The following Fantasy Premier League advice is tailored toward players of Togga's Perfect XI. It's a weekly game in which every Premier League player is eligible to be selected into a 4-4-2 formation. There is no salary cap, no squad restrictions and you pick a fresh XI every week.
Boxing Day produced some remarkable football and a handful of unusual starters. As we covered last week, suspensions and injury kept a number of big names out of the action. Real life also threw a wrench in the fantasy works with Theo Walcott rested and fantasy stars Riyad Mahrez, Troy Deeney and Henrikh Mhkitaryan all starting on the substitutes bench. Week 19 will start this Friday and end Sunday, with week 20 kicking off Monday. The consecutive weeks means more rotation is expected as managers handle the short rest and the players discussed here are valued for their potential FPL contributions in both weeks.
Selecting the perfect XI each week isn't an easy task and even the best-laid plans can use a plan B, so we've provided alternatives for each position. Those designated (d) are differentials – players we expect will be owned by fewer than 5% of FPL managers this week. There are also a couple of players designated (r) - as in "risk of rotation" - who have enough value in one week to justify including even if they miss one as well.
David de Gea (vs. Boro; at West Ham)
Key Stats: Manchester United have posted clean sheets in two of their last four, while de Gea has recorded 15 saves in his last five league starts. That is the best save return over any five game span this season for Spanish Dave. The uptick in production comes at a good time, as West Ham have recently hit their stride. A clean sheet is certainly possible when United welcome Boro, and a handful of saves versus the Hammers would offset any goals allowed to Slaven Bilic's squad.
Plan B: Joel Robles (r; at Hull; vs. Southampton); Petr Cech (vs. Palace; at Bournemouth); Thibaut Courtois (vs. Stoke; at Tottenham)
Robles deputized for the injured Maarten Stekelenburg on Everton's trip to Leicester. In his second start of the season he posted his second clean sheet - having previously blanked West Ham at Goodison in week 10. He also picked up a fluke assist on Mirallas' opening goal! Stekelenburg is expected to recover from his dead leg but if Robles is named the starter these two matches set the stage for continued fantasy success.
Marcos Alonso (vs. Stoke; at Tottenham); Leighton Baines (at Hull; vs. Southampton); Laurent Koscielny (vs. Palace; at Bournemouth); Winston Reid (d; at Leicester; vs. Man United)
Key Stats: The Hammers' Reid has been involved in five goals this season (2g, 3a), level with Leighton Baines and Watford's Jose Holebas for most among defenders. On paper the match-ups look difficult but Leicester have scored just two goals in their last three and West Ham held United to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in November. This is a rare case of a potential top 10 defender being had as a differential and that kind of upside justifies Reid's risk.
Plan B: David Luiz (d; vs. Stoke; at Tottenham); Cesar Azpilicueta (vs. Stoke; at Tottenham); Virgil van Dijk (vs. West Brom; at Everton); Christian Fuchs (d; vs. West Ham; at Boro)
The concern about squad rotation applies to Chelsea less than any other squad. That's because the table-toppers enjoy the most rest between matches of any club during the festive period. After the December 31st home clash with Stoke, David Luiz and company will not play again until Wednesday, January 4, providing ample time to rest ahead of their trip to White Hart Lane. With 12 wins on the spin and 10 clean sheets in that span, no club is hotter or better positioned to maintain their current form; Chelsea's defenders are among the very best fantasy options.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (vs. Bournemouth; at Palace); Sadio Mane (vs. Man City; at Sunderland); Mesut Ozil (vs. Palace; at Bournemouth); Paul Pogba (at Boro; vs. West Ham)
Key Stats: Sadio Mane has been something of a flat-track bully this season. Of his eight goals and six assists, just one goal (and no assists) have come against current Top 6 sides. That should change when Liverpool clash with Man City. Pep Guardiola's side have only kept four clean sheets this season and allowed three goals to Chelsea. Last season the Reds handed City 1-4 and 3-0 losses in the EPL. Mane is off to the Africa Cup Of Nations shortly but will be available to Klopp for each of the next two League clashes.
Plan B: Dusan Tadic (r; vs. WBA; at Everton); Riyad Mahrez (vs. West Ham; at Boro); Henrikh Mhkitaryan (r; at Boro; vs. West Ham); Dimitri Payet (at Leicester; vs. Man United)
Southampton and Liverpool have the least rest between week 19 and 20. The Saints play Sunday and again Tuesday; if Tadic is selected for both he will be a top performer against two sides which have conceded ample fantasy points to attacking midfielders. Tadic has not been heavily involved in the Saints' starting eleven since week 11 failing to start in seven straight. He's come on as sub each of the last three weeks and should start Saturday in place of Nathan Redmond who was sent off in the mid-week clash with Tottenham. Last season he managed eight goals and 13 assists in just 2280 minutes, showing he can excel despite limited playing time.
Diego Costa (vs. Stoke; at Tottenham); Zlatan Ibrahimovic (r; vs. Boro; at West Ham)
Key Stats: Eight goals in his last eight league tilts with three assists over the last three makes Zlatan the hottest player in the Premier League. The big Swede has missed only one match this season, against Arsenal, after picking up his fifth yellow card. Regardless, if he plays either match he's too good to sit, but if you're able to make a substitute between weeks he's one to monitor for possible rest.
Plan B: Olivier Giroud (r; vs. Palace; at Bournemouth); Romelu Lukaku (at Hull; vs. Stoke); Fernando Llorente (d; vs. Bournemouth; at Palace); Alexis Sanchez (vs. Palace; at Bournemouth)
Swansea City have scored only 21 goals this season, and the trio of Leroy Fer (6), Llorente (6) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (5) account for 17 of them. Llorente received inconsistent playing time under former manager Bob Bradley, but has scored five goals in his last six appearances, including a brace in a 25 minute appearance against Crystal Palace. Swans have scored only two goals in the last three matches and face a difficult stretch following these next two fixtures. Fantasy managers must hope that the end of Bradley's tenure in Swansea means Llorente is named the starter in both matches.