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EPL GW-18 Fantrax Player Picks

Trying to predict the best player picks in a week when anything can happen.

Republic of Ireland Press Conference & Training Session
CR7 is the must have if he plays this weekend
Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Fantasy is always unpredictable, but GW-18 may set a few more challenges than normal with most clubs playing their third Premier League game in a week and Covid cases popping up all over the place. No fixture is certain to be played, and no player certain to feature. Ensure you check the team news before selecting your final side, and cross your fingers once deadline passes. The likelihood is we may struggle to field 11 players this week. If you do, then bravo, you are doing well.

Note: Player prices are from GW-17 before the barn door closes. Prices will recalculate for GW-18 at about 08:00 GMT on Friday.

Alert: Man United vs Brighton has been postponed. We should now shift our Man United bias toward West Ham (hosting Norwich), whose lineup should be confirmed before the already-revised Fantrax deadline.

Four more matches (SOU vs BRE, WHU vs NOR, WAT vs CRY & Sunday’s EVE vs LEI) have been postponed. The schedule is crumbling so fast that our poor, over-worked editor can’t keep up. GW-18 might not even happen this weekend; stay tuned...


Keepers

David De Gea - 12.83, MUN vs BRI

Our goal keeper selections this game week start off with a man who was finding some form prior to the appointment of Ralf Rangnick and now appears to be kicking on. The new manager commented about the initial need to address the imbalance of the side and reduce the number of goals conceded. Clean sheets against Crystal Place and Norwich suggest some early progress on that front, but if Palace and Norwich could have converted the chances created, then results would have been different. One of the reasons they didn’t was the fantastic one-man shows from De Gea; it’s possible that the old DDG may be back. Rangnick confirmed De Gea was his #1 keeper, and with DDG seeming to be a player who needs reassurance to give him confidence, it looks a good decision so far.

Brighton will present a different tactical challenge than Palace or Norwich did. Potter’s side will want to continue to play a possession style rather than form the low block. The Seagulls have traveled well results-wise, but they’ve struggled even when in form, scoring just eight goals in eight games. We should point out that two of those came at Anfield, so we know we have a side that can rise to the level of opposition/occasion.

What DDG offers fantasy managers is a keeper in an improving defensive side but one who can make multiple saves when needed. All this presents the potential of a heavy Fantrax points return.

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Willy Caballero – 1.30, SOU vs BRE

Southampton has conceded seven times in eight home games, losing only to Wolves and holding Man United to a draw. The Saints have a tendency to run either hot or cold; they come into this with a few issues, but at his price the 40-yr-old Willy (insert Ken joke here) could be your budget man for the game week.


Defenders

Issa Diop – 1.65 / Arthur Masuaku – 3.13, WHU vs NOR

Every now and then there is a game week when Diop finds himself squeezing into my Fantrax sides, and it appears he has a chance again this weekend. The Hammers are missing both first choice central defenders, giving dirt-cheap Diop the chance to start. He’s also an occasional threat from set pieces and facing a Norwich side that still looks unsteady.

Masuaku offers you a second easy and cheap route into West Ham’s defense. He will get forward, but it has been all or nothing point-wise from him since getting his starting spot back: 1, 3, 1, 14.5 and 10 are his returns from five games. The 14.5 included his freak goal against Chelsea, and the 10 included the clean sheet against Burnley.

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Alex Telles - 3.69 / Diogo Dalot - 4.29, MUN vs BRI

If United plays and if these two start, then they offer very good value for their price points. Both have been given a chance in the side with mixed performances. If they don’t start, I’d avoid Aaron Wan-Bissaka at 9.27m, but I could still be tempted by Luke Shaw at 5.88.

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Matthew Cash – 12.68, AVL vs BUR

If you have the cash for Cash, then he offers a great alternative pick. A converted winger, the recent eye test sees him often looking a threat bombing forward on the right hand side of the Aston Villa attack. Under Steven Gerrard, the early signs are that Cash is more focused on attack. You are paying plenty for the luxury pick, but he has a big score in him, maybe this is the fixture it happens.

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Joao Cancelo – 18.4m, NEW vs MCI

Accumulating a 5th yellow card gave him a well earned rest during Man City’s midweek demolition of Leeds, but unfortunately for Newcastle, that means Cancelo is back and energized to face them. Cancelo is a fullback whose wonderful form makes him a player of the season contender and a weekly option in any fantasy team that can afford him. As with TAA, he offers great attacking possibilities alongside playing in a stout defense. He is also as nearly nailed on to start as anyone in Pep’s lineup.

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Jadon Sancho – 3.68m, MUN vs BRI

Sancho is here purely because of his price. For a number of reasons, Sancho has started very slowly in his Man United career. So far, there have been only a few signs of the wonderful talent we saw in a Dortmund shirt. Too often he passes sideways, and too often he lacks the confidence to take on defenders. I’m convinced he will become the player he has the potential to become, but it seems like this may take a season or two to happen. Regardless, at his price he is the ultimate low risk pick at home against a side that will allow him a little more time and space with the ball.


Midfielders

Jack Grealish 9.95 or Kevin De Bruyne – 7.53, NEW vs MCI

Alert: KDB earned big on Tuesday, so grab him before the barn door closes and his price skyrockets! You may not see him at such a low price again this season.

I wanted to tip Bernardo Silva, but Pep’s current favorite toy came off in midweek due to some muscle related issues. With City facing Magpies who have conceded a league-high 16.4 shots per game at home, we need to consider their attackers. Nobody has conceded more than Newcastle’s 17 goals in eight home games (tied with Watford). City played Tuesday at home versus Leeds so will be well rested for Sunday’s trip and surely put a few past Howe’s side.

Grealish has started the last three league games, playing 67 minutes at Watford (11 points), 73 minutes at Wolves (2.5) and 90 minutes against Leeds (18.5 pts). Pep clearly set Grealish a challenge to add goals to take him to the next level, and the player has fired eleven shots in those three games with one goal to show for it.

KDB played his first 90-minute league game since the 6 November in Tuesday’s 7-0 dismantling of Leeds. Two goals and 33.5 points later, it’s extremely hard not to pick him this week (especially before the barn door closes!).

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Bruno Fernandes – 14.86m, MUN vs BRI

Bang out of form, he will not tempt as many as a month or two ago, and he was dreadful at Norwich, so maybe I’m just trying to be clever by thinking about buying him when others won’t. Still, a home game against an opponent who suits his strengths and I’m a little tempted.


Forwards

Mo Salah – 28.40m, TOT vs LIV

If you hold him below 20, then it’s an easy hold at least until the Africa Cup of Nations (and watch news for delayed release). He is in the form of his life, fixture-proof so no opposition or location is stopping this fantasy points-machine. Tottenham is clearly working hard to improve off-the-ball play, so the defense should be harder to split than a few game-weeks ago. Still, with Ben Davies dragooned into playing as a center back on Salah’s side, Spurs will need reinforcements to deal with Mo. I wouldn’t pay full price for him this week, but Salah has to be in any player-picks article at this point in the season.

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Jarod Bowen – 17.50m, WHU vs NOR

Bowen is one of those players starting to come through as a real fantasy stud. In FPL he remains great value, but in Fantrax he’s now the most expensive midfielder in the game (but not the most expensive forward). His five match form shows a total of just 45 Fantrax points, so he is far from value. Bowen has had 11 shots, scoring once in those matches. Look a little deeper though, and we see that run include three away games, and the opponents were Chelsea, Man City, Wolves, Burnley and Brighton. Bar Burnley, that’s four of the stronger recent defenses. GW-18 brings softer opposition in the form of Norwich visiting the capital. Nobody has conceded more goals on the road than the Canaries’ 20. Even shot-shy Spurs fired 17 efforts in their 3-0 win over them, and ten-man Newcastle fired in 10 in their draw, and shot-shy Brentford hit 19 in defeat. West Ham will have efforts on goal, plenty of efforts.

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Michail Antonio – 12.19m, WHU vs NOR

A firm favorite of many fantasy managers, our man Antonio has lost his mojo in recent weeks. The midweek Arsenal game did not hot form return, but the plumb home game against Norwich on Saturday will surely be just the tonic to restore shooting boots. As Andy from Let’s Talk FPL will tell you: Like London buses, when you get one you may just get two, three or four just like this!

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Cristiano Ronaldo – 12.96m, MUN vs BRI

As the early kick-off, we will get to see if he starts. If he does, he is a must-have this game-week even at his current price point.

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Ollie Watkins - 8.80m, AVL vs BUR

Watkins has scored three goals in six home games. Burnley has conceded the most shots per game away from home (19.3). In the 2-0 midweek win over Norwich, he had a goal plus an assist on his way to 24 points, marking him as in form; if you’re on top of your fantasy game, grab him at 8.80 before the barn door closes.


Our one early match would have been Man United hosting Brighton, but it has been postponed. This has already had the knock-on effect of revising the Fantrax deadline to 15:00 GMT when the next match starts. Therefore, we now should expect to see Aston Villa and Burnley lineups confirmed in the new countdown hour from 14:00 to 15:00 on Saturday. Return to NMA then to see those and other late news plus rapid analysis and discussion in our Pre-Deadline and Live Chat article plus comments.

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In contention for the least predictable week of all time, whom are you tipping for your Fantrax sides? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

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