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The 2017 African Cup of Nations has seen several Premier League players leave to represent their countries, leaving voids to be filled in plenty of Fantasy Premier League teams.
Fortunately, below are alternatives to each of the top three stars departed for the AFCON and also why you should captain Jermain Defoe this week.
But first, a shout out to these tactical geniuses who top our Sport360 fans league going into this week!
WHO TO PICK AS CAPTAIN
Sergio Aguero [12.8m] was the pick for captain in Gameweek 20 and Pep Guardiola threw FPL managers another curve ball when he decided to start the Argentine on the bench!
Nevertheless, the striker proved his worth yet again, coming on at half-time to help Manchester City to a 2-1 win with his effort proving to be decisive. His goal and two bonus points took his tally to seven, doubling to a respectable 14 as captain (phew!).
This week, the in-form Jermain Defoe [7.8m] is the man in the spotlight.
The Englishman has returned 27 points from his last four outings, is bang in form and well rested with Sunderland not part of the recent domestic cup fixtures.
The last time he had a good break, during the international week, he responded with a goal and an assist while the big-hitters fired blanks.
It doesn’t hurt that Sunderland, who have enjoyed a resurgence of sorts lately, welcome a Stoke City side who have just one win in seven across all competitions.
Confidence won’t be high among The Potters who were most recently dumped out of the FA Cup courtesy of a 0-2 defeat at home to Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers.
REPLACEMENTS FOR THREE AFCON STARS
Here are some options to replace these AFCON bound stars within the same price range.
SADIO MANE [LIVERPOOL – 9.2m]
REPLACEMENT – PHILIPPE COUTINHO [LIVERPOOL – 8.2m]
This season, it wouldn’t be too uncommon to have two Liverpool midfielders in your side but if Sadio Mane was your lone Red in the middle of the park, you should be looking to replace him with another and Coutinho checks all the right boxes.
The Brazilian returned to action as a second-half substitute in Liverpool’s League semi-final first leg defeat to Southampton. It’s a good time to pick him up after his price has dropped to just 8.2m.
With Mane away, Jurgen Klopp will hope Coutinho gets right back to hitting the back of the net, something he did five times in 13 appearances this season while also providing six assists.
Coutinho to make a return vs Man United, can't wait to have the magician back.pic.twitter.com/mAZzKIfZwb— Mootaz (@Mootaz_LFC) January 6, 2017
ALTERNATIVE – DELE ALLI [TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR – 8.5m]
The Tottenham star is in top goal-scoring form. Three consecutive braces have seen him score seven goals in his last four appearances, making up for his slow start to the season.
It’s also worth noting that apart from facing City and Liverpool away in the next few weeks, Spurs don’t play any other top six team until the end of April.
If you’re looking for a goal-scoring midfielder outside of Liverpool, Alli is a great option.
Dele Alli has scored more goals (10) than any other U21 player in Europe's top 5 leagues so far this season.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 10, 2017
Outstanding. 🌟 pic.twitter.com/zkPw61eeEQ
RIYAD MAHREZ [LEICESTER CITY – 9.0m]
REPLACEMENT – CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN [TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR – 8.6m]
If you’re looking for a creative midfielder to replace Riyad Mahrez, it’s about time! The Algerian has struggled to replicate his form from last season, providing only three assists so far this term.
If the AFCON has forced your hand, it’s probably a good thing and it’s convenient that it coincides with Eriksen’s return to form. With five assists in his last five outings, the Dane has been at the heart of Tottenham’s surge up the table.
Christian Eriksen has now recorded 20 Premier League assists since the start of last season; only Mesut Özil (22) has more. pic.twitter.com/4TibLCjCXc— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 4, 2017
ALTERNATIVE – ADAM LALLANA [LIVERPOOL – 7.7m]
Lallana has done brilliantly to soften the blow of Coutinho’s absence and certainly represents much better value than Mahrez in midfield.
With four goals and two assists in his last six appearances, the English international is a very useful player to have in the squad not just for his contributions but his price tag as well.
7 – Adam Lallana has scored seven goals from just 10 shots on target in the Premier League this season. Pinpoint.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 12, 2017
WILFRIED ZAHA [CRYSTAL PALACE – 5.7m]
REPLACEMENT – MATT PHILLIPS [WEST BROM – 5.8m]
Zaha has made some pretty handy contributions this season but his absence gives you a chance to swap him for options that give you even better value and Matt Phillipps is one of them.
The West Brom midfielder has eight assists this season, second only to Kevin De Bruyne (9), while he’s also chipped in with four goals. Following a trip to White Hart Lane this weekend, West Brom have a run of fancied fixtures through to early March.
Matt Phillips in his last 11 games.— Read West Brom (@ReadWestBrom) January 8, 2017
Goals: ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️
Assists: ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅
His form: 🔥 🔥 🔥 pic.twitter.com/plrzgX9c3v
ALTERNATIVE – JUNIOR STANISLAS [BOURNEMOUTH – 5.2m]
Since his return from injury, Stanislas has been back among the points. He’s bagged two assists in his last two starts and is great value at just 5.2m.
Given Bournemouth’s next few fixtures, Ryan Fraser is tempting as well but is a slight injury doubt for this weekend and, unlike Stanislas, hasn’t established himself as a regular in the first team.
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One of the biggest rivalry in English football takes centre stage this weekend as Liverpool travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United on Sunday.
Liverpool are currently second in the table, five points ahead of their rivals, but Manchester United have form on their side, going into the game on the back of a nine-game winning streak.
With the game just three days away, we’ve picked a combined XI from both sides.
Did we leave anybody out? Do you agree with our selection?
It appears that over the course of the past four seasons, two Premier League players have stood out for falling foul of the law.
And it is not in terms of fouls, offsides or even dives, but instead handballs.
According to stats from our friends at WhoScored.com, Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini and Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez have committed the most handballs in the league during that time.
Fellaini, whose contract at Old Trafford has just been extended by a year, has been blown up for handball no less than 15 times.
As you can see below, it gets worse for Sanchez who has hanballed a league high 17 times.
On this evidence, this pair could probably have futures in the game going in goal.