The final Premier League games of 2018 have been played, but fantasy managers don’t have to wait long for the games to begin in 2019! There are three on New Year’s Day, six the following day, and then the big one — Manchester City vs. Liverpool — on Jan. 3. I can’t wait for that match — especially being a Liverpool fan, and with them now having a seven-point lead at the top of the table. But I definitely won’t be stocking my fantasy roster with players from these two teams. The last time they met, back on Oct. 7, it finished 0-0 — and that scoreline doesn’t do justice to just how poor a game it was. Liverpool had only two shots on goal, and an expected goals total of 0.46. Manchester City also had only two shots on goal, one of which was Riyad Mahrez’s missed penalty kick, and if you take the PK away they had an expected goals total of 0.33. I don’t think we’ll see another scoreless draw, given that Manchester City must push for a victory, now that they’re trailing by seven points. But this game is too close to call, so I’ll be staying away from it fantasy-wise.
The biggest favorites this week are Chelsea, playing at home against 17th place Southampton. Eden Hazard was relatively quiet in a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace on Sunday, taking only one shot, but he still finished in double figures in fantasy points for the 14th time in 16 league starts this season.
Hazard also scored two goals in Chelsea’s 2-1 win at Watford on the day after Christmas, and had his third-biggest fantasy game of the season in their first meeting with Southampton. Chelsea won 3-0, and Hazard had a goal, an assist and four chances created, finishing with 32.3 points.
He remains the league leader in fantasy points per game, and is one of the best options at Tier 1 midfielder this week. But I’m ready to take the plunge with Paul Pogba. Manchester United’s change at manager has clearly unleashed Pogba — he has four goals and three assists in the past three games under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, after having accumulated only three goals and three assists in 14 games under Jose Mourinho.
The underlying stats look just as good. Pogba has taken five shots, with four of them on goal, in each of the past two games, and had three chances created in each of those games as well. No wonder he finished with more than 40 fantasy points both times. Hazard has only had one 40-plus point game this season.
Manchester United are favorites this week as well, although they’re playing away from home at Newcastle. But they scored three goals in their memorable comeback victory over Newcastle back in October, and I think another big performance against the Magpies is likely. Pogba will be my Tier 1 midfielder and captain.
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