We look to the waiver wire and free agent pool each week to highlight some under-the-radar players who could be a short-term or even long-term solution for your Fantrax EPL fantasy teams. Our Sleepers XI provides fantasy managers with a full squad of differential picks, and some high upside options to plug in if they are in the starting lineup. Don't sleep on these underappreciated gems as you put together your roster for Gameweek 13!
We'll be focusing on players that will bring us not only attacking returns or clean sheets, but also those players that score Ghost Points in the sophisticated and statistics based Fantrax Scoring System!
Fantasy EPL Gameweek 13 Sleepers XI
For this article, we use the % rostered from Fantrax. Our only rule is that each player we highlight is required to be rostered in 60% of leagues or less at the time of writing. Therefore there's a good chance some of these players will be free agents in your Fantrax Draft League! As always, we'll take form, fixtures, projected points, and a healthy dose of intuition into account to make our selections. Additionally, I've included the rostership percentage from the "Big 3" -- the twenty 12-team divisions that comprise the ultra-competitive DraftPL Community League and International Genie League, as well as the eight equally competitive 10-team divisions in the Discord Super League -- to provide some additional context for who is likely to be available and where you might want to follow the wisdom of the crowd.
I don't know about you, but I am glad to see the end of international breaks for a few months. Not only is the time away from fantasy a bore, but the gameweeks either side of them have been particularly challenging for choosing players for streaming purposes. Suffice it to say, Gameweek 12 was not my best outing. There wasn't a single player among the first XI that broke double digits on the way to a paltry 44.5 point score for the week. That brings the season total to 758 and drops the weekly average to 63 points. Let's put the past behind us, shall we?
Coming out of the break, we've got a host of injury news to contend with along with the usual question marks surrounding players who have traveled abroad to represent their respective national teams. I'll call out risks where appropriate. It's worth noting that the Reserves selections this week are largely made up of players from the Fulham-Wolves contest. I think there are points to be found via players from both teams in that match, but with it being the final fixture of the gameweek on Monday, you should make sure you have an escape route before buying in on these players -- especially if they're not nailed-on in the starting lineup.
The Sleepers XI table below includes a full team of Starters, as well as 5 Reserves -- high-upside players with some question marks around whether or not they'll start in Gameweek 13. Keep an eye out when lineups drop and pick them up if you see them starting and need to fill a spot on your roster. Read on below for the rationale behind each of the Starter selections.
Odysseas Vlachodimos (G, Nottingham Forest v. Brighton)
Following Matt Turner's horrow show against Liverpool, Vlachodimos has been given his opportunity as the Forest number one. While he wasn't able to replicate the clean sheet victory from his debut in his second match between the posts away to West Ham, the former Benfica keeper did manage to record 3 saves; the same number he made in the 2-0 home win over Aston Villa the week before. A score of 5.25 with 3 goals conceded is more than respectable and with Forest back at the City Ground this weekend against an injury-riddled Brighton side, I think it's reasonable to expect the Greek GK to improve on that score this time around.
Illia Zabarnyi (D, Bournemouth @ Sheffield United)
I've generally steered clear of Bournemouth defenders so far this campaign, and with good reason: the Cherries have conceded 27 goals across their opening 12 matches, third worst in the Premier League behind Burnley (30) and this weekend's opponents Sheffield United (31). The good news for Zabarnyi and his fellow defenders is that the Blades have only scored 10 goals this season, tied for second-fewest in the division after only Burnley (9). The Ukrainian center back has played every minute for Andoni Iraola this season, so it's safe to say his real-life performances have been more consistent than his fantasy scores would suggest. That said, outside of the -8.5 points suffered in the 6-1 loss to Man City, Zabarnyi hasn't fared too badly, even in defeat. I expect him to be fairly busy contending for aerial duels with Oli McBurnie, which could add a nice floor of points from which to build.
Joel Ward (D, Crystal Palace @ Luton)
While this year's version of Ward is a far cry from the ghost point machine he was when Roy Hodgson was reinstated for the back-end of last year's campaign, there's still a viable fantasy asset in there somewhere. With the injury crisis at Palace finally beginning to subside, there's renewed optimism that the Eagles can get back to the high-flying form they were in to close out the 22/23 season. We can expect Luton to push their wingbacks forward to join the attack, leaving them vulnerable to counterattacks down their flanks. Ward will no doubt be looking forward to pairing up with Michael Olise now that the winger has returned to fitness. Could that be the spark needed to get the veteran defender back to the lofty fantasy heights he was regularly achieving? Time will tell, but now is as good a time as any to test that theory and perhaps get a couple big scores out of Ward before a challenging fixture run that begins with Liverpool in GW16.
Kurt Zouma (D, West Ham @ Burnley)
Another former fantasy darling who hasn't been his best this season, Zouma has a chance to redeem himself in my book with a good performance against the league's worst team. The French CB's best fantasy scores this season have come against the newly promoted sides (24.75 @ Luton and 13.5 v. Sheffield United), so it may be the case that he's more of a flat-track bully this season. In addition to the potential clean sheet (certainly not a guarantee given the Clarets scored against Arsenal before the break), Zouma offers considerable aerial threat from set pieces. James Ward-Prowse pinging crosses into the box for him to contest against the league's leakiest defense should be a recipe for success.
Giovani Lo Celso (M, Tottenham v. Aston Villa)
With James Maddison out through injury and Yves Bissouma through suspension, options are limited for who will get the nod alongside Pape Sarr and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the Spurs engine room against Villa. That said, my recommendation of Lo Celso is still a risk, as Ange Postecoglou could decide to hand a first start of the season to Rodrigo Bentancur instead now that he's returned to fitness. Lo Celso was also involved in Argentina's matches over the international break, but Bentancur is in the same boat having played with Uruguay. If you have the luxury of making live lineup changes, you could always go with whichever player starts if they're both available, but Lo Celso offers a bit more in the way of attacking potential than Bentancur. Aston Villa have been poor on their travels this season, while the Spurs midfield has seen the points flowing. GLC could also take on a share of set piece duties with Maddison out (he assisted the Argentine winner via a corner kick).
Jefferson Lerma (M, Crystal Palace @ Luton)
An excellent start to the season for Lerma was derailed a bit by a month-long injury absence, with the Colombian's output dropping from around 10 points per start to closer to 2.5 in the three matches after his return. However, GW12 saw the midfielder put up his best score of the season with a massive 23 points in the Palace defeat to Everton. I'm not suggesting that you can expect another 20-pointer this week, but Lerma's influence in this Eagles team is impossible to deny. Luton have been fairly accommodating to opposition midfielders even in front of their home fans, allowing just shy of 10 points on average. Lerma is more than a defensive midfielder in Roy Hodgson's setup and has contributed 11 key passes and an assist in his 8 starts this season. The only real note of caution here is that Lerma was involved for his national team over the break, so it's possible he could be rested or taken off early.
Oliver Norwood (M, Sheffield United v. Bournemouth)
It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that I'm including multiple players from the Sheffield United-Bournemouth match, as both teams have struggled to keep their opponents' respective attacking units at bay this season. In fact, Bournemouth are the most favorable team for midfielders to play, offering up nearly 13 points per midfield opponent on average on their travels. Norwood has fended off the challenge of James McAtee and played the full 90 in each of the last 5 matches for the Blades. The veteran midfielder has an even share of set pieces with fellow midfielder Gustavo Hamer and they should have their aerially dominant striker McBurnie back in action to aim for. Norwood has also recently contributed a goal to complement his contributions elsewhere. He has rarely delivered more than 6-8 points, but the potential is certainly there against more forgiving opponents.
Ryan Christie (M, Bournemouth @ Sheffield United)
The second most favorable team for midfielders to face this week? You guessed it...Sheffield United. The Blades are allowing more than 11 points to opposition midfielders at home. Christie has been an unexpected success story at Bournemouth this season, making a starting role his own despite what many fans, pundits and fantasy managers assumed was better competition. The Scotsman has been a bit hit-or-miss when it comes to his fantasy production, but is coming off a 16-point haul without an attacking return in the confidence boosting victory over Newcastle in GW12. That performance will have gone a long way to settling a Cherries team that has struggled mightily to begin the season. Combine that newfound confidence with the forgiving opposition and there's every possibility for Christie to live up to his double-digit projected score.
Said Benrahma (M, West Ham @ Burnley)
This IB was particularly unkind to West Ham. Michail Antonio looks to have at least escaped the long-term injury that was feared, but will still be missing for at least the next few weeks. Jarrod Bowen has what is being reported as a minor knee injury, but it would be a surprise to see him risked against Burnley. Mo Kudus has apparently been struggling with a back injury and may face a late fitness test. And Tomas Soucek caught a couple of studs to his forehead and could be subject to concussion protocol. I doubt all four of these players will be left out, but even if it's only two there should be a spot available in the starting lineup for Benrahma. The Algerian has fallen down the pecking order with the summer arrivals, but is a player to target if you're looking for upside potential any time he's starting. He's only managed one double-digit score this season (off the bench against Brighton back in GW3), but in terms of scoring potential you're not likely to find too many other starting players in your league's free agent pool unless you're in a 8- or possibly 10-team league. While he struggled in his last start, Burnley is a tasty matchup, and Benrahma is usually a good fantasy performer, having scored 15+ points on 8 occasions last season despite only starting 22 matches.
Chris Wood (F, Nottingham Forest v. Brighton)
Taiwo Awoniyi left the Nigerian national team camp this past weekend with a groin injury, and the striker has now undergone surgery which will reportedly sideline him for 3-4 months. Wood has already proven on one occasion this season that he's a more than capable deputy. Shockingly, Brighton are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League this season with nearly 1/3 of the campaign gone by. Forest is also very formidable at home. So despite the possible perceived gulf between these teams, there's perhaps an opportunity for Forest to get a result in this one. At 50%, the New Zealand international is quite dependent on goal contributions for his fantasy points so you're likely banking on him getting a return to justify playing him this week. That said, you are likely aware by now of the dearth of viable fantasy assets in the pool of free agent forwards and the fact that one is available who could start for a considerable portion of the remainder of the season makes him an enticing pick-up especially given Forest's upcoming fixtures.
Oliver McBurnie (F, Sheffield United v. Bournemouth)
It's been a season of false starts for McBurnie, who hasn't been able to string together more than 3 consecutive appearances in the Premier League so far. His latest absence was due to a groin injury, but the Scottish striker reportedly missed out in GW12 following a late fitness test. You'd imagine that two additional weeks of recovery time would be enough to see him reinstated to the starting lineup by Paul Heckingbottom. Given the scarcity of starting strikers, McBurnie is a decent punt to take with Bournemouth and Burnley as opponents over the next two fixtures. Despite only starting on five occasions this season, McBurnie has twice managed scores over 15 points.
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