The English Premier League enjoys a global audience of nearly five billion people spread across more than 200 countries (that’s more than half the world’s population, by the way).
So whether they observe Christmas, Ashura, Bodhi Day, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Festivus or something else during the December holiday season, Fantrax managers around the globe will be hoping that their fantasy assets will bring tidings of comfort and joy (i.e. stockings stuffed with points) this weekend.
Unfortunately, we can’t just make a wishlist and then wait for St. Nick to deliver. Fantasy football managers have to make their own luck, or they’re likely to find lumps of coal in their stockings. To that end, below you’ll find my list of “best buys” for your last-minute holiday shopping pleasure.
[ NOTE: Leicester hosting Man United is our one early match, so those should be our two confirmed lineups in the countdown hour before our Fantrax deadline. Come back to NMA to see our Pre-Deadline Chat for those lineups and other news. ]
Edouard Mendy (ARS vs CHE, $10.67): The Gunners have scored just four goals over their last ten league matches, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains a doubt after missing the Everton match with a calf injury. But even if PEA passes fit in time to face the Blues, Mendy has conceded only five goals in the nine league games since he took over as Chelsea’s #1.
Jordan Pickford (SHU vs EVE, $11.96): Everton seems to have turned the tide, winning the last three in a row after finding just one victory among the seven games before that. Good times should continue to roll for the Toffees this weekend when they take on a rotten Sheffield United side that has lost twelve of fourteen and only drawn in the other two, scoring only eight goals all season (there are seven individuals with more!).
Alisson (LIV vs WBA, $11.30): Does anyone really think the Baggies will be the team to snap Liverpool’s home unbeaten streak at 66? Win points are a cinch here, and I expect Alisson to collect clean sheet points too.
Ederson (MCI vs NEW, $11.25): City have kept clean sheets in four of their last five, and a home tie with Newcastle augers well for another.
Robert Sanchez (WHU vs BHA, $2.82): I don’t fancy a clean sheet for the Seagulls, and I’d also bet against them winning this match. But Sanchez is your man if you need to pinch pennies on a GK this week. Even if he loses he could return value through save points.
Emerson (ARS vs CHE, $1.40): To the sheer horror of fantasy owners everywhere, Ben Chilwell was withdrawn from the West Ham match at the 10-minute mark with an ankle injury. He was replaced by Emerson, who will continue to deputize until Chilwell recovers (probably missing 2-3 games, and maybe role-reduced even if/when he appears). Emerson was an NMA favorite last season, so he’s a terrific value for the trip to the Emirates and beyond.
Ben Mee (AVL vs BUR, $8.81): Wolves spoiled Burnley’s CS and held Mee to just 4.5 points last time. But he generates most of his production through defensive statistics like blocks, clearances, and interceptions, so the match against free-flowing Leeds should put him back in double-digits. Plus, Mee has home matches against SHU and FUL to follow, so why not just bring him in now before his price goes up?
Yerry Mina (SHU vs EVE, $11.26): He’s a little expensive, but his goal threat combined with this week’s clean sheet potential means he’s probably worth it. Ben Godfrey ($6.32) has also been scoring well, and Seamus Coleman ($5.12) is fit again; either of these men are lower-priced alternatives that could pay dividends for you against the shambolic Blades.
Tosin Adarabioyo (FUL vs SOU, $7.88): Maybe this guy has evaded your radar, but he has quietly averaged over 10 ppg over his last five games. And because, like Ben Mee, he collects most of his points through his defensive phantoms, his Fantrax performances aren’t dependent on how well his team does (which is good, since Fulham stinks). Could be a clever differential if you’re looking to break from the pack this week.
Timothy Castagne (LEI vs MUN, $6.65): On Sunday Castagne returned to the S-XI for the first time since his hamstring injury in October, and he nearly hit double digits in only 60 minutes. His long absence during his recovery has right-priced him for the Boxing Day home tie with Manchester United.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (LIV vs WBA, $9.73): TAA has returned, and is right-back (see what I did there?) to doing what he does. An assist and a clean sheet against Crystal Palace saw him grab 18 points last time out, and since I’m probably not going to be able to bring him in, I shudder to think about what he could do to leaky West Brom at Anfield.
Anwar El Ghazi (AVL vs CRY, $6.70): The Notorious AEG put up 16 against Burnley before exploding for 38 against West Brom. He has become the spear-point at the front of Aston Villa’s attack, and he even appears to have wrested the role of penalty taker away from Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins. Hopefully you barn-doored him after the WBA game, but even if you didn’t, he’s still a bargain for the home match against an Eagles side that will still be reeling from its 0-7 thrashing last time out.
Christian Pulisic (ARS vs CHE, $4.94): On his day, the American can be as electric as anyone in the Prem. Priced under $5.00 and facing a lousy Gunners side, he’s excellent value for money this week.
Wilfried Zaha (AVL vs CRY, $13.14): Wilf has blown up for 20+ thrice this season, and each of those times he was playing somewhere other than Selhurst Park. I’m not ready to guarantee a fourth such performance this weekend, but then again, it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise against a Villa side that will be playing open football.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (SHU vs EVE, $6.72): James Rodriguez continues his recovery from a calf injury, but has so far been training only individually. Siggy looks set to continue in the No. 10 role for the Toffees then, where he has notched a goal and an assist in his last three. He’s on pens too.
Raphina (LEE vs BUR, $6.39): If not for a yellow card against Newcastle, Raphina would have returned double-digits in each of his last three matches. He has steadily developed into one of Leeds’ most dangerous men since transferring from Rennes in October, notching a brace of assists last time out. His $6.39 price tag makes him an attractive option for the home match against 16th-place Burnley.
James Maddison (LEI vs MUN, $11.77): He’s back in form, tallying double-digits in five of his last six matches, including tough away games against Tottenham and Liverpool. And although the Red Devils have surged into the top three (still with a game in hand), they’ve conceded more goals than any other team in the top 10.
Curtis Jones (LIV vs WBA, $3.46): Rested to the bench for the goal-fest against Crystal Palace, Jones should return to the S-XI for the plum home match against the Baggies. He averaged over 7 ppg over his last three starts. One of those was the crucial top-of-the-table clash with Spurs, which is an indication of Klopp’s level of trust in the 19 year-old.
Kevin De Bruyne (MCI vs NEW, $17.72): He should already be in your squad at a lower price, but if he’s not, now’s the time. No other player in City’s attack is more immune to Pep Roulette than the world-class Belgian, and he has bested his current price in four of his last six matches. Expect more of the same when he hosts the Magpies this weekend.
Raheem Sterling (MCI vs NEW, $10.29): Cheaper than KDB and almost as nailed-on, he has a goal contribution in each of his last two games.
Theo Walcott (FUL vs SOU, $8.16): Ken predicted that Theo would eventually make his way into a Player Picks article, and he was right. Walcott is getting better and more dangerous with each match, and this week he’ll be licking his chops at the prospect of starting for high-flying Saints at 18th-place Cottagers.
Bertrand Traore (AVL vs CRY, $7.05): Jack Grealish’s price is sky-high, and Ollie Watkins has gone off the boil. So if you want a Villa forward for the match against an Eagle’s defense that may still be traumatized by the 7-0 demolition by Liverpool, I give you Traore. No, not that Traore. I’m talking about Bertrand Traore. The 25 year-old from Burkina Faso has racked up 40 points over his last two matches, including a goal and a helper last time out.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (SHU vs EVE, $19.88): Cheap he ain’t, but lately he’s been better away from home than at Goodison Park: double-digits in each of his last four road trips. This week he travels to Bramall Lane to kick the dead men walking — Could there be a more favorable away fixture than that?
Jamie Vardy (LEI vs MUN, $18.75): Another expensive player who could be worth the spend this week, Vardy has scored in nine of the thirteen games he’s played in this season. And in this home match against United, I like the fact that he takes pens too. Just check the late news to be sure he has recovered from the recurrence of hip/groin pain that ended his day at 88’ last time out (though both player and manager claim he has).
Mohamed Salah (LIV vs WBA, $22.60): His form is so irresistible right now that you’ve got to just ignore his price and pull out your wallet. He has failed to score only twice since the beginning of October, and he has five goals plus two assists in his last four outings (including a brace and an assist in a mere half-hour run-out last weekend). That translates into a torrid 83.5 Fantrax points over that span.
Roberto Firmino (LIV vs WBA, $10.72): Any (or all) of Liverpool’s front three could go nuts when they host the Baggies this week, and in the preceding paragraph I just detailed Salah’s scorching form for you. But Firmino has been red-hot too, notching two goals and an assist over his last two matches. He has matched Salah’s Fantrax productivity over those two games, but he costs less than half the price of the Egyptian.
Che Adams (FUL vs SOU, $12.35): Danny Ings is crocked again, so Adams will take up his role at the point of Southampton’s attack. With a goal and an assist over his last three, he could reward buyers for the trip to Craven Cottage, where he’ll face a Fulham side that sits 18th after conceding 23 goals.
Let me close with a word of caution. Game-week 15 ends on Sunday, with the barn door slamming shut at the relatively early hour of 02:00 GMT Monday (18:00 Pacific Sunday), and game-week 16 beginning hours later on Monday.
So go ahead; and eat, drink, and be merry this weekend, but do not lose track of your fantasy squads: GW 15 and GW 16 will be separated by a window of less than 24 hours. NMA will of course have another whole raft of player picks and chat squeezed in there somehow, so keep coming back.
I hope you enjoy the festive season, and if you’ve been naughty rather than nice, then Ken and I welcome you to the club!
Which players are you eyeing for the weekend? Are there any under-the-radar differentials you are considering? Which big-money stars do you think will fall flat? Please tell us your plans in the comments, and be sure to vote in the poll!
Which Liverpool player is the better Fantrax value for GW-15’s cherry home match against West Brom?
This poll is closed
Mohamed Salah at $22.60
Roberto Firmino at $10.72