It has been a week and a half since the final whistle blew on the most recent Premier League match, and a lot has happened since then.
In the Champions League, Tottenham defeated Borussia Dortmund 3-0 in the first leg of their match-up — an especially impressive feat given that Harry Kane and Dele Alli were forced to miss out through injury. Manchester United suffered its first loss under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when it fell 0-2 to Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford. Paul Pogba was shown red in that game while Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial suffered injuries that will sideline them for 2-3 weeks. Liverpool’s match with Bayern Munich ended in a scoreless tie, and Manchester City’s kickoff with Schalke should have occurred simultaneously with the publication of this article.
In the Europa League, Chelsea won the first leg of its tie with Malmö, but Arsenal suffered a shocking loss to BATE in which Alexandre Lacazette was shown red. The Blues and the Gunners both play their second legs tomorrow; be sure to follow team news for lineup and injury reports from those games.
There was also action in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. Watford, Brighton, Manchester City, Wolves, and Crystal Palace were all winners and advanced to the Quarterfinals. And Manchester United bounced back from their CL defeat to dump Sarri Chelsea from the tournament by shutting them out 2-0.
All of these developments have implications for Fantrax managers. League schedules will have to be adjusted to accommodate matches for the teams that remain alive in the various tournaments, and that will create blank weeks and double-game weeks in Fantrax. And injuries and suspensions incurred in European tournaments can throw wrenches into the rest and rotation plans of Premier League managers, casting their league lineups into uncertainty.
But these worries are for another day. For now we must focus on the week ahead, which is itself limited to 8 matches due to schedule jiggering: This is a blank week for Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City, and Brighton. Here’s the slate of fixtures, followed by my picks.
Friday (with pre-deadline lineups)
- Arsenal vs Southampton
- Manchester United vs Liverpool
Please note that we have Friday games this week, and that lineups for Cardiff v Watford and West Ham v Fulham should be available before the deadline. Be sure to check in to our Pre-Deadline Chat to get the scoop in time to beat the buzzer.
Bernd Leno (ARS v SOU, $6.68): It seems Arsenal’s defense can never be trusted to keep a clean sheet. But this week he faces a Saints team that will be without Danny Ings. You can probably count on a win and a few saves from Leno, and that should be enough to repay your investment even if he can’t keep Southampton out of his net.
Ben Foster (CAR v WAT, $10.24): Foster has posted double-digit returns in five of his last six outings, largely on the strength of three clean sheets and a whopping 30 saves over that period. We can probably expect more of the same when he faces goal-shy Cardiff this week.
Arturo Boruc (BOU v WOL, $2.44): Bournemouth’s last two games resulted in serious beat-downs at Cardiff and Liverpool. But the heavy losses lowered his price, and the Cherries now return to Vitality Stadium, where they tend to perform their best. Boruc is your budget GK play this week.
Martin Dubravka (NEW v HUD, $7.17): Willy Boly’s stoppage-time equalizer deprived Dubravka of a win and a clean sheet last time out, but the Slovakian still came away with 8 points. And this week he hosts bottom-club Huddersfield, who have not scored an away goal since Boxing Day.
Laurent Koscielny (ARS v SOU, $4.94): He failed to maintain his two-game scoring streak against Huddersfield, but he still managed 12 points without the benefit of a clean sheet. He’s almost a lock to exceed his price in fantasy points this week.
Sead Kolasinac (ARS v SOU, $4.73): An own-goal and a yellow card restricted his return to just 4 points against Huddersfield. But he performs best at the Emirates, where Unai Emery typically allows him a longer leash going forward. (Eligible as D or M)
Nathaniel Clyne (BOU v WOL, $2.99): The Liverpool loanee was ineligible to face his parent club in Bournemouth’s last game, but he’ll slot right back into the lineup this week, and he’s averaging nearly twice his price.
Fabian Schär (NEW v HUD, $8.36): Schär has an average return equal to his price, and this week he faces the feeble Terriers at home.
Florian Lejeune (NEW v HUD, $1.81): If you don’t have the budget for Schär, Lejeune is a budget route into Newcastle’s potential clean sheet.
Adam Masina (CAR v WAT, $2.09): José Holebas is suspended for the tie with Cardiff, so I expect Masina to deputize in his place. Masina has done well in that role before, so l think he’s an excellent value against the Bluebirds this week.
Aaron Cresswell (WHU v FUL, $4.60): The buccaneering left back looks set to plunder and pillage down the flank when the Cottagers bring the league’s worst defense to London Stadium. (Eligible as D or M)
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (ARS v SOU, $3.20): The wing-back is nicely-priced for the home match against Southampton, and he’s averaging over 5 ppg.
Ryan Babel (WHU v FUL, $1.11): Fulham may be lousy, but Babel still averages 4 ppg for just over a dollar. (Eligible as M or F)
Youri Tielemans (LEI v CRY, $1.00): He would have had 6 points last time if not for a yellow card, and he’s still available for just a buck. At home to Crystal Palace he’s a set-and-forget no-brainer as long as he keeps playing every week.
Matt Ritchie (NEW v HUD, $11.35): If not for a yellow card last time out, Ritchie would have posted his 5th double-digit return in a row. There’s no reason to think he won’t get back on track against the league’s worst team. (Eligible as D or M)
Miguel Almirón (NEW v HUD, $1.00): He’s not likely to start just yet, but he returned 3 points in just 18 minutes against Wolves. There are a lot of enablers in the Player Picks this week, but If you need another, Almirón will get some minutes again this weekend.
James Ward-Prowse (ARS v SOU, $7.24): After posting double-digit returns in each of the 4 previous games, JWP stumbled against Cardiff, returning a measly 3 points. Sunday’s game at the Emirates won’t be easy, but I back him to revert to his norm.
Son Heung-Min (BUR v TOT, $15.11): Son boasts 8 goals in his last 8 league games, and also scored in last Wednesday’s Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund. He’s not inexpensive, but while he’s in this kind of form do you think Burnley (or anyone else) can stop him? (Eligible as M or F)
Robert Snodgrass (WHU v FUL, $8.77): With Samir Nasri still doubtful with a calf injury, Snoddy seems set to continue in the S11. He’ll be anxious to exploit the league’s sorriest defense when Fulham come to visit this weekend.
Felipe Anderson, (WHU v FUL, $17.89): Twice the price of his Scottish colleague, but with a higher ceiling too. Against Fulham, he could be worth it. Caveat: Arno is fit and likely to start, so Anderson’s role may be affected. YMMV.
João Moutinho (BOU v WOL, $9.82): Moutinho has 5 assists in his last 4 matches. And even though he didn’t notch a helper last time out, he still put up 8 points.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ARS v SOU, $18.45): He’s pricey, but since he sat out the last league game with illness, he’ll be looking to get back amongst the goals against the Saints. (Eligible as M or F)
Wilfried Zaha (LEI v CRY, $13.79): Zaha is on a run of five straight games with double-digit returns, and three of those games were away from home. It won’t bother him that this week’s tie with Leicester takes place at the King Power Stadium.
Michy Batshuayi (LEI v CRY, $1.00): His ceiling is probably lower than Zaha’s, but then again, so is his price. The Chelsea loanee hasn’t cracked Palace’s S11 yet, but he has outshone Benteke every time he has come in as a sub. This could be the week he starts from the opening whistle.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (WHU v FUL, $14.55): It has been a couple game weeks since Mitro last scored, so if his typical pattern holds, he’s just about due to break out against a bad club.
Jamie Vardy (LEI v CRY, $11.07): Vardy started on the bench last time out, but subbed into the game in the 60th minute to take — and miss — a PK. He still ended on 9 points. He should return to the starting lineup this weekend, nicely-priced for the Eagles’ visit.
Salomón Rondón (NEW v HUD, $8.22): The Venezuelan is Newcastle’s main offensive threat, and I’m betting he scores or assists against the terrible Terriers.
Harry Kane (BUR v TOT, $19.57): King Kane has returned to training, and he’ll be looking to make up for lost time when he travels to Turf Moor. Listen to team news (and our pre-dead chat) to discern if his minutes will be limited.
Marko Arnautovic (WHU v FUL, $10.03): Arnie is another blog favorite who is fully-fit again, and his availability comes just in time for a delicious home fixture against the league’s most porous defense.
Raúl Jiménez, (BOU v WOL, $16.22): Jiménez failed to score or assist last time out — the first game in his last four in which he has blanked. But he still produced 9 points. I think he’s a little bit over-priced, but if you feel good about his chances this week, there are enough dollar-men available right now that you should be able to find a way to afford him.
Manchester United play Liverpool in a crucial match this week. You’ll notice I didn’t recommend buying any United or Pool assets at retail. Do you agree? What United/Liverpool players are you holding this week? Which are you dropping? And are there any blanks you’re keeping? Tell us in the comments below.