Fantasy planning is now heating up for the restart of the Premier League. There are some EFL Cup matches and friendlies this midweek, then everyone pauses for Christmas weekend, and then from December 26th the festive season hits the ground running (weather permitting — Don’t forget to check before deadline time!).
Many EPL players featured at the World Cup, and a few will now be given a break after reaching the final. Others didn’t make it to the World Cup (or played early and rested late), so it is tempting to think of them as fully rested and raring to go. But Pep Guardiola said ahead of Thursday’s EFL Cup tie:
“...the players at the World Cup are in better condition than the ones that were here”
Thanks Pep! Since our games are not for a few days yet, please keep a look out for updates on team news and post anything significant in the comments. The picks in this article are based on how things look now; I’m sure there will be changes ahead.
The early game is Brentford hosting Tottenham (kick off at 12:30 GMT on the 26th December — That’s 4:30 in the frick’n AM for those on the US West Coast), so you should hear team news about an hour earlier, maybe 45 minutes before the Fantrax deadline. There could be some bargains then, especially in the Spurs’ lineup, so come back then for NMA’s Pre-Deadline Chat to discuss who the best bargains are.
For those who joined us during the World Cup fantasy game, remember that Fantrax’s scoring system is completely different. Points can be earned (and lost) for a variety of contributions. While it’s always nice to find the multi-goalscorers, many good weeks are built on a raft of solid crosses, corners and interceptions, often from players in unsung positions (I’m looking at you, central defenders) and often even on losing teams.
Lots of you still have players at deep discounts worth holding, but I’m basing these picks on hole-filling needs at current F-11 prices (F-17 will be similar but a little lower).
Kepa Arrizabalaga (£8.03m, Chelsea vs Bournemouth)
There’s a caveat straight away since he’s flagged as a slight doubt, but under Graham Potter Kepa has been the number 1 keeper when fit, and the team has performed much better defensively when he’s there. A home game against Bournemouth seems a decent clean sheet shout though you wouldn’t expect him to make many saves. If he isn’t fit, Edouard Mendy at £4.46 is a dirt cheap alternative.
David de Gea (£10.43, Man United vs Nottingham Forest)
A little more expensive but another good-looking fixture, and his form before the World Cup was good.
Gavin Bazunu (£7.81, Southampton vs Brighton)
If you fancy a gamble, then Bazunu could be your man — He’s likely to get save opportunities. However, though Brighton is not the most fearsome opponent, there’s some risk here.
My one exception to the ‘current prices’ rule because you all have him at £3.39 (or something close) I hope. Until he gets injured, he’s a set and forget option. If you don’t have him, then go bargain hunting elsewhere and pray that he doesn’t cover his 15.2 point AVERAGE.
Another injury doubt so you need to keep an eye on team news, but at this price he’s a bargain in a game you’d expect Arsenal to dominate. If he’s out then his deputy is likely to be Kieran Tierney and he’s even cheaper at £3.08.
Reece James (£6.74, Chelsea vs Bournemouth)
Yet another slight doubt, but his price has dropped nicely, and he could get lots of attacking returns in this one. You may be tempted to play him in midfield in this one depending on how many defensive spots you have. Other Chelsea defenders are also interesting for this match (and for next week’s double), so keep an eye out for team news — Apart from Thiago Silva, all are very well priced.
I quite fancy TAA to put in a big week at Villa after spending all his time on the bench with England at the World Cup. Andrew Robertson is slightly cheaper and has performed slightly better earlier this season, but perhaps now is the time for TAA to flourish, and he could become a lot more expensive soon.
Luke Thomas (£1.78, Leicester vs Newcastle)
It’s not an attractive fixture, but Thomas looks likely to get an extended run in the team now that James Justin is out, so at this price he’s a great enabler.
Honorable mentions: Duje Caleta-Car (£3.94, Southampton vs Brighton), Nathan Patterson (£5.59, Everton vs Wolves).
Bruno Fernandes (£11.71, Manchester United vs Nottingham Forest)
No Ronaldo could mean a big points explosion for Bruno — and against Forest he is close to being a must-have.
Antony (£6.22, Manchester United vs Nottingham Forest)
This might be the week to go heavily in on Manchester United attacking options, and except for a minor knock, Antony was scoring very well in Fantrax prior to the World Cup break.
Bukayo Saka (£12.57, Arsenal vs West Ham)
With Jesus out, Saka could be the focal point of Arsenal’s attack. However, you could just as easily go for Gabriel Martinelli who’s only fractionally more expensive.
Mason Mount (£9.15, Chelsea vs Bournemouth)
Again keep an eye on team news, but Mount has great potential against a Bournemouth team that was shipping plenty of goals before the World Cup.
Harvey Elliott (£6.79, Aston Villa vs Liverpool)
He was getting plenty of minutes and scoring well in Fantrax even when not finding the net or assisting.
Honorable mentions: Lewis Hall (£1.20, Chelsea vs Bournemouth), Dejan Kulusevski (£5.06, Brentford vs Spurs).
Darwin Nunez (£9.68, Aston Villa vs Liverpool)
He’s still competitively priced and possibly in for a big week, though Aston Villa may be a bit of an unknown quantity right now. Despite not quite setting the league alight, he has been producing better than his more expensive teammate Mo Salah.
Kai Havertz (£7.43, Chelsea vs Bournemouth)
I’d recommend keeping a look out for news on Chelsea this week since whoever gets the nod in attack could be in for some decent points. Another option is bargain-priced Raheem Sterling at £5.31.
Eddie Nketiah (£1.32, Arsenal vs West Ham)
With Jesus injured, Nketiah should get plenty of minutes, and at his price he’s a fantastic enabler.
Honorable mentions: Anthony Martial (£4.29, Manchester United vs Nottingham Forest), Diego Costa (£2.19, Everton vs Wolves).
Which players are you buying this week? Who are you selling? How has the World Cup break affected teams? Are you holding onto lots of discounts? Are you eyeing any other differential options? Please log in and share your thoughts in the comments!