Serie A kick-off completes European lineup

This weekend sees the fourth weekend of action since seasons across Europe kicked off, and we’ve got some cracking games to take a look at, and with the league campaign getting underway in the Italian Serie A we finally have a full program of action.

In France, Ligue 1 gets underway on Friday evening when Marseille take on Nice, with several games taking place on Saturday and three fixtures on Sunday. Bordeaux will be looking to continue their 100% start to the season when they host Bastia on Sunday, and with striker Diego Rolan already on 45 points thanks to two goals so far he will be looking to add to that tally, but Bastia are still looking for a sign of which way their season is going with a win, a loss and a draw thus far. Elsewhere in the league, champions Paris Saint-Germain will want to improve on their single win and two draws when they take on St Etienne at Parc des Princes in Ligue 1’s last game of the weekend on Sunday evening. Keeper Salvatore Sirigu has managed 70 points so far, with PSG defenders David Luiz and Serge Aurier on 60 each, so the defensive record of the home side is great so far – top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be hoping to add to his tally of two goals and 30 fantasy points as well.

In the Premier League next, we see a particularly juicy fixture on Saturday afternoon as title favourites Chelsea travel to Merseyside to take on Everton. Aside from the fact that these two sides are among the top few in the land, the Toffees recently signed Cameroon striker – and former Chelsea star – Samuel Eto’o, who could be up for making his debut against his old club here. Eto’o arrived at Goodison Park despite reported interest from several other Premier League outlets, as well as some parties from across Europe, following a successful season at Stamford Bridge last year. He is valued at only €7.50m in our fantasy competition, so perhaps get him into your side and hope he can hit the back of the net against his former employers on Saturday. Chelsea’s defence, however, has been fantastic, with Branislav Ivanovic and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (50 points and 40 points respectively) particularly impressing, so it is likely to be a tough afternoon for Eto’o and co.

Moving towards the Bundesliga, the German top flight kicks off its second round of games following last weekend’s curtain raiser, with a particularly interesting game coming in the form of Bayer 04 Leverkusen against Hertha BSC on Saturday afternoon. Hosts Leverkusen have, much like the aforementioned Chelsea, done well defensively so far, keeping a clean sheet in their first outing – one of only five sides to manage it in the league – and that puts their defensive players right up there already as far as fantasy points go, but arguably the most interest and attention to be paid here would be on the pair of Karim Bellarabi (midfielder, 40 points) and Stefan Kießling (striker, 20 points). If these two can link up they can give Hertha’s defence some worries by the end of the match. Hertha’s strikers, however, were their prized assets last time around, with Julian Schieber on 40 points and Roy Beerens on 10, so the game could really go either way.

In La Liga, the match between Villarreal and Barcelona will be the focus owing to both sides having won their opening games, and both are clubs with Champions League experience. Much like both Chelsea and Leverkusen previously, Villareal’s strength in their opening game was easily at the back, but Barcelona’s front line are notoriously difficult to keep out, and so one must surely fancy the visitors in this one. Villareal have the quality to make it difficult though, with midfielder Denis Cheryshev (30 points) able to both provide and score goals of his own, but Barca surely have enough quality to do enough to grab the points. The Catalans are also in something of a unique position fantasy football-wise (at least in the contexts of this preview) as they have two players at the top of their points charts – one a goalkeeper, and one a striker. Claudio Bravo’s clean sheet from his one start last weekend gives him his total, while the incomparable Lionel Messi shares that total thanks to bagging a brace on opening day. Looking at Barcelona’s top pointsmen from then on, however, it was a starring performance on opening day from the defence – so expect last year’s runners-up to go all out to build on last week’s win over Elche and continue making it difficult for title rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

Moving towards other Mediterranean shores now, the Italian Serie A also gets going with only two Saturday fixtures, as the rest of the games take place on Sunday. There are two fixtures in particular that would offer some intrigue, with Roma welcoming Fiorentina to Stadio Olimpico on Saturday whereas Milan play hosts to Roma’s rivals Lazio on Sunday. Roma ended last season as runners-up to champions Juventus, who travel to Chievo on Saturday, finishing some way behind their title rivals. Fiorentina ended up fourth, so this is another game that would come under a top match banner, but the hosts will be hoping that they can keep the goal threats of Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez at bay. They only conceded two goals more than Juve last season, though, so Roma’s defence is among the finest – it’s an early test for both sides that could reasonably end in a draw, but could also go to a big win for either side – it’s tough to call.

That’s it folks – we now have a full lineup of football across Europe once again. Best of luck to all fantasy managers out there!


Will Angel Di Maria be the answer for Manchester United?

For those not keeping track of the goings on in English football, former champions Man Utd crashed out of the League Cup during the week when they suffered a shock 4-0 defeat at the hands of MK Dons, who play in League Two – the third tier of English football. The result means their only chance of any silverware this season rests on the Premier League or FA Cup, and continues the difficult start to the competitive campaign under new boss Louis van Gaal, who is yet to see his new club win a game since his arrival. The pre-season had looked encouraging, with United managing to beat just about anyone who came up against them, but the competitive side of things has taken a real turn for the worse, and that is where the real money lies.

While there is little doubting van Gaal’s ability and credentials – he is the man the Red Devils fans have been clamouring for, after all – things have not gone the way that many would have thought ahead of the season. Of course, things will surely get better for the Old Trafford faithful, and van Gaal will hopefully be able to install the kind of footballing system in the north west that saw his Netherlands side reach the semi-finals of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, culminating in a third place finish. The man was praised for his managerial nouse, and welcomed to the Theatre of Dreams with open arms.

The thing is, the aforementioned defeat to MK Dons came just hours after the club confirmed the British record signing of Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria for a fee reportedly worth around £60m. As far as our fantasy football game goes, of course, he is a snip at a mere €12.50m, though as he is yet to make a competitive appearance this season he has no points on the board just yet. This deal will likely see United possess more of an attacking threat down the left hand side than they have done recently, with Di Maria taking up the position held by the legendary Ryan Giggs for years. His supply quality is proven – he racked up a great 370 points last season playing for the Galacticos with 17 assists, as well as contributing four goals to the cause. This all came from 34 appearances overall, with 27 starts and seven appearances as a sub.

Six yellow cards through the course of the campaign did mean he lost a few points on that front, but if he is able to keep himself out of the ref’s book a little more consistently there is no reason why he won’t be able to at least repeat that tally, if not improve on it. Sure, he may not be guaranteed a start every single game, but at a shade under £60m United aren’t too likely to want him warming the bench up week after week either – he will usually be on the teamsheet’s starting 11, and his presence can bring an extra dimension to the side moving forward – specifically his pace.

He has quick feet, and as mentioned before his great assist record last season means that the likes of Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck (should he stay at the club) will have a constant flow of opportunities being supplied their way, opening up the potential for more goals, and a more consistent threat in front of their opponent’s goals than they have managed so far. While it is of course far too early in the season to be comparing fantasy points’ totals to last year, Rooney notched 17 goals last term, with Welbeck contributing nine and Hernandez four. Those figures will be minimum benchmarks of ambition this season, and van Gaal will almost certainly give these guys the opportunity to improve on those totals – and hopefully surpass them. That is, arguably, one of the primary reasons for importing the 26-year-old Argentina international.

Of course there is also the young Belgian, Adnan Januzaj to think about as well – his pace coupled with Di Maria’s will mean opposing defenders will have to think quickly on their feet at the best of times, and if Rooney is able to really hit his stride and make maximum use of his footballing brain times could be torrid for visitors to Old Trafford going forward.

Basically, give some serious thought to including any combination of Man Utd forward players going forward – while Di Maria will surely find it tough to completely rejuvenate the underachieving squad on his own, he will bring with him a fresh presence, enthusiasm and pace to the first time – and that looks like a good bet to bode well for van Gaal’s team by the time the season really gets going.



Barcelona and Real Madrid kick-off their fantasy season

There were three Monday night games across our relevant European leagues following on from our weekend review, with both Madrid clubs getting their respective seasons kicked off in La Liga, while it was an early rematch from last season’s Premier League title chase as eventual champions Man City hosted runners-up Liverpool at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Starting first with a look towards two of the top three in La Liga last time around, effective bronze medal winners Real Madrid welcomed Cordoba to the Bernabeu in the latter’s first match in the Spanish top-flight since managing promotion last season, and indeed their first game in the competition in 42 years – they were relegated in 1972 and did not make a return until this year. Cordoba’s hopes of springing a surprise in this long-awaited fixture lasted half an hour before Karim Benzema headed the hosts into the lead, but the guests held hope until right at the end, when Cristiano Ronaldo struck a great shot from distance to settle the score at 2-0.

The game means that Ronaldo gets off to a solid start with 20 fantasy points, though any managers with him in their squads will want to see this figure rising significantly over the course of the season – €23.50m is a lot to pay for a fantasy player you know! Benzema meanwhile settles on 15, with a booking taking away some of the gloss on an otherwise decent evening. Real Madrid keeper Iker Cassilas sits top of the Galactico’s list at the time of writing with 40 points, while his defenders Álvaro Arbeloa, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Daniel Carvajal and Marcelo sit just behind him on 30. Cordoba’s lack of goals, however, means that not a single one of their players has yet got himself off the mark, with goalkeeper Juan Carlos and defender Daniel Pinillos sitting bottom of the squad on -10.

In the other La Liga fixture, champions Atletico Madrid didn’t manage quite as good a result as they made the short trip across the city to Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas, home of Rayo Vallecano. The Madrid pair battled to a goalless draw, and so goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders are all off the mark with between five to 40 fantasy points each thanks to clean sheets on both sides. No player on either side ends up in negative figures either, as while Rayo pair Abdoulaye Ba and Raúl Baena, along with Mario Suárez and Juan F Torres of Atletico were booked, the clean sheet effectively cancels out those points deductions.

In the Premier League, the game between Man City and Liverpool had plenty of hype and spice heading into kick-off, with the two sides rekindling their rivalry from last season where both contested for the championship right up until the end. Hosts City did triumph for their second Premier League title, while Liverpool hearts were broken in what was their closest chase for supremacy in some years. An added aspect of interest was the presence of former Blues striker Mario Balotelli, who completed his transfer to Liverpool from AC Milan ahead of the game. It was his former employers, however, that would triumph on the night, with a brace from Stevan Jovetic and a second goal in two sub appearances from Sergio Aguero that put the Reds to the sword, with a late Pablo Zabaleta own goal proving little more than scant consolation and sending the visitors home on the back of a 3-1 defeat.

Aguero now sits top of City’s fantasy points winners on 40 from two appearances – both as a substitute – while fellow striker Jovetic sits just behind, again on 40 but from more minutes on the pitch. Joe Hart rounds off the list of top three City names, and he also has 40 – it would have been more had Zabaleta’s own goal not occurred, as he would have additional clean sheet points as well.

For Liverpool, England trio Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson are the only players to have any points to speak of following the second round of games, with 30, 20 and 10 respectively. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has endured a bit of a tough start though – he has -20 points from his first two games, with four goals conceded and no clean sheets up to this point.

Weekend review – Dier and Kjaer help defenders to points tally lead

The latest weekend of footballing action was a cracker, with fantasy points scored galore across Europe, and with the new season now officially underway in four of our five nations there is much to go over. We had an English club who is reportedly about to break the British transfer record stuttering on their travels, the French champions doing something similar and a strong start from the winners of last season’s Bundesliga.

Looking first at the French Ligue 1, Friday evening saw the commencement of the third round of games as title holders Paris Saint-Germain travelled to bottom club Evian Thonon Gaillard, and the outcome saw the hosts surprisingly claim their first point of the campaign with their first clean sheet of the season. Evian defender Daniel Wass had a corker and increased his points tally six-fold by going from five to 35, and the club now have seven players who have a positive points total – far better than the two we reported on in our preview. PSG keeper Salvatore Sirigu has leapfrogged all the way to 70, pitting him as the club’s top performer thus far for our fantasy bosses.

Goalscoring in France wasn’t too much of a strong suit this weekend, with only Bordeaux managing to net more than two goals at Nice by emerging 3-1 victors. Despite the low scorelines, every game apart from the Evian v PSG and St. Etienne v Rennes matches saw at least one goal, so most people at those games will have had some sights to savour. Bordeaux’s win maintains their 100% start to the season, and they sit pretty at the top of Ligue 1 on nine points, two clear of second placed St. Etienne owing to that goalless draw against Rennes. Bordeaux’s top fantasy points scorer thus far is striker Diego Rolan, who has bagged two goals and provided an assist giving him a total of 45 points to date.

Ligue 1’s top players thus far are Lille pair Vincent Enyeama and Simon Kjaer, with 120 and 110 points respectively. They are followed by defenders Sébastien Corchia, Franck Beria and Marko Basa, who are all on 90 and also play for Lille.

Moving over to England, title hopefuls Chelsea welcomed Premier League newboys Leicester City to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon and sent them hope without any points, with second half goals from Diego Costa and Eden Hazard settling the score. Costa takes his total up to 35 thanks to a goal in each competitive Chelsea appearance so far, with Hazard coming in just behind him on 30. On Sunday afternoon, former champions Man Utd travelled to Sunderland with expectations high, and the Red Devils made the trip back to Old Trafford with a share of the spoils following a 1-1 draw. Former Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata had put Louis van Gaal’s men ahead before Jack Rodwell opened his account for the Black Cats following his £10m move from champions Man City in the summer. Mata has now earned himself 20 points so far – a healthy return on his modest €7.00m fantasy valuation, while fellow goalscorer Rodwell matches that total at a much lower asking price of €3.00m.

In the Premier League, Tottenham defender Eric Dier is the top fantasy points earner on 100, with two goals and two clean sheets from two starts. Aston Villa stopper Brad Guzan is second on 80, while Dier’s Spurs team-mate Hugo Lloris shares the same total as his fellow custodian.

In Germany, much like France, the champions were in action on Friday night as Bayern Munich kicked off their title defense with the visit of Wolfsburg. Pep Guardiola’s men emerged triumphant with a 2-1 win, with World Cup stars Thomas Muller of Germany and Arjen Robben of the Netherlands scoring the goals to give their club a winning start. The game leaves Robben on 30 points and Muller on 20, with new team-mate Robert Lewandowski also starting off with a positive fantasy points score of 10. Wolfsburg striker Ivica Olic kicks off his own fantasy season on 20 thanks to scoring his own side’s goal after Adelino De Freitas provided the assist, giving the 28-year-old 10 points of his own.

In Spain, last season’s runners-up Barcelona secured the biggest winning margin of the weekend with a 3-0 win over travelling Elche, with goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and forward Lionel Messi each coming up with 40 points for their fantasy bosses, with the clean sheet responsible for Bravo’s while Messi bagged a brace. Defenders Jordi Alba, Jeremy Mathieu, Dani Alves and Marc Bartra all have 30 each, again due to keeping Elche out.

In both the Bundesliga and La Liga, a whole host of players are tied on 40 points at the top, so expect that gap to start developing possibly from the next round of games onwards.

Germany and Spain kick-off joining packed weekend of football

The third round overall of domestic football of the new season takes place this weekend, with the French Ligue 1 playing their third games while the Premier League goes through its second set of fixtures. We also have two more leagues kicking off, with the German Bundesliga getting things underway on Friday evening and the Spanish La Liga beginning the following day.

Focusing our attentions on France first, then, and Friday evening brings Evian Thonon Gaillard welcoming Paris St-Germain to Parc des Sports. Evian have really struggled in their first couple of games, and rest bottom of the table with two defeats from their first two games, and a goal difference of -7. PSG, meanwhile, have four points from their first six, and sit third – but what we really want to know surely is how the players on the pitch have fared by way of fantasy points earned thus far, so let’s take a quick look.

It’s a bit disheartening for Evian fans unfortunately – their highest scorer in fantasy points is striker Gianni Bruno, who costs €2.00m – and he has earned 10. Defender Daniel Wass is the only other player at the club with a positive points tally on 5, while all the others are on 0 or worse – goalkeeper Jesper Hansen is on -70, so perhaps stay away from including him in your fantasy squad for now. Things look a bit brighter for the guests, however, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on 30 points and Javier Pastore on 20 – but that’s about it. The points totals are considerably higher, but PSG surprisingly also only have two on positive tallies so far – it seems more likely that will change for the guests than the hosts in the short-term, though.

In the Premier League, arguably the biggest game of the weekend sees Everton playing hosts to Arsenal, while fellow title chasers Chelsea welcome newly promoted Leicester to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon too. New Blues striker Diego Costa got his west London career off to a great start against Burnley on Monday night, and will be hoping he can build on that against another side experiencing their first season in this stint of top flight football. He grabbed 15 points from his competitive Blues debut, and while players may have earned more it’s certainly a solid beginning to life under Jose Mourinho.

Across the border in Germany, the Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening when champions Bayern Munich host Wolfsburg, but on Saturday one of the tastier fixtures sees last year’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund do battle at home with Bayer Leverkusen, and with second and fourth placed finishes last season respectively this seems like a very early season top match. Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller will be looking to keep Stefan Kießling and co at bay, and fortunately for him Leverkusen were actually the lowest scorers out of the teams in the top five places last season, with 60 goals. That still averages approaching two goals per game, though, so there is much for Weidenfeller and his defenders to do.

With Spain still reeling from their poor showing at the World Cup, La Liga also kicks off and comes as a means of escape from a poor summer for Spanish fans across the world. Last year, three sides were able to win the title going into the final round of games, with Atletico Madrid ultimately triumphing over city rivals Real and Barcelona to win their 10th Spanish title. The two Madrid sides kick off their campaigns on Monday evening, while Barcelona get their season underway the day before when Elche arrive at the Camp Nou having narrowly avoided relegation in May. This is a game that Barcelona will be looking to win – and comfortably too – so expect Messi and co. to really turn things up on Saturday and send out an early warning shot to their rivals that they are in it to regain the title.


Arsenal stutter as European competitions get back in action

With the European qualification continuing this week, we are at the latter stages and that much closer to determining just who will advance to the Champions League and Europa League tournaments proper. Now, while players’ performances in these tournaments do not directly affect their points tallies in the Euro Fantasy League game, it will have an impact later on in the campaign for players who represent clubs who enjoy a continued run in the continental competitions. Fitness levels, fixture pileups, as well as a fair few potential air miles being clocked up can all have a say in how clubs perform domestically, so we will be taking a look at who is likely to continue and advance the hard way and just which players may struggle.

Of course, players are conditioned to spend as long as they can on the football pitches without compromising their health, and while managers do of course hold their stars’ interests at heart there will be an almost inevitable time in each season where players have to take it up a notch, digging out those extra degrees of performance in order to try and aid their clubs’ trophy hunt, and the fixture lists particularly during group stages and then at the business end of the season have been the source of many a manager’s ire.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been vociferous in lamenting the demands placed on Europe’s most successful clubs in the past, and while his squad have made a solid start to the season, causing much optimism among the Emirates stands, they do still have some work to do in order to advance to the group stages. They drew 0-0 at Besiktas on Tuesday, but lost Welshman Aaron Ramsey to a red card following a second bookable offence. While the result does seem to put the north Londoners in the driving seat, with a home clash starting at essentially a dead heat, Arsenal must be wary of conceding a goal which will effectively be worth two to Besiktas owing to the away goals rule – the Gunners must look at the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to get the job done in front of the Turks’ goal, and ideally help Olivier Giroud put the ghosts of the first leg to rest as the Frenchman found himself frustrated at the front.

A good run of form for Arsenal in the league, despite the fixture pileup, has seemed to aid the Gunners at times in the past, with fine form being successfully translated from the continent to the English pitches, but Wenger will of course have to keep one eye on fitness levels as the match commitments go on the up if his side do eventually advance.

Bayer Leverkusen, Napoli and Lille are three other fairly big names in club football going through the qualifying stages, but of these the Germans were the only ones to record a win in their first leg, with Lille falling short and Napoli managing a draw. This means there will be some real potential fantasy points winners still in with a shout of advancing, with the likes of Stefan Kießling and Bernd Leno at Leverkusen looking good for a run in the cup. Players generally remain fresh enough to handle the extra fixtures and travel during the earlier group stages, but towards the knockout stages things start getting a little trickier so potential rests are something that our fantasy managers should take into account – as we have seen already this season, anything upwards of 50 points can be earned from a single great performance and so a missed game (for whatever reason) can prove costly to your EFL fantasy team. It’s definitely something to think about, hence why the inclusion of a solid points-scorer from a “smaller” club is always advisable.

Top players of last season – French Ligue 1

The league we will review to conclude the series will be the French top flight, Ligue 1. Having kicked off just a few days ago, we already have some form of early indication as to the way teams will be playing their football this season, and one name who made it onto our list today is already right up there at the top already after only a single outing. Paris Saint-Germain won the title with a nine point cushion ahead of Monaco, who themselves finished nine ahead of third-placed Lille who reached the Champions League Third Qualifying Round. With that quick recap done, let’s take a look at last season’s top players – and what a season it was for goalkeepers, with three of our top five guarding the penalty box from between the sticks.

Saint-Étienne  goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier is the first of our custodians to mention, making fifth as he finished with a solid 410 points from his ever-present campaign of 38 starts. He only conceded 34 goals from those games, so at an average of less than a goal per game it is little surprise he gets into the top five, despite his side missing out on Champions League football, instead settling for a place in the Europa League playoffs. He also kept 16 clean sheets. He held a value of €6.50m last season, but this has dropped to only €3.50m this time – surely making him one of the most appealing options in goal this season. That is a real bargain, and yet the 27-year-old – who has two international caps with France to his name – only features in a single 1% of squads so far. Do yourself a favour and snap him up for your fantasy side if you get a chance – he’s a talented stopper with a very modest asking price.

In fourth, Monaco star James Rodriguez galvanized his growing reputation with a stunning season in the principality, ultimately leading in to a successful World Cup campaign with Colombia before securing a big-money move to the Spanish capital with Real Madrid, for whom he will play this season. In France, though, Rodriguez was undoubtedly one of the stars of the season-long show, and it seems unfortunate for him on a personal level that he wasn’t able to claim a league winners’ medal to cap it all off. He ended on 435 points with nine goals and 12 assists, and only a single booking meant his tally didn’t suffer too much due to any adverse discipline. His €7.50m asking price ultimately proved a bargain – and, of course, paled in comparison to his true-to-life value – and even this has only gone up slightly – he will cost you €9.50m to get the star into your fantasy team. Still doesn’t seem too bad a bet, and he will be keen to get life at Real Madrid started off on the right foot. With such talented footballers around him as the Galacticos, it seems as though he will be in the best hands to settle in well, but the unfamiliarity of his surroundings and the competition mean his new life in a new league may prevent him from fulfilling his potential immediately. He will get there, though, so if you sign him it may be an investment you will need to stick with. A talented player such as him has the capability, though, and so he is just as likely to hit the ground running.

In third we have the second of our goalkeepers, with Salvatore Sirigu of PSG taking the psychological bronze medal. He is the first of two PSG stars on the list, and thoroughly deserves his place – this was no fluke. Sirigu turned out 545 points with 19 clean sheets from 37 starts, conceding only 34 goals all season – like Ruffier, he ended with an average of less than a goal per game conceded. The 27-year-old, who has nine international caps with Italy, had a very forgettable time in Brazil with his country this summer during the World Cup but he will hope to bounce back from that and continue his fine domestic form. He had a massive €11.50m asking price last season, but that has dropped all the way down to €5.50m – meaning at better than half price, Sirigu is certainly a tempting inclusion. Only 1% have taken up this player so far, but a good showing throughout PSG’s title defence will surely see this figure go up.

In second place, Vincent Enyeama makes up our trio of stoppers with a total of 580 points to help Lille make the Champions League. The 31-year-old Nigerian keeper moved to France in 2011, and started all 38 league games last season, keeping 21 clean sheets and conceding 26 goals. His asking price of €5.50m last season has gone up to €7.50m now, but he has still proven himself to be a goalkeeper of the highest standard. He will be hoping to continue that form this season and help Lille make the biggest club competition in Europe, but there are some qualifiers to navigate first. A cool 8% of our fantasy managers threw him into their sides last season, showing great foresight on a large scale, but only 2% have taken him up this season – whether or not that will go up remains to be seen, but he is not one to overlook.

And finally, PSG icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes up the list with his amazing 605 point total, ranking him at fifth in our fantasy football competition overall last season. 26 goals and 11 assists from his 33 appearances show his true lethality. The Swede is widely regarded as one of the best footballers in the world, and his Ligue 1 champions’ medal rounded the season off nicely. He is also going to be fresh as his native Sweden did not participate in this summer’s World Cup tournament, so considering his conditioning, familiarity, fine form, massive reputation and the impressive side in which he stars, expect his inclusion to pay dividends. It’s a huge €20.00m outlay to get him in your squad, but he looks set to be arguably the only player whose inclusion should be seen as a certainty. 11% have him signed up so far, but that number will almost certainly go up. He is the name mentioned previously about already being right up there this season – sixth place behind five tied for first, with 30 points from his first game of the season. Let him lead your side to success!

Weekend football review – Dier surprises as Enyeama tops Ligue 1 points tally

With two domestic leagues now underway, there is much to go over here – the Premier League debuted for the 2014-15 season, and with Ligue 1 in France having already kicked off last weekend we are getting closer to a time when football is taking place throughout the continent, and the season will soon be back in full flow. That said, let’s first look at the second round of games in France over the weekend, with the largest margin of victory coming from Rennes, as they defeated Evian Thonon Gaillard 6-2 at home, but the top fantasy football spot in Ligue 1 presently resides with Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

The Nigerian has a fantastic 80 points from his first two games, and that stems from clean sheets in both outings – Lille won 1-0 at Caen on Friday night to build on their opening-day draw, and sees Enyeama move 10 fantasy points clear at the top of Euro Fantasy League’s Ligue 1 table. AS Saint-Étienne striker Mevlüt Erdinç moves into second place thanks to three goals and an assist from his own first two outings of the season, and then we see four defenders tying for third in the form of Sébastien Corchia, Franck Beria, Marko Basa and Simon Kjaer. Two things in common for those four men – they all play defence for Lille directly in front of Enyeama and they all have 60 points each, so while you can’t have all five names owing to the rule of a maximum of three players per club, any combination is likely to be serving our fantasy managers well if that is the route they have taken. Kjaer is the most expensive of these at €8.50m, with Enyeama at €7.50m but the rest cost between €3.50m-€4.50m so there are a few bargains right there!

Moving our attentions to the new Premier League season now, and we had some surprising results (at least in terms of individual fantasy points). Top of the English league individually is Spurs defender Eric Dier, who grabbed a goal and saw his side keep a clean sheet to earn an impressive 50 points, with Hull defender James Chester just behind him on 40. With asking prices of €5.50m and €3.00m respectively, that was a potential 90 points right there for an outlay of only €8.50m combined – meaning that, with hindsight, that was perhaps the defensive partnership to go with heading into last weekend’s fixtures.

Saido Berahino’s brace for West Brom against Sunderland gave him 40 points alongside four others, of which one is Tottenham stopper Hugo Lloris, who takes the spot as the top goalkeeper in the Premier League for our fantasy managers – good call to the 1% of managers who have included him in their squads.

Berahino is joined in the English top 20 by only Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea from the strikers in action this weekend, with the emphasis having largely been on goalkeepers and defenders so far. Even as far as midfielders go, only Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling and Man City’s David Silva made the top 20, with 30 and 25 points respectively – so it’s been very much a successful weekend for the defensively minded managers who have chosen the Premier League as the basis for their fantasy team.

Premier League kicks-off to join second week of European football

This weekend sees some of the domestic leagues from across Europe kick off for a new season of proceedings, and with some of the world’s best players turning out for the first competitive fixtures of a gruelling season it’s finally time to say bye-bye to the summer break. While these are early days of course, and results here are unlikely to have an ultimately direct result come May, it should give us all some sort of idea about where each side is at in relation to competition, and there are some intriguing fixtures which are likely to highlight this. The games may also help fantasy managers decide on one or two previously unconsidered faces to include in their squads.

Let’s first take a look at the action in France, with Ligue 1 having been the first of our featured leagues to kick off just last weekend. That round of games indicated where each side may be at, though of course it is difficult to say for certain after only one fixture. One thing that may not have come as too much of a surprise is that Zlatan Ibrahimovic got his season off to a cracker with two great goals, though a booking took his points tally down a touch. His club, Paris Saint-Germain host Bastia on Saturday afternoon, and the visitors showed some solidarity last season with a decent 10th placed finish, though just a couple more wins would have seen them rise a bit higher – fans could have been forgiven for hoping for a finish around 7th.

Bastia striker Christopher Maboulou is one of the few to have gone above Ibrahimovic on the opening weekend, having also bagged a brace but avoided a special mention in the referee’s book. He will be hoping to continue that form in front of goal, but PSG are no pushovers – defensively the champions were by far the best side on the league last season, and breaking them down will be far from a formality. Ibrahimovic, however, will be looking to this game to grab himself another goal or two – Bastia conceded more than twice as many goals as PSG last year, so expect a tough afternoon for the guests.

Finally, the Premier League also returns Saturday lunchtime with Louis van Gaal’s Man Utd kicking things off at home to Swansea. The Swans have retained the services of coveted striker Wilfried Bony thus far, and will be looking to him as their main source of hope, but van Gaal will settle for nothing short of a win for the Red Devils as they bid to take yet another Premier League crown following last season’s worst campaign since the league’s formation.

Arsene Wenger will be looking to start the season in style with new signing, World Cup star Alexis Sanchez joining the North London club, while rivals Tottenham face a tough task away from to West Ham, a side they lost to four times last season.

Monday evening sees the first round of games come to a close when newly promoted Burnley host Chelsea, and new Blues faces will be looking to make an instant impact at Turf Moor. Diego Costa, should he feature, will be hoping to get his season kicked off well too and prove that he can live up to his asking price.

Top players of last season – German Bundesliga

We begin our countdown to the new football season in earnest with a look at last season’s top performers, using statistics to look at which players could reproduce their magical form from the last campaign and deserve an inclusion in your fantasy football team, and which may struggle and may be best avoided for our fantasy managers’ consideration.

The next league on which we will focus is the German Bundesliga, where last season Bayern Munich waltzed their way to the title by a cracking 19 points ahead of runners-up Borussia Dortmund. Only two defeats all season meant the title helped the club win the title in record time, beating the previous record set only one year previous. Munich boss Pep Guardiola certainly enjoyed his debut season as a manager in the top flight, and has already set out his stall as his men defend their title by signing Robert Lewandowski from nearest rivals Dortmund.

With that said, let’s get down to the list of the top five players in the league last season, and see if we can look ahead to what our fantasy managers could expect from these players this coming campaign.

The fifth best player in the league last term was Bayern winger Arjen Robben, the €10.00m-rated Dutchman who enjoyed as good a World Cup tournament this summer as he did in the Bundesliga. He finished with 450 points from 20 starts and eight appearances as a sub, with 11 goals scored and six assists provided to get the former PSV and Chelsea man into the top five. His asking price has gone up to €13.00m this season, but while this rise may mean the 30-year-old will cost our fantasy managers a touch more he seems like one of the top names in the game to get into your squad. He is arguably among the best players in the world, and costs considerably less than counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid. All signs point to a good season for Robben, so definitely give him some serious consideration.

Next up, in fourth we have Raffael de Araújo of Borussia Mönchengladbach. The midfielder had a hugely impressive season, garnering 455 points to help out the 3% of managers who ensured he would feature in their sides. 34 starts produced 15 goals and seven assists, though a single booking reduced the total ever so slightly. Despite that, his value last season was only €7.50m, and he established himself as one of the finest fantasy buys going in 2013-14. All the more impressive was the fact that this was his debut season for the club, having previously featured for Hertha Berlin – where he played with his brother Ronny – either side of a spell in Ukraine with Dynamo Kyiv. He will now be participating in his second season, and with the added experience and familiarity it seems difficult to envisage a scenario where he will struggle. His asking price hasn’t changed either, so while he may not end up being the highest points grosser for your fantasy squads he represents a fairly low risk investment.

Third place now, and we have the aforementioned Robert Lewandowski, who helped his then-employers Borussia Dortmund reach a second place finish. They were some way behind champions Bayern Munich, but Lewandowski did everything he could to maintain pursuit in his 33 appearances (31 starts and two as a sub), contributing 20 goals and six assists to the cause. He has shifted this summer across to rivals Munich, and while his surroundings will be new the opposition will not – and it is, after all, against them that a player must carve out his reputation. Expect him to have another cracker under new boss Guardiola, who has a reputation for getting the best out of his players. His value last time was €13.50m – and that has actually gone down to €12.50m. While this may not be the biggest drop it could reflect a degree of uncertainty surrounding his participation levels this term, but he was one of the biggest names outside of Munich last season so he should get plenty of opportunities. 6% of fantasy teams featured him last season, and this has already skyrocketed to 19% this time, so he is clearly a popular player – trying to find a way to get him into your fantasy squads should be a priority.

In second place, it is perhaps little surprise that we have our third player with a Bayern Munich link given their dominance. Thomas Müller enjoyed last season, culminating in him winning a World Cup Winners’ medal with Germany in Brazil. Carrying a value of €9.50m last season, Müller will now cost you a whopping €5.00m extra, but that €14.50m again represents a sound investment if you have the budget remaining. Last season involved 31 appearances for the midfielder, with six coming from the subs bench to complement his 25 starts. 13 goals and 10 assists mean he was one of the handier and versatile players to turn out, and will no doubt be looking forward to getting Bayern’s title defence kicked off in style. He is a player likely to feature as often as he is available, so for all €14.50m is a bit to ask it still seems fair given the amount of football he seems destined to enjoy over the next nine months. Whether he can topple last season’s total of 500 points remains to be seen, but if he can turn it up the way he did last season there seems little reason to doubt that he can finish with more.

And finally, the top player in the Bundesliga last season was Marco Reus, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder who ended the season only slightly ahead of Müller on 510. His side may have finished shy of Munich in the league, but Reus established himself as a big name in the Bundesliga. Reports throughout the summer have linked him with moves to other top European clubs, with Premier League outfit Liverpool repeatedly touted as a potential destination, but he will start the season wearing the yellow and black just as he did last year. 30 appearances (26 starts, four from the bench) saw him score 16 goals and provide 13 assists, so he was slightly ahead of Müller at least in the provisions department.

He held a €13.50m asking price last time, but this has dropped slightly to €13.00m, and this drop has seen his inclusion rate go up from 6% last season to 9% now. If he is able to reproduce that sparkling form on German pitches this season, he is likely to make those 9% of fantasy managers very happy indeed – he has the potential to do even better this term, and with the prospect of hitting the ground running in order to keep up the early pressure on the champions, Reus seems to be one of the names almost every fantasy manager will at least give some serious consideration to.