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Fantasy football tips for gameweek 18: De Bruyne, Salah, Foden, Watkins, Martinelli

Alistair Bruce-Ball

I think all fantasy football managers are well aware that the game is a trifling triviality in comparison with what is going on in the real world, and the chaos and concern that is being caused by the ever-increasing number of Covid cases across the country, but it’s certainly fair to say it’s also making the job of managing our teams very tricky at the moment.

As I write this late on Thursday, we only have five Premier League fixtures still going ahead in gameweek 18 but that could obviously be further reduced.

So the first thing to say is keep an eye on all the latest developments over the next 24 hours and don’t make any of those transfer moves until right before the deadline, which is currently at 13:30 GMT on Saturday before Aston Villa v Burnley.

This is actually one time when taking a few points hits on transfers may well be worth it, particularly if you’re planning to have those players in your squad for the longer term, and the fixtures we have left this weekend set up quite nicely for that.

Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are all still scheduled to play and any managers worth their salt will have at least five or six of those players already in their squads.

Villa host Burnley with Arsenal are away at Leeds – and both clubs are in decent form with promising sets of fixtures on the way.

Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins
Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins is a tempting option after finding form under Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa

Ollie Watkins will certainly be a popular choice as he was in gameweek 17 when he rewarded his owners with 12 points in the win at Norwich. He’s scored three goals in six games under Steven Gerrard and costs just £7.7m, which looks like an absolute bargain considering the struggles we’ve had to find consistent goalscorers among the strikers in FPL this season.

Gerrard’s also tightened Villa up in defence but the full-backs are still encouraged to get forward so Matty Cash (£5m) or Matt Targett (£4.7m) might be worth a look as well.

The Arsenal man to catch the eye recently is Gabriel Martinelli – he would be an excellent differential choice as he’s currently owned by fewer than 1% of managers and also costs just £5.2m as an FPL midfielder. He’s started the last four games since coming off the bench to score against Newcastle in gameweek 13 and he took his goal against West Ham on Wednesday quite brilliantly.

He’s also causing a slight problem for Emile Smith Rowe owners like me because he’s starting in that position wide on the left and with Martin Odegaard also playing well and scoring goals, it means there’s been no place in the starting line-up for Smith Rowe in the past couple of games. That blow is softened when he comes off the bench and scores like he did against West Ham but I wouldn’t want to keep him if he isn’t regularly starting.

I’m actually toying with the idea of replacing him with another Manchester City midfielder. I switched Phil Foden in for Ilkay Gundogan for their 7-0 demolition of Leeds on Tuesday and it’s hugely tempting to buy Gundogan straight back or get Bernardo Silva in before City’s trip to Newcastle but Pep roulette is an even riskier game to play when our squads have been so stretched by all the postponements.

That City midfield line-up is also harder to predict now with Kevin de Bruyne back to his brilliant best. I think I would advise going for Foden and Silva as the double-up but if you can afford De Bruyne then pair him up with one of those two. But don’t sell Mohamed Salah for De Bruyne. Not yet.

Mason Mount would also be an excellent candidate if you’re looking to fill a midfield slot and I wish I’d signed him a month ago – four goals and two assists in his past four games contributing to a whopping 38 points. He’s kept his standards high despite Chelsea going slightly off the boil although, as Statman Dave was pointing out in this week’s Fantasy 606 podcast, it might only be a short-term option now with their fixtures looking much tougher in the new year along with a couple of potential blank gameweeks when they’re away at the Club World Cup.

Don’t forget the Free Hit chip is also an option for you in gameweek 18, allowing you to make wholesale changes for just one week with your squad reverting back to exactly what it was for gameweek 19, but you could just find yourself in exactly the same situation if the postponements continue.

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