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Fantrax Player Picks: Game Weeks 21 and 22

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The festive-period craziness continues for one more week, and it’s complicated by the TOT-WHU blank then double. How well will you cope with these managerial challenges?

Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton - Premier League
How you manage Harry Kane over the next two Game Weeks could have a lasting impact on your place in the standings.

The end of the festive-period chaos is nearly over, but not before we endure one more packed week of absolute insanity. Although GW 20 finished only yesterday, GW 21 picks up tomorrow and runs through December 31. GW 22 then starts the very next day.

Confounding this intense fixture congestion is that Tottenham and West Ham have byes in GW 21 followed by their mutual double-game week in GW 22. How well fantasy managers navigate the next 6 days could have a massive, and possibly insurmountable, influence on their final rankings.

Perhaps the most crucial decision is how to handle Harry Kane. Could there be a worse time to have to consider dropping him? He has just come off two games where he put up 67 points from back-to-back hat tricks!! But he won’t play in GW 21, so do you cut him loose? If you don’t you’ll take an expensive zero from one of your precious forward slots, but if you do you’ll have to pay retail to get him back into your team for the double in GW 22. And today there’s news breaking that he is ill and may be a doubt for game #1 of the double! Here’s hoping you make the right call.

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Week 21

Goalkeepers

Heurelho Gomes (WAT vs SWA): Gomes is a great value play this week. Carlos Carvalhal inherits a side bolted firmly to the foot of the table, a team that has scored only 11 league goals this season. There is always the danger of a “new manager bump”, but when you look over the Swansea squad sheet, you’re reminded that even with a new gaffer, they still have the same mediocre players.

Ederson (CRY vs MCI): The best team in the league hosts a relegation candidate (1-pt removed) that has scored only 16 goals all season.

Petr Cech (WBA vs ARS): Arsenal travel to feeble West Brom, who are winless in their last 18 games. The Baggies occupy 19th place and have scored a mere 14 goals so far this campaign.

Karl Darlow (NEW vs BRI): Rob Elliot has been ruled out with a thigh issue, so Karl Darlow looks set to deputize. Darlow is not as good between the sticks as Elliot is, but his chances for a victory and clean sheet against toothless Brighton are still very reasonable. And he only costs a buck.

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Defenders

Marcos Alonso (CHE vs STK): Because he lines up in midfield, he is not eligible for clean sheet points in Fantrax, but Alonso’s attacking returns have been more than enough to make up for that lately. Good for you if you BD’d him before his 23-point performance against Brighton spiked his price.

Jamaal Lascelles (NEW vs BRI): On any day, Brighton’s offense is weak. But they are particularly impotent away from home, having scored only 5 goals in 10 road games. Newcastle just forced the world’s best offense to settle for a single goal. If they can manage a clean sheet against Brighton, Lascelles should bring you double-digit returns.

Marvin Zeegelaar (WAT vs SWA): He has returned from his red-card suspension to reclaim his place on the left side of the defense. Zeegelaar is a budget-friendly enabler who will easily return his price against Swansea. Daryl Janmaat should continue as right wingback and is another good choice this week, but costs a bit more.

Ashley Young (MUN vs SOU): Young should be able to bomb forward and send in crosses like crazy against a depleted Southampton defense that will be without Cedric Soares, Ryan Bertrand, and the newest Liverpudlian, Virgil van Dijk.

Eliaquim Mangala (CRY vs MCI): The perpetually-crocked Vincent Kompany was forced off the pitch yet again at Newcastle, so Mangala should be set to start in the center of defense. Go ahead and plump for Nicolas Otamendi if you can afford him, but Mangala is a much cheaper route to City’s possible clean sheet.

Shkodran Mustafi (WBA vs ARS): Nacho Monreal remains a serious doubt, so Mustafi should continue. West Brom have the kind of Goldilock’s offense that should be threatening enough to generate defensive points for Mustafi without killing his prospects for a clean sheet. He even pops up with the occasional goal, like he did yesterday.

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Midfielders

Eden Hazard (CHE vs STK): Hazard has been a fantasy failure since his massive 39 point haul on December 2nd at home to Newcastle. But his Fantrax returns have not been an accurate reflection of his real-life play, which has mostly sparkled. I’m keeping the faith with Chelsea’s Belgian middie for the visit of Stoke this week.

Philippe Coutinho (LIV vs LEI): While the purchase of VVD probably means Coutinho’s Liverpool exit is imminent, I’ll roll with the Brazilian genius as long as I can.

Christian Atsu (NEW vs BRI): Rested against Manchester City, he should be set to terrorize Brighton’s defense. He also tends to pick up a few defensive points as well, which is a nice frosting on his attacking cake.

Jesse Lingard (MUN vs SOU): 6 goals in his last 7 games, including 3 in his last 3. He is Manchester United’s most dangerous player right now, and Southampton will struggle to contain him with a defensive line that is missing its biggest stars.

Manchester City (CRY vs MCI): David Silva is an economical option if it is confirmed that he will rejoin the squad in time to face Palace. Ilkay Gundogan is a viable alternative if Silva is still out on personal leave. Kevin de Bruyne seems nailed-on, but his price tag makes him a risk to underperform. Leroy Sane hasn’t scored in what seems like forever and has been getting his minutes managed, but he could be due for a start and is capable of blowing up for huge scores. As usual, it’s take your pick and cross your fingers here.

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Forwards

Alvaro Morata (CHE vs STK): After missing through suspension against Everton, Morata returned against Brighton and put up 19 points with a goal. I’m hoping for something similar when Stoke visit.

Mo Salah (LIV vs LEI): Do I really need to explain? In fact, if the Egyptian magician isn’t in your squad by now, then you’ve got some explaining to do.

Richarlison (WAT vs SWA): He’s been lukewarm lately, and Carlos Carvalhal may follow the typical blueprint for rehabbing failing teams by shoring up Swansea’s defense first. But the points on offer tomorrow will be crucial for Watford, who finally eked out a win against Leicester after not having tasted victory since November 25th. The Hornets will go for it then, and Richarlison will be the tip of the spear.

Alexis Sanchez (WBA vs ARS): Sanchez put up a brace yesterday to return a tasty 29 points. He’s enjoying a hot streak right now, having scored 3 goals in 2 games. Sanchez performs just as well on the road as he does at home, and this week he travels to lowly West Brom. Conditions seem ripe for another bountiful fantasy harvest.

Manchester City (CRY vs MCI): Based on recent minutes, one would guess that Jesus starts this one over Sergio Aguero. But who knows? If you want to play a City forward, Raheem Sterling is probably the way to go... Unless you think he gets a rest this week.

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Week 22

History has taught us that the smart play in double game weeks is to max out the number of players who will play twice for you. Whether to give up discounts in order to accomplish that is a decision point that will help separate the expert managers from the rest of us. But when in doubt, I advise you to err on the side of the double-gamers.

Below are the DG’ers that stand out to me. Spurs have the better fixtures and the better players, so as much as possible, I’d bias my squad toward them over Hammers.

Tottenham (away to SWA then home to WHU):

Harry Kane: Just yesterday it was a total no-brainer that you HAD to have Kane in your squad this week. Now that he is doubtful for the Swansea match that issue is murkier. But maybe you’d want him for the single home game against West Ham anyway, even if Tottenham didn’t have a double? The good news is we should have more clarity on his status before you have to finalize your GW 22 roster.

Christian Eriksen: Eriksen offers security of starts, but hasn’t really been earning his fantasy keep lately. Tottenham scored five goals on Boxing Day, yet Eriksen registered just 9 points. He’s likely to return his price over the two games this week, but I’d take Son and Alli before I paid up for Eriksen.

Dele Alli, Heung-Min Son: Each scored once and assisted twice in the shellacking of Southampton. They should be in your side for the double week.

Hugo Lloris: Beyond Jan Vertonghen, it is difficult to know which, if any, of the Spurs defenders will play twice. But Lloris will, and he faces Swansea and West Ham. Mmm, yes please.

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West Ham United (home to West Brom and then away to Tottenham):

Marko Arnautovic: With 4 goals in his last 3 games and facing West Brom at home in game #1 of the double, Marko would be a great pick even if that were his only match. Thus you can consider whatever he can scrape together on the road against Tottenham to be a bonus.

Manuel Lanzini: Lanzini is value for money and will return his price over the two games.

Michail Antonio: See above re: Lanzini.

Angelo Ogbonna: See above re: Antonio.

Aaron Cresswell: See above re: Ogbonna.

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Single-Gamers To Consider:

Goalkeepers:

None. For me, unless you’re hanging on to a productive and deeply-discounted GK, you need look no further than Lloris this week.

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Defenders

My recommendation for your defense this week is to decide what discounts you’re going to keep, and then fill the remaining spots with Ogbonna and/or Cresswell plus enablers. Save the rest of your budget to spend on Lloris and your DGW attackers.

If you insist on doing something other than that, then I’ll suggest Lewis Dunk. Dunk is the #5 defender in Fantrax, and this week he hosts relegation-dwellers Bournemouth. He’ll get his usual defensive-stat points plus a shot at a clean sheet.

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Midfielders

Pascal Gross (BRI vs BOU): Brighton will need a result against Bournemouth, and almost everything they do will go through Gross.

Coutinho (BRN vs LIV): It’s possible that come New Year’s Day, Coutinho could no longer be a Red. Assuming that hasn’t happened, he’s been on fire lately and is worth keeping if you hold him at discount.

Riyad Mahrez (LEI vs HUD): Mahrez is Leicester’s top Fantrax asset, having scored or assisted in four of his last five games. The home tie with Huddersfield should provide ample opportunity for his purple patch of form to continue.

Xherdan Shaqiri (STK vs NEW): It’s been 5 games since Shaqiri notched a goal or assist. Nevertheless, he’s been putting up good Fantrax numbers anyway. Home to Newcastle he may finally add a goal to those phantom points.

Manchester City (MCI vs WAT): See Game Week 21.

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Forwards

Mohamed Salah (BRN vs LIV): See Game Week 21. I have him at 15.34 and there is no way I’m dropping him, even for a DGW player. If you have him at his preseason price...

Wayne Rooney (EVE vs MUN): Everton host Rooney’s former team. We all know how that usually seems to work out for the former player. If you’ve got room you can’t fill with DG’ers, go ahead and play this strategy.

Manchester City (MCI vs WAT): See Game Week 21.

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Will you drop Kane for GW 21? How many DGW players will you bring in for GW 22? What single-gamers will you hold onto for the double game week? What other late breaking news have you heard as we count down to the GW 21 deadline? Share your strategies for this challenging and crucially-important period!