It is hard to overstate the excitement that a new Premier League season creates in the UK. Despite tennis’s best efforts at filling the soccer-shaped void in the public consciousness, Wimbledon just can’t stand toe-to-toe with a top-of-the-table clash or a local derby.
(And don’t even start me on cricket…)
Rejoice, for playgrounds, water coolers, coffee houses and bar rooms are abuzz with excitement once again. Rival fans that had become worryingly cordial in the close-season can now resume hostilities. The Premier League is war, and it is about to start.
In case you couldn’t tell, I am very, very excited.
The first slate is short of big-name clashes – but that won’t harm our picks. It’s not about who is going to grab the headlines: winning Fantasy Soccer players only care about accumulating points.
Fixtures between lesser-known teams enable strong DFS players to maximize their edge. After all, everyone can pinpoint a half-dozen Man Utd and Arsenal players who will rack up the points. However, it is in fixtures like Leicester vs Sunderland and Norwich vs Crystal Palace that the real pros will find that their skill edge is at its most effective.
With all that said, here are my Stud and Value picks for the first slate of Premier League fixtures. And have I mentioned that I’m excited for the big kick-off on Saturday?
STUD – Costel Pantilimon – SUNDERLAND at Leicester – $4100
The giant Romanian played a crucial role in Sunderland’s great escape last season, and I suspect that he’s going to have his hands full in a relegation scrap once again. The good news is that he is more than capable of shutting out a Leicester side that looks pretty light on attacking threat. Expect a low-scoring game with the defensive players emerging as the big point-scorers.
VALUE – Lukasz Fabianski – SWANSEA at Chelsea – $3500
One of the league’s most underrated ‘keepers, Lukasz Fabianski was a rock for Swansea last term. Saturday’s opponents Chelsea have been underwhelming in pre-season when shorn of injured first-pick striker Diego Costa, with neither Loic Remy nor Falcao looking like an able deputy. I expect Chelsea to create a lot of chances, without scoring many. At this price point, and with the promise of a lot of shots to save from long-distance, Fabianski screams VALUE.
STUD – Leighton Baines – Watford at EVERTON – $6500
The worst-kept secret in DFS is that Leighton Baines is a point-scoring machine. He takes free-kicks, corners, penalties, and loves to deliver early crosses with his wand-like left-foot. When you throw in the fact that Everton are hosting relegation-favourites Watford, selecting Baines is an absolute no-brainer. This guy guarantees points. On the flip-side, everyone and their dog will own him, which may nudge you towards my value pick instead.
VALUE – Patrick van Aanholt – SUNDERLAND at Leicester – $3900
Look at that price! Look at it! Patrick van Aanholt chalked up a respectable 6.4 FPPG last season, which dwarfs the contribution of much-celebrated defenders like Cahill and Terry. He will get up and down the flank from first whistle to last against a Leicester side that I expect to be relegation fodder under the uber-cautious Claudio Ranieri. And have I mentioned the price?
STUD – Eden Hazard – Swansea at CHELSEA – $9800
The good news is that Eden Hazard guarantees points. He is Chelsea’s attacking orchestrator, the reigning EPL Player of the Year, and he even managed to go the whole of last season without volleying a ball-boy. The bad news is that you’d have to be a blind mute living on an island that doesn’t even have dial-up to be unaware of Hazard’s quality. He will be owned by all and sundry – and with good reason.
VALUE – Gylfi Sigurdsson – SWANSEA at Chelsea – $7400
My love of the Icelandic Pele has made me the subject of ridicule from the DFS Twittersphere on many an occasion. However, I stand behind my weekly selection of Gylffi the Great. He is a set-piece marvel, possesses two ferocious feet, and has a terrific engine in Swansea’s all-action midfield. His 10.4 FPPG made him one of last season’s top midfield point-scorers, and you can rest assured that he will feature in most of my selections this term too.
STUD – Romelu Lukaku – Watford at EVERTON – $9000
When he is fully fit and Leighton Baines is supplying early crosses, Romelu Lukaku is frighteningly effective. Watford will struggle to match the Belgian’s sheer physicality, making the eye-watering $9000 price-tag a price worth paying for a penalty-box ball-magnet. Unfortunately, there is a catch – he is an injury doubt. Keep an eye on the selection news before locking your line-up, and make sure that, unlike Everton, you have a good Plan B for if Lukaku doesn’t make it.
VALUE – Jermain Defoe – SUNDERLAND at Leicester – $6600
The curious case of Jermain Defoe rolls into its 16th EPL season. There are few centre-forwards that can rival his phenomenal scoring record (139 in just over 400 Premier League games – many from the bench), yet his small stature means that he is at his most effective when paired with a target man in a 4-4-2. As a consequence, he is often played out of position – marooned on the wing in a 4-5-1. If he starts against Leicester, I expect for him to see plenty of penalty-box action, and at this price, Jermain Defoe is one long-shot that could pay off handsomely.
My picks have been made, my lineups are locked, and I am ready for the big kick-off. All that remains is for me to wish all of the DraftKings DFS Soccer players the best of luck in the new season. Except when you’re facing me in an H2H, of course!