Serie A – Bargain basement performers

We now conclude our first series of examining bargain basement alternatives to those expensive stars most fantasy managers will likely have somewhere in their squads by taking a look at the Italian Serie A, and with the league the newest of the season (having kicked off several weeks after the French Ligue 1, which got the entire game underway) some of the players we will look at here will have played a minimum of one game less than some of those we have looked at previously at the time of writing, but that doesn’t mean that early season form has failed to produce any such lower cost options for our fantasy managers to ponder.

In goal, Juventus stopper Gianluigi Buffon is, perhaps unsurprisingly, leading the way with 160 points and is also the most expensive keeper in the league at €10.50m, but there are some cheaper stoppers with only a relatively slight difference in points to date, with a minimum saving of €3.00m by going for Roma custodian Morgan De Sanctis instead. If that saving isn’t enough for you, however, then fourth placed Norberto Murara Neto of Fiorentina fame may fit the bill – he has 50 points less than Buffon at 110, but would only set you back €2.00m – that’s a great saving of €8.50m, which could certainly offer freedom in other areas of the fantasy pitch. Buffon remains, however, one of the most consistent and reliable performers in Europe, so while this may be an option there would be very few who would blame any of the 3% of fantasy bosses who opted to keep the Italian between their sticks.

In front of the keeper, Juventus have largely dominated which each of the three top points scorers featuring in defence for the Old Lady. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Leonardo Bonucci and Angelo Ogbonna have all done well with 150, 120 and 115 points respectively, and each would set you back either €8.00m (Lichtsteiner and Bonucci) or €7.50m (Ogbonna). That is consistent to be sure, but Silivan Widmer would be far from a disastrous alternative. He costs only €3.50m and has earned himself 95 points already, so there is definitely a points hit to take there, but the saving may be enough to include the eventual winner in your squad after all, so the option is there.

As far as midfielders go, the points haven’t exactly racked up at a rocket pace just yet, with Mateo Kovacic (Inter) leading the way on 75 points, with a value of €7.00m. He is, therefore, a good bit cheaper than the most expensive Serie A midfielder (Arturo Vidal, Juventus, €12.50m, 65 points) so Kovacic could be considered a good option. The most noticeable “cheap” player so far would be Roma’s Franco Vázquez, who has 60 points despite costing only €2.50m, so he is definitely one to consider.

Inter striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo leads the way as far as Serie A strikers go, and the forward, on-loan from Premier League outfit Southampton, is relatively cheap already at €5.50m, so it is some wonder that 0% of managers have signed him up already – anyone struggling for points up front should definitely look at him as an option, as he is outperforming team-mate Mauro Icardi. Icardi has 70 points, so he is no pushover but at a value of €7.50m he is surely not quite as attractive a prospect as Osvaldo based on form so far this season. It is still early days in Serie A, even more so than in other leagues, so that could of course change, but these two guys look like far more solid investments than the likes of Juventus striker Carlos Tevez, who has 90 points but costs double Osvaldo’s value at €11.00m. Tevez is also the most owned Serie A-based striker with 3% ownership, so perhaps a swap from the Argentinian to the Argentinian-born Italian international could be a good move at this point.

That concludes this first series of bargain basement stars. The series may be revisited at a later stage of the season once form has settled and teams start to show some definite consistency with regards to where they may end up come the season’s finale, but for now hopefully our fantasy managers out there have some food for thought as to some changes which may, on paper and based on reputation at least, not look like good ones – but ones which will prove fruitful when it comes to points totals as the season progresses. Thanks for reading.

La Liga – Bargain basement performers

For the next part of our series looking at bargain basement players, we are focussing on the Spanish La Liga, and with strong starts from the likes of Barcelona and champions Athletico Madrid, there are sure to be some names largely selected that are performing well on the points charts too, but as usual there will be some lower cost alternatives. In some cases, these cheaper players have proven thus far to be faring better than their more illustrious counterparts, while others don’t fall too far short in the points stakes, allowing our fantasy managers to free up some funding to improve on other areas of the pitch. With that said, let’s turn out attention towards the Iberian region.

As usual, we will begin by looking at the custodians, and particularly during these earlier stages of the season these guys tend to be big points winners – or find themselves badly in the negative totals after some dodgy starts of course. The biggest points winner in La Liga so far, and indeed throughout the whole continent for all positions at this stage, is Barcelona stopper Claudio Bravo, who has managed to cull a massive 200 points from his first five starts of the season. He carries a value of €7.50m, so while he isn’t necessarily the cheapest there are far more expensive keepers in the game. Due to Bravo’s success already, however, it seems difficult to recommend a viable, cost efficient alternative – second placed keeper Diego Alves of Valencia has a solid 115 points but still costs €5.00m, so that is a fair whack of points to raise the relatively small difference. In third, Idriss Carlos Kameni of Malaga is arguably the biggest bargain for his position at only €1.50m, but he has earned 90 points – so while that is fantastic when compared to his value, it is considerably lower than Bravo, so if you have the Catalans’ stopper in your side perhaps best to keep him there.

In defence, another Barcelona star in the shape of Jordi Alba presently leads the way with 160 points from a somewhat modest €6.50m price tag, and once again it seems difficult to look at truly feasible alternatives when the leader has a decent value already. José Gayá – ironically also of Valencia – is just behind him on 120 points and you would save yourself €2.00m, which is perhaps not too bad a tradeoff, but really the only player anywhere near the top 10 who could save you some real money would be Lucas Orban of Valencia, but he has only half the points of Alba and even then would cost you €3.00m, representing a €3.50m saving. Again, if you already have Alba in there, keep him there. He is also the most owned defender in the league in the Euro Fantasy League game with 19% of all managers including him in their squads – he is certainly a far better inclusion at this stage than Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid, who possesses an 18% ownership at this stage. He has earned himself only 20 points so far with a price tag of €8.50m, so if you have Ramos in there, think about getting him out and Alba in.

Moving forward now, Real Madrid midfielder Gareth Bale is both the most expensive midfielder in our game at €12.50m and also the biggest points scorer with 100, but you can save yourself a cool €5.50m by sticking Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli in your squad, who is only 30 points behind. 0% of managers have Feghouli in their squads right now, so he is clearly set to surprise many neutrals – think of him as a viable alternative, though admittedly taking Bale out of your side if he is already in there would be a bit like just throwing points away – he has settled in well in Spain, and that rich vein of form will surely continue. Should anything season-changing befall the Welshman’s campaign, however, look to Valencia for his replacement.

Up front, Bale’s Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo continues the former Tottenham star’s trend, being both the most expensive (€23.50m) and biggest points scorer (a whopping 220) in the league. Due to his remarkably high price, however, it may be somewhat surprising that 20% of all managers have the Portuguese star in their side already, but rival Lionel Messi matches the asking price but has netted only 150 points thus far – so Ronaldo seems the better inclusion of the two at this stage. Second and third on the points charts for strikers, however, both fall under the “viable alternative” category, and you can save an absolute packet in the process. Manuel Agudo Nolito Duran (Celta de Vigo) and Paco Alcacer (Valencia) both have 100 points each, admittedly only half of Ronaldo’s tally, but cost a mere €2.50m and €3.00m respectively. Fantasy managers, therefore, need to ask themselves whether sacrificing Ronaldo (and effectively up until now 100 points) to raise around €20.00m of funding to strengthen in other, perhaps underperforming, areas is a good tactic. Opinions will naturally vary, but the option is there in black and white for all you fantasy gaffers out there to make the decision.

To conclude this bargain basement series, we will of course be finishing with the last of our relevant leagues to kick off this season, which was the Italian Serie A.

Arsenal vs Tottenham – What the Fantasy Football points tell us

Tottenham travel to their North London rivals on Saturday looking to kick-start their season under new Coach Mauricio Pochettino, against an Arsenal side that appear to be experiencing familiar problems themselves.

Tottenham have begun to stutter in recent matches – since their 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool, they went a further three games without victory, ended only by a midweek win over Nottingham Forest in the League Cup.

The Gunners sit two points above their rivals, but have had far from a successful recent spell, themselves winning only one of their last five matches, away to Aston Villa, and being knocked-out of the League Cup at the hands of Southampton.

So both teams will be looking to the derby to build confidence upon which to challenge for the top four.

Who will be able to provide that spark on Saturday afternoon? Let’s look at the main points scorers for both sides heading into this clash.

Aaron Ramsey, thanks to some early season good form, currently heads the EFL points list for Arsenal with 55, closely followed on 45 by both new signing Alexis Sanchez, and centre-back Laurent Koscielny. Despite some early season criticism, Mesut Ozil has 40 points, making him the fourth best performing Gunner. Striker Danny Welbeck comes in with 30 points, level with Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs.

For Spurs, early season goals have made some higher points scorers at the top of table. Defender Eric Dier leads with 80 points, on the back of two goals, whilst Nacer Chadli has 70 points, scoring three times thus far. In third position on 50 points is Hugo Lloris, closely followed on 45 by club captain Younis Kaboul, and on 40 attacking midfielders Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela.

Can these statistics tell us anything about how the game will go? The lack of points for strikers (30 a piece for Adebayor and Welbeck), suggest goals might come from midfield, and looking at the quality on offer in the centre of the park, this might be a good indication of where the points will be won.

The life of a goalkeeper – top stoppers and fumbling failures

Being a goalkeeper can be a thankless task. Whereas an outfield player can make mistake after mistake without real punishment, one error from a goalkeeper can leave their team trailing and fingers of blame pointed in his direction. But the other side of the coin brings praise, plaudits and points, with goalkeepers often times responsible for keeping their team in the game.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than Of the 10 highest-scoring players in the game, six of them are goalkeepers – Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo, Lille’s Vincent Enyeama, Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon, Montpellier’s Geoffrey Jourden, Koln’s Timo Horn and Paris Saint-Germain’s Salvatore Sirigu.

By contrast, of the 10 lowest-scoring players, seven of them are goalkeepers – Werder Bremen’s Raphael Wolf, Parma’s Antonio Mirante, Stade de Reims’ Kossi Agassa, Deportivo La Coruna’s German Lux, Everton’s Tim Howard, Espanyol’s Kiko Casilla and Elche’s Przemyslaw Tyton. It’s a fine line between success and failure when you’re the last line of defence.

All of the lowest-scoring goalkeepers have delivered minus points, reaching as far as -80 for Wolf, with his 13 goals conceded. Bravo, meanwhile, shows how valuable a goalkeeper can be. The Chile international has yet to concede a goal for Barca and has helped the Catalans to top of the table with five clean sheets in as many games.

Bravo has in fact been as valuable to Barca as Cristiano Ronaldo has been to Real Madrid. They’ve both scored 200 EFL points, Ronaldo’s coming largely through his nine goals in four games, despite Los Blancos making something of a stuttering start to the season.

Indeed, Madrid have scored 18 league goals to Barca’s 11 but in conceding nine in reply, have a lot less to show for it. Four league points separate the teams and its Bravo who has made the difference.

Fernando Torres aims to get off to winning Milan start and banish blues

On Tuesday night all eyes will turn to Fernando Torres to see whether the once world-class ex Chelsea and Liverpool striker can rekindle the form of old, as he makes his first start for new club AC Milan, against Empoli.

Torres, 30, followed his 65 goals in 102 Liverpool appearances, with just 20 in 110 for the Blues, after a £50m record-breaking move. His goal record, and inability to keep his spot in the first team under successive managers, will see him go down in the history books as a relative Chelsea flop – this despite the fact Torres won the FA Cup, UEFA Cup, and Champions League, not to mention the European Championships, twice, and the World Cup.

But his move to Serie A is seemingly his last chance to show his devastating abilities were not left in Merseyside, and a huge club like Milan is a good place to begin this rebuilding effort.

The top point-scoring strikers of last season show the quality with which he will be in competition with in aiming to be top-scorer, the Capocannoniere. Carlos Tevez ended the season with 440 EuroFantasyLeague points, playing in a Scudetto winning Juventus side, while Luca Toni (430), and Rodrigo Palacio (390), headed a table that includes the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Fernando Llorente, and Antonio Di Natale.

Fernando Torres, in and out of the Chelsea set-up, managed 120 points, less than half the figure accrued by Mario Balotelli for the Rossoneri, in a season where the controversial Italian was widely seen to have disappointed in his role as main striker.

Tonight Torres has the chance to cement his place in the Milan side, in a three man attack in competition with Stephan El-Shaarawy, Giampaolo Pazzini, Giacomo Bonaventura, and Jeremy Menez. In theory the position is perfect for the Spanish striker, with the potential to be fed through-balls from El-Shaarawy and Menez, and maybe the effect of lifted pressure could see the real Torres back again in European football.

Champions League round-up Part 2 – Bayern and Roma lead City

Group E consists of three relevant clubs out of four, with CSKA Moscow of Russia the only club not covered in Euro Fantasy League’s game. Inevitably, therefore, there was another “derby” as Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich took on English champions Man City in arguably the biggest game of the first round of fixtures. The Germans were able to take the 1-0 win thanks to a late, late striker from, ironically, former Citizen Jerome Boateng. The German international finished last season with 255 points, so it was a solid campaign for him rather than an outstanding one. He has 30 points already this season, and his ability to find in the Champions League is a good sign. Expect the World Cup winner to more than justify his €8.00m price tag.

The other Group E game saw Serie A side Roma toppling the aforementioned CSKA Moscow 5-1, with a brace from ex-Arsenal striker Gervinho contributing alongside goals from Juan Iturbe (0 points, €5.00m) and  Maicon (30 points, €7.50m), and a second-half own-goal from Ignashevitch putting the game beyond doubt before Musa’s late consolation. Gervinho’s 20 points from one start and one sub appearance with one goal so far in Serie A is encouraging, but doesn’t really inspire a true desire to get him into your squad immediately. He will be a solid investment though, almost sure to turn a profit on points so he is worth bearing in mind – he’s enjoying life in Italy by the looks of it.

Group F saw Paris Saint-German travel to the Netherlands for a game against Ajax which finished in a 1-1 draw, Edinson Cavani putting the French champions ahead before Schöne’s equaliser for the Dutch. Cavani has done well so far, with 40 points from five games, thanks to two domestic goals. His asking price is €11.00m, though, and so in much the same respect as Carlos Tevez previously, his pedigree in undoubted but he is yet to prove that he will have a memorable season. It is still a decent start though, so look to him to almost definitely add considerably to that total over the next few months.

La Liga runners-up Barcelona snatched a 1-0 home win against Cypriot side APOEL FC, with a Gerard Piqué goal just before the half hour proving enough for a Spanish win. The former Man Utd defender has had a storming start to the season, with 60 points from a single start and one sub appearance – little wonder, then, that 9% of managers have him in their defensive line. Goals may not prove his strong point this season, but clean sheets surely will – Barca have a renowned defence, so look to getting the Spaniard into your side if and when you are able to make room and budget.

In Group G, Premier League favourites Chelsea played host to Bundesliga’s FC Schalke, with the 1-1 draw ultimately proving a fair result on the night that the Blues were denied their fifth straight competitive win, with Didier Drogba in their starting lineup for the first time since returning to the club in the summer. Former Barcelona and Arsenal favourite Cesc Fabregas scored his first goal for Jose Mourinho’s side before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s 62nd minute equaliser. Fabregas has 65 points this season with a value of €8.00m – if those stats don’t convince you enough, his early season form certainly should. He is playing for a new club and has been simply sensational since the season kicked off, much like team-mate Diego Costa. He is one that certainly seems worth recommended for inclusion.

To round things off, La Liga side Athletic Bilbao were also the home side, against Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. A goalless draw proved uninspiring for attacking football, but defensively both sides were sound – and Bilbao keeper Gorka Iraizoz would have improved on his 25 point tally had this been a league game. He is only valued at €4.50m and so doesn’t fall too far short of potential inclusion in our own “Bargain Basement” series.


Champions League round-up Part 1 – Juventus and Real Madrid up and running

This week has seen the kick-off of the Champions League tournament for the season, and with clubs from all five of Euro Fantasy League’s nations involved it’s time to take a look at how well our players managed. It is important to remember at this stage that player performances in the competition do not directly impact on the points they will win for any managers who have included them in their respective selections, but form is both true and evident, and so it is a common sight to see players who are turning it up a notch in Europe’s biggest club competition continuing to do well at a domestic level too. We will go through respective results by order of Champions League group presence, rather than by nation.

In Group A, Juventus took the top spot of the group by beating Swedish outfit Malmö FF 2-0, with noth goals coming from former Man Utd and Man City striker Carlos Tevez. The Argentinian has managed 30 points so far in Serie A, settling in to life in Italy as well as he did in England. His €11.00m may put some of the more lavish spenders off as there are arguably some even bigger name strikers available for a similar amount, but Tevez’s quality can not be argued with, and he finished the 2013-14 season with 440 points. That is a pretty nice finishing total, and his points-to-value rating was certainly very decent at 41.9. He is surely a player that can contribute significantly to the Old Lady’s season, and should never be discounted as a viable inclusion.

Elsewhere in the group, La Liga champions and Champions League runners-up Atletico Madrid fell 3-2 victims at the home of Greek side Olympiacos in a somewhat surprising result. The Spaniards’ goals were scored by Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann, and surprisingly these two players are struggling for points domestically so far. The former has 15 points to his name from three starts, and is rated at €9.50m. He hasn’t seen the absolute best start to the season, but has proven that he is capable of finding the net against other top opposition from the continent – he has scored one goal from those three games after all, so he might be worth considering if not making himself a necessity at this point. Griezmann, meanwhile, has appeared in all three La Liga games for the club so far – two as a starter, one as a sub – but has failed to register a single point yet. That will, fairly surely, go up over the duration of the campaign, but at a value of €8.50m it remains to be seen whether he can obtain enough points to justify the inclusion he has earned from 3% of fantasy managers so far. He most likely will, but a player has to really shine to make himself a gem as far as fantasy football goes – time will tell.

In Group B, Liverpool triumphed 2-1 over Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria, owing to goals from Mario Balotelli and Steven Gerrard, whose late penalty gave the hosts all three points. Gerrard’s penalty ability really leaves nothing left to be said, while Balotelli continues to show signs of settling in well at Anfield after his late-summer move from AC Milan. Both of these players are talented enough to be recommended for consideration of inclusion in our fantasy managers’ squads, with Gerrard’s 30 points total already boding well, if not spectacularly so far. Anyone who follows the Premier League, however, knows that Gerrard can add massively to that total during proceedings, but his €11.00m valuation may incline some to edge towards slightly younger talent. Balotelli, meanwhile, hasn’t registered a point yet despite his menacing presence on the pitch, but it is still early days in new surroundings so he will almost certainly end the season in positive figures – but how far in the positive remains to be seen, and his inclusion is a risk that fantasy managers will have to weigh up – €11.00m is a fair amount, but one that may certainly prove a pittance compared to points yielded.

In the other Group B game, La Liga stars Real Madrid whopped Swiss club FC Basel 5-1 at the Bernabeu to contradict their domestic form, which has been stuttering to say the least. Galactico fans will be unfamiliar to seeing their team in negative goal difference after more than a game or two, but their -1 stance domestically is certainly present. Admittedly, the breakthrough came from a Basel own goal, but a scoresheet consisting of Gareth Bale (30 points), Cristiano Ronaldo (40 points), James Rodriguez (5 points) and Karim Benzema (15 points) reads like a real dream team to compare with Barcelona’s front line of Suarez, Messi and Neymar. Ronaldo and Bale may have had significantly better points-scoring starts to the season, but Benzema is a proven talent and Rodriguez looks likely to find his feet sooner rather than later.

Both sides in the Euro Fantasy League competition in Group C were taking part in a single game on Tuesday evening, with Monaco taking on Bayer Leverkusen in France. The game finished 1-0 to the hosts, with João Moutinho (10 points) scoring the decisive goal on 61 minutes. Moutinho’s 10 points have come from a single clean sheet so far, with no goals or assists to speak of as yet – at a value of €8.00m things could certainly be worse, but it may be worth holding out on the 28-year-old Portuguese international for the time being until he hits a run of form, as 1% of managers have so far taken a risk that is yet to show signs of really paying off.

As far as Group D went, we had another Euro Fantasy League derby as Borussia Dortmund played host to Arsenal, with the home side taking a convincing 2-0 win. Goals from ironically named striker Ciro Immobile (who is yet to register a single domestic point, €8.50m) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (20 points, €8.50m) put paid to the Gunners’ opening effort. Taking into account that the Germany season is slightly newer than the English season, coupled with Immobile’s 2013-14 total of 405 points, there are suggestions that the striker will be a worthy investment, but until he can hit the ground running there seems little point to considering him a thoroughly viable investment at this stage. Of course, he could burst onto the scene with a hat-trick or better, so the risk is yours to take.

Bundesliga – Bargain basement performers

For the next installment in our series of looking for bargain basement players from the first few weeks of the domestic football season, we will turn our attention to the Bundesliga. The German top-flight is shaping up with a similar (and somewhat familiar) early-season look to the fantasy points scorers, with a goalkeeper at the top of the pile and his defenders unsurprisingly occupying the spots just below him. That custodian in this case is Timo Horn, who distinguishes himself as the biggest points scorer in the Bundesliga, with his club 1. FC Köln having kept three clean sheets from each of their first three games.

Horn has earned himself 120 points from those three clean sheets, and would cost €5.00m to get him in your penalty area. He has done a really good job so far, and this has been emphasized by reports that he is set to be offered a new deal to stay at the club beyond his current deal, which expires in 2016. Second on the list, however, qualifies for the title of a bargain in the Euro Fantasy League game, with Ron-Robert Zieler of Hannover 96 costing just €2.00m, though he is a fair few points behind – his tally is two-thirds that of Horn’s, at 80. He has maintained two clean sheets from three games, and only conceded a single goal in the other. Keeping the ratios nicely, Yann Sommer of Borussia Mön’Gladbach is on half of Zieler’s points with 40, and he would only cost you €3.00m. Early signs indicate that Zieler would be the bargain basement replacement keeper to consider, though of course things can change over the course of the season – and extended run at or near the top of the league is what fantasy managers really want in a stopper, and Manuel Neuer of champions Bayern Munich matches Sommer’s 40 point tally, but he would set you back a fair whack more – a cool €13.50m in fact.

Moving up the pitch a bit towards the defensive line, 1. FC Köln defender Jonas Hector is tied with team-mates Kevin Wimmer and Dominic Maroh on 90 points each, while their fourth defender Miso Brecko is on 85 owing to a booking. The great things is that managers can pretty much take their pick from any of these four as they certainly haven’t fallen far away from bargain territory so far, with prices ranging from €4.00 (Hector) to €5.50m (Brecko), and these four names represent the top four defenders in the league so far. Tin Jedvaj has contributed well to Bayer Leverkusen’s fine start with 60 points, and he would only cost €3.50m, and there appears to be a real bargain in the making in the form of Baba Rahman of FC Augsburg 1907. He has 35 points but would only cost €1.50m, and possesses the best points-to-value ratio in the league for defenders, and third best taking all positions into account.

FSV Mainz 05 midfielder Shinji Okazaki leads the way for midfielders with 70 points from three games, contributing three goals to his side’s cause. He would cost €8.00m – not bad for a guy at the top of the points charts for his position, but second placed Karim Bellarabi of Bayer 04 Leverkusen is only marginally behind on 60 and would require an investment of €3.00m. In the same vein as Rahman in defence, there is a real gem to be found by signing André Hahn of Borussia Mön’Gladbach. 45 points from an initial value of €1.50m will always prove tempting, especially considering the likelihood that many managers will have a much more expensive midfielder in their side who is yet to kick it up a gear and produce some results – we are playing a season-long game here, granted, but the 1% of managers who stuck Hahn in their side will now surely be reaping dividends both in his own position and potentially elsewhere on the field given the budget saving.

Up front, new Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, signed from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, is the most owned forward in the Bundesliga with around 12% of managers having him in their side, but he sits sixth in the overall table thus far of strikers in the league. He would also cost a sweet €12.50m. He hasn’t done too bad so far in his new surroundings, but there are, naturally, five players sitting above him in the chart – though third and fourth placed strikers Ivica Olić (VfL Wolfsburg) and Elias Kachunga (SC Paderborn 07) are tied with him on 40 points, and would cost €8.00m and €5.00m respectively. A couple of other usual suspects are present as well, with €9.50m-rated forward Adrián Ramos (Borussia Dortmund) and Franco Di Santo (SV Werder Bremen, €6.50m) in third and second. The top points scorer up front so far though is none other than Julian Schieber, the Hertha Berlin striker who has scored three goals from his first three games this season, with a tally of 60 points. The best bit is he would set you back only €2.50m – making Schieber, arguably, the ultimate bargain player at this stage, almost certainly from the Bundesliga. Only 1% get the benefits of his goalscoring exploits at the moment, but if he is able to continue that impressive run of form and maintain his rich goal scoring vein then more managers will surely be in for him over the course of the next few months.

Next up in our series, we take a look at the Spanish La Liga, and with some of the world’s best players – and teams – present there will surely be some big names mentioned there, and perhaps one or two surprises in the way of potential alternatives. Until then, keep playing, keep tinkering and keep on top.

Premier League – Bargain basement performers

This is the second in this series of looking at some “bargain basement” players, and it is the time for the Premier League to move into the spotlight. The top performer in the league – and indeed one of the top players in the world for fantasy football managers – is new Chelsea striker Diego Da Silva Costa, who has 140 points for a decent value of €8.50m. It should be noted at this stage that it seems crazy for any manager out there not to have the Spaniard in their side, though “only” 25% have done so at the time of writing. Despite his good value, however, there are alternatives for those managers who simply cannot find the funds or space for him in their side. We will look at those just a bit later on.

We begin our search for cheaper alternatives in earnest between the sticks, and the top goalkeeper in the Premier League so far is actually, already, what one could be forgiven for considering cheap. Aston Villa’s great start to the season has allowed stopper Brad Guzan to take the spot at the top of the points scorers so far, with 115 points for only a €2.50m hit from your budget. This is a great deal to be fair, and one must look down the list of Premier League custodians to find another low-cost option in the form of Swansea’s former Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski, whose 50 points have come through only conceding two goals in his four appearances. He would set you back only €1.50m – he’s one of the cheapest in the league, as well as officially the fifth best at this point.

Defensively, Aston Villa pretty much top the charts again, with four players from the top five turning out for the midlanders. Aly Cissokho sits atop the pile with 90 points, but he costs €5.00m, so if you’d like a cheaper alternative then look slightly to his right, for a player named Ashley Westwood. He is only five points behind on 85, but is a snip at just €1.50m. Nathan Baker, again of Aston Villa, costs slightly more at €2.00m and has 60 points, but they all came from one start and one sub appearance, so that can be read one of two ways. Perhaps first team opportunities will be somewhat limited, and therefore his points tally may stay lower than it otherwise could have, but he clearly is capable of getting himself plenty of points when he does play – so there are two lower cost alternatives from the very same club.

In midfield, the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have been long-standing favourites for fantasy managers, but the tide seems to be turning with a new generation, as Nathan Dyer of Swansea City sits top of the pile on 75, tied with Southampton star Morgan Schneiderlin – who will set you back only €3.50m. Midfield is one area of the Premier League where the slightly more expensive players do seem to be doing the job, though, with the likes of Kieran Richardson (Aston Villa, 40 points, €3.50m) sitting in and around some of the top players, but you will have to take a bit of a points hit to find a real gem among the middle of park for the fantasy game – Man Utd midfielder Ander Herrera and Schneiderlin’s fellow Saints star James Ward-Prowse could also fit the bill, with 40 points each while both cost an attractive €2.00m apiece.

Up front, we have the aforementioned Costa at the top, and due to the sheer margin by which he leads it seems difficult to offer up a great suggestion on an alternative – second placed striker Leonardo Ulloa of Leicester is some way behind on 60 points, and even he would cost €5.50m. The highest rated of the lower cost players could be Steven Naismith of Everton, whose 55 points would have come from an outlay of €3.50m, or Aston Villa forward Andreas Weimann, who has 45 and would cost only €2.50m.

As you can see, bargain basements mean little if the player is unable to deliver some valuable points to the managers who select him, and as a result things get increasingly difficult in the Premier League to find cheaper big hitters the further towards the attacking line you look. Will it be the same for the German Bundesliga, which will be the next league we look at? Time will tell.


Weekend review – Milan and Inter goals galore, Van Gaal’s Utd destroy QPR

This weekend’s action saw a momentous first win for Man Utd under the stewardship of Louis van Gaal in the Premier League, Hannover 96 piling the misery on bottom club Hamburger SV in the Bundesliga and Serie A saw Inter Milan thumping Sassuolo. That said, there were plenty of goals across Europe, some exciting football on display and plenty of points for our fantasy managers to share out among themselves. So, let’s take a look back and what was, on the whole, a cracking weekend of football.

In the French Ligue 1, Lille continued their impressive start to the season with a double whammy, beating Nantes 2-0 to record their fourth clean sheet from the first five games and capping it off by climbing to the top of the league table. That was thanks to Bordeaux losing for the first time this season in a somewhat surprising result at Guingamp, who climb to 16th. Marseille sit between them, climbing above Bordeaux thanks to a 3-1 win at bottom club Evian Thonon Gaillard. These results, which coincidentally were all Sunday games, mean that the Lille defensive players continue to dominate the top of the Ligue 1 points scorers’ charts, with Vincent Enyeama (155 points) retaining top spot, closely followed by team-mates Simon Kjaer (140 points) and Sébastien Corchia (120 points). Sixth-placed Montpellier hold three players out of the next four in the list, with only Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu (110 points) sitting among the trio of Geoffrey Jourdren (120 points), Siaka Tiéné (110 points) and Abdelhamid El Kaoutari (100 points). There are, as you can see, plenty of huge points scorers already in France, with defensive players tending to come out on top. The highest rated attacking player is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who sits just behind El Kaoutari on 100 points as well.

In the Premier League, Man Utd’s 4-0 masterclass over QPR recorded Dutch coach Louis van Gaal’s first win at the Theatre of Dreams, while Chelsea continued to steamroller their opposition with a 4-2 win over Swansea, thanks in no small part to Diego Da Silva Costa’s first hat-trick in English football. That result means Costa sits at the top of the Premier League’s big points hitters, with 140 thanks to a fantastic seven goals from his first four games for his new club. The rest of the top five in the Premier League are basically Aston Villa’s defence, with keeper Brad Guzan (115 points) sitting just ahead of defenders Aly Cissokho (90 points), Philippe Senderos and Ashley Westwood, who have 85 points each. This is largely due to Villa’s standing in second place, having enjoyed an unbeaten start to the campaign where they rest just two points behind Chelsea having conceded only a single goal. Both north London sides battled out respective 2-2 draws, Arsenal at home to champions Man City and Spurs in the far away lands of the north-east at the home of Sunderland, who are still searching for their first league win of the season. Bottom club Newcastle suffered a torrid Saturday afternoon, making the long journey back to Tyneside having suffered a 4-0 loss at the hands of Southampton, whose star points scorer Morgan Schneiderlin (75 points) put in another fine display.

Crossing over to Germany, league leaders Bayer Leverkusen lost their 100% start to the season but maintained their unbeaten run by drawing 3-3 with Werder Bremen on Friday evening in a thrilling encounter. Second placed champions Bayern Munich stayed slightly ahead of Hannover 96, both clubs recording 2-0 home wins over VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV respectively. The big points can be found by scouting mid-table outfit 1. FC Koln, surprisingly. They boast the top five so far – while their attacking hasn’t been the most inspiring just yet, their defence has been great and is yet to concede a goal following the first three games. There are some fantastic points totals at the club, with goalkeeper Timo Horn currently leading the Bundesliga charts with 120 points, while defenders Kevin Wimmer, Jonas Hector and Dominic Maroh all have 90, just ahead of Miso Brecko on 85. In another arguably surprising statistic, the highest rated attacking player belongs to seventh place 1. FSV Mainz 05, whose midfielder Shinji Okazaki has 70 points thanks to three goals from the first three games.

In Spain, most games were fairly tight affairs, with no result coming out at a larger margin than two goals. The highest scorers were Valencia, who secured a 3-1 win over Espanyol and see them end the week in second place behind Barcelona, with Sevilla and champions Atletico Madrid breathing down their necks on the same total of seven league points. Atletico had arguably the best weekend of these sides, however, by beating city rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu thanks to goals from Tiago Mendes (20 points) and Arda Turan (also 20 points) coming either side of a Cristiano Ronaldo (40 points) penalty. No side in the top six of La Liga (Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Celta de Vigo and Granada CF) have lost yet, while Real Madrid presently sit 13th. It is certainly an unfamiliar shape to the competition so far, though whether this trend continues remains to be seen – these are, after all, still early days.

Finally, Serie A cooked up the biggest result of the weekend when Inter Milan thumped Sassuolo 7-0 to finish the week in fourth, with a hat-trick coming from striker Mauro Icardi (70 points). Dani Osvaldo, on loan from Premier League outfit Southampton, also hit a brace to take his tally to 60. Inter sit behind Milan, Juventus and Roma, who all won their games at the weekend. League leaders Milan had arguably the hardest job of putting away their opposition on Sunday afternoon, emerging 5-4 winners at Parma, though they didn’t even fall level after taking the lead. Two goals from Jérémy Menez took his season tally to three goals and 60 points so far. Second placed Juventus and third Roma won their games 2-0 at home to Udinese and 1-0 at Empoli respectively.

All in all, fans of European football had scarcely a moment to look away from the action this weekend, and let’s hope that is something that can continue for extended periods this season – it was a great weekend of football indeed.