By Neil Leverett
- Premier League leaders Liverpool host bottom side Watford in Premier League Gameweek 17
- Leicester City hosts troubled Norwich City, whilst Manchester City travel to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal
- Southampton entertain under-pressure West Ham United, Wolves face Spurs and Chelsea welcome AFC Bournemouth to Stamford Bridge
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – With the festive period fast approaching, who do you need in your Fantasy Premier League squads this weekend for Gameweek 17?
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Where else to begin? The Premier League’s most in-form marksman is perhaps looking at his very best under Brendan Rodgers, and after scoring in eight league games on the bounce, Jamie Vardy will look to make in nine against Norwich City’s hapless back line.
Whilst his own consecutive league-scoring record in once more coming into view for the Foxes’ hitman – now just three games from tying the statistic he broke in 2015 – the priority first will be to dismantle another top flight side, with Leicester having scored 25 goals during their winning run since early October.
Coinciding with the Foxes’ surge up the table, like Vardy, Leicester are flying and with eight-in-a row odds-on to become nine this Saturday, with the former England man one of the hottest properties in European football once more.
Possessing the sort of menace he held in their league-winning season, Leicester look the only side capable of challenging Liverpool for the crown right now, and for those considering it – with Vardy the obvious choice for captaincy – the braver amongst us perhaps may opt to cash in the Triple Captain chip this weekend.
With 13 league goals to his name this season, Vardy now has over half the players in Fantasy Premier League in their squads which makes playing the triple a risky ploy in Gameweek 17. However, it is one that could just pay handsome dividends.
Wolves are another side in an excellent moment and are unbeaten since a 5-2 loss to Chelsea in mid-September. With the Black Country outfit having passed the Europa League Group stages with flying colours, domestic affairs will now re-take centre stage again until February and Diogo Jota is hinting at a strong run of form.
In conjunction with his teammate and strike partner Raul Jimenez, the Portuguese could now be set to take over the Mexican’s reins in the goals department and having netted twice last weekend against Brighton & Hove Albion, Jota then followed it up with a hat-trick against Besiktas on Thursday evening.
Five in two in form that necessitates examination, and thought Spurs will be a tough test of Wolves’ 11-game unbeaten league run, having seen no improvement in the Lilywhites’ defence under Jose Mourinho, Molineux will be rocking and baying for more goals.
With competition for his place hotting up in Pedro Neto in the left forward role, Jota looks be the occasion and the pressure provided by his compatriot. The former Atletico Madrid star is yet to truly hit a run of consistent goal-scoring however that could change in the coming weeks. A Gameweek 17 pick with Jota could be a shrewd move.
Since rising to prominence at Inter Milan, Mateo Kovacic has struggled to live up to expectations with his then subsequent move to Real Madrid. However now under the tutelage of Frank Lampard and Chelsea, the Croatian in slowly molding into a Luka Modric-type midfielder, and Kovacic has now snuck onto the fantasy radar.
Having firmly cemented his place in the Blues’ midfield, the increased goal-scoring threat of Tammy Abraham has also seen the Croatian’s stock rise from a contributory stance, but after scoring Chelsea’s consolation against an invigorated Everton last time out, Kovacic may be onto a good thing.
The visiting AFC Bournemouth in Gameweek 17 have conceded 11 goals in their last five games, and shipped three goals at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium the last time the Cherries ventured into the capital.
Kovacic’s stats may not be the most spectacular, but as the midfielder begins to venture forward out of his more defensive-minded role under Maurizio Sarri last term, that, coupled with the knowledge Chelsea could be set to splash the cash in January after their transfer ban was lifted, Kovacic will be keen to show his wares in the run-up to the festive fixture list.
With Liverpool entertaining Watford in a top-versus-bottom league clash this weekend, many fantasy managers will be going for a strong Reds presence in their squads, and Trent Alexander-Arnold has again pricked up Britwatch’s scouting ear.
Coming on for the injured Dejan Lovren before the half-hour mark at the Vitality Stadium, the England full-back notched a still rare clean sheet for Liverpool this season in Gameweek 16, but his threat lies in his ever-present attacking make-up.
With corner-kick duties, Alexander-Arnold continues to be housed in the upper echelons of the fantasy points standings and has three assists in the his last two league games – with seven for the season thus far, and a goal against Chelsea to boot.
The Hornets will play their first game under Nigel Pearson’s stewardship this weekend, but can the former Leicester boss make any significant inroads for Watford and prevent a possible drubbing? Unlikely, which makes Alexander-Arnold’s pin-point cross field passes and raiding forays ever the more valuable from a bonus points point of view, together with his documented offensive game to grab another potential haul.
Aside from Vardy, Danny Ings can consider himself a runner-up in the current form guide, and as the man who has often single-handedly fronted Southampton’s efforts in recent weeks, the visit of West Ham United in a potential six-pointer could see the Saints man score for a sixth successive league game.
Having grabbed a bonus point in every game since Gameweek 12, Ings’ 6.4 value is still a bargain fee to splash out on, and with the visiting Hammers looking shorn of all confidence after a defeat from the jaws of victory against Arsenal, this could be Manuel Pellegrini’s final throw of the East London dice.
After a spell of continued injury for Ings, it is a welcome sight to see the former Liverpool and Burnley striker hitting top form, and after just 16 games is just one shy of double figures this season already.
With the faith of boss Ralph Husenhuttl, Ings has truly flourished under the German and even though many have missed the boat on the Saints man, after West Ham come games against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, which should see Ings’ threat level remain for some weeks yet. Those not already considering the Southampton hit-man, should be.
Premier League Gameweek 17 begins on Saturday lunchtime as Liverpool host Watford, kick-off time 12:30 UK time.
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