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Week 18 Player Picks

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After a 160 point Game Week 17, there is only one way to go – down. I remain optimistic, however, that Game Week 18 will be another successful week for me and many of my fellow fantasy managers, as we continue to overcome injuries and rotation risks…

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We all saw what having one player could do, as Charlie Austin manhandled West Browmich Albion by scoring 42 points - the season's second highest score after Sergio Aguero's 51 point haul against Tottenham. I am not certain that we are going to see a similar performance this Game Week, but there are some players certainly capable of scoring big, nonetheless. The biggest concern this game week is ROTATION, as Game Week 19 looms just 2 days away.

It is, however, entirely feasible (even more logical) that some managers will decide to rest their stars on Sunday/Monday or give rest based on match-ups. Arsenal, for example, plays Queens Park Rangers in what looks like a winnable match-up on Friday and a has a tough follow-up game against West Ham United on Sunday. Logically, Arsene Wenger should rest Alexis Sanchez for the QPR game. Likewise, Manchester City is at West Bromwich on Friday and home to Burnley on Sunday, so it would make sense if Manuel Pellegrini rests David Silva and Yaya Toure, and starts Jose Pozo and Frank Lampard against the Clarets. But these are entirely speculations and we should monitor tomorrows press conferences for further insight. My recommendation is twofold: (1) to have a "starting" bench and (2) to look at players from teams with "shorter" benches to make sure everyone starts rather than risk a "no show." So let's begin:

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Goalkeepers:

Costel Pantilimon home to a Hull team that scored 2 goals in their last 9 games, the Romanian is slightly expensive at retail, but if you grabbed him prior to his price going up, he is a good option this Game Week and is my #1 choice goalkeeper pick for Game Week 18.

Thibaut Courtois I am slightly concerned that the Belgian keeper may be rotated due to busy winter schedule but if you hold him below £8, he is a good option at home to the West Ham United team that averages close to 5 shots on goal per game, so you know there will be plenty of saves to make. I would suggest having bench cover, however.

Tim Howard the price of £4.75 is too good to overlook and should make the American the bargain choice at home to Stoke, but Everton defense has not kept a league clean sheet since November 1, 0-0 home stalemate with Swansea. I may just risk him

Łukasz Fabiański still relatively well priced at £8.59 and home to the Aston Villa team that is quickly picking up some steam, getting points in six of their last seven fixtures. If you have him cheap, then continue to hold. Otherwise, looks elsewhere.

Brad Jones tight on cash or feel like taking a punt? Then the Aussie keeper is your choice away to Burnley. With Simon Mignolet still out of favor and Liverpool looking to acquire a new keeper during the January transfer window, Jones should continue in goal and you could do much worse.

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Defenders:

Seamus Coleman - priced at £10.89, as low as he has been for a while, this is a good week for the Republic of Ireland right back to maraud down the sidelines and wreak havoc within Stoke defense. He is my premier defender pick of the week.

Jonny Evans - priced at £7.93 and home to Newcastle, Evans is the only "true" defender on the injury depleted Manchester United team.

Kyle Walker - cheap and playing away to the worst team in the league, Walker is worth considering.

Santiago Vergini - he is clumsy and will score an occasionally spectacular own goal, but priced at £7.75 and home against a Hull team, he should get plenty of opportunities for passes intercepted, tackles won and a chance of a Clean Sheet.

Kolo Toure with Dejan Lovren and Glen Johnson still sidelined, the Ivorian should retain his spot in the Liverpool defense. Priced at £5.81, he is a good bargain option.

Kyle Bartley got rested against Hull and should be back in the starting 11 against Aston Villa. Priced reasonably at £6.76, he is your cheapest way into the chance of a Swansea Clean Sheet.

Ryan Bertrand - I would not bring him in at full price, but if you hold him at discount, he is a no brainer against a Crystal Palace team having trouble scoring.

Martin Kelly - if you hold him at £1, start him but not before checking the team news on Thursday for possible rotation with Adrian Mariappa healthy and looking to pick up some playing time during the busy Christmas schedule.

Aaron Cresswell - just as with Bertrand and Kelly, if you hold him at £1, he should be in your starting 11.

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Midfielders:

Angel Di Maria - healthy and back in the line-up, Di Maria showed exactly what Manchester United missed with him sidelined, with 3 shots on target and 3 fouls won in 30 minutes. He should be in your starting 11.

David Silva / Yaya Toure both scored against Crystal Palace and should continue their fine offensive form against West Bromwich Albion. Start whichever one you have at discount. Toure, however, scored twice when the two teams met last December.

Raheem Sterling - scored in double digits against both Manchester United and Arsenal, clearly he should get on the coresheet against Burnley, right? Right?!

Cesc Fabregas most of us have him around £6 and at that price he should be "cemented" in your starting 11.

Gylfi Sigurdsson - rested with a minor discomfort against Hull, Sigurdsson will be back at home against Aston Villa and will be poised to make up for the time lost on the sidelines.

Christian Eriksen he has not been kind to me when I picked him this season, but away to Leicester City may just be the last straw for the Danish footballer in my fantasy team.

Adam Johnson - a streaky player who likes to score in spurts. I have a good feeling that he will continue his scoring at home against Hull.

Dusan Tadic - back from a minor injury and should go straight back into the starting 11. The question to be answered, however, is: did one week of rest help Tadic regain his mental and physical form?

Riyad Mahrez - it is only a matter of time until the Algerian international has another high scoring game and I have a premonition that this week at home against a defensively shaky Tottenham is a good week to consider him as a differential pick.

George Boyd we all saw flashes of a solid bench player during his time with Hull, but Boyd has been a consistent starter with Burnley and has produced some solid returns. He is another differential player at home to Liverpool.

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Forwards:

Wilfried Bony rested and ready to go, the Ivorian should be in your starting 11 this Game Week.

Radamel Falcao with Louis van Gaal urging his players to provide for the Colombian striker, it is tough to overlook Falcao at home against Newcastle.

Roberto Soldado / Harry Kane Soldado was rested against Burnley while Kane has been a staple in the Tottenham starting lineup. Both should start and will be expected to perform well when Tottenham travels to Leicester.

Olivier Giroud / Alexis Sanchez which one plays and which one gets rested? Ever since the Frenchman returned from injury, Alexis has been more of a "serviceman" rather than the "main act." I still find it unfathomable to drop him at £6.72, but my patience is slowly running out. I think Alexis will be rested for this one with a tough Sunday game against West Ham United on the horizon.

Steven Fletcher denied a goal by the woodwork and with Connor Wickham suspended, the Scott should again find his place in the Sunderland starting 11.

Mario Balotelli - back from a one game suspension, the Italian should find his way into the Liverpool's starting 11. Will he finally find the net against Burnley?

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My team at the moment is: Howard, Cresswell, Evans, Kelly, Di Maria, Eriksen, Johnson, Fabregas, Sterling, Falcao, Bony, with Sanchez, Okore, Blackett and Jones, on the bench. I may make some minor changes depending on Thursday's team news.

Is anyone still holding on to Austin? Also, who do you think gets rested this game week?

Sani.