Fantasy Premier League managers got their final look at Everton and Aston Villa ahead of the new campaign on Saturday.
The two clubs have now completed their pre-season schedules and have only training sessions left to prepare them for Gameweek 1.
There was plenty for Fantasy managers to digest from Everton and Villa’s matches.
The Toffees remain rather goal-shy as they head towards a meeting with Crystal Palace while Dean Smith’s newly-promoted side are looking dangerous.
Werder Bremen 0-0 Everton
Everton highlighted their need for offensive reinforcements once again as they drew 0-0 with Werder Bremen on Saturday afternoon.
In seven pre-season matches, the Toffees found the net just three times, their goals coming against Kariobangi Sharks, Monaco and Mainz.
In total, Everton drew four blanks during the summer in encounters with FC Sion, Wigan Athletic, Sevilla and now Bremen.
As has been reported before, Marco Silva’s men have not been short of their key players this summer, with all but Richarlison (£8.0m) available for most of their friendlies.
The Brazilian finally made his first start of the pre-season on Saturday afternoon but could not spark the Everton attack into immediate life.
Despite missing nearly all of pre-season training after returning from international leave in the wake of winning the Copa America, Richarlison still offered something against Werder Bremen.
He was stationed on the right flank of attacking midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation and lasted 45 minutes before being replaced by Theo Walcott (£6.5m) at half-time.
Richarlison was involved in one of Everton’s early chances, using his strength to fire off an effort, saved by the goalkeeper, only for Bernard (£6.5m) to blast high over the crossbar.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.0m) also had a first-half chance that he could not convert and it appears very likely that he will lose his place to Moise Kean if his arrival is confirmed in time to play in Gameweek 1.
Walcott was denied twice in the second half while Lucas Digne (£6.0m) and André Gomes (£5.5m) also had chances to score.
Despite Everton’s struggles going forward, it must be said that they have still performed well at the back during pre-season.
This is made all the more impressive that neither Kurt Zouma (£5.0m) or Idrissa Gueye, two cornerstones of last season’s defensive success, were not involved at all.
Marco Silva went with the first-choice back-four against Bremen, Michael Keane (£5.5m) and Yerry Mina (£5.5m) flanked by Digne and Coleman.
On the whole, they looked solid in Germany, recording their fourth clean sheet in seven matches.
Those shutouts have come against FC Sion, Monaco, Wigan Athletic and now Bremen, most of which should not be scoffed at.
As for protection for the back four, Silva may now be sweating on the fitness of Fabian Delph (£5.5m) who was forced off with an injury in the fifth minute, replaced by Morgan Schneiderlin (£4.5m).
“Fabian’s injury looked to be nothing special but let’s see in the next few days. We will have to wait some more hours to see how he is. He felt something in the first moments of the match in his groin so let’s see in the next few days.” – Marco Silva
Meanwhile, there was no involvement for Jean-Philippe Gbamin after he signed from Mainz on Friday evening.
Everton XI (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Digne, Keane, Mina, Coleman (c); Delph (Schneiderlin 5′), A Gomes; Bernard (Mirallas 82′), Sigurdsson (Davies 82′), Richarlison (Walcott 45′); Calvert-Lewin (Tosun 71′).
RB Leipzig 1-3 Aston Villa
Goals: Conor Hourihane x2 (£5.5m), John McGinn (£5.5m)
Assists: Jack Grealish (£6.0m), Trezeguet (£5.5m)
Tom Heaton (£4.5m) was the star player for Aston Villa as he made his debut for the newly-promoted club on Saturday afternoon.
The former Burnley goalkeeper made a string of important saves to keep Dean Smith’s men in a strong position and eventually beat RB Leipzig 3-1 away from home.
In the first half, Heaton denied Konrad Laimer with his movement and stopped a Timo Werner effort that had taken a wicked deflection off defender Bjorn Engels (£4.5m).
After the break, he produced his best save of the afternoon, keeping a point-blank Marcel Sabitzer out of the net.
All of that bodes well for Fantasy managers scratching their heads for a £4.5m goalkeeper this season.
Given their defensive record in the Championship, and some suspect defending on Saturday afternoon, Villa are expected to concede a relatively high number of shots in 2019/20, so having a goalkeeper of Heaton’s quality should lead to a swathe of save-points.
Meanwhile, Villa do continue to look like an exciting prospect at the attacking end of the pitch.
In the five pre-season matches that they played, they did not blank in a single one and finished on a tally of 16 goals.
Conor Hourihane (£5.5m) responded to the signings of Douglas Luiz (£4.5m) and Marvelous Nakamba (£4.5m) with an inspired performance, scoring his first goals of pre-season.
Both of them were from free-kicks, the first coming after Jack Grealish (£6.0m) rolled the ball towards him after a foul on Wesley (£6.0m) and the second a direct effort fired into the corner.
The former Plymouth Argyle and Barnsley midfielder remains an important part of Villa’s midfield and will fancy his chances of starting in Gameweek 1.
Only Tyrone Mings (£4.5m) and Grealish registered more minutes than Hourihane in pre-season (317).
Also likely to start in the central midfield trio is John McGinn (£5.5m) who got his third goal of pre-season against Leipzig.
We had previously mentioned that this final friendly of the summer would be important for assessing Frederic Guilbert‘s (£4.5m) chances of starting the season.
The right-back has looked good in pre-season coming away with three assists from his advanced runs.
Despite last season’s first-choice Ahmed El Mohamady (£4.5m) being back in the fold now, Smith handed yet another friendly start to Guilbert, his 295 minutes this summer making him the second-most used defender behind Mings.
On the other flank, Matt Targett (£4.5m) was given the nod ahead of Neil Taylor (£4.5m). He has now outplayed the former Swansea City left-back by 96 minutes this summer.
Engels is probably now favourite to accompany Mings at centre-back after his 90 minutes against Leipzig. He looked like he might need to come off with a bad injury at the end of the first half but came out for the second half in good shape.
The same could not be said for winger Anwar El Ghazi (£5.5m) who had to come off with a twisted ankle in the 77th minute.
He was replaced by new signing Trezeguet (£5.5m) who provided the assist for McGinn’s goal.
Jota (£6.0m) now looks very secure of a start in Gameweek 1 after he registered a 90-minute outing at Leipzig. No Villa winger has played as many minutes as him during pre-season (295).
Meanwhile, Wesley sould
Jonathan Kodjia (£5.5m) returned from his international leave to come on for the former Club Brugge man for the last 12 minutes but, at least for now, he will not be as prepared for the new Premier League season as the new signing.
Aston Villa XI (4-3-3): Heaton; Targett, Mings, Engels, Guilbert; Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish; El Ghazi (Trezeguet 77′), Wesley (Kodjia 78′), Jota.
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