We are back with our Gameweek preview as we look ahead to some potentially tasty encounters coming this weekend. And the action kicks off with Liverpool hosting Burnley today in an early kick-off at Anfield.
There are lots of players to consider and innumerable permutations and combinations are in play, with respect to setting up your weekly FPL teams. But when you have the luxury of knowing which fixtures to target, which teams have the potential to score big, and which teams might struggle, it makes your task that much easier to carve out a plan for each Gameweek.
Here, in this article, I’ve tried to put context into how each team is likely to fare this weekend, along with who are the players to look for or avoid.
LIVERPOOL v BURNLEY
Everyone’s eyes will be on the weekend opener as more than half the FPL community have doubled or tripled up on Liverpool players. Mohamed Salah, obviously, will be the most-picked captain in my opinion while Trent has the potential to bag attacking output against a weaker backline. The Reds will be playing in front of a packed Anfield after 18 months and this fixture has all the making of a Liverpool procession.
Burnley, on the other hand, offered very little in that opening fixture, while most of their attacking threat came from set-piece deliveries, as expected. Thus, I don’t see Sean Dyche going for anything other than that “Route One” approach.
PREDICTION: LIV 4-0 BUR
ASTON VILLA v NEWCASTLE UNITED
Both Aston Villa and Newcastle United come into this second fixture on the back of confidence-draining defeats. While Steve Bruce’s Newcastle couldn’t keep up against a rampant West Ham side, Dean Smith’s boys were humiliated by the Hornets. There is cause for concern for both of these teams, primarily due to their defensive vulnerability, while both have reasons to be optimistic about their attacking firepower with new faces looking to make an impact early on.
Villa will be relying on new signings Emiliano Buendía and Leon Bailey to feed Danny Ings in attack, who was non-existent in Villa’s opening fixture barring that late penalty conversion. Newcastle have Joe Willock back, and this time on a permanent deal. This makes it an exciting match as both will be trying new things after further bolstering their attacking ranks.
PREDICTION: AVL 2-2 NEW
CRYSTAL PALACE v BRENTFORD
Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace looked void of ideas against the European champions in their opening fixture, and quite rightly so. But on further inspection, it is evident that this team is far off from a Vieira side, there is no cohesion to their setup, they look extremely vulnerable when playing out of the back and as a squad are not on that level to match Vieira’s philosophy stride for stride.
The Bees, on the other hand, couldn’t have asked for a better start as Thomas Frank’s boys humbled Arsenal in their opening fixture and are high on confidence. Brentford don’t have any big-name players and that’s what makes them an exciting team. Their furthest forward, Ivan Toney, was seen more inside his own penalty box than the opposition box, they’ll stifle you of space and they work as a team, for each other, they suffer collectively when they need to and they attack like a pack of hungry wolves. Expect a rather comfortable evening for the Bees.
PREDICTION: CRY 0-2 BRE
LEEDS UNITED v EVERTON
Marcelo Bielsa will have a lot to think about following his team conceding five against Man United. And more than anything, Bielsa’s primary concern will be the lack of attacking threat from his forward players. This is a pattern that has emerged since the start of their pre-season fixtures and although it was Man United, it’s still a concern as the Leeds attack has been looking disjointed for some time now.
Everton, on the other hand, were rather sluggish for the first 45 minutes of their opening fixture and it was rather a minor tweak in the system that allowed freedom to the likes of Richarlison and Demarai Gray that unlocked their attacking potency. While their defence, there’s a big question mark there. Micheal Keane and Mason Holgate looked uncomfortable for much of that first match when pressured and against a high-pressing unit like Leeds, they’re in for a tough time. With Leeds’ lack of attacking threat and Benítez’s defensive prowess, this encounter has all the making of a cagey affair.
PREDICTION: LEE 1-1 EVE
MANCHESTER CITY v NORWICH CITY
The defending champions started off their title defence on a whimper after losing 1-0 to Spurs on the opening day. What must be frustrating to Pep is the familiarity of these defeats; same patterns, same mistakes, same ineffectiveness. But tasked with hosting a lively Norwich side, Pep and his boys must be licking their lips as they couldn’t have wished for a better fixture to bounce back from their Gameweek 1 woes. Kevin De Bruyne might be a surprise inclusion, as he needs minutes before the blockbuster fixtures come thick and fast, while Riyad Mahrez will be my go-to guy for this weekend’s fixture.
Norwich, to their credit, looked good against a much stronger Liverpool side and should have put something past Alisson Becker had there been a better forward leading that Norwich line. Milot Rashica, in my books, will again be the Norwich player to watch out for. The Kosovan was mightily impressive against Liverpool and can be Norwich’s X-factor this season.
PREDICTION: MCI 3-0 NOR
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION v WATFORD
Some things just don’t ever change, do they? Graham Potter and his men were at the wrong end of several dodgy VAR calls last season, and as luck or destiny would have it, just two minutes into their opening fixture of the 21/22 season, Brighton were behind again following another VAR call that went against them. But credit to Graham Potter’s tactical awareness as both of his late substitutes played a key role in Brighton coming from behind and winning the fixture at the end of 90 minutes.
The Watford forwards were a menace for the Villa backline as Dean Smith and his men had no answers to Watford’s counter-attacking threat. Watford put three past Villa and Emi Martínez, which quite easily could have been more. Of all the promoted sides, Watford have the best backline, at least on paper. Goals can be hard to come by in this fixture. Thus, prioritising a goalkeeper or defenders from either side won’t be a bad option in my opinion.
PREDICTION: BHA 0-0 WAT
SOUTHAMPTON v MANCHESTER UNITED
The Saints could be in for a very long season. They’ve lost two of their star-performers in Jannik Vestergaard and Danny Ings, and more importantly, to rival Premier League teams. They severely lack quality, they look void of creative ideas with James Ward-Prowse the only creative outlet – that too from set-pieces – and when hosting a red-hot Manchester United, they have a mountain to climb for them to even eke out a solitary point from this encounter.
Man United, despite missing some key personnel, have a squad after a long time to challenge any team on any given day. After trouncing Leeds 5-1 confidence will be sky-high inside the Man United camp, and on the back of beating the Saints 9-0 last season, Ole and co will be hopeful of another positive result.
PREDICTION: SOU 0-3 MUN
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Bruno Lage missed a golden opportunity to start his Wolves managerial career on a high as Leicester were there for the taking, but it’s just one game of a 38-match season. Yet, if you start the season with two defeats on the bounce, it obviously adds to the pressure and Lage will have his work cut out this weekend.
Wolves will be hosting former manager Nuno Espírito Santo, who, unlike his counterpart, had a brilliant start to his new managerial career. There’s no doubt Tottenham are favourites for the tie, and rightly so. That tells me even though Dele Alli, Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son are great picks for this weekend, I think, if given the nod – Raul Jiménez will have a say in this match and will be heavily involved.
PREDICTION: WOL 1-2 TOT
ARSENAL v CHELSEA
Arsenal are looking at the prospect of one of their worst starts to a Premier League campaign. Although Mikel Arteta took the brunt of the Arsenal fanbase and pundits alike for fielding an unprecedented starting XI against Brentford, upon further clarification, it emerged that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Rúnarsson and Willian have all been affected by COVID-19, with only Aubameyang coming out as the least affected as he started light training this Thursday.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have finally solved their #9 conundrum by securing the services of Belgium international Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan. Chelsea should easily overcome Arsenal, but again, Arsenal did the double over them last season, and Mikel Arteta has his way of producing tactical masterclasses against the big boys. It’ll be interesting to see how Arteta sets his team up. If he opts for a back-three, Arsenal stand a chance; if he sticks with his four-at-the-back philosophy, Tuchel and Chelsea are going to thrash them all over the park.
PREDICTION: ARS 0-1 CHE
WEST HAM UNITED v LEICESTER CITY
Unlike his Everton side from the past which was defensively astute and positionally aware, David Moyes’ West Ham are exactly the opposite. They are shaky at the back, and they will be – everyone knows that – but Moyes has turned this team into a goal machine by putting the correct pieces in place. Saïd Benrahma, Jarred Bowen and Michail Antonio are the obvious picks if you want to go with a Hammers’ player this weekend.
With Leicester, my only concern is their troubled backline. Jannik Vestergaard solves some of Brendan Rodgers’ issues but not all. Whether he fits the system is pretty much up for debate, or would Rodgers change the system to play to his current backline’s strengths? It’s a tricky situation for both Brendan Rodgers and the FPL managers. Thus, taking a punt on a Leicester City defender can be a risky option for this weekend.
PREDICTION: WHU 2-1 LEI