By Neil Leverett
- Premier League leaders Liverpool host Sheffield United in Gameweek 21
- Chelsea visit Brighton, Arsenal and Manchester United clash at the Emirates Stadium, whilst Manchester City host buoyant Everton
- Watford entertain Wolves, West Ham and Bournemouth meet in six-pointer, as Leicester City travel to Newcastle
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – As we send out the festive period with a New Year’s Day bonanza, who do you need in your Fantasy Premier League squads for Gameweek 21?
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As we kick off the New Year for Gameweek 21, rotation could again feature heavily to begin 2020, however after being rested for the trip to West Ham United last weekend, Jamie Vardy is top of our picks to face Newcastle United.
After the Foxes’ title aspirations were derailed by a chastening 4-0 defeat to Liverpool at the King Power on Boxing Day, Vardy nevertheless remains one of the biggest threats in the game right now, and after failing to reach ten consecutive scoring games, Vardy’s strike against Manchester City proved the former England man is more than capable to simply continue where he left off.
Fresh from a Christmas rest given to him by manager Brendan Rodgers, Vardy sits on 17 league goals to begin the year – four ahead of his nearest rival in the goal-scoring charts.
Newcastle have proved to be game opponents in recent weeks, but that mere fact that the Magpies will not sit back plays firmly into Leicester’s ball park. Indeed, Vardy will be many manager’s picks for captaincy to start the new decade.
After an exhaustive run of games for Liverpool, and with a lusty 13-point advantage under their belts – with a game in hand no less – the Reds could take on a different look when they line to face Sheffield United on Thursday, which makes Naby Keita a interesting consideration for Gameweek 21.
Since his arrival from RB Leipzig last season, the Guinean has had to battle for a place in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI with Georginio Wijnaldum, Fabinho, James Milner and lately the return to fitness of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However as the latter again finds himself on the sidelines possibly until February, Keita’s stock is now on the rise.
Netting three times in December, the midfielder’s ability to find the score-sheet is there for all to see, and as the Blades roll into Anfield on Thursday evening, Klopp will be looking for Keita to marshal his midfield.
Now beginning to creep forward in his role also, Keita has shown in the past month his eye for goal and with Chris Wilder’s charges set to provide a steely test for the league leaders, it just be Keita who grabs the limelight.
Though the first game of the Mikel Arteta era was met with defeat, there were more than sufficient positives to take from Arsenal’s almost scarcely believable defeat to Chelsea, indeed one of said pluses was the clear appetite Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appears to have under his new Spanish steward.
As the closest rival to Vardy – four goals off the Leicester striker with 13 goals – the Gabonese’s goal against the Blues was a perhaps uncharacteristic angled, diving header from a corner and after breaking his recent drought in front of goal, the visiting Manchester United in New Year’s Day’s blockbuster could see Aubameyang come to the fore again.
Scoring at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign, the number fourteen’s position on the left wing to accommodate Alexandre Lacazette, continues to do no harm for his teammates chances in front of goal.
The Gunners were in fine fettle offensively against Chelsea, and as United make the trip south to North London, the Red Devils’ away problems could again make an appearance. With the hosts steel reeling from a four-minute defeat last time out, this is the perfect opportunity for Arsenal and indeed Aubameyang, to begin 2020 in electric fashion.
As the potential third man in our Gameweek 21 line-ups, Gabriel Jesus becomes a tempting option. With Sergio Aguero having deputised for the Brazilian after festive illness, Jesus is set to be recalled to spear-head Pep Guardiola’s attack against a buoyant Everton.
With Jesus being favoured in the league in recent weeks, the City forward has three goals and an assist to his name in the Premier League in December, and whilst relatively paltry in number, his hat-trick against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League fully showcased the South American’s ability.
The Cityzens’ title aspirations are flagging to put it mildly, and though Guardiola has already suggested the title race is over, the hosts will look to nonetheless get back in the right direction further, after a hard-fought win over Sheffield United on Sunday.
Visitors Everton look a far different proposition under Carlo Ancelotti, but this will be the first true test of the Italian’s tenure on Merseyside. Guardiola and City will be keen to start the new year with a bang, and Jesus could just provide that.
As our first outsider pick of 2020, a player who has caught the eye in recent games is Charlie Taylor and as Burnley look to return to winning ways after successive league defeats, the visit of struggling Aston Villa provides just that opportunity.
Having displaced Erik Pieters in the Clarets starting XI for the time being, even in defeat to Manchester United on the weekend, the left-back still found space in the wide areas to operate and on more than one occasion was released on the inside left channel at Turf Moor.
As Lancashire again plays host to the Villans, Dean Smith’s side may be looking to tighten the ship now finding themselves in the bottom three, and given Burnley’s won their previous two outings by a single goal to nil, another home shutout could be on the cards here.
If the game plays out as a more open contest, the hosts will be looking to the wide areas to a greater degree, and with Taylor’s roaming forays in attack to go with Burnley’s rather stubborn back line, points may be in the offing for the full-back.
Premier League Gameweek 21 begins on New Year’s Day, as Brighton & Hove Albion host Chelsea, kick-off 12:30 UK time.
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