The long wait is just about over. On Saturday, the 2014-15 Premier League season begins, and with it ESPN FC's fantasy game. Here is a preview of the 10 matches that run Saturday, Sunday, and Monday along with player values. Managers can check the announced lineups for Manchester United versus Swansea before the week locks.
Free to play: ESPN FC Premier League fantasy
- Fantasy: Sign up and challenge your friends
- How to play the game -- fantasy rules in full
- Johnson: Premier fantasy squad building
- Transfers: Who's in, who's out in the Premier League?
- Fantasy Forum: Discuss your team and tactics
- Premier League fantasy FAQ -- your questions answered
Saturday, Aug. 16
Manchester United vs. Swansea
A fast start is key for fantasy success, and a bundle of points seem possible in the opening game, with Wayne Rooney (9.4), Ashley Young (6.1), and Juan Mata (8.0) impressive during their undefeated summer schedule. Antonio Valencia (6.4) and Luke Shaw (6.6) are injured; new transfer Ander Herrera (6.2) has jelled well with his new teammates, but, lacking match fitness after an extended World Cup break, Robin van Persie (9.2) will not play.
Swansea's only legitimate fantasy threat is striker Wilfried Bony (7.4), so a clean sheet is possible for United's defence.
Leicester vs. Everton
Hometown support will be at fever pitch; however, reality will quickly set in on the Foxes' pitch if Everton's newly signed striker Romelu Lukaku (8.0) is fit after his post World Cup layoff. Last year's star right-back Seamus Coleman (7.0) is dealing with a hamstring injury; Tim Howard (6.2) in goal and Leighton Baines (7.8) make for fantasy fun in defence.
QPR vs. Hull
Harry Redknapp's QPR side have forward Loic Remy (7.7), who is an excellent striker, but for how long, and will he start? Defender Rio Ferdinand (5.4) and forward Bobby Zamora (4.9) are retreads. Hull have five "easy" games to begin the season. Tom Ince (5.5) is a fantasy gamble; Nikica Jelavic (6.0) and Robert Snodgrass (5.8) are more likely to score.
Stoke vs. Aston Villa
The Potters offer upgraded fantasy firepower with transfers Bojan Krkic (6.1) and Mame Diouf (5.7), while Peter Odemwingie (5.8) had a good World Cup with Nigeria. Villa are still without fantasy favorite Christian Benteke (7.3) but have a solid fantasy defender in Ron Vlaar (5.2) and goalkeeper Brad Guzan (5.4).
WBA vs. Sunderland
The Baggies have no fantasy player worth carrying, and were scored upon frequently in the summer. The Black Cats' miracle survival last season features nearly the same cast of characters: Adam Johnson's (6.5) fantasy output plummeted in the second half of the season, but forward Connor Wickham (5.4) was a revelation.
West Ham vs. Tottenham
Fantasy managers hope Big Sam's relegation-threatened Hammers will get production from newcomer Mauro Zarate (7.0), but new transfer Enner Valencia (6.2) is injured. Spurs have the better fantasy team with Christian Eriksen (6.8) and Erik Lamela (6.2).
Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace
Big fantasy points seem likely with Alexis Sanchez (9.0) making his league debut and Aaron Ramsey (9.2) fully fit. Arsenal overwhelmed Manchester City in the Community Shield and Ramsey scored along with Olivier Giroud (9.0) and Santi Cazorla (8.3). German stars Per Mertesacker (7.2), Mesut Ozil (7.9), and Lukas Podolski (7.0) may have limited roles as they lack fitness after their World Cup exploits.
The Eagles offer good fantasy value in Jason Puncheon (6.0), Mile Jedinak (5.3) and goalkeeper Julian Speroni (5.2).
Sunday, Aug. 17
Liverpool vs. Southampton
Life after Luis Suarez will likely feature far fewer fantasy points for the Reds' players. Daniel Sturridge's (9.5) hamstring is a question mark; Raheem Sterling (7.4) has been energized, but he and Philippe Coutinho (7.6) rarely last 90 minutes; John Flanagan (6.1) has a knee issue. Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard (9.0) returns with ugly memories of howlers for club and country. Southampton strikers Graziano Pelle (5.6) and newly acquired Shane Long (6.3) offer hope and good value.
Newcastle vs. Manchester City
Newcastle's Papiss Cisse (5.4) is out with a knee injury. This is the first of five challenging games for City, but major fantasy points are possible for Yaya Toure (10.0), Sergio Aguero (9.1), and David Silva (7.7). A clean sheet against the Magpies is likely, but will that be with Joe Hart (7.1) -- who was benched on Sunday -- in goal?
Monday, Aug. 18
Burnley vs. Chelsea
Strikers Danny Ings (5.2) and Sam Vokes (5.2) will try to prevent another yo-yo season for the promoted Clarets. One of the league favorites, Chelsea will debut Diego Costa (9.0), Filipe Luis (7.0) and feature Cesc Fabregas (8.4), who is back in England now. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (7.4) looks set to beat out Petr Cech (7.4), but the Blues defense looked porous this summer. Eden Hazard (9.4) offers fantasy potential but played poorly at the World Cup; Didier Drogba (6.0) faces a late fitness test and Ramires (6.5) is suspended.
Recommended captains: Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Yaya Toure and Eden Hazard