“Back to Premier League action for Raheem Sterling after a successful international break” (Source: Wikimedia) by Brad Tutterow
As if the Premier League wasn’t hard enough to predict for FPL managers, this campaign’s second international break has thrown some more uncertainty in the mix. What to think of Raheem Sterling’s outstanding first-half display against Spain in the Nations League? Is he continuing in this vein against Burnley? And what about FPL big shots Sadio Mané and Mo Salah, who both came back from international duty with (slight) injuries? Are Romelu Lukaku’s two goals versus Switzerland what he needed to start carrying a struggling Manchester United? With some managers likely to use their first Wildcard around this period, Gameweek 9 is promising to be an eventful one.
Some observations ahead of Gameweek 9
After this we’ll be focusing on the Premier League, but it feels fitting to start with the Three Lions. England’s national team had a relatively successful two Nations League games against top-class opposition, namely Croatia (0-0 draw) and Spain (2-3 victory). While Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford shone in Sevilla, Harry Maguire and especially Ben Chilwell stood out a few days earlier against Croatia. It looks like most of England’s players are coming back to their clubs this week after a well-deserved boost of confidence.
Newly-promoted Wolverhampton are having a more than smooth return to the Premier League and several of their players have been growing consistently in terms of FPL potential. The likes of wing-back Matt Doherty, who scored 15 FPL points in gameweek 8, striker Raul Jimenez and midfielder Joao Moutinho are proving to offer outstanding value for money so far this season along with full-back Jonny who made his debut for Spain against England. What makes Wolves assets even more attractive, is the fact that the new boys have started all of this season’s 8 league matches with the same eleven players. If you value security of playing minutes and are looking for decent budget-enabling players, Wolves is where you should look.
Jonny Evans has been a Premier League mainstay for years, but since leaving relegated West Brom for Leicester City last summer, the Northern-Ireland international has only played 186 minutes so far this campaign. Better times might be ahead for him though, after Leicester centre-back Wes Morgan was booked for his second red card of this early 2018-19 season last gameweek. The captain of the Foxes seems to have passed his peak and it would be no surprise to see Evans cement a spot in the starting eleven over the coming weeks.
Speaking of getting into the starting line-up, Chelsea’s Ross Barkley seems to be returning to his former best under both club coach Maurizio Sarri and national team boss Gareth Southgate. The offensive midfielder is not a starter for Sarri, but he has accumulated 277 minutes already this season, which is more than twice as much as last season’s measly 129 minutes in total. For England, Barkley has started in both games this international break, displaying some improved confidence and overall satisfying performances. Keep an eye on the developments surrounding his playing time at Chelsea.
With Salah and Mané surrounded by injury uncertainty, it’s time for good old Kun Aguero (£11.3m) to make a return to this column. The Argentinian striker wasn’t called up by his national team during the break, which saved him from travelling back and forth to the Middle-East to face Iraq and arch-rivals Brazil and should have allowed his slight heel problem to fully recover. This coming Saturday, City are facing Burnley, which could mean goals for Aguero. The game is far from being a certain walk-over as Sean Dyche’s men seem to have gotten back some of their (defensive) form after a horrible season opening, but a betting man would go for City to win comfortably at the Etihad. If City get 1 or 2 goals in the 1st half, Burnley’s defensive frailties may be exposed in the 2nd half particularly if injury doubt central defender, Tarkowski, is missing. With rival striker Gabriel Jesus having played most of the match against Argentina, Kun will likely be starting this weekend and when he does, he’s always likely to score. Kevin de Bruyne may also be making his first appearance of the season and his eye for a pass may help Aguero.
With fixtures against Huddersfield (home), Cardiff (away), and Fulham (home) coming up over the next four gameweeks, making a considerable investment in Liverpool’s raiding left-back Andy Robertson (£6.3m) doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea. The Scotsman has kept five clean sheets, provided two assists, and accumulated a total of 49 FPL points in just 8 gameweeks, making him the second-highest scoring defender in the official game, behind Marcos Alonso. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Liverpool bringing home a few more clean sheets over the coming weeks particularly if Van Dyke fully recovers from his rib injury, which, in combination with Robertson’s tendency to go forward and support the attack, makes the defender an interesting premium transfer target. The alternative that is playing on many managers minds, is to bring back Man City’s attacking full-back Ben Mendy (£6.2m) into their team now that he’s recovered from injury.
On Sunday, Everton welcome Crystal Palace to Goodison Park. Though the Eagles are performing on par away from home this season, with two victories and six points from four games, they remain an outfit that finds it difficult to find the net and they may be missing their star player, Zaha, due to injury. Everton will probably dominate large parts of the game and create more chances, and when they do, attacking midfielder and playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.4m) is likely to be in the thick of it. The Icelandic international has scored four goals in his last four Premier League games, including a double strike against Leicester last gameweek, bringing home 33 FPL points over that period. Marco Silva’s men are finding their stride, and with Richarlison and new man Bernard around him, Sigurdsson’s hot streak might not be ending just yet.
A differential or two
James Maddison (£6.9m), Leicester’s creator-in-chief after the departure of Riyad Mahrez, will be coming into gameweek rested and ready to go. The young offensive midfielder (and dead-ball specialist) didn’t have any international duties to fulfil over the past week, so the hope is that he will simply continue where he left off about 10 days ago. Maddison is facing West Ham (home), Cardiff (away), and Burnley (home) after this coming weekend’s match against Arsenal with new purchase Leno in goal, which could mean big points. Even the Arsenal game coming Monday evening has potential for the Englishman, as the Gunners have conceded no less than 11 big chances over the past four gameweeks. Only Cardiff and Watford have conceded more (both 14) big chances over that same period.
One of gameweek 8’s top performers was Bournemouth forward Joshua King (£6.4m), after scoring a brace away at Watford, thus making a considerable contribution to Bournemouth’s impressive 0-4 victory over the Hornets. King has three goals and an assist to his name from the last four league games, taking home 28 FPL points in the process. This Saturday’s opponents Southampton have so far taken just three points from four away games this season, while conceding very close to two goals per game in those four games. King, who is also the penalty specialist for the Cherries, is rumoured to have injured his ankle over the international break, but the damage seems limited. Keep an eye on his situation in the coming days in any case.
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) could be the only member of the club’s lethal front three to start against Huddersfield on Saturday, which would make him even more of a reference point up top. Both Mané and Salah are said to have suffered light injuries while away with their respective national teams, and Klopp might well decide to take this opportunity to grant the two attacking stars a well-deserved rest after a killer schedule for the Reds. Firmino looks set to start against a Huddersfield team that has taken just two points from four away games so far this season, scoring 4 goals and conceding a worrying 11. Liverpool, on the other hand, have scored 8 in four home games, while conceding exactly zero goals. It looks like goals are on the menu for the home team this weekend and captaining Firmino wouldn’t be a bad idea given Liverpool do have other creative players to provide the assists for him.
After mentioning his team mate as a premium pick earlier on, we’re going for Man City’s Raheem Sterling (£11.1m). The English dribbler had an excellent week and a half with the national team and now seems ready to fire in the Premier League. Next up for City are Burnley, who have conceded the most shots per game (20.1) since the start of the 2018-19 season, including 20 against Cardiff and 19 versus Huddersfield in gameweeks 7 and 8, respectively. Combine City’s league-high 174 goal attempts with Burnley’s underwhelming defensive stats and it suddenly becomes clear why Sterling (4 goals, 2 assists, 50 FPL points) is a stand-out candidate for the captaincy coming weekend, especially if you don’t have Aguero in your team.