Phew! We’ve finally run the gauntlet of festive-period fixtures and emerged on the other side. Congrats for staying on your toes as the flurry of games hit us like snowflakes in a blizzard [which reminds me: this weekend looks clear, but stay alert in future weeks this month and next].
This week we see regular service restored, with the slight wrinkle of a Friday match. I’ll repeat for emphasis: We have Friday deadlines this week — don’t miss them! That’ll be just before the Blades clash with the Hammers, so we should have those two lineups confirmed in time for Fantrax managers to make changes if they have doubts to fill and want to invest in that match.
Interestingly, the January transfer window has been open for over a week now, but so far the market has been eerily quiet. The only significant news to report is the loan of Danny Drinkwater from Chelsea to Aston Villa, the purchase by Liverpool of Takumi Minamino, and a short-term deal to bring the veteran journeyman Jack Rodwell to Sheffield United. You can bet on transfer activity heating up substantially as the end-of-the-month deadline draws nearer.
After from back-to-back road defeats at the hands of Manchester City and Liverpool, Sheffield United will hope to rebound with a home win against the Hammers tomorrow. Fifth in the table just three games ago, the Blades have dropped to eighth after taking only one point from the last nine. But West Ham thrashed Bournemouth 4-0 in David Moyes’s first game in charge, signaling that the Hammers may now be a tougher nut to crack than they were under previous management.
SHU Outs/Doubts: none notable
WHU Outs/Doubts: Michail Antonio (hamstring), Aaron Cresswell (knock), Ryan Fredericks (hamstring), Mark Noble (metatarsal), Jack Wilshere (groin), Andriy Yarmolenko (thigh)
Luka Milivojevic’s scoring record against the Gunners is remarkable: He has netted five times in six appearances. But the Eagles’ skipper was shown straight red in Sunday’s FA Cup loss to Derby for a head butt on Tom Huddlestone, so Palace’s string-pulling talisman will be forced to watch from the stands as his side play Arsenal this week. Milivojevic’s absence will be welcome news for Mikel Arteta, who will look to collect his second league win on the trot. But Arteta’s task will be made more difficult if PEA fails to pass fit: The Frenchman missed last weekend’s FA Cup tie through illness.
CRY Outs/Doubts: Christian Benteke (muscle), Victor Camarasa (calf), Scott Dann (muscle), Max Meyer (knock), Luka Milivojevic (banned), Jairo Riedewald (knock), Mamadou Sakho (hamstring), Jeffrey Schlupp (muscle), Andros Townsend (knock), Patrick Van Aanholt (hamstring), Joel Ward (knee), Wilifried Zaha (knock)
ARS Outs/Doubts: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (illness), Hector Bellerín (hamstring), Callum Chambers (knee), Gabriel Martinelli (hamstring), Kieran Tierney (shoulder)
A trip to Stamford Bridge is normally a daunting prospect for visiting teams, but Chelsea’s last two home outings ended with defeats to Southampton and Bournemouth. That will fill Sean Dyche with confidence, Frank Lampard with angst. Lampard will hope to welcome Christian Pulisic back to health though — the American notched a “perfect” hattrick (right foot, left foot, head) in his breakout performance in the reverse fixture.
CHE Outs/Doubts: Marcos Alonso (muscle), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Achilles), Christian Pulisic (illness)
BUR Outs/Doubts: Ashley Barnes (groin), Phil Bardsley (illness), Ben Gibson (groin), Johan Berg-Gudmundsson (hamstring), Aaron Lennon (groin), Jay Rodriguez (illness)
Everton remain in the bottom half of the table, but the side is much-improved since the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti. Indeed, they now sit only six points outside the European tournament berths, their loss to Manchester City a week ago only their first league defeat in a month. Meanwhile, the Gulls have been heading in the opposite direction. They’ve won just a single match over the last month and were bounced from the FA Cup on Saturday by Championship side Sheffield Wednesday (the other Sheffield, whose existence makes us write out “United” in Sheffield United every week).
EVE Outs/Doubts: André Gomez (ankle), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh), Alex Iwobi (hamstring)
BRI Outs/Doubts: Dan Burn (shoulder), José Izquierdo (knee), Glenn Murray (knock), Aaron Mooy (knock)
Leicester vs Southampton
In case you don’t remember this game’s reverse fixture, it was the one that set a record for S’oton, and not in a good way. Visiting Leicester’s 9-0 evisceration of a 10-man Saints side was the worst home defeat in Premier League history. But that match marked a nadir from which Southampton have rebounded, losing only twice over the last two months to climb into twelfth place. Ayozé Perez and Jamie Vardy both notched hatties last time — are you expecting another fantasy bonanza this time around? Notably, one scorer in that Leicester goal-fest is a doubt this week: James Maddison sustained a head injury in his recent FA Cup match, so his status for the weekend is now unclear.
LEI Outs/Doubts: Matty James (match fitness), Wes Morgan (groin), James Maddison (head), Wilfred Ndidi (knock requiring surgery)
SOU Outs/Doubts: Yann Valery (illness)
The Red Devils’ home match against EPL whippng-boys comes just at the right time. United are in the midst of a three-game winless streak across all competitions and just got their butts handed to them at Old Trafford by their cross-town rivals in first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal. Norwich sit rock-bottom in the table and could be without Teemu Pukki on Saturday. On the plus side, the Canaries did arrest an eight-game all-competitions winless streak by defeating Preston North End in their FA Cup tie last weekend. Nevertheless, I suspect many fantasy managers will put the captain’s armband on Marcus Rashford this weekend.
MUN Outs/Doubts: Eric Bailly (match fitness), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (match fitness), Harry Maguire (hip), Scott McTominay (knee), Paul Pogba (ankle), Marcos Rojo (muscle), Luke Shaw (illness), Axel Tuanzebe (unknown)
NOR Outs/Doubts: Ralf Fahrman (knock), Ben Godfrey (ACL), Timm Klose (knee), Teemu Pukki (hamstring)
The festive period was a mixed bag for the Wanderers; they’ve lost two in a row in the league. Nuno Espirito Santo will want full points from this one then, since he must face Liverpool, Manchester United, and Leicester in his next four. But Newcastle will be in no mood to roll over, as a loss would edge them toward the relegation scrum. The Magpies will have to travel to Molineux Stadium absent a raft of injured first-team players though.
WOL Outs/Doubts: Willy Boly (ankle), Diogo Jota (knock), Morgan Gibbs-White (back)
NEW Outs/Doubts: Miguel Almiron (groin), Andy Carroll (groin), Ciaran Clark (calf), Paul Dummett (groin), Dwight Gayle (hamstring), Jamaal Lascelles (tibia), Javier Manquillo (hamstring), Yoshinori Muto (hip), Allan Saint-Maximin (hamstring), Fabian Schar (hamstring), Jonjo Shelvey (hamstring), Jetro Willems (groin)
Tottenham vs Liverpool
Spurs were never going to be favorites going in to this game, but their task will be made even more difficult by their growing list of injuries to key players. Harry Kane, Ndombele, and Sissoko are all expected to miss out, so although the Special One will undoubtedly spring some injury-forced tactical surprises, it’s hard to see this game going any way but Liverpool’s.
TOT Outs/Doubts: Ben Davies (ankle), Harry Kane (hamstring until April+), Hugo Lloris (elbow), Tanguy Ndombele (hip), Danny Rose (calf), Moussa Sissoko (knee)
LIV Outs/Doubts: Fabinho (ankle), Naby Keita (groin), Dejan Lovren (muscle), Joel Matip (knee), James Milner (muscle), Xherdan Shaqiri (knee)
A four-game winless streak in the league (that included a 4-0 drubbing by West Ham last week) has seen the Cherries drop into the relegation zone. They’ll be looking to build on their recent FA Cup win but will find Watford more difficult than Luton: The Hornets are on a five-game undefeated streak after also winning their FA Cup match. And they’ll be buoyed by the reversal of the red card shown to Roberto Pereyra in that game (although Christian Kabasele remains suspended). Should a resurgent Watford win on Sunday, they could climb clear of the relegation zone.
BOU Outs/Doubts: Adam Smith (ankle), Nathan Ake (hamstring), David Brooks (ankle), Charlie Daniels (knee), Josh King (hamstring), Jack Stacey (hamstring)
WAT Outs/Doubts: Etienne Capoue (knock), Tom Cleverley (heel), Kiko Femenia (hamstring), Will Hughes (knock), Daryl Janmaat (knee), Sebastien Prodl (knee), Danny Welbeck (hamstring), Christian Kabasele (suspended)
Aston Villa vs Manchester City
Game-week 22 concludes with what should be a complete mismatch: One of the world’s premier clubs travels to take on a side dangling just one point above relegation. What’s worse is that the Villans have recently lost their #1 goalkeeper and first-choice striker to injury. Scenarios like this are the stuff of fantasy managers’ dreams. But pick your players carefully. Neither Jesus nor Sergio Aguero were named to the starting lineup for City’s Carabao Cup clash with United, so who knows which of the two will get the nod. And Raheem Sterling has seemed out of sorts lately. Will Pep gift him this game to boost his confidence, or will he sit the bench? This fixture could be a fantasy bonanza, but as usual, you’ll have to win at Pep Roulette in order to profit.
AVL Outs/Doubts: Tom Heaton (knee), Jonathan Kodjia (illness), John McGinn (ankle), Matt Targett (hamstring), Wesley (knee)
MCI Outs/Doubts: Aymeric Laporte (match fitness, but back in training!), Leroy Sane (knee)
Are you betting on Jamie Vardy, Ayoze Perez, or Christian Pulisic to repeat their hattrick performances from their reverse fixtures? Can the Special One conjure up enough tactical magic to defeat the Liverpool juggernaut? Which Manchester City players are you betting will start? Do you have an under-the-radar pick you’re backing this week? Please tell us in the Comments below!
Who is your top fantasy pick for GW 22?
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