Fantasy EPL: Steering clear of Sterling

The best matchup of Matchweek 2 in the Premier League is Manchester City vs. Tottenham, pitting last season's league champions against the fourth-place finishers and Champions League runners-up. Raheem Sterling is the very early leader in the Golden Boot race after his hat trick in Man City's 5-0 win at West Ham last week. However, I generally avoid games involving two of the "Big Six" clubs when it comes to fantasy.

The bookmakers do still have Man City as the second-biggest favorites of the weekend, but both league fixtures last season between these two teams finished as slim 1-0 Man City victories. Plus, Tottenham knocked out Man City in the Champions League quarterfinals. So, I'm planning to pass on Sterling this week and will instead stick with Mohamed Salah as my Tier 1 midfielder.

Salah got off to a good start last week as well, with a goal and an assist in Liverpool's 4-1 victory over Norwich City. Liverpool is a solid favorite this week, despite playing at Southampton, who lost their season opener at Burnley by a 3-0 score. It does concern me a bit that Salah played the full 120 minutes in Liverpool's UEFA Super Cup victory over Chelsea on Wednesday -- a game that finished 2-2 after extra time, before Liverpool went on to win on penalties. But, at least Salah looked lively. While he didn't score, he did take six shots. Of course, if Salah doesn't start on Saturday, you can still pivot to Sterling, since Man City plays later in the day.

Arsenal is actually the biggest favorite of the weekend, playing at home against Burnley. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal in their 1-0 win at Newcastle last week, and took four of his team's eight shots. Aubameyang shared the Golden Boot with Salah and Sadio Mane last year, and I think he's going to have another big season. He'll be my Tier 1 forward this week, but Salah will be my captain, since he's a much more well-rounded player. Salah had three more assists last season and more than twice as many chances created.

By the way, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford each got a brace last week, but I don't like their matchups this week. Kane is up against Man City, and away from home. Enough said. Rashford is also away, at Wolves, who were tied for the fifth-best defensive record in the league last season. Wolverhampton also posted a clean sheet in their season opener at Leicester City.

Brace yourself

Speaking of braces, Ashley Barnes also got one last week. In fact, he's the only Tier 2 forward who scored more than one goal in Matchweek 1. I like Barnes, coming off a very good season, with 12 goals scored. That said, I won't be picking him this week, with Burnley being heavy underdogs at Arsenal.

Bournemouth was rather disappointing in a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United last week. They're up against another newly promoted team this week, Aston Villa -- a side that just conceded 31 shots to Tottenham in their 3-1 season-opening defeat. I'm hoping for a Bournemouth bounce-back this week. Callum Wilson only took one shot against Sheffield, but he very nearly scored with it. He's also coming off an excellent season, with 14 goals and nine assists. I'm going to give Wilson another go at Tier 2 forward this week.

However, I don't want to double up on Bournemouth again, given their poor showing in Matchweek 1. Ryan Fraser was my Tier 2 midfielder last week, but he only took one shot and created just one chance against Sheffield. The Tier 2 midfielder with the highest fantasy score in Matchweek 1 was Pedro. He obviously didn't score in Chelsea's 4-0 loss to Manchester United, but he took four shots and had five chances created -- the most chances created of any player in the league. Pedro also looked good in the UEFA Super Cup against Liverpool, failing to score again but finishing with the exact same totals: four shots, five chances created. The problem is that he also played the full 120 minutes. Pedro is 32 years old, five years older than Salah. I wouldn't be surprised if Pedro is rested against Leicester City on Sunday.

Gylfi Sigurdsson took a team-high four shots in Everton's scoreless draw at Crystal Palace last week. Now Everton will be at home against Watford, who are coming off a 3-0 loss to Brighton. Sigurdsson had 13 goals and six assists last season, and was also was sixth in the league in chances created with 74. I'm going to roll with Sigurdsson in Matchweek 2.

Other picks

  • Emiliano Buendia, Norwich City (Tier 3 midfielder): Norwich was impressive in their opener, despite losing 4-1 at Liverpool. They managed 12 shots (five shots on target) at the home of the reigning European champions. Buendia had two of those shots on target, three chances created, and picked up the assist on Teemu Pukki's goal. He is Norwich's primary creator, and I think he could find more joy at home against Newcastle.

  • Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool (Tier 1 defender): Van Dijk scored one of Liverpool's four goals against Norwich, but that's far from the only reason he topped every other Tier 1 defender by at least 7.6 points. He was also second-best on his team with 50 passes completed, and had a team-high three clearances and five interceptions. Van Dijk finished fourth overall, and tops among defenders, in fantasy points last season.

  • Shane Duffy, Brighton (Tier 2 defender): Duffy put up a decent, though unspectacular fantasy score in Matchweek 1, but he did lead the league in clearances last season, along with scoring five goals. Brighton will be at home against a team that just conceded five goals in their opening game, West Ham.

  • Ederson, Manchester City (Goalkeeper): Nine goalkeepers kept a clean sheet in Matchweek 1, but I don't feel particularly confident about any goalkeeper this week, given the matchups. I would have picked Liverpool's Alisson, had he not gotten injured last week. Instead I'm going with Ederson, even though he's facing a tough opponent in Tottenham. Ederson was second in the league in clean sheets last season with 20, one behind Alisson. He also shut out Tottenham in both of their league matchups last year.