Erling Haaland is back. And that means he is surely the subject of this week’s most popular fantasy football transfer.
If the Manchester City forward isn’t already back in your squad, this looks like the time for his return – unless Pep Guardiola indicates that he won’t play at Brentford in gameweek 23.
I was at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday to watch Haaland return against Burnley, after almost two months out with a foot injury. He had one wild air-shot, one attempt to play a team-mate in when it looked better to have had a strike himself and one far-post header well blocked by a defender.
Understandably he did look a little rusty as City won 3-1 – but it will be a risky Fantasy Premier League strategy to go without him given his team’s run of fixtures. They include a double gameweek 25 with home games against Chelsea and Brentford, when he will be an obvious candidate for the triple captain chip.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you should switch him in for Julian Alvarez, though. As Statman Dave was explaining to us in this week’s Fantasy 606 podcast, it may be better to have three City attackers in the coming weeks rather than going for any of their defenders.
Surprisingly, they have only managed one clean sheet in their past 11 Premier League games and there are plenty of defenders from other clubs who will offer you more potential attacking returns.
Keeping Alvarez, however, may give you the awkward dilemma of having to sell one of Ollie Watkins, Darwin Nunez or Dominic Solanke.
I wouldn’t sell Nunez despite his remarkable knack of striking the woodwork against Chelsea this week. He could have that double gameweek 25 on the way and, as Chris Sutton keeps telling us in the pod, he is definitely going to get a mega-haul in one game very soon.
Watkins has the better fixtures than Solanke over the next four or five gameweeks but it may come down to your budget as to who you sell if you’re looking to get those Manchester City and Liverpool attackers into your team for gameweek 25.
Gordon for captain or Pep roulette?
I’d be looking at a Manchester City attacker for the captaincy again this week. So once again, it’s the old game of Pep roulette as you have to decide who you think will get enough time on the pitch to do the most damage at Brentford on Monday.
Three other possible captains, though, would be Anthony Gordon for Newcastle’s home game against Luton – when he may well be playing up front after Alexander Isak went off injured at Villa Park on Tuesday – and one of Eberechi Eze or Michael Olise if they’re declared fit for Crystal Palace’s trip to Brighton.
As we’ve said before, Palace are definitely more potent when those two are able to play alongside each other, so see what Roy Hodgson can tell us about the chances of both starting that game.
Fixtures to target
The most difficult call this week is what to do if you own Arsenal and Liverpool defenders with the two teams meeting at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
I’d back both teams to score in that game but benching Gabriel or Trent Alexander-Arnold seems risky when both players offer attacking returns.
The risk is that you choose to start one instead of the other – and the player you leave on the bench delivers the points. For that reason, I’ll probably start both of them.
Don’t forget to check on Alexander-Arnold’s fitness before the selection deadline. But even if he’s a doubt, I still wouldn’t sign young Conor Bradley – despite his budget price of £4m and the superb job he’s done in his team-mate’s absence – because it’s just too much of a short-term play.
Eze and Olise can make the difference
If you’re looking for differentials, I’m going to steer you towards the Crystal Palace duo of Eze and Olise again as well as Pedro Neto who looked razor-sharp in Wolves’ 4-3 defeat by Manchester United on Thursday.
Rodri just creeps over the differential mark at 5.1% ownership but watching him score his fifth Premier League goal of the season against Burnley on Wednesday reminded me that at just £5.6m, he can be a useful way into that Manchester City midfield with the potential of the odd haul here or there.
Gamble of the week
I’ve got a feeling Richarlison will score for Tottenham against his former club Everton at Goodison Park – while Manchester United’s Rasmus Hojlund has now delivered back-to-back double digit scores with a home game against West Ham coming this week.
But I think the sensible gamble, if there is such a thing, is trying to win at Pep roulette by picking the correct Manchester City attacker as your captain.
Just to finish, if you’re a fan of the BBC TV show The Traitors then listen to the Fantasy 606 podcast this week, as Paul Gorton was our guest and took part in a slightly unusual type of banishment.
You can find the podcast by searching for ‘Fantasy 606’ on the BBC Sounds app, then just click subscribe.