We’re back from the international break with some interesting English Premier League matches this week. The bottom-half teams continue to scramble for survival, with crucial head-to-head match-ups between Newcastle vs Huddersfield, and West Ham vs Southampton.
But the real firecracker could be the Chelsea vs Tottenham fixture. A loss for Chelsea would all but eliminate them from Champions League contention, and such a win for Tottenham would all but assure them a CL berth. I’m predicting an open game with Chelsea attacking like their lives depend on it. If they don’t, then we will know for sure that the players have abandoned Antonio Conte, and that his days at Stamford Bridge are numbered.
So let’s have a look at what’s in store, and where the best picks lie.
Ederson (MCI, $14.23) and David de Gea (MUN, $14.01) both have favorable match ups this week and are good “holds” if you already own them, but their retail prices are a stretch for new buyers. If you have room in your budget then fine, but I see better value in the following netminders:
Loris Karius (LIV, $4.74): Crystal Palace are fighting to stay up. That means they’ll have to go for a result against Liverpool. Karius may not keep a clean sheet, but he should win after making some saves. That should be enough to justify his garage-sale price.
Asmir Begovic (BOU, $5.03): Watford have only scored two goals in the five games they have played since beating Chelsea 4-1 on February 5th (How did they even do that?). Begovic has four saves in each of his last two matches, so even if Watford manage to put one past him on Saturday, his returns should be worth his price.
Nick Pope (BRN, $9.78): The prospects for blog-hero Pope look divine this week (see what I did there?). Burnley have not allowed more than one goal in a match since New Year’s Day. This week they face WBA, who are plainly the worst team in the league: The Baggies have lost seven straight, and have but a single win in 2018.
Petr Cech (ARS, $7.98): Stoke are winless in their last seven games, and have scored only four goals over that stretch. Conversely, Arsenal seem to be stabilizing recently, and Cech will be brimming with confidence after his 26-point performance against Watford that included a PK save and the 200th clean sheet of his career.
Eric Bailly (MUN, $4.40): Only Manchester City have allowed fewer goals than Manchester United, and only West Brom have scored fewer goals than Swansea. United will likely keep a clean sheet this week, but Bailly, his price depressed during his injury absence, won’t even need that to return value.
Paul Dummet (NEW, $3.88): Newcastle don’t keep many clean sheets, but at his price point, Dummet won’t need one to reward investment.
Terence Kongolo (HUD, $2.02): Kongolo looks set for a return to Huddersfield’s starting lineup. His average return is almost three times higher than his price, so if he makes it back for Saturday, he’s a fantastic option for those of you looking to pinch pennies in defense.
Jose Holebas (Watford, $8.16): Liverpool destroyed Watford 5-0 the last time the Hornets took the pitch, but amidst all the carnage Holebas still managed to put up 10 points. How? By offering returns at both ends of the pitch. The left wing-back will have even more opportunities to attack this week when he hosts Bournemouth.
Aaron Cresswell (WHU, $9.37): This is a crucially-important home game for West Ham, who sit just one place and two points above Southampton and the drop. I think they will pour forth against the Saints, and Cresswell will be an integral part of the attack. The potential for a clean sheet is there too: Soton have averaged just 1 goal per game in 2018.
Kyle Walker (MCI, $9.55): City have kept three straight clean sheets, two of which were against Arsenal and Chelsea. Over those three games, Walker has averaged over 11 ppg. This week they travel to Everton, where odds are strong for another shutout.
Nacho Monreal (ARS, $8.69): He is fit again and played the full 90 in the Europa League victory over Milan on Thursday. His three-week absence from league play has dropped his price to a point that is lower than his average points-per-game. He’s a good punt this week at home to Stoke.
Cesar Azpilicueta (CHE, $10.64): Azpilicueta has posted double-digit returns in three of Chelsea’s last four games despite the fact that only two of those games were victories, and only one was a clean sheet. His ability to generate returns without clean sheets will be important this week against an in-form Spurs side that has scored 20 goals and is undefeated in the ten league games it has played in 2018.
Serge Aurier (TOT, $6.81): In this critical fixture between the EPL’s 4th and 5th place teams, Chelsea will pour forward against Tottenham: A loss would leave the Blues eight points behind the Spurs with only seven games remaining. But although Chelsea may score in this hotly-contested match, Aurier offers potential at the other end of the pitch in the form of goals, assists, shots on goal, accurate crosses, corners forced, etc. Indeed, even if you subtracted out his clean sheet points, he’d still be averaging 12 ppg over his last three games.
Saudio Mane (LIV, $10.82): Liverpool are still contesting a precious top-4 finish, so Klopp will not be able to take his foot off the gas for the trip to face the Eagles.
Pascal Gross (BRI, $10.44): Gross never seems to come through for me when I include him in Player Picks articles. But I’m doing it again this week anyway.
Riyad Mahrez (LEI, $16.14): He’s been on fire since he decided to suck it up and go back to work, hauling in 69 points in his last three games.
Ki Sung-Yeung (SWA, 5.96): Carlos Carvalhal has resurrected the all-but-dead Swans. Ki’s 4 game streak of double-digit returns proves that he has been a centerpiece of the renaissance.
Junior Stanislas (BOU, $8.10), Jordon Ibe (BOU, $8.17): Take your pick, either of these guys could thrive against Watford, who’ve been conceding an average of nearly two goals per game in 2018, including eight shipped in their last two.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson (BRN, $9.15): He hasaveraged nine ppg over his last five games, and this week the opposition is lowly West Brom.
Michail Antonio (WHU, $7.41): David Moyes will be desperate to keep West Ham up, and Antonio will be a primary instrument of his efforts. His opponent this week is a feeble Southampton side who are two points below them in 18th place.
James Ward-Prowse (SOU, $7.17): Southampton have but a single victory since New Year’s Day. But they have a new skipper now: Can Mark Hughes return JWP and Soton to prosperity? It’s a worth a punt against a WHU side that sit only one place above the Saints.
David Silva (MCI, $12.90): 50 points over his last three games, and yet he still costs just a couple dollars more than Pascal Gross. Yes please.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ARS, $8.79): Arsenal’s best midfield Fantrax asset and priced to sell. This week he welcomes the visit of 19th-place Stoke.
Eden Hazard (CHE, $14.16), Willian (CHE, $11.09): This is pretty much a must-win game for Chelsea’s Champions League aspirations, and thus for the security of Antonio Conte’s job. In front of the home fans and owner Roman Abramovich, Conte will have to press his men forward, and Willian and Hazard will be leading the charge.
Son Heung-Min (TOT, $13.83): An away win for Tottenham could nearly ensure their Champions League qualification, so Mauricio Pochettino will push for a result. This week I have a good feeling about Son, who is likely to again deputize for Harry Kane in the striker position.
Mo Salah (LIV, $26.31): If you’re not a long-term holder of Salah by now, you might as well forget paying retail. Buy him this week and you’ll spend a quarter of your budget just to match the returns that others will get for a fraction of what you shelled out. Keep if you have him obviously (I’ll only give him up when they pry him from my cold, dead fingers), but if he’s not already in your squad this late in the season, you’re going to have to cross your fingers and roll with differentials from here on out.
Roberto Firmino (LIV, $15.69): Firmino has posted double-digit returns in six of his last nine games, he costs $11 less than his Egyptian teammate, he’s playing Crystal Palace, and he won’t be universally-owned. If Salah is not in your squad, then Firmino should be. In fact, I wouldn’t blame you for rolling with both. I am.
Glenn Murray (BRI, $7.41): Murray sparkles at home, and this week the Seagulls can make a huge step toward safety with a victory over a mid-table Leicester team who have nothing specific to play for.
Kenedy (Newcastle, $3.18): Kenedy beat up on weak opposition his last time out. It’s not unreasonable to bet that he does it again this week.
Raheem Sterling (MCI, $15.85): Sergio Aguero is recovering from injury and will probably be preserved for next week’s Champions League match, and it’s been a long time since Jesus was a productive Fantrax asset. Therefore, my City forward of choice for the trip to Everton is Raheem Sterling. He has put up double-digits in six of his last seven league appearances, and I’m betting that the good times continue to roll for him this weekend. As always, though, keep your eye on City team news to sniff out any hints that he might be rested/rotated. If it looks like Pep will preserve Sterling for the CL match next week, then Bernardo Silva is a fine alternative.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ARS, $7.89): Arsenal are starting to click again, and this week they host Stoke. Boasting two goals on the trot, PEA is almost a must-have.
What players do you think will shine this week? Have I missed someone? What fixtures are you focusing on for fantasy returns? Do you agree that the Chelsea/Tottenham game will be lively? Tell us in the comments below.