Fantasy Premier League Tips: How to navigate Liverpool's Blank Gameweek 18
Liverpool are away at the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar, so who should we be selecting from a depleted pool of players? Holly Shand finds out...
The Headline Pick: Harry Kane - Chelsea (H)
Harry Kane takes the headlines for Gameweek 18: the fixture may not look good on paper but Spurs excellent form, combined with Chelsea's lack of it and Jose Mourinho facing his former side, make it a great matchup for the England skipper. Kane is clearly enjoying life under Mourinho: he has three goals and one assist in this period.
Kane has a good record against Chelsea, with four goals and two assists from ten Premier League appearances. Could we see a repeat of that 5-3 result on New Years Day in 2015? Kane has penalties in his locker too, which could further add to his score: spot-kicks have been a rarity for Spurs this season, but you just know that if they get the opportunity, Kane will convert.
Chelsea have been looking fragile recently, with three defeats in their last four games. Significantly, they are also without a clean sheet on the road all season and have conceded six goals in their last four too. Fatigue seems to have set in for their young squad and so it's the perfect time for Jose's Spurs side to face them.
Harry Kane is now available to back at 4/1 to score two or more goals against Chelsea this weekend.
The Budget Pick: Jack Grealish - Southampton (H)
Another player right in the frame this week is Jack Grealish. He comes in at a budget friendly price of £6.1 million and he could provide great value right through the festive period as Aston Villa's fixtures take a turn for the better. That being said, he needs to avoid picking up a fifth yellow card before the midway point of the season, to avoid a one match ban.
He is the talisman at Villa, with his teammates expecting him to provide those moments of quality to break defences down. He has two goals from his last four games and is always capable of weighing in with assists, given his ability to win set pieces in crucial areas of the pitch. He's involved in many of the Lions goals.
Southampton are the team visiting Villa Park, and their defensive struggles this season have been well-studied. They are without a clean sheet in the last three months, and are consistently conceding a couple of goals per game on the road. Expect Villa to have plenty of possession, with Grealish involved in the goals.
The VAR Pick: Jamie Vardy - Manchester City (A)
Jamie Vardy has been dislodged from the headline, with his goal-scoring run halted by Norwich and now a difficult trip to Manchester City up next. He's still a man in-form though, with fantasy returns in nine consecutive Premier League games. His last blank was away to Liverpool though which could be a concern with this weekend's fixture in mind.
Manchester City have had their own defensive issues this season though, and really struggled to defend against the Manchester United counter-attack a couple of gameweeks ago. There will certainly be space for Leicester and Jamie Vardy in this game: he has four goals and one assist in ten Premier League appearances against Manchester City.
Manchester City have just one clean sheet from their last four games, conceding five goals over that spell. Leicester have won three penalties this season, with Manchester City giving away one. It could be a much more expansive game than we've seen in previous seasons, with both sides challenging for second in the Premier League.
You can back VAR and bet on Leicester to score a penalty against Manchester City at odds of 15/2.
The Sleeper Pick: Richarlison - Arsenal (H)
Richarlison has been in fantastic form and Everton look set to ride the wave of the new manager bounce for a bit longer, with Carlo Ancelotti set to arrive at Goodison Park in time for the weekend. Richarlison has scored three goals in his last four games, having started the season in his usual explosive manner.
Everton are starting to find some confidence, having scored four goals in their last two games. The fixture couldn't get any better right now, with Arsenal undergoing some major defensive issues going into this game: a change in personnel has done nothing to change their fortunes, having conceded eight goals in their last four games.
Arsenal's defence is looking paper thin, with Sokratis, Kolasinac, Montreal, Tierney, Bellerin and Holding all currently flagged with injury. Meanwhile, Richarlison is top for headed goal attempts in the last four games with five, converting four big chances into three goals. That clinical finishing demonstrates his appeal right now.
The Wildcard Pick: Kevin De Bruyne - Leicester (H)
Many managers shipped Kevin De Bruyne last week as they jumped for shiny in-form Spurs assets and they were punished by a huge 19 point return against that dodgy Arsenal defence. He now has three goals and one assist in his last four games, with the underlying statistics encouraging at least from a goal threat perspective.
He is top for shots on target over the last four games, with nine, which is unusual for him. Manchester City's form has dipped, and in that time he has turned from creator to goalscorer, while his teammates shot accuracy has faltered. He's playing with confidence, shown by the quality go his goals during this period of games.
I expect Manchester City to have the upper-hand in the fixture against Leicester: they've dropped too many points in the last few weeks to allow Leicester to further damage their title hopes. Leicester have just one clean sheet from their last four games and could struggle to keep City out. Sergio Aguero's return from injury could further bolster City's attack.
Kevin De Bruyne to score is 5/2 against Leicester.