We always expect the unexpected, but still, even with the game at Stamford Bridge, who thought that a forward-less Chelsea would blank Manchester City 2-0, sending the Citizens to second place? Who among you figured Mo Salah would bag a hattrick at revitalized Bournemouth? And just one week after Liverpool scored a miraculous last-gasp goal to beat Everton, raise your hand if you saw two final-minute goals coming, first as a header from Wolves’ Matt Doherty beat Newcastle at St. James Park, then with a majestic curling free kick courtesy Everton’s Lucas Digne to dash visiting Watford’s hopes at victory.
Do we get even more excitement like that this weekend? Let’s hope! Who is most likely to deliver the magic?
NOTE: I am not mentioning any Manchester City players below, even though I definitely do recommend sprinkling your line-up with a couple/few Citizens since they tend to be especially dominant at the Etihad. While the opponent, Everton, is solid, the Toffees are certainly far from elite competition. But Wednesday Champions League has piled on top of the crazy EPL fixture congestion, leaving only Thursday and Friday as rest days before Saturday, plus there is Carabao Cup against Leicester City next Tuesday; David Silva is ruled out injured, but Sergio Aguero or perhaps even Kevin De Bruyne could pass fit for the weekend; and the Sky Blues’ impressive depth means that you could see non-regulars such as Phil Foden, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany, Danilo, and/or Brahim Diaz poach spots from more usual starters.
Putting all of that together, it is difficult to get a read with too much certainty on which players will start and who will be rested. However, Manchester City v. Everton is the early game, so you can check the XI prior to the Fantrax deadline and then go ahead and pick who you want! Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, and Riyad Mahrez are the obvious stand-out picks if they make the XI, but Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, and Fabian Delph also warrant consideration, and any surprise starter could prove an excellent value play as well.
Alisson Becker ($15.49, Liverpool v. Manchester United)
Nobody likes paying for keepers at an expensive retail price tag. It’s too risky. But if you’re going to, you can’t make a safer bet than Alisson, who has returned double digit points in five straight games and is averaging 10.7 ppg on the season thanks largely to a whopping tally of 10 clean sheets along with a sterling 86% save mark. His match is against fellow Big Six competition, but it’s at Anfield, and Manchester United is the least feared opponent among the elite half-dozen. You’ll feel much better if you’ve had him all season at a preseason salary, but I could see an argument for paying up if you’ve got the free cash and don’t feel great about who you have at the position.
We’ve got one of the best defenses at “home” (Wembley) against one of the worst offenses (Burnley). In 12 appearances, Lloris has 10 wins, 2 losses and no draws, including five clean sheets. The losses were at Arsenal and against Manchester City. Like Alisson, Lloris isn’t cheap, but he isn’t quite as pricey, and you’re looking at an excellent chance at a clean sheet win.
Bernd Leno ($6.56, Arsenal at Southampton)
In his 9th try, Leno finally got his first clean sheet with the visit of Huddersfield. Even though the Gunners hit the road now, it’s against the Saints who’re tied for second-fewest goals in the league. The silver lining is that even when Leno doesn’t get a clean sheet (which is most of the time), he still returns value or at least comes close. But now that he’s got one, he’s sure to keep rolling, right?
The Hornets weren’t able to secure victory at Everton, but things should come much easier at home against a Cardiff side that averages less than a goal per game on offense.
Jonas Lossl ($2.78, Huddersfield v. Newcastle)
Fulham’s Sergio Rico has been playing well as a budget option in net recently, but the Cottagers face a red hot West Ham offense, so this week if you’re going to take a cheap punt, Lossl may prove better. He averages 3.1 ppg at Kirklees Stadium, and Newcastle’s impoverished attack is nothing to write home (or in this case, away) about.
Despite his brilliant goal and dazzling 23-point return last week, sadly I’m not recommending Lucas Digne who travels to Manchester City. That means that I have to back the other of the two most automatic picks in defense, Aaron “Obi-wan” Wan-Bissaka. With Palace hosting the Foxes, AWB should get plenty of phantoms, and a clean sheet isn’t out of the question either.
Andrew Robertson ($13.92, Liverpool v. Manchester United)
Virgil van Dijk has been better recently in Official FPL, but Robertson has actually played at a higher level in Fantrax, averaging 12.3 ppg in his past four games (VvD has 9.8 ppg in that time). Against Manchester United, Robertson should be plenty busy at both ends of the pitch.
Kieran Trippier ($12.20, Tottenham v. Burnley) [D/M eligible]
Trips is an injury doubt, so be sure to check team news as the deadline approaches. But if he can pass fit, he’d certainly love to do some damage against his former team. Spurs have a great shot at the clean sheet, and the wing backs should be free to raid forward at will, with Trippier ready to lead the charge.
Fabian Schar ($4.74, Newcastle at Huddersfield)
K.M.’s favorite defender has averaged 12.0 ppg in his two away matches, and the hope is that Rafa Benitez will return him to the XI following his suspension (yellow card accumulation) after last weekend’s loss to Wolves.
Bernardo ($3.36, Brighton v. Chelsea)
Bruno returned from injury last weekend and delivered 7 points, but teammate Bernardo is averaging about the same fantasy output at a cheaper price, so I’d lean that way in the Brighton back line. A clean sheet bonus is doubtful against the Blues, but you should get plenty of phantoms. Basement bargain Leon Balogun is a great short-term option (he scored 8 points at Burnley), but this is the second-to-last game he’ll fill in for the suspended Shane Duffy, so go with Bernardo if you prefer a chance at holding a long-term cheapie.
Sead Kolasinac ($3.14, Arsenal at Southampton) [D/M eligible]
The Gunners’ defense is in flux at the moment. Sokratis and Skhodran Mustafi each picked up a fifth yellow card to earn a suspension (Mustafi also left injured), and Rob Holding suffered long-term injury. Meanwhile, Nacho Monreal has returned to action, and the same is expected for Laurent Koscielny soon. That leaves it a bit difficult to know where to turn. While mid-priced, Bellerin and Monreal are too rich for my blood. I’m looking for a bargain against Southampton, and either Kolasinac, Koscielny, or Stephan Lichtsteiner will do, but right now “Tank” seems the most locked in to start.
Matt Targett ($3.27, Southampton v. Arsenal)
Targett has played 90 minutes in three straight games, averaging 7.3 ppg in that stretch without benefit of a clean sheet, which will again be unlikely facing the Gunners’ high-powered offense.
Vinagre has averaged 4.0 ppg in the past four games, not bad for the price!
Felipe Anderson ($17.42, West Ham at Fulham)
Anderson has notched at least 15 points in four of his past six games, scoring five times in that stretch. This game is away, but the opponent is dumpster-fire Fulham which has conceded eight more goals than any other team this season.
Christian Eriksen ($11.21, Tottenham v. Burnley)
The Danish star has scored 15 and 16 points in his past two starts, and this fixture looks promising for more of the same. There is a pretty good amount of time to rest between Tuesday’s Champions League tilt against Barcelona and Saturday’s Premiership game, so hopefully Pochettino judges Eriksen fit enough to start both.
Son Heung-Min ($11.53, Tottenham v. Burnley) [M/F eligible]
Rest is even more of a worry for Son, who has started four straight EPL games as well as Tuesday’s Champions League affair. But given the South Korean international’s purple patch of form, can Mauricio Pochettino afford to sit him? If Poch seems to be leaning in the non-Son direction, midweek hero Lucas Moura could offer an attractive alternative.
Robert Snodgrass ($8.04, West Ham at Fulham)
If Anderson is too rich for your blood, don’t be shy about going with his cheaper teammate Robert Snodgrass, who has exploded for 17 points in each of the past pair of games.
Diogo Jota ($7.70, Wolves v. Bournemouth) [M/F eligible]
A lot of us had high hopes for the player who was so prolific in the Championship last season. Now Jota is finally living up to the hype, scoring in each of the past two games (bringing an average of 13.5 ppg). He also had the vital shot on target which led to Doherty’s game winner. Now a usually solid but currently reeling Cherries side visits the Molineux after giving up four goals at home to Liverpool.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ($18.82, Arsenal at Southampton)
PEA disappointed against Huddersfield and at Manchester United, but it’s difficult to imagine such a lethal sniper misfiring thrice in a row, especially against the sorry Saints.
Aleksandar Mitrovic ($15.54, Fulham v. West Ham)
Mitro was removed at halftime during the 4-1 loss at Manchester United, which was especially painful given that he missed out on taking the penalty that his replacement, Aboubakar Kamara, scored. Of course, Kamara also drew the PK, so such a hypothetical may be possible only in an entirely alternate universe. Never mind that; Mitrovic averages 12.7 ppg at home, and West Ham has only kept two clean sheets this season.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez ($9.30, West Ham at Fulham)
Li’l Pea has three goals in as many games, and now the Hammers travel to face the worst defense in the league by far. Go ahead and expect another poached score or two.
Salomon Rondon ($7.15, Newcastle at Huddersfield)
Rondon has notched 14, 9, 8, 0 and 30 points in his past five games, with three goals, one assist, 22 shots and 8 SOT in that frame. And you can grab him for not much more than a song... call it a song and a half.
Andy Carroll ($1.02, West Ham at Fulham)
Following his brace out of nowhere against Cardiff, Lucas Perez went back to his usual anonymous self against Crystal Palace, getting subbed out as Andy Carroll earned a second straight appearance off the bench following recovery from injury. Carroll has been performing well as an energetic second half addition, averaging 4.0 ppg in about 35 minutes per game. Manuel Pellegrini may now choose to mix things up and give Carroll a start alongside Chicharito, which would certainly warrant a punt on the big man. But even if Carroll only comes in off the bench, he should still more than return value at such a low price.
Which players are you pegging to bring some excitement for your fantasy teams this weekend? Is there anybody you recommend who was not mentioned above? How many Manchester City players do you plan to feature? And how’s the weather shaping up? Is Scotland’s weekend snow creeping into our football picture? Let us know in the comments!