European football and the increased danger of rotation that comes with it may be on a break until February, but that doesn’t mean FPL managers get a break. The Premier League keeps powering through the festive December month and this week it was time for the League Cup quarter finals as well. As far as Premier League clubs are concerned, Man City eliminated Leicester after penalties on Tuesday night following a 1-1 draw with Kevin de Bruyne starting and scoring after 14 minutes and Aguero played for 76 minutes. On Wednesday night, Chelsea beat Bournemouth 1-0 (thanks to a Hazard goal after coming on as a 2nd half sub) and now face Tottenham (in a two leg semi-final) after their 2-0 win at the Emirates against Arsenal (Harry Kane came on in the 2nd half to provide the assist for Deli Alli’s goal, whilst Aubameyang played the full 90 minutes). These match-ups will inevitably have an impact on the starting line-ups for gameweek 18, so keep an eye on what happened in these League Cup matches.
Some observations ahead of gameweek 18
Some of the more attentive and risk-tolerant FPL managers out there will have noticed the rising appeal of Huddersfield players since last gameweek, at least in terms of their fixture calendar. Between rounds 18 and 22, the Terriers are facing Southampton at home, Fulham away, Burnley at home, and Cardiff away. Despite the fact Huddersfield have scored just 10 goals and brought home 10 points from 17 games, you could be forgiven for considering a few Huddersfield assets as differentials. If you do though, keep in mind that Huddersfield’s best player and creator-in-chief Aaron Mooy will be out until February, which is more than likely going to affect their productivity in front of goal. And they are the least-scoring team already, by some distance.
The shock result of gameweek 17 was Southampton’s home victory over Arsenal. In new manager’s Ralph Hasenhüttl’s first game at Saint Mary’s, the Saints were the team to end Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten run. True, Arsenal’s defence is still a work in progress, but Southampton had won only once in 16 games before last weekend, a run in which they scored just 13 goals. Credit where credit’s due. It was only Hasenhüttl’s second game in charge, so it’s way too early still to judge the real impact he will have on the Saints squad. The first signs are promising though, and apart from Man City at home and Chelsea away in gameweeks 20 and 21, their fixtures look pretty interesting until February. Watchlist material.
At Chelsea, Eden Hazard seems to be finding the form again that showed why he was the best player in the league at the start of the 2018-19 campaign. The talismanic forward has been deployed as a false-nine in the last two games (after Morata’s recent hamstring injury), which yielded a 2-0 victory over reigning champions Man City and a hard-fought away victory over Brighton last weekend. Against the champions, Hazard provided two assists, while he scored and assisted one against the Seagulls. The Belgian recently declared that he gets less time on the ball when playing all the way up front, but the role seems to fit him like a glove inside Maurizio Sarri’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.
As a final point, we should probably mention José Mourinho‘s departure as Man United coach, despite the apparent inevitability of the decision since the start of the season, more or less. The final nail in the coffin was last weekend’s 3-1 loss to bitter rivals Liverpool. The result was bad, but always a possibility against the best Liverpool we’ve seen in many years. The real on-field problem was the uninspired, unattractive way in which the Portuguese manager had his Red Devils playing, again. Against Liverpool, they had 37% of the possession, resulting in 3 shots on target and 2 shots off target. The home team recorded 10 shots on target and 11 shots off target. With players like Rashford, Alexis Sanchez, Martial, Pogba, Matic and Lukaku, there is plenty of potential at United, and it’ll be up to former-United player and hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to bring the enjoyment and results back to old Trafford this season as interim manager.
With Man City facing Crystal Palace at home in gameweek 18, our first premium pick of the week is City winger Leroy Sané (£9.7m). Not only is the young German one of the in-form players in Pep Guardiola’s team, but he was left out of the squad for Tuesday night’s League Cup game against Leicester. Though no algorithm in the world can predict which eleven players Pep will start coming Saturday, Sané has a good chance of appearing at the kick-off. He has 3 goals and 4 assists in his last five games, and he’ll be facing a Palace team who have conceded 15 goals in 9 away games. As a matter of fact, no midfielder in the FPL has recorded more goal involvements than Sané, and the match against Palace could very well result in his fourth double-digit haul of the season.
The story of Eden Hazard (£11.0m) for gameweek 18 is somewhat similar to the reasons for including Sané in this list. Chelsea faced Bournemouth on Wednesday night in the League Cup quarter final round and Hazard was left out of the starting XI by Maurizio Sarri only then to come on in the 2nd half and score the winner. The Belgian dribbler was taken off with a slight injury in the 83rd minute last weekend, after scoring a goal and providing an assist for Pedro, but his coach assured the 34.8% of FPL managers who own Hazard that the injury was nothing serious as was proven last night. It’s highly likely that the Blues’ star man will be starting on Saturday at home to Leicester, possibly in the false-nine role that he’s been handed since gameweek 16. Hazard has provided four assists and a goal in his last four Premier League games, bringing home 33 FPL points and becoming the highest-scoring FPL asset in the process. He’s the player with the most attempted assists over the last four gameweeks (13) and another haul coming weekend is far from unthinkable.
Our final premium pick for gameweek 18 is again, partly, related to this week’s League Cup encounters. Arsenal hosted Spurs on Wednesday night and to the surprise of many, it was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who led the front line in the derby, not Alexandre Lacazette (9.6m). The Frenchman has seen limited pitch-time over the past few weeks, playing no more than 45 minutes in any of the last four gameweeks. He still managed to record a goal and two assists in that period though, with 16 FPL points as result. Seeing as Lacazette played half an hour against Spurs in the League Cup while Aubameyang completed the full 90 minutes, it seems probably that manager Emery will be starting with the French striker against Burnley on Saturday. The Clarets have conceded an average of two goals per away game this season and the 10% of FPL managers who own Lacazette will be hoping for a goal or two.
A differential or two
This week’s first differential pick is a combination of a decent price-to-points ratio and a very attractive gameweek 18 fixture. Newcastle’s Solomon Rondón (5.8m) has scored 2 goals and provided 1 assist over the past three gameweeks, a run that consisted of a home game against Wolves and away games versus Everton and Huddersfield. Newcastle will be facing the league’s worst defence this weekend, with opponents Fulham having conceded a whopping 24 goals in 9 away games. Rondón has won his owners a total of 20 points over the past three gameweeks, which is an excellent return for a player with his price tag. He’s one of the best budget striker options in the English elite division right now and a legit captaincy option in gameweek 18 for the more risk-tolerant FPL managers among us.
Mentioning Southampton’s Danny Ings (5.4m) as our second differential pick of the week can be seen as a case of wanting to jump on a bandwagon that’s not even a real bandwagon yet, but hear us out. New manager Ralph Hasenhüttl will need some time to make his mark on the Saints, but if the team’s performance against Arsenal was anything to go by, several Southampton assets could be rising in popularity over the coming weeks, Ings among them. The English striker missed four gameweeks through injury, but returned with a bang by scoring twice last weekend. As a matter of fact, he’s been directly involved in four goals in his last four Premier League games (3 goals, 1 assist), resulting in 25 points. At a price of £5.4m, with an ownership of just 4%, and an away game against Huddersfield this Saturday, Ings could be a very rewarding differential signing.
For further inspiration, have a look at the fiso forum Gameweek 18 FPL Transfers topic.
We’ve mentioned earlier that predicting Pep Guardiola’s starting line-up is close to impossible, but we’re still recommending a City player as a premium option for the captain’s armband coming weekend. Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) has been impressive so far this season, which is illustrated by his 9 goals and 7 goals in 1,135 Premier League minutes. To the disgust of the 21.8% of FPL managers who have the young Englishman in their team, he was left out of the starting line-up twice over the past three gameweeks, with the game in which he started (the defeat to Chelsea) resulting in just two points. On Tuesday, Sterling was brought on in the 66th minute to force a winner against Leicester in the League Cup, something that unfortunately didn’t happen. What did happen, was him sending a penalty over the bar during the game’s penalty shout-out. Considering his excellent form this season, he won’t be phased by this though and will be looking to make amends for that bad penalty miss. So on the contrary, he’s a prime candidate for a big haul against Palace this weekend and thus for the armband.
Our final recommendation for gameweek 18 is Liverpool’s Sadio Mané (9.6m). While an away game against Wolves is no piece of cake this season, with the Wolves taking 14 points from 9 games at home, a great return for a newly-promoted team. The Reds are flying though, with them extending their stay at the top of the league for at least one week after taking care of arch rivals Man United at Anfield. Mané was a constant threat to the Red Devil backline and he scored the opening goal by converting a lovely Fabinho chip. In terms of FPL returns, the Senegalese powerhouse had been quiet since his two assists against Watford in gameweek 13, but his goal against United might be the start of a high-scoring run. It’s also interesting to know that Liverpool are the only club from the current top five to have had a full week of rest, as they are no longer in the League Cup. Jurgen Klopp will have a pumped up and fully-rested squad at his disposal for the game at Molineux, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mané’s name on the score sheet coming weekend.
Don’t forget that the first match this GW18 is on Friday night and if you don’t like our two Captain suggestions have a look at the GW18 FPL Captain Poll on the fiso forum where currently Sterling has 48% of the vote, followed by Sane 15%, Aubameyang 13%, Salah 8% and Hazard 7%.