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The new year is now in full swing and there are some indicators that it might be an improvement on the previous wretched edition.
But one thing is currently remaining resolutely 2020 – the chaotic fixture list.
That does at least provide certain opportunities, whether you’re a Fantasy Premier League (FPL) manager or a Football Index (FI) trader.
Football Index is the ‘football stockmarket’, a real-money betting platform where you can buy and sell footballers.
You buy shares in individual players whose value can rise or fall depending on their performance both on and off the field.
I’m actively using FI this season with more than a nod to FPL, seeing which aspects of each game marry up, and which don’t.
‘The more the merrier’, in terms of fixtures, applies to both games.
But it is especially true on FI because more club fixtures are relevant, with the game covering all of the major continental leagues and the pan-European Champions and Europa leagues.
That means there’s an incredibly busy few weeks coming up for the English teams involved in Europe.
Those still playing Champions League football – Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea – have eight fixtures covered by FI’s Match Day Dividends to come between now and the end of February.
The four sides in the Europa League’s Round of 32 – Arsenal, Leicester, Manchester United and Spurs – have nine.
All of that doesn’t factor in FA Cup duties either, which won’t figure in FI business, but will ramp up the rotation risks.
So while it’s highly unlikely that any player will feature across all of those matches, picking out a few who will play a major part could prove lucrative, particularly when FI’s In-Play Dividends come to an end early next month and longer-term considerations begin to inform market moves more prominently again.
Of the seven teams mentioned, Man United look to have one of the best schedules, with Sheffield United, Arsenal, Southampton, Everton, West Brom, Newcastle and Chelsea in the league, and two Europa League games against Real Sociedad.
Bruno Fernandes, available around the £7.00 mark, remains the most expensive player on FI, although his current share price is a good deal down from a recent peak of £8.93 in late November last year.
A rather less pricey purchase involves Marcus Rashford (£2.72). In FPL, the England international is second only to Fernandes in terms of points (92 v 135) and he’s been in decent form, with two goals and an assist from the four matches leading up to Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool.
Cross town rivals City are in a good place.
Unbeaten in their last 10 league starts, their schedule isn’t as kind as United’s, but a Champions League match-up with Borussia Monchengladbach suggests the strong possibility of advancement to the quarter finals and across those last 10 league games, they’ve scored 21 goals and conceded just two.
John Stones (£0.91) has been the talk of FPL’s Double Gameweek 19 thanks to a 21-point haul against Crystal Palace, but for the same price you could try a punt on one Sergio Aguero.
Is he in Pep Guardiola’s plans? Here’s what the City boss said on Tuesday:
“We need Aguero. Sergio is a player who can create for himself and win a game by himself, but he has not been with us for a long time. We want him back as soon as possible.”
With such a congested fixture list, fresh players are gold dust. When that player is the club’s record goal scorer, £0.91 a share could be a steal.
Brendan Rodgers’ side are in form – unbeaten in six league matches and with back-to-back 2-0 victories under their belt – and while their schedule is a mixed affair ( Everton, Leeds, Fulham, Wolves, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Arsenal), they have two Europa League games with Slavia Prague to sweeten the deal.
The Foxes have also found a way to win with reduced input from Jamie Vardy, which is just as well while Rodgers continues to manage the talisman’s ongoing hip issues.
The striker has just the one goal (albeit three assists) over that recent fine run.
Instead, midfielders James Maddison (£1.30) and Harvey Barnes (£0.84) have picked up the goalscoring slack, with three apiece and six each for the season as a whole.
But if he did reach his FI potential as a Chelsea and England regular I don’t think he’d have any problem clearing £4. So a good balance of risk reward here in my view.
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