Boxing Day brings the kick off to Gameweek 18 and the busy festive period for Premier League Fantasy Football managers with three Gameweeks in short succession. There are some noteworthy suspensions, and bound to be rotation during this stretch but it may not be a factor for GW18 since everyone has had a week off. There are some nice looking home matchups for some of the top teams so Draft Fantasy managers should look to take advantage. Here is how things are shaping up.
Watford v Crystal Palace
Palace have sacked Pardew, could this give them a boost in big game v. Watford? Benteke is the top threat and should get on the scoresheet in a game that should feature goals. Joining him in attack is Zaha and MacArthur, but could Townsend come back into our thoughts? Cabaye's delivery looked good against Chelsea so he could surprise too. For Watford, Pereyra is out and they have some issues on defense so stick with the set piece taking Holebas there. The Deeney/Ighalo partnership is likely to continue but Success is back so he will get some minutes.
Arsenal v West Brom
Mustafi and Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss out again so Gabriel and Iwobi should provide cover, although Ramsey is on the verge of returning too. Giroud is bound to get a start in this busy schedule, but it probably won't be until GW19/20 so expect Sánchez to continue in the striker role with Özil and Walcott joining him as strong plays at home. Cech, Bellerín, Monreal and Koscielny are also all solid defensive picks. If West Brom are to get one past the Gunners then it will likely involve Rondón or Phillips but this is not a good matchup.
Leicester v Everton
Leicester will be without a few of their Championship winning core as Vardy, Fuchs and Huth are all suspended for the home matchup with Everton. Vardy had his appeal rejected and will serve a 3-game ban. On offense, there are plenty of options to join Slimani with Okazaki, Musa and Ulloa wanting a start, but Mahrez and Slimani are still the best options before they head to the AFCON. The defensive cover will probably fall to Hernández and Schlupp. For Everton, Lukaku will be looking to capitalize on the defensive instability but figuring out who will aid him is not easy, maybe time for Barkley to step up? The fantasy points have been coming from their defense recently, and not from clean sheets as Baines, Coleman and Williams have been helping out offensively. Stekelenburg may miss out with Robles the replacement in goal. Look for a tight game here.
Swansea v West Ham
This feels like a high scoring game as both teams should go for it. For the Swans this inevitably means that Sigurdsson will be involved and Llorente had has a couple of two goals performances in the last two home games. West Ham are led by the delivery of Payet and the aerial attack of Antonio, and possibly Carroll if he gets the starting nod again but Ayew is also a possibility. Noble is one of those players who can pop up with the occasional good output too if pks happen. On defense, Cresswell has not lived up to potential he showed last season and Obiang is suspended.
Burnley v Middlesbrough
Burnley are usually good at home and this is certainly a game they can win. Heaton, Keane and Mee are the prime defensive choices but Lowton is suspended. In attack, Gray could be a nice sleeper pick as he got a start last game and his speed gave the opposition some issues, a goal and he could get hot. Vokes was the victim of Gray's return and will probably be on the bench again after Barnes scored v. Spurs. Relying on anyone in the Clarets crowded midfield (Gudmundsson also should return) is risky right now. Middlesbrough are led by Negredo and Ramírez offensively, and while Burnley usually score at home, their defenders are an ok play in what is likely to be a low scoring affair.
Chelsea v Bournemouth
Chelsea will be without the influential pair of Costa and Kanté, but they have a strong bench with Fabregas the providing a top class replacement for Kanté, and multiple options for dealing with the loss of their leading goal scorer. Batshuayi is a straight swap but Conte could use Pedro or Hazard as a false nine too, which would guarantee Willian a starting spot. As usual, Courtois and the backline are a great fantasy play at home to the Cherries. Stanislas remains out but I am not recommending Bournemouth players regardless.
Man Utd v Sunderland
Utd are clearly one of the teams with a great fantasy matchup this Gameweek as Sunderland visit Old Trafford. The Black Cats will probably park a double-decker bus on defense but Pogba and Zlatan have the creativity to break it down. Joining them will be some mix of Rooney, Mata, Lingard, Martial and Rashford. Mkhitaryan is getting close but there not much need to risk him here so I expect he will be saved. De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Rojo and Darmian are all in line for a potential clean sheet here. And Sunderland, stick with Defoe or Anichebe if you must.
Hull v Man City
City are coming off of a big win and were led by De Bruyne, that should continue. Silva and Sterling are good midfield choices and Sané may have done enough to get another start. Iheanacho has been a bust in his time supposedly covering for Agüero, who is still suspended for this one, but maybe he gets a start here. Kolarov is the best defender choice due to his offensive upside but see a clean sheet as an added bonus only. Hull at home may be able to sneak a goal, likely involving Snodgrass in some way, but they won't have much of the ball.
Liverpool v Stoke
While the possibility of Sturridge getting a start after being involved in the Merseyside derby late winning goal is there, Klopp does not seem to trust him so expect the same offense to be called upon with Mané, Origi, Firmino and Lallana leading the way. Firmino is so due for a breakout. Matip is questionable on defense but the rest are a decent pick at home, with Clyne the most likely to get you extra attacking points. In net, Mignolet has done nothing to have the job taken away from him. Stoke are without Arnautovic but Shaqiri should return. I don't foresee much more than a single goal here as Liverpool's defense is tightening up.
Southampton v Spurs
Southampton are a solid team, especially at home, and play the top teams tough so I expect a low scoring battle here. All defenders come onto out fantasy radar with Walker, Rose, Soares and Bertrand bringing attacking flair down the wings. Alderweireld could miss out so Dier would fill in if so. After blanking in two great home matchups, fantasy managers are not expecting much from Kane but it is not like you can bench him. Eriksen and Alli have been dangerous for Spurs recently and for the Saints the attacking onus will fall to the resurgent Rodriguez, plus Redmond and Tadic.
There is really only one thing left to say...Merry Christmas from this Premier League Fantasy Football nut to you, all the best this Gameweek.
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