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Week 21 Fantasy Premier League Player Picks

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Following FA Cup action this weekend, the Premier League returns for a set of midweek fixtures. Here's who we're looking at to lead the way to fantasy success.

Back to his best? Wayne Rooney kicked off 2016 with a bang.
Back to his best? Wayne Rooney kicked off 2016 with a bang.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Week 21 Fixture List

Tuesday, January 12

Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace

AFC Bournemouth v. West Ham United

Newcastle v. Manchester United

Wednesday, January 13

Stoke City v. Norwich City

Southampton v. Watford FC

Manchester City v. Everton

Chelsea v. West Bromwich Albion

Swansea City v. Sunderland

Liverpool v. Arsenal

Tottenham Hotspur v. Leicester City

Best bets for 2+ goals: Man City, Chelsea, Stoke, Tottenham, Arsenal

Best bets for a clean sheet: Stoke, Chelsea, Palace, West Ham, Man United

Goalkeepers

Jack Butland - Stoke continue to impress on both sides of the pitch, and Butland will be eager to rejoin Petr Cech atop the clean sheet charts this season with the home match against Norwich.

Thibaut Courtois - Chelsea have seen a renaissance of form since the sacking of Jose Mourinho, and the Belgian's return has seen the back line much more confident in their duties. Another clean sheet could be on the cards against West Brom.

Wayne Hennessey - Aston Villa have not won a game for more than 100 days, and are the clear whipping boys of the Premier League this season, while the Eagles of Crystal Palace have been very impressive. While the match will be away from Selhurst Park, Hennessey should fancy his chances of recording a seventh clean sheet of the season on Tuesday.

Adrian - West Ham have been a tough team to figure this season, but are beginning to see their injured stars returning to action. Angelo Ogbonna has helped solidify central defense and Winston Reid will be returning soon, so things are looking up for the Hammers. A trip to face the Cherries will be a challenge, but Adrian is a great shot-stopper, so he should have the opportunity to record save points even without a clean sheet.

For the brave: Brad Guzan - You really have to believe things will turn around for Villa at some point, and why not this week at home against a Crystal Palace side missing the majority of their attacking threats through injury? It would admittedly take a brave, brave soul to do so, but if you're feeling cheeky there aren't many more daring choices.

Defenders

Cesar Azpilicueta - Hiddink appears to prefer Azpilicueta to Baba Rahman for the starting job, so it should be safe to assume the Spaniard will start against West Brom. His fantasy returns since the managerial change have been excellent, as well.

Erik Pieters - The attacking threat down the Stoke left side has been exceptional this season with Pieters combining well with Marko Arnautovic. Pieters' overlapping runs should cause plenty of problems for the Canaries, and I like his chances of chipping in with an assist to go along with a potential clean sheet.

Scott Dann - The former Blackburn Rovers defender has been a wonderful addition to the Eagles backline and carries a goal threat from set pieces to add even more value in a match against Aston Villa.

Aaron Cresswell - As you can probably tell by now, I'm focusing on defenders who can deliver both defensive and attacking returns. West Ham's left back is another who fits the bill, and he's got a good chance of producing good points again on the road against Bournemouth.

Chris Smalling - The Red Devils have been blasted for their lack of exciting attacking football this season, but they have been consistently solid in defense. Smalling is the most assured of starting and has been the best of the United rear guard this season. A match away to Newcastle won't be easy, but will offer Smalling plenty of chances to rack up the points.

Angel Rangel - Since Garry Monk was sacked, Rangel has been restored to the Swansea starting lineup ahead of Kyle Naughton. He represents a nice bargain if you think the Welsh club will return to winning ways against the Black Cats.

For the bold: Adam Smith - You can't be faulted for not noticing, but Smith has been one of the best under-the-radar defenders in the league since nailing down the right back role for Bournemouth. The upcoming fixture list is kind and the Cherries are strengthening their attack with the additions of Juan Iturbe and Benik Afobe, so he should have more targets to aim for with his crosses.

Midfielders

Since everybody seems to have one or both of Riyad Mahrez and Mesut Ozil, I'm going to bypass writing about them this week in favor of highlighting some other options. Both are still excellent options and there's no reason to drop either if you have them.

Willian - Chelsea's best player this season, the Brazilian continues to deliver excellent fantasy returns pretty much every week. His quality from set pieces is fantastic, and the Baggies tend to give away quite a few fouls.

Kevin De Bruyne - With Yaya Toure sulking and David Silva not his usual self, KDB looks like the best attacking option for the Citizens as they try to exact revenge on the Everton side that defeated them in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final last week.

Yohan Cabaye - It was painfully obvious how much the Eagles missed their star man in midfield against Chelsea. Expect Crystal Palace to be a changed side against Aston Villa with Cabaye back in the starting lineup.

Xherdan Shaqiri - While the aforementioned Arnautovic has been in the best form, we've seen little flashes of brilliance from his winger counterpart throughout the season. With an attack-minded left side on offer for Norwich, expect Shaqiri to find space to create some excellent opportunities.

Dusan Tadic - Well, my Sadio Mane recommendation didn't work out too well thanks to his decision to ignore team rules, so let's give Tadic a try. Ronald Koeman hasn't always started the Serbian this season, but with Mane in the doghouse I like his chances of getting another go in the first 11. He's also on penalty duty while he's on the pitch, so there's an added bonus to picking him this week.

Gylfi Sigurdsson - While Swansea have been disappointing since their strong start to the season, there has been a resurgence of form for the Icelandic midfielder of late, with Alan Curtis fielding him high up the pitch. Expect him to be heavily involved in the attacking play for the Swans against an inconsistent Sunderland squad.

For the adventurous: Dimitri Payet - One of the breakout fantasy stars of the season until an ankle injury sidelined him, Payet is back in action for West Ham and immediately improves their chances of success. However, after such a long time out, it's unlikely he'll last anywhere near the full 90 against Bournemouth.

Forwards

Sergio Aguero - The best striker in the Premier League is back in form and back in the goals. If you can manage to bring him into your side, he's nearly impossible to ignore...as long as he's fit, he should be a consideration.

Diego Costa - Based on last week's evidence, it looks like the 2015 half of the current campaign happened in Bizarro World. Costa is back on form as well in 2016 and has already scored four times with Hiddink in charge. Don't bet against that number increasing against the Baggies.

Wayne Rooney - Another striker who had an atrocious first half of the season, Rooney got back on track to begin 2016 with a wonderful goal. The England man has an exceptional record against Newcastle and, given he's prone to going on goalscoring streaks, may just punish the Magpies yet again.

Harry Kane - Kane scored a late penalty to force a replay against Leicester in the FA Cup on Sunday, and will face the same opponents in the Premier League on Wednesday. Kane did come on as a substitute late in the match, so he'll be mostly fresh and ready to go from the start.

Olivier Giroud - I'd be remiss not to make mention of at least one player from the league leaders this week, and for Arsenal coverage I'm looking at Giroud. Liverpool has been decimated by hamstring injuries and barely have enough senior center backs to start, let alone make the bench. Giroud's aerial prowess, combined with Liverpool's set piece deficiencies, makes him a great option to get on the score sheet this weekend.

Odion Ighalo - Southampton should have Fraser Forster back in goal soon, but for one more week at least will be without their number one keeper. The Hornets are a dangerous attacking side and the Saints have had trouble keeping clean sheets this season, so 2015's leading scorer in top flight English football will have a good chance at opening his account for 2016.

For the daring: Shinji Okazaki - With Jamie Vardy missing for a few weeks after undergoing minor groin surgery, Claudio Ranieri will need to rely on other strikers to lead the line. He turned to Leonardo Ulloa for the FA Cup match against Spurs, but it was substitute Okazaki who scored the goal that nearly gave the Foxes the victory. I expect him to get a run out from the start this time around.

What are your thoughts on these picks? Have I missed any that you're considering for your team? Why are they in your thoughts? Share with everyone in the comments and let's get the conversation started!