Weekend European preview – Man Utd legend returns, Madrid derby day

The fifth weekend of action since our new season kicked off will see emotions running high, as we have a legend turning out against his former club, a big derby and plenty of players raring to get back into domestic action following last weekend’s international break. Those international games saw players from across Europe kick off their respective Euro 2016 qualifying campaigns, a big replay from this summer’s World Cup final as Argentina were able to avenge their defeat to Germany in the biggest stage of the summer and Italy seemed to show that their Brazilian outing was an unfortunately timed blip as they saw off the challenge of third-placed Netherlands, who played under the guidance of new head coach Guus Hiddink following Louis van Gaal’s departure for Man Utd.

Looking first at France, who are the only nation playing the fifth round of fixtures having kicked off a week earlier than the Premier League. Bottom club Evian Thonon Gaillard look to add their first points of the season when Marseille arrive at Parc des Sports. To register those points will require a definite improvement in form from their defensive players, with goalkeeper Jesper Hansen having started all four games so far and resting presently on -30 points. Defenders Cédric Mongongu and Cédric Cambon are on -35 each, but have started only one and two games respectively, but should they participate it seems vital to keep their wits about them to counteract the attacking threat posed by the likes of Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, who has 55 points thanks to three goals from his four games so far.

League leaders Bordeaux, who are one of three unbeatean sides in the league so far and sit top due to three wins and a draw will be hoping that Diego Rolan (65 points) can maintain his solid start to the campaign when they travel to 18th placed Guingamp on Sunday. The hosts have scored only a single goal so far – that came in the 1-0 win at Lens mid-August, so Bordeaux’s defenders will hope they can keep their cool and stifle and attacking threat they are faced with. The host’s most prolific attacking points scorer so far has been striker Ladislas Douniama who has 25 – he scored that single goal, so Bordeaux will be unlikely to settle for anything other than a win in that one. Their fellow unbeaten sides, Paris Saint-Germain and Lille, take on Rennes away and Nantes at home respectively.

Across the channel to the Premier League now, former Man Utd stalwart Rio Ferdinand (15 points) returns to Old Trafford with new club QPR in what Reds boss Louis van Gaal will surely be looking at as an opportunity to claim their first competitive win of his reign in the north west. That is no disrespect to QPR, who looked good last time out against Sunderland, but these are games United traditionally look at as games they should be winning, and with new faces such as Radamel Falcao (40 points) and Daley Blind (0 points so far, no appearances) in the squad there does seem to be an air of freshness around the United team. Fellow new face Angel Di Maria (10 points) had his first taste of Premier League action in the 0-0 draw with Burnley before the break, and will be hoping he is now in a position to stamp some authority and kickstart the former champions’ campaign. New England captain Wayne Rooney (20 points) will also be hoping to celebrate his first game for United since taking the captain’s armband onto the field with the Three Lions, so look at a win for the Red Devils here.

In Germany, champions Bayern Munich do battle with VFB Stuttgart on Saturday afternoon with the home side hoping to keep up their early momentum and stay within touching distance of early season pace-setters Beyer Leverkusen, who are the only side in the league still to possess a 100% record. The campaign in Germany is only two games old though, and so a win here could see Munich climb into any position above them depending on other results. Pep Guardiola will be hoping that midfielder Arjen Robben (30 points) can provide some scoring opportunities for Robert Lewandowski (also 30 points), exposing the defensive frailties hinted at by their guests already. Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich is on -10 so far, but has only conceded three goals in the first two games, so that really could be a much worse record, and arguably looks worse on paper than in practice. However, Munich want to dominate the German game and will be going gung-ho to claim maximum points from this outing.

In La Liga, the biggest game of the weekend seems without doubt the big Madrid derby between hosts Real and guests Atletico on Saturday evening, and the visiting champions face their toughest task of the season so far. Neither squad has any players in negative points totals so far, though it could be argued that Atletico’s defence has outperformed Real’s attack so far. Home midfielders Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos – signed from Bayern Munich in the summer – have 30 points each so far, while striker Cristiano Ronaldo has 20. Atletico’s defending players, however, have higher totals – João Miranda De Souza is on 50, while goalkeeper Miguel Moya has 40. Other defenders in the squad, namely Cristian Ansaldi and Diego Godín are on 30 each. That looks clear cut on paper, but a game against Real at the Bernabeu is never going to be an easy trip for any team in the world, nor should it be assumed that points will be won. Hoped for, yes, but assumed – no. This one could go to a draw, or literally either alternative way – it’s tough to call, but perhaps plump for any attacking Real players you have to get things out of first gear.

Finally we move over to Serie A, where the league’s second games of the season mean there remains little to really be said about early season form, with Gianluigi Buffon, goalkeeper for reigning champions Juventus, sitting on 40 points alongside fellow custodians Daniele Padelli (Torino) and Orestis Karnezis of Udinese, among many others. That points total is also shared by Karnezis’ striking team-mate Antonio Di Natale, and indeed Juve take on Udinese in Turin on Saturday evening. Despite the fact Udinese have the top striker in the game based on the first week’s fixtures, Juventus will surely be looking to maintain their title defence following their opening day victory over Chievo, though Udinese scored one more than Juve on opening day in their 2-0 win over Empoli. This, like the Madrid derby, may go to a draw – but the safe money seems to go on a Juventus win, and so any fantasy managers with a Juve attacker in their squad may do well to stick them into their starting 11 ahead of this weekend’s game.

Ligue 1 – Bargain basement performers

Today we will begin a search looking at some of the players who have, perhaps, punched somewhat above their weight thus far this season. Just about every fantasy team going will have at least one “world-class” player in there, whether it be the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale as attacking players or someone like Manuel Neuer or Philipp Lahm in the defensive areas of the pitch, a vast majority of fantasy managers go for one or two high-value stars, choosing to go for a player who will surely win some serious points in exchange for a bigger hit on their initial budget. That, however, doesn’t always prove the case – the most expensive players often find themselves surrounded by some names of a considerably lower initial investment – and these are the players we will be taking a look at here.

We begin by focusing on the French Ligue 1 – that league kicked off a week earlier than its nearest counterpart, and so it seems that would be a good place to start. We will have a look at players across all areas of the field, so any fantasy managers out there who are struggling to pick up points from, perhaps, their midfield will be able to make a quick transfer for a potentially cheaper inclusion who has shown evidence that they can add some serious weight to overall totals.

As far as Ligue 1 goalkeepers goes, we have already mentioned Lille stopper Vincent Enyeama several times this season – but his €7.50m value, while not extortionate, can certainly be bettered by names very close to him in the overall points table. Admittedly, Enyeama is possibly not the best example to start off with as, at the time of writing, he is the biggest points winner in the game so far this season with 115 – and it would take a bit of a hit if you were to go for the nearest “cheap” alternative in this case. Maxime Dupe of FC Nantes and Rémy Vercoutre of Caen are the best alternatives at this stage, costing only €1.50m each, but they also each have 80 points – a tally which gives them both great standing as a lower cost alternative to the Nigerian keeper, but the 35 point hit could have been a big one to take so early in the season.

In defence, Enyeama’s Lille cohort Simon Kjaer leads the Ligue 1 rankings with 110 points, some way ahead of PSG’s David Luiz – presently the most included defender in the league – with 90. They would cost €8.50m each to include, though. Kjaer’s team-mate Marko Basa is a cheaper inclusion, costing only €3.50m, and has won just as many points as Luiz so far. Whether this continues to be a trend throughout the season remains to be seen of course, but that cool €5.00m saving could help towards another galactico in your side if that is the approach you opt for. Luiz’s team-mate at PSG, Marquinhos, is a snip at only €2.50m, and he has only five points less so far. Given the fact that he has featured consistently alongside Luiz for the French champions, he is certainly one to take a look at – 9% of managers already have him in their side, making him the second most owned defender from the French league.

For fantasy managers struggling to find a midfield maestro who can churn out the points, Stade Rennes star Paul-Georges Ntep leads the charts with 60 points, costing €4.50m in the process. This could arguably make him one of the best inclusions in midfield from Ligue 1 already, but surprisingly he is being chased by an even lower cost player in the guise of Olympique de Marseille’s Florian Thauvin, who is a full million less at €3.50m. For a slight point hit in exchange for a bit of budget, Montpellier HSC’s Morgan Sanson has also had a solid start to the campaign, notching up 45 points from his four starts so far.

Up front we have some big hitters, with PSG icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the way with 100 points. He costs a whopping €20.00m, but he is the highest points-scoring striker in the entire game so far, though admittedly players from other leagues have at least one game in hand on the Swede – but second placed Diego Da Silva Costa of Chelsea is 30 points behind, so there is definitely a bit of ground to make up. If you have a decent enough strikeforce already, however, and can somehow make do without the former Barcelona man, there is a much cheaper alternative in place of current runner-up Valentin Lavigne of FC Lorient. He matches Costa’s total of 70 points despite costing only €4.00m. Yes, that is a full 30 points difference to Ibrahimovic, but if your other strikers are turning out some points and you’d like to get some budget back for a player in another area of the field, Lavigne has kept pace with Ibrahimovic relatively well given the asking prices involved, and may be considered a viable alternative by some. Only five behind Lavigne, however, is Diego Rolan of FC Girondins de Bordeaux – and he is even cheaper at only €2.00m, with 65 points so far.

Next time we will switch this focus over to the English Premier League, where arguably some of the lowest cost players are already dominating the overall points charts.

Encouraging signs for England ahead of Euro 2016

England were able to get their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign off to a flier in Basel last night, beating Roy Hodgson’s old side Switzerland 2-0 thanks to a brace of goals from new Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck. The game was seen by many, on paper at least, as their toughest fixture on the road to France in two years’ time, and coming as their first game – especially on the back of their poor World Cup showing in the summer – had some fearing the worst.

Hodgson plumped for a diamond-style formation that seemed to pay dividends, especially for Liverpool starlet Raheem Sterling. The 19-year-old was arguably one of the few shining beacons of light in Brazil in June, and he continued that form at the top level by playing a part in both of the former Man Utd striker’s goals. Sterling has done well in the Euro Fantasy League competition so far this season, notching up 55 points from his three appearances. Those points came from two goals and an assist, and while the scoring side of things is yet to grace itself upon his international career he certainly proved himself capable of getting among the assists – this is sure to bode well for him as the domestic season progresses, with Liverpool keen to build on last season’s strong second placed finish.

Welbeck has not yet featured for new club Arsenal owing to this week’s international break (he joined on deadline day, Monday September 1st) and so his performance in the new surroundings of north London are yet to be seen, but he sent out a statement that he is ready to make a starting berth his own by snagging both goals. He hasn’t registered a point yet this season in our fantasy competition, but has only made two appearances as a sub for former club Man Utd thus far – surely his £16m price tag means he will get plenty of minutes on the field as a Gunner, so that figure will almost certainly rocket – especially considering his appearance for the Three Lions here.

Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph made his first start on the international stage following his sub appearance in the friendly against Norway a few days earlier, and he showed a definite passion for representing his country – though what could be interpreted as a struggle with discipline saw him pick up an early booking, so perhaps that will need to be curtailed if he is to continue making an impact on the international stage. He has snagged 20 points so far for the Villans, but at an asking price of only €5.50m in the fantasy competition he could well add plenty to that tally over the course of the next few months.

Welbeck’s former Red Devils team-mate Wayne Rooney was enjoying a first on the Swiss field too, as the game was his first as England’s full-time captain. The former Everton striker seemed to enjoy the new formation as much as Sterling, and was clearly not afraid to get stuck in and try to lead by example. His positioning was great throughout much of the game, but he has big shoes to fill in the form of ex-skipper Steven Gerrard, who retired following the aforementioned World Cup. He has 20 points to his name just like Delph, but at the considerably higher asking price of €12.50m. Much of this may be attributed to Man Utd’s stuttering start to the season, but if new manager Louis van Gaal is able to get his side playing like his Netherlands side did in the World Cup things will surely be thriving at Old Trafford before too long, so expect Rooney’s points-to-value ratio to go up over due course.

There were definitely encouraging signs for England fans, but there still seems some way to go before they can be considered serious contenders for international honours. They currently sit 20th in Fifa’s world rankings – well behind their hosts’ standing at ninth – but it may prove to be the case that the journey will consist largely of experience. If that is the difference maker, then perhaps by 2016 – or the Russian World Cup in 2018 – the St. George flag can be raised just as it did back in 1966.

Why Rickie Lambert is Plan B for England

As England prepare to face their toughest game of Euro 2016 qualifying, away to Switzerland, it will also be the time when Roy Hodgson will need to show the watching country that he knows his Plan B.

Recent England games have seen a toothless attack, yet the structure of Daniel Sturridge up front, supported by 3 attacking players behind him, has been the favoured choice for Hodgson. Sterling placed on the right of the three, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Welbeck on the left, and Rooney as a number 10.

However, England are without recognised striker Daniel Sturridge for the trip to Basel, meaning a shake-up will be necessary, and there are not too many choices for the national manager to choose between.

There has been talk of playing skipper Wayne Rooney up front in the number 9 role, however it has been years since the Man Utd striker has been a consistent danger in front of goal, and his seeming lack of speed would make for a slower attack than with Sturridge. It would enable Sterling to play in the number 10 role, however at a time when all eyes are on Rooney, it wouldn’t limey be doing him any favours to bring attention to his diminishing danger in front of goal.

Danny Welbeck has been touted as a player who should get a run up front for club or country. His £16m move to Arsenal has had a mixed reaction amongst Gunners fans, with the more favourable saying he will be a great success if he is played as a striker. Welbeck has never scored more than nine goals in a season, playing for one of the top clubs in the country, and there is far from any guarantee that he would provide an adequate replacement for Sturridge, even if his pace would help him link up play better than Rooney.

Finally, it is seemingly unlikely that Hodgson will go for Liverpool’s second choice to Sturridge, Rickie Lambert, but this is at least a striker-for-striker plan B. Lambert got into double figures in his only two Premier League seasons, in a fast moving and free-flowing Southampton side, with a style of play Hodgson seems very unfamiliar with. But with Rooney passing the ball through just as Lallana did last term, and Sterling with the ability to beat a man on the wing and place the ball on the head of Lambert, Plan B could well be Rickie Lambert.

He can hold up the ball better than his competitors for the spot, and for those that like Welbeck’s pace, would allow him to play on the left and feed off Lambert, replacing Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been unimpressive so far this season. The show of confidence in Lambert could make him a key man in the qualification round, and importantly provide a genuine second style of attack during Euro 2016, something that was sorely missed in Brazil 2014.

Are England under-performing? Fantasy football stats give the answer

England produced another lacklustre and underwhelming display against Norway on Wednesday, in front of the smallest Wembley Stadium crowd for an England game since 1998. But within these performances, is it the case that the players are under performing, or is it more that they are replicating their level, but just on the international scene the opposition is stronger? We sought to examine the reason behind these performances, by examining England players in their first few games of the season, compared to their international colleagues for other countries.

Let’s start in goal, with Joe Hart, who after all gained a clean sheet, albeit against a less than dangerous Norway attack. The Man City stopper ranks amongst the top ‘keepers this term in the Premier League, in fifth position, with Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski surprisingly topping the list, followed by Brad Guzan and Hugo Lloris.

At right-back Jon Stones got the call up having impressed with Everton last season, but his fantasy football rating from his first outings is very poor, at -5, although he only made one appearance for his club side. Club colleague Leighton Baines meanwhile stands at -30, thanks in no small part to the 6-3 thrashing Chelsea gave them. Phil Jagielka, who didn’t start for England, is on -35, and needless to say the defence does not compare well to other international defenders.

Phil Jones has 25 points from his appearances in a troubled Man Utd side, something that is commendable, but places him as the 35th best performing defender in the Premier League, while Gary Cahill is on 20 points, in 57th in the table of Premier League defenders. The defence therefore, we can tell immediately, doesn’t pull up any trees at international level, so far this season anyway.

Into midfield Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling have had rave reviews – Sterling in fact has picked up 55 points, making him the second best performing midfielder in the league, while Henderson is not far behind in 21st. Nathan Dyer tops the charts, while Nacer Chadli and Morgan Schneiderlin also appear in the top five.

Elsewhere in midfield, Jack Wilshere has struggled for form in the recent past, and the attention is on him to improve if he is to keep his place in the Gunners side. And in fact from 2 starts, Wilshere is on -5 points, needless to say, one of the worst performers in the league. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has also not impressed, scoring 0 points. These two Arsenal influences potentially giving an indication as to the reason behind the struggles creating chances.

Up front Daniel Sturridge is getting used to life without Suarez, and has scored 20 points, making him around the 12th top striker in the league, with Diego Costa topping the charts, and a surprise inclusion for Steven Naismith too. Wayne Rooney has the same score, despite being part of a toothless United attack this term.

Potentially these ratings tell us that England are lacking quality players – the defence is relatively weak, the midfield a mixed bunch, and up front, adequate but not top level. The strikers represent the team as a whole, on 20 points. Being 12th best in the league means there are plenty better, and if England are to win against top teams, quite simply they will need the quality of player to improve.


Deadline day moves trigger Fantasy Football switches

The transfer window slammed shut on leagues around the continent on Monday evening, and with some big deals coming along – as well as some surprising ones – we have many players in our Euro Fantasy League game who will be hoping to add to their existing tallies whilst wearing the shirts of a new club. Premier League outfit Man Utd seemed undoubtedly one of the busiest clubs, if not by way of quantity of players signed then certainly by way of engineering some big moves in the final days of the window, and capped it all off with a massive coup by signing Monaco striker Radamel Falcao on loan for the rest of the season. That was one of just several big deals that went through, however, so let’s take a quick look and see how these players may fare in their new surroundings.

We will start off with Falcao, as that was generally considered one of the biggest deals in Europe to go through on deadline day. The deal was confirmed just a few hours after the window itself shut, and the Colombian will be plying his trade in the Premier League after a fair few links to the league in recent years. The likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea have long since been reported as admirers, but new United boss Louis van Gaal was able to finally take the 28-year-old to English shores by way of a fairly big-money loan deal, which could be made permanent pending a further transaction in the region of some €45.00m in the summer according to some sources.

Falcao already has 40 points under his belt from his first three appearances of the season for parent club Monaco, though only one of those came as a starter, with two sub appearances. He also missed their 1-1 draw with Lille at the weekend, which sparked much speculation that he was on the move – and so it came to pass. He finds himself joining an already strong forward line, with new England captain Wayne Rooney featuring alongside Netherlands international Robin van Persie and Spaniard Juan Mata, with Belgian Adnan Januzaj another regular face at the heart of the Red Devils’ attack. There are plenty of quality attacking options now available to van Gaal, with Falcao’s arrival making those options look more and more daunting for opponents.

One man who will not be vying for a place among that group is Danny Welbeck, who completed a deadline-day £16m move from Old Trafford to Arsenal. Welbeck was said to be being courted by three Premier League clubs, with two looking at a permanent move and one – thought to be Sunderland – looking for a loan deal. The England international ultimately moved to north London to join Arsene Wenger’s side, and will link up with the likes of Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo and former Barcelona star Alexis Sánchez in the competition for a starting berth, with Olivier Giroud presently sidelined.

Welbeck has only managed two appearances as a sub for United so far, and does not have any points to his name just yet – but at £16m he will certainly get his chances in the Gunners’ first team, and with a supply line provided by the likes of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain it seems unlikely that the former Everton loanee will not make his mark this season and warrant an inclusion in our fantasy managers’ teams. Only 1% of managers have him in their squads, but at a value of only €6.50m in our game that figure will likely rise as the season progresses.

Another name not in contention for a place in the Man Utd front line is Mexican star Javier Hernandez, who also left the north west on deadline day, swapping Old Trafford for the Bernabeu as he completed a season-long loan deal to Real Madrid. Much like Welbeck, Hernandez has found opportunities at the Reds limited thus far under van Gaal’s tutelage, and with European champions Real interested it is unsurprising that the 26-year-old would take the opportunity. He hasn’t managed to register a single point in our competition yet, but – much like former team-mate Welbeck – that figure will likely rise, especially with Gareth Bale getting balls in from one wing and Cristiano Ronaldo from the other. Given time he will likely settle in well at the club, so this could be a move that proves a good one for all parties concerned – Real have conducted a cracking bit of business there.


Weekend review – Serie A kicks off while PSG cruise in France

The fourth weekend of league competition is now in the history books, and we saw some great football around the continent between Friday evening and Sunday night, with some fine results and vintage displays on show as some sides really managed to stamp their authority over their opponents and, in some cases, sent out a statement of intent to their league rivals too. There were one or two results that fans of the respective clubs will have been delighted with too, so with that quick summary done let’s get right down into reviewing the action.

In France, champions Paris Saint-Germain were one of the aforementioned clubs to show just what they can do with a sizzling 5-0 thumping of St. Etienne – star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic hit a superb hat-trick to take his points tally for the season so far to 100, with five goals from his first three appearances. He sits just behind team-mate Salvatore Sirigu in both club stakes and league-wide totals, with the keeper having earned himself 110. They sit third and fourth respectively out of the whole league, just behind Lille pair Simon Kjaer and Vincent Enyeama, who have 110 and 115 respectively, pitting them right at the top of the Ligue 1 overall table thus far. Lille, however, did not have quite as much fun as PSG this weekend, with their 1-1 draw at last season’s runners-up Monaco representing the first goal they have leaked all season, but as this was their second draw from four – coupled with two wins – they sit fourth in the Ligue 1 table proper at this stage, so it has really been a fantastic start for them.

Monaco, however, were without striker Radamel Falcao, and at the time of writing the Colombian looks to be on the verge of completing a season-long loan move to English outfit Man Utd. The Red Devils had another lackluster showing on Saturday, and could only manage a goalless draw with Premier League newboys Burnley. While this is great news for any fantasy manager who happens to have any of United’s defensive players in their squad, it means new Reds boss Louis van Gaal is still seeking his first competitive win in English football. Their city rivals Man City, the current champions, fell to a surprising 1-0 defeat at home to Stoke, managed by former City player and manager Mark Hughes. Potters striker Mame Biram Diouf scored the decisive goal, and gets himself up to the 15 point mark. City’s title rivals – and another of Hughes’ former clubs – Chelsea recorded an emphatic 6-3 win at Everton, with Diego Costa striking very early and very late (1 min and 90 mins respectively) to bag another brace for his new club and take himself up to 70 points – a bit of a bargain considering his €8.50m asking price in the game! Debuting Everton striker Samuel Eto’o managed to mark his first Toffees appearance with a headed goal against his old club too.

Over in Germany, the Bundesliga watched the unusual spectacle on Sunday of two games without a single goal – so Sunday was very definitely a good one for any fantasy managers with goalkeepers or defenders from 1. FSV Mainz 05, Hannover 96, Sport-Club Freiburg or Borussia Mönchengladbach. In contrast, not a single game on Saturday’s round of fixtures ended goalless, and indeed every game featured at least two goals. The biggest result saw Bayer Leverkusen triumph at home against Hertha Berlin 4-2, with Leverkusen defender Tin Jedvaj scoring an own goal to put the guests in front before making amends in the second half by scoring the equaliser. Champions Bayern Munich could only manage a 1-1 draw at FC Schalke 04, with defender Benedikt Höwedes getting himself up to 10 points by putting Schalke in front before new signing Robert Lewandowski scored to take his tally to 30. 1. FC Köln goalkeeper Timo Horn presently sits at the top of the Bundesliga fantasy points charts with 80, as he saw his side take a 2-0 win and three points from the home of VfB Stuttgart.

In La Liga action, Real Sociedad were able to claim arguably one of the biggest scalps of the weekend as they saw off the visit of Real Madrid by way of a 4-2 scoreline. Sergio Ramos (35 points) and Gareth Bale (30 points) gave the Galacticos a 2-0 lead before a fantastic recovery saw goals from Iñigo Martínez (15 points), David Zurutuza (two goals, 45 points) and former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela (20 points). The defeat sees Real sit 10th after the second game of the Spanish season, but right up at the top, with two wins from the first two games are Barcelona. Last season’s runners-up haven’t conceded a goal yet which bodes well for the inclusion of their players at the back, while they have scored four, meaning it’s a pretty win-win situation for any managers that have plumped for any Barca regulars in their side. They took a 1-0 win from Villareal, with the single striker being scored by teenager Sandro Ramirez, who got his name onto the scoresheet for the first time as a Barcelona player, taking his points total to 20 so far.

We finish off our round-up in Italy, with Serie A finally getting underway with its first round of fixtures this weekend. This means that a present the Italian totals are likely to be far lower, and it was a disastrous debut for Inter Milan defender Nemanja Vidic, who joined from Man Utd in the summer. He may have 15 points, which doesn’t seem too bad after just one game, but he conceded a penalty before being red carded. As far as on-field debuts go, this was far from the best. The penalty he conceded was not converted, however, as Inter played out a 0-0 draw at Torino. Neighbours AC Milan had a better time of things, notching up a 3-1 win over Lazio thanks to goals from Keisuke Honda, former Inter midfielder Sulley Muntari and Jérémy Menez, who now all sit on 20 points each. The solitary striker from Lazio came in the form of an own goal by Milan defender Alex.

We now have our full fix of fixtures from all five nations, so things will surely be getting busy from here on out. With some players surely expected to raise their early season performances (and, of course, fantasy points totals) there will certainly be many a twist and turn in the coming months, and as usual there will almost definitely be one or two surprises in the top player lists moving forward. For this week, however, Lille stopper Vincent Enyeama remains on the top of the pile with 115 points.