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Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 8 preview

We've made it through another international break, and the Premier League is back in business.

We're in for a special treat on Saturday, with all of the "Big Six" teams in action on the same day. Here are the top 10 things you need to know heading into Gameweek 8 from a fantasy perspective:

Mane, oh Mane: Liverpool vs. Manchester United is the delicious opening fixture of the weekend, but the home team will be without Sadio Mane. Liverpool confirmed on Tuesday that Mane suffered a hamstring injury while on international duty that could keep him out for up to six weeks.

I think Philippe Coutinho's fantasy value actually increases with Mane out, since Coutinho will likely move up from midfield to play in Liverpool's front three. The Brazilian scored Liverpool's only goal in a 1-1 draw with Newcastle last time out, had a goal and an assist in the previous fixture against Leicester City, and collected three bonus points in each of those games. But Manchester United is obviously a difficult opponent -- they've only given up two goals in seven league games -- and Liverpool play at Spurs next week. Wait on Coutinho until after the next two games.

More bad news: I was chomping at the bit to add Marouane Fellaini to my Fantasy Premier League squad after he scored two goals in Manchester United's 4-0 win over Crystal Palace in Gameweek 7. He's a goal threat, on one of the best teams in the league, and at only 4.9 million pounds he'd enable me to spend a lot of money elsewhere on my squad.

And then Fellaini went ahead and got injured playing for Belgium, and my plan went out the window.

There's better news on Romelu Lukaku and Phil Jones, however. Lukaku missed Belgium's first game of the break against Bosnia and Herzegovina due to an ankle injury, but was proclaimed 100 percent fit by Belgium manager Roberto Martinez for Tuesday's game against Cyprus (and came off the bench to score a goal). And it sounds like Jones will play against Liverpool, too. Lukaku has scored a league-high seven goals, and Jones has been among the best deals in FPL so far this season. With 41 points, Jones is tied for third among all defenders yet still only costs $5.2 million pounds.

Blue heaven: Manchester City, level with Manchester United on 19 points at the top of the league (and ahead on goal difference), host Stoke City on Saturday and are the biggest favorites of the week -- 85 percent to win, according to FiveThirtyEight's Soccer Power Index. So it's another week when Man City's attackers are very good choices, in both FPL and daily fantasy formats.

Kevin De Bruyne finally scored his first goal of the season in that thrilling 1-0 win at Chelsea last time out, but he remains too expensive in my book given his lack of goal-scoring form overall this season. Raheem Sterling has scored five goals, is tied for 12th in the league in shots (19) and only costs 7.9 million pounds in FPL. David Silva has a league-high six assists, double the amount De Bruyne has, and at 8.5 million pounds is 1.5 million less than De Bruyne.

As much as you'd like to play the Manchester City forwards this week, beware. There's talk that Sergio Aguero could be available, much earlier than most people anticipated, but will manager Pep Guardiola really rush him back so quickly after his car accident and rib injury? And Gabriel Jesus is in good form, scoring two goals in Brazil's 3-0 win over Chile on Tuesday, but he played the full 90 minutes and it's a long trip home and a very quick turnaround. Even if one or both start, the chances of them playing 90 minutes on Saturday are pretty slim.

By the way, you'd also be wise to bring a Manchester City defender into your team, given that they've posted four straight clean sheets, and their next two opponents after Stoke are Burnley (home) and West Brom (away). Nicolas Otamendi looks the best deal right now, with 39 FPL points -- only two behind Jones -- and costing just 5.7 million pounds.

More lopsidedness: Spurs host Bournemouth on Saturday and are the second-biggest favorites on the slate -- 81 percent to win, according to the SPI. Defenders Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier both made the Gameweek 7 Dream Team, with 16 and 14 FPL points respectively. Davies had a goal and an assist in the 4-0 win at Huddersfield. Trippier picked up assists on both of Harry Kane's goals.

In my last column, I mentioned that I had Davies on my FPL team but was considering moving on from him, concerned that he had been benched in Gameweek 5. Boy, am I glad I held off on that move. Not only did Davies have another outstanding game -- he's now tied for third in FPL points this season (49), behind only Aguero (52) and Lukaku (50) -- but manager Mauricio Pochettino called Davies "one of the best fullbacks in the league" after the game. I'm not nearly as worried about Davies' playing time anymore, although it is worth noting that Danny Rose has returned to training with the team.

It's a trickier situation with Trippier, because his starting spot is much less secure right now. Serge Aurier was suspended for the Huddersfield game due to a red card, but will be available on Saturday against Bournemouth. Let's see how the right-back situation plays out in the next few weeks between Trippier and Aurier.

And yes, Kane is on fire, with six goals in the past four league games. The only problem is his FPL price is 12.7 million pounds, nearly a million more than any other player. If you don't already have him in your squad, it's challenging to squeeze him in.

Poor Palace: It doesn't get any easier for winless, pointless Crystal Palace, who host Chelsea on Saturday. I doubt many of you are relying on Palace players in your FPL team. But just in case, Christian Benteke is still out, it sounds like Wilfried Zaha isn't ready to return either, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek is unavailable this week as well.

As for the defending champions, the big question mark right now is Alvaro Morata, who exited that loss to Manchester City late in the first half with a hamstring injury. He scored a hat trick the previous week against Stoke, and with six goals and two assists in seven league games was quickly becoming a fantasy darling. But it sounds unlikely he'll be available against Crystal Palace. Morata's been the most transferred out player in FPL, by far, heading into Gameweek 8.

In daily fantasy formats, Michy Batshuayi could be a bargain this week if he replaces Morata in the starting lineup -- although manager Antonio Conte doesn't appear to trust Batshuayi, given that he didn't come straight in for Morata against Man City. Batshuayi has scored a goal off the bench in each of Chelsea's Champions League games thus far, and he also scored one for Belgium during the break. He's only $7,800 on DraftKings this week, and it's a very favorable matchup: Palace have given up 17 goals, four more than any other team.

More intriguing: Arsenal's opponent this weekend, Watford, are a little tougher -- with 12 points, the Hornets are level with Liverpool, only one behind Arsenal and Chelsea, and two behind Spurs. They've actually picked up 10 of those points away from home, too, thanks to wins over Bournemouth, Southampton and Swansea, and a 2-2 draw with West Brom in Gameweek 7. But this one is at Vicarage Road.

I wouldn't add any Watford players to my FPL squad this week, given this matchup and that they also play at Chelsea next week. But Richarlison is a player to keep an eye on long-term -- he's now got 40 FPL points, after collecting his third goal and second assist of the season against West Brom. And he'll still only cost you 6.1 million pounds.

Arsenal, like Manchester City, have posted four clean sheets in a row. Nacho Monreal continues to be the best deal on the team at defender, racking up 15 FPL points last week. Monreal's first goal of the season was a nice bonus, but he's also now collected eight bonus points in the past four games (and still only costs 5.5 million pounds). It'll also be worth noting who replaces fellow defender Shkodran Mustafi in the starting lineup, after Mustafi was injured on international duty. If it's a cheaper player, like Rob Holding, there could be great value there.

Losing with Leicester: The Cinderella run to the Premier League title in 2015-16 feels like ancient history already, doesn't it? Leicester City have collected only five points from their first seven league games and sit in 17th place, only out of the relegation places on goal difference.

If you still have Riyad Mahrez in your FPL team, it's time to move on. Mahrez was dropped to the bench in favor of Demarai Gray in Gameweek 7, and only played 15 minutes in a scoreless draw at Bournemouth. Mahrez had three assists in the first two weeks of the season, but in the past five weeks he's picked up a grand total of nine FPL points. Yikes.

Jamie Vardy is still a solid FPL option, though, as a midpriced forward. He's bagged five goals in seven league games, and Leicester's next four games are against West Brom (home), Swansea (away), Everton (home) and Stoke (away).

Surprise, surprise: Can you name the one Premier League player who does not play for a Big Six side and has accumulated more than 40 FPL points through the first seven weeks of the season?

It's Burnley fullback Stephen Ward.

The Republic of Ireland international has 41 FPL points -- as many as Monreal, Jones and Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta -- and he'll only cost you 4.6 million pounds.

Ward has a goal and an assist, and is coming off a 12-point performance in a 1-0 win at Everton, a game in which he also collected three of his seven bonus points this season. The man's in form for club and country, also notching an assist in Ireland's recent win over Moldova. Burnley has three clean sheets, and four of their next five games are against West Ham (home), Newcastle (home), Southampton (away) and Swansea (home).

Pick up Ward, and just give him a rest against Manchester City in Gameweek 9.

Another sleeper: Stoke City's Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is listed as a midfielder in Fantasy Premier League, but he's being used more like a forward. More importantly, he's taken 24 shots through the first seven weeks of the season -- only Kane (44) and Lukaku (31) have taken more.

Choupo-Moting has only found the back of the net twice, but both goals came against Manchester United -- the only two goals scored against them all season. He also had an assist last time out in a 2-1 win over Southampton. For 5.6 million pounds? Not bad at all.

Facing Manchester City this week is a tall order. But after that comes a run of five games against Bournemouth (home), Watford (away), Leicester (home), Brighton (away) and Crystal Palace (away) -- very enticing.

One more for the road: Newcastle striker Joselu scored his second goal of the season in that 1-1 draw against Liverpool to wrap up Gameweek 7. That's two goals in six games, because he wasn't available for the season opener. And he didn't make his first start until Gameweek 3.

Joselu's tied for ninth in the league in shots (20), and fourth in shots on goal (11) behind only Kane, Lukaku and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah. And he'll only cost you 5.5 million pounds in FPL.

A matchup this week at Southampton isn't easy, but Newcastle's following three opponents are Crystal Palace (home), Burnley (away) and Bournemouth (home). If you're looking for a cheap forward with good short-term upside at least, Joselu's a good way to go.