Hold on tight, fantasy owners, because the Premier League’s hectic holiday schedule is set to kick off on Boxing Day Saturday, when all 20 top-flight teams will be in action.
From there, most squads will get just 24 hours to recharge their batteries before playing again Monday.
With such little time between upcoming matches, some wild results are sure to ensue, and fantasy owners should be prepared to deal with Premiership managers understandably rotating their lineups.
Nonetheless, let’s try to pinpoint the top performers for Saturday’s Boxing Day slate by revealing the Best XI for Gameweek 18.
After ranking among the elite fantasy goalkeepers last season, Fabianski’s performance to this point in the current campaign has been reflective of Swansea City’s poor first half. Finding themselves in 18th place at Christmas, the Swans will hope Saturday’s home date against West Brom can kick-start a second half climb. Considering the Baggies’ second-worst away offense will be without two of their best attackers, James McClean and Salomon Rondon, due to suspension, as well as the fact Swansea blanked West Ham last time out, Fabianski very well could hold the Baggies scoreless for a second straight season at the Liberty Stadium.
With only two clean sheets from their past 12 games, Manchester City’s defense has slipped significantly from their five straight shutouts to start the season. Nonetheless, Kolarov and company have a great chance to get back on track this weekend, as they welcome Sunderland to the Etihad Stadium, as no team boasts a better record at home than the Citizens. Conversely, no team has earned fewer road points than the Black Cats. Given that disparity, and when taking Sunderland’s bottom-five attack into account, a clean sheet is a realistic expectation for Kolarov in Gameweek 18.
By posting his sixth clean sheet of the season last weekend at former club Southampton, Alderweireld jumped to first in points among defenders in the Premier League’s official fantasy game. The Belgian has played every single minute for a Tottenham defense currently tied for the fewest goals allowed, notching two goals and two assists along the way. On Boxing Day, Spurs host a Norwich City side that failed to score in their most recent visit to White Hart Lane. Although the Canaries should be excited by last weekend’s win at Manchester United, they were shut out in their prior two away trips, and could struggle again Saturday.
Upon West Ham playing out their third consecutive scoreless draw last weekend, Cresswell vaulted into the top 15 places among fantasy Premiership defenders. The Englishman now has six clean sheets on the campaign, not to mention three assists in attack. While West Ham’s offense has gone missing since midfielder Dimitri Payet (knee) went down, the Hammers’ defensive stability has allowed them to maintain their top-half position. With a matchup against last-place Aston Villa this weekend, Cresswell could string together yet another clean sheet, as no team has found the back of the net fewer times than the Villains.
Another game, another two assists for Ozil, who after Monday’s triumph over Manchester City now sports a remarkable 15 assists on the season already. In doing so, Ozil not only has more assists himself than 14 other Premier League teams, but he’s also surpassed Barcelona’s Lionel Messi for the most assists in Europe’s top five leagues since 2008, setting up an astounding 101 goals for his teammates. Arsenal’s German magician has scored or assisted in 11 consecutive Premier League matches heading into Saturday’s trip to Southampton, where he just so happened to record an assist in his last visit back in 2014.
Whereas Ozil can’t stop assisting, Mahrez has gone on a scoring spree over the past three weeks. First, he netted a hat trick against Swansea City in Gameweek 16. Then, he scored a breathtaking winner versus Chelsea, contributing toward the Blues’ firing of manager Jose Mourinho. To top it off, Mahrez bagged a brace at Everton last weekend. On the whole, Mahrez flaunts 13 goals and seven assists this season, making him the Premier League’s top-scoring fantasy player by some distance. For his next act, the Algerian faces a Liverpool team winless from their last three games, a span in which they’ve tied to surrender the most goals league-wide.
Kevin De Bruyne
After hitting the ground running in his second stint in England, De Bruyne has been slowed lately, as he’s gone without a goal or an assist since Manchester City’s League Cup win over Hull City on Dec. 1. Despite that recent slump, De Bruyne’s 5.7 fantasy points per game still rank fifth among Premiership midfielders, and this weekend’s home game against Sunderland carries potential for an offensive outburst. Three of De Bruyne’s four league goals, and all six of his assists, have come at the Etihad Stadium, where Sunderland’s league-worst defense could be put to the sword Saturday.
Compared to De Bruyne, Alli has been in excellent December form, scoring twice and assisting once in three league appearances for Tottenham. Just last weekend, the 19-year-old scored and assisted while also earning a clean sheet at Southampton. Going even further back, Alli has tallied three goals and two assists over his last seven performances for club and country. In the midst of a breakout campaign, Alli should be brimming with confidence ahead of Saturday’s visit from Norwich City, especially considering only one team has leaked more goals on the road than the Canaries this season.
The most consistent player in the Premier League this season, Vardy actually didn’t score last weekend at Everton, but he was still credited with a pair of assists, including one that set up a penalty. So after finding the scoresheet in a record 11 straight games, Vardy has now scored or assisted in all but one of Leicester City’s 17 games thus far. That’s certainly helped the Foxes find their way to the top of the table, as well as the top of England’s scoring ranks. Such amazing reliability continues to earn Vardy a place in the Best XI, and despite picking up a knock last weekend, Boxing Day provides an opportunity for Vardy to punish a Liverpool outfit currently on the ropes.
With Vardy setting the pace this season, last term’s top scorer, Aguero, has a long way to catch up. The Manchester City man returned from yet another injury spell Monday against Arsenal, but once again failed to score. In fact, Aguero has only scored in three of his 11 Premiership appearances this season. Nonetheless, the Argentinean has still claimed seven goals, with five coming in one match alone. Such enormous upside could be realized at home this weekend against Sunderland’s league-worst defense, as all of Aguero’s goals this season have come at home, and he has three goals in Man City’s last three games against the Black Cats.
Romelu Lukaku (C)
The new hottest striker in England, Lukaku found the back of the net for a superb seventh consecutive league contest last Saturday, giving him 13 goals on the campaign. That figure still only trails Vardy, and Lukaku could come closer to the Leicester man’s recently set scoring streak this Saturday at Newcastle. Only one team has allowed more goals than Newcastle thus far, and the Magpies have shipped at least two goals in each of their past six meetings with Everton. What’s more, Lukaku has come up with four goals over the Toffees’ last four games against Newcastle, earning him the Best XI captain’s armband for Boxing Day.
GK: Jack Butland
Tied for the most points among goalkeepers on the Premier League’s fantasy game, Butland has seven clean sheets over his past 10 league appearances heading into this weekend’s game against a Manchester United attack that’s been tootheless of late.
DEF: Nacho Monreal
Only four defenders have racked up more fantasy points than Monreal, who will hope to help goalkeeper Petr Cech secure the Premier League’s career clean sheet record at a Southampton side that’s gone winless in five straight going into Saturday.
DEF: Leighton Baines
Recently returned from injury, Baines has long been a top fantasy defender, but he has actually scored twice in Everton’s past six games against this weekend’s opponent, Newcastle.
MID: Ross Barkley
Baines’ teammate, Barkley has produced six goals and seven assists this season, and two of his helpers came just last weekend. That puts him in fine form to face a shaky-at-best Newcastle defense.
FWD: Odion Ighalo
Along with Vardy, Ighalo has entered the fantasy fold in a big way already this season, scoring 12 goals and five assists, including a goal in four straight games leading into Saturday’s game at Chelsea’s bottom-half backline.
FWD: Olivier Giroud
Yet another player on a scoring streak, Giroud has one goal in three consecutive league games, with a Champions League hat trick sandwiched between. Come Saturday, he plays a Southampton side he’s scored three goals against in Arsenal’s past five tries.
FWD: Harry Kane
It wasn’t until around this time last year that Kane exploded onto the scene, but to start this season, he’s totaled nine league goals already. The Englishman scored last weekend, and could do the business again this Saturday against Norwich’s joint second-worst road defense.