Premier League fantasy: Pick sure starters, like Eden Hazard, for this double matchweek


We've got a full round of Premier League fixtures taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday, making this the first double matchweek of the season!

You'll need to take into account both these midweek games, and the games next weekend, when building your fantasy team. Because once the midweek games have taken place, your team is locked in, and no changes can be made until the weekend fixtures have ended.

That means you should focus on players that will probably start in both games. And that's why I'm avoiding a couple of big stars at Tier 1 forward.

Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah are the top two players in this tier in terms of fantasy points per game, and are fourth and fifth in the league overall. But Aguero was left out of the Manchester City squad for their 3-1 win over Bournemouth on Saturday, and his status for this week remains to be seen. That makes it an easy decision to not select him.

It's a little harder to look away from Salah. Yes, he was pretty quiet in Liverpool's 1-0 victory over Everton on Sunday, taking just one shot and finishing with only 6.8 points. But Liverpool are solid favorites in both their games this week, despite both being away from home. Their opponents, Burnley and Bournemouth, have already conceded 29 and 21 goals, respectively.

Here's why I'm not picking Salah: I'm not confident he will start in both games. Salah hasn't been rested yet this season, starting all 14 league games thus far. But Liverpool have a do-or-die Champions League match against Napoli the following Tuesday, Dec. 11. So I think Jurgen Klopp will probably give Salah a break in one of their two games.

You don't have to worry about the Champions League when it comes to Arsenal. Yes, they are in the Europa League, but they have already secured the top spot in their group. Plus Unai Emery has already been playing mostly second-stringers in that competition.

That, combined with his recent form, will lead me to pick Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as my Tier 1 forward.

Aubameyang led the league in fantasy points this past weekend with 35.2, thanks to his two goals and an assist in Arsenal's 4-2 win over Tottenham. He also scored a goal last week against Bournemouth and now leads the league with 10 goals on the season.

Arsenal are slight underdogs in their first game this week at Manchester United. But you can't fear Jose Mourinho's squad after conceding two goals to Southampton in their draw on Saturday. Manchester United only had one healthy center back available for that game, and have now conceded 23 goals on the season.

Arsenal's second game of the week will be at home against Huddersfield Town, who have been even worse defensively, conceding 24 goals.

You could argue that Harry Kane has better fixtures this week, with Tottenham hosting Southampton, and then playing at Leicester City. Kane has scored a goal in back-to-back games as well, and will probably start in both games this week, even though Tottenham also have a crunch Champions League match against Barcelona on Dec. 11.

Either one is probably a good choice. But I'm going to stick with Aubameyang who, after scoring only one goal in his first five games this season, has now scored nine in his past nine games.

Connect four

The top four midfielders in terms of fantasy points per game remain Chelsea's Eden Hazard, followed by three Manchester City players: Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Leroy Sane. In fact Hazard, Sterling and Silva are the top three in the entire league so far this season. And Sane probably looked the best of all of them this past weekend, despite not scoring a goal.

Tier 1 midfielder continues to be a very difficult choice, especially considering Chelsea will host Manchester City this coming weekend. But the double matchweek actually makes it an easier decision, at least for me.

Manchester City have already secured a spot in the knockout stages of the Champions League, and only need a draw at home against Hoffenheim to secure the top spot in their group. But Pep Guardiola is famous for rotating his players, regardless of fixture congestion, and I simply don't trust him to start Sterling, Sane or Silva in both games this week.

Sterling was already an unused substitute in two games this season, but has now started in eight games in a row including the Champions League, so may be due for another rest. Sane has only started in seven of 14 league games this season, so obviously he's an even bigger risk.

Silva was a substitute on Saturday, coming on in the 77th minute -- meaning he's probably the most likely of the three to start in both games. But at 32, he's also much older than Sterling and Sane, and also has sat out two full league games already this season. I'm worried about him, too.

Hazard played the full 90 minutes in Chelsea's 2-0 win over Fulham on Sunday, so it appears he's over the ankle injury he was nursing coming into that game. He didn't score a goal, but picked up an assist and took four shots, finishing with 18.8 fantasy points.

Not only will Hazard be my Tier 1 midfielder, but he will also be my captain. He's averaging nearly five points more per game than Aubameyang, and has finished in double figures in points in eight of the 10 games he's started. Aubameyang has only finished in double figures in six of the 12 games he's started in.

It's an even bigger gamble to make a goal-dependent player your captain in a double gameweek, because he could easily flop twice. As good as Aubameyang's been this season, he didn't score in three straight games in August, and in back-to-back games in early November, and has finished with fewer than five points fives times.

I'd rather my captain be a player more likely to at least put up a decent score in each game. Hazard is safer because not only has he scored seven goals, but he's also second in the league in chances created, and in the top 30 in passes completed.

Other picks

Richarlison, Everton (Tier 2 forward): Despite his recent poor run of form, he still has six goals in 12 games. And Everton are solid favorites in both games this week, at home against Newcastle and Watford. Marko Arnautovic was also tempting, but his struggles with injury earlier this year make me nervous in a double matchweek.

Gylfi Sigurdsson, Everton (Tier 2 midfielder): As mentioned above, I really like Everton's fixtures this week. Sigurdsson's coming off a poor game, but it was against Liverpool at Anfield. He had finished in double figures in points in six of his previous seven games.

Andros Townsend, Crystal Palace (Tier 3 midfielder): He had the second-highest fantasy score in the league this past weekend, thanks to a goal, an assist and six chances created in a 2-0 win over Burnley. Crystal Palace have two away games this week, but winnable ones against Brighton and West Ham.

Marcos Alonso, Chelsea (Tier 1 defender): He's been criticized for his performance against Fulham, and was subbed off in the 78th minute, but still finished with a decent score of 8.1 points. Alonso remains the top defender in terms of points on the season, and Maurizio Sarri is known for not liking to rotate his players very much.

Shane Duffy, Brighton (Tier 2 defender): He scored his third goal of the season last week, and nearly scored another one! Not only is Duffy a huge threat on set pieces, but he also leads the league in clearances and is tied for the league lead in blocks.

Jordan Pickford, Everton (Goalkeeper): Despite his mistake at the end of the game against Liverpool, Pickford and his team have been very good defensively of late. And their opponents this week, Newcastle and Watford, have only scored 11 and 17 goals, respectively, so far.