How fun are midweek rotations! Couple of outs in round 17 and a couple of quiet games from big players that would have had FPL players tearing their hair out. Another tight one in some games, with half of the games seeing one goal or less. A few higher scorers got us to 21 goals in total though.
There were a couple of surprising results, with Liverpool and Arsenal dropping points against West Brom and West Ham respectively and Palace coming from behind to see off Watford. The current top four all got wins though, with Spurs victory taking them back into fourth spot after a mini slide recently. Burnley’s win the day before took them there momentarily and they sit outside the Champions League spots by virtue of goal difference alone.
Three way tie for best fantasy player in 17 – David Silva, Willian and Okazaki all scoring 16, the latter being the first Leicester player to hit top weekly honours this season. This round also saw three more players hit the 100 point mark in Silva, De Bruyne and Sterling, which is incredible given it’s all shared in the same side. At least two more could get there this weekend, with de Gea and Kane on 96 and Eriksen and Mahrez on 92.
The December festivities continue with round 18 kicking off Saturday night, so let’s have a look at the games ahead this weekend:
Man City v Tottenham (Game of the Week)
Big game this round sees first take on fourth. City still have that 11 point gap at the top, but Man United fans will be praying for a Spurs result here. The history would actually support it: 40 Premier League meetings have seen 23 Spurs wins to 11 City wins. In 20 City home games, Spurs have the advantage 10-7. The visitors are also unbeaten in their last four meetings with City (three wins one draw) and the Citizens’ last win came back in 2015.
City’s form this season has been superb though, and their only loss came in a dead rubber Champions League group game. Spurs started well and then faltered slightly before winning their last two convincingly. Both sides have been tight at the back, but City are scoring over a goal more per game on average. Tight game expected. Can I see Spurs handing the leaders their first loss of the season? Probably not, draw here.
The three City centurions in De Bruyne (10.2m), Silva (8.2m) and Sterling (8.3m) continue to be solid fantasy choices. The striker rotation means Aguero (11.6m) and Jesus (10.3m) are a bit further back score-wise. I’d like to say Sergio has to start this, but I said the same thing about the Manchester derby. Otamendi is on the pricey side for defenders at 6m, but he’s rewarded owners with four goals, seven clean sheets and 11 bonus points so far.
If Spurs are going to get something from this, odds on that one or both of Harry Kane (12.9m) and Son Heung-Min (8m) get on the scoresheet. Serge Aurier (5.9m) grabbed a goal in round 17 – his minutes have been patchy so far, but is this the start of a continued run in the PL side?
Leicester v Crystal Palace
Leicester, along with Everton, are the turnaround stores of the season so far. Languishing down the bottom of the table, a change in manager and a barnstorming charge up the ladder into the top half. This week’s visitors to the King Power will want to emulate that. For a brief moment in round 17, Palace escaped the bottom three, but other results saw them slip back to 18th on goal difference. It’s closer down there now, with just four points between 11th and 19th and only another two to 20th, bringing virtually ten sides into the relegation battle at the moment. So a win for Palace would be a chance to move up a few places and out of the dreaded drop zone.
The Eagles are unbeaten in six, the Foxes in five, with four straight wins. The head to head is even: four wins each from ten meetings, two home two away for either side. Leicester haven’t lost the last four though and that coupled with their current run and home draw, points in the direction of a Foxes victory.
A goal, or an assist with bonus points wold see Mahrez (8.5m) hit the 100-club this round, and his form of late has been deserving of that. Vardy (8.6m) has also been among the points in Leicester’s mini-revival. Cheaper versions of the pair exist in Albrighton (5.5m) and Okazaki (5.4m), but they are both a fair way back in points from the two standouts, so their form is less consistent.
Still no goals for Benteke, which is a waste of 7.6m in my opinion, so I’d still be looking at the Zahas (6.9m) and Loftus-Cheeks (4.6m) of this team as those among the points. McArthur (4.3m) and Sako (4.9m) got the goals last out, but their playing time is patchy making them more of a risk.
Arsenal v Newcastle
Newcastle’s dreadful form continued mid-week going down 1-0 to Everton. That’s one point from eight games and one above the drop zone. January, and the potential transfer funds to be sanctioned as part of a takeover bid, can’t come fast enough given a lot of the current squad don’t look up to Premier League standard. If no win in eight wasn’t bad enough, next up is a trip to Arsenal, against who the Magpies have just nine wins from 44 games and no point from the last five meetings. Not giving us any hope of turning the tide here, big Gunners win coming up
Kolasinac (6.2m) got a rest midweek and has been replaced by Monreal (5.7m) as Arsenal’s top scoring defender. Clean sheets a good chance here so they both are good choices. Goals for the Gunners likely to come from Sanchez (11.8m), Ozil (9.3m) and Lacazette (10.3m). Granit Xhaka has the tendency to pop up with the odd goal/assist but the infrequency of it is reflected in his 5.3m price tag.
Newcastle likely won’t keep a clean sheet here, so only real fantasy options sit in Matt Ritchie (5.7m) and Dwight Gayle (6.1m) on the off chance they sneak a consolation goal or two.
Brighton v Burnley
Another good win for Burnley midweek sees them sit outside the top four on goal difference alone as they continue to be the overachievers of the season. Brighton have had their moments this season, but one point from five has seen them slide down to 13th. Sean Dyche has his side set up well and they won a lot of games 1-0, a score I wouldn’t be surprised at here.
Can’t tell if the Glenn Murray (5.8m) party is over or if he just got a rest midweek, but Tomer Hemed (4.8m) got the start there, so it will be interesting to see who Hughton goes with on the weekend. Given star-man Gross (5.9m) also got a rest, I’m leaning towards him and Murray coming back into the side here.
Deputising for Tom Heaton, Nick Pope (4.7m) has been inspirational in the Clarets’ goal, his 14 games have seen him shut teams out on eight occasions and pick up 12 bonus points along the way. Only David de Gea has more points in terms of ‘keepers this season and he’s played three and a half more games. As an owner, I’m hoping Stephen Ward (5.2m) recovers from his knee injury last out to continue his strong form. The goals have been low in number and have come from a variety of sources, but Chris Wood (6.4m) my pick to finds the net, having done so four times already.
Chelsea v Southampton
Even without their top scorer, Chelsea beat Huddersfield 3-1 to keep themselves firmly third. Southampton were thrashed 4-1 at home to Leicester and now face a tough trip to Stamford Bridge, a place they’ve only won three times out of 18 (eight from 36 home and away). Even without Morata, I still expect Chelsea to take the points in this one.
Without Morata, I imagine Chelsea go with Hazard (10.9m) again over Batshuayi (8.1m). The reshuffle should also benefit Willian (6.6m) again after a good showing in 17. Azpilicueta and Alonso (both 6.9m) will look to continue to provide goals and assists from the back.
After a poor showing last time, it’s hard to pick any Saints players. Yoshida (4.8m) got the goal last time, assisted by Bertrand (5.4m) but there’s minimal chance of a clean sheet here, so the likes of Austin (6.2m) and Davis (5.1m) become your only options if they are to sneak a goal (which even then I wouldn’t bet on).
Stoke v West Ham
Big point for the Hammers last out, following a great win over Chelsea with a point at home to Arsenal. They’re still in the relegation places, but will look at the small gap in the bottom half as an incentive to get on a winning run. Stoke were Burnley’s latest victims, and they have just two points more than the visitors. These sides have met 16 times in the PL, with a draw the most prominent result (seven of them in total including the last two and four from the last five). Can’t look past another draw this weekend either.
Usual suspects for the Potters, Shaqiri (6.2m), Choupo-Moting (5.6m) and Diouf (5.6m) continue to pull away from the pack in Stoke’s fantasy ranks. West Ham’s poor start is reflected in not one score above 50 among them. Cresswell (5m) is the closest, but if the Hammers are going to start a run, I’d be wanting to see involvement from Antonio (7.4m) and Arnautovic (6.8m).
Watford v Huddersfield
Watford had a man sent off, before conceding two late goals to lose 2-1 at Palace in round 17. They’ll be disappointed to not take anything from the game, and with their recent run of form (just four points from their last five) but they remain in 9th position. Huddersfield were well-beaten by Chelsea and their only points in their last five were in the win over Brighton last weekend. No PL history between these two, but the home advantage and the fact they’ve been more prolific in front of goal screams Watford win to me.
Richarlison (6.6m) another one of my players doubtful – I’m hoping he passes fit given he can be a game changer when on form. Before the late game capitulation, Daryl Janmaat (4.8m) got the goal for the Hornets. He’s now started two in a row and could be a cheap shout, given his love of pushing on.
The Terriers were poor last time, although Depoitre (5.2m) did come off the bench to grab a consolation. I’m still backing Mounie (5.7m) to get a starting spot and live up to his transfer fee.
West Brom v Man United
United bounced back from the City defeat by getting the win over Bournemouth in round 17 leaving the City loss their only blemish from the last five league games. West Brom have only lost one of five as well, but the other four results were all draws compared to United’s victories. The latest draw keeps them just above Palace and outside the drop zone. 22 PL meetings between the two have only produced three Baggies’ wins, but it’s been honours even in the last five, with two wins each and a draw. United won’t want to lose any more ground on City, so I expect them to take this one comfortably.
Can’t see a clean sheet for the Baggies here, so avoid backline. Few doubtful across the mids as well so my only picks here would be Rondon (6m) or Robson-Kanu (4.9m) to maybe bag one.
Much has been made of Romelu Lukaku’s (11.3m) inability to trouble the big teams. What he does do well though is score against the lower down teams, case and point his winner last out. With Pogba still suspended, look to the likes of Rashford (7.6m) and Martial (8m) to be in the points, especially with Henrikh Mkhitaryan seemingly out the picture.
Bournemouth v Liverpool
Bournemouth went down to Man United last out and are without a win in their last five. Liverpool recorded a second draw in as many rounds as they failed to beat West Brom at home, but they are unbeaten in eight and with Burnley sit outside the top four on goal difference alone. With Bournemouth’s short stint in the top league, there’s limited history to go off though, with two Liverpool wins, a Cherries’ win and a draw from four PL matchups. The Cherries were unbeaten in the two games last season, but I reckon the Reds have this one in the bag.
Surman (4.8m) rested against United, but you’d assume he comes back in here. Defoe (7.6m) also relegated back to the bench after two goals the round prior, if he’s going to start I don’t mind his goal scoring prowess. Same players to get around for the Reds – Salah (10m) and Coutinho (9m) on fire. Firmino continues to prove his inconsistency so I’m continuing to avoid!
Everton v Swansea
A week (or two) certainly is a long time in football! Everton are now unbeaten in four and into the top half of the table. Swansea beat West Brom in round 16, but haven’t won otherwise in the last five and have replaced Palace at the foot of the table. A trip to Merseyside is unlikely to be fruitful for them, having only won once here in six attempts and only having beaten the Toffees twice in 12 PL meetings. Going with current form only leads to a home win here.
Another goal for Rooney (7.4m) and he’s closed the gap on Lukaku to just eight points, having been as far behind as 30 just four rounds ago – I’ll take my steak medium-rare Wenin! I also like Kenny (4.4m) at the back for the Toffees, he looks like he wants to push forward and I think he’ll add to his one assist before long. Sigurdsson (8m) also starting to show more glimpses. Might be time to turn to him.
Fabianski (4.6m) the top FPL option for the Swans, but I don’t see him shutting out the home side here. With not much else score-wise that pretty much leave Abraham (5.8m) and Bony (5.7m) again.
David Silva (8.2m) is the most sought after trade ahead of this round after tonning up in round 17. Rooney’s good form, coupled with a winnable home game, sees him second and at 7.4m he’s not bad value.
Riyad Mahrez (8.5m) is another with a chance of hitting 100 this weekend. Currently on 92, he’s third most popular trade this week. Two defenders round out the top five in Otamendi (6m) and Tarkowski (4.7m). Both are a little surprising, with a tough game for City and an away game for the Clarets.
Winnable games for Liverpool make the usual suspects of Salah (10m), Coutinho (9m) and Lukaku (11.3m) good options, especially with the latter’s reputation as a flat track bully, scoring well against the ‘weaker’ teams.
I’d also be looking at Vardy (8.6m) with a good home game for the Foxes. Other wild card options for me would be Shaqiri (6.2m) and Calvert-Lewin (5.3m).
A home game for the Gunners and poor form from Newcastle make Lacazette, Ozil and Sanchez good choices for the FPL armband this week.
Any of the trade options above would be good captain choices, standouts for me being Mahrez, Lukaku, Rooney and Salah.
Morata’s expected absence for Chelsea opens the door for potential big attacking scores for Hazard and Willian, so consider these two for captaincy also.
Bet of the Week
Liverpool’s draw last weekend ruined my bet, as did Huddersfield’s win over Brighton.
This week I’m backing a Leicester, Watford, Man U, Liverpool quad paying $7.
Hazard and Sanchez to score two or more pays $5.50 each or $30 in double and I’m backing at least one of them to.
Last week’s Moneyball tips saw Eriksen score a solid 27.40 while Mahrez also went well with 19.75.
This weekend, I’m going for Willian to keep making the most of Morata’s absence and Sanchez to punish the Magpies.