The transfer window threw the Premier League Fantasy Football world into disarray last week as a couple of big names in Dimitri Payet and Diego Costa found themselves dropped from their respective squads as rumours circulated about their futures.
I mean, we already have the AFCON absences to deal with, give us a break, right? But amongst the madness there were some bright spots for Draft Fantasy managers as Marcos Alonso had a career day and Harry Kane bagged a hat trick.
Gameweek 22 approaches with lots of clean sheet potential as many home teams face favorable matchups. Let’s get into it.
Liverpool v Swansea
And we start off with the first of those great home matchups as Liverpool host Swansea. Coutinho should be back starting and is a strong play along with Firmino and Lallana. Milner also reminded us of his value as the designated pk taker v. Man Utd. Up front there may not be a recognized striker as both Origi and Sturridge started the FA Cup midweek game but I would favor Origi if Klopp decides to start one.
On defence, Matip could still be unavailable due to a disagreement with his national team so Klavan should continue to partner Lovren. Clyne’s injury is not serious and he will be given every chance to start, plus Mignolet is beginning to cement his spot in net. Swansea = Sigurdsson.
Stoke v Man Utd
Stoke host United with both teams playing some good football right now. Stoke are being led by Arnautovic and a resurgent Crouch who has stepped up in the absence of their AFCON strikers. I think they will score at home but so should Utd as they are tough to blank right now, so who will lead them in attack?
Ibrahimovic is a lock to start up front and it seems Pogba, Martial and Mkhitaryan is the preferred midfield but with Rooney, Mata and Rashford waiting in the wings then rotation is a constant risk. Valencia is your best defensive option in a game I think will be tight but with both teams scoring.
Bournemouth v Watford
Bournemouth at home to a weak offensive attack has me backing the Cherries this week. Despite not starting last game, I feel confident Wilson will be back in the eleven and is a good start along with Stanislas and Fraser.
If Afobe does continue up front then Stanislas becomes even more essential due to taking over pk duty. Daniels is the prime defender due to his offensive upside but the backline and Boruc can all be used. Watford are struggling to create goals, I would avoid them until they figure things out…fine, I’ll give you just the one, Deeney since he holds the pk threat.
Crystal Palace v Everton
Everton are coming off an impressive win over Man City in which Lukaku, Mirallas and Barkley looked dangerous which will have their fantasy value increasing over the coming weeks. Baines and Coleman always bring that offensive upside from defense and a matchup with a struggling Palace side should not scare fantasy managers. Palace are at home and did win their FA Cup replay during the week thanks to a brace from Benteke so they cannot be ruled out completely here.
Their influential defender Dann is nursing an injury and is a question mark. Benteke is still your #1 option with new signing Schlupp an interesting possibility if he plays on the wing since he would benefit from any defender points too.
Middlesbrough v West Ham
Middlesbrough are a better team at home but without Ramírez they will need to rely heavily on Negredo to produce some offense.
Their backline would ordinarily be recommended with this matchup but the Hammers looked like a more inspired team last weekend without their want away star Payet, whose days at the club seem to be over.
With Ayew also at the AFCON, the offensive onus will continue to fall on the shoulders of Antonio and Carroll who both produced last game. Middlesbrough are struggling to score so Cresswell and Reid are reasonable plays too.
West Brom v Sunderland
This is a great home matchup for all your West Brom defensive options with Foster and McAuley being the best but keep in mind that Nyom still has not been granted clearance to play.
Going forward, Phillips and Róndon should be licking their lips at this opportunity and maybe Chadli can find his form again. Sunderland could have Anichebe back to help out the ever present Defoe who seems to always pop up with a goal. Black Cat defensive options you ask? Nah.
Man City v Tottenham
The big tilt of the weekend pits the fantasy stars of recent weeks Kane, Eriksen and Alli against a side that exudes potential of their own with Agüero, De Bruyne, Sterling and Silva. Despite City being at home, the Spurs defenders Walker and Rose are still playable due to their constant attacks. Vertonghen is out long term so look to see which of Wimmer/Dier/Davies replaces him for future positive matchups but the odds are that City will score at home so hold off this week.
This game has the possibility of plenty of goals, let’s hope it delivers.
Southampton v Leicester
Another tough defense for Leicester to try to crack has a team already without stars Mahrez and Slimani needing a big performance from Vardy up top.
Albrighton is tasked with providing the service and his delivery will need to be good to breach the Saints defense which is anchored by Van Dijk and features a couple of all action backs in Bertrand and Soares. Van Dijk and Bertrand are both dealing with slight knocks but should play.
This could be a tight defensive battle but if you are looking to benefit from this positive matchup for Southampton then Redmond and Tadic look the most dangerous recently.
Arsenal v Burnley
Burnley’s struggles on the road make your Gunners an enticing bunch, with the only question mark being the status of the red-hot Giroud. Sánchez will play up top if Giroud can’t go but I would start the Frenchman with this matchup and hope for the best. Özil is also a sure starter and Iwobi seems to have re-gained his spot which makes him a nice play. Bellerín has recovered so we should be seeing the first choice defense back together and a clean sheet is very possible for the backline and Cech of course.
Burnley are led by Gray in attack and now have an inspirational leader in Barton but they will need more than that to beat Arsenal. If they can keep the score down, Heaton could have a good saves day.
Chelsea v Hull
While it seems that Costa had his head turned by a Chinese club throwing buckets of cash at him, all that matters to fantasy managers is what is going on now. Costa has returned to training with the team and now we wait to see if he is included in the starting eleven.
If he does, Willian would likely make way despite playing well in his absence. It goes without saying that all Chelsea players are worth starting at home to Hull, even a sub appearance for Costa you could argue. For Hull, ordinarily I would back Snodgrass and Hernández now but at Chelsea I am backing a clean sheet for the home side so bench them if you can.
So that is how the week is shaping up, keep an eye on the news in the lead up to the weekend as you never know what surprise this Premier League Fantasy Football season might throw at you next. And remember no matter how your team fares this weekend, always look on the bright side, it is still better than that new Juventus logo…
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By Simon Wardle
Draft Fantasy Football 2015/16 Global Champion