Though they have only four letters, people don’t mutter Bale, Kane and Alli under their breath. Instead, they cheer them on for goals, goals and more goals. And in the first matchdays of the 2016 Euros in France, the focus will be on this trio as one of the more wide-open editions of the continental tournament kicks off Friday.
Gareth Bale has brought Wales to its first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup, and manager Chris Coleman has successfully built on the foundation left by predecessor Gary Speed prior to his passing in 2012. Y Dreigiau finished second to Belgium in qualifying, but did take four of a possible six points in the two head-to-head matchups. Bale is supported by Aaron Ramsey and there is fellow championship pedigree in the midfield in the form of Leicester City midfielder Andy King.
England’s youthful side is in some ways mirrored by the club success of Tottenham Hotspur _ five players made the 23-man roster and all of them are 26 and younger. But the success of attacking tandem of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, with reinforcements in the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge among others will determine how far the Three Lions can go.
Host France is one of the favorites to win and also has plenty of firepower, but in this matchday, its defense is the focus because it provides cap space to add the aforementioned stars to your lineup. Additionally, with Switzerland playing newcomer Albania, it’s a chance for Granit Xhaka to start showing why Arsenal lavishly spent to acquire his services.
These picks cover the matches for June 10 and 11, using a 4-4-2 formation and salary cap of $90,000 as part of Fan XT’s Daily Fantasy rules for the EURO 2016 tournament.
Goalkeeper: Yann Sommer, Switzerland ($7,630). The only two clear-cut choices were Sommer and France keeper Hugo Lloris, but Sommer gets the nod here for both salary-cap flexibility as well as the advantage the Swiss have playing Euro newcomer Albania. The Borussia Monchengladbach keeper has already targeted the Premier League for a destination, and he has a great showcase to display his talents.
Defenders: Bacary Sagna ($7,440) and Patrice Evra ($7,130). Instead of picking Lloris, using a pair of veteran defenders from Les Bleus provides some much-needed salary cap flexibility, and they have home-field backing in the bid for clean sheet bonus points.
Johan Djourou, Switzerland ($7,220). Much like the selections of Sagna and Evra, Djourou provides an experienced presence on the back line at little cost. And given the opponent, Djourou should be able to push up occasionally on the attack and make himself a threat on corner kicks for the Swiss.
Peter Pekarik, Slovakia ($7,210). This is a bit of high-risk, low-reward pick since Pekarik will be defending the side where Gareth Bale loves to roam for Wales, but there should be opportunities for Slovakia to hit on the counter, and that’s where the Hertha Berlin back could show off his pace on the flank.
Midfielders: Dele Alli, England ($7,750). A key reason Tottenham Hotspur was able to contend for the Premier League title, the 20-year-old Alli has been tipped to be one of the breakout players of this tournament. His price tag makes him a good selection for the midfield since England has one of the best attacking teams at the Euros.
Valon Behrami, Switzerland ($7,190). After a solid season at Watford in the Premier League, Behrami is a calming influence in the Swiss midfield and in this instance, doubles as a value pick for cap flexibility. If Granit Xhaka is able to influence the match as coach Vladimir Petkovic expects, there may be chances for Behrami to push forward as well.
Gareth Bale, Wales ($12,000). There may be no one with more pressure to carry a team here than Bale as Wales is making its first European Championship appearance. He helped Real Madrid to its 11th Champions League title last month, and there is no mistaking he is star quality in all facets of the match. Bales’ success is going to be finding space in the channels he so often roams and making connections with midfielder Aaron Ramsey to find holes in Slovakia’s defense.
Granit Xhaka, Switzerland ($9,920). The Swiss midfielder caused the first stir of the transfer market last month when he moved from Borussia Monchengladbach to Arsenal for £30 million, and he has publicly said reaching the quarterfinals is a reasonable expectation for Switzerland. Xhaka, who has a silky touch on the ball and is quite the threat on set pieces, also will be highly motivated for this game on a personal level _ his brother Taulant plays for Albania.
Forwards: Harry Kane, England ($8,880). It’s an agonizing decision _ picking among Kane, Rooney, Vardy and Sturridge. This lineup makes Rooney too expensive, which leaves Kane, Vardy and Sturridge as choices. As good as Sturridge is, he’s always one hamstring injury away from disaster. That narrows it down to Kane or Vardy. Picking Vardy provides cap space to upgrade over Behrani in the midfield, but the Leicester City star has the world on his shoulders at the moment between being a newlywed and weighing a move to Arsenal. That leaves Kane, who won the Premier League’s Golden Boot with 25 goals and has shown that same form in England’s run-in to this tournament. He’s on the same wavelength with club teammate Alli, and his ability to score in multiple styles makes him the pick here.
Artem Dzyuba, Russia ($7,560). For all of England’s goal-scoring exploits, its defense remains a sore spot that can be exploited. And Dzyuba is just the man to do it. Despite being off the radar playing for Zenit in his home country, the towering striker finished third in Champions League scoring with six goals from just eight matches and netted eight goals in helping Russia qualify for the Euros. With all the question marks along England’s back line, especially in central defense, the 6-foot-5 Dzyuba is a low-cost pick who could yield high rewards.