Team news & predicted starting line-ups for Arsenal v Liverpool
Arguably the biggest match of the first Premier League weekend of the season sees Arsenal take on Liverpool on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium.
Both teams have a lot of injuries going into this game and it is not quite the heavyweight clash of old, with neither club having won the Premier League for more than a decade.
Jürgen Klopp and Arsène Wenger may wish they had more time to prepare their squads for this game but the match is coming up fast – here’s everything fantasy football fans need to know.
Philippe Coutinho is the key man for the visitors and he will operate in the hole, with his partnership with compatriot Firmino likely to be key to Liverpool’s chances of success this year.
The signing of Xhaka brings a high-class defensive midfielder to Arsenal and this should give them an extra layer of protection for the back four, which will be particularly vital until their latest injury crisis eases, with a range of more creative options available to Wenger alongside the Swiss star.
Xhaka is a threat with long-distance shooting too, but his disciplinary record may well be off-putting for a lot of daily fantasy football players, as he was sent off three times in the Bundesliga in 2015/16, although he did improve his discipline in the second half of the campaign.
Arsenal fantasy player to watch
Last season was the making of Héctor Bellerín, with the right-back enhancing his reputation as one of the best young defenders in the game, and he will be vital to Arsenal again this season.
The 21-year-old, reportedly a target for Barcelona who need to replace Dani Alves, collected six assists and contributed to 18 clean sheets by the Gunners during the course of the last campaign.
Bellerín is likely to be even better this time out and his raids down the right wing are going to be a key factor in Arsenal’s attacking play this season, with Özil looking to thread through-balls into his path when he charges down the wing.
Liverpool’s weakness at left-back – the defensively-suspect Alberto Moreno is likely to get the nod for Sunday’s game – means this could be the vital opportunity to select Bellerín in a fantasy team.
Arsenal team news
Arsenal always seem to have an injury crisis and the start of the new Premier League season is no different, with the situation complicated by the fact many players joined pre-season late due to their participation at Euro 2016.
Laurent Koscielny has not played any minutes in pre-season but may be pressed into action as both Gabriel and Per Mertesacker are out, leaving Calum Chambers and Rob Holding – who have a combined age of 41 – as alternative options, while 18-year-old Krystian Bielik has filled in too.
Wenger is not expected to select Giroud so Theo Walcott could start up front, with Santi Cazorla officially ruled out by the manager. However, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Arsenal’s major summer signing Granit Xhaka could all start despite featuring at Euro 2016 this summer.
Both managers are likely to start with their teams in a 4-2-3-1 formation for this game, which means there is a chance they could cancel each out due to having such similar tactics on show.
Predicted Arsenal starting line-up
Liverpool fantasy player to watch
Firmino had a brilliant second-half of the season, seeming to thrive under the leadership of Klopp, and with Sturridge yet again consigned to the treatment room he could play up front this season.
The Brazil international is versatile enough to play in any one of the attacking positions and if Klopp does not want to turn to the out-of-favour Christian Benteke – who is likely to leave Anfield before the end of the transfer window – Firmino appears to be the most obvious alternative.
This provides clear upside for daily fantasy football players due to the fact that he is usually defined as a midfielder in games, so if he plays up front this is a fine opportunity for extra points.
A return of 10 goals and eight assists was a fine campaign for Firmino last time out, but he will be hoping to improve on that record this season, especially against an Arsenal side that will have a patched-up defence on show at the Emirates Stadium.
Liverpool team news
For Liverpool, Klopp has a few selection problems too. The injury-plagued Daniel Sturridge is again out, so Roberto Firmino may be asked to fill in as a false nine. A foot injury is expected to keep vice-captain James Milner on the sidelines, with new goalkeeper Loris Karius out too.
Mamadou Sakho, Lucas Leiva and Joe Gomez are not available for this game and another summer arrival, Joël Matip, is not likely to feature against Arsenal either.
However, Icelandic international centre-back Ragnar Klavan is in line to make his debut in this game, as is Georginio Wijnaldum, who cost £25 million to sign from Newcastle United. A further £30 million was splashed on signing Sadio Mané from Southampton, who is likely to start.
Predicted starting line-up for Liverpool
It’s the first heavyweight clash of the 2016/17 English Premier League season – who will come out on top?