FPL 2018-19 Second international break (8 to 19 October)

“Dutch defender Van Dijk, here duelling with Austria’s Marko Arnautovic, had a solid game versus Germany this international break” (Own work) by Ailura

After another exciting Premier League weekend last week, the 2018-19 campaign’s second international break has seen Premier League players flying all over the world to join their respective national sides. With the Nations League offering a new and very welcome alternative to the usually rather boring international friendlies that used to take place over the international breaks, there were plenty of attractive fixtures on the calendar this week. What to think of Holland versus Germany, Spain against England, or Brazil hosting Argentina, for example? In this article we’ll take a closer look at the performances so far of some of the most interesting FPL assets ahead of gameweek 9.

Netherlands vs Germany (13 October 18)

With both national teams going through a phase of transitioning, the Nations League meeting between Holland and their German arch-rivals was one of this international break’s most interesting fixtures. The Dutch booked an impressive 3-0 victory, though the scoreline could be considered somewhat flattered considering the Germans were the better team for many parts of the game. The first and third goal were scored by Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk (£5.9m) and Gini Wijnaldum (£5.5m), respectively.

The two starters under Jurgen Klopp gave an excellent performance against Die Manschafft, and something that’ll please about 15% of FPL managers in particular is Van Dijk’s involvement. The imposing central defender is marked as an injury doubt in the official game, but he completed the 90 minutes as captain against Germany. As far as Wijnaldum goes, he was one of the best players on the pitch, going box-to-box and demonstrating the kind of threat he can bring in attack as well. Holland are still facing Belgium tomorrow, but both Liverpool players should be returning to England healthy and full of confidence.

Croatia vs England (12 October 18)

Last Friday, the Nations League presented us with a replay of the World Cup 2018 semi-final between Croatia and the Three Lions, though the empty stadium in Rijeka turned it into a bit of a strange spectacle. Gareth Southgate started with several FPL hard-hitters, including Harry Kane (£12.5m), Raheem Sterling (£11.1m) and Harry Maguire (£5.5m). The match ended in a 0-0 draw, but England probably deserved a victory. Both Harry Kane and Eric Dier hit the woodwork, while big chances were wasted by Sterling and especially Marcus Rashford. Particular stand-outs in the England squad were Leicester’s Ben Chilwell (£5.0m), who had an outstanding full debut and created a big chance for Rashford, John Stones (£5.3), and Jordan Pickford (£4.9m), though the match wasn’t very exciting overall.

In terms of FPL, the most promising performances were probably those of the previously mentioned Chilwell and Pickford. The Leicester left-back was a candidate for the Man of the Match award after displaying some fine defending and incisive attacking moves, while the Everton goalie helped England keep a clean sheet with some expected but nonetheless decent saves against the last World Cup’s runner-up. With an attractive run of Premier League fixtures coming up after this international break and the absence of European football for both squads, these two players could be increasing in FPL popularity and value over the coming weeks.

England had a much better performance in front of goal last night against Spain scoring 3 goals in the first half against Spain thanks to Sterling (twice) and Rashford with Harry Kane instrumental in setting up chances. Spain did reply in the 2nd half with their second goal literally the last kick of the match in te 8th minute of injury time to make the overall score 3-2 to England. Wolves’ Jonny made his debut at full back for Spain.

Belgium vs Switzerland (12 October 18)

In this match, no less than six Premier League players appeared in the starting line-ups. The most interesting of these, from an FPL point of view, played on the side of the Red Devils, with Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard all starting from the kick-off. Belgium didn’t completely manage to dominate the game and the Swiss eleven couldn’t place enough consistent pressure on the Belgian backline to truly become dangerous themselves, so it ended up being Romelu Lukaku’s individual qualities that brought home the three points for the Red Devils. The Man United striker (£10.9m), who is a sure starter under José Mourinho, netted twice, including once just minutes from the end after missing a sitter a few minutes earlier, to make it 2-1 for Belgium. Despite United’s struggles so far this season, Lukaku looked energised and keen on scoring, which could be interesting news for the more daring FPL managers among us.

Eden Hazard (£11.3m), currently the Premier League’s best player, didn’t really manage to put his stamp on the game against the Swiss. It was clear from the first moment that the little forward is full of confidence at the moment, but his dribbles missed a bit of that magic that he’d been displaying in the EPL over the past weeks. It should also be said though, that the Swiss kept spaces very small at the back and usually gave Hazard a double cover, so FPL managers shouldn’t be worried about the Chelsea star man. With league games against Burnley, Everton, and Palace coming up in the next four gameweeks, Hazard should be adding to his FPL points total soon.

Saudi Arabia –vsBrazil (12 October 18)

Brazil visited Saudi Arabia for their first game of this international break last Friday. With Ederson in goal, Gabriel Jesus as striker, and Fabinho and Fred in the midfield, the Brazilians started off with four Premier League players. Later on, Spurs winger Lucas Moura and Everton star Richarlison came on as well, in minutes 46 and 72 respectively.

Man City’s Gabriel Jesus (£10.2m) opened the scoreline in the 44th minute, his eleventh goal for his country in just 23 games. He was taken off in the 72nd minute, but he’ll be pleased with his performance and his goal, especially now that Kun Aguero seems to be the starting striker of choice for his club manager Pep Guardiola. The two of them will likely be competing against each other tomorrow, when the sides meet for a friendly game in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It’ll be interesting to see if another good performance by the Brazilian increases his chances of becoming City’s number one striker, especially for FPL managers, as a starting striker in the current Man City squad at a price of £10.2 can be considered a bargain.

As far as Lucas Moura (£7.4m) and Richarlison (£6.7m) are concerned, they played 45 and 18 minutes respectively. Moura wasted a considerable chance when shooting straight at Saudi Arabia’s goalie in a promising position, while Everton’s winger/striker caused the Saudi goalkeeper to be sent off with a red card after handling his vicious shot outside the box. FPL managers will also find it interesting to know that Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) didn’t come off the bench on Friday, which can be good news considering his club’s exhausting schedule over the past month.

Liverpool and the African Cup of Nations qualifiers

Liverpool’s players, who are generally known for their high-intensity approach to games in the Premier League, have been appearing somewhat less energetic since a week or three, four. The club’s congested playing schedule, which contained encounters with teams like Chelsea, City, and PSG, was blamed for it. Seeing as the Reds look to be a serious challenger for the Premier League title this year, we figured it would be interesting to take a quick look at the performances of their attacking front three. Where Firmino spent a match on the bench against Saudi Arabia, his partners-in-crime Momo Salah and Sadio Mané completed the 90 minutes for respectively Egypt and Senegal.

Egypt played a home qualifier against tiny Eswatini and won 4-1, a victory that included a goal from Salah (£12.8m). Those who were wondering if maybe the Egyptian was suffering from less confidence as a result of him being less decisive so far than last season, should really check out his goal against eSwatini last Friday. He was left with a slight groin injury after the game, but he could be fit for when Liverpool face off against Huddersfield coming Saturday.

Sadio Mané (£9.9m) had an equally successful outing with his national team as Senegal beat Sudan 3-0. The Liverpool winger was a threat throughout the game and provided the assist for the decisive 2nd goal. Like his colleague Salah, Mané didn’t come out of his international game unscathed, as he is rumoured to have picked up a hand injury. It doesn’t seem to be too serious though, and if it will give him a short period of well-earned rest before returning to Premier League action coming weekend, FPL managers who own him won’t be too unhappy, and neither will Jurgen Klopp.