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FPL Player Picks Week 24: Cups Runneth Over

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With superfluous non-fantasy related cup action in abundance, plenty of news, analysis, and speculation abounds as managers prepare for a mid-week FPL deadline.

Fernando Llorente - Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Fernando Llorente appeals for a corner during the Carabao Cup match with Chelsea.
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Were you able to hang onto your free transfer during the extended cup window? It has always been considered best practice to save your transfer when the Premier League schedule is interrupted by any of the various cup competitions. This break has provided a unique double-dip with both Carabao (EFL) and FA Cup ties taking place, posing a tactical puzzle for the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, and Tottenham who took part in both contests. The part I always find fascinating is that there is always, ALWAYS, a minimum of one storyline that resonates into the FPL game. This break was no different, and while the languid days between fantasy action ticked by, the spectre of the open transfer window loomed over the break’s proceedings.

These were the most notable topics, in their simplest form. Chelsea finally actualized the rumors surrounding the incoming transfer of Gonzalo Higuain. The fantasy impact of Gonzalo Higuain’s loan deal was thoroughly chronicled by Chris Manfredi.

Manchester City were sparked by the return of Benjamin Mendy in the Carabao Cup. Pep’s roulette wheel twice landed on Gabriel Jesus for the role of starting striker. In reference to week 24, your guess is as good as mine.

In wake of the Harry Kane injury, Fernando Llorente proved that he could score at the correct end for Tottenham. On other fronts, Heung-Min Son’s South Korea crashed out early from the Asian Games, enabling a probable return in week 24 (Wednesday).

The search dogs were called off in the case of the missing persons’ Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. For those fantasy managers who enjoy a good revenge game narrative, Sanchez penned an epic. It was man versus his former club, man versus his current club, and man versus himself, where man conquered all en route to a goal plus a United victory.

And, just as the Arsenal defense was shoring up, performances I believe corresponded with the return of Laurent Koscielny, he suffered a head injury that will see him miss another indefinite amount of time.

It is now our job to take these tidbits of information and turn them into actionable and profitable fantasy maneuvers. Midweek action can sneakily wreak havoc on any team not prepared for the Tuesday deadline. This isn’t even your first official warning, so don’t miss it. These are my FPL picks for week 24:

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Goalkeepers

Ederson, Manchester City (£5.6m)

The third leading keeper in FPL scoring has seen his price fall back to pre-season level. The Citizens look to have figured out the woes of their mid-season slump. Defensive fortitude looks to be coming back, and there is always a first mover advantage in FPL.

Bernd Leno, Arsenal (£4.8m)

Yes, Arsenal are still reeling from the stream of injuries crippling their defense. And, yes, the Koscielny injury mentioned above gives me great pause. But, after holding Chelsea scoreless, Cardiff does not present a test nearly as difficult. If the Gunners can control the match on the offensive side of the ball, as they did against their London rivals, the defense should be spared much of the Cardiff threat.

David Button, Brighton (£4.0m)

With Australia also crashing out of the Asian Cup, I think this will be the end of Button’s run in goal. While his spot on the team sheet is not guaranteed, I think the amount of travel required for Mathew Ryan to return to Brighton makes Button the most likely to start. Helping his case is that Fulham is a continuing train wreck. A player was arrested at training this week! Hopefully Chris Hughton’s press conference will direct us to the starting stopper.

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Defenders

NOTE: I do not expect Benjamin Mendy to start this game-week. I would wait at least until the barn door before considering that transfer.

Andrew Robertson, Liverpool (£6.7m)

He has taken the mantle as the leading scorer, as well as the title of most expensive, for defenders in FPL. He managed to find an assist in the opposite fixture. Combine that with the best defensive record in the league, and the expectations should be no less than six points.

Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City (£5.9m)

Laporte sat out the weekend’s cup clash, earning him the highest confidence level to start midweek. He is one of the small number of defenders within my center back circle-of-trust.

Sead Kolasinac, Arsenal (£4.9m)

The optimism of a clean sheet, mentioned above, could greatly bolster the point earning potential of the attack-minded fullback. The midfield deficiencies of the Gunners have been well chronicled in my analysis, proving the importance of Kolasinac and his compatriot flanking the other side of the field. The Bellerin injury leaves questions as to who that may be, so Kolasinac deserves the nod.

Luke Shaw, Manchester United (£4.8m)

A bout of illness saw him removed from the starting lineup minutes before the Brighton match. He did, however, return versus Arsenal in the FA Cup, quelling any lingering fears. The United team only seems to improve with each passing game. The clean sheets should be the next step in their rebirth under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Shane Duffy, Brighton (£4.6m)

Duffy is another of the center backs in my circle-of-trust. The amount of service that finds his head is astounding. He will surely get a chance or two against the Fulham defense.

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Midfielders

NOTE: I do not expect Heung-Min Son to return to the Tottenham starting lineup this week. I would expect him to make the 18, however, given the attacking pieces missing from the Spurs side. Should they need a goal against Watford, he could play the role of super-sub.

Mo Salah, Liverpool (£13.6m)

The home stretch for Liverpool is the best for any team in the league. Liverpool just need to keep winning to secure the title, which should ensure Salah’s first team participation up until the end of the season. If you do not have him by now, you need to look at bringing him in. Everyone else is, and many are giving him the captain’s arm-band to boot.

Leroy Sane, Manchester City (£9.7m)

He was my choice for the armband in the editorial staff’s collaborative article of captain options. Getting rest in the FA Cup match should cement his place in the City attack. The only person on the team playing nearly as well as Sane is Gabriel Jesus, whose minutes are always in question with Aguero available.

Felipe Anderson, West Ham (£7.3m)

We are at the point in the season where the optimism surrounding the Wolves’ defense should, finally, have waned. They are a bad defense, simple as that. The player for West Ham who is most likely to gain from this is Felipe Anderson. His form has not been much to write about lately, but he did manage to score in his abbreviated cup appearance. He will be the maestro for the Hammers in what I expect to be the most entertaining game of the week 24 slate.

Pascal Gross, Brighton (£6.7m)

There is a lot of Brighton this week, I know. I would not go overboard with adding multiple assets, but a template team is starting to form, making the impact from differentials all the more important. Against Manchester United, last year’s midfield darling finally netted his first goal from open play in week 23. Chris Hughton suggested in his postgame press conference that it has taken some time for Gross to familiarize himself with a new role in the new Brighton formation. Last week could have been the first step in realizing a return to his 2017-18 form.

Andros Townsend, Crystal Palace (£5.8m)

I have been pressing on the weakness of the Southampton center backs in recent weeks. Townsend will be the player in the middle of the attack looking to expose that weakness, pace being the greatest deficiency. Townsend’s work-rate is the ideal trait for exposing the Saints’ defense.

James Ward-Prowse, Southampton (£5.0m)

What James Ward-Prowse has done over the the past few game-weeks deserves notice. He has two goals in two games, which is obviously great. Those returns are supported by the unaccounted underlying stats over the last three games: six total shots and eight attempted assists, according to Fantasy Football Fix. Such averages are worthy of consistent fantasy points, especially the way Ralph Hasenhuttl has this team playing at the moment.

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Forwards

NOTE: Gonzalo Higuain arrived at £9.5m and should feature this week. The FPL price is fair. For me, I want to see some production before I am willing to buy in, especially considering his declining goal rate in recent seasons, as pointed out in Chris’s article.

Roberto Firmino, Liverpool (£9.3m)

Bobby Firmino is, for all intents and purposes, the last man standing among Big Six strikers, this week. His match-up is not the best for those clubs, but it remains playable. The other premium strikers have their warts: the Aguero/Jesus starter debate, the Lacazette and Aubameyang attacking splits, the Higuain cohesion question, the Harry Kane injury, and the questions around Lukaku’s role. Firmino seems to be the safest option in a game-week with such a hectic buildup.

Marcus Rashford, Manchester United (£7.7m)

I am a little wary of a possible slowing of production from the United midfield as they integrate Alexis Sanchez. Up front, however, I have no fears about the game’s best producing striker, according to FPL’s Form statistic.

Steve Mounie, Huddersfield (£5.8m)

The Everton defense is bad. They surrendered three goals to Millwall in their FA Cup defeat on Saturday. There is no evidence to suggest that there is any sign of improvement coming. The Toffee defenders are simply far more interested in the attacking phase of play. If Mounie can avoid the post, he should be able to put one past this Everton defense.

Fernando Llorente, Tottenham (£5.6m)

The goal of this next statement, no pun intended, is not to create a crazy hot-take. But, it is my opinion that Llorente is a better header of the ball than Harry Kane. Please read that again, before etching angry retorts in the comment section, please. I do not think he is a better striker, just better at one particular skill. Fifty percent of his career Premier League goals have come from his head. He managed five shots against Fulham last week, two of which were on target. With the wide players that Spurs have, and the creativity of Christian Eriksen, lobbing balls into the box should not be a difficult task. Llorente is being massively overlooked, given that Harry Kane is out until March.

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It is a week where the big clubs should feast. That is the first place I would look when making transfers for week 24. Compounding the player pool issues is that the defenses that fantasy managers like to mine are playing those same big clubs. Finding those few standouts from the middle, and low, table sides will involve great risk this week. But, those differences will surely be reflected in the game-week’s points rankings.

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Are you looking at any of these Big Six players? What peripheral players are you looking at from England’s richest teams? And, who are you looking at from the lower price tiers to bolster your point total in week 24? Let us know in the comments below!

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