As the fixtures have come hot and heavy, rest and rotation have been at the forefront of fantasy managers’ minds. Week 16 marks the end of three game weeks in quick succession. I’m not saying you have to dump them if you’ve got them at discount, but key players such as Dele Alli, James Maddison, Sadio Mane, Jamie Vardy, James Ward-Prowse, Danny Ings, Kevin de Bruyne, Son Heung-Min, Raheem Sterling, and many others will have us biting our nails down to the nubs due to the threat of absorbing zeroes, so I certainly wouldn’t advise adding them at retail.
What strategy should we implement in prioritizing players in our fantasy rosters?
[NOTE: Player costs below are barn-door prices from the NMA Fantrax-11 league; YMMV.]
THOSE FEATURING IN THE FIRST GAME
We always enjoy picking from the first game, which has line-ups available before the Fantrax deadline. In game weeks such as this where starting status for the remainder of the games will be more doubtful than usual, the initial fixture becomes even more attractive, so be sure to jump on the Everton v. Chelsea game more than you usually would.
Despite being on the road, the Blues should be favorites as the 4th place side facing a team in the relegation zone, so their starters will be more attractive. However, the Toffees will be looking to take advantage of the “new manager bounce” — even if it’s just a caretaker — and any super cheap, unexpected starters could pay off nicely as well.
PLAYERS WHO RESTED OR OTHERWISE MISSED WEEK 15
If you had any stars in your Week 15 line-ups who missed the midweek affairs, you were surely bummed. But don’t despair now, because those are the players who should be first in line for our team sheets this week as they will enjoy a high likelihood of starting, and their prices generally ticked down a bit to boot.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson ($5.57, at Bournemouth) missed the Merseyside derby through suspension, so don’t hesitate to grab him now if you have the funds available for the trip to Bournemouth which has struggled to score with Joshua King out injured. Teammates at forward, Mo Salah ($16.25) and Roberto Firmino ($14.12), were rested by Jurgen Klopp; Salah missed the entire game, while Firmino played only 17 minutes. With Sadio Mane now fairly likely to hit the bench, Salah and Firmino will be excellent plays. Forward Divock Origi ($6.05) scored a brace against Everton and may get a second straight crack at things since he will be unlikely to feature in the Champions League affair. Cut rate midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ($2.86) also missed out and could be an interesting way to go, although he is far from assured to start.
Sheffield United striker Lys Mousset ($7.30, at Norwich) has become a favorite of many fantasy managers lately, scoring four goals with three assists in the six games prior to his 27’ cameo appearance against Newcastle. I reckon that Mousset is a better long-term option for the FPL platform than the Fantrax game since he is not good at delivering phantom points outside of goals and assists, but his near-guarantee of returning to the XI this weekend along with his low price and favorable match-up combine to make up for that shortcoming.
Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy ($2.99, v. Manchester United) was rested for the win over Burnley, and will likely return to the XI at left wing back. Citizens’ midfielder Ilkay Gundogan ($4.77) missed the victory through suspension, and should go back as a spinning ball of Pep Roulette for the Manchester derby at the Etihad. Fellow midfielder Riyad Mahrez ($15.10) came on in the second half as a sub, and will have a pretty good chance of starting, but given his irregular status this season it’s far from a guarantee.
It’s tough to feel great about him due to a tough match-up along with poor form this season, but Bournemouth midfielder Ryan Fraser ($10.32, v. Liverpool) could pay off if you feel like taking a chance. Fraser only managed 26 minutes from the bench in the loss at Crystal Palace, but if anybody is going to be key to the Cherries’ having any sort of chance against the Reds, it has to be their best playmaker, especially since Harry Wilson is ineligible to play against his parent club.
Caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg has not found the answer in his two games in charge. Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe ($9.20, at West Ham) has not started either time, but he provided a spark in Thursday’s defeat, scoring 9 points in the second half. I can’t promise he will start, but he should. And if he does, he’ll give the Hammers a handful at London Stadium.
Burnley forward Ashley Barnes ($10.82, at Tottenham Hotspur) rested against City, and now striker partner Chris Wood could do likewise at Tottenham. Spurs have struggled mightily keeping clean sheets this season, a trend that has not changed under Jose Mourinho, and Barnes will be the most likely Claret to crack the net.
TEAMS THAT DON’T HAVE GAMES NEXT MID-WEEK
As for Champions League, Chelsea and Liverpool play Tuesday, while Tottenham and Manchester City feature Wednesday. For Europa League, Arsenal, Manchester United and Wolves play on Thursday. Their managers will surely consider resting some key players this weekend.
If you’re picking from six of those seven teams (other than Chelsea after you see the early XI), you’ll want to have a full jar of Pepto-Bismol at the ready. As for 12 of the other 13 teams (not counting Everton, the other beneficiary of the early game), you don’t have to worry nearly as much.
If you’re looking for a cheap keeper — and who isn’t — West Ham’s David Martin ($2.87, v. Arsenal) looks to have taken the starting job from Roberto Jimenez while Lucasz Fabianski remains sidelined with injury. The match-up against Arsenal isn’t ideal, but it’s at home, and you certainly could do worse.
If you like rolling the dice, Watford’s Ben Foster ($2.44, v. Crystal Palace) is the ultimate crap shoot. In his home games this season, he’s gone negative three times, while otherwise returning 3, 8, 13 and 17 points. Now Crystal Palace comes to town, offering optimism since the Eagles don’t really have too much of an offense. If you’re looking to make up ground, Foster’s the guy who can do it... well, either that or push you further back in the pack.
If you can’t stomach paying more than the bare minimum, Southampton’s Alex McCarthy ($1.00, at Newcastle) has taken the starting job from Angus Gunn, and although he began rockily with two negatives, he’s gone positive in each of his past three efforts. The Saints are away from home, but the Magpies’ offense doesn’t exactly scare anybody.
In a similar vein, it’s always nice to grab a cheap defender. Hat tip to community member Ken, Norwich City’s Christoph Zimmerman ($1.65, v. Sheffield United) has returned 3, 5, and 3 points in three starts since recovering from injury. He’s not exactly setting the world on fire, but for that price, you don’t really need him to.
The Crystal Palace defense is currently mired in injury/suspension crisis — Mamadou Sakho is suspended, and Gary Cahill, Scott Dann, Patrick van Aanholt and Joel Ward are all either doubtful or out — so rotation is not an option for Roy Hodgson in back. Crystal Palace defender/midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp ($6.93, at Watford) took advantage of his opportunity when van Aanholt left injured, scoring the only goal against Bournemouth. Schlupp has scored 11 and 18 points in limited minutes the past two games, and should be assured of getting another start — at last place Watford, to boot — as a reward. Martin Kelly ($5.84) is another good option after scoring 9 points in each of his past two games, as is James Tomkins ($4.35) who has averaged 8.3 ppg in his past four tries.
Aston Villa winger Trezequet ($8.35, v. Leicester) [M/F eligible] has returned double digit points in four of his past five games. As much as I love Jack Grealish, I love Trezeguet even more since you can get him for less than half the cost, particularly for such a tough match-up.
Brighton’s Aaron Mooy ($3.01, v. Wolves) has averaged 5+ ppg each of the prior two seasons, and is in good form with 6+ points in four of his past six tries.
Shane Long ($2.01, at Newcastle) earned a rare start against Norwich, providing an assist in the win, with 9 points to go along with it. After a long string of starts, the injury-prone Danny Ings will be at risk of getting a rest at St. James’ Park, meaning that Long should expect to be in the XI again.
Leicester forward Kelechi Iheanacho ($1.99, at Aston Villa) scored a goal and an assist for 17 points in only 28 minutes off the bench in the 2-1 win over Everton in Week 14, but failed to feature in Week 15. He’s a highly speculative play, but he won’t cost much, the trip to Aston Villa is pretty favorable, and there’s a half-decent chance he could nab a start over Jamie Vardy or Ayoze Perez should Brendan Rodgers choose to give either of his attacking stars a breather.
[NOTE: Player prices, statistics, etc. came from the Fantrax site.
The early match with lineups probably confirmed before deadline will be Everton vs Chelsea.]
Which stars are you holding onto, and what players will you be sure to add as the fixture congestion hits a head this weekend? Please ask any questions you have and share your thoughts in the comments below!