<
>

Fantasy EPL: Harry Kane off to strong start

Harry Kane of Tottenham should have a strong match against the weak defense of Newcastle. Sportimage/Imago/Icon Sportswire

Liverpool and Arsenal are the only Premier League teams to have won their first two games this season. They'll face off at Anfield on Saturday, in the highlight of Matchweek 3. The bookmakers have made Liverpool solid favorites, despite the relatively stiff opposition. However, the biggest favorites of the weekend are Manchester City, despite playing at Bournemouth on Sunday. Tottenham is not too far behind, hosting Newcastle on Sunday. It's with those sides where you should start when building your fantasy lineup this week.

Sergio Aguero has already scored two goals this season and Gabriel Jesus has one tally as well. The problem is that it's almost certain to be the case that only one of them will start against Bournemouth -- and whoever starts will probably be replaced by the other at a relatively early stage. Jesus started in Matchweek 1, but was replaced by Aguero in the 69th minute. Aguero started in Matchweek 2, but was replaced by Jesus in the 66th minute.

With Tottenham also having a relatively easy matchup (facing one of the four remaining teams without a point -- a team that just conceded three goals to newly promoted Norwich City last week), I'd rather go with Harry Kane as my Tier 1 forward, given he'll probably play the full 90 minutes, or close to it. Kane looked great in Tottenham's season-opening 3-1 victory over Aston Villa, scoring two goals and taking eight shots. You can throw last week's game against Manchester City out the window. Tottenham only had three shots, but most (if not all) teams are going to struggle to get shots against Man City this season.

The tougher call, for me at least, is at Tier 1 midfielder. It's very tempting to go with Raheem Sterling, who followed up his hat trick against West Ham in Matchweek 1 with another goal against Tottenham last week. Not only that, but Sterling has taken 10 total shots in two games. Still, I'm going with Mohamed Salah instead -- even though he's off to a relatively slow start, with only one goal and one assist.

I'm basing this decision on last season. There's a reason why Salah finished with nearly 100 more fantasy points than Sterling. He scored 22 goals (five more than Sterling), while taking 60 more shots. I'm not yet convinced that Arsenal is going to be dramatically better this season defensively just yet as their first two games were against Newcastle and Burnley.

All that said, I'm putting the captain's armband on Kane, not Salah. I think Kane is more likely to put up a big score, given the much weaker opponent.

Tier 2 talk

Sterling isn't the only player with four goals already this season. Teemu Pukki scored in Norwich City's 4-1 season-opening loss to Liverpool, and followed that up with a hat trick in a 3-1 win over Newcastle last week. No player has scored that many goals in his first two games since the Premier League launched in 1992.

This is no fluke. Pukki led England's second division with 29 goals in 43 games last season. It appears the 29-year-old from Finland is a late bloomer, but now clearly in his prime. Not only is Pukki level with Sterling on goals, but he's also matched him for the league lead in shots. Norwich City are underdogs this week, playing at Chelsea. However, Pukki scored and looked threatening throughout the game against Liverpool, and Chelsea have conceded five goals in their first two games. Pukki has simply looked too good to pass up on at Tier 2 forward this week.

There's not much to get excited about at Tier 2 midfielder, which is littered with players who have been pretty disappointing through the first two weeks of the season. Lucas Moura did score last week for Tottenham against Man City, but he didn't start. Plus, Tottenham's game against Newcastle is late on Sunday, so if Moura again doesn't start, your only alternative would be teammate Moussa Sissoko. I don't think Moura is worth waiting for.

Instead I'm going with James Maddison, who did pick up an assist in Leicester City's 1-1 draw with Chelsea last week. Maddison had seven goals and seven assists last season, while leading the league in chances created with 100. I think he could have a big game against newly promoted Sheffield United.

Other picks

  • John McGinn, Aston Villa (Tier 3 midfielder): McGinn scored a goal in Aston Villa's opener against Tottenham, and took six shots last week against Bournemouth. Villa lost both games, but they outplayed Bournemouth in terms of xG (expected goals). They'll be at home again this week against Everton.

  • Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City (Tier 1 defender): Laporte finished second behind Virgil van Dijk in fantasy points among defenders last season, and I think he has a good chance of besting Van Dijk this week. That's because Man City had 73.1% and 82.0% possession in their two games against Bournemouth last season. Laporte only played in one of those games, but he racked up 104 passes completed. Other Man City defenders put up huge passing numbers against Bournemouth as well.

  • Shane Duffy, Brighton (Tier 2 defender): Duffy has put up modest numbers through the first two weeks of the season, but he led the league in clearances last year while scoring five goals. He's very dangerous on set pieces. I'm going to stick with Duffy, given Brighton is at home against another of the four teams still without a point, Southampton.

  • Hugo Lloris, Tottenham (Goalkeeper): Tottenham is at home against Newcastle, who have scored only one goal combined in their two losses. Lloris had 12 clean sheets last season -- nine less than Alisson and eight less than Ederson -- but he played five fewer games. He actually averaged more fantasy points-per-game than either of them, due to saves. Lloris made 101 saves, 25 more than Alisson and 43 more than Ederson.