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Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 18

Preview
Another interesting week – on and off the pitch – behind us and now we enter the busiest period of the season with the first match of Gameweek 18 coming at Molineux on Friday night where Wolves host Liverpool. Interestingly, last week five teams recorded clean sheets but Tottenham were the only ones out of the ‘big six’ to do so meaning favourite picks such as Andy Robertson, Aymeric Laporte, Marcos Alonso, David de Gea and Virgil van Dijk all returned minimal points. As the games come thick and fast over the festive period and the players become more mentally and physically fatigued we can maybe expect to see more goals being scored – perhaps a three at the back formation could be on the cards for the next few weeks. This week throws up a few more potential ‘bankers’ than usual with Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal all at home to Crystal Palace, Leicester and Burnley respectively. Spurs and Liverpool face trickier ties away at Everton and Wolves but will both still be expected to grab all three points. Two huge games at the foot of the table as Huddersfield host Southampton and Fulham travel to Newcastle. Two of the most mid-table fixtures you could ask for take place between West Ham and Watford and Bournemouth and Brighton.

Captain’s pick

There is always an element of risk when picking a Man City player as your captain due to Pep Guardiola’s tendency to rotate his best players. However, with Sterling starting on the bench last weekend at home to Everton and back there again in midweek against Leicester, we hope that he will have been rested enough to start this one at home to Palace. Sterling scored twice in this fixture last season as City cruised to a 5-0 home win against the south London side and with nine goals and six assists in his 14 PL appearances this season, we believe that the English winger is the right choice for the armband this week.

Alternative captain

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Why not? A Coaches’ Voice FPL first here with a Manchester United player being selected as a potential Captain’s Pick. As is often the case when a manager is replaced, we’re anticipating a lift in the spirits of the players and perhaps the feeling of more freedom to attack and cause problems. Rashford has looked arguably the most threatening United player in recent weeks and will come up against a Cardiff defence that has conceded 14 goals in their last eight games. Cardiff really struggled to deal with the trickery and pace of Gerard Deulofeu against Watford last weekend and we think that Rashford could cause them similar problems.

Value selection

Another first: a Southampton player being recommended! Targett was terrific in a new-look Saints side last weekend, playing on the left side of a defensive back five. This formation may have been chosen to match up against Arsenal’s but this weekend they come up against a Huddersfield side that employ the same three at the back approach. Targett displayed a great relationship with Stuart Armstrong on the left side and was crucial in unlocking the Arsenal defence. We think he could have several opportunities to attack in this crucial fixture and could be in line for a clean sheet and an assist.

Long-term prospect

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After an impressive start to the season, Richarlison tailed off somewhat over four or five gameweeks leading several FPL managers to transfer him out in favour of the likes of Felipe Anderson and Ryan Fraser. We think that now could be the time to bring the Brazilian back into your side. Despite a tough home fixture against Spurs this weekend, the seven fixtures that follow could see a surge in points for both Everton and Richarlison with home games against Leicester, Bournemouth and Wolves and away fixtures against Burnley, Huddersfield, Southampton and Brighton.

How we did in Gameweek 17

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Captain’s pick
An impressively resolute Burnley and perhaps some weary legs after an intense Champions League night in Barcelona only four days earlier meant Tottenham needed a last-gasp winner at Wembley on Saturday. Sadly for our reputation as Fantasy Prem experts (see our Robert Snodgrass selection the previous week), Harry Kane wasn’t the man on target – but the England captain (above) did at least get the assist for goalscorer Christian Eriksen.

Alternative captain
A disappointing weekend for our alternative pick, Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Not only did the Premier League’s joint top-scorer fail to add to his current tally of 10 at Southampton; but his team also fell to a first defeat in any competition since losing at Chelsea in their second league game of the season. Poor show all round.

Value selection
With 10 minutes of Watford’s home game against Cardiff remaining, value pick Kiko Femenia was sitting comfortably on a clean sheet as the hosts cruised at 3-0. The Hornets still won the game, but conceding two goals in three late minutes saw the right-back’s Fantasy Prem haul drop from six points to one. Which didn’t please us at all.

Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 18

Tactical analysis: Barcelona 1 Tottenham 1

Barcelona left Lionel Messi on the bench, but Tottenham got the result they needed to secure their place in the Champions League knockout stages

Tactical analysis: Liverpool 3 Manchester United 1

Liverpool were too good for bitter rivals Manchester United in a victory that took them back above Manchester City and top of the Premier League

Tactical analysis: Manchester City 3 Everton 1

Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling got the goals as Manchester City defeated Everton to temporarily rise above Liverpool at the top of the Premier League