Should Gambling With Credit Cards Be Banned In The UK?

Problem gambling hit the headlines in the UK again this week as it was reported that the government is investigating the use of credit cards to place bets online with a view to introducing a ban.

Culture, Media and Sport secretary, Jeremy Wright, has called for a meeting with banks and bookmakers following a recent UK Gambling Commission report which indicates that between 10% and 20% of deposits for betting online are made through credit cards. That amounts to around £8.6 billion in deposits.

The UK GC will also begin gathering evidence around the issue in February, with the possibility of legislation to follow.

There are 340,000 problem gamblers in the UK, which is 1.2% of the gambling population and there is a huge amount of support in the public, media and politics to see stricter rules brought in to prevent more people falling into addiction.

In 2018 several measures were already introduced to service this aim, including a reduced cap on the maximum stake allowed at Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2 to come into force in April 2019, a ban on betting advertising during live sports events after the 9pm watershed, and an industry-wide self-exclude scheme for problem gamblers (GAMSTOP) that is still under review.

So is the next step really going to be a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling? Is this a necessary measure to curb the growing problem of gambling addiction in the UK, or is it a step too far and an infringement of our civil liberties? 

Well, the arguments for a ban are clear.

Gambling with credit is not the same as gambling with your own money which makes it very dangerous for anyone with an addiction. It is so easy to apply online and within minutes qualify to receive a card in the post. And when you do have one, the delay between spending the credit and receiving the bill can make it feel less risky – after all the money is not coming straight out of your account.

The consequences can be a swift build-up of unmanageable debt, with no way to pay it off.

But what of the other side to the argument? Could a ban be avoided?

Of course, libertarian gamblers will quickly argue that consumer rights are the cornerstone of the free market and a ban on the use of credit cards anywhere is an infringement of these rights. After all, we wouldn’t ban the use of credit cards to buy alcohol or in any other circumstances, so why should the ban apply here? We are all individuals with free will and should be free to make our own choices.

And would a ban even be effective?

For a hardened gambler there are plenty of ways to get around the restrictions. Using an eWallet funded with a credit card would be one way. It takes minutes to set up an online account and transfer money onto it using a credit card. Then the customer is free to place a bet with Skrill or play at a UK Paypal slots site without being affected by the proposed restrictions.

And in any case banks are already devising alternative measures that empower the customer to limit spending at online betting and casino sites. In December 2018 Barclays announced an initiative that allows customers to block certain categories of transactions from leaving their accounts, including gambling transactions.

Other banks are likely to follow with similar features this year.

And what about the responsibility of the gambling operators themselves? They should also take more steps to ensure problem gamblers are spotted and excluded based on analysis of patterns of play and deposits.

The government has been keen to emphasises this point, as Jeremy Wright has said: “Gambling operators must step in and act when people are showing signs of risky gambling. Their licenses are at risk if they do not.”

So it is clear that there are plenty of alternative options to help curb gambling addiction in the UK without banning credit cards.

But despite all the arguments to the contrary, and whatever your view, it seems more than likely based on these recent reports that as part of a holistic approach to tackling the gambling addition problem in the UK we should be prepared to see a ban on credit card deposits coming in 2019.

FPL Season 2018/19 – Gameweek 23 Preview

Harry Kane

“Spurs star Harry Kane is expected to be sidelined until March following a knee injury sustained in the game against Wolves” (CC by 2.0) by enviro warrior

Gameweek 22 saw some interesting and surprising results, with West Ham beating Arsenal 1-0 at home, Southampton coming away from the King Power with three points, and United coach Solskjaer taking the away match at Spurs as the perfect opportunity to add a first “top six scalp” to his impressive start at the United helm. Still, for many FPL managers the weekend was overshadowed by serious injuries to two popular FPL assets, namely Hary Kane and Trent Alexander-Arnold. While the Liverpool right-back is expected to be out for about four weeks, the Spurs striker is only expected back in March. Especially in the case of Kane, it’ll be interesting to see how Mauricio Pocchetino will cope.

This weekend’s stand-out encounter is the one at the Emirates, where locals Arsenal host Chelsea. Besides that, there are plenty of interesting match-ups, as usual, including Bournemouth versus West Ham, Liverpool at home to Palace, and Fulham hosting a wounded Spurs side.

Some observations ahead of gameweek 23

We start off with news from the Premier League’s current bottom club, Huddersfield, where David Wagner resigned after the game against Cardiff (a 0-0 away draw). Under the German coach, who’d been managing the Terriers since 2015, the start of the 2018-19 campaign was far from satisfactory. Huddersfield are placed last, have scored fewer goals (13) than any other team in the league, and are out of all the cup tournaments already. Considering the current eight-point gap between the Terriers and the safe 17th spot, it’s going to be a mammoth task to keep Huddersfield among the English elite next season for any man coming after Wagner.

Southampton, another team currently camping close to the bottom of the league, have played seven matches since Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhüttl took over from Mark Hughes. Of those seven games, the Saints won three, drew one, and lost three, a record that can be considered something of a resurgence for the previously battered-looking club. Away to Leicester last weekend, the Saints went into the break being up 0-2, but also with a man less (Yan Valery red card). Despite Leicester’s goal in the 58th minute, the Saints really didn’t look too worried or in too much trouble for the rest of the second half. Apart from the three points, their performance at the King Power will have given the club’s hopes of staying in the Premier League a considerable boost. Their loss on penalties last night to Derby may ultimately also help the Saints’ EPL campaign although the 2-2 draw after being 2-0 up may dent the confidence a little and the 120 minutes of action may tire them for this weekend.

This season, Tottenham has had the best start to a Premier League season in their entire history and the club is working towards the official inauguration of its brand-new stadium, so the mood was generally positive by the end of 2018. Two weeks later, in-form man Heung-Min Son has departed for the Asian Games and star player Harry Kane is out with an injury until March, and suddenly the much-discussed lack of depth in their squad has flared up again. Spurs did not bring in any new players over the summer and some felt that their squad would be stretched thin as the season would advance, but Pocchetino proved the doubters largely wrong. Now though, with two absolute key performers (22 goals and 13 assists among them in the league so far) out for a considerable number of games and the Champions League knocking on our doors again in less than a month, it’ll be interesting to see how the Argentinian coach will react to his club’s sudden downturn of fortunes.

At Man United, the light has returned with the replacement of José Mourinho by former-Mancunian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and one of the major beneficiaries of this change has been the talented Marcus Rashford. The young Englishman has scored 7 goals and provided 7 assists so far this season, of which 5 goals and 2 assists have come under Solskjaer since he took over five league games ago. What’s possibly even more impressive though, is that Rashford seems to have made the striker position his own, at the cost of €85 million man Romelu Lukaku. Rashford scored the only goal of the game at Wembley last weekend and we can’t see why, in his current form, he would be dropped from the starting eleven any time soon.

Premium picks

Over the course of 2018-19 campaign, the role of Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) in Liverpool’s attack has changed. He’s gone from being the most forward player, though often roaming around, to fulfilling more of a number ten role as Mo Salah now spearheads the attack. The Brazilian’s start to the season was somewhat slow in terms of FPL points, with 7 assists and just 2 goals in his first ten games, but he’s been on fire recently. He’s scored 4 goals in his last three games, including a wonderful hat-trick at home to Arsenal, and he’s had 8 attempt on target over that period. Only Pogba and Rashford (10 each) top that. At a price of £9.3m in the official game and the injury of Kane a fact, Firmino could be an excellent replacement that will also allow you to free up some funds.

Last weekend’s game against Spurs was possibly Paul Pogba‘s (£8.5m) best game under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and that says a lot, considering the Frenchman had scored 4 goals and provided 4 assists in the five league games under him before that. Not only did Pogba provide a fantastic assist to Rashford, sending the young English striker on a lone run that ended in the match-winning goal, but he also took six shots, five of which were on target. Add to that the facts that out of those five shots on target, four came from inside the box, and that the midfield maestro provided another three key passes for his team mates on top of that, and it’s not hard to see that this man is in world-beating shape. He’s a steal at £8.5m and Brighton is up next, at Old Trafford.

Our third premium pick of the week is a bit less in form at the moment, but nonetheless essential to is team’s attacking intentions. Felipe Anderson (£7.3m) hasn’t brought home an attacking return for the 18.1% of FPL managers that own him since his brace at Saint Mary’s in gameweek 19, a slump in form at the same time that West Ham was once again delivering proof of their unpredictable nature (a 2-0 loss to Burnley, a 2-2 draw at home with Brighton, and a 1-0 victory over Arsenal). In the four weeks before that run though, Anderson scored 3 goals and provided 2 assists, while his tallies for the season so far stand at 8 goals and 3 assists. A major reason for including him in this list, apart from the fact that he can be absolute quality at any given day, is Saturday’s opposition. Bournemouth have conceded an extremely worrying  goals in the last six gameweeks and the Cherries have shipped a total of 17 goals in 11 home matches so far this season. Taking a punt on Felipe Anderson might very well pay off this weekend.

A differential pick or two

As mentioned earlier, Harry Kane’s injury will result in considerable movement on the FPL transfer market in the build-up to gameweek 23. One of the beneficiaries of Kane’s absence could be his team mate Dele Alli (£8.9m), at least in an FPL sense. With Kane and Son out for the near future, there’ll be more eyes on Alli, expecting him to deliver in their absence. The young attacking midfielder has had a relatively calm 2018-19 campaign up until now (4 goals, 2 assists, and 64 FPL points), but he’ll likely become a bigger focal point in the Spurs attack now. With games against Fulham (away), Watford, Newcastle, Leicester (all home), and Burnley (away) coming up, it could be the perfect time to bring in Alli. On top of that he’s a sure starter, he’s likely to be playing more of the field, and he’s currently £0.3m less than Eriksen, who’s likely to be dropping deeper as a result of Son and Kane missing.

Our second differential pick of the week is Manchester United’s Luke Shaw (£5.0m). The first games under new manager Solskjaer were filled with goals and spectacle, but not so much with clean sheets. The Red Devils did shut out Newcastle and Spurs in the last two league games though, which might point to an improved defensive stability. Shaw is yet to NOT complete 90 minutes in a league game under Solskjaer and it doesn’t look like this will change in the foreseeable future. He has brought his owners 13 points over the past two gameweeks, and with Brighton and Burnley coming to Old Trafford in gameweeks 24 and 25, there could be more returns on the cards for Man United’s left-back. With a price tag of just £5.0, which is low for a starting United defender, Shaw could even be used to free up some funds or simply to replace the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold.

For further ideas on who to transfer into your FPL team, have a look at FISO’s forum topic on GW23 Transfers.

The captaincy

You might think that it’s kind of boring and repetitive to be recommending Mo Salah (£13.4m) as either a premium pick or a candidate for the captaincy (or both) practically every week, but it is what it is. It’s not like we have a real choice. The Egyptian forward is in top shape and matching his record-breaking 2017-18 campaign, so leaving him out is simply not an option. If you have Salah, captain him, it’s that simple. He brought home a fourth double-digit haul in his last five gameweeks last weekend, taking his total FPL points for that period to a dazzling 49 points. If we look back seven gameweeks, that total stands at 73… Salah has scored 7 goals and provided 4 assists in 10 home games, while his points average in home games against teams from outside the top six stands at 8.85. Up next are a stubborn and sometimes surprising Crystal Palace side, but we doubt they’ve got what it takes to keep Momo from appearing on the score sheet.

Our other suggestion for the armband this weekend is Man City’s Leroy Sané (£9.6m). Since gameweek 13, the German dribbler has started in all games bar one, so as long as Mendy is out, Sané looks like a nailed-on starter. Quite a statement when talking about Pep’s Man City, we know. In that period, he got three double-digit hauls, while his total FPL points tally since gameweek 13 stands at 65, courtesy of 4 goals and 5 assists. His last assist came last Monday when he presented the opener on a gold platter for Gabriel Jesus. In that same game, Sané took four shots (that missed the target) and supplied two key passes, including the previously mentioned assist on Jesus. Coming up is a visit to a Premier League number 20 Huddersfield, who lost their manager at the beginning of this week and who have conceded 16 goals in 11 home games. City have scored 19 goals in 10 away games. Coming Sunday could well become a Sunday the Terriers will want to forget quickly.

The FISO Forum members Poll on the GW23 Captain currently has Salah with about 80% of the votes.

FPL Season 2018/19 – Gameweek 22 Preview

140823 Watford v Leeds-438


“Watford’s Troy Deeney was gameweek 21’s surprise top performer, courtesy of two goals and an assist versus Bournemouth” (CC by 2.0) by Franzisca

Whilst us FPL managers have had a little over a week to recover from the Premier League’s festive period madness, there has been plenty of League Cup (semi-finals) and FA Cup (3rd round) action. Seeing as what matters to us, from an FPL perspective, is which Premier League clubs are still active in the Cups, we’ll start off this article with an overview from Freetips.com of the teams that are still involved in one or both Cups after this week. To find out more about the consequences of their continued involvement when it comes to your FPL planning, there are plenty of specialised sources online, most notably the excellent Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin on Twitter).

League Cup semi-finals (first leg)

Teams Score Result
Man City – Burton 9 – 0 Man City virtually qualified
Spurs – Chelsea 1 – 0 Uncertain (return on Jan 24th)

FA Cup 4th Round (only matches involving PL clubs, in bold)

Team 1 Vs Team 2
Manchester City Burnley
Crystal Palace Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea TBD (non-PL)
Arsenal Manchester United
Newcastle or Blackburn Watford
TBD (non-PL) Wolverhampton Wanderers
Milwall Everton
Wimbledon West Ham United
Brighton & Hove Albion West Bromwich Albion
Accrington Derby or Southampton

*The Premier League teams that are no longer in the FA Cup are: Liverpool, Leicester, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Fulham, Huddersfield

Some observations ahead of gameweek 22

One of the biggest FA Cup 3rd Round surprises, and perhaps of the entire tournament, was the elimination of Leicester at the hands of League Two outfit Newport. Manager Claude Puel left the likes of Jamie Vardy, Harry Maguire and Kasper Schmeichel at home for the tie, but, without taking away any merit for Newport, the Foxes should still have won it comfortably. They didn’t though, so it remains to be seen to what extent the Leicester squad has been affected by the loss, and to what lengths Puel will resort to “punishing” some of the participating players by benching them for Saturday’s home game against Southampton. In terms of FPL planning, Leicester’s elimination is not all bad news though, as the Foxes are now only active in the Premier League.

Current Premier League bottom club Huddersfield also crashed out of the FA Cup after losing to Bristol City. The 2018-19 campaign is turning into more and more into a nightmare for the Terriers, as they have no more Cups to play for and are currently eight points from safety in the league. They currently look like the league’s prime candidate for relegation and they’ll need a small miracle to still act at England’s elite level next season. Sure, the season is still long and the winter transfer window is still open for another three weeks, so all’s not lost yet, but in terms of FPL, you’ll probably want to stay away from Huddersfield assets for now, should you not have realised that already.

This coming weekend’s most interesting match sees Tottenham visit Old Trafford in what could be seen as United manager Solskjaer’s first serious test. Both teams progressed to the FA Cup’s fourth round: Spurs made quick work of League Two number nine Tranmere Rovers (0-7), while United beat Reading 2-0, Solskjaer’s fifth consecutive victory in all competitions. Both teams took the opportunity to rest several of their starting star players (including Eriksen, Kane, Rashford and Martial) and are in excellent form ahead of Sunday’s clash. Confidence will be high on both sides, which will hopefully translate into two teams without a fear to attack and plenty of spectacle for everyone. If you can, tune in on Sunday, 16h30 (GMT).

After a festive period in which Man City suffered three defeats, some people started to doubt whether the reigning champions were really as good as they looked in the first half of the season. The Cityzens proved the quick doubters wrong by beating current leaders Liverpool 2-1, and then took the opportunity of Cup football to fill up on confidence ahead of the home clash with Wolves coming Monday: they beat Rotherham 7-0 in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup and destroyed Burton 9-0 in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final. The sky blues from Manchester are really as good as they’ve shown until now, they are still competing as favourites in four competitions (Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, and League Cup) and the confidence is back. We all know what can happen when Pep’s men are on a roll, so Wolves, prepare.

Premium picks

Despite his blank against Southampton in gameweek 21 (a game for which we recommended him as a premium pick as well), we’re repeating Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (£11.1m) as our first premium pick this week. It’s not realistic to expect big hauls from a player week in, week out, not even when that player is one of the finest the Premier League has seen in recent years, so sometimes patience (and possibly forgiveness) is a necessity. The Belgian superstar is likely to be playing either as a false nine or in support of Olivier Giroud, the two positions that seem to fit him best. He’s not returned attacking returns in his last two games, but he did record 5 shots on target and created another 7 big chances in those games. He’s also taken more shots in the box (10) than any other midfielder over the past four gameweeks. Against a Newcastle side that has conceded 29 goals in 21 games, Hazard’s name could once again return to the score sheet.

Liverpool have lost their last two games in all competitions, so the Reds will be looking to bounce back away to Brighton on Saturday. Seeing as Mo Salah (£13.3m) has brought home a staggering 61 FPL points over the last six gameweeks and was rested for Liverpool’s mid-week FA Cup showdown, he sort of automatically becomes a recommendation. Brighton are tough to break down though, especially at their AMEX stadium: the Seagulls have lost just two of their ten home games in the Prem so far, while they’ve conceded just 10 goals in 6 games versus top six teams. Still, if there’s one man who can make the difference against such opposition, it’s Salah. The Egyptian magician has scored 3 goals and provided 3 assists over the past 5 gameweeks, while he has also created another 5 big chances in that period. Gameweek 22 might be one of those rare weekends in which there are a few better options for the captaincy than Salah, but don’t discard him from providing returns under any circumstance.

Our third premium pick of the week is Man City’s Leroy Sané (£9.5m), who, surprisingly enough, is still something of a differential as well (10.3% ownership). The German winger was subbed in on January 5th during City’s FA Cup encounter with Tranmere, in which he ended up scoring the last goal of the game, and subbed off in the 66th minute on January 9th during the League Cup semi-final against Burton, in which he gave two assists. This playing history over the past two cup games makes it likely that Sané will be in the starting eleven for Monday’s game at home to Wolves. Confidence will be high among Guardiola’s men and it’ll be interesting to see Sané directly face Wolves’ Matt Doherty. The winger will have plenty of space on the left wing, but he’ll probably also need to track back sufficiently to provide cover for City’s left-back against the marauding Doherty. We nevertheless count on him to bring home some FPL points as part of a City outfit that have scored 37 goals in 11 home games this season.

A differential or two

Our first differential pick for gameweek 22 is Everton’s Richarlison (£6.9m). True, looking at his current ownership level (29%), the Brazilian winger/forward is far from a differential, but his recent performances have seen interest and trust in him wane. Over the past 5 gameweeks, he recorded a not-so-impressive 16 FPL points as part of a kind of hot-and-cold Everton side, but we shouldn’t forget his price tag. At his current more than kind price of £6.9m, he’s still the fifth-highest scoring player from the midfielder and forward categories in that price range, with 97 points as a result of 9 goals and 2 assists. Over the past four gameweeks, Richarlison has scored just 1 goal and provided the assist for another, but he’s also the midfielder with most shots in the box (10) over that period. Against a Bournemouth side that has conceded a worrying 14 goals over that same period, as well as 16 big chances, Everton’s talismanic Brazilian could have a field day at Goodison Park on Sunday.

This week’s second differential pick is Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira (£5.3m), who’s been in red-hot form as part of a Leicester team that beat both Chelsea and Man City in December. The Portuguese right-back got 30 FPL points over the last four gameweeks, courtesy of a goal, an assist, and two clean sheets, and of the fact that he’s often used as a right winger by Claude Puel. Coming Saturday, the Foxes are facing Southampton at home and the Saints have scored just 10 goals in 11 away games this season, while conceding 21 in those games. It’s true that Leicester as a whole remain frustratingly unpredictable, but gameweek 22 could see Pereira deliver at both ends of the pitch.

For further ideas on who to transfer in to your FPL team ahead of the GW22 deadline please check out this fiso FPL forum topic.

The captaincy

It’s been a while since we recommended Man City’s Kun Aguero (£11.2m) as a prime candidate for the captaincy, but here we are. As we write, the Argentinian striker is still marked as “ill” in the official game, so keep an eye on news related to him, but we think he’ll start coming Monday at home to Wolves. His main rival Gabriel Jesus started both cup games in the build-up to gameweek 22 and Aguero didn’t play a single minute in those games, which is another encouraging statistic. Speaking of encouraging statistics: the diminutive Argentinian has provided 8 goals and 6 assists in just 8 home games, and there hasn’t been a home game yet this season in which he hasn’t booked attacking returns. Like we mentioned in regard to Sané earlier on, Wolves do tend to turn up big against the league’s heavyweights, so do keep that in mind. Having said that, if you have Kun, slap that armband on him.

Our second captaincy suggestion for gameweek 22 is Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m). We included him in our captaincy options last gameweek as well and it paid off, as the Gabonese striker hit one home and provided an assist, resulting in 9 points. The current Premier League top scorer (14 goals, on par with Tottenham’s very own, Harry Kane) is playing away at West Ham. While the Hammers have shown real quality at times in December, they’re still fragile in defense. In 11 home games, they have conceded 18 goals, and at least twice in four of their last six games overall. Hammers goalie Fabianski is the goalkeeper with most saves this season (80) and it’s true that he’s been an excellent, consistent performer for them, but it’s hard to see him keep Aubameyang from adding to his current goal tally on Saturday.

Do also keep an eye on the FISO FPL GW22 Captain Poll where currently Hazard is leading the way with 47% of the vote.

Three upcoming Premier League fixtures not to be missed

The Premier league title race has long been about the battle between defending champions Manchester City and Liverpool. At present it is Liverpool who lead the way and are slight betting favourites to go on and land their first Premier league title. They have been a popular choice for punters who have been using the Sugarhouse bonus code to support them. However it is not just a two team race as Tottenham continue to win games, meaning they are now just two points off Manchester City and six off leaders Liverpool. Could they go on and pull off a shock Premier league title win? So as we progress through to the latter stages of the season, what are the games not to be missed for football fans?

Arsenal v Chelsea – 19th January

The next blockbuster fixture not to be missed is the clash between London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea. Both sides have made strong starts to the current Premier league season under their new managers, and are both fighting it out for the top four. Could this be the game that decides it? With virtually nothing in it at present it sets up for a fascinating contest later this month as both sides will be going out for the three points.

Source: https://www.skysports.com/football/news/34651/10892380/arsenal-v-chelsea-pick-your-fa-cup-final-combined-xi

Manchester City v Arsenal – 3rd February

The next important top of the table clash sees Manchester City welcome Arsenal at the start of February. Both sides always look to attack, so it sets up for an enjoyable watch for fans with goals expected. Manchester City have won the last two meetings between the two sides comfortably and will be strong favourites again to do so. With the last league fixture finishing 2-0 back in August.

Manchester City v Chelsea – 10th February

Another very important game when looking at the title race and the top four, as Manchester City face Chelsea. This is part of a difficult run of fixtures for Manchester City, but if they can come through these with maximum points, then they are likely to be strong favourites for the title come the end of the season. City are going to start as strong favourites as they do for virtually all their games, however it was the same case back in December. On this occasion Chelsea ended their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-0 victory at home, so will go into this upcoming fixture with strong belief that they can again pick up the three points.

TFF Matches 4 to 7 January in the FA Cup

It’s that time again when Telegraph Fantasy Football (TFF) managers at the top of the leaderboard pray for their players not to be rested when the Premier League clubs take to the field in the FA Cup. For the managers hoping to make a surge up the leaderboard it’s an opportunity to take a punt on players with the potential to score a hateful against lower division opposition.

Friday 4th January

Third Round

Tranmere Rovers 19:45 Tottenham Hotspur

The Friday Night Fixture features Tranmere versus Tottenham. Tranmere lie in 9th place in League Two so on paper this should be an easy win for the Spurs reserves however the FA Cup is a funny old beast and Poch may have one eye on the League title race. 

Saturday 5th January

Third Round

AFC Bournemouth 12:30 Brighton & Hove Albion

Saturday’s early matches kick off with an all Premier League clash. It also happens to be the Kiss-Me-Quick South Coast derby featuring Bournemouth versus Brighton. So hopefully will we see two strong teams taking the Cup seriously.

Burnley 12:30 Barnsley

Next up in the early fixtures is a game featuring two teams with totally different priorities, and neither is the FA Cup. Burnley are fighting relegation in the Premier League whereas Barnsley are battling for promotion from League One. 

Manchester United 12:30 Reading

To Old Trafford next where Manchester United are hosting Reading. Both teams have had new managers arrive in the last month, but the two team’s fortunes couldn’t be more different. United will be able to field a weakened team that is still full of international players whereas Reading will probably roll out their reserves as Championship survival is their priority. 

West Ham United 12:30 Birmingham City

The last of the 12:30s sees West Ham facing Birmingham. You would hope that the Hammers would field a decent side against Championship team Birmingham as they have little chance of winning the title or going down so the Cup is a chance of silverware. 

Chelsea 15:00 Nottingham Forest

The first of the 3 o’clocks has Nottingham Forest visiting Chelsea. Both teams are relatively close to the top of their respective leagues so might treat the FA Cup as an unwanted distraction, so you would expect Chelsea to be victorious today.

Frank Lampard’s Derby County 15:00 Southampton

Frank Lampard’s Derby County play hosts to Southampton in the next 3pm game. Again, two teams with different priorities as FLDC are sat in the Championship play-off zone whereas Southampton are dicing with Premier League relegation.

Everton 15:00 Lincoln City

Everton welcome Lincoln to Goodison. League Two Lincoln sit 4 points clear at the top of the table and will relish the chance to play against Premier League opposition. Everton will probably field a weakened side even though the Cup is their best chance of a trophy this season.

Gillingham 15:00 Cardiff City

Gillingham are 18th in League One, Cardiff are 17th in the Premier League. Neither team will be treating the FA Cup as their top priority this season so expect a second string Cardiff team to take the field at Priestfield.

Blackpool 17:30 Arsenal

The first of the 5:30 games sees the Gunners packing up their buckets and spades and heading for the Golden Mile of Blackpool. You would expect that Arsenal would be able to beat Blackpool with a team containing bench warmers and youngsters. 

Bristol City 17:30 Huddersfield Town

Next, Bristol City versus Huddersfield Town. Bristol are a mid-table Championship side who would probably fancy their chances against a Huddersfield team who are in very poor form and who’s top priority is Premier League survival. 

Crystal Palace 17:30 Grimsby Town

At Selhurt Park, Grimsby Town are the visitors. League Two side Grimsby will relish the chance to pit their wits against a Premier League team. Palace are close to the relegation zone but should be safe enough to be able to give the Cup the respect it deserves.

Newcastle United 17:30 Blackburn Rovers

It’ll take Rovers 2 hours and 45 minutes to travel the 150 miles from Blackburn to Newcastle. The Magpies will probably field a weakened eleven as there are too close to the relegation places for comfort. A mid-table Blackburn are likely to give this a good go today.

Sunday 6th January

Third Round

Fulham 14:00 Oldham Athletic

The first of Sunday’s early fixtures has Fulham welcoming Oldham to Craven Cottage. You would hope that a heavily-rotated Fulham team would still have enough to beat a mid-table League Two side.

Manchester City 14:00 Rotherham United

Next we’re off to the Etihad to see Manchester City play Rotherham. City will definitely roll out a team of squad players for this one as they concentrate on catching Liverpool at the top of the table. Rotherham are probably more concerned with Championship survival than winning the FA Cup.

Woking 14:00 Watford

At the Laithwaite Stadium in leafy Surrey, the Cards welcome the Hornets. Woking have done fantastically well to reach this stage of the FA Cup, but you’d expect Watford to win comfortably today. I predict Success for Watford.

Newport County 16:30 Leicester City

The final game of the day has an international fixture featuring Newport County of Wales against Leicester City of England. Another mid-table League Two team has reached the 3rd Round and will be relishing the opportunity to play a Prem side. Expect a weakened Foxes team to win.

Monday 7th January

Third Round

Wolverhampton Wanderers 19:45 Liverpool

And finally, the final fixture of the Round has an all Premier League clash between a plucky Wolves team tackling a resurgent Liverpool. Liverpool suffered their first League defeat of the season so might look to field a second-string squad here. If Wolves take the Cup seriously they could pull off an upset.

We’re off for a lie down… but those that want to stay up keep an eye on what’s said on fiso’s TFF Forum.

FPL Season 2018/19 – Gameweek 21 Preview


“Manchester United’s Paul Pogba is in red hot form over the festive period” (CC by 4.0) by Ardfern

With gameweek 20 behind us, we’ve true and well kicked off the second half of the 2018-19 Premier League season. We’ve also reached the last fixture of the relentless festive period, the end of a run of eight rounds in just over three weeks, as gameweek 22 starts on January 12th. While this might represent a welcome break for FPL managers, there’s no such luck for the real-time PL managers. Between January 4th and January 12th, the third round of the FA Cup will be played, while Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs will also be playing their respective League Cup semi-finals. These encounters will surely have an impact on the starting line-ups for gameweek 22, so try to keep an eye on the Cup developments as well.

Some observations ahead of gameweek 21

We’ve been trying to temper the enthusiasm surrounding Mourinho’s departure from the United bench, in part due to the club’s easy fixture schedule of the past weeks, but the Red Devils really do seem invigorated. Against Bournemouth at Old Trafford, United booked a third consecutive victory, making it three in three for caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. They’ve shown plenty of attacking intent over that period, scoring 12 goals in those three games. A reason for slight worry might be that they’ve also conceded three goals, one in each game, against some of the lowest-scoring outfits in the league (Cardiff and Huddersfield). Few will care about that at the moment though, and most few will be looking forward to another winning performance at Saint James’ Park coming Wednesday.

One of the weekend’s surprise results was the Wolves away victory over Spurs on Saturday. The home team put in a fine performance in the first half and went into the break 1-0 ahead, courtesy of a fantastic left-foot strike by Harry Kane. The Wolves were probably content to make it to that point with minimal damage, but the outlook was completely different in the second half. Spurs seemed drained and Wolves slowly found their way back into the game, with Willy Boly’s powerful header drawing the score 1-1. It was all downhill for Spurs from there, and it was hard not to notice the lack of energy and conviction in the team as time advanced. They’ve had a great first half of the season, but they’d be wise to use the winter transfer window to deepen their squad a bit, especially considering the fact that they’re still active on four fronts: the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup.

The fact that Cardiff are in 16th place after the first half of the season is also worth mentioning. When the Bluebirds clinched promotion, they looked like they would be one of the nailed-on candidates for relegation. When they just spent £28 million on incoming players during the summer transfer window, it looked like it was going to be more than a tough season for them. Twenty one weeks later, Neil Warnock’s men are in 16th place, with 18 points and a team that seems to be settling in the League. Last weekend’s away game to Leicester, the team that had triumphed against Man City just a few days earlier, ended in a 0-1 victory for the Bluebirds, their first away victory of the season. If they can limit the damage against Spurs coming Tuesday, the club might be starting 2019 well above the drop zone, a position they’ll be more than happy to be at after gameweek 38.

At the top of the table, Liverpool took the opportunity to show Arsenal coach Unai Emery that his Gunners are still some way off from challenging for the title. Sure, Arsenal have had an unbeaten run of 20+ games and their attacking play looks impressive at times, but last weekend’s game at Anfield showed that Liverpool (and the likes of City, Spurs and even Chelsea) are still a few steps ahead. What especially stands out is Arsenal’s defensive vulnerability, because conceding 30 goals in 20 games is no feat of a title challenger. The 5-1 drubbing by Liverpool will have hurt, so a home match against Fulham on New Year’s Day could be the perfect way to regain some confidence and get back to winning ways.

Premium picks

We hoped you liked our ‘punt’ Premium Pick last gameweek of Firmino who banged in 3 goals and 17 points to be the 2nd highest gameweek scorer, second only to Pogba who we tipped as the Gameweek Captain. This week we’re start by looking at Arsenal’s home encounter with Fulham which stands out this round. Despite the Gunners coming off a painful 5-1 defeat to Liverpool and Fulham booking a 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Huddersfield, a result of which the clean sheet will have especially pleased manager Claudio Ranieri. Still, Arsenal versus Fulham could well become a goal bonanza and Gunner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) would be the one to benefit from such a game. The Gabonese striker is the current Premier League top scorer and Fulham is still the team with the league’s leakiest defense: 43 goals conceded in 20 games. Over the last three gameweeks, the Cottagers have allowed 32 attempts on goal (18 of which came from inside the area), and after a quiet and undoubtedly very frustrating game at Anfield, Aubameyang will be looking to get back to scoring ways in gameweek 21.

Our second premium pick of the week had a quiet gameweek 20, but we’re counting on Eden Hazard (£11.1m) to deliver the goods yet again against Southampton at home on Wednesday. The Belgian was placed on the left wing again after a few weeks as Chelsea’s “false nine”, which pitted him against the tireless Aaron Wan-Bissaka and saw him appear less in Palace’s danger area. The Eagles tend to count on their solid defense anyway, so while the Hazard blank will have disappointed many, don’t worry. He was still very close to a couple of assists (both shots ended up against the woodwork) and he still recorded 33 points over the past four gameweeks. Hazard has provided attacking returns in 14 of the 19 Premier League in which he featured, resulting in his current totals of 10 goals and 9 assists. The Saints have conceded 9 goals in the 5 games under Ralph Hasenhüttl, but what might be more worrying is the number of attempts the team has allowed in the last three games: 16 vs Huddersfield in gameweek 18, 16 vs West Ham in gameweek 19, and 14 vs Man City last weekend. Southampton will also be missing their Captain, Hojbjerg, who covers a lot of ground in midfield, following his red card against Man City. Eden Hazard will be licking his lips in anticipation.

When a player scores 4 goals, provides 4 assists, and brings home 46 FPL points in his last three games, we can’t afford not to mention him as a premium pick. We recommended Paul Pogba (£8.1m) as a prime candidate for the captaincy last weekend and the Frenchman delivered: 2 goals, 1 assist and 18 points to top score for GW20. He also hit the woodwork and was the player with most passes in the game, which shows just how central he is to the new manager’s more attacking approach. Next up is an away game at Newcastle, where the home team have conceded 15 goals in 10 games so far this season, a run from which they’ve taken just 7 points. Only Huddersfield have performed worse in home games. Pogba has the form and he has the fixture, and at his current price, he’s an absolute steal.

A differential pick or two

Our first differential pick for gameweek 21 is based more on what’s about to come than what has happened recently. Lucas Moura (£6.9m) recorded 11 points against Wolves in gameweek 19, courtesy of a goal and an assist, but the Brazilian dribbler had been blanking for a period of three weeks prior to that. Overall, the first half of his 2018-19 campaign has been pretty decent, with 6 goals, 2 assists, and 84 FPL points, and he could find himself among the points again on a regular basis soon. It’s doubtful whether or not he’ll start away to Cardiff on Tuesday (keep an eye on the Spurs team news), but in-form attacker Son Heung-Min will be off for the Asian Cup soon and Moura seems poised to take his place. The Spurs schedule is relatively kind between now and gameweek 27, and at a price of £6.9 million (and an ownership of just 8.6%), the Brazilian could be a great differential.

This week’s second differential pick is Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.7m) who we also tipped last week and were rewarded with a goal. This is even more of a punt, seeing as the Cottagers are visiting Arsenal at the Emirates on Tuesday, but it might just pay out. The Serbian striker was a one-man attack force against the Terriers last weekend, with his tireless efforts culminating in the first and only goal of the game, in the 91th minute. He could’ve had another one less than ten minutes earlier, but team mate Kamara demanded to take the penalty that he would eventually miss. Mitrovic took 5 shots at goal, of which 2 were on target, and he also created one key chance for a team mate. Fulham will definitely not visit Arsenal thinking they’re taking the three points back home, but they will create chances against the Gunners, as all teams do. Emery’s men have conceded 9 goals in 10 home games, and the Gunners defense could be suffering against the Serbian striker’s relentless physical style. Like we said, a real punt, but an interesting one.

The captaincy

Arsenal hosting Fulham in gameweek 21 is such a juicy fixture on paper that we’re taking one of our premium picks as the number one candidate for the armband. This game sees the current top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) facing the league’s worst defense, in a home game, after a 5-1 beating by Liverpool a few days earlier. What better way to get over such a harsh reality check than by banging in a bunch of goals against Fulham? It might also be worth mentioning that Auba has scored 11 of 13 goals so far against teams not currently in the top six. After his almost invisible game against the Reds last weekend, some managers have already decided to transfer him out, but they’re likely to be regretting that decision after coming Tuesday’s game. If you have Auba, you should captain him.

Our second captaincy suggestion this week is Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min (£8.8m), because he’s in incredible form and we’ll have to do without him for a while soon. He produced the assist for Kane’s wonderful 1-0 and had another four shots at goal himself. On top of that, the Korean gave three key passes that led to danger in front of the Wolves goal, making him the most threatening man on the pitch. Opponents Cardiff kept a nice clean sheet against Leicester in gameweek 20, but it should be noted that the Bluebirds did so while allowing for no less than 31 attempts on goal, 22 of which came from inside the penalty area. With Son in red hot form and with Kane always ready to pounce, it looks like Cardiff, who have conceded 20 goals in 10 home matches in total, could be in trouble against Spurs on Tuesday.

You can also see what fiso members think of their GW21 Captain in our weekly forum poll where  over 100 votes have already been cast giving Hazard a commanding 46% of the votes followed by Aubameyang on 23%, Kane 14% and Pogba 12%.

FPL Season 2018/19 -Gameweek 20 Preview


“Leicester handed reigning champions Man City a second consecutive defeat in gameweek 19” (CC by 2.0) by CFCUnofficial

FPL Season 2018/19

Gameweek 20 Preview

Gameweek 19 was another high-scoring weekend overall, with an average score of 59 and plenty of managers scoring well over 70 points. There were no less than six players with a score of 15 FPL points or more, with surprise of the weekend Kyle Walker-Peters bringing home an incredible 18 points, courtesy of 3 assists, a clean sheet, and 3 bonus points. The other top scorers were Everton left-back Lucas Digne (17 points), Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren (15), West Ham winger Felipe Anderson (15), United midfielder Paul Pogba (15) and Chelsea superstar Eden Hazard (15). With just three days of rest between gameweek 19 and gameweek 20, the nightmare of player rotation is still far from finished, so keep that in mind when planning your transfers for this weekend.

We’d also like to remind all managers who haven’t used their first wildcard yet that they have until the gameweek 20 deadline (December 29th, 2PM GMT) to do so.

Some observations ahead of gameweek 20

Manchester United players are on the rise, in FPL terms at least. Sure, the two games under OGS saw the Red Devils face Cardiff away and Huddersfield at Old Trafford, two must-win games for any United manager, but the Norwegian’s winning start represents more than just the results. In a very short time, he’s managed to bring back some optimism to the red side of Manchester, both on and off the pitch. It’s probably too early to speak of a resurgence, but the Mancunians are off to a good start under Solskjaer. They are playing more attacking, free-flowing football, and a lot of the alleged discontent among the players seems to have evaporated. With home games against Bournemouth, Brighton, and Burnley coming up in the next five weeks, it’d be wise to check out the United roster for your future transfers.

Speaking of clubs on the rise, Leicester City can’t remain unmentioned. Claude Puel, who was allegedly on the brink of being fired as boss of the Foxes not so long ago, saw his men book two impressive victories in the space of just a few days. Leicester first beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (0-1) in gameweek 18 and then gave Pep Guardiola something to think about by beating his Man City 2-1 at the King Power. Next up are Cardiff at home, which is a challenge of a whole other type and it will be interesting to see how Leicester will handle having to take the initiative. In any case, confidence is soaring at Leicester and a third consecutive victory would see the Foxes start 2019 as the Premier League’s number seven.

One of the most interesting games of the 20th gameweek is taking place in Southampton on Sunday, when the local FC are hosting Man City. In their third game under new manager Ralph Hasenhüttl, the Saints lost for the first time (1-2 to in-form West Ham and Felipe Anderson), while City saw their title hopes dented after back-to-back defeats (to Crystal Palace and Leicester). The hosts will have been disappointed with the loss against the Hammers, but they’ve shown great improvement since Hasenhütll was appointed. The confidence and positivity are coming back to the club, and they’ll be more than motivated to show it against a struggling City side. The Cityzens should normally win this game, but if they turn up giving anything less than 100%, the reigning champions could be plunged into a full-blown Christmas crisis by a revived Saints side.

Finally, the Premier League’s current bottom-ranked team, Huddersfield. Over the past twenty years, there have been only 12 teams with less than 12 points after Boxing Day, and of those 12 teams, 8 ended the season as last. The Terriers currently have 10 points (from 19 games), with the only “positive” being that Fulham and Burnley just have 1 and 2 points more, respectively. Huddersfield, though, are facing Fulham (19th, away), Burnley (18th, at home), and Cardiff (17th, away) in the coming three gameweeks. This makes the post-Christmas period probably the most crucial period for the Terriers this season and they’ll need to make it count if they don’t want their season to be scarily close to over by the end of next month.

Premium picks

By scoring both of Chelsea’s goals in their 1-2 victory over Watford, Eden Hazard (£11.0m) booked his second double-digit score in the last three gameweeks. As a matter of fact, Hazard has been directly involved in 19 goals this season, while having played just 18 games. Against the Hornets, the Belgian didn’t only score twice, he also had three shots on target and created another two big chances for his team mates. He has brought his owners more hauls of 10 points or more (6) than any other player in the official game and there have only been five Premier League games so far in which he hasn’t posted an attacking return. The Chelsea star man is one of the most in-form players at the moment and one of the best players in the world, and an away game against an admittedly stubborn Palace side could mean another successful week for him.

Our second premium pick of the week is a player we probably should’ve mentioned a few weeks earlier, namely Tottenham’s Korean superstar Son Heung-Min (£8.7m). The lightning-quick forward has been in good form since gameweek 13, but in absolutely sensational form since gameweek 16. In his last four Premier League games, Son has scored five goals and provided 3 assists, with 49 FPL points as a result. Mind you, he played just 15 minutes in gameweek 17 and recorded just a single point that week. The Spurs attack is running at full speed as of late, scoring 11 goals in their last 2 games, and Son has been instrumental to Pocchetino’s plans. Of course, the Korean will be leaving for the Asian Cup after gameweek 22, but this could have an upside as well. Considering the form he’s in, he’s unlikely to be rested for the games in gameweeks 20 (Wolves at home), 21 (Cardiff away), and 22 (United at home), so if you can plan for his replacement in a few weeks time, you should probably bring him in as soon as you can.

This week’s final premium pick, at least in terms of price, is also a bit of a punt, but hear us out. Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino (£9.1m) is a crucial part of Jurgen Klopp’s hard-to-defend tactical plan, but his new, deeper role has not done his FPL performances any favours. The versatile Brazilian has scored 4 goals and given 5 assists so far this season, with 77 FPL points as a result. He has blanked in his last three games though,  a run that consisted of home games against United and Newcastle, and an away game versus Wolves, so it takes a bit of guts to bring him in for the home game against Arsenal. The Gunners have conceded 16 goals in 9 away games already and are now going through something of an injury crisis in terms of defenders, with Bellerin, Mustafi, Monreal, Holding, Koscielny, and Mavrapanos all either injured or doubtful for Saturday’s clash. The weak spot of the London outfit lies in the centre of their defensive block and Firmino could well be capitalising on that, in support of Mo Salah and Sadio Mané.

A differential or two

To call Kevin de Bruyne (£9.7m) a differential player is quite frankly a bit ridiculous, but his ownership stands at 4.2%, so selecting him would be a true differential choice, in theory. Of course, the Belgian has had a very unfortunate season, having played just 193 Premier League minutes so far due to ongoing injury concerns, but he’s arguably Pep Guardiola’s most key player. The Belgian playmaker is now officially injury-free and we expect him to be starting the coming games as City will be aiming to get back to winning ways after a very disappointing Christmas period. On Sunday, they’re visiting a Southampton side who have conceded four goals in the last three games (the first three under Ralph Hasenhüttl). A more worrying stat for the Saints though, is that they’ve allowed 16 goal attempts against both West Ham (last gameweek) and Huddersfield (in gameweek 18), the league’s least effective attack. City are struggling, but this game could be the perfect way to put those struggles behind them, and if they do, KDB could be decisive.

Our other differential pick for gameweek 20 is Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.7m). Yes, the Serbian hitman hasn’t scored since his two goals against Southampton in gameweek 13, but that doesn’t paint the whole picture. In last weekend’s game against Wolves at Craven Cottage, Mitro was one of the best players on the pitch. He made 8 attempts at goal, 3 of which were on target, while also providing a key pass. He missed a Cyrus Christie centre by a few inches and he saw a ball cleared just off the line by Wolves defender Ryan Bennett at the very end of the game. The Fulham number nine was definitely the most threatening man on the pitch and it wouldn’t be surprising if he finally finds the net again in a home game against Huddersfield coming Saturday. The Terriers have conceded a worrying 20 goals in 9 away games.

The captaincy

In theory, Harry Kane (£12.5m) is a captaincy candidate every gameweek, as a result of being one of the best strikers in the world. Add to that the fact that Spurs are in red hot goal-scoring form and have a home game coming up, and the English striker becomes a prime candidate for the armband in gameweek 20. True, the opposition on Saturday are Wolves, who have conceded just 9 goals in 9 away games this season, but it’s still hard to see Kane not getting some attacking returns against them. He’s scored 4 goals and provided 3 assists in his last five Premier League games, while also creating 5 big chances over that same period of time. Tottenham’s very own has blanked in just two of his last nine games (one of those appearances was a 16-minute cameo) and he’s just one goal behind current top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Our second suggestion of the captaincy this week is Man United’s born-again Paul Pogba (£8.0m). When caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived in Manchester, he said that Pogba would be central to his plans for the team and he didn’t exaggerate one bit. The Frenchman has taken on a central, more advanced role, with 3 assists and 2 goals in his last two games as a very tangible result. On top of that, he’s made 8 attempts at goal in those games, 5 off which were on target, and he gave 5 key passes. Sunday’s opponents Bournemouth have been leaking goals over the past few gameweeks, letting in 11 goals since round 16 and have just lost defender Simon Francis to a long-term injury. The Cherries have conceded 33 goals in total already this season, 19 of which in away games, so a reinvigorated United with the desire to attack in front of their own crowd is likely to be (way) too much for them.

You can also see what fiso members think of their GW20 Captain in our weekly forum poll where Kane is currently leading the way with 44 of the 114 votes cast so far.

TFF Matches 29 and 30 December 2018

The Telegraph Fantasy Football (TFF) Leaderboard was shaken up on Boxing Day with Lee Turner’s leading team dropping down to 6th and Paul Ferguson’s Qwertyuiop team aptly taking over at the top of the ‘key’ board on 1,195 points. Long-term Fantasy Football players such as Stephen Buckley in 2nd, David Browne in 4th and Neil Carrington in 9th (who won the now defunct TFFO in 2005/06, 5 years after yours truly) are close at hand. Will TFF again be won by a FISO member (as it has for at least the last 3 years)?

Now we take a look at the TFF Matches coming up over the next two days. Bear in mind the Xmas schedule is very hectic and Club Managers may feel some players need a rest. For more news on TFF check out fiso’s TFF forum.

Saturday 29th December

Brighton & Hove Albion 15:00 Everton

No early fixture this Saturday so straight into the 3 o’clocks, the first of which has Everton travelling to the South Coast to take on Brighton. Everton got a fantastic win in midweek with the usual suspects of Siggy and Richarlison getting a goal each. Keep an eye on Digne too. Brighton got a respectable draw against the Gunners. Glenn Murray hasn’t scored for a couple of games, Dunk and Duffy are finally reunited and Ryan has now gone off to the Asian Cup.

Fulham 15:00 Huddersfield Town

A real six-pointer down at Craven Cottage where Uddersfield are the visitors. Uddersfield haven’t won for an absolute age and it is games like this that can make or break your season. Fulham have a couple of draws under their belts in December and would love to sign 2018 off with a win. Tricky one to call this as there is little quality in either of these sides.

Leicester City 15:00 Cardiff City

The all-conquering Foxes are next up. The Welsh Wizards from Wales are today’s visitors to the King Power. Cardiff are still just outside the bottom three but appear to be better at home than on the road and with Leicester being in good form having recently beaten Man City and Chelsea this has home win written all over it. Maddison is up to 7th overall on the best value for money TFF players with a return of 25 points per £m and Pereira is up to 12th after his goal against Man City took him up to 23.2 points per £m.

Tottenham Hotspur 15:00 Wolverhampton Wanderers

We are on our way to Wembley (again) where Spurs are taking on Wolves. Tottenham are another of the form teams in the Prem and have snuck up into second place thanks to Harry blowing the doors off on a regular basis. Wolves are still ticking along nicely but will probably end up second best today. Son has NOT gone off to the Asia Cup yet.

Watford 15:00 Newcastle United

The Watford rollercoaster might just be about to be heading downwards again as they lost last time out against Chelsea, however Newcastle are a different kettle of fish, so the Hornets could simply have hit a temporary bump in the track. Newcastle were unsurprisingly thrashed by Liverpool on Boxing Day and have settled into a lower-mid-table/upper-low-table position.

Liverpool 17:30 Arsenal

Saturday’s late match feature top of the table Liverpool versus fifth-placed Arsenal. Liverpool are flying high this season, Salah is in good form (now the top TFF points scorer on 118 points) and even with a patched-up defence Liverpool have progressed well over the Christmas period (Robertson, van Dijk and Alisson all in the top 10 overall TFF points scorers so far with 100+ points and in the top 6 best value for money TFF players). Arsenal have stalled a little of late, will still be missing Mkhitaryan due to injury and a defeat today could see them becoming detached from the top 4. Aubameyang is in good form though.

Sunday 30th December

Crystal Palace 12:00 Chelsea

Cor blimey, Mary Poppins – it’s a London derby! Sunday’s early fixture sees Chelsea travel the short distance to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace. Chelsea have suffered a couple of defeats recently, but Hazard is in good form and they still sit inside the top four. Pedro is out injured for about 2 weeks with a hamstring problem. Crystal Palace are currently sat in lower mid-table, and Wilf ‘The Talisman’ Zaha isn’t in great form.

Burnley 14:15 West Ham United

The first of the 14:15 (I repeat, 14:15) matches is Burnley against West Ham. Burnley have been rooted in the bottom three for the majority of the season – what a difference a year makes. West Ham are comfortably sat in mid-table mediocrity but have some quality players in their squad, especially a Mr F Anderson Esq. who scored a couple against the Saints recently. Will Hernandez be fit for this one?

Southampton 14:15 Manchester City

The second of the 14:15s sees a slightly improved Southampton side taking on a Man City side who are in a bit of a slump at the moment. City have a few players back from injury (Dave Silva, De Bruyne, Aguero) so will be hoping for an improved performance today. Southampton have been revitalised since David “the rabbit hutch” Hasselhoff has been in charge though lost against the Hammers last time out in what only seems like last night (well it was last night!). Sterling seems to have gone off the boil but is still the 2nd highest TFF points scorer on 114 points.

Manchester United 16:30 AFC Bournemouth

And finally, the final Premier League match of 2018 sees OGS’s Manchester United hosting Bournemouth at Old Trafford. Solskjaer has certainly rung the changes since he took over, perhaps not in personnel but in moral. Bournemouth had an excellent start to the season but their form has tailed off since and are now in the bottom half of the table and have also just lost defender Simon Francis to a long-term injury. Will Wilson find his shooting boots again soon – he’s fallen just outside the top overall TFF points scorers but still has accumulated 100 points? Will Pogba again prove to Mourinho that he should have played him in every match?

TFF Matches 26 and 27 December 2018

Telegraph Fantasy Football (TFF) gets back into action tonight with Lee Turner’s team Wanaker FC still leading the way overall on 1,128 points. Below is a preview of the games over the next 2 days. For more news on TFF check out fiso’s TFF forum.

WEDNESDAY 26TH DECEMBER

Fulham 12:30 Wolves

Boxing Day’s early match sees a clash between two teams that this time last year were still in the Championship. Fulham are looking like they might be back there next year as they currently lie at the foot of the table. Wolves are just in the top ten and are probably favourites today. 

Burnley 15:00 Everton

The first of the 3pm games features lowly Burnley against a mid-table Everton team who have the dynamic duo of Richarlison and Siggy (featuring his spiders). If Burnley want to stay up they will need to turn Turf Moor back into a fortress. 

Crystal Palace 15:00 Cardiff

Palace caused one the shocks of the weekend by beating Man City on their own turf, Zaha is off the boil but Milivojevic is in fine form. Cardiff on the other hand were drubbed by Man Utd. Therefore this should be a comfortable win for Crystal Palace.

Leicester 15:00 Man City

The Foxes are coming into this game off the back of a shock win against Chelsea, a Jamie Vardy winner no less. City themselves suffered a shock home defeat against Palace (see above). Pep’s men will be looking for nothing less than a win today. 

Liverpool 15:00 Newcastle

Top of the table Liverpool welcome Newcastle to Anfield. Liverpool are the current form team in the division and ex-boss Rafa will probably be looking at damage limitation today. Will Klippety be doing a bit of squad rotation bearing in mind fixtures come think and fast at this time of year?

Man Utd 15:00 Huddersfield

OGS looks to have revitalised a Manchester United side that were frankly failing under Jose. Uddersfield have been poor this season and will need to be in top form today to get anything from this game. Expect United to be rampant again. 

Tottenham 15:00 Bournemouth

Spurs are still playing their home games at Wembley and today Bournemouth are the visitors. Alli went off at half-time on Sunday and could be a doubt for today. Luckily Kane continues to blow the doors off though. Bournemouth rested Fraser last time out but Brooks has stepped up recently. 

Brighton 17:15 Arsenal

The late afternoon fixture has Arsenal travelling back down to the South Coast, this time to take on Brighton at the Am Ex. Arsenal were one of the few top-six teams to win at the weekend with Aubameyang in good form although Henrik Mkhitaryan is out for up to 6 weeks with a broken foot. Brighton meanwhile lost out to Bournemouth.

Watford 19:30 Chelsea

The evening match features the Watford rollercoaster against Chelsea. Watford had a surprising victory away to the Hammers on Saturday. Chelsea lost at home to Leicester. Hazard is probably still the standout player in this one. 

THURSDAY 27TH DECEMBER

Southampton 19:45 West Ham

The solitary Thursday game features a revitalised Southampton team, now managed by David Hasselhoff, taking on a visiting West Ham team that were rocked at the weekend by a defeat to Watford. On paper the Hammers should win, but this game is played on grass not paper!

FPL Season 2018/19 – Gameweek 19 Preview

Andros Townsend (PAL)


“Andros Townsend scored what could be the goal of the year against Man City in gameweek 18” (CC by 2.0) by Hayden Schiff

For the first time in quite a while, all of the top captaincy choices performed in a gameweek. Mo Salah got 12 points for his goal and assist versus Wolves to make him the highest scorer in FPL again (125 points), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the net twice against Burnley to bring home 13 points for his owners, and Tottenham’s very own Harry Kane had a 15-point haul after scoring two goals and providing an assist to 21-point man Heung-Min Son.

For the FPL managers who put their eggs in a Chelsea or City basket though, last weekend was something of a disaster. Chelsea went down 0-1 to Leicester at Stamford Bridge, while reigning champions City suffered a shock defeat at home to Crystal Palace (2-3). Premium assets and popular captaincy options like Raheem Sterling, Eden Hazard, and Leroy Sané all blanked, causing a lot of unexpected red arrows across the board. With leaders Liverpool, in-form Spurs, and a seemingly reinvigorated Man United all playing at home and facing interesting opposition, gameweek 20 will provide plenty of opportunities for points and green arrows.

Some observations ahead of gameweek 19

Whether or not Man United would’ve disposed as easily of Cardiff as they did with Mourinho still in charge, we’ll never know. What we do know, is that the Red Devils booked a morale-boosting 1-5 away victory, with Rashford, Martial and Pogba all starting and with Jesse Lingard excelling by scoring two goals and assisting another. New manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a United legend who, besides spending eleven years at the club, also managed a few of United’s current stars when they were still rising through the club’s youth systems, among them Lingard and Pogba. The Norwegian’s tenure at United is just one game old, so we should take some time before labelling him the miracle doctor, but what’s true is that he’s off to a great start and the upcoming home game against Huddersfield provides a great opportunity to make it two for two.

Probably the biggest shock of the weekend, and possibly of the entire season, was Palace’s away victory over Manchester City. It looks like not even Pep Guardiola’s goal machine is completely immune to the savagery that is the Premier League’s festive December month, and the Eagles were willing to prove that. As usual, the Cityzens came out to attack and score goals, but Palace manage to avoid truly dangerous situations for most of the time. They were well-organised and “stubborn”, as City’s Fabian Delph put it, while City were wasteful and generally not as threatening as they normally are. By the time Kevin de Bruyne was brought on in minute 62, the City engine started to glow again, but Palace were 1-3 up already by then and boosted by an absolute Andros Townsend screamer. City will get back to winning ways, don’t worry, but last weekend’s game showed that they’re certainly not invincible.

In Chelsea, another title candidate suffered a surprise defeat last weekend. Leicester visited last weekend and not only did the Foxes take the three points back to the East Midlands, they managed to do so with a clean sheet (0-1). Of course, Ben Chillwel was excellent again at left-back and Jamie Vardy poached the only goal of the game, but it was especially the way in which Claude Puel’s men largely neutralised Chelsea’s star Eden Hazard that will have grabbed the attention of Chelsea’s future opponents. Blue’s manager Sarri has a lot of talent at his disposal, but it seems that when Hazard is not able to shine, neither is Chelsea. Considering the Leicester game represented Chelsea’s third loss in six games, the club will certainly be looking for ways to diminish the pressure that rests on the brilliant Belgian’s shoulders, possibly even during the winter transfer window.

In the bottom half of the table, Southampton seems to have started something of a surge up the ranks as new manager Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men booked a second victory under the Austrian coach, and their third Premier League victory all season. After their impressive home victory against Arsenal, the Saints booked a 1-3 away victory over Huddersfield that moved them out of the relegation zone and into 16th place. Danny Ings once again led the Southampton attack and scored his third goal over the past two gameweeks, this time from the penalty spot after winning the spotkick himself. The Saints have a few difficult games coming up over the coming three gameweeks, including a home game against City and an away game versus Chelsea, but their roster nonetheless holds some interesting differential potential.

Premium picks

After scoring a double and providing an assist away to Everton, Harry Kane (£12.5m) looks likely to be among the attacking returns again against Bournemouth at home in gameweek 19. As a matter of fact, the Spurs striker has returned in seven of his last eight Premier League games, scoring 6 goals and giving 4 assists. The only time Kane didn’t perform for his FPL managers, was in gameweek 16 against Leicester after he was brought on towards the end of the second half. Bournemouth have lost 5 of their 8 games on the road and they’ve conceded 14 goals in the process. Mauricio Pocchetino, on the other hand, had led Spurs to their best ever start to the Premier League after beating Everton 2-6 last weekend. The Spurs have won 5 of their 7 home games this season, a run in which they have scored 12 goals and conceded just 6. Just three of Kane’s eleven goals so far have come away from Wembley, but the Englishman is still one of the favourites to score this coming Wednesday.

In a fashion reminiscent of last season, Liverpool’s Mo Salah (£13.2m) is rapidly becoming an unavoidable premium pick. The Egyptian forward was brilliant at Molineux last weekend, scoring the opener in the 18th minute and the providing the assist for Virgil van Dijk’s 0-2 in the second half. This made it four goals and two assists for Salah since gameweek 15, a run that has brought the happy 38.3% of FPL managers that own him an impressive 39 points, or an average of practically 10 points per game. Next up at Anfield is Newcastle, who have been in OK form as of late and who have shipped just 7 goals in 8 away games all season. Liverpool is flying though, and the Reds have scored 18 goals in just 8 home games already this season. Another Salah hat-trick, anyone?

Our final premium pick of the week is another Liverpool player, namely Virgil van Dijk (£6.3m). The Dutch central defender has given Liverpool the defensive solidity that last year’s Liverpool missed at times, while he also chips in with the occasional attacking return from set-pieces. This was the case last weekend, when Virgil slotted home a Salah center, scoring his first goal of the season and adding to his two assists. In all honesty, his goal last weekend has caused somewhat of a hype around the centre back as he booked a 15-point haul, but we’re recommending him for his clean sheet potential, in the first place. Liverpool boasts the best defence in the league, by far, having conceded just 7 goals in 18 games so far. In other words, Newcastle, who have scored 7 goals in 8 away game, don’t look like they’ll be worrying the Liverpool defence too much on Wednesday.

A differential or two

Before Southampton host Man City and travel to Stamford Bridge, the Saints are playing a home game against West Ham. While the Hammers have had an excellent December month so far, their defensive solidity remains doubtful. They have shipped 11 goals in 8 away games and reborn in-form Saints striker Danny Ings (£5.6m) looks like the most likely suspect to capitalise on West Ham’s defensive fragility. The English number nine has welcomed new Saints coach Ralph Hasenhüttl in style, with 3 goals in his last two games, including a double strike against Arsenal. His ownership is rising, but still stands at 6.8% overall, making him a great differential for the third (or even second) striker position in your squad.

The second differential pick of the week is Man United’s Marcus Rashford (£7.0m). True, it was the cheaper midfielder Jesse Lingard who took the spotlight last weekend (2 goals, 1 assist, 18 FPL points) and it was Paul Pogba who registered no less than three assists, but it was Rashford who took most shots at goal (4, as many as Lingard and Martial combined). In the continued absence of Romelu Lukaku as a result of private circumstances, Rashford is likely to start up front against Huddersfield at Old Trafford on Wednesday. It’s way too early to call United’s saviour on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the positivity seems to have returned at United and Rashford (overall ownership 13.7%) could prove to be an excellent differential pick in gameweek 19.

For further ideas check out the fiso forum FPL GW19 transfers topic.

The captaincy

Seeing as we already recommended Harry Kane as a premium pick for gameweek 19, we’re recommending his team mate Christian Eriksen (£9.2m) as a candidate for the armband. With the Danish playmaker on the pitch, Tottenham are a better team, it’s that simple. With Son and Kane taking up most of the attention lately, and with Dele Alli chipping in with great attacking performances as well, Eriksen has been operating somewhat in the background. Still, he has scored a goal in each of his last two Premier League games, against Burnley and Everton, while he has also provided four assists over the past six gameweeks. The risk with the Dane is that he could be used in a too deep position by Pocchetino at times, which reduces his goal threat, but he’s Spurs’ best player and a very likely starter after having his minutes managed during the Champions League group stage.

We’ve said before that recommending Mo Salah (£13.2m) is quickly becoming unavoidable and the same goes for handing him the armband. Should you have Salah in your team already, or if you’re bringing him in this week, he should probably be captained. If you don’t have him in your team and you’re not planning to bring him, all you can do is hope that he won’t produce a 21-point haul against Newcastle at home this week. Salah has scored 11 goals already this season and he’s set up another 6 goals, which has resulted in 125 FPL points so far. No player in the game has more. He’s scored 6 goals and given 2 assists in his last six Premier League games, a run that includes a 25-minute appearance in gameweek 15 (1 assist). Considering everything, there’s a big chance Salah will be the most-selected captain in the run-up to gameweek 19.

According to the fiso forum members, the FPL GW19 Poll currently has Salah leading the way with 42% of the vote followed closely by Kane with 34%.