Pre-season injuries for Manchester United and Liverpool may cause something of a defensive re-shuffle at both clubs and Fantasy Premier League managers should stay on top of the developments.
We’ve looked at the possible implications of Joel Matip and Antonio Valencia missing out on the start of the new FPL campaign in our latest Scout Notes, and will continue to track their fitness this summer.
Elsewhere, we learned a little more about who might start in Everton’s back four and Rui Patricio made an impact in his first outing for Wolves.
We’ve got all the goals, assists and Fantasy talking points from Sunday’s round of friendlies.
PORTO 1-0 EVERTON
- Goals: None
- Assist: None
Fantasy managers were handed some more information on Marco Silva’s defensive plans in their defeat to Porto on Sunday. With Everton hosting Southampton, Huddersfield and West Ham in the first six Gameweeks, as well as travelling to Wolves and Bournemouth, there is some interest in whether the Toffees can offer some defensive value for an early-season rotation.
Against Porto, Silva named the same back-five that lined up against Bury, having deployed a largely second-string side the previous day in a defeat to Lille. Not surprisingly, Leighton Baines (£5.5m) and Seamus Coleman (£5.5m) were stationed on the flanks of the defence in front of Maarten Stekelenburg (£4.0m), who made his fourth start in a row with Jordan Pickford (£5.0m) still away on World Cup leave. Phil Jagielka was the £4.5m man who slotted in beside Michael Keane (£5.0m), for his second start of the season. If he continues to be deployed in the back four, the former Sheffield United man may become the budget way into Everton’s defence, although he still faces competition from Ashley Williams (£4.5m), Mason Holgate (£4.5m) and Cuco Martina (£4.5m) – later pre-season matches will tell us more.
Cenk Tosun (£7.0m) made his third start of pre-season suggesting again that he will be first-choice when Everton face Wolves in Gameweek 1, although he has some work to do to convince Fantasy managers to invest in him ahead of Marko Arnautovic or Wilfried Zaha at the same price point. His main competitor Oumar Niasse (£5.5m) featured from the bench again. In midfield, Kevin Mirallas was handed another pre-season chance but both Theo Walcott (£6.5m) and Yannick Bolasie (£6.0m) are still expected to be above him in the pecking order when fit and the addition of Richarlison (£6.5m) to the ranks at Goodison Park could push him further away from the first team.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.5m) and Idrissa Gueye (£5.0m) were named in a match squad for the first time this summer after returning from World Cup leave, but neither of them featured against Porto. Both of them should be involved against Blackburn Rovers on Thursday, with Kieran Dowell and Tom Davies (£5.5m) to make way for them.
Tosun and Sandro Ramirez were Everton’s greatest threat against Porto but neither of them could take their chances.
Moussa Marega scored the only goal of the game slotting in under Stekelenburg’s legs following a through-ball from Otavia.
EVERTON XI (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg; Baines, Keane, Jagielka (Holgate 75’), Coleman; Schneiderlin, Davies (Besic 87’); Ramirez, Dowell (Niasse 87’), Mirallas (Vlasic 71’); Tosun.
SV DARMSTADT 98 1-1 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
- Goals: Steve Mounié (£6.0m)
- Assists: Jordan Williams
Steve Mounié (£6.0m) scored his first goal of the summer against SV Darmstadt on Sunday to end Huddersfield’s run of 270 pre-season minutes without finding the net. Young full-back Jordan Williams set him up for the finish.
Aaron Mooy (£5.5m) made his return to the side following the World Cup, featuring as a second-half substitute and nearly providing an assist for a late Mounié from a free-kick. Fellow World Cup competitors Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen (£4.5m) and Jonas Lössl (£4.5m) were not involved though, as they are yet to return to training.
Scott Malone (£4.0m) got his first start of pre-season having managed 45 minutes against Dynamo Dresden. By all accounts he was a threat going forward and defended well too, but he has some work to do to justify his current position as the most popular option in his price bracket. The former Fulham man is owned by 12.1 percent of Fantasy managers but has been utilised considerably less than club-mate Chris Löwe (4.5m) so far. The German has already registered 145 minutes this summer, posting two assists and one clean sheet in the process. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (three starts) looks a better option in Malone’s price bracket while Bournemouth’s Jack Simpson has two starts and a goal under his belt thus far.
Elsewhere in the side, new signing Adama Diakhaby made a first start on the right-flank with Ramadan Sobhi (£5.0m) coming on for his second appearance of pre-season. Rajiv van La Parra (£5.0m) and Alex Pritchard (£5.0m) are starting to look like sure options in the Huddersfield attacking midfield area both making their third starts of the summer on the left-flank and number 10 role respectively.
Ben Hamer (£4.0m) was unlucky to be beaten for Darmstadt’s goal. After a string of impressive saves in the match, he directed one into the path of Yannick Stark who converted easily. The former Leicester City man has now started all but one of Huddersfield’s pre-season games so far so is worth keeping an eye on in the unlikely event that Lössl misses any action as a result of his World Cup leave.
HUDDERSFIELD XI (4-2-3-1): Hamer; Malone (Williams 72’), Schindler, Hefele, Smith; Billing, Sabiri (Mooy 65’); van La Parra, Pritchard, Diakhaby (Sobhi 63’), Mounié.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND 3-1 LIVERPOOL
- Goals: Virgil van Dijk (£6.0m)
- Assists: Andrew Robertson (£6.0m)
Virgil van Dijk (£6.0m) demonstrated his appeal for the upcoming FPL season by opening his pre-season account against Borussia Dortmund on Sunday. The centre-back was unlucky not to find the net in his first six months at Liverpool but jumped high enough to convert an Andrew Robertson (£6.0m) cross in a promising first-half display for the Reds in Charlotte, North Carolina.
However, there was a first-half muscle injury for Joel Matip (£5.0m) which has ruled him out of further participation in the USA tour, which could potentially open the door for one of either Joe Gomez (£5.0m) or Ragnar Klavan (£4.5m) to take his place in the expected absence of World Cup finalist Dejan Lovren (£5.0m) for Gameweek 1. Either one is worth considering as cheap alternatives into what we expect to be a strong defence in 2018/19, especially with some uncertainty over whether Nathaniel Clyne (£5.0m) or Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.0m) will be first choice at right-back.
“Though the muscle injury suffered in his upper leg is not considered to be a long-term concern, Matip will not be available for selection in the remaining two games in America. He is therefore returning to Merseyside and will continue his recovery at Melwood.”
Matip may return to action before the start of the Premier League season so it’s worth keeping an eye on his fitness throughout the summer. However, Fantasy managers should also track the minutes of Gomez and Klavan to see if either of them stand a chance of lining up alongside van Dijk against West Ham on August 12. Both players have been involved in five matches, neither of them completing a full 90 minutes yet, although it was Gomez who specifically replaced Matip in Charlotte. He has also registered more game time (248 minutes to 225), but the cheaper Klavan has started more times (two to one). Furthermore, all of Klavan’s appearances have come at centre-back but two of Gomez’s have been at right full-back and a large portion of his outing against Dortmund was there too, after he was shifted wide to accommodate young centre-back Nathaniel Phillips coming on for Clyne. Although with Clyne expected to be first-choice in that position, Gomez may not be needed at full-back.
Naby Keita (£7.5m) impressed again, this time as a second-half substitute although he was unable to add to his pre-season tally of three assists. Alongside him in the second period was James Milner (£5.5m), who conceded a 66th minute penalty after fouling Christian Pulisic in the area. The American converted the spot-kick past Loris Karius (£5.0m).
In attack, Daniel Sturridge (£6.0m) played another match in a deeper number 10 role, although he remains Liverpool’s top scorer in pre-season with three goals. The Englishman is certainly worth keeping an eye on if any injuries come up in the Reds front line.
Pulisic scored an 89th minute goal on the counter attack to make it 2-1 before another Karius mistake allowed Jacob Brunn Larsen to add a third. Pulisic’s shot was parried by the goalkeeper straight into Larsen’s path.
Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) and Sadio Mané (£9.5m) watched the match from the sidelines and are expected to be involved against Manchester City on Wednesday.
LIVERPOOL FIRST-HALF XI (4-3-3): Karius; Robertson, van Dijk, Matip (Gomez 22’), Clyne; Jones, Lallana, Fabinho; Camacho, Origi, Markovic.
LIVERPOOL SECOND-HALF XI (4-2-3-1): Karius; Moreno, Klavan, Gomez, Clyne (Phillips 62’); Milner, Keita; Woodburn, Sturridge, Ojo; Solanke.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES 0-0 MANCHESTER UNITED
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
Interest in Manchester United’s defensive assets may take a hit if Antonio Valencia’s (£6.5m) knock sustained against San Jose Earthquakes forces him to miss out on competitive action next month. Manager Jose Mourinho explained that the newly-appointed club captain is injured although there is no estimated return for the Ecuadorian just yet.
“He’s injured and I think we need to get used to it. Last season he was already in this type of situation and this season he will probably have more of that.
Were Valencia to miss out on the start of the Premier League campaign, it would be difficult to determine who would replace him at right-back and United’s defensive solidity may diminish somewhat too. New signing Diogo Dalot (£5.5m) is not expected to be fit until September as he deals with a meniscus problem, Matteo Darmian (£5.0m) may leave in the coming days amid interest from Juventus and Napoli, while Victor Lindelöf (£5.0m) will return late after World Cup involvement and is more naturally a centre-back anyway. Youngster Timothy Fosu-Mensah (not yet in FPL) could feature in his place, having amassed 12 appearances for United and 17 for Crystal Palace in the last three seasons. All the aforementioned options could provide further budget routes in United’s defence but it may be harder to trust without Valencia, so Fantasy managers are urged to keep an eye out for the next update on his fitness.
Other defensive options do seem a little easier to predict with United as Luke Shaw (£5.0m), Chris Smalling (£6.0m) and Eric Bailly (£5.5m) all started for the second match in a row. With Ashley Young (£6.0m) and Phil Jones (£5.5m) still missing for now, this trio may be the ones to look at for United defensive cover.
Aside from that, the team that faced the Earthquakes in America was another second-string one as Mourinho continues to miss a large number of key players as a result of World Cup leave. Anthony Martial (£7.5m), who has picked up some ownership in the last week, started another match as the centre-forward, lasting 90 minutes but was unable to capitalise on his advanced position once again. The Frenchman may have to improve his pre-season performances to convince Fantasy managers to keep him in their squads, even if he is playing out of position. Meanwhile, Alexis Sánchez (£10.5m) got his first start of pre-season under his belt ahead of a season where he could be an important asset.
Although it’s difficult to read too much into pre-season performances and results, Man United do feel a little out of sorts ahead of the new campaign. They will be missing a large number of key players if Mourinho delivers on his early claim that he won’t use anyone who played in the World Cup in Gameweek 1. This most recent quote about pre-season may also chastened interest in United players.
“We are not a team. We’re a group of players from different teams. Some are first-team, some under-23s, some coming from loans and going on loan, some are younger, under-18s. We don’t have a team to play much better than we did but it’s one more training session.”
Some good news for United is that Nemanja Matic (£5.0m) has now joined up with the training squad following his World Cup leave.
MANCHESTER UNITED XI (4-3-3): J Pereira (Grant 45’); Shaw (Mitchell 75’), Smalling (Fosu-Mensah 45’), Bailly (Tuanzebe 45’), Valencia (Darmian 8’); A Pereira (Gomes 83’), Garner (McTominay 45’), Herrera; Sánchez (Greenwood 65’), Martial, Chong (Mata 45’).
VfL Bochum 0-0 Wolves (5-4 on penalties) | Real Betis 0-0 Wolves
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
Rui Patricio (£4.5m) saved two penalties in the shootout between Wolves and Bochum on Sunday, although it was not enough to win the contest. But such a performance, in his first outing for the newly-promoted side bodes well for the Portuguese international ahead of his first Premier League campaign.
Raul Jimenez (£5.5m) also made his first start for Wolves against Bochum, taking up the role of centre-forward, flanked by Diogo Jota (£6.5m) and Bright Enobakhare (£4.5m) in a front three.
Nuno split his squad between two 45-minute matches, one against Bochum, the other against Betis. The first was the semi-final of H-Hotels Cup, which was lost on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
Ruben Neves (£5.0m), Ryan Bennett (£4.0m) and Jimenez had chances to score in the semi-final but the tie went straight to spot-kicks where Neves, Jota, Pedro Goncalves and Enobakhare found the net and Jimenez, Conor Coady (£4.5m) and Ryan Giles had their efforts saved.
It was another 3-4-3 formation used against Betis, and another goalless draw. Helder Costa (£5.0m) and Ivan Cavaleiro (£5.5m) were the biggest threat in that match but neither could break the deadlock.
WOLVES vs BOCHUM XI (3-4-3): Patricio; Hause, Coady, Bennett; Giles, Goncalves, Neves, Buur; Jota, Jimenez, Enobakhare.
WOLVES vs REAL BETIS XI (3-4-3): Ruddy; Boly, Batth, Saiss; John, Watt, Gibbs-White, Doherty; Cavaleiro, Ashley-Seal, Costa.
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