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Following the hectic festive fixtures, breathing space ahead of Gameweek 22 has finally afforded Fantasy Premier League to take stock, make calculated decisions and plan ahead.
The Premier League returns on Saturday after the domestic cup games over the last week and many will be contemplating playing their second wildcard of the season.
Manchester United’s assets have certainly worked their way into consideration, but they travel to Tottenham in this round. There’s no shortage of high-profile options though with Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all facing attractive fixtures.
Here are a few tips ahead of Gameweek 22.
CAPTAIN – SERGIO AGUERO | MANCHESTER CITY | 11.2M
In a GW that offers so many safe options for the armband, there’s a hint of uncertainty around Sergio Aguero. Normally, the Argentine would be a no-brainer but he has been ill this week, only returning to training on Friday while Gabriel Jesus’ four goals during City’s 9-0 League Cup win over Burton Albion has put the Brazilian in contention for a starting role.
However, Pep Guardiola seems to have preferred Aguero when both strikers are fit and the 30-year-old should have a clean bill of health by Monday night. With City in pursuit of league leaders Liverpool, the Spaniard won’t want to take any chances with his team selection.
Aguero has delivered attacking returns in all eight of his home starts this season, bagging 10 goals and six assists at Etihad Stadium. Meanwhile, Wolves have managed just one clean sheet in their last 13 GWs.
The City striker has looked really sharp since his return from injury and with an ownership of just over 22 per cent, he could be the differential captain pick of the season.
EDEN HAZARD (11.1m) has proved to be a frustrating FPL asset at times but seems to enjoy playing Newcastle. He scored against them earlier this term and bagged a brace against the Magpies at home last season.
MOHAMED SALAH (13.3m) is one of the hottest FPL players at the moment and despite failing to deliver against City, should be back among the goals away to Brighton. His underlying stats away from home are impressive so that shouldn’t deter owners looking to captain him.
RICHARLISON (6.9m) has been fairly quiet of late with just one goal and assist in the last five GWs. However, with Bournemouth’s leaky defence visiting Goodison Park on Sunday, you’d back the Brazilian to get on the score sheet.
TWO TO WATCH
ASHLEY BARNES | BURNLEY | 5.6M
Burnley have enjoyed something of a resurgence recently and host a Fulham side who have kept just two clean sheets all season. That’s why at just 5.6m, Ashley Barnes should be on your radar. The striker striker has delivered in three of the last four GWs with two goals and an assist.
KEVIN DE BRUYNE | MANCHESTER CITY | 9.7M
Last season, Kevin De Bruyne was crucial to City’s title charge and Guardiola will enjoy having him back as they look to defend their crown. He scored the opening goal against Burton and should start on Monday night after being substituted early in the second half. With an ownership of just 3.7 per cent, he offers a superb differential with good fixtures ahead.
TWO TO AVOID
SON HEUNG-MIN | TOTTENHAM | 8.8M
If you’re looking longingly at Son Heung-min’s excellent past few GWs, I’m afraid you’ve missed the gravy train. After four double-figure hauls in the last six GWs, the South Korean is heading off for international duty, competing in the Asian Cup in UAE. Keep an eye out for his return though which should be in early February at the latest.
FELIPE ANDERSON| WEST HAM | 7.4M
Felipe Anderson has exceeded expectations this season and while his 15-point haul in GW19 is still fresh in the memory, it was his only returns in his last four outings. With Marko Arnautovic back in action and Manuel Pellegrini adding Samir Nasri to West Ham’s ranks, Anderson’s influence on games may dwindle. The Hammers face Arsenal this week before hosting Liverpool in GW25.
Virgil van Dijk’s performances for Liverpool put him on par with the finest centre-backs in Premier League history, according to Brighton boss Chris Hughton.
But Hughton believes the Netherlands international must sustain his form over a longer period of time to cement a place among the division’s all-time greats.
Van Dijk – a one-time transfer target for Albion – has helped transform Jurgen Klopp’s Reds into genuine title contenders following a £75 million move from Southampton last January.
The 27-year-old visits the Amex Stadium on Saturday with the table-topping Merseyside club bidding to increase their four-point lead over champions Manchester City.
Asked if Van Dijk deserves to be talked about in the same breath as the likes of John Terry, Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand, Hughton replied: “Is he that level of player? Yes of course, I’ve no doubt he is when you look at the qualities he’s got.
“The other players we’ve mentioned have done it over a long period.
“If you’re asking me if he’s at their level as a player, then the answer is yes.
“But if you’re talking about an influence on our game and the history they have, then of course they’ve done it for a longer time and he hasn’t.”
Brighton – then managed by Gus Poyet – attempted to sign Van Dijk from Dutch club Groningen in January 2013, seeing two bids rejected.
The player joined Celtic in the summer of that year and, after moving on to St Mary’s for a reported £13million in September 2015, increased his value significantly before arriving at Anfield.
“What you have with all the best centre-halves, and it’s exactly the same with Van Dijk, is they make things look easier,” added Hughton.
“If you homed in on the job he’s done, the positions he is in, the pace that he shows, the distribution that he has, he looks such a good player.
“If you look at all the aspects of what you want in a centre-half: good in the air, comfortable with the ball at his feet, good enough pace, he has all those qualities.”
Albion’s success in establishing themselves in the top flight owes a lot to their own defensive solidity, built on the reliable centre-back partnership of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy.
Seagulls vice-captain Dunk became an England international in November, while Republic of Ireland defender Duffy has also regularly attracted praise.
Hughton says the “outstanding” pair are vital members of his team and feels they can improve further by watching Van Dijk.
“What Van Dijk is to Liverpool, that’s what our two are to us,” said Hughton.
“We know what level he is but if I’m looking at what you would regard as two outstanding centre-halves at our level, ours are as valuable to us as what he is to them.
“The two we have will look at the best around where they can learn from, what they can pick up from.
“At the moment, he (Van Dijk) is a great role model. He doesn’t miss many games, is good in both boxes and is a top, top all-round player.”
Despite being clear at the top of the table, Liverpool were beaten 2-1 by second-placed City in their previous league fixture, before crashing out of the FA Cup at Wolves on Monday.
Asked if the Reds can end their 19-year wait for a top-flight title, Hughton said they were favourites but “wouldn’t put money on it”.
“I think they are favourites simply because of the points difference, and I think they’ve been outstanding,” he said.
“But I couldn’t tell you who will win it. And certainly, I wouldn’t put money on it.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Winning the PFA Premier League Player of the Month award is no easy feat, with numerous players pushing to secure the award every month during the league season.
The award is given to the best performing player in the month and it has grown in popularity in recent years, amongst fans and the players themselves.
The first player to ever win the award was Jurgen Klinsmann of Tottenham Hotspur back in August 1994 and since then, several players have gone on to win the award on multiple occasions.
Below, we’ve taken a look at the top five players with the most Player of the Month awards.
1. HARRY KANE – 6
The Spurs forward’s first Player of the Month award came in January 2015 and since then, he has already won five more.
His prolific goal scoring form in recent seasons has seen him shoot up the pile of winners and claim the top spot.
With the Englishman still seemingly having plenty of more years to play in the Premier League, he is expected to continue increasing this record. His most recent Player of the Month award came in December 2017.
2. STEVEN GERRARD – 6
The Liverpool legend is tied with Kane at the top of the pile, with his first award coming in March 2001.
Although Gerrard has never won the Premier League title, his brilliant midfield performances during his playing career saw him rewarded with this award on multiple occasions.
His last award came in March 2014, where he and team-mate Luis Suarez were both announced as joint winners.
3. SERGIO AGUERO – 5
The Manchester City striker has won the Player of the Month award five times since he joined the club in the summer of 2011.
Aguero has 153 Premier League goals and is arguably one of the greatest forwards that the top flight has ever seen.
His last-minute heroics to win City the title in 2012 is the highlight of his Premier League career, but he can also be proud of his five monthly awards, which, could still rise before he retires.
He first won the award in October 2013 and his most recent award was in January 2018.
4. ROBIN VAN PERSIE – 5
The Netherlanda international won two of the awards in one season as he fired Manchester United to the Premier League title in 2012/13.
5. WAYNE ROONEY – 5
Manchester United’s all-time top scorer also won five Player of the Month awards during his hugely successful Premier League career.
Rooney spearheaded the glory days of the club and his first monthly award came in February 2005.
His last Player of the Month award came in January 2010 and since, he has played for Everton and MLS side DC United.