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08 Jan 2019 by Colm Hayes

FPL Gameweek 22 – Captain Picks

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FPL managers are clamouring to bring Mohamed Salah in ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Brighton, while fellow heavy-hitting midfielder Eden Hazard has a favourable home fixture against Newcastle. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is well rested ahead of taking on a leaky West Ham defence, as Richarlison represents an armband option for those seeking to gain an advantage on mini-league rivals.

PREMIUM OPTIONS

Mohamed Salah (£13.3m) vs Brighton (a)

The Liverpool star was denied an assist against Manchester City last Thursday as Sadio Mane (£9.5m) struck the post after Salah’s only key pass of the night put the Senegal international through. The Egyptian managed just one on-target shot as the Citizens cut the gap at the top of the table to four points with a 2-1 victory.

Liverpool will be looking to ensure they stay ahead of City with a win at Brighton this weekend. The Seagulls are sturdier on their home patch, conceding just 11 times (of 29 total) at the Amex. However, Chris Hughton’s men have recorded just one clean sheet (at home to Everton in GW20) since shutting out Wolves on the south coast in GW10.

Salah has scored three times (two penalties) and recorded three assists in the last five gameweeks, while also bagging a hat-trick away to Bournemouth in GW16. Having used a 4-3-3 set-up at the Etihad, Jurgen Klopp is expected to revert to 4-2-3-1 for the Brighton clash. Salah should benefit from a more attacking outlook with Xherdan Shaqiri (£7.1m) a likely starter and Roberto Firmino (£9.1m) dropping into the No 10 role behind the Egypt star. Added to that, a two-man central midfield means first-choice spot-kick taker James Milner (£5.6m) has less chance of being named in Klopp’s XI.

Salah played the final 20 minutes of Liverpool’s 2-1 FA Cup third round defeat to Wolves last night. Considering the defeat to City and the absence of European football until February, Salah owners can at least be fairly safe in the knowledge that he will continue to log 90 minutes. The attacker has completed every league fixture since being rotated to the bench in GW15. Up against a Seagulls outfit conceding over 15 shots per game on average (13.3 at home), he will be aiming to post a fourth double-figure haul in five gameweeks.

Eden Hazard (£11.1m) vs Newcastle (H)

The Belgian was introduced after 42 minutes of Chelsea’s FA Cup win against Nottingham Forest as Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m) was forced to leave the pitch through injury. Hazard looks a certain starter for the Blues’ EFL Cup semi-final first-leg clash away to rivals Tottenham tonight.

The midfielder frustrated owners for a second gameweek in a row last Wednesday as the Blues were held to a scoreless draw by Southampton. Hazard took four shots against the Saints but Angus Gunn (£4.3m) was equal to Hazard’s two on-target efforts, stopping one with his face.

The Chelsea star also recorded four key passes from a wide-left attacking position, as the introduction of Alvaro Morata (£8.4m) to the Blues’ starting line-up saw Hazard relinquish his ‘false nine’ duties.

Looking at the Belgian’s returns without Morata and in the striker role, owners will be hoping that the now-fit Callum Hudson-Odoi (£4.2m), Pedro (£6.3m), Olivier Giroud (£7.7m) and Willian (£7.2m) are all used in some combination for the coming gameweeks. None of the latter three were in Chelsea’s FA Cup squad but all are in contention for this evening’s showdown.

Chelsea’s GW22 opponents Newcastle are likely to use a 5-4-1 formation, a set-up which largely frustrated Manchester United in GW21. The Red Devils scored one open-play goal in a 2-0 win, while the Magpies also conceded just once from open play in a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in GW19. Rafa Benitez’s men have been breached seven times in the past four gameweeks, keeping a clean sheet against Fulham in GW18. Newcastle are allowing opponents an average of 14.3 shots per game (16.8 away from home).

While penalty-taking and possibly corner-taking duties boost Hazard’s appeal this week, the Toon are far from unbreachable in open play despite a suffocating set-up. The Belgium star has yet to blank in three successive starts this season and once he comes through the cup tie against Spurs, Hazard is certainly a worthy armband contender this weekend.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) vs West Ham (a)

The Arsenal striker missed four big chances against Fulham on New Year’s Day but still managed to come away with a nine-point score. Aubameyang gained an assist for hitting the post before Aaron Ramsey (£7.2m) slotted home and scored as an attempt on goal hit Tim Ream (£4.2m) to take it over Cottagers keeper Sergio Rico (£4.4m).

Auba now leads the league for big chances missed (15) while sitting joint-top for goals scored (14) alongside Harry Kane (£12.6m). Arsenal take on a West Ham side this weekend that have kept just three clean sheets all season. The Hammers are allowing opponents 13 shots per game on average; Brighton managed that number at the London Stadium in GW21, with eight of those efforts taken inside the box.

Manuel Pellegrini’s outfit have conceded 32 times this campaign, with 18 of those let in at home. Fabian Balbuena (£4.3m) could return to the Irons’ backline in GW22, though it will be a tough ask for the home defence against an Arsenal team that have not been kept scoreless since the opening gameweek of the season.

While Aubameyang is one of several heavy-hitters on the fantasy chopping block for owners who want to fund a move for Salah, getting rid before a trip to face the leaky Hammers could have a sting in the tail for sellers.

MID-PRICE CANDIDATE

Richarlison (£6.9m) vs Bournemouth (H)

The Brazilian is another player that could bite early sellers when Bournemouth visit Goodison Park on Sunday. The Cherries have conceded 12 times in the past four gameweeks and failed to keep a clean sheet in their 3-1 FA Cup third round loss against Brighton. Bournemouth’s only league shut-out since GW10 was at home to the Seagulls in GW18.

Having blanked in both of the previous two gameweeks, Richarlison fell in price last week as impatient owners pushed the transfer button. The midfielder played up front away to Brighton in GW20, while operating from the left wing at home to Leicester in GW21. Everton lost both games 1-0 as Marco Silva’s men failed to score in successive league fixtures for the first time this season.

The Brazil attacker managed seven attempts on goal over those two games, with two of those hitting the target. More importantly, all seven shots were taken inside the box.

Richarlison came on for the final ten minutes of Everton’s 2-1 FA Cup win against Lincoln City, as Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.3m) and Cenk Tosun (£6.5m) played 45 minutes apiece. While attempting to decipher where Silva will use the Brazil forward is a difficult task, he has impressed from both positions this season. With several excellent captaincy choices in GW22, Richarlison essentially represents a differential pick despite his 29% ownership.

DIFFERENTIAL CHOICE

Ashley Barnes (£5.6m) vs Fulham (H)

The Burnley striker could prove a popular budget enabler in the coming gameweeks as part of those ‘Salah in’ plans. Barnes has scored twice and set up one goal in the Clarets’ previous four fixtures, while posting some eye-catching statistics.

Sean Dyche’s team have finally found some semblance of form, winning their last two league games while scoring four times in the process. Barnes’ partnership with Chris Wood (£6.2m) appears pivotal to this revival – the pair have been involved in 50% of those goals over GW20 and GW21.

While Sam Vokes (£5.3m) represents real competition for the current first-choice front two, the Welshman started Burnley’s FA Cup win last weekend while Barnes and Wood warmed the bench. The New Zealander was introduced in the second half and scored a late penalty as Dyche’s men advanced past Barnsley, while Barnes was an unused substitute.

With two league victories on the bounce, Dyche appears unlikely to move away from a 4-4-2 formation for the time being. Barnes has also started every match since GW15. Up against a Fulham outfit who gave up ten big chances to Arsenal in GW21, the Burnley attack should prosper once more. The 0.9%-owned striker represents a real differential for FPL bosses looking to gamble with the armband in GW22.

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