The schedule makers and Premier League skippers certainly don’t have fantasy managers in mind when they set the schedules or pick their teams, respectively. And they definitely don’t care one whiff about me. For GW14, I had Mohamed Salah as my captain (didn’t start for Liverpool) and Cesar Azpillicueta as my vice captain (not in squad for Chelsea). On top of that, Leroy Sane wasn’t in the Manchester City team, and Tammy Abraham wasn’t eligible to play against Chelsea.
For my Fantrax side, Eden Hazard made a brief appearance off the bench, Gaeton Bong didn’t play (injured by the unpunished boot of Romelu Lukaku?) and Philippe Coutinho wasn’t in Liverpool’s squad.
Thankfully Salah notched a late brace to save my Official team, but how many landmines can fantasy managers navigate? Oh, the pain.
Despite giving up a pair of scores to Burnley, Bournemouth has conceded only five times in its past eight games. Meanwhile, the Saints have scored only three times in five away games. Sound like a tantalizing combo?
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea v. Newcastle)
The Blues do not boast the airtight defense of last season, but you would not be wrong to have high hopes for a clean sheet since Newcastle has only scored four times away from St. James’ Park. I don’t usually like to pay premium for keepers, but if you’re in the mood, Manchester City’s Ederson is also a nice option.
Albion’s defense is not as stout as usual, but the Eagles haven’t scored away from home all season.
The Potters have one of the worst defenses in the league. Why pick Grant? Because they’re at home against the team with the most anemic offense. Ah yes, these are what budget picks are made of.
In a scenario similar to that of Grant, one of the worst defense in the league plays in front of Pickford, but Huddersfield is one of the most inept offenses. Plus, the game is at Goodison Park — only Crystal Palace has scored fewer away goals than the Terriers — so there’s a chance you’ll be rewarded. Of course, there’s also a chance the Toffees will continue to disappoint, so don’t get overly enthusiastic.
Cesar Azpillicueta and Victor Moses (Chelsea v. Newcastle)
After resting midweek, Azpi should be raring to go, whereas opposite wing man Marcos Alonso could earn a break. The Az-man has a great shot at a clean sheet as well as a goal or assist. Meanwhile, teammate Moses featured off the bench on Wednesday and may get the start over the weekend.
The midfielder classified as a defender looked bright against Tottenham and gets a chance at the clean sheet bonus against the Clarets who are not exactly an offensive powerhouse.
Charlie Daniels (Bournemouth v. Southampton)
Daniels has been chipping in with a few clean sheets recently and is always a good shout for offensive returns.
Kieran Gibbs (West Brom v. Crystal Palace)
Gibbs notched his first assist of the season against Newcastle, but don’t look at the offensive side in this case. Instead salivate at a strong chance for the clean sheet bonus.
Mason Holgate, Jonjoe Kenny, Cuco Martina and/or Ashley Williams (Everton v. Huddersfield)
Kenny is probably the safest bet to start. Injuries to Michael Keane and Leighton Baines have left things in flux, with Holgate and Martina shifting in along with Ashley Williams to take advantage, notching a clean sheet against West Ham midweek. If you’re looking for a budget option or two, take a gander at the Toffees. Just be sure to check team news as the deadline approaches.
Kyle Walker (Manchester City v. West Ham)
Good home defense? Check. Bad away offense? Check. Nice chance at a clean sheet plus offensive spoils? As Aaron Rodgers is wont to say, “discount double check!”
Pascal Groß (Brighton v. Liverpool)
Sure, Liverpool’s coming off a clean sheet, but the Reds have the worst away defense in the league, so Brighton’s star midfielder gets another chance to shine.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea v. Newcastle)
After a midweek respite, the Belgian dynamo will be chomping at the bit to terrorize the visiting Magpies.
Leroy Sane and David Silva (Manchester City v. West Ham)
Do you sense a theme here in midfield? Kevin De Bruyne and/or Raheem Sterling could be due a rest, while Sane and Silva should get back to action terrorizing the vulnerable Hammers’ defense in front of the home fans at the Etihad.
Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah (Liverpool at Brighton)
Salah has eight goals and an assist in his past six games, so, um, yeah, he’s kind of an automatic entry in Player Picks. If he isn’t in your fantasy team by now, maybe think about changing that already. As for Coutinho, see Hazard/Sane/Silva.
FYI: I would recommend Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri given the match-up at home against Swansea, but given his injury history and since he started both the weekend and midweek games, some rest could be in order.
Jermain Defoe (Bournemouth v. Southampton)
Defoe has been on the trainer’s table or on the bench recently, while Callum Wilson and Joshua King have been on the pitch, and scoring to boot. But after all of the fixture congestion, Defoe is a strong bet to get the start, and I certainly wouldn’t put it past him to score at home against the Saints.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City v. West Ham)
As always, it’s time for the pick-a-Manchester-City-forward fun! As the more rested of the dynamic Aguero/Jesus duo, the youngster likely grabs the start for this one.
Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen are slumping, but Harry Kane has scored in three straight games (including a Champions League tilt against Borussia Dortmund), so keep rolling with him. Mauricio Pochettino will be tempted to give the Tottenham talisman a rest, but given the team’s plight, can he afford to? Is the moon made of cream cheese? I’m not 100% positive, but I don’t think so. [Editor’s note: The moon is made of green cheese]
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool at Brighton)
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sturridge get the start with Roberto Firmino resting, and as we are all well aware, Liverpool boasts a dangerous offense, even on the road.
How are your fantasy teams faring through the fixture congestion? What players look good to you this weekend? Let us know in the comments!