Whew! While the festive period certainly was wonderful, we can still breathe a sigh of relief as the stars rest and recover. Even so, plenty of key players failed to emerge with their health intact, leaving loads of holes in our lineups.
Fantasy favorites such as Crystal Palace’s Patrick van Aanholt, West Ham United’s Michail Antonio, Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton, Wolves’ Diogo Jota, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Bournemouth’s Joshua King, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, Norwich’s Teemu Pukki, and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy are all either out or doubtful for week 22. Which players look like good bets to fill those gaps this week?
[NOTE: Don’t forget that this week starts early on Friday, so be sure to set your fantasy teams way ahead of the weekend! Sheffield United v. West Ham is the Friday game, with XIs that will be available prior to the Fantrax deadline.]
Many of us will be looking to add Liverpool and West Ham players in the run-up toward their DGW24 (making up for their blank in GW18). We start at goalkeeper, where both players are attractive options both for this week and during the double, presenting an intriguing decision.
Alisson ($8.08, Liverpool at Tottenham)
Even though the Reds’ defense hasn’t always looked especially convincing, it has kept five straight clean sheets. Alisson has been a major beneficiary, hitting 10+ points at each turn in that stretch. Normally heading to Tottenham would loom as a tough fixture, but this Spurs side is without Harry Kane, and is coming off a dispiriting 1-0 loss at Southampton. However, with GW22 at Spurs and GW23 home to Manchester United, I can see the logic in staying away from Alisson and hoping that his price plunges before DGW24 (at Wolves, at West Ham).
Lucasz Fabianski ($6.08, West Ham at Sheffield United)
Traveling to Sheffield United isn't the most attractive fixture overall for West Ham or any team, but the Blades’ success this season has been based on defense, not offense, so Fabianski should not suffer. The Fab Man has returned 9 and 14 points in his two games following a return to health, and is averaging 7.78 ppg this season overall. His GW22 and GW23 fixtures — at Sheffield United, v. Everton — seem a bit more attractive than those for Alisson, but Fabianski’s DGW (at Leicester City, v. Liverpool) looks tougher.
Ben Foster ($6.51, FC Watford at Bournemouth)
There’s no law that says you have to go with Alisson or Fabianski for their DGW24, and even if that is your plan, there’s also nothing making you grab them ahead of time. If you’re looking elsewhere, Ben Foster is your man. During Watford’s Renaissance under Nigel Pearson, Foster has averaged 12.5 ppg over the past four games. While this game is away from Vicarage Road, the Bournemouth offense is in shambles, having scored a total of two goals in the past seven games, and recently losing Joshua King to injury to add to the misery.
Jordan Pickford ($5.21, Everton v. Brighton)
If you’re just short of funds for any of the above-mentioned keepers, Pickford is a good fallback. He’s averaging only 2.86 ppg for the season, but his returns have perked up recently, as the England #1 has averaged 9.0 ppg in the past six games. Brighton is playing an attractive brand of football under Graham Potter, but with Carlo Ancelotti in charge now at Everton, and this game being at Goodison Park, Pickford has a solid chance at a nice return.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka ($10.86, Manchester United v. Norwich)
If you’re gun shy about spending money on the pricey star attackers now that so many are injured, shelling out for a defender could make sense. AWB is about as safe as they come, having scored 10 points in the reverse fixture at Carrow Road, notching double digits in three of his past seven games overall, and averaging 7.0 ppg at home this season.
Djibril Sidibe ($8.51, Everton v. Brighton)
Sidibe has been a beehive of activity recently, posting returns of 12, 13, 15, 10, and 10 points in the past five games. Expect more of the same at home against the Seagulls.
Mason Holgate ($6.86, Everton v. Brighton)
Sidibe’s teammate Holgate has also been in fine form, notching 7+ points in six of his past seven games. He’s coming off a 1-point dud, but that was at Manchester City. Holgate should get turned around this week.
Taylor has been a beast on the road, averaging 8.25 ppg this season away from Turf Moor including returns of 9, 13, and 9 points in his past three away affairs. Going to Stamford Bridge doesn’t sound like a great match-up for most Burnley players, but it should be for Taylor.
Christoph Zimmerman ($3.91, Norwich at Manchester United)
Many of us were presented with a choice between Zimmerman and Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger recently in terms of which bargain basement enabler to choose for our final defender spot. If you picked Zimmerman, you’re certainly happy, as he’s averaged 4.5 ppg this season, posting 4+ points in five of his past six efforts despite not holding a clean sheet in any of those games.
Matt Ritchie ($2.17, Newcastle at Wolves) [dual D/M eligibility]
Ritchie scored 4, 11, and 10 points in the first three games back in August before suffering long-term injury, but now he is nearing a return. There’s a chance he may be ready for the XI this weekend, so have an eye on team news. Even if you don’t add him now, keep watch on the barn door.
Antonio Rudiger ($1.22, Chelsea v. Burnley)
Rudiger is averaging only 2.33 ppg and has failed to crack 5 points in any game yet, which is why his price has remained near the $1 minimum while Zimmerman’s has risen to $3.91. If you have the money, go for Zimmerman. If not, Rudiger should return value at his price, especially with the low-octane Clarets’ offense coming to Stamford Bridge.
Marcus Rashford ($21.77, Manchester United v. Norwich) [dual M/F eligibility]
Rashford notched 23 points thanks to a goal and assist in the reverse fixture at Carrow Road in October, but he tends to do even better at home, scoring eight of his 12 goals at Old Trafford this season, where he has averaged 14.7 ppg. Grabbing him for Week 22 sure seems like a no-brainer.
James Maddison ($19.63, Leicester v. Southampton)
The Madd Man endured a -1 clunker against Liverpool, but check out what he'd done in his prior six home games: 16, 7, 19, 8, 17, and 12 points. Now he’s coming off an outstanding 19-point effort at Newcastle. Southampton is in good form under Ralph Hasenhuttl, but we’re still talking about 2nd place at home against 12th place, so Maddison and the Foxes should do just fine.
Richarlison ($18.06, Everton v. Brighton) [dual M/F eligibility]
The Brazilian winger only had one double digit effort in his first six games, but has picked up the pace since then with eight 10+ point returns in his past 15 tries. He’s averaging 10 ppg at home, and should better that mark with an open Brighton side coming to Goodison.
David Silva ($8.77, Manchester City at Aston Villa)
Silva earned a 7-minute cameo against Everton on New Year’s Day following a return from injury. The Sky Blues’ star playmaker scored a goal and returned 14 points in the reverse fixture against Villa in October, and while Pep Roulette is always a concern, Silva should be expected to start again this time.
Ismaila Sarr ($7.90, Watford at Bournemouth) [dual M/F eligibility]
Sarr has flourished under Pearson recently, with two goals and an assist across the past four games, averaging 13.5 ppg in that span. The youngster is attacking at will, with 20 shots (7 SOT) in the past eight games, so expect the joy to continue at a struggling Bournemouth side.
Pablo Fornals ($6.86, West Ham at Sheffield United)
Fornals was supposed to be a big signing for West Ham this summer, but Manuel Pellegrini didn’t get anything out of him, and that was certainly a factor in his manager losing the job. Fornals has improved lately, averaging 10 ppg in his past four games, with a goal and assist in that time. Unlocking the Blades’ defense will be tricky, but Fornals has scored 6+ points in five of his past six games, giving him a better chance to return value compared to more expensive teammates Felipe Anderson and Robert Snodgrass at the midfield position.
Raheem Sterling ($17.54, Manchester City at Aston Villa)
Sterling has remarkably scored 9 of his 11 goals on the road this season, where’s he’s averaging 13.2 ppg. 17th place Villa has conceded the third-most goals in the league this season, so the Sky Blues will be licking their chops. After scoring a goal and notching 15 points in the reverse fixture in October, Sterling should be at the forefront of the action.
Gabriel Jesus or Sergio Aguero ($14.16 or $11.72 , Manchester City at Aston Villa)
Jesus is coming off a brilliant brace against Everton following an absence due to illness, while Aguero scored a goal when he started the previous game against Sheffield United after his return from injury. Whichever of the two snipers starts up front will be an excellent option at Villa. Does Aguero’s 90 minutes with a goal in FA cup action Saturday tell us whom?
Jesus has four starts at home compared to six on the road this season, whereas for Aguero it’s seven starts at home and four on the road, so Jesus may be a slightly better bet in this case. But it’s still pretty up in the air, so be sure to check team news as the deadline nears.
Anthony Martial ($11.03, Manchester United v. Norwich)
If you want to stay away from Jesus and Aguero due to the uncertainty over starting status, Martial has no such worry at roughly the same price point. However, Martial has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, and for proof of that look no further than his past six games: 12, 2, 4, 20, 17, and 0 (all starts, each 67+ minutes). I like his chances to have one of his good games at home against Norwich, but teammate Rashford is a safer pick not to crater; of course, that’s why Martial is so much cheaper.
Troy Deeney ($4.69, Watford at Bournemouth)
In Deeney’s past two league trips to the Vitality, the Hornets’ captain has scored three goals and added an assist. There’s no guarantee that success will continue, but at less than five clams, it’s a very affordable lottery ticket with a decent shot of paying off huge.
Have injuries to key stars forced a slew of changes to your fantasy teams? Which players from the above list are you targeting, and whom else are you pegging for a big week? Share your thoughts and any questions in the comments!