What an international “break” it has been, in every unfortunate sense of the word. The Premier League itself took a nice little break from the action. For the players however, the breaks were more breaking down or being broken. Because of this, fantasy managers are forced into pumping the brakes on managing their teams.
With so many questions to answer, the FPL realm is forced into a state of stagnation. And, finally, with today’s press conferences, fantasy managers were provided with actionable information to execute the transfers that have been burning holes in their pockets for the past fortnight. Fittingly, these transactions have added an extra layer of excitement to the traditional shopping activities on Black Friday.
We are combining player picks with the pre-deadline chat, this week. With so much to cover, let us jump right in.
Brighton look to receive a major boost as Pascal Groß looks to make his return from injury. However, Chris Hughton was not definitive on whether or not the German would make the starting lineup just yet (stay tuned at deadline time!). Alireza Jahanbakhsh is the only seagull of note that looks to miss out.
For the Foxes, the injury news has been mixed: Harry Maguire has been ruled out for this weekend’s game. Claude Puel suggested that James Maddison is in line to return, but he will require a positive game-time health assessment. And, if that was not bad enough, Jamie Vardy looks to have suffered an injury. Puel noted that he did train with the team this week, but, like Maddison, will need to pass a dreaded pre-match fitness check.
Shane Duffy, Defender (Brighton, £4.7)
With an already spotty attack surrounded with more questions, Brighton’s clean-sheet prospects have surely improved. And, Duffy knows how to turn in a set piece opportunity.
Matt Ryan, Goalkeeper (Brighton, £4.6)
For the same reasons we like Duffy, we like Matt Ryan. Plus, the run of fixtures provide a nice differential at the back for the next four game-weeks at an equally friendly price.
Ricardo Pereira, Defender (Leicester City, £5.0)
Brighton have a penchant for performing at home. If Leicester want to have a chance at points in this match, they must find offense somewhere. Pereira could be the integral provider in attack as well as defense. He does lead the City defense in fantasy scoring afterall.
Everything looks well and good for the Toffees as they return to Goodison Park to take on the upstart Cardiff side. Gylfi Sigurdsson was given a positive report of health after withdrawing from international duty. And, equally for Cardiff, the prominent FPL assets are no worse for wear following the break.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Midfielder (Everton, £7.5)
As appealing as Richarlison is, playing as the out of position striker, I prefer the differential option in the Toffee #10. His goal scoring prospects should be regarded as equal to that of Richarlison, plus his playmaking ability gives a higher ceiling to his fantasy value. I am willing to pay the extra toll.
Lucas Digne, Defender (Everton, £4.8)
Digne has been a darling of the defender replacement talk this week, and for good reason. With Benjamin Mendy and Kieran Trippier out, the French fullback has an opportunity to feast on both offense and defense against Cardiff, shifting his status from fill-in to must-own.
The Claudio Ranieri era begins for Fulham. There was no news on the injury front, but until we see something from Fulham, I am in the camp urging owners to stay away for the time being.
Southampton’s leading goalscorer, Danny Ings, is unlikely to play. Soft tissue injuries could also keep Mario Lemina and/or Mohamed Elyounoussi sidelined this week.
Cédric Soares, Defender (Southampton, £4.4)
It is hard to recommend any fantasy investments in this match, even if you are tempted to play the anyone against Fulham strategy. Cédric ranks ninth in crosses for all league defenders, and Fulham have yet to prove they can consistently score in the Premier League. Could this be the magical week for attacking and defending results? He comes in at great value to move some money forward in your lineup.
Charlie Austin, Forward (Southampton, £...)
On the other hand, if you don’ think Ranieri can reverse course imediately, and you need to replace a budget forward gone missing, then maybe “anyone against Fulham” could cash in on an Austin brace / hattrick.
Are you on the Anthony Martial bandwagon? He appears to be in good health following his injury-related withdrawal from the French National Team. The only other player of note who was surrounded by question marks is Romelu Lukaku. Jose Mourinho was positive about Lukaku’s health and requisite contribution to this weekend’s match. And, Paul Pogba will return as expected.
At Crystal Palace, Christian Benteke will miss once again. But, there were no injury surprises from the Eagles’ camp, this week.
Wilfred Zaha, Forward (Crystal Palace, £6.8)
Zaha has not scored since week five. However, the Palace fixtures are positive through the festive period. If any Eagle is going to score in the run of play, would it be anyone but Zaha? He is becoming a solid budget option as his price continues to fall.
Paul Pogba, Midfielder (Manchester United, £8.0)
I am skeptical of the Martial backers. I would prefer to chase the underlying stats surrounding Pogba. Anthony Martial’s stats scream overperformance and impending regression to his mean.
The only real fantasy nugget that came from Javi Gracia’s press conference was him confirming that Darryl Janmaat will miss out again this weekend, giving Kiko Femenia owners one more week to secure some fantasy points, albeit in a tough fixture.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have been given a nearly clean bill of health. The oft injured Adam Lallana and Naby Keita are the only players not expected to feature this weekend. Will we see any rotation with a tough Champions’ League fixture on the horizon? Only time will tell.
Andy Robertson, Defender (Liverpool, £6.5)
He is the second highest scoring defender in the game. He is the ideal swap for the fallen premium defenders. If you do not have him yet, he has reached definite must-own status now.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Defender (Liverpool, £5.1)
If you already have Robertson, T.A.A. fits the bill for an ideal Mendy or Trippier replacement, and at a far better price. After some mid-season doubt regarding his job security, he looks to have regained his starting role in the Liverpool defense.
Gerard Deulofeu, Midfielder (Watford, £5.4)
The Hornets are still a bit of an enigma on the attacking end, but I like the prospects of Gerry D the best.
Marko Arnautovic coming back from international duty unscathed is probably the biggest non-news out of the Hammers’ camp. All the other noteworthy fantasy candidates have no concerns heading into the match against the current title holders.
The biggest headline of the international break was the unexpected surgery on Benjamin Mendy. What was originally reported as 5-6 weeks is now 10-12 per Pep’s Friday press conference. Also: The budget-friendly Bernardo Silva has been ruled out for this weekend.
Marko Arnautovic, Forward (West Ham, £7.1)
I am on the record for calling Arnautovic “match-proof”. I would understand the desire to sit him, but I think he is worth the start. The West Ham counter-attack is gelling, and Marko is the most likely to benefit from any defensive unrest from City.
Raheem Sterling, Midfielder (Manchester City, £11.2)
With Eden Hazard having a matchup against a fellow top-six team, Sterling inches ahead of him in my favorability rankings for the week in the super-premium price bracket. I think Raz is the most likely City player to turn up with a goal.
David Silva, Midfielder (Manchester City, £8.6)
He is the play-maker. He has two goals and two assists in his last four games. If Manchester City are able to net multiple goals, I would expect Silva to have a part to play in at least one, probably more.
As if our defenses were not suffering enough already, Kieran Trippier was unable to recover from his muscular injury suffered prior to the international break. He will join fellow defenders Danny Rose and Davison Sanchez on the sidelines, thus creating some real defensive challenges for Mauricio Pochettino (and many thousands of fantasy managers).
There are no injuries of note to report for Maurizio Sarri’s bunch. They have a clean bill of health prior to the upcoming London derby.
Eden Hazard, Midfielder (Chelsea, £11.3)
Who else but Hazard? I like Mo Salah and Sterling more this week. But, I made room in my budget this week to transfer him in, following this weekend’s game.
Harry Kane, Forward (Tottenham, £12.3)
All signs point to a goal-scoring bonanza from Kane in week 15, and it would be nice to see something from him prior to that to instill some confidence for a player of that price.
Christian Eriksen, Midfielder (Tottenham, £9.2)
Do not forget about the Spurs’ heartbeat. He looks poised to log a full 90 minutes (finally). With Trippier out, he should resume his role as the prominent free kick taker for the time being.
All of Eddie Howe’s fantasy stalwarts are fit for a tough clash with the Gunners. This is the second test for this season’s surprise team. Are their results to the point for real? Or, are they just the best of the middle-of-the-pack clubs? This week could provide some indicators.
Nacho Monreal is the player closest to fantasy-relevant who misses out for Arsenal. But that could be debated, given what we’ve seen start in defense for the Gunners. After being flagged at the start of the international break, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are deemed fully fit.
Hector Bellerin, Defender (Arsenal, £5.4)
Have I given you enough defensive replacements, yet? While Arsenal may not have the best clean sheet chances, Bellerin may provide the best attacking opportunities of any healthy fullback outside of Alonso, Robertson, and Doherty.
Mesut Ozil, Midfielder (Arsenal, £8.3)
Of the Arsenal attacking options, I would prefer taking a chance on Ozil rather than waiting for one of the forwards to re-emerge. I do not usually like to deploy Ozil on the road, but he still occupies the play-making role for this team.
Callum Wilson, Forward (Bournemouth, £6.8)
Of the prominent Cherries’ assets, Wilson is the one I am most keen to own. With the upcoming run of fixtures putting people off Bournemouth players, Wilson is the one worth holding, considering the multiple replacement options in midfield. The same cannot be said about the forward position.
Matt Doherty’s notable injury concerns were put to rest during the press conference of Nuno Espirito Santo. However, his fullback partner Jonny will be out for multiple weeks following the injury he sustained during the international break.
Huddersfield’s only new injury is Chris Löwe’s shoulder.
Matt Doherty, Defender (Wolves, £4.9)
This is where I turned following Mendy’s surgery. With his ownership in the top eight for fantasy defenders, not having him could prove costly should he hit for big returns. You have to like the Wolves’ defensive prospects against the Terriers.
Raul Jimenez, Forward (Wolves, £5.8)
Jimenez is proving to be the best of the bargain level forward options. With a beneficial run of fixtures over the festive period, he will only become more popular. He has proven a capable scorer and provider in the Wolves attack.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson has overcome his injury flag in time for the game this week. Playing the Monday game can only help his cause. Otherwise, no new injuries have popped up for Sean Dyche’s men.
The status of Jonjo Shelvey and Jamaal Lascelles remains in question leading up to the Monday night game. I would expect few changes, aside from these two, for a Newcastle side that looks to be gaining some traction.
DeAndre Yedlin, Defender (Newcastle, £4.5)
Burnley do not have any striker to be concerned of, at the moment. I like Newcastle’s chances of keeping their good run of form in defense. Yedlin provides the offensive outlet that we like to see in our fantasy defenders.
Ayoze Perez, Forward (Newcastle, £6.2)
Perez is the play-maker on the front line for the Magpies. With a proven Premier League forward now playing with him up top, I think the attacking returns will follow suit.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Midfielder (Burnley, £6.0)
Burnley’s men are in shambles at both ends of the pitch. Gudmundsson has been the key contributor from midfield this season. He has been the play-maker for a Burnley side that desperately needs one.
Robbie Brady, Midfielder (Burnley, £5.4)
For all the same reasons as above, I like a healthy Robbie Brady, both short and long term.
The last international break of 2018 means that the festive period has officially begun. Now is the time to shore up those benches, as the fixtures start rolling in faster, and faster. This break is the last breather we fantasy managers get for critically analyzing performances and injuries before the “festive” fixture blitz. The proper prep before Saturday’s deadline could go a long way as we close out the 2018 calendar year.
What slots do you have to fill in FPL or Fantrax? Is anyone keeping B.Mendy through a 10-12 week layoff? What other bargains should we have mentioned? Whom do you watch for barn-door buying after the deadline? Please let us know in the comments below!