To build up to the new Premiership season, we’ll be looking at each team’s chances and highlighting the key players who could help your Fantasy team. This preview is of last season’s top two, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Liverpool’s fantastic challenge for last year’s title ended in disappointment with a spectacular failure in the final furlongs of the race as Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea handed the trophy to Man City. That disappointment continued over the summer when controversial striker Luis Suarez engineered a move to Barcelona following his World Cup biting episode.
Liverpool have been very busy in the transfer market, mainly raiding Southampton for their best players but they have yet to sign a direct replacement for Suarez. Their squad will have to cope with the additional demands of the Champions League and without another new striker they look unlikely to be able to go one better and win the league in the coming season. However, they will definitely be amongst the league’s elite and will offer many different options for your fantasy team.
Daniel Sturridge (forward) – With Suarez’s departure, there is now pressure on Sturridge to provide even more goals for the Reds. He’s definitely capable of matching or even exceeding his tally of 21 goals from last season and is amongst the top strikers in the league. Fantasy managers can select him with total confidence.
Raheem Sterling (midfielder) – The teenage winger was one of the few players to emerge from England’s disastrous World Cup campaign with any credit and he can be expected to take further steps forward in the new season. Blessed with sparkling dribbling skills and an eye for goal, Sterling will hope to exceed last term’s totals of 9 goals and 7 assists.
Adam Lallana (midfielder) – The former Southampton skipper will miss the start of the season through injury but could be an intriguing fantasy player if he can gain a place in the team. He faces plenty of competition for a place but last season’s 9 goals and 9 assists made him one of the top midfield performers in the league.
Lazar Markovic (midfielder) – The young Serbian attacking midfielder could be a bit of wildcard as it will be interesting to see how well he settles into life in England and how Brendan Rodgers employs him in the team. He has not been a prolific goalscorer in Serbia or Portugal but he is only young and could be a strong fantasy performer especially if he settles in well. Like Lallana, he looks likely to miss the start of the campaign through injury.
Other signings –Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen), Rickie Lambert (Southampton, £4m) and Javier Manquillo (Atlético Madrid, Loan).
Martin Skrtel – The physical defender looked to be on his way out of Anfield 12 months ago but looks likely to start the season alongside Dejan Lovren at the heart of the defense. Skrtel managed a fantastic 7 goals last season and this is what could mark him out as an elite fantasy option if he can come close to repeating that tally.
Steven Gerrard (midfielder) – The Liverpool captain is a controversial selection as a bust but the veteran midfielder is definitely a declining force. He now operates in a much deeper role, resulting in less goals and with the Champions League between most league games, his Premier League gametime is likely to take a hit. However, Gerrard remains the Reds’ main penalty taker which could boost his goal tally up towards double figures.
Luis Alberto (Malaga), Iago Aspas (Sevilla), Andre Wisdom (West Bromwich Albion), Pepe Reina (Bayern Munich) and Luis Suarez (Barcelona).
Reigning champions City have the strongest squad in the Premier League with multiple options in every position on the field and Manuel Pellegrini will be pursuing glory both at home and in Europe in the upcoming season. City have yet to produce in the Champions League and if they can, it could improve their efforts in the Premier League where I would expect Chelsea to be their biggest rivals.
Their defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield earlier today shows they have some work to get up to speed but this will matter little to how their season pans out.
Possibly the biggest problem for fantasy managers will be predicting who actually makes the starting lineup especially after Pellegrini fielded a below strength side in the Community Shield.
Yaya Toure (midfielder) – Toure has stayed at the Etihad Stadium despite speculation over his future and he will once again be a fantasy superstar. Last season’s 20 goal haul will take some matching but if Pellegrini deploys him regularly in an attacking role then he could potentially exceed that figure. The signing of Fernando from Porto could release him to play further forward and further enhance his fantasy value.
Sergio Aguero (forward) – The Argentine forward struggled for fitness last season but still managed 17 goals. He could start the season on the sidelines due to his late return from World Cup duty with Argentina but he will be a consistent scorer for City.
Vincent Kompany (defender) - City captain Kompany is the only defender guaranteed his place in the side and will again be one of the leading fantasy defensive performers.
Bacary Sagna / Willy Caballero / Fernando – City’s new signings will strengthen their squad but are unlikely to have much impact on fantasy leagues unless injuries play a significant role. Sagna and Caballero will be backups to Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart respectively and Fernando will play a defensive midfield role which will not bring much fantasy value.
Stefan Jovetic – The Montenegro striker spent most of his first season in Manchester on the sidelines but he has shown some impressive form in pre-season. Sergio Aguero’s late return to training after the World Cup and Alvaro Negredo’s injury could give him the opportunity to start the season and if he can hit the ground running then he could be one to watch.