By Neil Leverett
- The Premier League enters its’ first-ever winter break, with Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 26 staggered over the next two weekends
- Runaway leaders Liverpool travel to Norwich City, as Chelsea entertain Manchester United with top four aspirations at stake
- Brighton host Watford in another six-pointer, Wolves face Leicester City as Manchester City face off with relegation threatened West Ham
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – As the top flight breaks new ground with its’ first winter break over the next two weekends, who should you be considering for Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 26?
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As Liverpool romp away to the a first Premier League title now within their grasp, the Reds will be approaching the first winter break in a relaxed frame of mind but as a trip to Norwich City beckons in Gameweek 26, Mohamed Salah will not be in any mood to take pity on the Canaries.
Following a quieter than usual mid-season period, the Merseyside Egyptian has now scored in his last three games on the bounce and statistically has either scored or assisted in all but one league game since the turn of the calendar year.
Perhaps more importantly for fantasy managers, it is four in three for Salah – scoring twice against the in-form Saints last time out – and though the spectre of rotation with European action returning appears on the horizon, Liverpool’s talisman should still take his place in the Reds’ XI next weekend, despite a return to the scene of their UEFA Champions League win last June, with a knockout tie against Atletico Madrid only days after.
In the case of Daniel Farke’s men, Norwich have tightened the ship somewhat in recent weeks, however the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s swashbucklers will prompt a few sleepless night in Norfolk.
The visitors thumped the Canaries 4-1 earlier this season, and on their last two trips to East Anglia put two and three past their opponents respectively. Carrow Road was also the scene of Luis Suarez’s sublime hat-trick in September 2012; Salah might just have his eye on replicating that feat here.
A player who may have been on the verge of a transfer out of many of our squads, Son Heung-min punished those who elected to ship out the South Korean with a goal against Manchester City last weekend and as Spurs travel to Villa Park on Sunday week, Son appears to be in the groove under boss Jose Mourinho.
Despite not hitting the heights expected of his in deputising for the stricken Harry Kane, Son has scored in the last four games in all competitions – two on the bounce in the Premier League.
Whilst the arrival of Steven Bergwijn could see the Lilywhites pacy attacker shifted further out wide, Bergwijn is the sort of player who will be expected to roam the front line, which may allow Son greater expanses to operate – against Aston Villa in Gameweek 26’s instance.
The Villans’ back line has shipped 14 goals since 28 December in the league and after a similarly counter-attacking City hit Villa for six last month, the visitors will be looking to continue their push for the top four in style here. Mourinho’s side are still quite the Jekkyl and Hyde outfit – particularly on the road – but with the form Son currently finds himself in, the Korean may will be looking to make it a fifth scoring game in succession.
After three clean sheets on the bounce before and after the Christmas period, Everton have been through the footballing mill in their last three outings after six goals. However, as the Toffees return to Goodison in Gameweek 26 to face the Eagles, Lucas Digne could be a healthy source of fantasy points at both ends of the field.
Still unbeaten at home under Carlo Ancelotti, Everton picked up a superb win last Saturday after going two goal down to a buoyant Watford, with Yerry Mina grabbing his first goal Premier League goal, as the Colombian centre-back went on to notch a brace.
With regard to Digne, the Frenchman continues to supply a sizeable threat in attack and provided the assist for Moise Kean’s first league goal for the Toffees in their last home game – before Newcastle United’s remarkable stoppage time rear-guard effort.
Indeed, the left-back has an assist in each of his last previous two outings in front of the Gallowgate, taking the full maximum bonus points in the hosts’ 1-0 win over Brighton in Gameweek 22.
Palace themselves are no pushovers on the road, but with Digne retaining set-piece duties – given the threat Everton possess from corners at the very least – Digne could be set for a decent haul this Saturday lunchtime.
As Southampton look to move on from their thrashing at Anfield last time out – a scoreline that did not reflect to game’s true story – the Saints return to the South coast to face Burnley and though Danny Ings remains the hosts’ chief threat, Shane Long is beginning to roll back some of his best top flight form.
For a figure many thought they had seen the best days of, the Irishman has overcome a string of injuries to take his place in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s front two and as the Hampshire side continue in their flowing ways of late, Long presents a far cheaper and in many ways bargain alternative at 4.6.
Having started the last four league games in a row, the relative veteran netted in his last home game to Wolves – combined with his FA Cup goal in midweek – and now picking up both confidence and game-time once more, Long may just be a very canny pick if fantasy funds are low.
Before last weekend, the Saints had scored twice in the last three Premier League games and with the Clarets having struggled on the road this season, Southampton will be looking for another offensive show at St. Marys’. Long may still have the cloud of injury ready to pounce, but for now is a real consideration.
For our final pick of a staggered Gameweek 26, Sheffield United appear on the radar as they face AFC Bournemouth. Though the Cherries have won their last two at home in succession, the visitors remain mired in relegation trouble and with a trip to Bramall Lane, John Fleck is set to cause havoc.
As another of the Blades’ old-fashioned personnel, the midfielder has in recent weeks replaced the goals of the previously indispensable John Lundstram, and with the latter’s place now under threat with the January arrival of Sander Berge, Fleck is an enticing option.
Not least, his home brace his notched against the Cherries’ fellow basement dwellers Aston Villa in December, and operating on the left of midfield will be eyeing adding to his tally of five goals and two assists, priced at a still paltry fee of 5.1 and with an ownership of 6.6% in the game.
With the hosts still harbouring hopes of an unlikely top six finish, this will be the sort of game boss Chris Wilder will be targeting to cement their hopes. If the Blades get going here, Fleck may be in serious Gameweek 26 business.
Premier League Gameweek 26 takes place over the next two weekends, beginning on Saturday as Everton host Crystal Palace, kick-off 12:30 UK time.
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