The fantasy gods are smiling on us this week: #1 Liverpool host #20 Watford, and #2 Leicester host #19 Norwich. The league’s two best teams playing the league’s two worst teams — at home — is the stuff of fantasy managers’ dreams. Even better, Liverpool’s confirmed lineup will be available ahead of the FT deadline (as will Watford’s, if anyone cares), so you will not want to miss our Pre-Dead Chat!
There are two caveats, however. First, there is the potential for mid-week European tournaments to disrupt lineups for this weekend’s round of league play. Liverpool and Chelsea both won their Champions League matches yesterday, while Manchester City and Spurs play today. Arsenal, Wolves, and Manchester United all have Europa league appointments tomorrow. Be sure to check on team news for developments that could affect league play.
Second, Liverpool (and West Ham) have a bye in Game Week 18, so piling into their players for Saturday’s savory home match against the Canaries could end up biting you in the arse next week. Unless you’re willing to take zeroes for them, you’ll be forced to clear them out and buy replacements at retail.
Saturday 14 December
Liverpool vs Watford
Chelsea vs Bournemouth
Sunday 15 December
Manchester United vs Everton
Arsenal vs Manchester City
Monday 16 December
Vicente Guaita ($9.34, CRY vs BHA): Three straight shutouts and three straight double-digit returns, and the good times could continue to roll for Guaita when the Seagulls bring their middling offense to Selhurst Park on Monday.
Alisson ($5.21, LIV vs WAT): On Saturday the league’s best team will play the league’s worst. This match will also pit the #2 offense against the third-worst defense. And it will all unfold at Anfield, where Liverpool are absolutely invincible in the first place. A win for Alisson is virtually a foregone conclusion, and he could easily grab his second clean sheet in a row. Just remember, you’ll need an exit strategy for GW 18 unless you plan to hold him for a zero (not as troublesome in NMA-17 and NMA-sub).
Alex McCarthy ($1.00, SOU vs WHU): If you’re on a shoestring budget, McCarthy is this week’s bargain-boy. West Ham have won only one game since September, averaging just a single goal per game over that nine-match stretch.
Ahmed El Mohamady ($3.80, SHU vs AVL): Ken graciously tipped Ezri Konsa Ngoyo ($6.08), who I also like this week, but Elmo costs less than his teammate and has posted returns of 8 and 11 over his last two games. The guy is a cross machine and should come good even if the Villans can’t keep the Blades out of Heaton’s net.
Jack Simpson ($1.00, CHE vs BOU): Awarded a battlefield promotion when Nathan Aké went down with a hammy on Saturday, he is likely to continue to deputize this weekend. He’s not going to light the world on fire, but if you need a filler he fits the bill. Another good Bournemouth enabler spotted by Ken: Simon Francis ($1.00).
Phil Bardsley ($3.26, BUR vs NEW): Bardsley missed game-week 16 for undisclosed reasons. If he looks set to be reinstalled this week, he’s priced right for the visit of Newcastle’s weak attack.
Antonio Rudiger ($1.00, CHE vs BOU): Chelsea’s best defender is fit again, and he went the distance in last night’s Champions League match. He should make the S11 again this weekend, and at $1.00 he’s a ridiculous bargain. Reece James ($4.13) is another well-priced Blues option, by the way.
Martin Kelly ($6.41, CRY vs BHA): Palace’s defense has become stingy lately, and Brighton aren’t renowned for offensive fireworks.
Leighton Baines ($1.00, MUN vs EVE): Everton were resurgent against Chelsea — after the match Frank Lampard looked like he’d just been ambushed. But Lucas Digne was taken off with a knock in the 82nd minute. Leighton Baines (remember him?) was pressed into service as cover, and he’ll continue that role this weekend if the Frenchman doesn’t pass fit.
Johnny Evans ($12.38, LEI vs NOR): The Foxes sport the league’s best defense, while Norwich have one of the league’s worst. That could spell returns on both sides of the ball for Evans, who demonstrated his offensive threat with a goal last time out.
Liverpool defenders: Liverpool host Watford this week. Let me repeat that — Liverpool host Watford this week. Check in to our Pre-Deadline Chat to get ‘Pool’s starting lineup ahead of the schedule, and then buy the names you like/can afford. A clean sheet is very much in play, and the fullbacks should spend the whole morning storming the flanks. Keep in mind, of course, that Liverpool do not have a match in GW 18.
Ryan Bertrand ($5.76, SOU vs WHU): He’s averaging 9 ppg over his last four matches, all without a clean sheet. The visit of the Hammers will present him with another opportunity for handsome returns.
Jan Vertonghen ($6.08, WOL vs TOT): The Belgian has undergone a revival under Jose Mourinho — he’s averaging 10 ppg since The Special One took the reins. He has started every league game under his new gaffer, and since he was left out of tonight’s Champions League squad, it’s safe to assume he’s in line for the S11 again this weekend.
Mateo Kovacic ($8.47, CHE vs BOU): With three of their last four outings ending in defeat, Chelsea are in desperate need of a win. Kovacic looked the most lively of any Blues attacker in the loss to Everton, and Lampard will look to him to help turn fortunes around when the Cherries come to call.
James Madisson ($19.99, LEI vs NOR): He’s quite pricey, but the guy is a points machine — he’s only missed double-digits twice over his last nine games. And this week the Foxes welcome Norwich, so Madisson could yield a Fantrax bumper crop on Saturday.
Liverpool midfielders: See “Liverpool defenders” above. Winter’s Wonderful Wheel of Rotation may offer you the opportunity to pick up an inexpensive squad player like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Xherdan Shaqiri for this match that has all the makings of a blowout. Again though, Liverpool do not play in GW 18.
Jonjo Shelvey ($10.32, BUR vs NEW): Three goals in his last three games, and four in his last six. His price is still reasonable, and only the bottom three clubs have conceded more goals than Burnley this season.
Christian Atsu ($3.15, BUR vs NEW): The very impressive Allan Saint-Maximin pulled up with a muscular injury on Sunday, which could pave a path into the S11 for Atsu this week. He’s a very solid enabler if you need funds elsewhere.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg ($6.63, SOU vs WHU): Double-digits in both of his last two home games, and poised for a three-peat with the woeful Hammers visiting St. Mary’s this weekend.
Son Heung-Min ($16.51, WOL vs TOT): Away to Wolves is a tricky fixture, but Son has piled up an eye-popping 81 points over his last five games.
Dele Alli ($10.86, WOL vs TOT): Alli’s transformation under Jose Mourinho has been breathtaking: He’s racked up 56 points over his last three games. And like Vertonghen, he wasn’t named in tonight’s CL squad, so he looks certain to start against Wolves on Sunday.
Chris Wood ($11.19, BUR vs NEW): Wood has now blanked in his last three games after notching in each of the three prior to that. A home match against the Magpies could offer him a chance to get back among the goals.
Tammy Abraham, ($18.90, CHE vs BOU): Abraham came away empty-handed in the shock loss to Everton. But he got back on the score board in last night’s Champions League fixture, and he was subbed off at the 72 minute mark in order to preserve him for the weekend.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin ($6.73, MUN vs EVE): The brace against Chelsea marked the first time in six games that DCL has rippled the net. He left the pitch with Man of the Match honors, and Everton looked completely rejuvenated under Duncan Ferguson. Big Dunc has openly expressed his admiration for Calvert-Lewin (“I love Dominic, I think he’s a very good player”), so could the new gaffer’s system be a boon for DCL’s fantasy fortunes?
Kelechi Iheanacho ($3.15, LEI vs NOR): His substitute-appearance, injury-time winner against Everton earned Nacho his first start of the season against Aston Villa, and the Nigerian promptly thanked his manager with a second consecutive goal. He looked sharp and lively in both outings, and against the Canaries he could parlay your small investment into a handsome return.
Liverpool forwards: Any who start are worth your investment this week, especially any surprise like Origi. Be here for the confirmed lineups on Saturday ahead of the deadline. I’ll remind you one final time though: The Reds have a bye for GW 18.
Danny Ings ($14.77, SOU vs WHU): With a goal in each of his last five games, and eight in his last ten, Danny Boy just can’t seem to stop scoring lately.
Harry Kane ($15.42, WOL vs TOT): It was only a matter of time until he found form under José Mourinho, and that day finally arrived on Saturday when King Kane blew up for a brace and 25 points. And he is another Spur who will remain in London for the Champions League match tonight, so he’ll be rested and ready for Sunday.
Lys Mousset ($6.95, SHU vs AVL): As Chris has previously indicated, Mousset tends to leave his fantasy owners empty-handed unless he scores. But he has notched six times in his last eight games, and Aston Villa’s open style of play should lend him plenty of opportunities to find the net again on Saturday. And for those troubled by his 65th-minute injury substitution on Monday, fear not: Chris Wilder has declared him fit to face the Villans.
Are you loading up on Liverpool and Leicester assets, or do their seemingly-delicious fixtures smell like traps? For those of you going all-in on Liverpool, how will you navigate their bye in Game Week 18? If you’re not already among the merrymakers at the Vardy Party, are you considering buying a ticket this week? Which players are you dropping, and who are you adding in their places? Please share your plans in the Comments below!