It seems ages since we’ve had to think about picking a team. The long winter break followed by the Burnley-Watford rearranged game has made it a very confusing time. Following the two weeks’ rest, this past weekend was an FA Cup round, so some teams have played, while others have had a longer break. Some of those who played in the cup fielded under-strength teams, so it is hard to glean much idea of form from those games. Add in that Chelsea and Brighton don’t play at all in this round of midweek matches (nor do Chelsea or Arsenal next week), and we have a volatile situation.
GW-24 has Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday matches, so don’t forget to make your changes before Tuesday’s deadline. All three of Tuesday’s matches should confirm lineups prior to our deadline: Kicking off at 19:45, Newcastle hosts Everton, and West Ham hosts Watford GMT; then Burnley hosts Manchester United just 15 minutes later. Be here for NMA’s Pre-deadline Chat in the countdown hour to see those six lineups and other late-breaking news.
The good thing with Fantrax is that you can change as much of your team as you like. Many people loaded up on Burnley and Watford players for their double week in GW-23, so there are likely to be many holes where those players are being replaced. There is little reason to keep Brighton and Chelsea players unless you’re keeping a large discount. Personally, I’ve been trying not to look too much at discounts this year, and with many of the influx of new players over the January transfer window dropping to a $1.00 price, there is plenty of excellent value at very low prices, which may enable you to pick several much higher priced players.
In theory, everyone will be back from the Afcon, but Senegal and Egypt players will have had limited time to recover, so be cautious with them; they may have their minutes managed. Covid cases remain fairly high in the UK, so there is still the chance that someone will be suddenly unavailable. The pandemic seems to be improving though, so hopefully this will be of minimal impact. As ever, keep an eye on news prior to the deadline on Tuesday.
Here are my suggestions for each position. Prices are post-update for F-11. F-17 prices will be a little lower.
Nick Pope - BUR vs MUN, $14.65
I’m picking a Burnley keeper against Man United — “Are you mad? Burnley is bottom of the table!” I hear you shouting. But look at his form — over 20 points for each of the last three games. Man United isn’t exactly scoring freely at the moment, with even a strong team held to a 1-1 draw by Championship side Middlesbrough at the weekend (eventually losing on penalties). There should be some save points at least, and a clean sheet isn’t out of the question. Pope’s not cheap, but keeper prices are mostly high.
Martin Dubravka - NEW vs EVE, $5.82
This looks like the best budget pick for those who don’t like to splash on keepers — apparently there are some of these people. On recent form he looks like a safe pick; Everton has not been in good form. But the Toffees have a new manager and put four past Brentford in the cup game at the weekend. Still, Newcastle also appears stronger after the transfer window (not surprising, given the amount of money available), and Dubravka is a reliable keeper who should earn well.
Kieran Trippier - NEW vs EVE, $2.31
Two games so far and scores of 11 and 17 points. He’s part of the reason for Newcastle’s improved performances and hasn’t yet managed a SOT or an assist. Last week PPQ advised us to pick him at his bargain price and forget about him. because of the double week for Burnley and Watford, I didn’t listen, but he’s in now! I hope you got him before the barn door closed and prices changed, but he’s still a bargain at triple his current retail price, so buy and hold.
Samir - WHU vs WAT, $2.85
Three games and he hasn’t dipped below nine points. The center-back is likely to be quite busy against West Ham, but in Roy Hodgson’s first game in charge the Hornets finally managed their first clean sheet of the season. So at this bargain price, Samir looks a steal (and many of you snapped him up even cheaper). There’s another good budget option from Watford in left-back Hassane Kamara who is still slightly cheaper — but my preference is for the more productive center-back, especially in a game where they’re likely to be under pressure.
Lucas Digne - AVL vs LEE, $8.13
He’s been a reliable points earner in previous years, so after a poor time at Everton this year, could his fortunes be on the upswing at Villa? He notched his first assist last time out against former employer Everton, and now comes a Leeds side that has been fairly open this year, so more attacking returns could beckon. His price is decent for his potential, although already rising quickly.
João Cancelo - MCI vs BRE, $19.68
He’s the second-most expensive defender in the game, but that’s because he’s been having an outstanding season. You might think he’s out of your budget range, but that’s what all those $1.00 players can afford you. He has notched 15 SOTs for the season but only one goal, but you wouldn’t rule one out at virtually any time — and Brentford is looking worryingly loose at the back. He was withdrawn after 67 minutes of the weekend cup tie so looks highly likely to start on Wednesday.
This could be a good week for defenders — Some teams may well have tightened up at the back, either because of new players, or because they’ve worked on discipline over the break. So I’m also considering Vitalii Mykolenko ($1.00) and Yerry Mina ($3.75) from Everton. The latter should play since Ben Godfrey was injured in the cup game — Mina came on and scored. Both look good value. They play in one of the early games so we’ll know if they are starting.
I fancy Man City to beat Brentford convincingly, and there are plenty of good attacking options there if you can read Pep Guardiola’s tea leaves and pick those who actually play.
Harvey Elliot - LIV vs LEI, $1.86
Liverpool’s wunderkind tore up the pitch in August only to break his ankle in September. Well here’s news: He’s back! In the weekend’s FA Cup action, he came in at minute 58 and netted at minute 76. At least put him on your barn-door watch-list, because at $1.86 this kid can not be ignored (you heard it here first!)
Kevin De Bruyne - MCI vs BRE, $14.93
KDB was taken off after 63 minutes of Saturday’s cup tie against Fulham, so he should be fine to start Wednesday’s game against Brentford. His form has been great recently — 115 points in his last seven games. Many of you already have him at a much lower price, but he looks reasonable value even at retail.
Bernardo Silva - MCI vs BRE $15.35
His form has dipped after an amazing start to the season. He played for just 12 minutes of the cup match so is well rested. Could he start to replicate his early-season form, or was that just filling in for KDB? It’s a bit of a punt but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Other Man City players
I feel there are a lot of points in this game for City, so who else might be in there? Phil Foden ($11.84) and Jack Grealish ($10.56) played 78 and 77 minutes respectively at the weekend, so both are fairly likely to play a big part. Ilkay Gundogan ($9.41) played the whole game so is riskier. Keep an eye on team news and take your chances!
Philippe Coutinho - AVL vs LEE, $1.36
Last week was a disappointment, with only three points in 73 minutes, but the week before he earned 13.5 in only 21. His price makes him low-risk, and he’s likely to get chances against Leeds. Like Trippier, many see him as a screaming must-buy and hold whose price will be ten times this by the end of the season.
Emiliano Buendia - AVL vs LEE, $8.33
His figures for much of the season have been a bit disappointing, but over his last three games he has eaned 8.5, 12 & 21, notching a goal plus an assist in that time. I think Aston Villa has improved under Stephen Gerrard (and in the January transfer window), and his price is still decent. although rising quickly.
James Maddison - LIV vs LEI, $15.97
He has had several excellent weeks recently; in three of his past five games he has produced over 24.5 points. The other two were meh, but he has not put two low scores together since November. The fixture is tough, but two of his huge scores were against Tottenham and Manchester City. If you have him at a discount then keep him. At market price there are probably better options but he’s by no means the worst.
Son Heung-Min - TOT vs SOU, $15.76
Before his injury, he posted six consecutive double-digit scores. He was back for 69 minutes of the cup tie and helped set up a goal for Kane. Spurs should do well hosting Southampton, and who would bet against Son being involved?
If you’re really strapped for cash, an option is new-boy Bruno Guimarães at Newcastle. He could make his debut on Tuesday and he costs just $1.00.
I’m less confident about out and out forward picks this week. It’s worth noting that quite a few of my midfield picks are also available as forwards though.
Harry Kane - TOT vs SOU, $12.00
He had a disappointing week last time out, but he had a solid run of form prior to that, and he scored twice against Brighton in the weekend’s cup tie. Son being back will likely help him too. And his price still isn’t too high.
Raheem Sterling - MCI vs BRE, $12.87
This pick comes with a warning - he is by no means guaranteed to start (or even feature). But he only played only 22 minutes of the cup tie so is well-rested. If he plays he’s likely to earn well, but keep an eye on team news. An alternative would be Riyad Mahrez ($11.67) who started the cup tie and played 78 minutes — He scored two and assisted one, so any manager other than Pep would probably find him hard to leave out.
Richarlison - NEW vs EVE, $5.49
He scored in the weekend cup tie against Brentford and looks likely to lead the line again. His price has come down to a very reasonable amount, and based on a very small sample of one game, Everton looks much happier under Lampard.
Another budget possibility is new signing Luis Diaz at Liverpool who will currently set you back $1.00. He came on for his debut in the cup win against Cardiff City and looked lively, even providing an assist. He might just smuggle in another appearance before Mane and Salah have fully recovered from Afcon.
How are you approaching this week after such a long break? Are you carrying any Chelsea or Brighton players (especially since Chelsea will blank TWO consecutive game-weeks)? Are you prepared to second-guess the Manchester City team, or are you going to stick to safer options? Whom did I miss that you think will score big? Are you making any moves to prep for doubles and blanks in game-weeks ahead? Please log in and share in the comments below!