Trying to predict what might happen during a Premier League weekend was never likely to end well.
Last week, we crunched the numbers and came up with a series of pointers for selecting your fantasy football team. We suggested it could be a rare weekend to avoid Manchester City’s attackers (they scored six), we said Watford never concede away (they scored on the road for the first time since January) and we pointed out that Harry Kane never scores in August (he scored in August).
On the plus side, we did say you might want to stick James Milner in your team and he proved us right by scoring against Crystal Palace.
So we’re not claiming we know what’s going to happen in the top flight this weekend, but we’ve looked into the stats to give you a few pointers on which teams – and players – you might expect to perform well.
Put your money on Sterling…
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola picked an unusual line-up against Huddersfield last weekend, leaving Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, and Kyle Walker on the bench.
“Pep has taken out all the guys with pace and got his footballers on,” said former Everton midfielder Leon Osman. “He’s gone for guys with quick feet who can operate in small spaces.”
Against a Huddersfield side penned back into their own half and intent mainly on containing, the tactic worked a treat, with David Silva starring and Sergio Aguero scoring a hat-trick.
City’s attacking riches mean it is almost impossible to predict who Guardiola might pick against Wolves on Saturday, but he does tend to look to Sterling when his side play away from home.
The England forward has been involved in seven of City’s past 18 goals on the road – three goals and four assists in seven games – more than any other player in that period.
Wolves played fluent attacking football under Nuno Espirito Santo in the Championship and will want to continue that against the champions.
That desire to attack – which will inevitably leave spaces to exploit – could make Sterling an attractive pick for Guardiola.
Expect goals in Bournemouth v Everton
At the risk of guaranteeing this game ends 0-0, there are always goals when Bournemouth play Everton. Literally.
The sides have met 10 times, with seven of those games in the Premier League era, and there has never been a 0-0 draw.
In fact, the past six meetings have produced 25 goals (11 for Bournemouth, 14 for Everton) at an average of more than four per game.
But which players to pick in your team? Bournemouth are in fine form, having won four consecutive Premier League matches for the first time dating back to last season, and striker Callum Wilson has been instrumental in that run, scoring in three straight top-flight games for the first time.
For Everton, £50m summer signing Richarlison is the man of the moment. He has scored three times in two games and he does love August – 50% (four out of eight) of his Premier League goals have come in that month.
Looking for a Vardy replacement?
Jamie Vardy’s red card for his over-enthusiastic challenge on Wolves’ Matt Doherty last weekend means the Leicester forward will miss the next three games.
That leaves manager Claude Puel looking at other attacking options. Nigeria forward Kelechi Iheanacho, who started the opening-day defeat at Manchester United and came off the bench against Wolves, may return to the side.
Iheanacho has a soft spot for playing Southampton, the Foxes’ opponents this weekend.
He has scored more times against Saints than any other side. His three goals in four appearances against them amounts to 20% of his career strikes in the Premier League.
A week to load up on Liverpool players
Liverpool have long since been a source of loads of fantasy football points, not least because of Mohamed Salah’s stunning form last season.
The stats suggest that is likely to continue this weekend, when they face a Brighton side who have lost on seven of their past nine trips to Anfield, and whose manager, Chris Hughton, has lost all five of his previous Premier League matches against Liverpool. He has also lost his last 12 away games against the “big six”, conceding 38 goals in the process.
It seems Liverpool’s attacking players absolutely love playing against the Seagulls. The Reds have won the past five meetings, scoring 20 goals – including nine in two Premier League meetings in 2017-18.
If they’re not already in your team, it might well be time to get Salah and Sadio Mane in there.
Chelsea have started the season impressively, putting in a dominant display to win 3-0 win at Huddersfield before coming out on top in a 3-2 thriller against Arsenal last weekend.
Those results, coupled with Newcastle picking up one point from their opening two games, contribute to Chelsea being heavy favourites for victory at St James’ Park.
But hold on a minute…
As ridiculous as it might seem, there appears to be something about Newcastle on their own patch on a Sunday.
The Magpies have played on that day at home three times in 2018, all of them extremely difficult fixtures: Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.
And guess what? Rafael Benitez’s side won them all.
Weirder still, Chelsea have played three away games on a Sunday in 2018 – and they lost them all, to Manchester United, Manchester City and Newcastle.
Meaningless? Probably. But food for thought? Maybe.