Adequate. Moderate. Ordinary. Not words you really want to associate with your Fantasy Football performance. Once again, the gameweek average was 51 points, and once again, we were pretty much bang on average with our recommendations. Average was your reward if you captained Romelu Lukaku (51 points), whilst captaining the immaculately-pruned Olivier Giroud would have netted you a slightly sub-par 48. Whilst some managers would no doubt give anything for mediocrity right now (see Mourinho, Jose), we pride ourselves on not falling into that category, so read on as we attempt to leave normality behind and shoot for the Fantasy stars…

DEFENCE

A disastrous defensive return means there is only one place to start this week. 4 points was the grand total returned from our back 4, as Aleksandr Kolarov was unexpectedly benched, whilst Messrs de Gea, Moreno and Alderweireld all conceded. Mid-table teams were the investment vehicles for clean sheets last weekend, as Crystal Palace, West Ham, Stoke and Watford all registered shutouts, while only Arsenal from the big guns provided defensive rewards. With the best defence in the league, United, ravaged by injuries and City unable to defend without Vincent Kompany, maybe it’s time to look at the midfield for some cheaper, and possibly more reliable, alternatives at the back…

 

TeamClean Sheet OddsImplied chance
Chelsea1.7357.80%
Man United250.00%
Liverpool2.540.00%
Swansea2.6238.17%
Stoke2.7536.36%
Newcastle2.7536.36%
West Brom2.934.48%
Crystal Palace3.2530.77%
Southampton3.2530.77%
Tottenham3.330.30%
Bournemouth3.330.30%
Everton3.429.41%
Arsenal3.7526.67%
West Ham3.7526.67%
Watford4.223.81%
Man City4.522.22%
Aston Villa4.522.22%
Leicester5.518.18%
Norwich6.515.38%
Sunderland812.50%

 

Somewhat surprisingly, a relegation six-pointer sees one side top the defensive rankings this weekend, according to the bookies. Chelsea (57% chance of a clean sheet) welcome Sunderland to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon, with the two early-season strugglers placed 16th and 19th respectively. The Blues are strong favourites to come away with all 3 points and a clean sheet, given Sunderland’s poor form on their travels this term. Whilst Jose Mourinho’s men have kept 3 clean sheets in their last 6 home games, Sam Allardyce’s Black Cats have scored in their last 3 away games, and given how out-of-character Chelsea have been this season, we have to go against the bookies here and not recommend any Chelsea players for your back line, despite the short odds on offer for a shutout.

Manchester United (50%) enjoy a favourable defensive fixture this weekend as they host a Norwich side who have scored a solitary goal in their previous 3 away encounters. United’s prospects, having conceded just 1 goal in the league at Old Trafford this season, will depend on the availability of senior defenders such as Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian, with Phil Jones also looking to return to the fold. Team news will be very important here.

Looking further down the Premier League table, Stoke (36%) have 5 clean sheets in their last 6 games and have shut out both Chelsea and Manchester City at The Britannia recently. They’ve conceded only 7 home goals all season, but have scored just 7 too, and on Saturday they welcome a Crystal Palace (30%) team who have proven themselves to be one of the best travelling sides in the division. With 6 goals conceded in 7 away games, but only 9 goals scored, this has all the makings of a low-scoring encounter and we can see the likes of Jack Butland, Scott Dann, Wayne Hennessey and Philipp Wollscheid all being valuable picks.

Elsewhere, two of the best attacks in the country meet on Saturday when Everton (29%) take on league leaders Leicester (18%). As the bookies odds suggest, goals are set to be the order of the day in this one, with both teams strong offensively (29 and 34 goals scored this season, respectively) and slightly shaky at the back (21 and 22 goals conceded). Monday night sees a clash between 2 of the traditional “big 4”, with Arsenal (26%) tackling Manchester City (22%) at The Emirates. Again, the bookies fancy goals here, but a quick look at the stats shows that the Gunners have the second best home defence in the league (5 goals conceded in 7), whilst the Sky Blues have the joint-third worst attack away from home (7 goals scored in 7), so there may be more than just a glimmer of hope that the home side can keep the City attacking juggernaut at bay and record their second clean sheet on the trot.

Our recommendations for your back line this week; Jack Butland, Phil Jones, Scott Dann, Laurent Koscielny.

ATTACK

Two players showing great consistency this season were the jewels in our attacking crown last gameweek: Romelu Lukaku and Riyad Mahrez, who accrued 9 and 13 points respectively. Olivier Giroud (goal) and Christian Eriksen (assist) also did their bit for our overall score, but the unforeseen benching of Kevin de Bruyne deprived us of an anticipated mega points haul. With the festive period fast approaching and renowned for squad rotation, it is wise to have solid substitutes on your Fantasy benches, for when the unexpected does happen. Speaking of the Christmas period, let’s analyse the attacking names that look best-positioned to fill us with festive, and Fantasy, joy this weekend…

PlayerGoalscorer OddsImplied chance
Diego Costa2.0548.78%
Romelu Lukaku2.343.48%
Loic Remy2.3842.02%
Anthony Martial2.441.67%
Sergio Aguero2.5539.22%
Christian Benteke2.638.46%
Olivier Giroud2.638.46%
Harry Kane2.835.71%
Bafetimbi Gomis2.835.71%
Jamie Vardy2.8834.72%
Aleksandar Mitrovic2.934.48%
Ayoze Perez333.33%
Wilfried Bony3.132.26%
Salomon Rondon3.1232.05%
Odion Ighalo3.2530.77%
Georginio Wijnaldum3.528.57%
Bojan3.528.57%
Rudy Gestede3.528.57%
Sadio Mane3.627.78%
Troy Deeney3.627.78%
Riyad Mahrez3.7526.67%
Ross Barkley3.7526.67%
Marko Arnautovic3.826.32%
Philippe Coutinho425.00%
Raheem Sterling425.00%
Aaron Ramsey4.3323.09%
Mauro Zarate4.422.73%
Yannick Bolasie4.522.22%
Christian Eriksen520.00%
Mesut Ozil520.00%
Kevin de Bruyne520.00%
Junior Stanislas5.518.18%
Jordan Henderson616.67%
Jermain Defoe6.515.38%
Steven Fletcher6.515.38%
Wes Hoolahan911.11%

 

Diego Costa tops the attacking rankings with a 48% chance of breaching the Sunderland defence on Saturday. The hot-headed Spaniard has only scored once in his last 10 outings for club and country as second-season syndrome sinks in, but he has looked more sprightly since returning to the starting lineup following his mini-fallout with Jose Mourinho a few weeks back. If you don’t like the look of those numbers, Loic Remy (42%) scored from the bench against Leicester on Monday night and could be given the chance to stake his claim for more regular match time this weekend. The Black Cats have the worst away defence in the league with 21 goals conceded (an average of 2.6 per game).

As we mentioned above, goals, and lots of them, are expected at Goodison Park between Everton and Leicester. The Blues are scoring an average of 2.1 goals per home game this season, whilst the Foxes are managing to score 2.3 goals per away game. With top 3 scorers in the Premier League on display; Jamie Vardy (15 goals – 34% chance of scoring), Romelu Lukaku (12 – 43%) and Riyad Mahrez (11 – 26%), Fantasy managers can probably look to select at least 2 players from this fixture.

The Premier League’s fourth top scorer, with 10 goals to his name, is Watford’s Odion Ighalo. Having found the back of the net in his last 3 games, Ighalo (30%) hosts a Liverpool side who are better on the road than they are at home under Jurgen Klopp, but have only kept 2 clean sheets in 8 games since his arrival. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson (16%) carded a goal and an assist on his return from injury last time out and, with penalties also in his locker, represents an intriguing option for the Merseysiders.

In what would almost certainly be billed as a title-decider if it took place in April or May, Arsenal and Manchester City meet on Monday night. Olivier Giroud (38%), with 6 goals in his previous 8 games, and Aaron Ramsey (23%), 2 in 2, are the form men for the Gunners, whilst City will hope to have the explosive Sergio Aguero (39%), back in training this week, leading their attack.

Elsewhere, Georginio Wijnaldum (28%) has scored all 7 of his Premier League goals at St James’s Park and he enjoys home comforts once again this weekend as struggling Aston Villa roll into town, whilst Christian Eriksen (20%) will look to build on some impressive underlying statistics (7 shots in gameweek 16, more than any other midfielder), and his assist last weekend, against a Southampton side who have gone off the boil lately.

Our recommendations for your attacking line-up this week; Romelu Lukaku, Odion Ighalo, Jordan Henderson, Riyad Mahrez, Aaron Ramsey, Georginio Wijnaldum, Christian Eriksen.

Our recommendations for your captain; Romelu Lukaku and Georginio Wijnaldum.

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