When it comes to getting 11 fantasy players on the pitch from the start the Christmas program it is always a minefield. With niggling injuries, managers trying to keep players fresh and sharp for the toughest games and players distracted with family duties can make it oh so difficult.
Week 18 is a full Boxing Day program but crucially certain teams line up again on the 28th December. While it most likely a factor for week 19 it will be in manager's minds to plan for the fixtures together.
Leicester City/Manchester City get an extra day playing on the 29th while Sunderland and Liverpool don't play until the 30th. These fours sides could approach the fixture period as they would a regular BPL game with a European fixture in the middle. After the loss at the Gunners city face that tricky away game at Leicester therefore they may most be likely to rest players for the whole/party of the Sunderland game.
A pick based on price alone. He should make more saves than against Sunderland but it will be a long 90 minutes to get the clean sheet.
Manchester United look feeble in attack, are in the worst period of form in the last two years and look very low on confidence. Stoke meanwhile are in fine form even including the home defeat by Palace and have looked solid in defence. It often happens in these dark period that your old player comes back to haunt you and Shawcross offers you a great chance of a clean sheet, with maybe a goal from an early set piece for a player closing in on England consideration.
Back in form and playing higher up the pitch than many other Chelsea players he is bar far the pick of the Chelsea defence.
If you are a brave manager you can find a bargain in Fantrax here. With the managers tendency to rotate full backs the much more attractive pick Alexander Kolarov is a under danger of a rest. Clichy is a real gamble and a contradiction when I started by banging on about trying to get 11 safe starters but costing under 2 in Fantrax is potentially the bargain of week 18.
While his team has found it tough since moving to the no10 role Veretout has been a consistent fantasy player in the Fantrax format at least. Certain to get his value back and based on scores of 15, 13, 5 and 13pts he will double it.
With a couple of games in the first team he is starting to settle. He got forward plenty against Swansea without the end results. To me he looks the type of player that has a 20+ point game in him. His pace, power and direct approach will cause the Villa back line problems.
Bundle of energy and involved in much of the Cherries good play, Ritchie is more effective at home. He is due a goal and in what will be one of the best holiday game atmospheres, he is a great pick.
You all know I love recommending this player. For Fantrax his last 6 scores are 11, 12, 31, 10, 13 and 14. He will love the space in behind the Bournemouth full backs and those of you holding him at a lower price would be foolish to sell. A real star fantasy player right now.
Simply unaffordable in Fantrax but a must in the Official game and maybe the same in Togga.
Mesut Ozil/Aaron Ramsey
Ozil is in fantastic form and able to make it look easy. Ozil is too expensive in Fantrax at retail but an obvious Togga option. Ramsey is now fully match fit and playing in his best role one of the few goal scoring runners from midfield to replace Frank Lampard/Steven Gerrard.
Coutinho is still to prove himself a consistent threat but when he is hot he is red hot. With Daniel Sturridge injured he is the main man for pool and will shoot on site.
Kevin De Bruyne
The most likely to play the most minutes over the holidays of the city attack. A must have for me.
I like the way Pelligrini is handling the young player. Sterling clearly has an attitude but is being taught at this stage he is no 1st name on the team sheet and competition for places could see his failure to develop leave him out of the team. Well rested having only played 45 mins against Arsenal, he plays better in home fixtures at this stage of his career and can rack up the phantoms minimum.
Looking sharper once more after returning from injury he is overdue a goal. Spurs are a very young but very strong looking side at the moment.
Pure gut pick. Since being linked to a January move to Manchester United he has got off the boil big time. The saints though gave spurs a battering in the opening 25 mins last week and on a different day could have been clear at half time. It's a banana skin game for the Gunners after their fantastic win over City. If the Saints score I think Mane is the man with the goal/s.
Super bargain price and we know pen taker. Watford cramped defence will deny him space and time but at his price worth a risk.
The Red Devils problems are such that even the defending that has been so solid looked to have be dragged down in level last week. Stoke meanwhile racked up over 24 attempts in the game against Palace and will surely fancy their chances of putting one more nail in LVG's coffin. The little man is finding his fitness/form and hold pen duties.
At his current price in Fantrax I'd leave but in the Official game he looks a great pick up even for this tougher looking game. He looks the durable type and with Watford not blessed with options to me he seem unlikely to be rested over the holidays. If Jemain Defoe had his shooting boot on in week 17 Chelsea would have been under real pressure late in that game. The Chelsea defence looked unconvincing and based on his showing against pool they are going to have real problems handling Ighalo.
If fit, the pace and movement of Vardy looks a real problem for the Liverpool centre backs who are lacking authority.
Assuming he starts a great fixture. I am going to say he does start this one but only gets an hour or so again. With Kun he could have a hatty by then.
His knock/ankle twist last at the Saints worries. Assuming we get the all clear you have to consider him once more. One of the few players in the Premier League that can go over 30 points any given week.
Chasing down Vardy's record he should have chances in this one. I don't like that he isn't scoring points other than his goals but on form and facing a Newcastle defence far from water tight he has to be recommended strongly.
Theo Walcott/Olivier Giroud
Theo hasn't lost his acceleration with all his injuries and combined with the intelligent play he has learnt, Walcott is one of the most feared attackers in the league. Facing his old club and with the Arsenal injury list a certain starter in this one. Meanwhile Giroud continues to prove people wrong and he may have pen duties now.
So there you have it. I know some of you prefer I listed just a set of 11 or so players but as always I prefer to try and give you a field of options for us to discuss.