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Romelu Lukaku’s superb start at Manchester United has made him one of the Premier League’s hottest picks in Fantasy Football.
But the Belgian is still overshadowed by a bargain newcomer to the league as armchair managers shuffle their pack in response to the season’s opening games.
Summer recruit Ahmed Hegazi has helped West Brom start with back-to-back clean sheets and, having also scored the winner against Bournemouth as well as collecting five bonus points from a maximum six on offer, he is the joint-highest points scorer through the first two weeks in premierleague.com’s official fantasy league.
His initial price of £4.5million has already risen by £200,000 as, for the second week in succession, more than seven per cent of the game’s managers added him to their squads.
Press Association Sport has combined data on each player’s overall selection percentage with how his popularity is changing over time to produce a “heat score” – ranging from 100 to -100 – and Hegazi’s rapid rise to appear in 17.9 per cent of teams gives him a league-high score of 52.58.
Lukaku was starting from a significantly higher base, having been picked by almost half of managers from the outset.
But after he began with two goals and three bonus points on his United debut against West Ham, and then scored against Swansea in a second successive 4-0 win, the striker now appears in 56.4 per cent of squads and has a heat score of 27.76, seventh in the league.
United are understandably well represented in the list – Paul Pogba, level with Hegazi on 23 points, is fourth in the heat index with team-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan just behind him – and there may be no end in sight…
United’s relatively straightforward start on paper continues in their next three games, with Leicester at home and Stoke away before a slightly trickier test against an impressive Everton side fronted by ex-United striker Wayne Rooney – albeit at Old Trafford.
Simulations based on bookmakers’ odds average out to a projected points haul of 6.56 across those three games, the most in the league, while local rivals Manchester City also have a friendly run – trips to Bournemouth and Watford and a home game with Liverpool offer up an average of 6.43 points in the simulations. They then have Crystal Palace at home for good measure.
Harry Kane has been a high-priced disappointment in Tottenham’s first two games but they clock in third in terms of the easiest upcoming fixtures.
Everton’s players have held up well but their daunting start sees Chelsea and Spurs on the schedule before that trip to United – their 2.35 projected points in that run is the lowest in the Premier League, just behind Burnley.
Kane was the third-most popular initial selection behind Lukaku and Dele Alli, appearing in 34.2 per cent of squads – but two games without a goal, continuing his career-long record of not having scored a Premier League goal in the month of August, has seen him transferred out by four per cent of the game’s managers.
That has handed third place to United keeper David De Gea and leaves Kane with a heat score of -19.7, fifth-coldest in the league.
Crystal Palace’s injured winger Wilfried Zaha is chilliest of all at -48.4, followed by Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho as speculation continues of a move to Barcelona.
The injured Kieran Trippier and suspended Gary Cahill are the other names in the top five while some slightly surprising Bournemouth selections see Jermain Defoe and Charlie Daniels among the 10 coldest players.
WHERE ARE THE BARGAINS?
Huddersfield. Press Association Sport groups players by price brackets and, in the second-cheapest bracket at each position, the Terriers have the top-scoring goalkeeper (Jonas Lossl), defender (Christopher Schindler) and midfielder – Aaron Mooy, their match-winner against Newcastle last time out.
Hegazi is an obvious candidate, while if you want to save money up front, the £5.5m Shinji Okazaki has scored in back-to-back Leicester games and youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5m) is thriving alongside Rooney at Everton.