Midweek minutes in Europe are assessed as we analyse clubs’ schedules in a five-gameweek spell going just into the New Year. Players rested over the flurry of fixtures between Gameweek 14 and Gameweek 16 come onto the radar, while emptying treatment rooms in North London could cause health problems for FPL managers. Mohamed Salah’s hat-trick has owners shelving transfer plans as Manchester City aim to reclaim first place in the league from Liverpool.
Saturday 15th December
Man City vs Everton (12:30)
Crystal Palace vs Leicester (15:00)
Huddersfield vs Newcastle (15:00)
Spurs vs Burnley (15:00)
Watford vs Cardiff (15:00)
Wolves vs Bournemouth (15:00)
Fulham vs West Ham (17:30)
Sunday 16th December
Brighton vs Chelsea (13:30)
Southampton vs Arsenal (13:30)
Liverpool vs Man Utd (16:00)
Leroy Sane (£9.5m) bagged a Champions League brace last night, one a stunning free-kick and the other an excellent counter-attacking goal assisted by Raheem Sterling (£11.6m).
Goal no. 2 tonight... pic.twitter.com/ujlOFmUy60— The Editor (@FPLEditor) December 12, 2018
Riyad Mahrez (£8.5m) was an unused substitute against Hoffenheim as Sane and Sterling completed the game.
Sané and Sterling with 90 minutes each. Thank you Peppy 🙃 pic.twitter.com/QVpmBAz1dA— FPL Heisenberg (@FPL_Heisenberg) December 12, 2018
The trio are set to continue battling it out for two wing spots, despite Guardiola stating “I can’t do it too much (rotating)” having had only 15 players available for the European fixture.
Mahrez benched...— Andy (@LetsTalk_FPL) December 12, 2018
That doesn't bode well for Sterling / Sane at the weekend.https://t.co/Bihdxw5HPC
All three attackers started in the 2-0 loss to Chelsea last weekend as Sterling and Mahrez were used in the ‘false nine’ role. That system was abandoned after 53 minutes at Stamford Bridge as Gabriel Jesus (£10.1m) emerged from the bench.
One player sidelined for the champions is David Silva (£8.7m), who has been ruled out for “a few weeks” after picking up a hamstring injury in City’s GW16 defeat. Sergio Aguero (£11.2m) could return to the matchday squad this weekend, while Pep Guardiola described Kevin De Bruyne (£9.7m) as “not able” in his pre-Hoffenheim press conference. Both players were pictured taking some part in training on Tuesday.
Bernardo Silva (£7.5m) could emerge as a mid-priced gem over the festive period. The Portuguese midfielder has already logged 1,226 of 1,440 available minutes so far this season. Players such as Fabian Delph (£5.3m), Oleksandr Zinchenko (£4.7m) and Phil Foden (£4.6m) – who earned a start yesterday – provide competition in the centre of the park, though the former pair are the acting understudies to the injured Benjamin Mendy (£6.2m). Ilkay Gundogan (£5.4m) could also be set for a run in Guardiola’s starting XI.
If you’re short on cash and fancy a reasonably nailed City midfielder for the upcoming Xmas run, pick Bernardo Silva - eyes closed. Some terrific value to be had there at £7.5m. See him doing well. 🤘🏻 https://t.co/Bz8tiD8kln— Sar 🧨 (@Bosscielny6) December 11, 2018
The Citizens play Everton (H), Crystal Palace (H), Leicester (a), Southampton (a) and Liverpool (H) over the next five gameweeks. That period takes fantasy bosses just into the New Year, before FA Cup fixtures see a two-week gap in league action.
Really, Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola should win @OfficialFPL. They’re the only people who know in advance when they’re leaving out Salah or Aguero, and they can quietly sub in Richarlison or Callum Wilson and laugh at the rest of us.— Richard Osman (@richardosman) December 10, 2018
Fernandinho (£5.4m) – given a rare night off on Wednesday – and Ederson (£5.8m) are now Guardiola’s only league ever-presents after Aymeric Laporte (£6.1m) was rested in GW15. The Frenchman looks the safest pick in the City backline as John Stones (£5.3m), Vincent Kompany (£5.2m) and Nicolas Otamendi (£6.1m) tussle for the other centre-half spot. Stones is set for a knee injury assessment after going off at half-time in City’s 2-1 win last night.
Kyle Walker (£6.5m) was rotated in GW14 so should also be set for plenty pitch time in the upcoming gameweeks.
After a GW16 hat-trick, Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) scored the winner at Anfield on Tuesday as Liverpool scraped into the Champions League knockout stages with a 1-0 win over Napoli. Jurgen Klopp’s league leaders come up against Manchester United (H), Wolves (a), Newcastle (H), Arsenal (H) and Man City (a) to GW21. Salah’s price tag had many owners plotting a redistribution of funds for the festive period but that monster 21-point score means plans are being heavily reconsidered.
On last night's Scoutcast @FFScout_Joe @DavidMunday815 @ffscout_luke and guest @ahopcroft13 discuss:— FFScout Joe (@FFScout_Joe) December 12, 2018
Veterans v New Managers
GWK 17's best diffs and clean sheet prospects
Watch back here https://t.co/q2uTJ8UyVl#FPL
Xherdan Shaqiri (£7.1m) was sacrificed for the UCL tie as Sadio Mane (£9.7m) logged the full 90 minutes on his first start since sustaining a foot injury in GW14. Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.4m) – who was rested in GW16 as James Milner (£5.6m) operated at right-back – is a potential GW17 casualty after picking up a foot injury against the Italian side. Joel Matip (£4.9m) is out for around six weeks after fracturing his collarbone.
Considering Joe Gomez (£5.0m) was ruled out for six weeks after fracturing his leg in the GW15 win away to Burnley, Liverpool’s other first-choice defenders – Andy Robertson (£6.4m) and Virgil van Dijk (£6.1m) – look safe picks from the league’s best defence (six goals conceded). The Scottish left-back was handed a rest for that trip to Turf Moor, another bonus is assessing his upcoming pitch time. Dejan Lovren (£4.9m), who replaced TAA in the closing stages against Napoli, represents a cheaper route into the Liverpool defence over Christmas.
Rock solid this season. https://t.co/1DLz5dF5y9— The General (@FPLGeneral) December 11, 2018
That block of five fixtures certainly sours somewhat in GW20 for the Reds but the initial three games might not just prove profitable for Klopp’s mean defence. Man Utd (26) have been breached more times than Newcastle (22) this season, while Wolves are without a clean sheet since Gameweek 8.
There was always going to be a late Alisson wonder save after the Ospina mistake for the Salah goal 🙌🏻— James Egersdorff (@JEgersdorff) December 11, 2018
Goes to show the fine margins at the top, top level
Fantastic to see all English teams progress 👏🏻
Less fantastic for us already rotation paranoid FPL managers 😱😂
Lucas Moura (£7.0m) came on in Barcelona to grab the goal that sent Tottenham through to the Champions League knockout rounds. Erik Lamela (£6.2m) made his comeback from injury in the 1-1 Nou Camp draw, as the Spurs attacking midfield picture threatens to become clouded for fantasy bosses. Mauricio Pochettino’s men avoid any of other traditional top-six sides until GW22’s trip to Old Trafford, taking on Burnley (H), Everton (a), Bournemouth (H), Wolves (H) and Cardiff (a) over the next five gameweeks. An EFL Cup quarter-final clash against Arsenal follows the visit of Burnley.
Son starts😢 was going to be my transfer in this week but not sure he starts vs Burnley now! https://t.co/H7NiMkAiKJ— FPLConnor (@FPLConnor) December 11, 2018
Heung-Min Son (£8.5m), who scored a huge 14 points away to Leicester in GW16, is one of those under threat though his departure to the Asian Cup prior to GW22 might be a blessing in disguise for investors and owners.
👀Son👀— FPL Toast (@FplToast) December 12, 2018
Leaving for Asian games in GW 22/23 so still has 5 GWs left to play. Could Poch play him more knowing he is off anyway? Played every game over Christmas last year.
16 shots (10 SiB) is better than Salah over the last 4 GWs.
Rotation fears are legitimate considering the rotating of Dele Alli (£8.9m) in GW15 and both Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) and Harry Kane (£12.5m) last weekend. The striker’s surprise benching should pave the way for him to achieve maximum minutes in the club’s upcoming league games. Asked before the win away to Leicester about Kane – who provided the assist for Lucas on Tuesday – potentially needing a rest, Mauricio Pochettino said: “Yes, we are thinking about that too. At the moment we see him with plenty of energy and that is why he plays. We'll see tomorrow. Every day we assess the player. Then we assess on Tuesday. But of course if we play with some players and repeat in every game then it is because we believe they can cope with the demands, physical demands. He is not irreplaceable, but if he feels well and with energy then Harry is one of the best players in Europe and there is no point to rest him of he is okay to play. There is no point.”
Kane has returned points in each of his last five league starts, bagging four goals and notching two assists. That run ended with a 12-point haul at home to Southampton in GW15. He sits joint-top in the league for shots on target (27) alongside Salah, with over half of his total efforts on goal (51) accurate. Two of the striker’s last three league goals have also come at Wembley as FPL’s priciest forward improves on his home record ahead of Burnley’s visit on Saturday, for which Kane is set to be the game’s most-captained player.
Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.2m) started at right-back against Barcelona with both Kieran Trippier (£6.1m) and Serge Aurier (£5.8m) ruled out of the clash. However, both Trippier and Aurier could be available this weekend. Hugo Lloris (£5.4m) continues to look the safest and cheapest route into the Tottenham backline.
Chelsea face Brighton (a), Leicester (H), Watford (a), Crystal Palace (a) and Southampton (H) in their next five league outings. Eden Hazard (£10.9m) bagged both of the Blues’ assists against City despite operating at the tip of Maurizio Sarri’s attack. Of the Belgian’s ‘false nine’ role, Maurizio Sarri said: “We had Eden for the first time in that position [striker] and in the first 20 or 25 minutes we didn’t work well in the defensive movements in the opposition half, but fortunately, we defended well in our half. We started to press better and after the first goal, the game changed. He had some problems at the beginning of the match but he was great in the second half. Maybe he deserved to score and I think he’s a very good option [in that position]. We will play like today in the future, for certain matches of course.”
Guardiola said Chelsea's first goal on Saturday was a counter-attack. But it wasn't really - it was something different and potentially significant https://t.co/6IvcMeqNgb— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) December 12, 2018
Hazard owners will be hoping to see the midfielder moved back to his usual role on the left for Chelsea’s upcoming games, with the attacker admitting “you don’t touch the ball a lot” in that centre-forward role. Without a goal since GW8, the Belgium star has the run of fixtures to improve on a points-per-game average of 4.6 over the past six gameweeks.
Despite some question marks over recent performances, Marcos Alonso (£7.0m) looks set to hold off the challenge of Emerson Palmieri (£5.2m) for the Chelsea left-back spot. Already guaranteed first place in Europa League Group L, Sarri has the advantage of being able to rest his heavy hitters ahead of the festive fixture pile-up. Hazard has not travelled to Hungary for tonight’s game against Vidi, though Alonso is in the squad. While the left-back is without an attacking return since GW11, Chelsea’s defensive display against City and their upcoming fixtures should bode well for the Spaniard.
David Luiz (£5.6m) represents a cheaper option in Sarri’s backline; the Brazilian was rotated in GW15 before hauling 15 points last Saturday.
Doherty 72!— Doug (@apple_bonkers) December 11, 2018
Chose gw3 as I was trying to see how Digne stacked-up against Alonso, the former became a starter in gw4.
*Triggered disclaimer* I. LIKE. ALONSO. AS. AN. OPTION.
The Gunners face Southampton (a), Burnley (H), Brighton (a), Liverpool (a) and Fulham (H) over the next five gameweeks.
Top 5 worse defences based on xG against— Adam Hopcroft (@ahopcroft13) December 9, 2018
Arsenal play 4 of above in next 5, Chelsea 2, Spurs 2, City 1 & Utd 1. Liverpool face none of the above
Since a 16-point haul against Spurs in GW14, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.5m) has almost as many prices rises (6) as points scored (7). Owners were relieved that he was not the Gunners forward pulled off at half time in the GW16 win over Huddersfield, as Unai Emery hooked Alexandre Lacazette (£9.6m) in order to switch from 3-5-2 to a four-man defence. ‘Auba’ provided the assist for a late Lucas Torreira (£5.1m) winner, while ‘Laca’ had a first-half strike controversially ruled out for offside.
Saw this stat on #MOTD regarding Arsenal. Proof of concept on how unpredictable/willing to adapt Emery is.— FPL Viper (@FPLViper) December 9, 2018
Definitely a concern #FPL wise. I won’t be whacking the captaincy back on Laca again soon, the same could be said for Auba imo. 🔄 pic.twitter.com/HDPVl45qw3
Alex Iwobi (£5.5m) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.7m) were the players introduced by Emery at the interval in GW16, while Mesut Ozil (£8.1m) is set to make his return from a back problem against Qarabag tonight. Like the German, Aaron Ramsey (£7.3m) is also back in full training ahead of the trip to Southampton on Sunday, so rotation can be expected in the Arsenal ranks.
Already without Rob Holding (£4.4m) for the rest of the season, the North London club are facing a potential defensive crisis for GW17 with Sokratis (£5.1m) and Shkodran Mustafi (£5.4m) suspended. The German centre-back also picked up a hamstring injury against the Terriers. Laurent Koscielny (£5.4m) could ease Emery’s problems in defence, with the Arsenal chief saying yesterday: “It is in our planning to start with Laurent Koscielny [against Qarabag]. We have some players with injuries at centre back and also with these injuries are Konstantinos Mavropanos (£4.7m) and Rob Holding and a few out [suspended] with yellow cards. We are going to decide after tomorrow’s match [whether Koscielny will play against Southampton]. We are going to look also if he can play 90 minutes or less minutes in this game. We can use another player in this position, someone like Nacho Monreal (£5.4m), who is also with us and in his career he played in this position [before].”
emery is a difficult manager for FPL— FML FPL (@FMLFPL) December 8, 2018
The Spanish manager could be set to stick with a four-man defence while he waits on defenders to return, with Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m) still looking like good value at left-back as Monreal can deputise at centre-back.
Bernd Leno (£4.8m) has started every league fixture since GW8. The formation change will also see Aubameyang and Lacazette battle for one striker spot, with the Gabonese’s ability to play in a wide-left position doing no harm to his pitch-time potential.
Another Arsenal CB injured...— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) December 8, 2018
I guess that increases the likelihood of them switching to 4 at the back when Monreal is fit enough to start. https://t.co/DTrqPB2HyK
Man United were beaten 2-1 by Valencia last night, having already earned qualification to the Champions League last 16. Jose Mourinho said today of his absentee list: “Chris Smalling (£5.7m) is injured. Victor Lindelof (£4.8m) is injured. Matteo Darmian (£4.6m) is injured. Anthony Martial (£7.4m) is injured. Diogo Dalot (£5.3m) is injured. The only two players I could bring and I didn’t were David de Gea (£5.7m) and Nemanja Matic (£5.0m).”
There was no mention of Luke Shaw (£5.0m), who also missed the trip to Spain after suffering a setback in the warm-up last Saturday. Ashley Young (£5.7m) replaced the injured Marcos Rojo (£4.9m) yesterday and assisted a late Marcus Rashford (£6.9m) goal.
Rashford is a man in form 🔥— VERSUS (@vsrsus) December 12, 2018
🅰️🅰️ v Southampton
❌ v Arsenal
⚽🅰️🅰️ v Fulham
⚽ v Valencia
He’s contributed 6 goals in his last 4 matches. Ballin’. pic.twitter.com/IJkHyVqGkt
The forward, also used from the bench yesterday, proved himself the best initial like-for-like Marko Arnautovic (£7.0m) replacement in GW16 with a 14-point score at home to Fulham. The league’s leakiest side did not put up much of a defence at Old Trafford as the home side ran riot.
United finally building on an advantage at home and playing with a little more confidence. Fulham have been poor but United failed to seize initiative vs Palace/Southampton. Dalot a big positive Mourinho not letting them settle and constantly pushing them on #MUNFUL #mufc— Ciaran Kelly (@MENCKelly) December 8, 2018
Mourinho’s men take on Liverpool (a), Cardiff (a), Huddersfield (H), Bournemouth (H) and Newcastle (a) to GW21. Diogo Dalot (£5.3m) impressed on his second league start last weekend, with Mourinho saying of the right-back after GW16: “He's a 19-year old boy. It's important not to forget that, not to demand from him super consistency, because he is a kid. He's just arrived in the Premier League and arrived after four or five matches in the Portuguese league - no more than that. We are very happy. Now it's December, normally he is going to get more opportunities to play, to get experience and to be what we thought when we bought him, which is he can be Manchester United's right-back for 10 years.”
Now a GW17 doubt, Dalot’s price and the competition for full-back spots when Shaw returns means he is one for the watchlist. More importantly, with 26 goals conceded and just two clean sheets so far, any potential investors in the United defence would need some convincing over that favourable run from GW18.
Felipe Anderson (£7.3m), Robert Snodgrass (£5.3m) and Chicharito (£6.4m) are the West Ham assets vying for transfers in ahead of a great run of fixtures. The Irons play Fulham (a), Watford (H), Southampton (a), Burnley (a) and Brighton (H) to GW21.
Manuel Pellegrini’s use of a 4-4-2 formation seems to be bringing the best out of the Irons’ attack, which is prospering despite Arnautovic’s absence. The Hammers have scored three times in each of their last three league outings. Anderson has started every game this season and boasts 26 points in the last four gameweeks. Snodgrass and Chicharito have both began each fixture since GW14, bagging 24 points apiece in that time.
While Grady Diangana (£4.5m) and Michail Antonio (£6.8m) offer competition in the wide areas, Pellegrini’s comments ahead of Gameweek 15 suggest the Brazilian and the Scotsman will continue to start. The West Ham boss said: “I think Felipe is improving in his performance. He is knowing better, in the Premier League, what he can do and what he must not do. He played a very good game and I think we are just, in the first part of the season, to decide which is the best player. He is improving in every game and that is important for us. I spoke with [Snodgrass] at the beginning of the season. I always found him a good player, but it just depended on what he wanted and if he had a spot here in our squad for the season. There were very few words that I spoke with him at the beginning of the season. I gave him some demands about his weight and his work, and I think he is a very professional player who is doing it very well, because he has the desire to be here.”
The story in defence is different, with a GW14 shut-out away to Newcastle just West Ham’s second clean sheet of the season. Lukasz Fabianski (£4.6m) provides the best value in the Hammers’ backline, having returned five points in the 1-1 draw at Huddersfield in GW12 and nine points via a penalty save in GW15 as the Hammers beat Cardiff 3-1.
Watford have ties against Cardiff (H), West Ham (a), Chelsea (H), Newcastle (H) and Bournemouth (a) in the next five gameweeks. Two assists away to Everton on Monday night were Roberto Pereyra’s (£6.2m) first attacking returns since GW10, with the Argentina midfielder one to monitor over a decent run of fixtures for the Hornets. Javi Gracia’s men are without a clean sheet in six gameweeks, though Kiko Femenia (£4.2m) could provide budget returns if he holds off competition from Daryl Janmaat (£4.9m). Ben Foster (£4.5m) is a slightly more expensive but nailed-on option for managers going down that route.
Fulham face West Ham (H), Newcastle (a), Wolves (H), Huddersfield (H) and Arsenal (a) from GW17 but the Cottagers’ performance against Man Utd asked more questions than it answered. Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.7m) was brought off at half time with the game as good as over; the Serbian’s four yellow cards mean he is teetering on the suspension tightrope. Budget midfielder Tom Cairney (£4.8m) was also hooked at the interval, while potential out-of-position bench fodder option Calum Chambers (£4.2m) did not make the matchday squad due to a minor injury.
Huddersfield take on Newcastle (H), Southampton (H), Man Utd (a), Fulham (a) and Burnley (H) to GW21 as the often-overlooked Terriers seek attention. Christopher Schindler (£4.4m) is yet to miss a league match this season. Aaron Mooy (£5.1m) has been ruled out until February with a knee injury, which could mean the creativity of Alex Pritchard (£4.8m) is even more crucial to David Wagner. The German’s team have scored just 10 goals this campaign, the lowest total in the division.