Gameweek 23 begins on Tuesday, just a couple of days after a weekend of FA Cup action in which over half of the teams in the Premier League competed, well, sort of, 😜. For 4 teams, Man Utd, Liverpool, Southampton and Hull, it will be their third game in under a week due to involvement in the EFL Cup Semis. In this week's preview I will examine any potential rotation issues plus the usual injury, transfer and suspension news, along with the matchups for Draft Fantasy managers to exploit. I will also try to say AFCON a few times to keep everyone happy.
Arsenal v Watford
Another solid home matchup for your Gunners has the usual suspects in line for a good fantasy output. Sánchez is the top scorer in most formats and has the added bonus of pk duty too, did he need more value? Giroud should continue up front but Welbeck and Walcott reminded everyone of their quality with their FA Cup performances and will reduce his minutes going forward. Tuesday may come too soon for Walcott and Welbeck so Özil and Iwobi are likely back in for this one. Xhaka is suspended yet again. On defense, Bellerín's late sub appearance frustrated those that started him (me included 😡) last game but I am confident he is back now. Mustafi popped up with a goal and he should start with Koscielny and Monreal. For Watford, Holebas is the first to be suspended for 10 yellows and rumors abound regarding Ighalo so stick with Deeney if you must.
Burnley v Leicester
Burnley at home...Leicester struggling...you know what this means, time to start Gray. Defour is showing signs of his talent and could be a sleeper pick assuming he starts. Defensively, Heaton is always a good start at Turf Moor along with Keane and Mee. The defending champs have some good news as Mahrez and Slimani are back from the AFCON (1st mention!) as Algeria were knocked out early, but Slimani is carrying a slight injury. I would not invest too heavily in the Foxes right now until they show some signs of turning things around, but we also all know that Vardy and Mahrez can explode at any time.
Sunderland v Tottenham
Sunderland will need Defoe to be at his best to get anything from this game now that Anichebe has been ruled out with a long term injury. Times are darkening at the Stadium of Light (see what I did there), especially with the additional loss of the talented van Aanholt to Palace. Spurs are at the opposite end and this matchup is another chance for an offensive explosion with Kane, Alli and Eriksen all producing recently. Kane missed their FA Cup match on the weekend but it was likely just precautionary. On defense, Walker and Rose are always a threat going forward, but note Vertonghen is still out. Alderweireld and Rose were both also held out of the Cup game, probably for the same reason as Kane.
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace
Bournemouth started the season as a solid defense at home but lately they have disappointed. Home to Palace is still a good matchup and the Cherries should be fresh as they are one of the teams with no Cup duty. Daniels and A. Smith carry the offensive upside. Wilson has started up front at home of late, with Afobe preferred on the road but he scored from the bench and Howe could shake things up. Stanislas is the safer bet as he is heavily involved in set pieces. Palace have Zaha, arguably their best player this season, back from the AFCON (2!), so this increases Benteke's value as his service should improve. The addition of van Aanholt adds some more offense but the clean sheet potential is only increased slightly for him with this move.
Middlesbrough v West Brom
Middlesbrough have been left frustrated by Ramírez asking to be transferred as it takes one of their creative scorers out of the team. Negredo will have to continue to shoulder the load but new signings may be needed for this team to survive getting drawn further into the relegation battle. Their defense are generally a decent play at home but West Brom will be rested and ready so I would favor them in this matchup. It is the usual suspects for the Baggies as Róndon, Phillips, Brunt and McAuley are carrying the load. Chadli has dropped off the map after a promising start.
Swansea v Southampton
Swansea have to be riding a high after beating Liverpool and should be fresh. Sigurdsson and Llorente both were impressive and will be relied upon to try and get this team another year of PL action. Southampton on the other hand, are one of the teams who will be playing their third game in under a week so their usually tough team defense could get stretched. With Fonte sold to West Ham and Van Dijk out injured, this brings youngster Stephens into contention as a partner for Yoshida in the centre. Bertrand and Soares bring that assist potential too. With Rodriguez nursing an injury, Tadic and Redmond are looking the most dangerous, with Long also an option.
Liverpool v Chelsea
The big game of the weekend is one that Liverpool must win if they are going to have any chance to catch Chelsea, but they will have to improve their recent play. Klopp should return to his preferred lineup with Firmino as the false 9 with Coutinho and Lallana in advanced positions also. They sure are missing Mané, but a private jet is bringing him back from AFCON (3rd time is a charm, right?) duty in a hope he could make the bench, wait a week I say before re-deploying him. The Liverpool backline is not trustworthy for this matchup as Chelsea boast too many in-form weapons right now. Speaking of those weapons, I don't foresee any changes being made as Costa is firmly back. The backline is likely to get breached but they are hard to bench.
West Ham v Man City
The Hammers are playing more inspired football minus Payet (officially gone to Marseille if you were still holding him), and both Carroll and Antonio could give this fragile City defense a serious headache. With West Ham winning the Snodgrass sweepstakes, all three of their stocks should rise due to his delivery and their finishing ability. City are stumbling along but hold a plethora of fantasy weapons in the likes of the always dangerous Agüero, De Bruyne and Sterling. Agüero is a slight doubt with a minor injury so new addition Gabriel Jesus is a player to keep an eye on, he could become useful sooner than later. Sané is also hot right now but a start is not guaranteed.
Man Utd v Hull
While this is the third game for both in quick succession, it should impact Hull more than Utd due to the lack of depth in their squad. Utd fielded a first choice side for their EFL Semi, then gave some second choice players some minutes in the FA Cup so I expect the big boys to return and the disruption on fantasy teams to be minimal. This is obviously a home matchup that could be very fruitful so start all your Utd regulars with confidence, though I would be a little bit concerned if I owned Mkhitaryan or Mata as they started on Sunday. Rooney set the record last weekend, which gets him the cover photo as I pay homage, but he may have to be satisfied with another sub appearance after also starting the FA Cup game. For Hull, the loss of Snodgrass hurts but Niasse looks interesting, just maybe not for this tough road matchup.
Stoke v Everton
Stoke welcomes Berahino into the mix and he could become the perfect partner for Crouch. Bony returns from...you guessed it, the AFCON, but he will find it hard to crack this team. Arnautovic is playing better and Shaqiri is due. I think Everton will score so I would avoid the Potters' backline in this one. For Everton, Lukaku is the clear star but Mirallas is beginning to show his worth. On defense, Baines is on pks and Coleman has a knack for the big goal, both are solid options moving forward for those reasons alone.
And that is how Gameweek 23 is shaping up for Premier League Fantasy Football managers. Enjoy the games, and may I make a suggestion to my fellow North Americans, it is winter and flu season, so these two days would be a great time to call in "sick". Hope you feel better...😉. P.S. AFCON.
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