plentiful. Lotteries can now be played online, and of if a sports book has any hope of making any money, it’s already developed an iPhone app. And the tried and true fun that we’ve all experienced at a casino, has now become the fun and convenience of a mobile casino. Websites like LadyLucks, which feature everything from slots to blackjack, have experienced a surge in popularity because of improved gaming experiences and more frequent and plentiful payouts.

It is indeed a great time to be alive.

FPL Gameweek 16: Review

Liverpool FC photowall
Liverpool FC Photowall (CC by 4.0) by Ben Sutherland

More player rotation. Less decision-time for Fantasy Managers. Premier League all week. That’s right, December has well and truly arrived, with three matchdays in the span of just one week as a tense build-up towards the much anticipated Christmas period. Gameweek 16 was the in-between one, squeezed in after last weekend’s boatload of goals and before the coming weekend’s entertainment. Apart from Arsenal, all other title chasers were facing relatively winnable fixtures, so let’s see how they fared.

Chelsea
Even without their Belgian superstar, Chelsea made it ten wins out of ten against a brave but ultimately lesser Sunderland squad. Eden Hazard was confirmed absent shortly before the game with a knock (he should be back this coming weekend, though) and replaced by last season’s star performer Willian, who then went on to assist Cesc’s winner in the 40th. Top-scorer Costa did not get on the scoresheet today, for once, while things at the back were business as usual for the Blues. Another game, another victory, another clean sheet. Not the best game by either team, but with an Away game at Palace coming up, you best bet on the Chelsea to make it eleven wins out of eleven. Indeed according to the tipping experts at Big Free Bet, Chelsea, who are on a hugely impressive solid run form, mean that at least one of Courtois, Alonso, Matic, Pedro, Costa or Hazard should be drafted into your squad in your next transfer opportunity. They are all good FPL bets with perhaps Fabregas as a differential to fantasy teams above you.

Liverpool
After dropping five points in two weeks the Reds faced just the right opposition in the shape of a Boro team that is uncomfortable leaving their defensive duties to go look for a goal, which is what they really have to do at home if they have any hope of staying in the Prem. Jurgen Klopp knew it, played it, and booked an easy 0-3 victory. Without the injured Coutinho the spotlights were taken by Adam Lallana (2 goals & 1 assist) and to a lesser extent Divock Origi (1 goal, 1 assist). Both could be considered bargains in the official fantasy game. Another positive was the clean sheet (finally!) accompanied by an excellent all-round display by rightback Clyne (finally!).

Arsenal
Of all contenders, Arsenal had the toughest mid-week challenge, visiting Goodison Park. In all honesty though, the home team were far from sturdy of late, and in-form Arsenal were expected to take the points back to London. Ronald Koeman had other plans. Everton looked discplined and inspired on Tuesday, pressing Arsenal enthusiastically and holding the lines defensively. The inevitable Alexis scored from a free-kick, before the tireless Seamus Coleman equalised just before half time, courtesy of a lovely center by his counterpart on the left Leighton Baines. Wales-captain Williams then sealed the deal five minutes before time, heading in a Barkley corner. Arsenal weren’t bad, but they looked overclassed physically and tactically, while Everton look ready just in time for the Merseyside derby on Monday.

Manchester City
City without Aguero is a different story. We know it, the other teams know it, Pep knows it. When Watford came to the Etihad on Wednesday, the Citizens hadn’t won in front of their own in three months. Pep’s men kept the three points at home this time, but it could’ve been different with a bit more luck for Watford. Zabaleta scored nicely from a De Bruyne cross, but City weren’t able to push through as Kun was missed and Iheanacho was surprisingly benched. Watford, led by the brilliant Amrabat and the ever-energetic Deeney once he came on (another rotation surprise), should’ve equalised through the disappointing Ighalo from eight yards out, which would’ve complicated things greatly for City, but the Nigerian missed. Not long after, as the Hornets chased the equaliser, Silva finished off the game after a counter attack and a simple assist from the decent Sterling. City faces Arsenal next, while unpredictable Watford visit the Stadium of Light.

Honourable mentions and this week’s DreamTeam
West Brom. Plain and simple. The Baggies are looking at a complicated fixture run until the New Year (United home, Arsenal and Southampton away), but their performance until now gives hope. They are in seventh place and booked a comfortable 3-1 win over leaky Swansea, their fourth victory in the last six games, courtesy of an official Rondón hattrick. He headed in three goals between the 50th and the 63rd minute, assisted twice by Brunt and once by Mattie Phillips. Looking at the coming games many managers will opt to get rid of West Brom assets, but the likes of Rondón, Dawson, Chadli, McAuley, Foster and Phillips might just be worth a little bit of patience and a little bit of risk-taking.

There were some big performances from midfielders this week, with the week’s Dream Team lining up in a 3-5-2 formation. Christian Eriksen and Adam Lallana were the stars of the week, both scoring twice and assisting once in their team’s 3-0 victories over Hull and Middlesbrough respectively. They secured 19 points each for their efforts, while up front West Brom’s Salomón Rondón scored a hat trick to help him to 17 points.

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Gameweek 17 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 17 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

On Saturday lunchtime Chelsea will be heavy favourites to extend their winning run to eleven consecutive league matches when they travel to Selhurst Park to face a Crystal Palace team who have won just one of their last ten. Despite their lowly position Palace are scoring plenty of goals, with only the top 4 in the league boasting a better attacking record this season. Their problems lie at the back, having conceded 31 goals in 16 league games. The Blues should be able to find plenty of opportunities to exploit and Diego Costa (£10.9m) is the man to do this. He’s the league’s top scorer and has terrorised defences much better than Palace’s this season. Cesc Fàbregas (£6.9m) could be an interesting pick in midfield; the Spaniard hasn’t had much of a look-in this season but has featured in all of Chelsea’s last three matches, scoring the winner against Sunderland last time out and grabbing an assist in each of the 2 games prior to that.

On Sunday there’s a huge game as fourth in the table Man City entertain the side one place and one point above them, Arsenal. Both sides’ strengths lie in their attacking talents so it’s a game that promises goals, and it’s players who are classed as midfielders rather than forwards who can be trusted to provide those crucial Fantasy Football points. David Silva (£8.7m) scored his first goal of the season against Watford on Wednesday evening to follow up the assist he got in the weekend defeat to Leicester. He has proved his quality time and again in the Premier League and now has 76 assists (that’s 228 Fantasy Football points from assists alone!) during his 5 and a half seasons in England. He’s in just 2.1% of Fantasy teams across the site, so if you draft him in you could be picking up points that others aren’t. Kevin De Bruyne (£10.7m) could go on to surpass Silva’s efforts once he has as many years under his belt in England. He got 10 assists in his Man City debut season last year and racked up his 10th assist of this campaign on Wednesday night against Watford. He also has 9 Premier League goals to his name and is due another having gone 10 games without. Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez (£11.8m) is the top Fantasy Football points-scorer with 122 so far in this campaign. The fact that he’s classed as a midfielder despite playing in the central striking role for a team who are chasing the title will help to ensure this continues throughout the season, and he’s looking to be the essential player to have in your team.

Tottenham’s home game against Burnley gives Harry Kane a chance to redeem himself for those managers who captained him against Hull in midweek. He didn’t manage to claim any goals or assists despite his team running out 3-0 winners in that one, but he’s still their main attacking threat and scored 5 goals in his last 3 league appearances at White Hart Lane before that game. Just behind him Christian Eriksen (£8.5m) has found some form, scoring 5 goals and assisting 2 in his last 4 league appearances. At the back you can take your pick from the Spurs players as the league’s best defence come up against a side who have lost 7 and drawn 1 of their last 8 away fixtures in all competitions, scoring just once in that run.

There’s a Monday night fixture this week and it’s a massive one to round off the games before Christmas. The Merseyside Derby is always explosive and Goodison Park will be rocking as Everton look to build on their midweek victory over Arsenal. Everton have scored in each of their last 11 home league games while Liverpool have failed to score in just 2 of their 20 games in all competitions this season, so it’s another game in which you can expect attackers to come out on top. Divock Origi (£6.8m) has scored in each of Liverpool’s last 5 fixtures and is hard to ignore in this kind of form, while in midfield Adam Lallana (£7.2m) has come back with a bang from injury, scoring 3 and assisting 1 in his last 2 appearances. The home side are heavily-reliant on Romelu Lukaku (£9.4m) for goals, with the Belgian scoring 9 times in the league this season.

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

Middlesbrough v Swansea – Calum Chambers (£4.4m)
Stoke v Leicester – Ryan Shawcross (£4.9m)
Sunderland v Watford – Jermain Defoe (£7.8m)
West Ham v Hull – Michail Antonio (£6.7m)
West Brom v Man United – Salomón Rondón (£6.5m)
Bournemouth v Southampton – Benik Afobe (£5.6m)

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