After a lengthy break for some cup magic (Shrewsbury 0-0 West Ham peak anybody’s interest?) the Premier League finally returns, and there are some new faces thanks to the January transfer window. To help you get back into the swing of things, FPL wise at least, the Best Picks series returns for Gameweek 23.
Budget Option: Mathew Ryan (4.5m)
Nobody likes a bore draw, but West Brom v Brighton looks about as set to be a 0-0 stalemate as any game I’ve ever predicted. The Seagulls have had three 0-0 draws in their last eight games, and four clean sheets over that same period. The Baggies meanwhile have scored just 16 times all season, which is the second lowest total in the league. They too have had three bore draws in their last eight, and frankly this will probably be one of the worst games of the season. Ryan will befit though as he should bag his ninth clean sheet of the season.
Budget Option: Nick Pope (4.8m)
Burnley are somehow still up there in seventh place in the Premier League table, and have conceded just 19 times in 22 games this season. That stat gives them the best defensive record of any team not in the top three, and they take a trip to infrequent scorers Crystal Palace this weekend. The Eagles have been averaging less than a goal per game, and, despite their resurgence under Roy Hodgson, they still don’t look hugely convincing going forward. With Tom Heaton still out, Pope remains a top tier keeper.
Premium Option: Hugo Lloris (5.5m)
A lot of the top teams have tricky fixtures this week, and, on paper, a clash with Everton might cause Tottenham some problems. From an FPL perspective however this looks like a promising matchup for Spurs defensively. While Everton have certainly improved at the back under Sam Allardyce, they have still had their struggles going forward. With just one goal in their last four Premier League games, the Toffees really don’t offer much of a threat. You can expect Lloris to come away with a clean sheet in this one, and save points are definitely also a possibility.
Budget Option: Jamaal Lascelles (4.6m)
Newcastle are still hovering precariously above the relegation zone, and no aspect of their game has been particularly good so far this season. This pick is solely a matchup decision, with the Magpies hosting bottom of the league Swansea on Saturday. The Swans have netted a pitiful 13 goals all season, and, for all Rafa Benitez’s side’s issues, they have kept two consecutive clean sheets in the top flight. Lascelles offers the best goal threat from the club’s defenders, so he’s the pick.
Budget Option: Angelo Ogbonna (4.5m)
West Ham let everybody down in the double game week by somehow conceding to West Brom, and then also failing to keep a clean sheet against Tottenham. Naturally they played out an intensely dull 0-0 draw with Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup, thus proving that they can at least defend. A clash with Huddersfield, who have only found the back of the net 18 times in this campaign, provides a good opportunity for a clean sheet. Ogbonna seems to start every game, and at £4.5m he is definitely worth a punt.
Premium Option: Phil Jones (5.7m)
Despite recent 2-2 draws against both Leicester and Burnley, Manchester United remain the second best defensive side in the Premier League, tied with Chelsea. The Red Devils turned their defensive form around by registering back-to-back clean sheets in their last two league games, meaning that they head into this weekend’s clash with Stoke brimming with confidence at the back. The Potters are wallowing down in 18th spot, and failed to score in their last two games. Jones has been a surprise stalwart in Mourinho’s back line this season, and he should pick up a comfortable clean sheet again on Monday night.
Premium Option to AVOID: Nicolas Otamendi (6.5m)
The last time I recommended avoiding Otamendi the selfish Argentinian went and scored, a feat he has achieved four times this season. Manchester City have also been a brilliant option for regular clean sheets in this campaign, but they face a tough game against Liverpool this weekend, and Otamendi might not be able to salvage his fantasy day with another goal. The Reds are second only to Pep Guardiola’s City team in terms of goals scored, with 50 in 22 league games, and certainly have the fire power to dismantle a Cityzens back line that could be missing Vincent Kompany once again. The City players you want in this game are all attackers.
After a break for some cup games there will be various players with different injury designations. Make sure you check the team news regularly in the run-up to the deadline, and, as usual, make sure you have backup options.
January has arrived, and so too has the ability to use your second Wildcard of the season. If your team is looking a bit worse for ware, or you feel as though you’re missing quite a few of the big scorers from the first half of the season, now might be the time to have a little tinker.
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