World Cup 2018 Preview – Group H

HONDA KEISUKE 本田圭佑
“Japan’s Keisuke Honda celebrating with his national team mates” (CC by 4.0) by Clark Tanaka

Over the last two weeks building up to the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia on Thursday June 14th, we’ve published a series of previews on each of the 8 Groups with a special focus on each team’s best players and any details that might be of interest to FPL managers. Today the final instalment in our 8 article series is Group H with Colombia, Japan, Poland and Senegal. On June 19th, Colombia are playing Japan and Poland are facing off against Senegal. Finally World Cup madness is here! And here is thousands of ways to have even more fun!

If you’re still not sure what Fantasy World Cup competition to enter then have a look at TFF World Cup 2018 or Dream Team World Cup 2018 or the official McDonalds FIFA World Cup Fantasy game.

Colombia

Colombian football has been developing at a spectacular rate over the past decade or two, something that was emphasised by their World Cup quarter final in 2014. With the mix of arrived top players and exciting young talents present in the 2018 squad, Los Cafeteros might become of this summer’s surprise packages.

Probably the best player that coach Jose Pekerman has at his disposal in Russia is Bayern Munich’s James Rodriguez. The ex-Real Madrid man managed to score 8 goals and provide 14 assists in 39 games, including 1 goal and 2 assists in 12 Champions League games. The 26-year old attacking midfielder combines a great vision of the game with an extraordinary left foot, making him Colombia’s creative engine.

Up front, the Colombians will be counting on Radamel Falcao‘s trademark killer instinct to supply them with goals. The Chelsea striker was loaned to his old club Monaco last season and he didn’t disappoint: 24 goals and 5 assists in 36 games, including 3 goals in 5 Champions League games. At 32 years of age, one would say that Falcao has reached the final stretch of his career, but he’s still performing at the highest level and he’ll be a key asset to Colombia during the World Cup.

With Milan’s Cristian Zapata, PSV’s Santiago Arias, and Barcelona’s Yerry Mina, the Colombian defence has plenty of names worth mentioning, but the one currently standing out is central defender Davinson Sanchez. The Spurs strong man, who came to Spurs from Ajax Amsterdam for a club-record fee of £36 million, is one football’s most exciting defensive prospects. He combines a seemingly endless energy with great tackling and superior aerial ability. His powerful physique at times hides his speed and acceleration, especially when tracking back in defence, and he’s very good at the 1v1. At still just 21 years of age, the occasional mistake slips into his game, but he’s Colombia’s future nonetheless.

Los Cafeteros can count on a combination of quality, talent, and experience to guide them through the group stage. How far they go next will depend on their defensive solidity and the form of their players up front.

Japan

After a more than disappointing 2014 World Cup, in which they quietly were sent home in the group stage, this Summer will most likely be the last chance for some of Japan’s most experienced players to put down a good performance with the national team.

Despite seemingly having stepped down a level or two by joining Mexican club Pachuca last summer, Keisuke Honda remains one of the best footballers the Land of the Rising Sun has ever produced. The creative midfielder left the European continent after quite successful stints at AC Milan and CSKA Moscow, and is still considered to be a key piece for Akira Nishino and the National team. With his international experience (36 goals in 95 games for Japan), his excellent vision of the game, and his ability to both score and set up a team mate, he’ll be invaluable on and off the pitch.

Honda will be joined on the midfield by Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa, who scored 6 goals and assisted 7 in 27 games last season, including 2 assists in 5 Champions League encounters. Like Honda, Kagawa is a very silky attacking player who loves to have the ball in his feet and control the direction of the game. Add to this his physical development in the Bundesliga and his experience in playing for the National team (29 goals in 91 games), and his importance to Japan becomes even more understandable.

Where Shinji Okazaki might not be known as the prolific goalscorer for Leicester, things look a whole lot different for the striker when it comes to his national team. He’s scored 50 in no less than 112 games for Japan and it’s very likely that, despite his 32 years of age, he’ll be starting up top in Russia this summer. With his incredible work rate, and if he can count on his goal instinct, he’ll be invaluable to the Japanese.

The Japanese squad boasts some serious, though ageing, quality that should give them a shot at qualifying for the knock-out stages. The same goes for Poland and Senegal though, so we expect it’ll be a closely contested rivalry for second place behind Colombia.

Poland

The Polish can count on a world class attack, and a decent midfield and defence, but whether or not it’s enough to give some shine to their first World Cup participation since 2006 remains to be seen. It could go both ways.

The absolute superstar of the Polish national team is Robert Lewandowski, the Bayern Munich striker who is widely considered as one of the best in the world at what he does, which is scoring goals. This is underlined by his 41 goals (and 5 assists) in 48 games for Bayern last season, including 5 goals and 2 assists in the Champions League, and his 52 goals in 93 games for Poland. Lewandowski is a complete attacker who can combine as easily as he can put balls in the back of the net, who can finish with both feet, and who can occupy entire defences in order for his team mates to slip through. Poland’s form will depend on his form.

Another key asset for National team coach Adam Nawalka is standing in goal, namely Wojciech Szczesny, the ex-Arsenal and current reserve Juventus goalkeeper who is seen by the Italian giants as the natural heir to living legend Gianluigi Buffon. The Polish goalie, who is still only 28 years old, has steadily grown into a very experienced and reliable pair of hands, and he’ll be raring to show that he’s ready to pick up the gloves in the Juve goal after the World Cup. Should he fail to make an impression, then Nawalka can still call on second goalkeeper, and one of Swansea’s few bright spots last season, Lukasz Fabianski.

In the Polish midfield, it’ll probably be Grzegorz Krychowiak who’ll be protecting the team’s balance from in front of the defensive unit. The undoubtedly very talented defensive midfielder earned a transfer to PSG after excelling at La Liga side Sevilla for years. Despite his failure to make a mark in Paris (and in West Bromwich during last season’s loan spell), Krychowiak will be hoping to impress in Russia. And why not? He breaks up an attack as easily as he puts a team mate alone in front of goal, he reads games well, and his technique with the ball is more than most players on his position could dream of.

Though Poland came out of Pot 1 during the sorting of the World Cup groups, they’re likely to be fighting for second place in the group with Japan and Senegal. A lot will depend on Robert Lewandowski’s form in Russia.

Senegal

The World Cup in Russia is only the second World Cup the Lions of the Teranga have ever been part of, the first one being in 2002 when they amazingly reached the quarter finals. Senegal reaching that far again this time seems unlikely, but the Group H contenders should definitely not discard them.

The star of the team is Sadio Mané, the tricky winger who usually starts up front for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, forming one of Europe’s most-feared attacks together with Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino. The powerful attacker has had a fantastic year at Anfield last season, scoring 20 and assisting 9 for Liverpool as they reached the Champions League final. With 10 goals and an assist in the Champions League alone, Mané was actually one of tournament’s MVPs last season. He’s very quick, has an abundance of energy, and can both finish and assist in the final third. He has the potential to become one of the stars in Russia.

At the other end of the pitch, Senegal can also count on a player of world-class. Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly has quickly developed into one of the most-wanted defenders in Europe and Senegal will be hoping that he can bring his excellent club form to Russia this summer. Thanks to his size and athletic build, Koulibaly possesses superior aerial abilities, both in defence and attack, while his time in Italy has taught him tactical awareness and discipline. He’ll be leading the Senegalese defense in Russia.

Much of the energy needed in midfield will be provided by Everton’s Idrissa Gueye, who is what some call an enforcer, and one of the best in Premier League at that. Gueye can usually be found all over the midfield, recuperating balls and closing gaps. He combines superior tackling with extremely accurate passing and a good tactical discipline. In combination with West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyaté, Gueye will be forming a solid defensive block on the midfield this summer.

Not many people are talking about Senegal in the run-up to the World Cup, but the African side might turn into one of the surprises this summer. Passing their group isn’t easy, but if they manage it, they’ll most likely present a very tough task to opponents in the knock-out stages.

Why Fantasy Sports is good for you


Fantasy sports have been growing leaps and bounds over the past few years. It is estimated that by the year 2020 the Fantasy League market around the world could be worth $20 bn. Fantasy sports’ popularity is increasing every day and they’ve been a massive hit in the developing countries too.

Fantasy football is beneficial for the players in multiple ways. Of course you win prizes. But its benefits are far greater than cash prize. It helps you grow as a person. Don’t believe us, then keep reading.

It helps you at the workplace
One of the major advantages of playing daily fantasy sports is that you get plenty of experience in team building. In fantasy sports you choose players after a thorough evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses. Then you pick the player best suited to do the job for you.

Once you learn this process of evaluation you can easily apply the same at your workplace. An efficient team works for each other. Every member will be good at something. And if you know their strengths, their skills, etc you could assign them work best suited for them.

The analysis that you do on players could also be useful in sports betting. If you haven’t ventured into sports betting yet, the best way to try it is through free bets available at all reputed bookmakers. With the knowledge that you already possess you could maximize your winnings with free bets. This is crucial because for all that you may possess the kind of knowledge of the game required to make the smartest bets imaginable but because the ins and outs of sports betting can be rather complicated newcomers would do well to familiarize themselves with the technicalities of betting before putting their hard-earned cash down. As for the more seasoned pundits, well, they get some free bets and there’s nothing wrong with that!

You get better at making decisions

Being decisive is one of the most important traits of successful people. Ability to make precise decisions is a quality that will help you a lot. Fantasy sports demand accurate decision making. You have to analyse a given situation and then decide. When you lose, you get to learn the mistake you made in your team selection. Knowing more about how our brain works can also help in making good decisions.

This could help you in real life too. You will be much adept at analyzing a situation and then quickly making a choice.

You become a better planner
Your fantasy team can never perform consistently if you don’t make regular changes to the team. Unlike in real sports here the stability does not come by picking the same team all the time. You have to consider a lot of factors. For e.g. keeping a young skillful player in your team all the time is not a safe option, because young players are often inconsistent. Injury to a player also challenges you to take necessary steps. It doesn’t need telling that there are dedicated columns in newspapers which you can refer to plan your team.

In this way you learn to react to circumstances quickly and plan for the future.

You get better at research
Winning in virtual games is not easy. Take for e.g. in Football Fantasy sports you must have a thorough knowledge of each and every player in the league. It is humanly impossible for anyone to watch all the matches. Therefore fantasy sports players have to rely on researching. They have look up the facts and figures and make judgements based on them.

2018 World Cup Updates

A Sneak Peak

With just a few days left until we get to see the first exciting games of the 2018 World Cup, anticipation is mounting, and lots of antsy fans are tired of waiting. If you are one of those fans don’t worry, we have plenty of insider scoops and updates to keep you satisfied until the matches finally start. Lanzini has already been ruled out with injury and there have been injury scares for Fred of Brazil and Mbappe of France.

The World Cup groups have been formed, the stadiums are being prepared, the ticket scalpers are polishing their, well, they have tickets. All in all, there is a lot of excitement, fans are flocking from all over the world to witness what is going to be one of the best football showings in some time.

Left Out

Some World Cup news that might shock you was the news that Leroy Sane was left out of the Germany squad. Germany is an intimidating team this year. Already holding a different trophy, they are a strong pick for the overall winners of this year’s cup, right up there with Brazil. So it may be quite a surprise that Leroy Sane did not make the cut this year to go to the World Cup and help Germany reign supreme. Sane would almost certainly make the squad in every other team (maybe barring Brazil and Spain) so it just shows what a strong squad Germany have and why they are defending champions.

Sane is an excellent winger, performing very well for City in the Premier League, so many Leroy fans may be questioning the sanity of the coaches in Germany, especially considering Leroy scored 14 goals and made 19 assists during the 2017-2018 season. It was a very close pick between Sane and Brandt, but Brandt won out in the end, even with less impressive stats.

Penny for Your Thoughts?

There is a lot of different news circulating, some pure speculation, other solid facts. Each one plays an important factor though in what will ultimately be the end results of this year’s World Cup. We want to know though, what do you think? Have you studied the players, looked at the coaches, crunched the numbers and compared and contrasted the lineups? Who makes the cut in your eyes and who falls short.

There is plenty of room for upsets this year which makes betting predictions even harder to place than usual. The strongest runners seem to be Germany and Brazil, but Spain has a great chance this year as well. And with strange and unusual coaching picks for the lineups, it has become ever more of a toss up to see who will be the big winner and get to take home the cup for their country.

He Was Number 1

Another interesting bit of news this time comes from the England squad and is that goalkeeper Jordan Pickford will wear the number one jersey for the summer World Cup. While England isn’t most people’s first pick for the big winner this year, you shouldn’t necessarily count them out just yet either.

The team has a fresh new style and a good blend of talent for their squad that will hopefully breathe some life and promise back into the team. While it is hard to bet in their favour against juggernauts like the Brazil team, England usually put up a good fight.

World Cup 2018 Preview – Group G

Raheem Sterling of England and Yohan Cabaye of France
“Raheem Sterling (left) in action for England against France” (CC by 4.0) by Ben Sutherland

Over the two weeks building up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we’re publishing a series of previews on each Group with a special focus on each team’s best players and any details that might be of interest to FPL managers. Today it’s the turn of Group G with Belgium, England, Panama, and Tunisia. On June 18th, Belgium are playing Panama and Tunisia are facing off against England.

Belgium

With the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois in their ranks, just to name a few, Belgium is considered a potential winner of the World Cup. Bookmakers generally have them at about 12/1 with their main Group rivals, England, at odds of 20/1. If those odds don’t pique your interest then you might consider Footy Accumulators to increase the potential return on your World Cup football bet.

Belgium’s build-up to the tournament has not been without issues off the pitch though, so it’ll be interesting to see if coach Roberto Martinez, assisted by Thierry Henry, can create a unit capable of performing.

The Red Devils have talent in abundance all over the pitch and among all of them, Kevin de Bruyne stands out, especially after his spectacular season at Man City. With 16 assists in the Premier League alone, KBD crowned himself as last season’s assist king and this just shows how much of a game changer he can be. His technique is brilliant, his passing with left and right is second to none, and he scores as easily as he assists. He will form the core of the Belgian midfield in Russia.

Alongside him, though slightly more up the field, will be another Premier League superstar, namely Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. The fact that he scored 17 goals and provided 13 assists in 52 games last season, including 3 goals and 4 assists in the Champions League, but that his season was still largely seen as mediocre by many, just shows the expectations invoked by Hazard’s skills. He’s small of stature but he uses his body excellently to shield the ball, both his acceleration and his speed are thrilling, and his dribbling often requires a double of even triple cover by his opponents. When in form, Hazard can be one of the start performers during the World Cup.

Joining Eden Hazard in attack will most likely be Napoli’s Dries Mertens, who’s been developing spectacularly into one of Europe’s most prolific attackers. The small dribbler scored 22 goals and provided 12 assists in 49 games for I Partenopei last season, including 3 goals and 5 assists in the Champions League. He’s very fast, has lightning-quick feet, and has grown into a killer in front of goal. Whether starting or coming off the bench to replace his rival for a spot in attack, Romelu Lukaku, Mertens is a world class option either way.

The Belgian Red Devils definitely boast the talent and the quality to make it far in Russia this summer. A lot will depend on their ability to form a cohesive unit and to get into “tournament mode” on time to start performing with only one objective in sight: the World Cup.

England

Expectations surrounding the Three Lions in the run-up to an international tournament are always high, which doesn’t always seem to be in the best interest of the squad. This year, the general consensus is that England has some serious quality up top and in the middle, but that the backline is not on par with some of the World Cup favourites.

Just to try and ease English minds a little bit, the first player we’re picking is Kyle Walker, who plays for the Premier League champions, Man City. The 28-year old right-back played 32 games (including 7 in the Champions League) for City last season, partly due to injury, in which he still provided 7 assists. In his position, Walker is one of the best in the world when it comes to a system with wing-backs that play higher up the field in order to support the attack. He’s fast and powerful, and his fine passing, both over the ground and through the air, will be a weapon for England in Russia.

At the other end of the pitch, all eyes will be on Harry Kane, the Spurs talisman who scored 41 goals in 48 games last season. Those included 7 goals in 7 Champions League games. Any FPL manager knows what Kane is capable of on a mediocre day, while every football fan in the world knows that his name is synonymous with goals and lots of them. He works hard to lean on entire defences, he can finish clinically with his left, his right and his head and he does so even when it seems he’s having a terrible game. ‘Hurricane’ Kane had a spell on the sidelines towards the end of last season and his comeback games were lacklustre but his form seemed to get back up to more like his usual self in the last couple of EPL matches last month.

If coach Gareth Southgate has ideas that are similar to Pep Guardiola’s, then it’s likely that City’s Raheem Sterling will be getting lots of minutes alongside Kane in attack. Despite his performances for the National team not having been an undivided success up until now, the superfast winger did perform outstandingly for his club last season, with 23 goals and 17 assists in 46 games, including 4 goals and an assist in 8 Champions League matches. With 18 goals in the Premier League alone, he actually ended as the third-most prolific English goalscorer, behind proven cannons Kane and Vardy, even though he was prone to miss some excellent chances. It’ll be exciting to see how much of his career’s best form Sterling can take to Russia this summer.

England seem to have a very talented squad with a lot of individual quality, it’ll just remain to be seen if they can battle the world’s very best. Passing the group stage shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the Three Lions, though. Fingers crossed for them they don’t endure another penalty shoot out disappointment, one which Southgate has already experienced as a player.

Panama

For the small Central American state of Panama, it’s the first time that they’ve qualified for the World Cup. Most of their players play either in Panama or the United States, and despite keeping both the United States and Honduras at bay during the CONCACAF qualification cycle, hopes for a surprise in Russia aren’t high.

One of Panama’s most important players is striker Blas Perez, who plays for Municipal in Guatemala. He’s widely considered to be one of the very best players to ever come out of Panama and his 13 goals in 32 games for Municipal last season show that, despite his 37 years of age, he still hasn’t lost his goal instinct. Perez has played 113 games and scored 43 times for Panama already, who will be hoping that his experience and goals will have a positive influence on their first World Cup performance.

Another one of many players in the Panama squad who play in the US, is captain Roman Torres. He plies his trade with the Seattle Sounders, but what the 32-year old central defender is possibly more known for is being the one who scored the goal that definitely brought Panama to the World Cup. Thanks to his powerful physique and his fearlessness when it comes to challenges, Torres not only forms the defensive foundation of his national team, but also a threat in front of the opposition’s goal, as shown by his 10 goals in 108 caps for Panama.

For a change, and thanks to his important role in the Panamanian qualification success, we’ve picked out the coach, Hernan Dario Gomez, to look into. While it might be the first World Cup ever for Panama, Gomez has already been there, done that. As matter of fact, he’s one of the only four people in history to have qualified for the World Cup with at least three different teams: his native Colombia in 1998, Ecuador in 2002, and now Panama. Gomez employs a patient approach to games with his Panama. They try and win the ball back quickly and wait for the right moment to go forward, while forming a tight unit in the back to fend of counter attacks and dangerous offensive moves in general. Whether it will be enough for Panama to cause an upset this summer, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Panama is participating in the World Cup for the first time and they look unlikely to surprise. Belgium and England should be well out of their league, while Tunisia should have no problem beating Los Canaleros, either.

Tunisia

Tunisia is another one of this World Cup’s smaller nations in footballing terms, with only a handful of players in the squad active in Europe. The Eagles of Carthage managed to qualify for the tournament for the first time in 12 years though, and they’ll be roaring to show what they’ve got, even without their injured star man Youssef Msakni.

The best player at coach Nabil Maaloul’s disposal is probably Wahbi Khazri, who some FPL managers might remember as a Sunderland player from a few seasons ago. The tricky attacking midfielder of 27 years old was loaned out to Ligue 1 outfit Stade Rennais last season, for whom he scored 11 goals and provided 4 assists in 34 games to help them clinch a respectable 9th position last season. Tunisia will be counting on Khazri’s experience, creativity, and goals to make something happen up front.

Despite playing only 10 games for Leicester City last season, still scoring 2 goals in the process though, Johan Benalouane is likely to be starting for Tunisia on the World Cup. His transfer to the Foxes after a lengthy career in the Serie A didn’t exactly bring him what he expected of it, but he’ll be all the more motivated to show his skills in Russia. Benalouane is physically strong, a decent passer of the ball, and he’s not afraid to make the occasional dash forward. He’ll be expected to lead the Tunisan defence this summer.

Another one of Tunisia’s more promising players is currently active in the Saudi Arabian Pro League, playing for Al-Ettifaq. Fakhreddine Ben Youssef is a former Tunisian Player of the Year who, after a disappointing adventure in France’s top flight, decided to show his skills back in the Tunisian league and last season in Saudi Arabia. The 27-year old attacker has reached 37 games for his country by now, in which he scored 5 goals, and he has participated in a major international tournament with Tunisia before, namely the African Cup of Nations in 2013. Despite a disappointing season in Saudi Arabia, the Tunisians will be hoping that in Russia, Fakhreddine can call on the skills that made him into a wanted talent all over Europe just a few years ago.

Thanks to the presence of Panama in the group, Tunisia can hold on to a flicker of hope of qualifying for the knock-out stages, though it would require a victory over Los Canaleros, a point at least against Belgium or England, and some favourable results in the other Group G matches. It looks very unlikely, but never say never…

World Cup 2018 Preview – Group F

Manuel Neuer wins the "Golden Glove"  | 140713-8736-jikatu
German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer catching the ball against Argentina during the last World Cup final” (CC by 4.0) by Jimmy Baikovicius

Over the two weeks building up to the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we’re publishing a series of previews with a special focus on each team’s best players and any details that might be of interest to FPL managers. Today, it’s the turn of Group F with Germany, Mexico, South Korea, and Sweden. On June 17th, Germany are playing Mexico, and Sweden are facing off against South Korea the next day.

Germany

With Germany, the reigning World Champions are returning to the tournament and it doesn’t look like they’ve lost any quality. On the contrary, with a solid defensive basis and an exciting mix of talent up front, Die Mannschaft might well be stronger than the squad that won the title four years ago.

In midfield, Real Madrid maestro Toni Kroos is likely to be directing the game for the Germans. The midfielder is a vital link in Madrid and an invaluable piece of the puzzle that has won the Champions League three times in a row now. He’s easily one of the most complete midfielders in the world, with a great vision of the game, practically flawless passing, and a great right foot, both in play and from set pieces, just to name a few of his strong points.

Manuel Neuer is another key piece for national team coach Joachim Löw. His importance as goalkeeper and captain of the World Champions was underlined when it became clear that, despite a season dominated by injury, Neuer was still included in the final team sheet, with Löw stating that he is in fact his number one goalkeeper. The German number 1 combines cat-like reflexes with a great management of both his area and the entire back line. Add to this his excellent ability with his feet to keep the ball in play and start the build-up from the very back, even under pressure, and it’s not hard to see why he’s considered by many to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

After the victory in Brazil four years ago, captain Philip Lahm retired from professional football, which left many people with a big question mark: who would be filling the place at right-back, both for Bayern and Germany, that Lahm had occupied with fantastic results for the past decade? The answer came from Bayern, who bought a relatively unknown player by the name of Joshua Kimmich in the summer of 2016. Kimmich is probably one of the most versatile players in the world right now, being able to play anywhere from attacking midfielder to right-back and even central defender. With his endless energy, his tactical awareness both offensively and defensively, and his eye for the pass, he quickly turned into one of the world’s most complete right-backs.

Germany is part of a World Cup for the 18th time in history and they are, yet again, considered one of the big favourites for victory in the Final again. If concentration levels are up to scratch, the group shouldn’t pose too many problems for them. If you consider Germany to be the likely winner again then check out the VM odds at Nordic to see what backing them might win you.

Mexico

Mexico have participated in 7 World Cups since 1986 and every one of those participations has seen El Tri reaching the knock-out phase of the tournament. The Mexican squad always boast talent, and they’ll be hoping that their current mix of experience and talent is enough to go far in Russia.

One of Mexico’s very biggest talents at this moment is Hirving Lozano, who transferred from Pachuca to current Dutch champions PSV last summer. The 22-year old scored 17 goals and assisted 11 in 29 Eredivisie games in his first season in Holland, resulting in rumours of a transfer to one of Europe’s greats already. Lozano preferably plays deep on the left wing, from where he can cut inside and put his excellent right foot to use. He’s fast, he’s not afraid of the 1v1, and he has a nose for the goal. His 4 yellow cards and 2 red cards in the league last season show that he still has some work to do in terms of his temper, though.

In the midfield, Real Betis midfielder Andres Guardado is the one to watch for Mexico. He was vital in Betis’ more than surprising 5th-spot finish and he’ll be vital for Mexico in Russia this summer. Despite his small stature, the former Valencia, Leverkusen and PSV-man often leads the press and wins back many balls for his team. His 8 assists in LaLiga last season show that he also contributes in an attacking sense, which is thanks to his wonderful left foot. With Guardado, Mexico can’t only count on a warrior in the midfield, but on a set piece specialist as well.

We could’ve looked at Porto’s Hector Herrera or West Ham’s Chicharito, for example, but we want to mention Carlos Vela as well. The quick and small attacker was destined to become a star at Arsenal in the Premier League, but some initial issues with his license (due to his limited time playing for the national team at the time) caused him to never really take off at the Gunners. He went on to make a more than serious mark on LaLiga side Real Sociedad though, from where he transferred to Los Angeles during the last transfer window, for whom he scored 7 and assisted 2 in just 12 games. On a good day, Vela is nothing less than spectacular and in combination with Lozano and Chicharito, El Tri have an attack to fear.

Germany will most likely be out of their league, but Mexico should be able to keep Sweden and South Korea at bay. After that, it remains to be seen how far in the tournament they’ll get.

South Korea

Far from the favourite in Group F, South Korea still has some interesting things to offer. Despite many of their players outside of Europe, mostly at home and in Japan, some of their internationally experienced players are at great moments in their career, both age- and performance-wise.

The absolute star of South Korea is Tottenham Hotspurs attacker Son Heung-Min. The FPL managers among us will definitely know this name, as last season he again turned up as a must-have man at different points in the season. Basically the premium replacement of one of Tottenham’s front three (Kane, Eriksen, Alli), he still managed to get a whopping 12 goals and 6 assists in the PL last season. He’s quick, both with and without the ball, he’s technically gifted, and he can both score and set up a team mate. While South Korea might not stand out in Russia, Son definitely has the ability to do so.

Another name in the South Korean squad that might sound familiar to many FPL managers is Ki Sung-Yueng. The 29-year old midfielder player 25 games for Swansea in the Premier League last season, in which he scored 2 goals and assisted just as many. Despite the club’s relegation, Ki has shown on more than occasion, and not just last season, that he’s a complete midfielder who can keep a team running, even when the circumstances are not ideal. He passes the ball, is much stronger in the one v one’s than his appearance would suggest, and has a great work ethic on the pitch. He’ll form the South Korean engine this summer in Russia.

One of the biggest South Korean talents, if he can still be called that, is Hwang Hee-Chan, who plays for Austrian outfit FC Red Bull Salzburg. The 22-year old striker scored 13 goals and provided 4 assists in 37 games for Salzburg. Those include 2 goals in Champions League qualification games, and 2 goals and 2 assists in the Europa League to help the Austrians reach the semi-finals. He’s likely to get plenty of minutes during the World Cup, so it’ll be interesting to see if his goal instinct can serve his country as well.

South Korea will have to be on top of their game, especially against direct rivals Sweden and to a lesser extent Mexico, and hope for some favourable results in the other group games. If not, the group stage will probably be the final stage for them in Russia.

Sweden

Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swedes managed one of the big surprises in the build-up to the World Cup by overcoming World Cup mainstays Italy in a direct, two-way confrontation for qualification. Sweden counts on some individual talent, but their great strength is and will have to be their solidity as a team.

Sweden’s best individual player at the moment is probably Emil Forsberg. The winger, who plays for Red Bull Salzburg and has 35 games for Sweden under his belt already, is an important of Sweden’s attacking plans. He provides speed and the ability to beat a man in a 1v1, which gives the team some much-needed unpredictability up front. On top of that, he can score as easily as he sets up his team mates, so he might shine in Russia.

John Guidetti is another one of Sweden’s best players, who some of the more dedicated FPL managers might recognize as an ex-Man City player. His stay there, though, was largely dominated by loan spells at clubs like Feyenoord, Celtic, and Celta de Vigo. During these spells, Guidetti did show some serious quality at times, like at Dutch giants Feyenoord where he scored 20 and assisted 6 in just 23 games. He will likely start up-front with Ola Toivonen (Toulouse) and Swedes all over will be hoping that he’s found his goal instinct again, in time for their first crucial game against South Korea.

At the back, much Swedish hope will be placed on Manchester United’s centre back Victor Lindelof. The 23-year old is considered by many to be one of Europe’s most-promising defensive prospects and his chances of living up to those expectations have definitely not been hampered by playing under José Mourinho. Though far from becoming a long-term start for United, he did get up to 29 games last season, and he left a good impression overall in those games. The young central defender is tall and physically imposing, while his passing is usually immaculate, if somewhat risky at times. Combine this with his great tactical awareness during games and his lack of fear to build up from the back, and it’s clear why he’s a key asset for Sweden coach Janne Andersson.

Sweden will most likely have a tough time in Group F, but then again, people expected them to fail to qualify against Italy and here they are. If they can form the same hard-to-break-down block, then they might cause a surprise at some point, though the knock-out stages definitely seem out of reach.

World Cup 2018 Preview – Group E

Neymar Jr World Cup 2014

Brazil’s superstar Neymar Jr. tackled during the 2014 World Cup” (CC by 4.0) by Global Panorama

Over the two weeks building up to the 2018 World Cup, we’re publishing a series of previews with a special focus on each team’s best players and any details that might be of interest to FPL managers and fiso members playing Fantasy World Cup games. Today, we preview Group E with Brazil, Costa Rica, Serbia and Switzerland. On June 17th, Costa Rica are playing Serbia, and Brazil are facing off against Switzerland. Brazil are the bookmakers’ favourites to win the World Cup and it’s always a good idea when selecting your lineup to check out who the likely winners are from places such as Bet safe VM odds.

Brazil

This summer in Russia, it’ll be the 21st time that Brazil are present at a World Cup and as usual, they’re among the favourites to take the cup home. National team coach has an abundance of talent, quality and international experience all over the roster, but one man is counted on more than others. Neymar Jr, the world’s most expensive player by a long shot, injured himself halfway through last season and the Brazilian panic was immediately palpable. It looks like the PSG dribbler will be fit by the time the World Cup gets started, but how much effect will the lack of match fitness have, in combination with the unrelenting rumours about his unhappiness at PSG and a transfer to Real Madrid this summer?

Since a decade or so, the Ukrainian city of Donetsk has proven to be step toward a very promising career for young talents from Brazil. Just think of Willian, Fernandinho, and Douglas Costa. The latest one to cross over into one of Europe’s top leagues, the Premier League in this case, is Fred. The energetic box-to-box midfielder signed for Mourinho’s Man United this week for over £50 million and though he might not always start for Brazil this summer, due to the presence of Fernandinho, Paulinho, and Casemiro, he’ll surely want to show his worth in Russia. Fred tackles and defends hard but fair, he can set up a goal, and he lets other players shine, so keep an eye out for him.

Thiago Silva, Coutinho, Ederson, Marcelo, Gabriel Jesus. Those are just a few of the Brazilians we could focus on, but we’ll go for last season’s Champions League finalist, Roberto Firmino. The versatile Liverpool attacker, who scored 27 goals and assisted 17 in 54 games last season, has an invaluable role in Jurgen Klopp’s team, both as finisher and provider. He works tirelessly to create spaces for his team mates, his technique is close to perfect, and he combines as easily as he scores, so he might just make his mark in Russia.

A Seleçao are one of the top favourites for a World Cup triumph, but before thinking of that kind of glory, they’ll have to get out of their group. Not the easiest of tasks, but they should be up for it.

Costa Rica

Los Ticos are hoping to repeat their surprise performance at the last World Cup, when they came to a halt after penalties against the Netherlands. Oscar Ramirez’ team doesn’t contain an abundance of well-known players, but good performances by some of their top players might be enough for another great run but will fortune favour them again?

The Costa Rica roster boasts one real, international superstar, in the person of goalkeeper Keylor Navas. The Real Madrid shot stopper is already the most successful Costa Rican player in history, which is largely thanks to his considerable role in Real Madrid taking home the Champions League three seasons in a row. Navas is lightning quick on the line and he has the experience to lead his national team, so a lot will depend on him performing well for Los Ticos.

In the midfield, Costa Rica still largely counts on Bryan Ruiz to provide them with the necessary creativity and flair. The 32-year old attacking midfielder possesses a wonderful left foot with which he can create danger from both open play and set pieces, and after stints at FC Twente, Fulham, and most recently Sporting Lisbon, he’ll hopefully be able to produce some of his magic for his country this summer.

In the Costa Rican attack you’ll find a name that will probably sound more than familiar to long-time FPL managers: Joel Campbell. The explosive winger is still only 25 years of age, which make the 14 goals in no less than 74 appearances for Costa Rica all the more impressive. On club level though, Campbell has been loaned out six times by Arsenal since he joined them in 2011, the latest spell coming at last season’s La Liga surprise package Real Betis. Los Ticos will be hoping that 2 goals and an assist in just 9 games will be enough for him to be fit, ready, and in form in the build-up to the World Cup.

On paper, Costa Rica are the weakest team in this group. They have a world class goalkeeper, but the rest of the team is probably a few levels below the average level of fellow Group E outfits Brazil, Serbia, and Switzerland.

Serbia

Ever since the collapse of Yugoslavia, the Serbians have had more than decent talents at their disposal. With that fact came expectations and, unfortunately for Serbia, also the disappointments of never really taking the opportunity of an international tournament to perform. The squad going to Russia will depend on a relatively old defence and a varied attack.

The star of the team is probably Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic. Considered by many to be one of the finest defensive midfielders in the world, it’s easy to understand why Mourinho splashed £40 million on the Serbian last summer. Matic is one of these players that seem to be everywhere at once and who can, on a very good day, control an entire midfield by himself. He’s tireless, he’s tactically very astute, and his left foot occasionally releases a thunderbolt into the back of the net. Serbia will be counting on him to excel this Summer.

Matic will most likely be joined on the midfield by the somewhat more attacking Sergej Milinkovic-Savic from Lazio Roma. The physically dominant midfielder is rumoured to become one of the hottest assets during the upcoming transfer window and it’s not hard to see why. Apart from his 14 goals and 9 assists in 48 games for Lazio last season, Milinkovic-Savic is a rather complete box-to-box midfielder with excellent aerial ability. Add a great right foot to that and it becomes clearer why a central midfield formed by him and Matic could be something to behold this World Cup.

Many FPL managers will hear a bell ring when they hear the name Aleksandar Mitrovic. His first season at Newcastle in the Premier League was not an undivided success story, though the still only 23-year old striker had plenty of good moments to show as well. He was loaned to Fulham in the Championship halfway through the season and this obviously did him some good, considering his 12 goals and 1 assists in just 17 league games. With his strength, both on the ground and in the air, he’ll probably be starting for Serbia in Russia this summer.

With the likes of Matic, Tadic, Milinkovic-Savic, and Llajic, Serbia can count on a very talented pool of players to choose from. In defence though, most of the starting players are aged over 32 (like Kolarov and Ivanovic), which might turn out to be their Achilles heel during the World Cup. They’ll have to play top themselves and hope for Switzerland or Costa Rica slipping up if they want to look past the group stage.

Switzerland

Under coach Vladimir Petkovic, Switzerland is building up to the World Cup with quite some expectations. The core of the team consists of experienced players from the European top leagues, while the squad harbours a few considerably talented players as well.

One of the every best players in the team is defender Ricardo Rodriguez, who last summer moved from Wolfsburg to Seria A AC Milan for €15 million. He’s strong, quite fast, and defensively sound, while his 4 goals and 2 assists for Milan last season demonstrate that Rodriguez also supports the attack when possible, which can be a real weapon for Switzerland this summer.

Where Rodriguez usually plays on the left flank, Stephan Lichtsteiner usually does so on the opposite side. The Juventus right-back, like Rodriguez, has an attacking style of play for a defender, as he’ll usually try to show himself on the opponent’s half to put pressure or to look for the pass. Besides that, he’s physically strong, internationally experienced, and tactically very aware, so it looks like the wing-backs are going to play a major role in the Swiss tactics this summer.

In attack, the Swiss can count on Breel Embolo to make an impact. The youngster was one of Europe’s most wanted signings last summer window and he eventually ended up signing for Bundesliga club Schalke 04, where the still only 21-year old striker scored 3 and assisted just as many in 21 games. Embolo is physically strong, explosive in terms of both his pace and his acceleration, and he has a liking for the goal. It remains to be seen if he’ll be starting for Switzerland this summer, but he’s definitely one to watch out for.

Switzerland, in theory, has enough quality in the side to make it through to the knock-out stages of the competition, but they’ll have to really turn up during the games. Brazil is probably out of their reach, but victories against Serbia and Costa Rica definitely are not.

World Cup 2018 Preview – Group D

LG전자, ‘50억 축구팬 心’ 사로잡는다
Lionel Messi in action for Argentina during the Copa America” (CC by 4.0) by LGE

Over the coming two weeks, we’re publishing a series of World Cup previews with a special focus on each team’s best players and any details that might be of interest to FPL managers. Today, group C with Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, and Nigeria. On June 16th, Argentina are playing Iceland, and Croatia are facing off against Nigeria. Argentina are generally the 4th favourites with the bookmakers to win the World Cup at odds of around 10/1. For comparison, England Odds are about 20/1 as the 6th favourites.

Argentina

If there’s one man carrying the hopes, dreams, and pressures of an entire nation this summer in Russia, it’s Lionel Messi. The two-time World Champions, led by Jorge Sampaoli, will be hoping that with a 30-year old at the height of his extraordinary career, they can avenge the lost World Cup final against Germany in 2014. Messi is considered by many to be the best player in the world, and probably in the entire history of football, to such an extent that his teams (Barcelona and Argentina) eventually all suffer from “Messi-pendence”. After 45 goals and 18 assists in 54 games last season, Argentina will be hoping that Messi can do the one thing that still separates him from the great Diego Armando Maradona: bringing home the World Cup, after a seemingly endless harvest of prizes and awards over the past decade.

It’s likely that Messi will be joined in attack by Juventus’ Paulo Dybala, who is considered by the Italians to be their own so-called franchise player, like Messi at Barcelona, Ronaldo at Real Madrid, and Neymar at PSG. The two of them haven’t always played together in the national team due to their seeminly similar styles of play. Dybala has the ability to both score and assist, which is what he does in abundance for Juve (26 goals and 7 assists in 46 games for the Italian giants). He’s already hard to stop at Juventus, imagine once he’s in the same team as Messi.

The Albiceleste attack is completed by another Juventus superstar, though one some years older than Dybala. After successful stints at Real Madrid and Napoli, Gonzalo Higuain joined Juve for €94 million in 2016, for whom he scored 23 goals and assisted 8 in 50 games last season. Less quick silvery than his fellow attackers, Higuain is one of the world’s most clinical finishers in the area. He combines well, plays the spaces, and scores goals, lots of them.

Despite the embarrassment of talent in offensive terms, La Albiceleste definitely lack quality in back to be considered an all-out favourite for the title. They should comfortably pass the group stage, though.

Croatia

It’s often said that football matches are won in midfield. If that’s the case, then Croatia should be considered serious contenders for a finish high up the board. The team going to Russia this summer is likely to be strongest since Davor Suker led the Croations to a bronze World Cup medal in 1998.

The crucial man on the midfield is and will be Real Madrid’s Luka Modric. At 32 years old, the midfield maestro seems better than ever, which is why he surely was one of the first names Madrid ex-coach Zidane wrote down when deciding the starting line-up for next match. Modric combines a tireless work ethic with sublime control of both ball and space, while his passing forms the engine of the teams he plays in.

He’s joined on the midfield by FC Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, one of Europe’s best all-round midfielders with a knack for scoring goals. He usually plays in a bit more advanced role in comparison to Modric, though after years of playing together on the Croatian midfield, the two of them interchange positions effortlessly during the game. His physical presence, nose for the goal, and excellent technique make him invaluable to the national team.

In attack, it might be worth keeping an eye on Eintracht Frankfurt striker Ante Rebic (on loan from Fiorentina). He scored 9 goals and assisted 3 in the Bundesliga last season, and he ended the season with a huge bang by scoring a hat trick against Bayern Munich in the cup final that gave Frankfurt the unlikely victory over the Bundesliga giants. With Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic, Inter’s Ivan Perisic, and Milan’s Nikola Kalinic going to Russia as well, Rebic’ minutes might be limited, but if he does get to play, tune in.

Expectations are high in Croatia building up to this summer and it looks like they should make it though the group without too much trouble. The question is whether they can finish above group favourite Argentina.

Iceland

Iceland were one of the surprise packages during the Euro Cup two years ago, when the National team surprised the World by qualifying and then reaching to the tournament’s quarter finals where they eventually lost 5-2 to host nation France.

Like back in France, Iceland’s best player this summer is Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. Despite a disappointing last season, which saw him moving from Swansea to Everton and suffering from an injury to prevent him from settling in his new team, all eyes are still on him, and rightly so. On a good day, the creative midfielder can lead his team to great results. His vision of the game, his passing, and his set-pieces make him one of the Premier League’s most feared midfielders, and the Icelanders will be hoping he can become the same in Russia.

Another key piece for the Iceland national team is Johann Gudmundsson, who plays in the Premier League as well, for last season’s surprise Burnley. Gudmundsson is quick, has great technique, and has an eye for the assist. Under Sean Dyche, the young midfielder has grown into a tireless winger / midfielder with good tactical awareness, something that will be crucial if Iceland have any hope of booking some satisfying results this summer.

There’s not just Johann, though. Iceland counts on another Gudmundsson as well, though to a lesser extent, namely 20-year old PSV winger Albert Gudmundsson. Though he’s valued but brought slow at the Dutch champions, he’s already made more than his mark on the national team, by scoring 3 goals in just 4 games. Iceland are not the most inventive team in Russia and Gudmundsson might be the man to add some flair and creativity to the side. He probably won’t be starting, but have a look at him when he does play.

On paper, Iceland will be battling Nigeria for third place in Group D. That’s what was being said about them in 2016 though, and they reached the quarter finals, so it’ll be interesting to see what they can bring to the table in Russia this summer.

Nigeria

If different media are to be believed, Nigeria might well turn into one of the most entertaining sides to play during the World Cup in Russia. The combination of experienced top players and young-and-upcoming talents playing in Europe is always an interesting one.

Most FPL managers will know the name John Obi Mikel, but a lot less of them will be able to name the team he’s playing for nowadays. At still only 31 years of age, the ex-Chelsea midfielder is one of the biggest stars in the Chinese Super League, playing for Tianjin TEDA. He has experience at the highest level, which is not something that can be said for many other players in the squad, he knows how to balance out a midfield, and he can feed the attach when necessary.

Another key asset for the Super Eagles is Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi. He’s still only 22 years old, and with 5 goals in 18 games under his belt he’s considered the future of Nigerian football for the coming years. Playing as a forward or an attacking midfielder, Iwobi often manages to function as a connection between the midfield and the attack. He has the vision to create chances for his team mates and the drive to appear in front of the opposition’s goalkeeper as well. His form could be a big influence on Nigeria’s performances in Russia.

In goal for Nigeria will be one of the tournament’s youngest players and one of Europe’s most interesting goalkeeping talents. At just 19 years old, Deportivo la Coruña keeper Francis Uzoho is an exciting prospect. With a few LaLiga games under his belt already, as well as several games for the national team, Uzoho will be ready to show himself to the football world this summer. He’s an athletic player with great reflexes who’s not afraid to coach his team mates and show his authority in the area, despite his age. If you manage to catch a Nigeria game during the World Cup, he’s definitely one to watch.

Even though the mix of players and playing style of many of them is attractive, the group stage will likely be the final stage for Nigeria on the coming World Cup. Argentina and Croatia are a few levels above the Super Eagles, while Iceland will likely prove to be a tough nut to crack as well.

FPL Season 17/18 A summary

Watford vs Manchester City
Sunshine at the stadium of the Champions” (CC by 4.0) by Matt Churchill

After the 2018 FA Cup final between Manchester United and Chelsea, another roller coaster season of English football has come to its end. It was a record-breaking season in many aspects, both on team and individual level, and in the real world as well as in the wonderful parallel universe of the Fantasy Premier League. Before looking over the past FPL season, here are just a few of the records that have been broken this season in the English Premier League:

• Champions Man City are the first team to reach 100 points
• They also broke the record for goals scored in a season: 106
• For the first time since the PL has 38 games, 2 players have reached the 30-goal mark in the same season: Harry Kane with 30 and Mo Salah with 32
• Mo Salah has scored the most goals in a 38-game PL season: 32
• Burnley achieved European qualification and their highest-ever finish in the 21st century as true “best of the rest” (7th)

We could go on for a while, this season truly was remarkable, but we’re moving on to what really matters. Mo Salah didn’t only break records on the pitches, but also on our computers, tablets and phones. With a grand points total of 303, he broke Luis Suarez’ 295-point record for points in a single season, and that’s hardly surprising. The Egyptian EPL Player of the Year just didn’t stop scoring, assisting and winning. Unfortunately for him the Champions League Final on May 26th proved to be a let down due to a tangle of arms with Sergio Ramos and a fall that damaged Salah’s shoulder so much he was unable to continue.

We’ll go over some of the best Fantasy assets of the past season, including Mo Salah of course, but first we want to mention Yusuf Sheikh, FPL’s 2017/2018 champion. With his Yusuf’s Team he managed to hold off Paul Gee’s My Little Kone, beating him to the punch by just 8 points. With a triple captained Salah on the final day, he added another 93 points to end with a total of 2512 points. With a total team value of £105.6 and just 41 transfers made, this season got another deserved winner. Congratulations Yusuf! And if you want to be a winner then you do need to keep an eye on the betting odds when selecting your double points captain to help guide you on which player is most likely to score.

Now, for an overview of the past season’s best FPL players, we’ve mainly looked at the point totals in the official game and some of the underlying reasons for which the highest-scoring players reached their scored.

Goalkeepers

Before Ederson came to Man City, the former Benfica shot stopper was largely unknown to a majority of the English public. It just took him one season to change this situation. The City keeper has proven to be one of the world’s best goalkeepers, one who not prevents goals but actually contributes to City’s much-praised attacking kind of football.

He probably would’ve been the game’s best goalkeeper, if it hadn’t been for United’s PL veteran De Gea (172 points compared to Ederson’s 158). The Spaniard was a certainty in the United goal (18 clean sheets!) and he’s shown that he’s a true lock on the door for a Mourinho side that rarely impressed this season. De Gea is a goalie who wins points for his team, both in FPL and in real life.

An honourable mention goes out to Fabianski, the game’s third-best goalkeeper (157 points) who relegated with Swansea. Unlike many of his team mates, the Polish goalie consistently performed on a PL level and has shown that he belongs in the elite.

Defenders

Despite Chelsea’s disappointing run this season, the two highest-scoring defenders this FPL season are Blues. First is Cesar Azpilicueta (175 points), who barely missed a minute and accrued 15 clean sheets, 6 assists, and 2 goals. Second comes the Premier League’s most scoring (and the FPL’s most expensive) defender Marcos Alonso, with 13 clean sheets, 2 assists, and 7 goals. He had a bit of a dip towards the end of the season, but like his team mate and compatriot, can look back on an excellent season in terms of FPL performances.

Scoring defenders are FPL gold, something that is also confirmed by City’s Nicolas Otamendi. As one of the few mainstays in Pep’s sometimes heavily rotated footballing machine, the Argentine central defender accrued 156 points, 15 clean sheets, and 4 goals. His rotation risk after clinching the title was a bit of a headache for FPL managers, but Otamendi’s season has been nothing short of spectacular.

An honourable mention goes to Man United captain Antonio Valencia, who got 146 points this season. As part of the League’s sturdiest defence, he still managed to score 3 and assist 1, which confirmed his status as an FPL legend.

Midfielders

Salah. The man who scored 32 goals, assisted 15, and won 3 Player of the Month awards in a single season (another record, by the way) was registered as a midfielder this season, which only increased his already enormous FPL appeal. We’ve talked about him before, we’ve talked about him during the season, and we’ll be talking about him for a while. He was, simply put, this season’s best.

In second and third place, two City midfielders who’ve had more than impressive seasons. Raheem Sterling blossomed under Pep’s guidance and ended up scoring 18, assisting 17, and accruing a total of 229 points. It looks like he’s living up to the promise of his talent and all English eyes will be on him during this summer’s World Cup. With just 20 points less, City’s Kevin de Bruyne finished the season as arguably the best all-round footballer of arguably the best team to have played in the modern Premier League. The Belgian played anywhere on the midfield and even helped out at left-back a few times, showing that he’s the engine of the current champions. He’s scored just 8 goals, which could be better considering his quality and his team’s form, but he’s the PL’s assist king with 18 assists. This is a personal opinion, but had it not been for Salah, KDB would’ve probably racked up the individual awards this season.

The honourable mention goes to FPL legend Christian Eriksen. Season in, season out, the Danish creative genius performs at the highest level, making some people and pundits wonder whether it’s time move the absolute top in England and Europe. The former Ajax man is still only 26, so arguably his best years are still to come. If Spurs manage to keep him on board, medals might be on the horizon.

Attackers

21, 25, 29, 30. That’s the number of goals Harry Kane scored in the Premier League over the past 4 seasons, which is, quite frankly, crazy. He has his ups and downs during a season, but just like Pocchetino, FPL managers can count on him to deliver. He could improve still in the assist department (just 2 this season), but his points total of 217 is impressive. He had a bit of an injury scare towards the end of the season, but it now looks like he’s set to make his mark on the World Cup this summer.

Second is Jamie Vardy, who just keeps on scoring and proves that he’s not just a one-season man who guided Leicester to one of the most unlikely success stories in modern football two seasons ago. The Foxes finished at a respectable 9th position in the league and Vardy played a huge role in that result. With 20 goals and 2 assists, he finished 4th in the top scorer chart, behind Salah, Kane and Kun, but in front of big names from big teams like Sterling, Lukaku and Firmino.

Third is Roberto Firmino, the tireless Liverpool nr9 who runs, assists and scores as if it was his last day on the pitch. The Brazilian has proven to be the perfect striker for Jurgen Klopp’s so-called heavy metal football, and the perfect partner for Man of the Season Mo Salah. With 15 goals, 8 assists, and 181 FPL points, it looks like Firmino is ready to shine one last time this season, come May 26th against back-to-back European champions Real Madrid.

World Cup 2018 Preview – Group C

France's Paul Pogba (2nd L) celebrates with team mates after scoring against Portugal during their friendly soccer match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris October 11, 2014.   REUTERS/Charles Platiau (FRANCE  - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)   - RTR49T
France’s Pogba celebrating a goal with the rest of the team” (CC by 4.0) by Ajith Kumar

Over the coming two weeks, we’re publishing a series of World Cup previews with a special focus on each team’s best players and any details that might be of interest to FPL managers. Today, Group C with Australia, Denmark, France and Peru. Group C starts on June 16th, France are playing Australia, and Peru are facing off against Denmark. The bookmakers favourites to qualify from Group C are France and Denmark. Checking out the top online bookies odds before you select your best team is a good thing to do to ensure you don’t overlook one of the favourites.

Australia

Despite football not being the country’s number one sport, Australia still manages to qualify regularly for international tournaments like the World Cup. On paper, they’re considered the underdog in Group C, but on the pitch the Socceroos can never be underestimated, thanks to their intensity and often physical approach of important games.

As was the case during previous World Cups, most Australian eyes will be on living legend and captain Tim Cahill. The midfielder will be 38 years old going into this summer’s World Cup, but he’s still considered invaluable to this Australia squad. With his experience, both overall and specifically at World Cups (the fourth of his career!), he’s expected to play an important role, both on and off the field.

Another attack-minded midfielder in the Australian team is Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy. The creative attacking midfielder with the tireless work ethic has had a great season in the Premier League and he will be counted on to provide the National team with some much-needed footballing creativity in Russia. In goal there is a Premier League player with a very successful last season as well, in the person of Mat Ryan. The Brighton goalkeeper had an overall excellent season as he managed to help the Seagulls stay in the PL in their first season there. He’s got great reflexes, is good with his feet, and gained a lot of authority in the area over the past 12 months.

Like we said before, Australia is on paper the weakest team in this group. If they want to have any chance of progressing to the knock-out stage, they’ll have to rise above themselves and hope for some favourable results elsewhere.

Denmark

The Danish are bringing a team to the World Cup this summer that shouldn’t be underestimated by any account. On a good day, Denmark can combine defensive solidity with a crafty midfield and a dangerous offense. The team’s undoubted star is Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen, who’s confirmed (once again) last season that he belongs to the very best attacking midfielders in the world. He runs, he creates and he scores, with both his left and right foot, and his value to both club and country is enormous.

In defence, the Danes will be hoping that this season’s break-through of Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen will be assuring them of a world-class central defender for years to come. Despite still being prone to an error here and there, the young defender is solid in the air, quick, and not afraid to aid in the build-up. Speaking of talents, at the other end of the pitch, Denmark can play Ajax Amsterdam’s Kasper Dolberg, who is considered one of the world’s most talented youngsters at the moment. His break-through came last year, when he played an important role, at only 18 years old, in helping the club reach the Europa League finals. He’s strong, agile and technically-gifted, and he has a real killer instinct in front of goal. Last season was partly ruined by injury, but if he can display even a whiff of his class in Russia, he’ll be one to watch.

Denmark will be aiming at qualification in this group. France should normally have too much class for Denmark but Peru and especially Australia are teams that they should beat, in theory.

France

The French national team is one of the favourites for the World Cup in Russia, that much is clear. When you can leave the likes of Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Aymeric Laporte (Man City), and Nabil Fekir (Lyon) without weakening the selection, it means you’ve got an exceptionally talented group at your disposal.

Antoine Griezmann
is already one of the most talked about players in Europe after another spectacular season at Atletico Madrid and the alleged serious interest from FC Barcelona, but his star might just rise a bit higher still this summer. The small attacker is one of the most lethal offensive players in the world at the moment and he seems to link up well with any player partnering him up front. The 2018 World Cup might just become Antoine Griezmann’s tournament.

Of course, it might just as well become Kylian Mbappé‘s tournament, as the French teenager continued his meteoric rise to football super stardom last season by scoring 21 and assisting 16 in 46 games for PSG. He’s lightning quick, physically strong, and a dribbler pur sang, and what’s even better, his still only 19 years of age. The World Cup is the next step in the career of one of the world’s biggest talents.

It’s easy to pick another 10 players from the French squad to put an emphasis on and we’ve chosen goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. The French national goalie has been a mainstay in goal for years now, both for Spurs and France, and his importance is sometimes somewhat understated. Lloris has grown into one of the most reliable goalies in the world, becoming one of that valuable breed of goalkeepers who win points for their teams. For France, he’ll have a crucial role in guiding the many young talents to World Cup glory in Russia.

The French have as good a selection as any country and are definitely considered favourites for the end victory. Their group shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for them.

Peru

The Peruvian build-up to the World Cup has been stressful. They reached the tournament by winning a double play-off against New Zealand, and their supposed star striker and best player was still suspended for international football due to a failed drug test.

Eventually though, 34-year Paolo Guerrero was granted permission to go to Russia after all, where he will be taking on his usual role leading the Peruvian attack. In the autumn of his career he’s still scoring goals at high level, namely at Brazil’s Flamengo. With stints at clubs like Hamburg, Bayern Munich and Corinthians under his belt, his goal instinct as well as his experience will be of great value to a Peru team that’s considered an underdog in this group.

FPL managers might hear a bell ring when they hear the name André Carrillo. The Watford winger, on loan from Portugese top club Benfica last season, showed glimpses of his qualities over the past season. Despite not being able to cement a starting spot in the team, he did display great technical ability, dazzling speed and a tireless work rate. Peru will hope that it’ll all come together for him in Russia.

Another interesting piece of the Peruvian puzzle is Renato Tapia, the defensive midfielder who usually plays as a central defender for Dutch giants Feyenoord. As a defender who possesses the skills to join in midfield and is not afraid to do so, he played an important role in the club’s championship in 16/17. For Peru, he usually gets the role of playing in front of the back line. Strong in the duels, with good vision, and not afraid to make a forward pass, Tapia is important to the overall balance of the Peruvian national team

As with Australia, the World Cup’s group phase will likely also be the last phase for Peru. The stars are all at the end of their career and the team overall just doesn’t seem up to the task of finishing above Denmark.

World Cup 2018 Preview – Group B

Cristiano Ronaldo 1
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Portugal” (CC by 4.0) by Themeplus

Over the coming two weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of World Cup previews with a special focus on each team’s best players and any details that might be of interest to FPL managers. Today, group B with Iran, Morocco, Portugal, and Spain.

On June 15th, Morocco are playing Iran, and Spain are facing off against Iberian rivals and reigning champions of Europe, Portugal, which arguably is the highlight of all the World Cup group matches. Despite Portugal being European Champions, Spain are favourites with the bookmakers to win this group. Keeping an eye on the odds and World Cup betting offers can help you pick the best players for your team and increase the fun of watching the football matches.

Iran

Former Portugal and Real Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz would’ve probably wished for an easier group for his Iran team, but Team Melli has improved over the last decade. It’s particularly in attack where the Iranians boast some interesting prospects. First of all, there’s AZ Alkmaar’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who last season became top scorer in the Dutch Eredivisie and was voted Player of the Season as well. Pacy, a good dribbler, and eye for goal, the winger is ready for a step up and Napoli is reported to be interested in his services. Alireza’s striking partner is called Reza Ghoochannejhad, who also plays in Holland, for SC Heerenveen, where he’s scored 32 goals spread over the past two seasons. He’s also Iran seventh-highest top scorer with 17 goals for the national team. Finally, there is Sardar Azmoun, who plays for Rubin Kazan in the Russian Premjer Liga. Though his past season wasn’t his most prolific (5 goals in 26 league games), he’s generally known for his killer instinct and ability to lean on defenses. At only 23 years old, he’s already bagged 23 goals in 32 games for Iran, so it’ll be interesting to see what he’ll do in Russia this summer.

Despite the presence of some attacking talent, our hopes aren’t high for Iran. Spain and Portugal are definitely our of their league, while Morocco should be better as well, so it looks like an exit in the group stage for Team Melli.

Morocco

Morocco might be another surprise package this year, if coach Hervé Renard manages to keep all of his players motivated. The Eagles of the Atlas combine a powerful defense with an energetic midfield and a creative attack, with 6 players raised in Holland.

One of the most important players in the team is without a doubt Medhi Benatia. The tall and strong central defender has been at the European top for years already, first at Roma and Bayern Munich and currently at Juventus, and his quality and experience will be a decisive factor for Morocco. He’s both a defensive rock and an attacking threat at the same time, thanks to his excellent heading abilities.

Hakim Ziyech is probably the most talented player Morocco currently has, but the Ajax midfield maestro hasn’t always been in great relations with coach Renard. The two have made up though, and it certainly has paid out for the national team. Ziyech has a fantastic left foot, great vision, and at Ajax he’s improved enormously in terms of intensity and concentration. The Moroccans have a technical team, but most attacks will probably still pass through him.

An exciting, but less-known prospect in this team is the 24-year old forward Ayoub el Kaabi. The young attacker still plays in Morocco, for RS Berkane, where he’s scored 22 goals in 38 league games over the past two seasons. With 10 goals in 8 games, his record for the national team is even more impressive, so it’ll be interesting to see how he presents himself during his first World Cup.

Morocco has an interesting team with a lot of technically gifted players, but Spain and Portugal will probably fend them off in the group. A surprise could never be far off, though.

Portugal

As the reigning champions of Europe, the Portuguese, under Fernando Santos, are considered an outsider for the title. Of course, what’s also true is that any team that counts on Cristiano Ronaldo can probably be considered an outsider, at the least. The Real Madrid superstar has just come off a third Champions League victory in a row (the fourth in five years!) and confidence couldn’t be higher. He scored 44 goals in 44 games last season and carries the hope of the entire nation in Russia. Can he lead them to deep into the knock-out stages?

In terms of talent, especially in attack, Portugal has one of the richest squads, and two players in particular stand out: Bernardo Silva and Gonçalo Guedes. The former crowned himself champions in England with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, while the latter quite literally teared it up in LaLiga for Valencia (on loan from PSG) last season. Both are quick, agile, and technically-gifted attacking midfielders who could be the perfect companions for Ronaldo up front. Silva missed some minutes this season due to Pep’s rotational tactics, but the City man more than showed what he’s got in the games he did get time (9 goals, 11 assists). Guedes had a spectacular season at Valencia, where he scored 6 and assisted 11, playing mainly as a winger or an attacking midfielder. Fast as lightning and fearless, the Portuguese super talent is one to look out for during the World Cup in Russia.

The Portuguese attack is world class, but the defense isn’t… anymore. Big names like Pepe, Bruno Alves, and Jose Fonte, are all older than 34, and the next defensive generation is not (yet) at top level. It’s probably enough to pass the group stage, but it’ll become difficult for them after that.

Spain

The favorites in Group B are Spain, who, under Julen Lopetegui, are looking for a new period of international success after most of the players from the successful 2006-2012 generation have retired. The Spanish squad is one of the strongest in the tournament, as only the likes of Germany and Brazil can match their individual quality. In goal, La Furia Roja counts on Man United’s David de Gea, who’s showing that he’s among the world’s best season after season in England. The defense is led by Spain, Real Madrid and Champions League living legend Sergio Ramos, but he’s not the only with some serious football credentials. What to think of Chelsea’s marathon man Cesar Azpilicueta, Real Madrid’s starting right-back Dani Carvajal, or FC Barcelona’s Gerard Pique?

Where it gets really crowded though, is on the Spanish midfield. Instead of commenting, just take a look at the roster: Saul Ñiguez (Atletico), Koke (Atletico), Iniesta (Barcelona), Busquets (Barcelona), Thiago (Bayern), David Silva (Man City), and Isco (Real Madrid). The likes of Cesc Fabregas and Javi Martinez were left home by Lopetegui.

In attack, Chelsea’s Diego Costa will probably be the big man for Spain, flanked by either some of the previously mentioned midfielders, or by fellow attackers Asensio and Vazquez (both Real Madrid). Costa will go to war every game and if he can combine that attitude with some goals, then the Spanish might just take it to the very end in Russia.

Spain is not only the favorite in Group B, but also one of the favorites for the World Championship. The team is bursting with quality, most players have known each other and played together at the highest level for years, and their group might be the perfect start.