With the English Premier League featuring a midweek slate of matches on Thursday, Dec. 26, it is important to make sure you have the best fantasy lineup possible.
The league table is incredibly compact at the moment with the top five clubs divided by two total points. This means you can expect every player on the roster to compete at the highest level, even with more tough matches ahead.
Still, it is key to find the right options that will help your fantasy team win. Here is a look at what could be an optimal lineup for Matchday 18.
Note: Prices in parenthesis courtesy of ESPN.
GK: Tim Howard, Everton (6.5)
Everton have allowed the fewest goals in the EPL this season, and a lot of it is thanks to the great work of Tim Howard in net. He has eight clean sheets in 17 starts and has gone five games in a row without allowing more than one goal.
Against last-placed Sunderland, he should be able to continue his high level of play.
D: Ciaran Clark, Aston Villa (5.5)
When making adjustments on a weekly basis, it is important to find areas where you can save money in your budget. One strategy is to find a defensive player who is likely to help his squad keep a shutout.
While Aston Villa have had their ups and downs, Ciaran Clark has performed well in the middle of the pitch and should continue his strong play against Crystal Palace, who have scored the fewest goals in the league this season.
D: Sylvain Distin, Everton (6.5)
As previously noted, Everton have a favorable matchup against Sunderland, and it will be incredibly difficult for the road side to score a goal.
While this could lead you to safer options like Seamus Coleman or a high-upside play like Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin should be just fine to rack up points for your squad.
D: Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal (6.9)
After a couple of disappointing performances against the top clubs in the league, Arsenal will look to get back on track in a matchup against West Ham United. Kieran Gibbs should be a big part of the club's success on the defensive end as the Gunners try to return back to the top of the table.
D: Dejan Lovren, Southampton (6.1)
Although Southampton have slowed down after their hot start, they still have one of the better defenses in the league, and Dejan Lovren is a big reason why.
The club should be able to keep the offensively challenged Cardiff City off the scoresheet to have a solid day from a fantasy perspective.
M: Frank Lampard, Chelsea (7.4)
Although Frank Lampard is not scoring as much as he is used to, he still has four goals and three assists on the year, which puts him among the best playmakers on Chelsea.
After a scoreless draw against Arsenal, the Blues should have a strong showing against Swansea City on both ends of the pitch. Lampard should benefit with a big day from a fantasy perspective.
M: Adam Lallana, Southampton (6.4)
Coming off one of his best performances of the season, Adam Lallana should be owned in most fantasy leagues. He tallied a goal and an assist against a tough Tottenham defense, and he has been one of the top scoring midfielders in all of fantasy.
With an easy battle against Cardiff City, Lallana should have another big day.
M: David Silva, Manchester City (8.8)
With Sergio Aguero out, Manchester City's depth will be tested. However, manager Manuel Pellegrini still feels confident, according to Mark Ogden of The Telegraph:
We've got a great squad, all the way through. The last three games we've played, we have had three very different teams each time and got good results. It shows the quality we've got and depth and how well you have to play when you get that chance.
David Silva is part of that depth, and he should help provide some scoring to keep up City's strong play at Etihad Stadium.
M: Theo Walcott, Arsenal (8.1)
In his first start since his abdominal injury, Theo Walcott scored two goals against a tough Manchester City defense. Although he was not able to add to his total against Chelsea in a scoreless draw, it is clear that he is once again healthy.
Fantasy owners should expect him to have a better day against West Ham United on Thursday.
F: Gary Hooper, Norwich City (6.3)
It is sometimes important in your fantasy team to take risks with value picks. Instead of grabbing a more consistent talent, saving money for someone who can score a goal or rack up points will pay off huge.
Gary Hooper has that ability after scoring in four of his last six EPL starts. He faces the league's worst defense in Fulham, and he can continue his recent hot streak on Matchday 18.
F: Luis Suarez, Liverpool (11.3)
Luis Suarez has been on a ridiculous pace as of late with 10 goals in his last four matches. The Premier League Twitter account added this impressive stat:
Even against Manchester City, there is no reason to doubt Suarez's ability to keep performing. Pay a little extra for his presence and enjoy the ride on your fantasy team.
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