Fantasy Football is finally back after the FA Cup took centre stage and it’s double excitement for managers as the second wildcard is finally available – much to everyone’s relief.
The fixture congestion over the festive season left a lot of managers suffering because of clubs chopping and changing their sides to keep everyone fit, meaning big players such as Eden Hazard and Harry Kane were rested.
That’s left players scrambling to use the wildcard as quickly as possible – especially given that Philippe Coutinho is no longer available after his £142m move to Barcelona.
So who should you be looking to transfer in? The Independent takes a look at some of the must-haves going into the second half of the season…
Mahrez is becoming a must-have in Fantasy Football having rediscovered his PFA Player of the Year-winning form of late. In the last nine Gameweeks Mahrez has scored 9, 6, 9, 8, 2, 5, 8, 5 and 14. And if you look past this weekend’s game away to Chelsea, he then faces Watford, Everton, Swansea, Manchester City, Stoke City, Bournemouth, West Bromwich Albion.
After those fixtures Leicester City every other side they face between then and the end of the season are in the bottom half of the table – other than Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. At £8.6m he is a fine way to spend your Coutinho money.
You just have to ride the Lingard wave at the moment. Of United’s three behind the striker he is the only one who is currently certain of a starting place (if you include Paul Pogba as a member of the midfield two).
At £6.3m he is a snip, especially considering he has scores of 12, 15, 10, 13 and 8 in five of his last 10 Gameweeks. Considering his price, he is someone who most managers will have in their squads and therefore if he does continue to perform then you will be the one who suffers while all you rivals in your league prosper.
Assuming Manchester City don’t move for Alexis Sanchez, Aguero is the only striker available to Pep Guardiola following the injury to Gabriel Jesus. He is expensive at £11.7m, but he will be guaranteed to start every game from now on and given that City have only failed to score once since the start of the season, he will always get chances.
He will be someone whose value will just increase but would be just as well sitting in your squad until the end of the season.
If you’re looking to save money then replacing Nicolas Otamendi with the now fit-again John Stones is the way to do it. Stones, although looking shaky since his return, is a whole £1.1m cheaper than his central defensive partner and gives you the freedom to spend elsewhere.
He was also superb when he was playing during the first half of the season and while he may not get the goals that Otamendi will get from set plays, he will still get the clean sheets.
For the same reason as Stones. We’re not saying take out Marcos Alonso, as if you’ve managed to shoehorn in a £7.3m defender who scores goals then by all means keep him. But if you were looking at drafting in Alonso – or even £7.0m Cesar Azpilicueta – then maybe instead consider Christensen.
Fantasy Premier League 2016/17 Team of the Year
The Danish centre-half is very highly rated at Stamford Bridge and is only £5.6m, the cheapest of all of Chelsea’s defenders (including David Luiz). Now he is fit again, he is likely to be given more game time, especially after putting pen-to-paper on a new contract. If you followed the advice on Christensen and Stones instead of Otamendi and Alonso, you would have saved £2.8m and suddenly your Pascal Gross has become a Paul Pogba.
Assuming you don’t already have David De Gea in your side, a cheaper alternative is Jordan Pickford. Under Sam Allardyce Everton have only lost twice in the Premier League and are far more capable of keeping clean sheets than they once were.
But while clean sheets will not be the majority of his points, the number of saves he will make could get him more regular points that a lot of the other goalkeepers available for the same price – or even slightly more. He’s not bad at saving penalties either which is always handy if Ashley Williams or Phil Jagielka get clumsy.