Fantasy football: A Christmas guide on how to set up your team over the festive schedule

Scheduling, injuries and COVID-19 postponements means many fantasy teams will fall by the wayside over Christmas, but there’s still chance you can turn around your season and top your mini-league.

Premier League titles are often won and lost over the Christmas period, and the same can be said for fantasy football.

Admittedly, it's been a frustrating process over the last few weeks, with injuries and postponements leaving key players without any points.

But while some may see it as a reason to call it quits, it's equally an opportunity to climb the standings!

So, in order to provide you with the best fantasy football advice over the festive period, Planet Sport outlines the best tips and tricks you can use to reignite your mini-league title challenge.

Invest in depth

Diogo Jota, injured, fantasy football

Regardless of how good you are at the game, one thing no player is able to do at the moment is predict which games will actually go ahead.

The increase of COVID-19 outbreaks in Premier League clubs means that plenty of games have been cancelled in recent weeks, and that's left us all with key players that haven't even collected a single point for our teams.

Unfortunately it seems like a trend set to continue, and so instead of banking on a few, expensive players, our recommendation is to invest in depth.

The game allows you to own 15 players at a time, with four (including one goalkeeper) having to be benched each week. With the bench players not able to register any points for your side, a tactic in recent seasons has been to use most of your funds to invest in a strong starting XI.

But, with the fixture situation leaving us unsure of who will play each weekend, it's best to spread out your money to ensure you have 15 players who are likely to start for their sides.

It means that if a handful of your players are injured, rotated or have games postponed, others from the bench will automatically take their place.

Sure, it means you may have to sacrifice some of your more expensive assets, but it'll be made worthwhile when you're still scoring points.

To help guide your investments, here are a few players that have been playing consistently in recent weeks, but won't break the bank.

Jacob Ramsey - Midfielder (£4.5million)

Jacob Ramsey celebrates scoring for Aston Villa vs Norwich

Aston Villa's 20-year-old midfielder has featured in the last three fixtures, racking up 14 points in the process.

He's become a crucial part to Steven Gerrard's plans since he arrived at Villa Park, and at such a cheap price, he offers consistent points as well as allowing you to invest elsewhere.

Diogo Dalot - Defender (£4.5million)

Diogo Dalot, Manchester United, fantasy football

With Aaron Wan-Bissaka struggling for form, Diogo Dalot has done enough to impress Ralf Rangnick and earn himself a place in the starting XI.

He has played in Manchester United's last three fixtures and also earned 14 points, including back-to-back clean sheets against Norwich and Crystal Palace.

With a nice fixture run over Christmas, if the Red Devils can quickly overcome their COVID-19 outbreak, then they could be set to earn plenty of points.

Armando Broja - Forward (£5.1million)

Armando Broja, Southampton, Fantasy football

Southampton's Albanian forward has landed some big point hauls in recent weeks, with 22 in his last three games.

He's stepped up in the absence of Che Adams and earned himself a permanent spot in the starting lineup. As one of the game's cheapest forwards, you can't go wrong with Broja, who is also in scintillating form.

Use your wildcard if you haven't already

Mason Mount, Chelsea, fantasy football, dec2021

Of course there's plenty of cheap options to bring in, but with only one or two free transfers available, you may find it impossible to fix all of your side's problems without taking minus points.

Well, if you've conveniently held on to your wildcard - now is the time to use it.

Every player is given a second wildcard from Gameweek 20 onwards, but they will not stack up if you haven't yet used your first one.

So, with an abundance of games postponed and players out injured, now is the perfect time to play your chip.

It's important to not wholly build your team around available players this weekend though, so try and find a nice balance between a side that are set to appear this week, as well as key assets you expect to return soon.

If you're without a wildcard but still have problems stacking up, then playing your free hit is also a viable option this week. Each player is only given one throughout the entire season - you won't get another - but if you're struggling to field a team then you should definitely consider it.

However, if you opt for a free hit, then bear in mind that your team returns to how it was after just one gameweek.

So if you do opt for that instead, piece together a team of 15 players who you expect to play and thrive in that weekend only.

When using either free hit or your wildcard, it's often helpful to choose some key core players and then build around them. For example, Mohamed Salah (£13.1million) Joao Cancelo (£6.8million) and Mason Mount (£7.6million) are three in-form players who are all scheduled to play.

Keep an eye out for good (and bad) fixtures

Illan Meslier, Leeds United, fantasy football

It's also smart to keep an eye out for some nice fixtures over Christmas. While form is certainly important when deciding on your transfer targets, their next run of games should be just as crucial.

With that in mind, our recommendation is to turn towards Manchester United, West HamManchester City and Arsenal, and stay away from Leeds UnitedNewcastle and Leicester players.

Manchester United have Newcastle, Burnley and Wolves as their next three, with games against Brighton and Brentford also needing to be rearranged. It's certainly worth looking at a few of their players, but with their current COVID-19 outbreak, it's worth waiting for any news first.

West Ham have slowed down slightly in their pursuit for top four, but with Southampton, Watford and Crystal Palace up next, they too could be worth considering.

However, not only should poor form sway you from Leeds United and Newcastle United, but both clubs face increasingly difficult games in the next few weeks.

Cautious captaincy

Mo Salah prepares to take a penalty vs Villa Dec21

For most of the season, picking a captain has been fairly straightforward - you click on Salah and it's job done.

Well, while we won't argue against continuing that trend over Christmas, there's definitely more thought that can be added to the decision.

Of course, Liverpool's Egyptian star has shown no signs of slowing down over the last few weeks, but with the African Cup of Nations fast approaching in January, it's important to have back-up choices.

Liverpool's match against Chelsea on January 2 is the last match both Sadio Mane and Salah are expected to feature in before departing for AFCON over January.

Therefore, it's important to plan ahead and look at other potential captains during that time.

The following gameweek boasts plenty of enticing fixtures, although Manchester City's clash with Chelsea means both sets of players are at high risk of scoring lowly.

Similarly, Spurs face Arsenal that week in the north London derby, so it may be worth looking at either Manchester United's clash with Aston Villa, Leicester vs Burnley, or even West Ham against Leeds when looking for a captain.

Additionally, with many fixtures being cancelled/postponed of late, the role of a vice captain has grown in importance.

Whoever is handed vice captaincy will assume the role of captain and get double points should your initial pick not play.

So our recommendation is to make sure your vice captain plays for a different team (and even in a different match) than your designated double-pointer, so that if their game is postponed, you still reap the rewards.

Rearranged games could be crucial

Heung-min Son and Antonio Conte

If you are to get one over your friends, family and peers in your mini league, then every advantage counts. One that will become increasingly important in the next few weeks is rearranged fixtures.

Almost all Premier League clubs have seen at least one game postponed in recent weeks, and that means when the new date is announced, the team could have a 'double gameweek' - meaning they score two games worth of points in just one go.

As they become more common, it's going to be important that you have plenty of players from those teams so you collect maximum points.

So far, Tottenham and Burnley lead the way in terms of how many games need to be rearranged (3), making it almost a certain that they will both have a double gameweek soon.

But, with Sean Dyche's side struggling for form and points, it's probably best we look to Spurs. Having improved hugely under Antonio Conte, it's worth keeping an eye on the fixture announcements, and investing in some Tottenham players in advance.

Harry Kane is usually the go-to points-scorer at Spurs, but considering his torrid form this season, Heung-Min Son at £10.3million looks to be the best pick.

With their rearranged fixtures coming against Brighton, Burnley and Leicester, goals seem likely, and the South Korean midfielder already leads the way for Spurs in terms of points this season (81).

It's also worth considering their defence, who have kept three clean sheets in Conte's four Premier League games. Eric Dier (£4.5million) has amassed 26 points in those four games, while Sergio Reguilon (£5.2million) has also gained 26.

In terms of other clubs who are set to host double gameweeks, Manchester United, Chelsea, Leicester and Brentford have also had two games postponed so far.

READ MORE: Newcastle? West Ham? Ajax? Where next for wantaway Man Utd goalkeeper Dean Henderson?

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