Fantasy Premier League: The regular schedule returns but will Haaland return with it?

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Fantasy Premier League: The regular schedule returns but will Haaland return with it?

Will Haaland finally return this weekend?
Will Haaland finally return this weekend?Flashscore
Remember when Kevin de Bruyne (32) came off the bench and saved the day for Manchester City against Newcastle? It's been a long time since then, eh? And yet that was the previous round of the Premier League! After the turmoil of January, we are finally back to a normal schedule.

We're not completely back to normal until the continental tournaments in Africa and Asia finish, but there will now be no breaks in the Premier League calendar until the international break in March, with matches every weekend and sometimes midweek, as is the case this week. So, how are things looking?

Egypt and South Korea

To start with, it's worth looking at the situation with Egypt and South Korea. The African side have already crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations, but this changes little in the context of Mohamed Salah (13.1) as he picked up an injury at the tournament.

He returned to Liverpool with an agreement that if his national team reached the AFCON final he would return to play for them, but that didn't happen as the Egyptians went out in the Round of 16 after losing to the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, if you have Salah in the squad, it's better to sell him given he may be out for multiple weeks. If you don't, wait until he returns and purchase him then.

The situation is different in regard to South Korea, who are primarily of interest to potential owners of Heung-Min Son (9.7), although Hee-Chan Hwang (5.6) also plays for them.

The Koreans are one of the Asian Cup favourites, but next have a blockbuster Round-of-16 clash against Saudi Arabia, who famously beat Argentina at the World Cup. Keep a close eye on that, because it may not be long before Tottenham's star man is available again.

Manchester City back in favour

We're at the point in the season where many players are reminded of which team has won the league five times in the last six seasons. Manchester City have dominated in recent years, but this season in Fantasy Premier League the team's players have not been making a big splash. There has been constant change in the midfield, De Bruyne (10.6) picked up a serious injury in the first game of the season, and outside of Erling Haaland (13.9), no attackers have really dazzled. Once the Norwegian was also ruled out with an injury, few City players racked up the points.

Now the situation is changing, for several reasons. Firstly, De Bruyne returned and immediately reminded us of his quality. He came on towards the end of the game against Newcastle, when his team was losing 2-1, and just five minutes later scored a goal from outside the box before getting a fabulous assist. As a result, he is the most-bought player in FPL ahead of the match against Burnley and one of the best options for captain.

Secondly, Haaland is close to finally returning. He has missed much more time than expected but the latest reports speak of the Norwegian training regularly, and he should be in the matchday squad for the encounter with Burnley. Even if he's missing from it, his return is imminent and we all know what he can do when he does.

Thirdly, Manchester City will have a double-header in February - they will play two home matches, against Chelsea and Brentford, in the 25th round. Because of this, FPL players are keen to buy De Bruyne and Haaland and look at other options in the City squad. Among the most popular players to buy for this round are Phil Foden (8.0), Kyle Walker (5.4) and Julian Alvarez (7.0).

Who to captain?

Who is worth captaining this week? A reminder: Salah is injured, Son is in Qatar, Haaland may not start and Bukayo Saka (9.1) is completely out of form. 

Given that, we'll have to choose someone who you wouldn't naturally think of as a potential captain if the aforementioned four were available and in good form. So, who should you go for?

If anyone has De Bruyne in the squad, the Belgian is almost an automatic choice. Over the course of his Premier League career, he hasn't made a habit of being an FPL star as he isn't the most prolific goalscorer, but at the same time, he is the best player in the league at the moment.

Everyone has been waiting for him to come back and he has done so in style, and he will now play at home against one of the worst teams in the league. I don't know if you'd be particularly tempted to buy him, but if you already have him in the squad, it's worth giving him the armband.

The next suggestions are a little worse and each has a downside. You could opt for Saka, whose Arsenal play away against Nottingham Forest, but this is by no means an easy ground and the Englishman has just one goal and no assists in his last six league appearances. You could also bet on Jarrod Bowen (8.1), who plays at home against Bournemouth, but... well, he's still 'only' Bowen from West Ham, and we are talking about the captain of your team here.

Another option is one of the players from the clash between Liverpool and Chelsea. One might be tempted to go for Diogo Jota (7.9) or Cole Palmer (5.8), but both will play against a difficult opponent, and Jurgen Klopp's side will do so without Salah. They did recently thrash Bournemouth without the Egyptian but still, banking on them this week is a risk.

The brave among you could bet on Ollie Watkins (8.9) but the Englishman has not been in great form, although he is up against Newcastle, who have lost their last four games in a row. On the other hand, this is still Newcastle, who played in the Champions League this season.

Who to buy?

Pervis Estupinian (5.1) - Not a surprise, of course, but nevertheless I'd like to remind you that having the Ecuadorian at this point is almost an obligation. He has scored big points in every round since returning from injury, and Brighton have one of the better schedules in the league, which provides a good chance for the full-back to keep a clean sheet. At the moment, 28% of players have him in the squad, but that number could be higher.

Diogo Jota (7.9) - The absolute star of the match against Bournemouth thanks to two goals and an assist that scored him 19 points. Jota seems to be one of the leaders of Liverpool's attack in Salah's absence and could bring a lot of points in the next few rounds. His price tag is no deterrent at 7.9 million given we're talking about one of the best players in the frontline of the team topping the table. On top of that, he's classified as a midfielder when in practice he definitely plays as a forward.

Pedro Neto (5.6) - Wolves' star man returned after a long injury and looked good in the few minutes he played in the match against Brighton, making three key passes. You can see that it'll be through him that all the attacks of Gary O'Neil's side will go, so as long as you have a free transfer, it's worth acquiring this Portuguese magician for a bargain price.

Radim Horák (one of the best Czechs playing in FPL)

Kyle Walker (5.4) - Although Pep Guardiola's team's match at home against Burnley seemingly begs for the purchase of attacking players, I will recommend a defensive one - Kyle Walker. He has featured in every Manchester City league game so far this season, which is a rarity in previous years. His side will soon have a double-header, and before then the English champions' calendar looks interesting too - Burnley at home, Brentford away and Everton at home. Although the offensive contribution of Manchester City's side defenders this season has not been that significant, Walker could grab a few assists and a lot of clean sheets.

Diogo Jota (7.9) - The best time to bring the Portuguese player into our lineups was last week, but his purchase still makes sense now. This is because of Salah's injury, and on top of that Liverpool - having made it to the League Cup final - won't play in the 26th round against Luton and will probably have a double-header the week before. This has yet to be officially confirmed but is very likely. With his goalscoring form, increased playing time and a price tag of 7.9 million, he is the ideal replacement for the injured Salah.

Eberechi Eze (6.0) - Roy Hodgson's side looked like they'd given up at the Emirates Stadium and speculation over his future will not improve the mood, but the Eagles now have the perfect opportunity to turn things around for they will play at home against the side bottom of the table, Sheffield United. After recovering from injury, Michael Olise (5.9) returns to the team, but Eze too is a very important player and great value for money.

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