Fantasy Round-up: Liverpool, Man City, Man United

We continue our round-up of the preliminary action with a look at three clubs very much in the minds of fantasy managers - Liverpool, United and City

Liverpool

Preseason Stats
L/W/L/W/D/W/L/W
Top Goalscorers –Sterling, Suso, Henderson, Peterson (2)
Clean Sheets –  3 from a possible 8

Preseason Overview
Liverpool have shown flashes of brilliance at times in preseason as well as the occasional lack of cutting edge as they deal with the loss of Suarez. Rodgers has brought in a number of players who he’ll be hoping can fill the gaps left by the Uruguayan however a number of them have picked up injuries before the season has begun, including Markovic and Lallana. Liverpool performed well in the Champions Cup friendly tournament, making it to the final with victories over Olympiakos and AC Milan before they were undone by van Gaal’s new Man Utd side. Perhaps their most impressive performance though was the 4-0 demolition of Borussia Dortmund, albeit not at full strength, where Coutinho and Lovren starred. 

Fixtures
Liverpool begin with a couple of tough away games against Man City and Spurs in Gameweeks 2&3 but don’t have to play another ‘top’ team until they take on Chelsea at Anfield in November. With the addition of Champions League fixtures this year, don’t be surprised to see more rotation than last season. 

Form player - Raheem Sterling - £8.5m
Sterling has looked very lively throughout preseason as he aims to build on his breakthrough season last year. He looks assured on the ball and comfortable whether he’s flanking Sturridge in a 4-3-3 system or playing in the hole behind him at the top of the diamond. With genuine pace and an ability to take defenders on, as well as an eye for goal, he could prove a bargain at £8.5m this season.

One to watch - Philippe Coutinho - £8m
With Suarez gone, Liverpool may look towards Coutinho to be their creative spark and playmaker this season. When deployed in a central position, as he was in the preseason victory over Dortmund, he can run the game in a manner that appears effortless with fancy flicks and clever passes. He needs to work on his shooting as too many of his efforts are off target but, played in the right system, he could be devastating for Liverpool this year.

Honourable Mentions 
Jordan Ibe - £4.5m
Impressive throughout preseason, especially early on, Ibe will be hoping to follow in Sterling’s footsteps this year and break into the first team squad.
Jordan Henderson - £6m
With the purchase of Emre Can, Henderson will be given more permission to roam forward and has been challenged by Rodgers to add goals to his game this season, much like Ramsey was last year...
Daniel Sturridge – £11.5m
With Suarez gone, much of the goalscoring responsibility will fall on Sturridge’s shoulders. 

Man City

Preseason Stats
L/W/W/W/D/D/L
Top Goalscorers –Jovetic (5), Kolarov (3 – all penalties)
Clean Sheets – 0 from a possible 7

Preseason Overview
With so many key players returning late to training this preseason it has been a mixed time for Man City. They’ve shown great strength in depth to go on a run of three straight wins, including an impressive 5-1 victory over AC Milan without many of their superstars and a couple of draws in the Champions Cup with Liverpool and Olympiakos. Pellegrini’s favourite formation of preseason was 4-2-2-2 with Dzeko and Jovetic leading the line and Kolarov on penalty duties, successfully too, with Toure and Aguero unavailable. City were weak at the back against Arsenal in the Community Shield as they conceded three, but expect them to be much stronger defensively come the first game of the season. One lesson from preseason is that City will need their big guns back fit and firing on all cylinders as soon as possible if they want to defend their Premier League title as their rivals have strengthened through the summer. 

Fixtures
For a team with as much quality as City, every game is winnable. However, with Liverpool (H), Arsenal (A) and Chelsea (H) in their opening five games things might not go their way to begin with. 

Form player - Stevan Jovetic - £8m
Jovetic had a difficult first season in Manchester after his £22m transfer from Fiorentina last summer as he struggled with both injuries and breaking into the first team. The Montenegrin only managed 13 appearances last term, with 11 of those coming from the bench. He managed 3 goals but was never fit enough to put together a run in the team. This year however, he’s had a full preseason and has benefitted from Aguero’s World Cup exploits as he’s been able to show Manuel Pellegrini just what he’s capable of. Playing alongside Dzeko in preseason he’s managed to score 5 goals and has impressed on a number of levels. Jovetic is easily City’s form player going into the new season and he’ll hope to carry it into their first game defending their title. 

One to watch
David Silva - £9m
Everyone knows what David Silva is capable of; he’s a magician with the football, creates chances out of nothing and chips in with his fair share of important goals. Over the past four seasons he’s contributed 21 goals and 50 assists as well as an average of 20 bonus points each year.  Modestly priced at £9m, Silva could prove to be a real bargain if he can stay fit and firing all season, and as an indicator of that, he’s finished the campaign valued above his starting price this year in each of the last 3 years.

Honourable Mentions 
Yaya Toure - £11m
One of only four players to break the 200 point threshold last season and second only to Suarez, Yaya will need to replicate last season’s form to justify his price tag this year round. 
Jesus Navas - £7.5m
Could break into the first team on a regular basis this season and should provide plenty of assists and a few goals should he do so. Along with Fernando, Navas featured the most out of all of City’s midfielders during preseason.
Sergio Aguero - £12m
Once Aguero has regained match fitness after the World Cup he’ll be City’s main force going forward and if he can stay fit all season (unlikely) he could easily break the 200 point barrier.

Man Utd

Preseason Stats
W/W/D/W/W/W
Top Goalscorers –Rooney (5), Young (4)
Clean Sheets – 2 from a possible 6

Preseason Overview
It’s all change at Old Trafford with David Moyes out and Louis van Gaal in and his team’s performances in preseason have brought fresh optimism for the upcoming campaign. With five wins and one draw (against Inter Milan: Utd won 5-3 on penalties) preseason couldn’t have gone much smoother. Many pundits claim preseason means nothing and is only good for regaining match fitness, however, the manner by which United have gone about their business on the pitch has breathed confidence into both the players and the Old Trafford faithful as they expect to return to the former glories in the near future. Van Gaal has implemented his favourite formation, the 3-5-2, with great success and will be looking to deploy it as his main formation this season.

A few World Cup stars, such as van Persie, Fellaini and Januzaj have only just built up enough fitness to take part in games and won’t be expected to join in from the season launch on Saturday. A few injuries have hit them with the news that new signing Luke Shaw is out for the first 4 weeks of the season which opens up a place at left wing-back for a player who is unlikely to be accustomed to playing there since LvG is a fan of making his players fit the system rather than the other way round, as displayed by Holland at the World Cup when Kuyt played that position. Man Utd go into the season with renewed hope of better things and no distraction of European football. Expect a significant improvement but no miracles from the team that finished seventh last season.

Fixtures
It has been well documented that Man United have possibly the most favourable fixtures of all teams at the beginning end of the season with no particularly difficult games until Gameweek 7 when they play Everton (H) followed by Chelsea (H) two weeks later.

Form player - Wayne Rooney - £10.5m
Wayne Rooney has been on fire this preseason as he has been United’s main striker because van Persie was given an extended break. He’s flourished in LvG’s new system as there’s support for him up top and he’s not being asked to play a deeper role as he has in the last few years. His excellent finishing has been on display as he’s bagged himself five goals and shown the kind of form that many England fans will wish he could replicate in the Three Lions shirt. He’s in for a big season as United’s new club captain and will be hoping to live up to his billing as one of the top strikers in the world.

One to watch
Ashley Young - £5.5m
Many expected Young to be one of the players exiting Man Utd this season with apparently no place for out-and-out wingers in LvG’s system but Young has given his new manager something to think about with some fine displays in preseason. With Shaw out and Valencia struggling for fitness too, Young will be expected to start in one of the wing-back roles with permission to bomb on and both score goals and create chances, as he did in preseason with four goals for his team.

Honourable Mentions 
Juan Mata - £9m
Playing in his natural position, in the whole just behind the two main strikers, Mata will be in his element and will be hoping to recapture the form that made him Chelsea’s Player of the Year two seasons running.
Ander Herrera - £7.5m
New signing Herrera has shown good form in preseason, getting forward more than most people expected and showing his excellent range of passing. 
David De Gea - £5.5m
Priced just below the ‘elite’ goalkeepers, De Gea is a good option with United’s early fixtures.

 

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