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Staff Picks: Most Essential Player for GW16-22

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The remaining games in December and early January come at a frenzied pace, so you’ll want to pick the right players. For the crowded fixtures ahead, who is the most essential for you to have in your squads?

Chelsea v Newcastle United - Premier League
Eden Hazard is one of a few Chelsea players that could make the difference for fantasy managers in the next month
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

With so many games coming at a fast and furious pace, having the right mix of players can pay off for you nicely, particularly in Official if you make a great choice at captain. On the other hand, if you miss out on a crucial player, it could cost you dearly. So take a look at the staff picks and ruminate accordingly.

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CHRIS: Chelsea defender César Azpilicueta

Offensive players tend to notch the biggest scores, but defenders and keepers have a much better chance of not being rested, so that’s why I’m going to peg someone in the back. Antonio Conte rested Azpilicueta recently in GW14 of the Premier League (likewise Alonso in Champions League on Tuesday), so I see the pair playing through the holidays.

Alonso was the must-have defender for 2016/17, while the Az-man has taken over that mantle this season along with Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia. Alonso boasts an edge in goals on his teammate (three compared to one), but Azpi has a huge advantage in assists (five to zero) as he’s developed a special chemistry with fellow Spaniard Alvaro Morata that just wasn’t there with Diego Costa. If you like clean sheets, offensive spoils and bonus points, look no further than the Blues’ dynamic right back as Chelsea treads mightily over a smooth set of fixtures.

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DARRYL: Liverpool midfielder/forward Mohamed Salah

The right combination of form and fixtures makes Salah a must have. Liverpool encounter some leaky defenses in the next month, giving Salah the opportunity to continue wreaking havoc.

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DAVID: Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard has been back to the scintillating form we’ve seen from him in the past, having scored or assisted in five of his last six starts. His place in the starting XI is as secure as any of the alternatives one might consider, he takes penalties, and Chelsea have a sweet run of fixtures until visiting Arsenal on January 3. Through those holiday fixtures, any fantasy manager brave enough to go without him does so at his or her own peril.

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SANTIAGO: Leicester forward Jamie Vardy

Given the crowded fixtures and the constant risk of rotation, I like to play the festive period safe. If I have to pick one player that will cause me the least amount of stress, there are three conditions that he must meet:

1. He must be productive;

2. He must be an energizer bunny who is on a domestically-focused team; and

3. He must have a good run of fixtures.

The more I thought about this, the more Jamie Vardy's name came up. The man never needs a rest, he plays through injuries, he is very productive (seven goals ranks him fifth in EPL) and Leicester has a decent set of fixtures through the festive period: @NEW; @SOU; CP; MU; @WAT; @LIV; HUD. I will rest easy knowing that Vardy will play the vast majority of minutes and will score at least three goals. That peace if mind is the essential gift for the holiday season.

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STALL: Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso

There are the obvious choices such as Harry Kane of Tottenham, but I will take a look at the fixtures between here and January for my choice. Champions Chelsea face Newcastle (h), West Ham (a), Huddersfield (a), Southampton (h), Everton (a) Brighton (h), Stoke (h) and Arsenal (a). That's a great run, so the easy pick would be Alvaro Morata or Eden Hazard, but Conte’s thought process worries me. Having been very vocal about the Premier League being against them with their fixture schedule, I expect rotation. We saw Hazard rested against Swansea, and while Morata has little competition in his role, he also will miss out somewhere.

I'm going to go with the Chelsea back line then, so I will take last season’s hot shot Marcos Alonso to provide returns at both ends over the period and take over as Chelsea's highest point scorer in FPL.

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JEFF: Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho

I like Coutinho for many of the same reasons as Salah is recommended. He has been explosive when healthy, and he is involved in almost everything Liverpool is doing right. However, in Fantrax at least, Salah vies for one of your scarce forward slots while Coutinho may find room in the more spacious midfield. Therefore, if you want Salah but can’t bear to give up any of your current forwards, then consider collecting your Liverpool points in midfield instead. Better yet, run both of them (because you bought at least one early and cheap and still have him at a huge discount).

Are you rushing to add any of these players we have deemed as essential? Who is the absolute must-have for your fantasy squad? Is Chelsea the clear pick for grabbing multiple players, or will another team fare even better over the congested upcoming set of games? Let us know in the comments!