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EPL Game-Week 18 FPL & Fantrax Fantasy Player Picks: Diminished Capacity

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For the first time this season, not all teams are featuring. With Liverpool and West Ham players unavailable, where should our attention turn?

Marcus Rashford celebrates with teammate Anthony Martial - Manchester United - Premier League
With Reds favorites Salah and Mane unavailable, turning to the star Red Devils’ attacking pair of Rashford and Martial isn’t a bad fallback.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Every game week features teams to avoid. But this game week, as circumstances would have it, there is more than usual in that department. What teams (and players) should bring out our wariness?

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TEAMS MISSING OUT IN THE MINI-GAME WEEK

No shortage of fantasy managers followed David’s advice last week and at least to some extent loaded up on Liverpool players. It was not quite the bounty of points we had hoped for, but Mo Salah and Alisson were among those who paid off in the Reds’ win over Watford, 2-0. Fantasy investment in West Ham was likely nonexistent or close to it given the team’s horrid form of late, but the Hammers may have saved Manuel Pellegrini’s job (at least for the time being) with an unconvincing 1-0 victory at Southampton.

Now unless you have an absolutely insane discount, it’s time to dump Liverpool and West Ham players in leagues without benches, particularly those eating up huge portions of your budget such as Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Roberson. The main, obvious reason is because these two teams are not playing in the mini-blank GW18. You don’t want to take zeroes.

The other big reason, especially for Liverpool, is the daunting upcoming schedule. As league leaders by a comfortable margin, the Reds deserve to be favored in every game they play. However, there’s a serious difference between playing relegation-quality sides — or even teams in the lower half of the table — and squads who are battling it out for European spots. Take a look at Liverpool’s fixture list from Weeks 19-24: at Leicester (currently 2nd place), v. Wolves (8th), v. Sheffield United (7th), at Tottenham (5th), v. Manchester United (6th), and at Wolves (8th). That, my dear friends, is what is called a gauntlet. For when to re-target ‘Pool players, I’m circling GW25 on the calendar with a red highlighter.

On top of that, Liverpool has two games in other competitions this week — though clearly Jurgen Klopp is prioritizing the Club World Cup over the Carabao Cup — so Reds players will not really have a chance to rest much despite having a blank GW18 (indeed, that’s why they have the blank). As for West Ham, never mind their schedule, the other reason to dump/avoid their players is because they’re simply not very good.

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OTHER TEAMS TO AVOID

Another team with players worth dumping — again aside from those with serious discounts — is Leicester. As mentioned, the Foxes welcome Liverpool in GW19. Who do they play in GW18? Manchester City at the Etihad. Yeesh.

Of course, by extension there’s also Manchester City. Even for the defending champs, it’s not exactly easy facing second place Leicester City in GW18, especially when the Citizens are in the third spot, then traveling to the Molineux for a battle with Wolves in GW19, and then welcoming Sheffield United in GW20.

Just like Liverpool, it’s also Leicester City and Manchester City featuring in Carabao Cup this midweek (along with Aston Villa, Everton and Manchester United), which doesn’t help in terms of fatigue and rotation worry. If you’ve got the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, James Maddison, Jamie Vardy, et al. at a heavy discount, go ahead and keep them. Otherwise, consider dumping them, and if you don’t have them, I would definitely not recommend adding them at retail.

Otherwise, Tottenham welcomes Chelsea in a London derby featuring the only conventional “Big Six” match-up. It’s going to be a tough affair with an unpredictable outcome, so I’ll mostly advise the same with respect to Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Willian and Christian Pulisic.

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STRATEGY AHEAD OF THE FESTIVE PERIOD

The fixture list gets awfully crowded soon, as GW20 and GW21 are separated by only two days for Manchester City and Wolves and by just three days for the other teams, plus GW22 follows shortly thereafter. So in Fantrax particularly, our strategy should become more short-term than long-term, further reinforcing the idea of dumping or otherwise avoiding stars from the aforementioned teams unless you have astronomical discounts (as most of us do with Kevin de Bruyne, and many have with Tammy Abraham). Due to the transfer limitations in FPL, for much of the season strategy tends to be long-term, so at this time we will merely want to approach things a bit more short-term than usual.

With Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester, Manchester City, and Tottenham stars looking dicey (oh, and West Ham too... if any can really be called “stars”) this week and at various stages of the near future, is it time to bury your heads in despair? Of course not; Santa’s sack is plentiful, there are loads of players who can still grab you points!

[NOTES: Everton at Arsenal is the early game on Saturday, with starting line-ups available before the Fantrax deadline. Fantrax prices listed below are for the NMA-11 league; YMMV.]

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GOALKEEPERS

Vicente Guaita (£5.1 in FPL, Crystal Palace at Newcastle)

Guaita is the 3rd-highest scorer at keeper in FPL, and his schedule is favorable over the next quartet: at Newcastle, v. West Ham, at Southampton, and at Norwich. His mid-range price is attractive in FPL, but he’s a bit too rich for my blood in Fantrax where it’s awfully risky paying too much for keepers.

Aaron Ramsdale (£4.6 in FPL, Bournemouth v. Burnley)

Ramsdale has been an absolute revelation in FPL where he’s tied for most points at the position with the more expensive Kasper Schmeichel. After failing to keep a clean sheet in his first eight games, he’s kept four in the past nine, and now a subpar Burnley away offense comes to the Vitality. It should be a defensive-minded game, which bodes well for Ramsdale to continue his fine form. I’m not going to list all of the games, but the Cherries’ schedule is favorable for a long stretch from GW18-27. Like Guaita, though, Ramsdale is not cheap in Fantrax, so in that platform I would look elsewhere at the position.

Chelsea FC v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Bournemouth has a new star in net.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Tom Heaton (£4.5 in FPL/$4.21 in Fantrax, Aston Villa v. Southampton)

Heaton is absolutely feasting on lesser competition at Villa Park. Other than absorbing a -5 point stain v. Bournemouth and -3 v. Burnley, take a look at these home Fantrax returns against teams currently in the lower half of the table: 12 points v. Everton, 9 v. West Ham, 10 v. Brighton, and 20 v. Newcastle United. Sure there are a couple of duds in there, but there’s loads of joy, too. FPL managers will focus on the fact that all three of his clean sheets have come at home, entirely against lesser competition, and he's racked up 3+ saves on 11 occasions to trigger the +1 bonus in that category. The Saints are in 18th place, so there’a a good chance at another celebration for Heaton. After that, Aston Villa’s favorable fixture run continues for a bit: v. Norwich, at Watford, at Burnley.

Jordan Pickford ($2.77, Everton v. Arsenal)

It’s pretty unbelievable that the England international is priced this low in Fantrax. But there’s a good reason for it: After his great start with double digit Fantrax efforts in the fist two games, the wheels came off with seven negatives and three zeroes across the next 13 efforts. But following Marco Silva’s exit, Pickford has turned positive again with 7 and 12 points in the past two tries. Arsenal does have dangerous players in attack, but the Gunners are coming off a home shutout at the hands of Manchester City, have scored one goal or fewer in over half of their games thus far, and seem bereft of confidence. In FPL, though, I’m not ready to get back on the bandwagon yet, since an overly pricey Pickford has failed to exceed 3 points in seven of his past eight tries. Simply put, that stinks!

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DEFENDERS

Matt Doherty (£6.0/$9.23, Wolves at Norwich) [dual D/M eligibility in Fantrax]

Since Week 11, four different defenders have scored goals against Norwich: Sheffield United’s George Baldock and Enda Stevens, Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand, and Brighton’s Shane Duffy. We all know what wing defender Matt Doherty can do in attack, and he’s got a really nice chance of doing it against Norwich.

Jan Vertonghen (£5.2/$7.60, Tottenham v. Chelsea)

Vertonghen has displaced the fleeter Danny Rose as Jose Mourinho’s preferred left back, even against Wolves’ speedster Adama Traore. Though Traore torched Vertonghen all day and scored a brilliant strike, the Spurs’ defender got the last laugh with the winning goal. In the past four games, he has averaged 5.75 ppg in FPL and 12 ppg in Fantrax. Even though Willian brings plenty of moxie on the Blues’ left wing, there’s no reason to think that Mou will mess with what’s working.

John Lundstram (£5.2, Sheffield United at Brighton)

Lundstram is currently at 48% selection in FPL, so I don’t think I need to pump him up any more. Just be sure to note that the next two fixtures are favorable (at Brighton, v. Watford) but take a quick turn for the worse thereafter (at Manchester City, at Liverpool) so you may want to be sure you have some bench cover then.

Ryan Bertrand (£4.8/$6.06, Southampton at Aston Villa)

In five games since returning from suspension, Bertrand has delivered 11, 7, 11, 7, and 6 points in Fantrax, and boasts a goal and assist in that time which excites the possibility for FPL returns. There’s no reason to think he can’t keep that form going in a relegation six-pointer.

Diego Rico (£4.4) or Simon Francis ($1.44, Bournemouth v. Burnley)

Francis has returned 5 and 8 points in his past two games, making him an attractive bargain basement option in Fantrax as long as he keeps starting. At present, four Cherries’ defenders are flagged with injuries. In FPL, Francis is the same price as Diego Rico who as a secure starter is a much better long-term play.

Martin Kelly (£4.4/$6.68, Crystal Palace at Newcastle)

Kelly has returned 6+ points in seven and eight of his 10 starts this season in FPL and Fantrax, respectively. As long as he keeps his starting job due to the rash of injuries in Palace’s back line, Kelly is about as safe a bet as you’re gonna get.

Antonio Rudiger ($1.00, Chelsea at Spurs)

We’ve all been waiting with bated breath for Rudiger to return from injury, and it finally happened with a 4 point outing in the loss to Bournemouth which could have been 8 had Dan Gosling not scored the late circus goal winner. An “away” London derby at Spurs isn’t the most favorable of match-ups, but you could do a lot worse than spending the bare minimum for a player who averaged 4 ppg last season. At least put him on your barn-door short list. In FPL, there are better options at or below his price.

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MIDFIELDERS

Son Hueng-Min (£10.0/$16.13, Tottenham v. Chelsea) [dual M/F eligibility in Fantrax]

I know, I know, earlier I advised against adding Spurs’ high-priced stars at retail. However, if you’re dropping Mo Salah or Sadio Mane, you’re gonna have plenty of moolah to play around with, and you need to add someone else in midfield as a replacement. It could be Kevin de Bruyne, but you probably already have him (he’s up at 41% selection in FPL), and his next three games are tough. Raheem Sterling is an option as well, but given his price (astronomical), performance (disappointing), and festive schedule for City (tough as mentioned), it’s difficult to get overly excited about the England star.

So if you don’t want to do a double switch and upgrade at forward, why not add Son to your midfield? The attacking winger is in absolutely dazzling form with three goals and six fantasy assists in the past eight games, and his less than premium cost would allow for plenty of spare change to spread around and strengthen the rest of your fantasy team.

Richarlison (£7.8/$17.26, Everton v. Arsenal) [dual M/F eligibility in Fantrax]

In this woeful season for the Toffees, Richarlison has been the standout performer with six goals and three fantasy assists. Arsenal have struggled on the defensive end, keeping only one clean sheet in the past 16 games. Everton should score, and when that’s the case Richarlison should be involved.

Richarlison - Everton FC - Premier League
Richarlison has been involved in more than his share of goal celebrations for Everton.
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Anthony Martial (£7.7/$8.83, Manchester United at Watford) [F only in Fantrax]

Martial has scored four goals with three fantasy assists in basically only 10 games this season, and you have to think he can add to that tally given the favorable match-up.

Lucas Moura (£7.0/$9.25, Tottenham v. Chelsea) [dual M/F eligibility in Fantrax]

Moura has starred under Jose Mourinho with a goal in each of the past two games, and while fantasy managers have flocked to Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli already, that movement has been tardy for the Brazilian as he remains the cut rate option of the midfield trio. Chelsea is a fellow “Big Six” foe, but Spurs are at home and the Blues’ defense has been its problem this season.

Jack Grealish (£6.1/$17.77, Aston Villa v. Southampton)

Even after his stinker at Sheffield United, Grealish still has four goals and three assists in his past 10 games. At home against Southampton kicking off a favorable run, the young Villa star should be able to get back in form right quick.

Adama Traore (£5.2/$14.69, Wolves at Norwich)

It’s always risky chasing points and grabbing a player after his second best game of the season — 10 points in FPL, 25 points in Fantrax — but when that is followed up by a trip to Norwich, it actually makes sense.

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FORWARDS

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang (10.8/$19.00, Arsenal at Everton)

PEA has interestingly exploded on the road this season, with seven of his 11 goals and two of his three fantasy assists away from the Emirates. Now the Gunners visit 16th place Everton, so he’ll be looking to cement the one-sided split even further.

Marcus Rashford (£9.0/21.26, Manchester United at Watford)

Rashford is in scintillating form with seven goals and three fantasy assists in his past nine games, and a welcoming trip to Vicarage Road beckons.

Raul Jimenez (£7.5) or Diogo Jota ($10.48, Wolves at Norwich) [Jota has dual M/F eligibility in Fantrax]

Jimenez is a much stronger performer in FPL than Jota, particularly given that their prices aren’t nearly as wide as their enormous gap in scoring, making him a no brainer. In Fantrax, though, I actually prefer the significantly cheaper Jota, who has scored 19 and 24 points in his past two away games at Bournemouth and Brighton, compared to 18 and 4 for Jimenez, respectively. Now Wolves travel to the team that’s conceded the third-most goals in the league, so don’t shy away from at least one of their star attackers whichever format you fancy.

Danny Ings (£6.4/$14.07, Southampton at Aston Villa)

It was a maddening weekend for FPL managers holding Ings, as the striker should have not only extended his five-game scoring streak, he could easily have bagged a second-half hat trick against West Ham, were it not for the crossbar, the post, and an iffy referee decision. Alas, he ended up with zilch instead. Fear not, the poacher’s luck should turn back around at Villa.

Beware, though, Southampton’s schedule gets tricky from GW19-25, which could make for a difficult decision in future weeks at budget forward between Ings and several other contenders. Then again, riding it out with Ings may not seem like a bad idea when you consider that this season’s he’s already scored against the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Wolves and Arsenal. Good teams, bad teams, it doesn’t really seem to matter who he’s facing with Ings, he simply likes to score.

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[NOTE: Player prices, player stats, general team table info, etc. came from the official fantasy Premier League site and the Fantrax site. Team home/away splits came from the SoccerStats site.]

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Which Liverpool players are you dropping, and what Reds’ stars are you holding onto in the mini-blank week? What adds are you looking to make from the players listed above, and who else do you have an eye on? Answer the poll below and share your thoughts/questions in the comments section!

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Poll

Are you dropping or holding onto your Liverpool players in Official FPL ahead of GW18?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Dropping like a bad habit
    (27 votes)
  • 44%
    Holding on as with a lucky charm
    (44 votes)
  • 29%
    The best of both worlds
    (29 votes)
100 votes total Vote Now