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Week 19 Official FPL & Fantrax Player Picks: Hitting Halfway

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Carabao Cup action gave the Premier League a breather during the week, at least for the stars who rested. Who looks ready to roll as the fun returns this weekend to put a capper on the first half of the season?

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
How many Man City players can you fit in your teams this weekend?
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Things have been going fast and furious for a while now, so it is nice to see everything slow down a bit midweek... at least for some teams. Arsenal, Bournemouth, Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham were in the thick of things with Carabao Cup fixtures, but several of those teams gave breaks to a fair number of their stars. That said, even better for fantasy investment, of course the other 13 Premier League squads were entirely rested!

Adding to that, five of the “Big Six” teams (including three involved in Carabao Cup action) have tough match-ups this weekend, with only Man City facing a team outside the top half... at the Emirates, to boot. Aside from the Citizens, it’s a good time to spread a wider net than usual in finding fantasy joy.

Please note the Friday match means some early deadlines and at least one fantasy format (the new “Yahoo Cup”) that won’t even score players from Arsenal or Liverpool this game week!

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KEEPERS

Adrian (West Ham v. Newcastle) [£4.3 Official, $2.75 Fantrax]

Santiago received an early stocking stuffer, with David Moyes benching Argh Joe Hart Argh in favor of Adrian. After replacing the ineligible England international against parent club Manchester City, Adrian and West Ham have since cruised to three straight clean sheets. There’s no guarantee the streak will continue, but at home against the anemic Magpies, you’ve got as good a shot as any.

Ederson (Manchester City v. Bournemouth) [£5.5, $10.26]

Ederson and the Citizens defenders will be disappointed that they were not able to hold the clean sheet against visiting Tottenham thanks to Christian Eriksen’s late goal. You are surely aware that the Cherries are not nearly as imposing as Spurs. If you don’t mind paying the premium, this is as good as it gets for chances at a clean sheet win.

Lucasz Fabianski (Swansea v. Crystal Palace) [£4.6, $8.52]

The Swans have surprisingly conceded fewer goals on the road than at home, but the Eagles have only scored three goals total on the road this season. Of course, that trio came entirely last weekend at Leicester, so if you believe they’ve gotten hot after one game, you should stay away. If you think that was more of a blip, as I’m inclined to believe, then Fabianski is a strong pick.

Nick Pope (Burnley v. Tottenham) [£4.8 Official]

The Clarets have six clean sheets in the past nine games, allowing only one goal each in the other three during that stretch, leaving Pope as an automatic entry in Player Picks no matter the locale or opponent. While Burnley ties for the fewest goals allowed at home (only three all season), Spurs have a solid away offense (15 goals, seventh most) and it’s doubtful that the Clarets will be able to keep a fourth clean sheet in a row. But Pope should rack up loads of saves, so even if he allows a goal or two, he can still give you a good fantasy return. That said, his price has (deservedly) risen so high in Fantrax that you should probably stay away unless you already have him.

Julian Speroni (Crystal Palace at Swansea) [£4.1, $3.82]

Swansea has scored the fewest goals (nine) in the league, so they’re never too imposing a team to face, even if the game comes in Wales. On top of that, the Eagles have kept three successive road clean sheets. Nothing would surprise me since match-ups like these can be tricky to predict, especially during fixture congestion, but this one feels like it has the best shot at nil-nil of the weekend’s fixtures.

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DEFENDERS

Phil Bardsley (Burnley v. Tottenham) [£4.3, $3.90]

With right-back Matt Lowton out injured, cheap as chips Bardsley has filled in admirably, averaging 4.0 ppg in Official and 8.4 ppg in Fantrax for the past five games. The question is, has Bardsley taken over the starting job or will Lowton get it back against Spurs? My money’s on the former, since Lowton stayed on the bench even when he supposedly had passed fit for the Brighton game. But only Sean Dyche knows — it’s certainly possible that Lowton simply wasn’t quite ready after all — so keep an eye on team news as it gets closer to the deadline. If center back James Tarkowski misses out through suspension, Kevin Long offers another good cheap option for the Burnley defense, particularly in Fantrax.

Darryl Janmaat (Watford at Brighton) [£4.8 , $4.45]

If you’re a fan of home/away splits, take note: Janmaat has scored 2.0 ppg at home and 12.7 ppg on the road in Fantrax this season. Admittedly, it’s a small sample size — only three games at each locale — but even so, can you resist adding him in for the trip to Brighton?

James Tomkins (Crystal Palace at Swansea) [£4.3, $5.25]

With Palace’s back line banged up of late, Tomkins has been solid, averaging 3.8 ppg in Official and 7.5 ppg in Fantrax in the past four games with a pair of double digit returns. Another clean sheet would surely bring you a nice score in both Official and Fantrax.

Shkrodan Mustafi (Arsenal v. Liverpool) [$8.03 Fantrax]

While it’s certainly not out of the question, it wouldn’t seem prudent to peg a clean sheet for the Gunners against Liverpool’s high-flying attack. That means that I’m not advising Arsenal defenders in Official. But with Mustafi averaging 11.1 ppg in Fantrax, it’s clear that he’s extremely active at grabbing phantom points, and the Reds should bring him plenty of chances to keep that going.

Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham v. Newcastle) [£4.4, $7.41]

Ogbonna is averaging 7.3 ppg in Official and 14.0 ppg in Fantrax in the past four games, and you should certainly hope for more of the same with Newcastle coming to town.

Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City v. Bournemouth) [£5.5, $9.72]

Averaging 7.3 ppg in Official and 10.3 ppg in Fantrax, you can expect a clean sheet and/or goal from the Argentine defender in this one. After all, the Cherries have failed to score in their past two games (against Liverpool and Manchester United), while in two of the last three they’ve allowed a goal to a defender (Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren and Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann).

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MIDFIELDERS

Marko Arnautovic (West Ham v. Newcastle) [£6.8, $6.55]

Arnie’s shooting boots have officially been unleashed! After trying only 11 shots across his first 11 games, Marko has exploded for 13 attempts in the past three tilts, taking on a major portion of the offensive responsibility as forwards Andy Carroll, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Diafro Sakho have made a grand total of zero starts between them. Two of those shots have connected for goals, so it’s working! The match-up can’t get too much more inviting as Newcastle ventures to London. [Note: Arnautovic is listed as a midfielder in Official and as a forward in Fantrax.]

Christian Eriksen (Tottenham at Burnley) [£9.3, $17.56]

It’s not a great match-up, but sometimes you have to go with the form horse. After a barren stretch, Eriksen has his mojo back with a goal or assist in each of the past four games (two each), averaging 7.5 ppg in Official and 13.8 ppg in Fantrax over that stretch and reminding us of his brilliance.

Pascal Groß (Brighton v. Watford) [£5.9, $8.63]

Groß has been out of sorts lately, with no goals or assists across his past half dozen games. If he’s going to get back on track, the time is now. After all, all three of his goals, along with three of his five assists, have come at home this season. Meanwhile, the Hornets defense is absolutely reeling, having allowed six goals in their past two games to subpar competition (Huddersfield and Crystal Palace). If he doesn’t click in this one, however, it may be time to drop him.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal v. Liverpool) [$2.50 Fantrax]

The youngster has seemingly taken Sead Kolasinac’s starting spot — further cemented by Kolasinac starting with the second team on Tuesday against West Ham — though unfortunately Maitland-Niles isn’t listed as a defender, so he’s not going to do anything for you in Official unless he gets a goal or assist, which are unlikely. In Fantrax, though, he has averaged 8.5 ppg in these past two starts, which at his price makes him a steal at any position assuming Arsene Wenger keeps jotting his name down in the XI.

Sadio Mane (Liverpool at Arsenal) [£9.4, $9.99]

He's learning... the lightbulb went off in Jurgen Klopp’s head! Amazingly, the Liverpool skipper actually subbed off Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah (each of whom had scored) to give his offensive stars some well-needed rest late in the 4-0 victory at Bournemouth. But do you know who is even more refreshed? Sadio Mane, who sat the entire game. I don’t expect the Reds to run ridiculously rampant given Arsenal’s fine home form, but I think that both teams can score a couple. Mane, as it just so happens, has netted a goal in each of the past three league games against the Gunners.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United at Leicester) [£7.9, $9.35]

Averaging a robust 7.0 ppg in Official and 10.6 ppg in Fantrax — leaving him a clear bargain in both formats — Pogba comes off suspension having had three matches to prepare for Leicester. Barring a warm-up injury, he should be fully fit, rested and nailed on to start.

Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke v. West Brom) [£6.2, $10.37]

After notching three goals and three assists in a six game stretch, the Swiss string puller has cooled off a bit with no goals or assists in the past three games. He’s due to get back on target with West Brom coming to Pottersville. Even if he doesn’t, you can take solace in the fact that he has still managed 9.3 ppg over the past trio of games without cracking the score sheet.

David Silva (Manchester City v. Bournemouth) [£8.3, $13.14]

The Manchester maestro was a surprise absentee from the Tottenham game over the weekend... not that they ended up needing him, of course. But he had boasted absolutely scintillating form with four goals in his past three games, so now that he’s presumably back from welcoming a mini-Silva to the world, he offers an even more attractive pick facing easier competition.

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STRIKERS

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City v. Bournemouth) [£11.5, $16.06]

Kun seems to be the preferred league home starter to Gabriel Jesus. That should not change as the youngster played the full 120 minutes on Tuesday against Leicester City while the elder statesman was given a break. Star strikers Roberto Firmino and Romelu Lukaku have notched goals against the Cherries the past two games, so Aguero will be raring to follow suit.

Tammy Abraham (Swansea v. Crystal Palace) [£5.7, $4.54]

As mentioned, I’m not expecting much offense from this fixture. BUT if anybody is going to put one in the net, you can’t go wrong backing the home side’s leading scorer, leaving the Chelsea loaner an attractive bargain option. Be sure to check on the injury status of Wilfried Bony, who could earn the start in Abraham’s stead if he recovers from Monday’s knock.

Roberto Firmino (Liverpool at Arsenal) [£8.6, $12.31]

The Brazilian has torched Arsenal for four goals in the past quartet of league games against them, so a la Mane, Firmino is also a good shout for success at the Emirates.

Harry Kane (Tottenham at Burnley) [£12.8, $18.76]

Kane is usually reliable at getting phantom points even when he doesn’t score, but that was not the case in an absolutely miserable day at Manchester City. Getting kicked in the face and failing to hit a shot on target, the Spurs’ talisman ended up with just one point in Official and zero in Fantrax. This week, though, it’s a sure bet that Kane’s going to be peppering the Burnley goal like crazy... and if he gets a penalty kick, he’s surely not going to air mail it as Glenn Murray did.

Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal v. Liverpool) [£10.4, $12.41]

Given Arsenal’s form as a whole, it’s not surprising to see the Gunners’ leading goal scorer exhibit extreme home/away splits, with six goals and one assist at home compared to two and zero, respectively, on the road. (In Fantrax, that translates to a wide disparity of 12.0 ppg at home vs. 3.8 ppg away.) You shouldn’t fear Liverpool’s road defense, so the Ligue 1 import is a fair bet to continue celebrating at the Emirates.

Raheem Sterling (Manchester City v. Bournemouth) [£8.5 , $15.05]

Not only is Sterling coming off a brace against Spurs and a two assist game against Swans before that, but the England international also boasts sizzling form against Bournemouth, scoring in each of the past three league games against them. Of course, in the City midfield, you do worry slightly about Pep Guardiola rotating Sterling moreso than Silva. [Note: Sterling is listed as a midfielder in Official and as a forward in Fantrax.]

*CAVEAT: Watch the weather forecast each of the next few weeks. Don’t let your squad be ruined by an avoidable “P-P”!

What choices are you agonizing over this week? With players look tempting to you in the above list and whom else are you considering? Let us know in the comments!