The biggest game of the Premier League season thus far is nearly upon us: the Manchester derby, at Old Trafford, Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Not only is this a clash of the top two teams in the table, but it has plenty of fantasy ramifications, too. Here's a closer look at that match, and the rest of Gameweek 16, from a fantasy perspective:
Red alert: In case you missed it, Paul Pogba will be suspended for this game, and Manchester United's following two league games, after receiving a straight red card in their 3-1 win over Arsenal last weekend. What a shame -- especially for people with Pogba on their Fantasy Premier League squads. He was in good form, picking up two more assists in that Arsenal game before being sent off.
People are continuing to panic about Romelu Lukaku after he went goal-less again last weekend -- he's been the second-most dropped player in FPL this week, behind Pogba. But Lukaku did score a goal in Man United's 2-1 Champions League win over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday. Don't panic.
This wouldn't be the week to add a Man United player to your FPL roster, given their opponent. But keep an eye on Jesse Lingard, who scored two goals against Arsenal, and had a goal and an assist the week before against Watford. He hasn't been a regular starter, but if he turns into one, he's a steal at only 5.8 million pounds.
And, if you don't have David De Gea on your FPL roster, it's time to reconsider, after he tied a Premier League record with 14 saves against Arsenal. Yes, his price is very high for a goalkeeper -- currently 5.8 million pounds. But he looks worth it, with 19 more FPL points than any other keeper.
Blue heaven? Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling all started last weekend in Manchester City's 2-1 win over West Ham -- music to many FPL players' ears -- and Gabriel Jesus joined them on the field after halftime. But none of them scored a goal ... it was Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva who found the back of the net instead and only Jesus picked up an assist.
Kevin De Bruyne also had an assist, and is now second overall in FPL points with 91. But I still think Sterling (89 points) and Sane (83) are smarter investments, given they'll cost you so much less than De Bruyne and his 10.2 million pound price tag. Sane's been the third-most transferred player out this week, but I think that's rash. He took a team-high five shots against West Ham.
Silva is an injury doubt for Sunday according to manager Pep Guardiola, so don't pick him up this week despite his game-winning goal against West Ham. And Vincent Kompany may be missing as well, after not being able to play in the 2-1 Champions League loss at Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday. That was Man City's first loss of the season in all competitions, but don't be too alarmed -- they'd already clinched first place in their group, so Guardiola didn't play a full-strength lineup.
Wakeup call: The Manchester derby is the finale of what should be a very entertaining tripleheader on Sunday. The opener is Southampton vs. Arsenal, at 7 a.m. ET.
Alexandre Lacazette started and scored Arsenal's goal in that 3-1 loss to Manchester United last Sunday, despite the fact manager Arsene Wenger had indicated Lacazette wouldn't play due to a groin injury. But the more intriguing Arsenal option right now is Aaron Ramsey, who got the assist on Lacazette's goal, and now has a goal or an assist in six of the past seven league games. Ramsey's up to 79 FPL points, ranking him fifth among all midfielders, and still costs only 7.2 million pounds. You could plug him in for Pogba, and save nearly a million pounds.
Don't be fooled by the scoreline last week -- Arsenal had 33 shots, 14 on target, and an expected goals tally of 5.03. In other words, they created loads of scoring chances. But you may want to dump defender Shkodran Mustafi, who made a critical mistake early in the game and then came off in the 15th minute due to injury.
Forgive me? I have a confession to make. Remember when I recommended dropping Roberto Firmino last week? Well, I didn't go through with it -- and was very happy that I held off, given that he scored two goals in Liverpool's 5-1 thumping of Brighton.
I waited because I wanted to see what new Everton manager Sam Allardyce was going to do with his first starting lineup. My plan was to downgrade from Firmino (8.4 million pounds) to Oumar Niasse (5.0 million), and invest that extra 3.4 million pounds in other positions.
But, Niasse didn't start. Allardyce went with Dominic Calvert-Lewin instead, and he delivered a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town.
I'm still planning to move on from Firmino, who had just one goal and one assist in the previous 11 weeks. I'm just trying to figure out which budget forward to replace him with. It could be Calvert-Lewin (5.2 million pounds), but I want to see what happens when these two teams square off in the Merseyside derby at 9:15 a.m. ET on Sunday.
Also keep an eye on Philippe Coutinho, who had a monster game against Brighton (one goal, three assists) and followed that up with his first Liverpool hat trick in a 7-0 thumping of Spartak Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday. Coutinho has four goals and five assists in the eight league games he's started this season, and only costs 8.9 million pounds.
Hazard warning: Chelsea get Saturday's seven-game slate started, playing at West Ham at 7:30 a.m. ET. They are coming off a 3-1 home win over Newcastle last weekend, and a 1-1 home draw against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
Eden Hazard is certainly heating up -- he scored two goals in the victory over Newcastle, and took a whopping nine shots, with six on goal. His price is high (10.8 million pounds), but his five goals and three assists have all come in the past seven weeks.
Alvaro Morata scored the other Chelsea goal last weekend, his ninth of the season. And he took seven shots, with five on goal, against Atletico. Chelsea's next six league games, and 11 of their next 12, are against non-"Big Six" competition. It's a good time to add Hazard or Morata. And defender Andreas Christensen continues to look tempting as well at 5.5 million pounds. He's now started five straight league games, and nearly scored against Newcastle, hitting the woodwork.
Poor Harry: Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino rested several key players, including Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, in their meaningless 3-0 Champions League win over Apoel Nicosia on Wednesday. (Tottenham had already clinched the top spot in their group.) Maybe the rest will help reignite Kane, who failed to score again in a 1-1 draw at Watford last weekend.
Not only did Kane fail to score a goal against Watford, he took only two shots. But don't be surprised if he scores at least one at home against Stoke City on Saturday, in a 10 a.m. ET kickoff. Stoke have given up 30 goals this season -- only West Ham have given up more (32).
Eriksen broke out of his slump last week with an assist, and he also got three bonus points despite being subbed off in the 63rd minute. But I wouldn't rush out and add him right now, given he'd gone six straight league games without a goal or an assist.
Also, defender Davison Sanchez got a straight red card for an elbow to the face of Richarlison last week, meaning he'll miss the next three league games.
Speaking of Stoke: A few weeks back I recommended picking up Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, a midfielder playing more like a center forward, with three goals on the season and among the league leaders in shots.
I'm afraid it's probably time to move on from Choupo-Moting now, though. Forget the fact that he hasn't scored a goal in the past three games. What's much more alarming is that he hasn't taken a single shot in those three games.
If you have a little extra dough, I'd consider replacing him with teammate Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored another goal (and picked up two bonus points) in Stoke's 2-1 win over Swansea City last week. He now has four goals and five assists this season, with three goals and three assists coming in the past six weeks.
More bad news: It's probably time for those of you with Tammy Abraham on your FPL roster to find another budget forward, too. Not only are Swansea last in the table, but they're also now tied for the league low in goals scored with Crystal Palace, with only eight in 15 league games.
They did score one last week against Stoke, but it came from Wilfried Bony, who started alongside Abraham up top. Bony took five shots, while Abraham didn't take any. I wouldn't pick up either guy, but if I was among the 11.3 percent of FPL players who still have Abraham on their roster, I'd move on.
Hard to believe: Going back to Everton, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has collected 22 FPL points in the past two games -- thanks in large part to two clean sheets, a penalty save, and three bonus points.
Pickford was a popular pick at the start of the season, and Allardyce's reputation says he should be able to organize and tighten Everton up defensively. Pickford's price has dropped to 4.8 million pounds, which makes him even more attractive, but I'd wait until after this week's game against Liverpool to make a move.
Another apology: I've been slow to warm to Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure, despite the fact he's already scored five goals this season and only costs 5.4 million pounds. Unlike his teammate Richarlison, Doucoure doesn't take many shots, which has scared me off.
Well, Doucoure nearly scored his sixth goal against Spurs last week, thumping a shot off the woodwork. The ball just seems to find him in good positions, and he could put a whole lot of power behind it. There's no question that with 67 FPL points -- two more than Dele Alli, by the way -- Doucoure's been a great bargain this season. And he certainly merits strong consideration as a fourth or fifth midfielder.