Given the imbalance in the quantity (and quality) of fixtures between Saturday (good!) and Sunday (less good!), we’re consolidating this weekend’s live chats.
Make no mistake, we’ve entered the rapid-fire festive period. The fixtures and game weeks are coming at us at a relentless pace. Stay calm, cool and collected (and above all informed!), and you’ll do better than most.
Let us go then, you and I, to look at this weekend’s fixtures:
All eyes will be on a rested Eden Hazard playing against a free-falling Newcastle squad. Whether in Togga or Official or pretty much any fantasy game, Hazard is a must have this weekend. Cesar Azpilicueta will also return and should be on your defensive team sheet. I can’t recommend any Newcastle player except defensive midfielder Mikel Merino in the Togga format for his ability to pick up mucho phantom stats.
For those of us expecting a Liverpool romp, we could be in for a rude surprise. Brighton are very solid defensively, so I just don’t see a 3+ golazo fest coming from Mohamed Salah and company. Having said that, I am attracted by Liverpool defenders as smart differential plays. For the Seagulls, I’d bench the defenders just in case, but would be fine starting Pascal Gross or Anthony Knockaert as long as I’m free of expectations of a massive return.
Sam Allardyce! We don’t have a clear read on what Big Sam’s starting XI will look like, but I’m liking the prospects for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jordan Pickford in particular. Huddersfield is starting to be found out, shipping goals while struggling to score. If Steve Mounie starts, he’s always worth a gamble in Togga because of his uncanny ability to pick up “aerial duel won” points. Otherwise, run (don’t walk) away from Huddersfield players. I think Everton is about to turn the corner.
This one should be a really good game, and one worth tracking for fantasy purposes. The expectation is that Riyad Mahrez will have room to create plays and that Jamie Vardy will have a few opportunities to score. Marc Albrighton has been given a new role as a roving forward alongside Vardy, so he is also an interesting gamble. I’d also be happy running out Harry Maguire and Kasper Schmeichel in pretty much any format. The same goes for Burnley players like Robbie Brady, Chris Wood, the Fantastic Four defenders and, of course, Nick Pope (aka: the Divinity of the Young Pope).
Two managers on the hottest of hot seats. A team that can’t defend (Stoke) against a team that can’t score (Swansea). I’m not at all interested in this game for fantasy purposes, but life could be worse if I had to start Lukasz Fabianski, Xherdan Shaqiri or Kurt Zouma (in Togga).
Read my blurb on Stoke/Swansea and do the opposite. Bench the keepers, load up on the fullbacks, creative midfielders and forwards. I’d feel confident relying on any of Kiko Femenia, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Christian Kabasele and Richarlison for Watford. Spurs are a bit trickier to read because of rotation (a 5-Dec CL match looms over them) and the fact that one of the most reliable fantasy gods, Christian Eriksen, appears to be physically and mentally exhausted. Having said that, start whomever the fullbacks are (Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies look a little more assured of starts this weekend) and Harry Kane.
The Alan Pardew Derby! I’m liking Crystal Palace these days. They have too much talent to be in last place, and I don’t believe they’ll finish lower than mid-table come season’s end. My advice is to load up on cheap Eagles talents like Wilfred Zaha, Christian Benteke, Yohan Cabaye, Andros Townsend and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. As for West Brom, Pardew has said he plans to let them attack. This could be good news for the long term prospects of Matt Phillips, James McClean and forgotten (but talented) Belgian international Nacer Chadli. Tempting!
The marquee match of the weekend! Consensus is that Jose Mourinho will park his bus, but Arsenal is a high-flying attacking squad that will be very difficult to contain, especially with so many Red Devils’ defensive injuries. I can see a 2-2 result here, and I believe that Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey will have good games. I’d be a little less confident on the defenders, except for Shkodran Mustafi who is a fantasy monster when he starts.
A possible 0-0 clean sheet bonanza, but I’m not sure. I think a 1-1 or a 2-1 result is more likely. Having said that, I do like Joshua King, Nathan Ake and Asmir Begovic for Bournemouth. Virgil van Dijk, Mario Lemina (Togga) and Charlie Austin (if he starts) would be my picks for the Saints.
I’m sure we can all agree that brutality will ensue. I will be shocked if the entire Manchester City squad isn’t arrested by Scotland Yard on charges of voluntary manslaughter after the match. About the only positive thing I can say for West Ham (except that I still like Manuel Lanzini) is that Arrgh, Joe Hart, Arrgh is ineligible to face his parent club.
And live from your screen it’s Saturday/Sunday chat!
Are your squads all set for GW15? How badly do you think City will manhandle the Hammers? Did I miss an obvious weekend star or dud? How are you coping with the relentless game week pace of late? Tell us in the comments below!