Our Fantasy iTeam coverage continues as the minutes tick down until the start of World Cup 2018.
Next up, we focus on the attacks, checking out those potential armband options in midfield and up front who have been largely ignored.
With that in mind, our list offers at least one differential from all eight groups for those Fantasy managers prepared to look beyond the obvious.
A trio of players dominate the midfield popularity stakes, with Belgium pair Kevin De Bruyne (30%) and Eden Hazard (24%) joined by Brazil’s Philippe Coutinho (23%).
With the likes of Paul Pogba, Mohamed Salah, Isco and Toni Kroos all owned by 12% and upwards, it leaves a host of ready-made alternatives to consider not only for our starting XIs but also the armband itself.
Willian – priced at £7.1m, the winger chipped in with four goals and five assists in qualifying and was second only to Neymar for key passes for Brazil.
Indeed, when on the pitch, Willian was involved in 45% of his side’s goals, almost double his more popular team-mate Coutinho’s 23%.
Selected by just 5.8% of FiT managers, the Chelsea wide man has the chance to plunder the points against Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E.
Dries Mertens – stationed in a central support role alongside team-mate Hazard in a 3-4-2-1, he arrives in Russia on the back of 18 goals and six assists for Napoli in Serie A.
Mertens was involved in more goals (12 to 11) than Hazard in qualifying, serving up five goals and seven assists in qualifying, yet is owned by a mere 3.9% of FiT managers.
Setting you back £7.2m, his first two matches against Panama and Tunisia, look hugely favourable before Roberto Martinez’s men face England in their final Group G fixture.
Sadio Mane – a key player for Senegal as they look to progress past Poland, Japan and Colombia in Group H.
Priced at £7.0m, Mane was involved in seven of his nation’s 15 goals in qualifying, thanks to two goals and five assists.
Depending on formation, the Liverpool winger could even play through the middle, either in a support role or as a striker. Yet just 7.4% have taken the plunge so far.
Dele Alli – with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling proving more popular, the Spurs midfielder (priced at £7.0m and owned by 7.2%) can offer an intriguing differential.
England’s first two matches, in particular, bode well for Alli’s prospects, with clashes against Tunisia and Panama preceding their head-to-head with Belgium.
He may have only bagged one goal and two assists in qualifying, yet Alli was second only to Kane for shots, efforts in the box or attempts on target in that run.
Four strikers are head and shoulders above their rivals in terms of popularity.
With Lionel Messi (44.2%), Neymar (34.4%), Antoine Greizmann (32.6%) and Cristiano Ronaldo (25.9%) all owned by over a quarter of squads, there is plenty of room for differentials up front.
Edinson Cavani – the Uruguay frontman makes his way to Russia on the back of 28 goals and six assists for PSG last season.
Yet with team-mate Luis Suarez selected by over 12%, Cavani has earned just 5.5% backing for showdowns with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia’s dodgy defences.
Priced at £8.0m, he scored double the number of goals (ten to five) than Suarez during the qualifiers and looks an ideal differential in Group A.
Diego Costa – Spain’s joint-top scorer in qualifying with five goals, despite being limited to just five appearances due to his stint on the sidelines as a result of a protracted transfer from Chelsea back to Atletico Madrid.
While an opening Group B clash with Portugal is by no means straightforward, the subsequent two – against Iran and Morocco – hand Costa the platform to fire in the goals.
Priced at £7.8m, the target man resides in just 2.9% of FiT line-ups prior to tomorrow’s kick-off.
Olivier Giroud – the France striker is expected to recover from a head injury in time to lead the line against Australia on Saturday.
With Group C encounters against Peru and Denmark also to follow, Giroud – owned by just 3.1% – could be a very effective pick up front, with Greizmann and Kylian Mbappe far more popular.
Priced at £7.3m, Giroud was their joint-top scorer in qualifying, netting on four occasions, while no team-mate has fired more goals in recent friendlies (three).
Sergio Aguero – clashes with Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria promote the stock of Argentina’s fit-again frontman.
Having returned from injury with a goal off the bench against Haiti in their final warm-up friendly, Aguero could now usurp Gonzalo Higuain in the starting XI.
Priced at £7.9m in FiT, he is currently backed by just 5.1% of managers due to the popularity of team-mate Messi for that trio of Group D fixtures.
Timo Werner – after leading the line – and scoring – in Germany’s final summer friendly against Saudi Arabia, Werner is expected to get the nod ahead of Mario Gomez in Joachim Lowe’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Far more mobile than his strike rival, the RB Leipzig frontman bagged 13 goals and seven assists in 28 Bundesliga outings last season.
Three goals in as many qualifying appearances underlines his potential ahead of Group F matches against Mexico, Sweden and South Korea yet, despite costing £7.6m, he’s been backed by only 7.6%.
Radamel Falcao – with 10.8% opting for Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez, his team-mate has earned a mere 1.7% backing for head-to-heads with Japan, Poland and Senegal.
Priced at £7.5m, Falcao looks an ideal alternative for the Group H favourites and arrives in Russia on the back of some fine domestic form for Monaco.
In 26 Ligue 1 appearances in 2017/18, the 32-year-old plundered 18 goals and four assists.
Robert Lewandowski – the top scoring player in qualifying with 16 goals, the Poland striker remains largely ignored for Group H encounters with Senegal, Colombia and Japan.
Just 5.7% own Lewandowski, who is another forward with outstanding form for his club in 2017/18.
A total of 29 goals and two assists in 30 Bundesliga appearances is indicative of his points potential for a FiT price of £8.1m.
Fantasy Football Scout is supporting Fantasy iTeam, a free World Cup game available on a number of mobile devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPodTouch and Android.
We have an official Fantasy Football Scout League open to UK users only, with a £1000 of Amazon vouchers to give out, split between the top three performers.
There’s also the small matter of £10k worth of prizes available in the main competitions: Overall World Championship and Manager of the Gameround.
Click here for details and here to sign up.
Our League name is Fantasy Football Scout and the pin is 1887.
Please note, users must be over 18 and based in the UK to join our league.
World Cup Data
We’re delighted to offer World Cup data as an early addition to our regular season offering to help those playing Fantasy games over the summer.
We’ve secured Opta data, not only for the tournament itself, which begins on June 14 but also from the Qualifying Rounds for Europe and South America and for international friendlies involving the participating nations. This includes all the matches played right up to the tournament kick-off.
Just to stress, this World Cup offering comes packaged with the regular Fantasy Football Scout membership.
Check out this new trailer previewing the World Cup content below…