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Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 22

Preview
Here we go again, then. After an unpredictable and intense Christmas period of Premier League action, we’re set for another weekend of potentially thrilling fixtures. Bankers are few and far between, with Arsenal and Liverpool facing potentially tricky away trips to West Ham and Brighton respectively, Tottenham hosting Manchester United and Wolves – who seem to pride themselves on taking points from the big boys – travelling to Manchester City on Monday. There are also two huge games at the foot of the table, with Fulham travelling to Burnley and Cardiff hosting Huddersfield.

Taking our eye, however, is the fixture at Stamford Bridge – where Chelsea will start favourites against struggling Newcastle on Saturday evening. It’s a game that has captain material written all over it…

Captain’s pick

Despite letting a vast swathe of Fantasy Prem players down in the last gameweek, when his Chelsea team could only draw 0-0 at home to Southampton, we’re backing Eden Hazard to come good this weekend. The Belgian has faced Newcastle on 10 occasions in the Premier League, scoring seven and providing two assists in that time.

The Magpies are without a win in their last four league games, and have won only two from 10 away – at Burnley and Huddersfield. With Hazard often dropping deep to get on the ball, there could be plenty of opportunities for him to run at the Newcastle defence. This will either bring more players towards him, creating space elsewhere for assist opportunities, or leave him in one-on-one situations from where he can score for himself. Hazard is still the second top points scorer in Fantasy, behind only Mo Salah, and hasn’t gone three games without either scoring or assisting all season. We don’t expect that to start now.

Wildcard time?
The second wildcard of the fantasy season is now active, so we have looked at the next four fixtures for all Premier League teams and come up with a side featuring big hitters, good-value signings and a couple of budget players to free up funds for the more luxurious members of the squad.

In goal, Hugo Lloris is a slightly cheaper alternative to Alisson, Ederson and Kepa – and after his Tottenham team play Manchester United this weekend, they face Fulham, Watford and Newcastle. With those fixtures in mind, it’s no surprise that we also like the look of Harry Kane in our front three.

Liverpool’s next four opponents are Brighton, Crystal Palace, Leicester and West Ham – so Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold form the backbone of our wildcard defence. They are joined by Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso, who is still the top-scoring defender in the game, and Crystal Palace youngster Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has proven a superb value addition to many teams this season.

As discussed above, Eden Hazard is our captain for the week – but we’ve also taken a chance on his Chelsea teammate Callum Hudson-Odoi, who might be set for a run in the team as Maurizio Sarri attempts to keep his young attacker from wanting away to Bayern Munich. The 18-year-old is also enjoyably cheap, although if he does find himself out of the team we have Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu as first substitute.

The midfield is completed by Xherdan Shaqiri, who is not a guaranteed starter for Liverpool but has recently found himself in fine form playing from the right of Jurgen Klopp’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Joining Kane up front is Sergio Aguero, who fitness permitting seems one of the few Manchester City players immune from Pep Guardiola’s dreaded rotation. Marcus Rashford is our third striker – he has been granted a new level of attacking freedom under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has consequently been in excellent form in front of goal for Manchester United in recent weeks. Tottenham away might not be hugely profitable for him, but United’s following three opponents are Brighton, Burnley and Leicester.

That leaves our bench, where Deulofeu is joined by dirt-cheap keeper Julian Speroni, equally affordable Southampton defender Jan Bednarek and Cardiff penalty-taker Victor Camarasa. Let’s see how this lot do, shall we?

Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 22

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