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Week 18 Preview: 5 Questions

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What's the best thing about not having Charlie Austin's phenomenal 42pts last game week? Boxing Day is just around the corner, so bad decisions can be banished quickly as we look forward to the festive arrival of Week 18. What issues concern your team for the next coming week? Let's discuss!

Master of the "Mind Games" and bane of the fantasy manager!
Master of the "Mind Games" and bane of the fantasy manager!
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Question 1: How can we avoid rotation misery around the Festive Season fixture pile up?

Three words: Utilize. The. Bench. It is no secret that many managers will be looking to rotate their squads during the busy festive schedule as Premier League players are stretched to the limit with 3 games in 7 days. While the top teams have the squad depth to maneuver this time without too much fuss, many of the smaller sides, frankly, do not. This brings us to a unique time of year when picking the not so fashionable players from smaller teams can actually bring the best reward. It is always safe to assume one Mr. Jose Mourinho will break many fantasy manager's hearts given his rotation policy, so affording a bit more time to look over alternatives is certainly a strong move in the coming game weeks. Since we can only speculate on who will start versus who will be rotated, having a viable alternative will be crucial. This is not to say drop your discounted players, but an elevated bench (meaning not just 1mil alternatives) may be the best option for Weeks 18-20.

Question 2: Southampton - Season reviving win against Everton or flash in the pan?

After 4 straight losses to Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Burnley, 6 goals conceded and only 1 scored, the Saints finally broke out of their slump with an effecient 3-0 victory over Everton. The Saint's star forward, Italian international Graziano Pelle, also broke his scoring duck to notch in the much needed win. While Southampton didn't get the points against the likes of City, United, etc, they certainly didn't play poorly in those matches either. It will be interesting to see if they can build off their recent result and snag another 3pts away to Crystal Palace before another difficult run-in brings Chelsea, Arsenal, and @United in the next 3 matches. Southampton will need to be at their best if they hope for European football next season and probably find a few new recruits in the January transfer market.

Question 3: Where can Mario Balotelli fit into Brendan Rodger's new 3-4-3 formation?

Mario Balotelli was fit and available for Liverpool's crucial showdown with Arsenal at Anfield last week. However, because of his "Tweet-Gate", the young Italian foudn himself serving a one match suspension instead. Balotelli is now eligible for Liverpool's away clash with Burnley on Boxing Day, but should he slot straight back into the side? Given how fluid and impressive Sterling, Lallana, Coutinho, and most notably Lazar Markovic have looked in his absence, the answer should be no. If I were Brendan Rodgers, id be looking to utilize Mario from the bench as to not change the current hard working interchange between the fore-mentioned players. If Liverpool find themselves in a pinch, then a formation change to accomodate the Italian would probably be best.

Question 4: Chelsea are dominating, but is Diego Costa still undroppable?

Many of us fantasy managers have held Diego Costa at 5mil since Week 1 and were rewarded justly with major point returns up until his injury lay off. However, since his Week 14 suspension against Tottenham, Costa has returned a paltry 9pts, 7pts, and 4pts with 2 more YC's to go along with his single goal in his last 3. Chelsea's next match is home to West Ham, who have been increasingly impressive this season. While this fixture is a London Derby, I can't see the Hammer's topping Chelsea at Stamford Bridge so there's no need to panic sell yet. But if Diego Costa can't get back to his previous double digit returns, the question begs, how many more opportunities will you afford him in your fantasy squad?

Question 5: Which team can create an upset on Boxing Day?

With Leicester City v Tottenham, Manchester United v Newcastle, Arsenal v QPR, Chelsea v West Ham, West Brom v Man City and Burnley v Liverpool all on the cards for Boxing Day, one would imagine the historically top teams to take all 3pts for Week 18. But as we have seen, the Premier League is anything but predicatable and a few upsets will be on the cards. My first view is that Leicester City haven't played as poorly as their record suggests and could surprise a Spurs defense that still hasn't quite shut up shop home and away. Liverpool have had their own problems this season, namely in the set piece defending department, so look out for Kierran Trippier to be delighted to whip in crosses to the box. United have gone heavy in attack and scant in defense, although Old Trafford simply isn't the fortress is once was under Sir Alex Ferguson and Newcastle have a tendancy to play better with their backs to the wall. QPR's Charlie Austin is proving to be a fantastic goal scorer having already notched 11 in 15 this season. With Arsenal's utterly poor showing at Anfield, Austin owners will be hoping the prolific striker can add to QPR's survival hopes at the Emirates. So, which teams do you think will get the upset for Week 18?

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Remember that kick off for Boxing Day is Friday, Dec 26th, so have your team set accordingly. My current side looks like: Courtois, Debuchy, Walker, Bertrand, Eriksen, Di Maria, Sterling, Silva, Fabregas, Sanchez, Costa w/ Okore, Kelly, Altidore, Jones bringing up the bench. I am having to pay full price for many of the players in my squad and my bench isn't as strong as I'd like so I may be looking to swap out Debuchy to free up funds. Goal aside, it has yet to be seen if the Frenchman can be as prolific of a phantom point scorer in the central defensive role. I absolutely love my midfield so I doubt anything there will cahnge. Still a lot to think about. As an update as to where I stand points wise, I am on 1838pts for the season.

Cheers!