Holly Shand shares her five dependable picks for Gameweek 17. With the schedule in chaos given postponements, rotation and injuries; who can we rely on to turn up and deliver fantasy points?
"Salah has climbed the fantasy rankings to be the top points scorer of the season."
The Headline Pick: Mohammed Salah - Southampton (A)
Liverpool have been blessed with one of the kindest fixture schedules over the festive period, and with Salah's recent rest against Crystal Palace, you'd expect him to start against the Saints. It's another five day break before this game. Salah has climbed the fantasy rankings to be the top points scorer of the season. Being on spot-kick duty further increases his appeal.
Up next for Liverpool it's a Southampton side who are fresh from back to back clean sheets, but are without first choice centre-back Jannik Vestergaard through injury. Another clean sheet will be a tall order against the side who have scored the most goals in the Premier League this season: Saints have conceded three goals to Aston Villa, Chelsea and Manchester United in this campaign; plus shipped five goals against Tottenham Hotspur.
The Budget Pick: Dominic Calvert-Lewin - West Ham (H)
With their game against Manchester City postponed just hours before it was set to be played, Everton have had almost a full week between fixtures. This will give them a crucial advantage against West Ham on New Year's Day, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin looking certain to feature for another 90 minutes. At the time of writing, only Mo Salah has scored more than his tally of 11 goals this season.
West Ham kept a rare clean sheet midweek, but before that point they'd conceded in six consecutive games, and I can see that trend continuing given their brutal schedule. With Everton looking likely to be welcoming back Richarlison and James Rodriguez for this game, we could see a return to their early season form of scoring multiple goals per game, with Calvert-Lewin on the scoresheet.
The VAR Pick: Jamie Vardy - Newcastle (A)
Jamie Vardy's appearance as a substitute against Crystal Palace will give his owners hope that he will start in a plum away trip to Newcastle United this weekend. His minutes were always going to be managed during this festive schedule given the intensity of his game and it's likely he will cause plenty of problems for the Newcastle United defence.
Leicester City have been the penalty kings this season, having been awarded 10 spot-kicks: that's five more than any other side at the time of writing. Meanwhile, Newcastle United were without a clean sheet in four games prior to Wednesday's 0-0 with Liverpool, having conceded an average of two per game over this spell. It won't be easy for them to shut-out a Leicester City attack who are among the most potent goal-scorers in the Premier League.
The Sleeper Pick: Marcus Rashford - Aston Villa (H)
While Bruno Fernandes ownership has steadily increased to become one of the most template players in the game, picking up another kindly priced premium player from the Manchester United attack to sit alongside him could be a shrewd move. Marcus Rashford is currently in less than 10% of sides, and has been quietly going about his business, scoring four goals in his last four games.
Manchester United's ascent up the Premier League table has certainly raised some eyebrows, but they are unbeaten in their last eight, with things finally beginning to click at Old Trafford. Having scored 12 goals over their last four games, the momentum is clearly with them. Aston Villa may be hard to break down: they've conceded just one goal in their last four games and Tyrone Mings will now return from suspension.
The Wildcard Pick: Harry Kane - Leeds (H)
Our wildcard selection this week goes to Harry Kane, for Spurs home time against Leeds United. Jose Mourinho and Marcelo Bielsa's tactics are infamously difficult to predict, so who knows whether we get all out attack or a defensive masterclass in this game, but Harry Kane is always a goalscorer worth backing. Leeds United have both scored and conceded 30 goals this season.
Harry Kane has missed just seven minutes of Premier League football this season and is a player who is rarely afforded a rest, so you would be surprised to see him absent from the team sheet in this game, especially after Tottenham's midweek game against Fulham was postponed. Spurs have managed to find the net a maximum of once in each of their last four games, but the fixture doesn't get much better than this from an attacking perspective.
Back Spurs to beat Leeds United at 5/6 in Gameweek 17.
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