Fantasy EPL Player Picks Week 26: The Week Ahead

Will he play? - Marco Luzzani

Everything you need to know to prepare your fantasy Premier League line-up for Match Week 26 featuring double matches for Liverpool and Swansea

We're in that part of the season where cup competitions and the occasional weather-based cancellation are causing a couple of teams per week to have multiple matches. Given the timing of this particular double match, coming as it does so close after the end of the transfer window, makes some of the decisions rather difficult. Many fantasy managers will have spent slots on recent transfers who they now have at heavy discounts like Moussa Sissoko and Christopher Samba. Throw on some existing players like Yohan Cabaye, Wayne Rooney, Hugo Lloris, and Nemanja Vidic that many managers have picked up recently at discounts and you could consider yourself as having very few slots open for two-gamers. Oh yeah, most of us also have Santi Cazorla and/or Jan Vertonghen taking up a spot as long term keepers as well. On quick count that means that some managers might have as few as three slots left. The final complication is that Swansea, one of the two-match teams this weekend, has been slumping having been shut out in three of their last 4 Premier League matches. What to do with all of this?

My sense is that between Swansea's slump and their match-ups (home to recently-stingy QPR and at Liverpool) that you probably shouldn't invest much in their attack. I have kept the faith with Michu and still have him at 5.67 but at retail, I'd even question selecting him. Pablo Hernandez and Jonathan de Guzman have had their moments as well this season but neither have shown much consistency. Honestly, Ben Davies is the potential diamond in the rough over two matches. He has been averaging over 8 points/match over the last four which makes his price of 10.47 look pretty solid with two matches. I'd be equally likely to recommend Garhard Tremmel but it appears uncertain when exactly Michel Vorm will be back. If I were looking at those options against longer-term keepers like Cissoko/Cabaye/Rooney/et al I'd be more inclined to keep the guys likely to produce for me over the balance of the season.

Turning to Liverpool, there are definitely some more attractive options that might inspire you to drop some of your keepers. Here's a breakdown of Liverpool players and their suitability for selection:

  • Luis Suarez - The only reason you don't pull this trigger is if you can't afford it.
  • Daniel Sturridge - He missed out on the England match but he seems likely to be back for West Brom next Monday. Another one who is close to being a must-have.
  • Steven Gerrard - He's been in double digits for 7 of his last nine matches. The price is a little high but you need to find a way based on his recent form.
  • Jordan Henderson - To the naked eye, he's been playing much better recently but he's still only had two double digit fantasy matches in 17 appearances and only two more over five points so the fantasy value has yet to match his improved play on the field. I'd only go for him if you're really trying to make up ground on a rival and you have to start taking risks. If you think about multiple weeks of Cabaye at 9ish (vs. a mid-to-high teens retail price) vs. one double week of Henderson at about the same price plus whomever else you buy for the same price to replace Henderson next week I'd think Cabaye will quickly make up any deficit incurred over the two matches.
  • Stuart Downing - He's been playing which is good but he's had very few two-match combinations that equal up to his cost. There is also the chance that he gets rotated for Raheem Sterling or Philippe Coutinho. I'd stay away.
  • Raheem Sterling - Same deal as Downing. His team may be playing two matches but it seems unlikely that he will.
  • Philippe Coutinho - Another one that seems unlikely to start and play both matches. There is the bonus that he's been listed as a midfielder if you want to take a risk on a debut goal.
  • Lucas Leiva/Joe Allen - They're just not good fantasy players, stay away.
  • Jamie Carragher - He's cheap and he's been playing which is nice but given Liverpool's collapses/defensive errors against Arsenal and City you can't be certain about any of the center backs. A nice enabler if you want/need to take a risk.
  • Daniel Agger - Speaking of defensive errors. His price feels a little high unless you think that Liverpool are going to really tighten things up at the back.
  • Martin Skertl - He's been benched over the last few Premier League matches with no guarantee that he'll be back. Too expensive to take the risk with the uncertainty surrounding his role.
  • Jose Enrique - The definition of a tough call. The raw numbers - price = 9.42 + average points = 6.16 - makes this look like a slam dunk. Looking a little closer, Enrique scored more than 50% of his season total of points over 3 matches while he was pushed up farther in the formation. He's not likely to play higher up in the formation with all of the attacking reinforcements so I'm going to recommend you stay away.
  • Glen Johnson - If you have the money, Johnson is OK value but not great. I'd try to stretch the budget that you might have been spending on Enrique and push to Johnson.
  • Pepe Reina - He's been about as up and down as you can be. The story of his last 9 matches reads: -4.5, 18.5, -6.5, 22, 14, -4, out injured, 3 and then -3. If you look at that stretch and then his price (7.36) it is pretty apparent that there are only two two week stretches where he hasn't totaled significantly more than his price. Unless you have a long term keeper at this spot then you probably want to go in on Reina even though he's been making some bad errors.
So, there's the breakdown on the two-gamers. As usual, I'd load up on as many as you can but I can see the argument on retaining a few season keepers instead. Good luck making your decisions.
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