An intriguing Fantasy Premier League weekend lies ahead, with conundrums aplenty for managers and tough captaincy decisions to make in Gameweek 12.
For the casual or tribal fan, a mouthwatering top of the table clash lies in wait at Anfield as first meets second on Sunday. Liverpool would stretch their lead to a commanding nine points over Manchester City with a win, while three points for Pep Guardiola’s men will cut the Reds’ advantage to just three.
But for fantasy managers the match-up provides dilemma rather than delight. Do you even pick the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero, Sadio Mane and Raheem Sterling? And captaining any of them – or anyone else in red and blue – could be a risk.
Elsewhere, Leicester could cash in if they maintain their prolific form at home against Arsenal while Chelsea welcome Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge. There’s a Midlands derby between Wolves and Aston Villa while Manchester United look to avoid Seagulls droppings as they host Brighton.
Here are a few tips to help guide you.
CAPTAIN – JAMIE VARDY | LEICESTER | 9.4M
There’s no more Pukki party, but Jamie Vardy is hosting one at the King Power Stadium on Saturday and you’re all invited.
The Foxes are in fantastic form, having won all but one of their last six games, and even that defeat came courtesy of a contentious 95th penalty at Anfield. They face fragile Arsenal in their own den and will be looking to deadly Vardy to carry on his stunning goalscoring form.
He tops fantasy with 80 points and leads the way with 10 Premier League goals. Half of those have come in his last three games and, with Liverpool and City meeting at Anfield, the Foxes will hope to win and slyly creep closer to the top two.
HARY KANE (12.3m) should be back to lead the Spurs line at home against Sheffield United after missing last weekend’s draw at Everton with illness.
The England striker has three goals in his last five games and is a better option if you’re concerned about giving the armband to a Liverpool or City player due to their potentially tight and tense clash.
Spurs certainly missed his deadly goalmouth presence as they lacked a cutting edge to slice through the Toffees last week and he could provide the key to unlock a stingy Blades defence that has conceded a joint lowest eight goals.
TAMMY ABRAHAM (11.0m) is the fourth-highest scoring player in fantasy this season (73 points) and a good day at the office against goal-shy Palace (10) – only Watford (6) and Newcastle (9) have scored fewer – could see him overtake Kevein De Bruyne and Mane above him. The pair might be unable to fill the stats sheet in a potentially close top of the table contest on Merseyside.
The 22-year-old bagged his ninth goal of the season in Gameweek 11, as well as an assist, for a 12-point haul.
MARCUS RASHFORD (8.5m) had slipped out of fantasy contention following a decent start to the campaign. But with United finding some form in recent weeks – they’ll hope last week’s Bournemouth blip was just a bump in the road – it might be time to bring Rashford back into your squad.
He is a different beast with Anthony Martial in the team and after netting his 50th United goal against Norwich and a brace – including a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque free-kick – to send the Red Devils through to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals at Chelsea, he has two nine-point hauls in the last three weeks.
ONE TO GET
CAGLAR SOYUNCU | LEICESTER | 4.8M
The Turk has been terrific alongside Jonny Evans for Leicester, who have not missed a beat since bidding farewell to Harry Maguire. We preached caution after six points against Newcastle in Gameweek 7 because of a trip to Liverpool on the horizon, but since then the 23-year-old has bagged 22 points – including a clean sheet and a maiden Foxes goal as part of a 14-point haul in the 2-0 win over Palace.
Not only do Brendan Rodgers’ side host a jittery Arsenal this weekend, they also have a kind run of fixtures to follow – including Brighton, Everton, Watford and Villa.
ONE TO AVOID
SERGIO AGUERO | MANCHESTER CITY | 12.0M
“Are you mad?”, we hear you cry. Even on an off day, Aguero is surely worth a punt as an alternative captain, isn’t he? But the veteran Argentine is in uncharacteristically poor form in front of goal – his strike against Southampton last week ending a three-game scoreless streak. It bagged him six points, the first time since Gameweek 6 that he had registered five points or more.
And when you’re not at your best, an away day on Merseyside is hardly the perfect ailment to cure your ills. Aguero has seven goals in 14 Premier League games against the Reds – but has never scored at Anfield.
EMERSON | CHELSEA | 5.5M
Emerson started the season as the Blues’ first-choice left-back and had shown a lot of promise, shining in attack and offering plenty of thrust from full-back before sustaining a hamstring injury in Gameweek 6 that sidelined him for a month.
Prior to that he had established himself as Chelsea’s first-choice left-back and walked straight back into the squad, replacing Marcos Alonso – who has performed well in his absence – for the 2-1 win at Watford.
That should tell you how high his Blues’ stock is. Despite a month out, his 1.3 dribbles per game is still joint fifth among team-mates.
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Ashley Young is confident Manchester United’s defeat by Bournemouth was a blip and has no doubt they are heading in the right direction.
United had appeared to have turned a corner with a run of three straight victories only to fall to a 1-0 defeat on the south coast on Saturday, leaving them 10th in the Premier League.
But Young was bullish ahead of United’s Europa League clash with Partizan Belgrade at Old Trafford on Thursday, where victory would send them through to the knockout stages.
“I know what I see day in, day out at training,” he said.
“The boys have been working as hard as possible to go out and get results. Obviously things haven’t gone as well as we’d have liked. But that’s not going to dampen our spirits.
“We’ve got a good game to go and qualify out of the group stages and we’ve got games coming up that we believe are winnable games so I think from tomorrow’s game we go on another run and keep putting points on the board.”
United will be without defender Victor Lindelof, who played at Bournemouth having been a doubt for the game but is now sidelined once more.
Left-back Luke Shaw, who has been out with a hamstring injury since August, was back on the grass but training away from the squad, while Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot, Angel Gomes, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Axel Tuanzebe all remain absent.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will again use Europe as a chance to give more of his young players an opportunity, and Matej Kovar and Ethan Laird could both be included in the squad.
Winning the Europa League, as United did two years ago, offers a route into the Champions League, but Solskjaer is not giving up on the Premier League top four despite their poor start.
He said: “It’s one route. You’re not going to talk about the end league table in November. I don’t think anyone can predict that already. We haven’t got as many points as we’d like but we’ll challenge to get to the top four.”
The United boss, meanwhile, is not planning a spending spree in January to try to boost results.
He said: “(With) transfers we always look at the long term. It might be none, might be one, might be two. But it’s always the summer window that’s the big one. You can’t do too many good deals in January.”
Unai Emery issued a defiant response when asked about the possibility of being replaced as Arsenal boss by Jose Mourinho.
The Spaniard saw his side let a lead slip for the fourth game in a row as they were pegged back by Vitoria to draw their Europa League clash 1-1 in Guimaraes on Wednesday.
The spectre of former Chelsea and Manchester United boss Mourinho has started to hang over Emery as reports continue to link the Portuguese to the Arsenal hot-seat.
The Gunners denied suggestions over the weekend that Mourinho had dined with Arsenal head of football Raul Sanllehi as pressure continues to build on Emery.
Another poor performance saw Arsenal lucky to leave Portugal with a point as Shkodran Mustafi’s header was cancelled out by an injury-time bicycle kick from Bruno Duarte.
It was the fourth time in 10 days that Arsenal have failed to hold onto a lead and Mustafi’s 80th-minute effort was their first shot on target in a game where they toiled in the rain.
Mourinho’s presence in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago ramped up the theories that he was a potential replacement should Emery lose his job.
Asked about the Mourinho links and the fan criticism aimed at him following recent performances, Emery simply replied: “I am the coach.”
The Spaniard has already had to deal with stripping Granit Xhaka of the captaincy after he swore at Arsenals fans as he was jeered following his substitution in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
The mounting pressure on his position will be tested once again this weekend as they visit high-flying Leicester but – despite a run of one win in six games across all competitions – Emery insists he seems progress on the pitch.
“In this competition our objective is to be the first in the group,” he said.
“We are going to play the next two matches to make sure of that position and now we are going to prepare the match against Leicester in a different competition.
“For us very important but the analysis about this match we worked, we played, fighting against one team who were defensively very strong, have very good organisation and playing against us 100 per cent motivation.”
Provided by Press Association Sport