FANTASY MANAGERS HAVE NO TIME TO SHOW FATIGUE AS WE MOVE INTO THE THIRD OF THE BACK-TO-BACK-TO-BACK GAMEWEEK PROGRAMME. IT’S TIME TO TAKE A LOOK AT THIS WEEK’S TOP CAPTAIN PICKS, WITH AN ALL-MIDFIELDER LINEUP FOR THE FIRST TIME.
1. MOHAMED SALAH (VS BOU A)
Leading my all-midfield top 3, once again, is Mohamed Salah. Don’t let that midweek blank against West Brom detract you from him – it only proves he is human. Before that, his last blank came almost 2 months ago, in GW8, against Man Utd. He still has a remarkable 9 goals and 2 assists in the past 9 games, the most in the period, including 3 braces. If anything, Liverpool’s lethargic midweek performance may have helped his prospects for the weekend. Although concerns of a rest may have been rife before, there is just no way, no way Jurgen Klopp rests the main man after 2 frustrating draws in a row.
Opponents Bournemouth will provide an ideal platform for both Klopp and Salah to bounce back. The Cherries haven’t kept a clean sheet in 4. Liverpool have struggled to break down opponents which park the bus. It plays right into their wheelhouse that Eddie Howe doesn’t do buses – especially at home. Bournemouth will go for it, which will leave the Reds space to get in behind and exploit their defense. Indeed, they have conceded the highest number of shots at home this season – 14.6 per game. Expect it to be a goalfest. Last season’s encounters between these two teams back that up – 4-3 and 2-2.
Equal parts explosiveness, equal parts consistency, 57% ownership, the top points scorer this season, it could not get much safer than Salah.
2. EDEN HAZARD (VS SOT H)
In second place is Eden Hazard. Although he might have endured 2 blanks in a row too, I back him to break his duck this week. Hazard looked extremely sharp against Huddersfield after a frustrating day out against West Ham. He played some extremely fancy flicks, and was perhaps unlucky to end up with only 3 points. With Alvaro Morata supposed to be back, Hazard’s output should increase again, with the focal point of the attack back.
One of the best things about Hazard is how high his floor can be. As he has shown in the past, he can very easily get 3 bonus points for just an assist. Just a singular assist in a 1-0 draw can earn him 9 points. And we’ve all seen how explosive he can be too – with 2 braces in his last 5 starts.
He will be taking on a Southampton with no clean sheets in 8 games. Their defensive frailties were best exposed by a relentless Leicester this mid-week, who scored 4 past them – at their own patch. Their last big game away ended in a 3-0 thumping too, against Liverpool. Away from home, Southampton concede 16.7 shots per game – only Burnley and Swansea have more.
Hazard is the pick that bridges the gap between safe and a punt.
3. RIYAD MAHREZ (VS CRY H) – DIFFERENTIAL PUNT
If the commonplace choices don’t do the trick for you, here’s a blast from the Fantasy past. It seems that Mahrez has finally reignited the fire of 2015-16. The top points scorer back then, it seems he’s finally found his touch under Claude Puel. The Algerian winger has been in some form recently – with 3 goals and 1 assist in his last 4, he has 32 points in that period. In red-hot form, and at 7.8% ownership, he seems like the ideal differential punt for the week.
Up against Crystal Palace at home – Mahrez will be up against a defense as porous as any. 2-2 almost seems like the standard Palace scoreline now – with a weekly goalkeeping blunder a regular feature. With defensive talisman Mamadou Sakho out, they’ll be in for a long day against an in-form Leicester side. The Foxes have now won their last 4 games under Claude Puel. Having scored 7 in their last 2, it seems that the free-scoring side from 2015-16 is back.
A punt for sure, but what’s the fun in playing it safe?
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