We’ve got a wacky game-week coming up guys. Round 26 opens on Saturday morning as per usual, but only eight of the twenty teams play this weekend. The other twelve play next weekend, starting on that Friday and ending on that Monday. Game-week 27 then picks up two Saturdays from now.
The idea is to provide EPL teams with a “winter break” after the brutal festive period: Twelve teams get this weekend off, and the other eight get next weekend off. Confused? Here’s the layout:
Saturday 8 February 2020
Sunday 9 February 2020
Friday 14 February 2020
Saturday 15 February 2020
Sunday 16 February 2020
Monday 17 February
Note that not everybody will actually get a full two-week breather. Liverpool and Newcastle both had 4th-round FA Cup replay engagements yesterday, and both teams won. ‘Pool’s team was composed completely of alt-squad players, so we have no fantasy EPL implications to worry about there. Newcastle fielded a full-strength side for their win, but Joelinton was forced off with a rib injury after notching a goal and an assist. Tottenham and Southampton will face each other in their FA Cup Replay match tonight. Be sure to follow news for information that could impact lineups ahead of the Fantrax deadline on Saturday. We’ll have confirmed S11s for the Everton/Palace match in time to react, so be here for our Pre-Deadline Chat, and then stick around for the Live Chat.
But before we dive into the picks, let me pass along some further words of caution regarding rest and rotation. When planning your fantasy squads for this round and next, keep in mind that fixture congestion due to to continental tournaments could affect players from the following clubs:
European Cup Fixture Congestion
|Team||GW 26||Champions League/Europa League||GW 27|
|Team||GW 26||Champions League/Europa League||GW 27|
Also, with Liverpool now an eye-popping 22 points ahead of Manchester City in the race for the title, we can expect Pep Guardiola to tacitly concede and begin to concentrate his efforts elsewhere. Consequently, he could start fielding diluted squads for league games so that he can preserve his first-team studs for trophy tilts in the FA Cup, the Champions League, and the Carabao Cup. So tread carefully should you decide to shell out for expensive City assets like Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, and Kevin De Bruyne. On the bright side, it’s possible that this opens the door for promising (and inexpensive) talents like Phil Foden to begin to get regular league starts.
OK, with all that business out of the way, let’s go ahead and dig into GW-26.
Jordan Pickford ($5.47, EVE vs CPL): Two consecutive negative returns have dented Pickford’s price. But his next match is a home tie with the league’s worst offense, so consider his recent discount to be a buying opportunity.
Alisson ($13.12, NOR vs LIV): Liverpool have posted clean sheets in eight of their last nine matches, and much of that is down to Alisson. Arguably the best goalkeeper in the world right now, he averaged almost four saves per game over his last five matches (and added an assist!). So even if the Reds let Norwich slip one by Alisson again (remember the reverse fixture on the season’s opening day?), points for saves and the win (I mean, Liverpool will win, right?) should be enough to reward your investment despite his relatively high cost.
Alex McCarthy ($4.42, SOU vs BUR): Burnley won the reverse fixture 3-0 on the opening day of the season. That match marked the start of a run of poor form that resulted in just two wins across Southampton’s first thirteen games. But the Saints are a very different side now, and have lost only once in their last last seven games, with McCarthy returning double-digits in four of those. Burnley, meanwhile, have lost four of their last six.
Hugo Lloris ($6.45, TOT vs AVL): Aston Villa have scored more than one goal only twice in their last twelve league matches, and no one who saw Lloris’s performance against Manchester City on Sunday would bet that Villa could improve that record when they play Spurs. The Frenchman collected a clean sheet and six saves — including a penalty save — against the Citizens on his way to a staggering 30 point Fantrax windfall. It’s a bit optimistic to expect a similarly-spectacular return this time, but given his form I think his price is justified against a Villans side that is perched just one point above the drop zone.
Reece James ($6.52, CHE vs MUN): You can’t trust Chelsea to keep clean sheets, but with James you don’t need them: He has put up 49 points over his last 4 starts, while holding his opponent scoreless just once. Frank Lampard will go hard at United in front of the home crowd, and that should result in more of the same from his 20 year-old English right back.
Joseph Gomez ($5.85, NOR vs LIV): The Reds have allowed just a single goal over their last nine league games, and Gomez is by far the cheapest route into that stingy back line. The return to fitness of Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip combined with a bit of upcoming fixture congestion does introduce some risk of rotation, but until the league championship is a mathematical lock I think Jurgen Klopp will continue to roll with what’s been working.
Aymeric Laporte ($1.80, MCI vs WHU): Laporte returned from a five-month injury absence to play 78 minutes of the 1-0 win over Sheffield United on January 21. Pep Guardiola subsequently gave the Frenchman some extended recovery time by resting him for the Tottenham game on Sunday, but I think we can expect him to return to the starting lineup this weekend. Although he is City’s best center half, Laporte has never been a big-time Fantrax stud (during City’s title-winning 2017-18 season he averaged less than 4 ppg). But at under $2 he’s a good enabler against a West Ham team in free-fall.
Kyle Walker-Peters ($1.57, SOU vs BUR): Surplus to requirements at Tottenham, KWP has now moved to St. Mary’s Stadium where he’ll finish the season on loan to the Saints. He hasn’t seen action in the league since August, but he’s got another week and a half to build fitness ahead of the Burnley match, so he could be ready to feature. He was a solid Fantrax producer under Mauricio Pochettino, so at this price he should be a safe bet to return value.
Japhet Tanganga ($2.17, AVL vs TOT): Tanganga has now started three consecutive matches and appears to have cemented his place as Mourinho’s first-choice left back. Twelve of the twenty-nine points he put up over those three games came from clean sheets, but even without those he’d be averaging about six ppg.
Matt Ritchie (ARS vs NEW): Ritchie has averaged 9 ppg over his last four 90-minute shifts, and he’s done it by producing at both ends of the pitch (which is why he can slot in at either midfield or defender). With Arsenal and Newcastle level on points and separated only by goal differential, I don’t expect this match to be as one-sided as many might expect. Ritchie should be set for another nice harvest.
Willy Boly (WOL vs LEI): Nuno Espirito Santo’s favorite — and possibly most important — defender returned to the lineup on Saturday after a 3 1⁄2 month injury layoff. Just how critical is Boly? Wolves managed only 1 clean sheets in 15 league matches while he was out, but they promptly claimed one in his first game back.
Gabriel Martinelli ($5.55, ARS vs NEW): Two goals in his last three games, and three in his last six. At just $5.55, he’s a much lower risk than his expensive French teammate with a hyphenated name. (Eligible as M/F)
Jorginho ($9.82, CHE vs MUN) Jorginho makes the list this week solely because Chelsea will pour themselves at Manchester United, and he is Chelsea’s PK taker. He’s a damn good one too, with a lifetime record of 20/21 for a conversion rate of 95%. Just how good is that? Better than EPL legends Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who both made 92% of their spot kicks, and better even than Ronaldo, who has made 94% of his. In fact, Jorginho’s 95% ties him with the man who is widely considered to be the best penalty taker in history: Southampton’s Matt Le Tissier. (stats sourced from transfermrkt.com)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ($5.55, NOR vs LIV): The Ox has a goal in each of his last two games, and this week he travels to Carrow Road to face the league’s joint-worst defense. He’s the perfect way to gain some LIV attacking exposure if you can’t afford any of the big three.
Sadio Mané ($17.62, NOR vs LIV) Mané suffered a muscle tear on January 23, so by the time the Norwich game rolls around, three weeks will have gone by. Klopp is confident that will be enough to see the Senegalese back to fitness: “After [the Southampton match] he should be fine” (dailystar.co.uk). Highly-effective on the road regardless of the opposition (he has 10 away goals this season vs. Mo Salah’s 2), this time he’ll square up to the Canaries. He could well have a field day. (Eligible as M/F)
Bruno Fernandes ($1.00, CHE vs MUN): United’s new-boy slotted straight into the starting lineup against Wolves, where he took set pieces and registered 3 SOTs to finish on 11 points despite picking up a yellow card. Are you kicking yourself for not snatching him up at his introductory price of $7? Well don’t sweat it. Due to the way the Fantrax pricing algorithm works, his price cratered to the league-minimum after last week’s adjustment. At this price his chances of disappointing you are pretty slim.
Ondrej Duda ($1.80, NOR vs LIV) Is one bargain-bin midfielder not enough for you? No problem: I offer you Ondrej Duda, Norwich’s new Slovakian field marshal. Although his matchup for this round is horrible, he has returned 10, 8, and 6 in the three starts he’s had so far. And a lot of his fantasy production has been defensive, so he should return value even if the Canaries don’t see much of the ball (hint: they won’t).
Moussa Djenepo ($5.70, SOU vs BUR): Djenepo put up a shot on target, an accurate cross, and a corner forced in has last match, for a total return of 8 points? Meh, you say? Well, remember that he did all that against Liverpool. At Anfield. Think of the possibilities when he welcomes Burnley to St. Mary’s this round.
Son Heung-Min ($14.47, AVL vs TOT): Son has scored in each of his last two games, and with Aston Villa’s porous defense next on his agenda, he could well make it three in a row.
Allan Saint-Maximin ($6.67, ARS vs NEW): Newcastle’s most dangerous man put up 20 points last time out, all without a goal or an assist. He also scored the winning goal in the 116th minute of Newcastle’s FA Cup tie with Oxford United last night. But don’t worry, the Magpie’s league match with Arsenal isn’t until February 16th: ASM will be fully recovered and ready to terrorize Hector Bellerín by then. (Eligible as M/F)
Roberto Firmino ($16.42, NOR vs LIV): Firmino blew up for 3 assists and 18 points when Liverpool hosted the Saints on Saturday. OK sure, you say, but that was at Anfield where the Reds are a force of nature. Well what if I told you that Firmino has four goals and 60 points across his last four away games? Even better, for this round Liverpool travel to Norwich, who have given up 47 goals this season.
Sergio Aguero ($16.34, MCI vs WHU): Aguero has piled up an amazing nine goals over his last five games, and even though he didn’t ripple the net on his last outing, he still returned double digits. He’s a rotation risk now that City are out of the race for the league crown, but if he starts the home match against the Hammers, he could make plenty of hay.
Danny Ings ($16.65, SOU vs BUR): For a while it seemed like there were three things we could count on: death, taxes, and a goal from Danny Ings. It’s now been four games since Danny Boy last scored, but he looked bright against Liverpool on Saturday, and an Ings goal against Burnley sure sounds better to me than death or taxes.
Steven Bergwijn ($1.00, AVL vs TOT): Bergwijn signed a 5 1⁄2 year deal with Spurs on January 29th, and four days later he found himself in the S11 for the home tie with Manchester City. The 22 year-old Dutchman promptly scored on his Spurs debut with a sweetly-taken volley after controlling with his chest.
Bergwijn has already shown us he has the requisite skills, and with Harry Kane expected to be out for months with a severe hamstring injury, Bergwijn’s place in the starting lineup should be all but certain. Priced at just a buck and facing the league’s joint-worst defense this round, what’s not to like? (For more on Bergwijn, check out Chris’s introductory profile on him here.)
Troy Deeney ($6.60, BHA vs WAT): For the last eight rounds, Deeney has faithfully adhered to a pattern of scoring in every other game. True to the routine, Watford’s captain and penalty-taker didn’t put the onion in the bag last time, so....
Raul Jimenez ($17.47, WOL vs LEI), Adama Traore ($15.52, WOL vs LEI): Leicester have pretty much forgotten what a clean sheet is, and Jimenez and Traore have three goals and three assists, respectively, across their last three games. Traore dislocated his shoulder before a kick to the calf finally forced him off in the second half of the United game on Saturday, but Nuno is comfortable that the burly winger will recover in time for a Valentine’s Day date with the Foxes. Pedro Neto ($3.60) could be a sneaky differential pick for this round too, btw.
Who are you dropping this week? Who are you picking up? How many January transfer new-boys are in your squads? How reluctant are you to invest in Manchester City assets now that Liverpool have built an insurmountable lead? Do you think Tottenham’s clean-sheet victory over the Citizens on Sunday marks a turning point for Spurs and Mourinho? Please join us in the comments below!