FPL Gamweek 18 – Navigating The Liverpool Blank

With Liverpool not playing a match in Gameweek 18, we analyse and best advise how to navigate this and give suggestions on possible replacements for your Fantasy Premier League teams 

So, we’re looking at one hell of a selection headache in a couple of weeks time.

Managers have adopted a variety of strategies to try and combat the dreaded Gameweek 18, with some opting to flog their Liverpool assets, while others have held their wildcard.

Whatever your approach is, it’s also worth noting, if you haven’t spotted already, that GW18 also has some nasty-looking fixtures for some of the most popular players in the game.

Along with Liverpool’s blank, caused by their participation in the Club World Cup, there is also the problem of Leicester travelling to Man City, and Tottenham hosting Chelsea in a massive London derby.

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But let’s start with the proverbial elephant in the room; how to cover Liverpool’s blank GW18, and what to do if you have one or both of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.

If I owned both of these going into GW18, I would say sell one of them at least, especially given it’s also likely that you’ll have one of the Reds’ premium attackers (so either Sadio Mané or Mohamed Salah).

Putting 3 Liverpool players on the bench at the same time is, of course, a massive risk when none of them are going to play. So selling even one of them gives you an opportunity to buy a very strong player to come into your team, or to go in as a first sub.

Holding any Liverpool defenders looks like a risky strategy, however, given the fact that they’ve managed just 3 clean sheets all season, and that they have a difficult looking run of fixtures from GW19 – GW24 (inclusive).

Their run is as follows:

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I’ll go through some potential replacements for assets in each position at the end of the article, but for now, let’s move on and talk about how to get around the games that are going ahead in GW18.

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Now, Jamie Vardy is practically a staple in FPL teams right now, and for good reason. The league’s top scorer has notched in his last 8 games, making him just the second player to score in 8 in a row in the Premier League – he has 16 goals already!

On the other hand, Man City have failed to keep a clean sheet since GW10, in a 3-0 home win over Aston Villa. So on current form, all the signs seem to point to Leicester at least scoring in their trip to the Etihad, and of course, Vardy is the man most likely to do that.

Given the attacking prowess that both Man City and Leicester possess, I’d say there’s bound to be goals for both sides in this one. Avoiding central defenders, such as Çaglar Söyüncü, seems to be the sensible play in this case.

However, full-backs could well be worth a punt in this fixture, with both Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira looking more certain to start than any of Man City’s wealth of talent in these areas.

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With the lack of viable defensive options in GW18, it may be that managers have to take a chance on one of the Foxes’ full-backs, although this definitely wouldn’t be the end of the world, given their attacking potential.

In terms of attacking players, it’s looking a good call to hold your players from both sides, although for Man City, this is obviously dependent on the surprises that Pep Guardiola has up his sleeve.

Much has been made of what seems to be a dip for Kevin De Bruyne in recent weeks, but it is always worth remembering that players like this have the potential to turn on the creativity and goals at any point, just like Mo Salah did for Liverpool in Gameweek 16.

These types of players tend to thrive on pressure, and with this being likely to be a battle between second and third place, KDB and Man City will know that they will need to win to stand a chance of staying in the title race.

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Now, onto a massive clash in London, as Tottenham and Chelsea collide at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Despite their early troubles, Tottenham have looked resurgent since the appointment of José Mourinho, and the Portuguese manager will be looking to get another one over on his first English club in GW18.

While some Chelsea assets have been getting most of the attention in FPL this season, it is Tottenham’s players who have grabbed headlines since Mourinho took over, and the likes of Heung-Min SonHarry Kane and Dele Alli have looked like new players as of late.

Meanwhile, Chelsea seem to have been slipping back into the poor defensive form that plagued their start to the season, with crosses and set pieces once again proving an issue for the Blues.

This, coupled with the recent inconsistent returns of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, should mean that, in fact, the Tottenham assets are the ones to keep hold of for this match.

Again, keeping Abraham may not be the end of the world, given Spurs only managed their first clean sheet under Mourinho in GW16 against Burnley, but the likes of Mount are likely to be crowded out of the game and lost in the midfield.

On the other hand, Kane, Son and Alli are a combination that it is well worth having at least one of for this fixture, especially if Chelsea keep leaking goals like they have recently.

Alli, especially, is a player who has caused problems historically against the Blues, with the former MK Dons man grabbing 5 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 appearances against Chelsea, and he will likely thrive again against a defensively frail opponent.

If there is an opportunity for you to get in any of the above trio of Spurs players, I would advise that Son and Alli are the two you should prioritise for this match.

Alternatives for your usual assets

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Now, GW18 does have a very nice fixture in it for Man Utd, who travel to Watford. And with the form Watford are in, I would call this a prime opportunity to grab last year’s cheap defensive hero, Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

With Watford failing to find the net in their last 2 games, the Red Devils will be marking this game as a huge opportunity to get a clean sheet in the league for the first time since the middle of September.

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Meanwhile, it’s definitely worth keeping John Lundstram in your FPL teams throughout the season, and the Blades’ match at Brighton in GW18 shouldn’t be an exception.

Graham Potter’s side haven’t kept a clean sheet since the start of November, and Lundstram is a player who is a persistent threat from Sheffield United’s midfield, scoring a goal that was eventually ruled out in GW16 at Carrow Road.

The likes of Enda Stevens and George Baldock are also worth considering for this game, as both scored goals at Carrow Road, while Baldock also picked up the assist for Stevens’ goal.

There is also the prospect of Raul Jiménez, who has managed at least one goal or assist in 7 out of the last 9 GWs. He goes to Carrow Road to take on the second-worst defence in the league, with goals for Wolves being a near certainty in that one.

For the likes of Mount and Pulisic, I would suggest Dele Alli, Anthony Martial or Richarlison if you have some money in the bank already. Alli is here for the reasons mentioned earlier, while Richarlison got a goal and looked very lively against Chelsea in GW16.

Everton will face Arsenal at Goodison Park in GW18, with there really being no need to go over the Gunners’ defensive woes again this season, while Man Utd, as mentioned already, face Watford.

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If you don’t have money in the bank, both Daniel James and Jack Grealish seem to be gaining a bit of momentum in recent weeks.

James notched an assist in United’s derby win over Man City, while Grealish has 2 goals and an assist in 4 games since returning from injury for Villa, who face the worst defence in the league (Southampton) in GW18.

Conclusion

So here have been some of my own suggestions on how to get around the dreaded Gameweek 18.

Sell the Liverpool defenders and Chelsea midfielders, grab the Tottenham assets and hold onto Leicester and Man City’s attackers.

May the arrows look more like Christmas tress than Santa hats for you this festive season!

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