It's a busy period in the Premier League over Christmas, and in turn a crucial time to gain an advantage in the fantasy football stakes. While your competitors are off on their holidays it is key that you stay on the ball and stick to the job at hand!
Ahead of gameweek 18 we're back to give you our tips ahead of this weekend and with the big teams facing some favourable clashes it is a case witting down the high-profile stars, with a couple of bargain buys thrown in to boot.
Our selections are, as ever, based on form and statistical forecasts, so without further ado here is our line-up in a 3-5-2 formation.
In the sticks this week we've opted for Joe Hart as City face the league's bottom club Reading at the Etihad this weekend. Although the Royals have given the likes of Chelsea and United a scare, and netted twice against Arsenal on Monday, McDermott's side are on a 6 game losing streak and have failed to score in 5 of their 9 away games this season, including each of the last 3.
On the red side of Manchester the return from injury of Phil Jones has boosted Alex Ferguson's defensive options. The young England international made his comeback last weekend at right-back and impressed. United face a Swansea side that looked short of creativity against Spurs and keeping Michu off the scoresheet usually restricts the Swans to low scoring displays. With United likely to score from a set-piece, Jones could also have joy in the attacking third.
Perhaps the top tip this weekend is Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen, who always enjoys playing against Wigan. The Gunners travel to the DW Stadium in the early kick-off on Saturday looking to build on a comprehensive victory against Reading. The Belgian will have cause to believe he could be among the goals having netted 4 times in his last 3 Premier League appearances against the Latics - scoring in each of those games.
Our final defender is Liverpool's Daniel Agger, with the Reds also tipped to score from a set-piece situation against Fulham. Brendan Rodgers' side are going through another tough patch but host a Fulham side that are without a win away from home in 6 attempts. The Dane has had more shots than any other player to start predominantly as a centre-back this season (17), so will hope to have a profitable evening at both ends of the pitch.
Our first pick in the midfield is Theo Walcott, who is likely to start up front against Wigan this weekend. With 3 goals and 3 assists to his name in his last 4 league starts it is clear that the England international feels he has a point to prove to Arsene Wenger; not only that he can play as a central striker but also that he is deserving of the money he is holding out for.
On the opposite flank we've opted for Southampton's Jason Puncheon who, at just 26, is somewhat of a journeyman in English football that seems to have paid his dues and is now reaping the rewards. A key figure in Nigel Adkins' side, the winger has only averaged fewer shots per game than 5 other midfielders (2.7) and with the Saints tipped to score from a wing play situation, Puncheon may be at the heart of the action against Sunderland this weekend.
Yaya Toure takes his place in our XI having netted in successive matches in the Premier League. Up against Reading this Saturday, City are likely to have plenty of possession and in turn create plenty of chances. The Ivorian can score from all manner of situations and has been handed a more offensive role in the side often this season. With the champions mooted to score from a through ball situation in the WhoScored match forecast Toure could pull the strings, with only Cazorla completing more through balls in the league this season (7).
Robert Snodgrass has made the step up to Premier League football with minimum fuss and been a key player in Norwich's remarkable run of late. No other Canaries player has contributed to more goals this season than the Scot's 6, and Hughton's side are deemed likely to score from a direct free-kick at West Brom. Only Snodgrass and Juan Mata have converted more than once from such a scenario in the league this season, so he will be the man to step up given any opportunity.
Completing our midfield is a fit again Frank Lampard, whose value will have dropped after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. The Chelsea icon has scored more goals against Villa than any other current Premier League side ahead of Lambert's lions' trip to Stamford Bridge (12). With 5 goals in his last 3 home league games against the Midlands outfit, the midfielder will hope to get back on the scoresheet having been frustrated by injury this season.
The first of a South American strike partnership here, we've tipped Sergio Aguero to profit from Reading's weakness at the back. The Royals have conceded 18.4 shots per game this season, which is not only a Premier League high but also the most across Europe's top 5 leagues. If Yaya Toure can thread through balls past an inconsistent Reading defence than the Argentine will surely be among the goals in gameweek 18.
Luis Suarez is the final player in our team this week, tipped to make the most of Fulham's poor form on the road to get Liverpool back on track. The Uruguayan's 10 goals this season have come having had as many as 26 more shots than any other player in the league, and Martin Jol's side have conceded 18 goals away from home this season (2 per game). Liverpool are ‘likely’ to score from a long shot and Suarez has scored from outside the box more than any other player this season (4).