COVID continues to throw spanners into the works of the English Premier League (as well as every other major sports league on the planet), with the Leicester vs Norwich and Southampton vs Newcastle matches now the latest fixtures to fall victim to postponement. Additional matches are under threat due to insufficient numbers of players available as well.
And of course, even in the games that do go forward, we are sure to suffer COVID casualties to individual players. For instance, today Jurgen Klopp announced that there were three new positives among his first-team players. While he does not expect the Chelsea match to be postponed, he said it will be obvious who the infected players are when the team sheet comes out on Sunday. That statement should strike terror into the hearts of owners of Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Konstantinos Tsimikas, Sadio Mané, and Mo Salah.
On the other hand, the Premier League has treated us to some New Year’s Eve fireworks (or at least promises thereof). The long gap between GW-21’s last originally scheduled match and GW-22’s first is when EPL clubs enter the FA Cup (Jan 7 & 8) and when four of them play the EFL Cup Semifinals (Jan 11 & 12). The EFL semifinal window especially has always offered an obvious chance for uninvolved teams to makeup missed matches, and this season has quite a few: We’re at 20 and counting that await rescheduling.
And sure enough, the league today announced that it is penciling in Southampton v Brentford and Everton v Leicester on the 11th, plus West Ham v Norwich on the 12th. If this holds, it means that LEI and SOU will no longer blank in GW-21, and that EVE, WHU, and BRE will have the season’s first doubles. Just beware: 10 days post-deadline is a lot of time in an uncertain season — Covid, snow and cup play/injuries/suspensions could interfere further.
So... now that we have some changes to GW-21 that we’ve suspected were coming, let’s name the players who deserve to make our shopping lists.
David De Gea (MUN vs WOL, £5.2)
The Spanish netminder has been Manchester United’s best player lately, single-handedly saving (see what I did there?) results when the other ten guys around him seemed intent on squandering them. His performances have been reflected in his FPL returns too — 23 points over his last four games. United’s backline is anything but a fortress, but Wolves have scored only two goals in their last eight games. Consequently, the Red Devils probably have a better shot at a GW-21 clean sheet than any other club in the league.
Hugo Lloris (WAT vs TOT, £5.4m)
If you just can’t trust United’s defense, then perhaps Tottenham’s will make you more comfortable. Spurs have conceded just four goals over their last seven league matches. You’d probably have felt even better about this pick if news hadn’t broken that Dennis won’t be going to AfCON, but even so, Watford has scored only one goal in each of its last four games even with him on the pitch.
Lukasz Fabianski (CPL vs WHU, WHU vs NOR, £5.0m)
It’s the newly-added Norwich fixture that lifts Fabianski into our GW-21 picks. The Canaries are firmly rooted to the foot of the table and have scored a measly eight goals all season. Clean sheet points look very likely for the second half of Fabianski’s double then, making sheer bonus of whatever he generates from the Palace match.
Rúben Dias (£6.2, MCI vs ARS)
With the unfortunate news that Joao Cancelo was injured in a robbery (luckily he and his family are okay), there’s obviously good reason to believe Pep Guardiola will take the precaution to rest him and be certain he is mentally and physically recovered this week. Dias is the third best scoring defender in the Premier League on the defense with the most clean sheets. Arsenal has improved in past weeks, but Dias still remains one of the best defensive options in an uncertain gameweek.
Sergio Reguilón (£5.3, TOT vs WAT)
He came off at 45 minutes versus Southampton, so he should be relatively rested and ready for Watford. The Spaniard is the 13th best for FPL defensive points thus far, and as Spurs improve in all aspects under Conte, he remains the best chance for the coveted clean sheet/attacking-return combination. There was some concern about a minutes battle with Ryan Sessegnon, but with the Englishman nursing a muscle injury, Reguilón will get the start.
Matty Cash (£5.0, AVL vs BRE)
Aston Villa has improved defensively under Steven Gerrard, and with Tyrone Mings currently suspended, Cash is second best defender for the Villans with 57 FPL points. He’s also nailed on and a decent bet for the odd goal involvement, not to mention a nice differential pick at 4.4% ownership.
Vladimir Coufal (CPL vs WHU, WHU vs NOR, £4.7m)
Like his teammate Fabianski, Coufal wouldn’t have made this list without the promise of a make-up match against Norwich. But he should now generate four points for the week just on minutes-played alone, in addition to whatever points he can produce on either end of the pitch over (hopefully) two matches.
Jarrod Bowen (£6.6m, CPL v WAT, WAT v NOR)
The Hammers’ Bowen has simply been phenomenal recently, and he really was in top-form in their 4-1 victory over Watford last week. The electric midfielder provided a hattrick of assists with an accumulated 14 points – his highest FPL haul ever. Unsurprisingly, the 24-year-old playmaker is the most transferred in player ahead of GW-21, and most of those transfers occurred even before West Ham’s double was announced, so a lot of his new owners are hoping to get even more than they bargained for now!
Raphinha (£6.5m, LEE v BUR)
Leeds has found it really difficult to reproduce last season’s success so far, but Raphinha has continued as the star of their squad this season. The Brazilian has been on Bayern Munich radar, and other Premier League clubs are rumored to be interested, and that’s simply due to his attacking threats. Rightfully so, the winger has produced eight goals, and an assist, and with Leeds’ regular strikers Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo out injured, he’ll take charge of the penalty spot along with the rest of the set-pieces.
Son Heung-Min (£10.5m, WAT v TOT)
Son may have not been in the best form, but he has still produced impressive attacking returns for fantasy managers. The South Korean forward has four goals plus a couple of assists in his last five matches. Given how Conte’s Spurs seem to tick together now, Son will have plenty of chances to shine against a dull-Watford side that is conceding too many goals (2.3 goals per game at home) for fun now.
Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m, ARS v MCI)
Man City is really on a roll, and Kevin De Bruyne is showing glimpses of his own best-self after a struggling start to the campaign. With the Belgian seeming fully fit, he has also seems to have reclaimed a regular starting slot for Pep Guardiola. The City playmaker has three goals plus an assist in just the previous four fixtures, and the Citizens’ attack has enough potential to help KDB shine to his best form.
Another shout-out could be Phil Foden (£8.1m) who scored a crucial goal against Brentford to help his side reach eight points clear from second-place Chelsea. The youngster mostly performs in the big games when needed.
Mo Salah (£13.0m, CHE v LIV)
This game will be brilliant to watch, especially the battle of Mo Salah against Chelsea’s back line. Despite not being able to contribute in any way or form in his previous two fixtures, one can’t rule out the Egyptian King who has been spectacular in all fixtures this season, and who should feature in his last game before flying out for AFCON and missing the Brentford fixture in GW-23 (and, both legs against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-finals and vs Shrewsbury in the FA Cup). Caveat: Klopp has made noises about four new unnamed Covid surprises, so watch Liverpool’s not-seen-in-training news right up to the deadline.
Harry Kane (WAT v TOT, £12.2m)
Three goals in Tottenham’s last three matches has made Kane an intriguing prospect for FPL managers after what had been a very slow season start. The England captain is finally beginning to show the kind of form that fired him to the Premier League Golden boot last season. With Tottenham visiting a Watford team yet to keep a clean sheet this season, the probability of Kane adding to his goals tally looks likely.
Michail Antonio (CPL v WHU, WHU v NOR, £7.7m)
Antonio returned from a Covid enforced break to score one goal and assist another in just two games. It might be wise for FPL managers to join the Antonio train early as he has proved himself over time to be a streaky striker, and now that he’s supposed to get two bites of the apple in GW-21, he’s almost a no-brainer.
Emmanuel Dennis (WAT v TOT, £6.0m)
Dennis owners must be overjoyed at this morning’s news that Dennis is not going to AFCON. The Nigerian striker was initially set to miss a number of EPL fixtures with his national team, but his parole has now put paid to those plans. His goal against West Ham on Tuesday took his tally for the season to eight goals plus five assists. FPL’s most productive forward will be looking to ring in the New Year with more tomorrow.
Cristiano Ronaldo (MUN v WOL, £12.5)
Ronaldo bounced back from an early miss to contribute a goal plus an assist for United against Burnley on Thursday. The Portuguese captain has been the Red Devils go-to man since his return from Juventus. With United trying to close the gap to the Champions League places, Ronaldo will once again be relied upon to provide the goals this weekend against Wolves. He has contributed eight goals plus three assist in the league this season.
What are your favorite picks for Round 21? Whom are you dropping to make room? The extra free hit chip is now available — will you play it this week? Please tell us your GW-21 plans in the comments below!