This article is part of our FPL Bargain Bin series.
It's that time again, when some of the world's best players leave their clubs to play for their countries in the Africa Cup of Nations or the Asian Cup. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with playing for your country, it does throw a wrench in the plans of fantasy owners everywhere.
However, it does not have to be all bad. Sure, you are going to miss blindly picking Yaya Toure or bragging about your Mame Diouf selection for the next month, but there is another side to that coin. For every door that closes, another door opens, and these continental competitions provide opportunities for some other players to shine as a place on the pitch becomes available.
I want to switch gears a little bit this week (have no fear, there will still be daily league recommendations) and feature some players in the standard Fantasy Premier League since there is a bigger upside for this situation. Plus, these players will also be just as valuable in the daily leagues, so it's not like they should be ignored in that format either.
Without further ado, here is this week's Bargain Bin:
Goalkeeper is an interesting position because there are no big players leaving for international duty. But that does not mean there is no added value for the duration of the continental tournaments. Szczesny and Arsenal will face three teams (Stoke City, Manchester City, and Leicester City) over the next five gameweeks that will likely be without their leading shot-takers and dangerous attacking option. Good clean sheet opportunities become great clean sheet opportunities in these situations, and they give Szczesny even more fantasy value over the next month.
Looking for a value defender for the next few weeks follows the same thought process as goalkeeper. And just like Arsenal, Stoke City will get to face teams that will be without one of their best scoring options in the next four gameweeks. If you can make it past (or just wait out) the Arsenal matchup this weekend, Stoke City will play at Leicester City (no Riyad Mahrez), home against Queens Park Rangers (love teams playing QPR at home), and at Newcastle (without Papiss Cisse). You can even make a case that Stoke City will play Manchester City likely without Toure. This, combined with Shawcross' ability to get involved on the attack, make him a very intriguing option over the next few weeks.
Crystal Palace will see Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak depart to play for their respective countries. Missing these two midfielders, the Eagles will be without 30 percent of their scoring, 42 percent of their assists, and two of their top-three shot takers. Puncheon is currently second on the club in shot attempts and tied for the team lead in assists. With Bolasie and Jedinak out, it would make sense for Puncheon to see an increase in opportunities to score. In addition, Crystal Palace will get five good matchups against teams that are not the best at keeping clean sheets: Tottenham at home, at Burnley, Everton at home, at Leicester City, Newcastle at home. This is all good news for a player that has historically been a better second-half-of-the-season player.
Whether it is because Wilfried Bony is going to play with Ivory Coast, or because upon his return he may be reporting to Manchester City, it's apparent Bony will not be around for Swansea City. In his place, look for Gomis to step up and get an opportunity to lead the Swans' attack. Gomis has started to see more regular playing time since the holiday schedule, and he has attempted multiple shots in three consecutive appearances. Look for Gomis to become a focal point of the Swansea attack as the club adjusts to life without Bony.
Options for Saturday Daily Leagues
Goalkeeper:Tom Heaton ($4,800 DraftKings, $5.5M Mondogoal) v. Queens Park Rangers – Rule No. 1: value always increases when you play QPR at home.
Defense:Aly Cissokho ($4,100 DraftKings, $7.3M Mondogoal) at Leicester City – Leicester have been blanked in three of their last five matches.
Midfielder:Stewart Downing ($6,900 DK, $11.0M MG) at Swansea City – Don't be afraid of West Ham on the road, Downing has done some of his best work this season away from Boleyn Ground.
Forward:Danny Ings ($7,400 DraftKings, $10.1M Mondogoal) – Once again, love having players going against a traveling QPR squad.
Options for Sunday Daily Leagues
Goalkeeper:Asmir Begovic ($3,600 DraftKings, $6.5M Mondogoal) at Arsenal – You are not going to find a cheaper goalkeeper option this week and do not underestimate the value of multiple saves.
Defender:Laurent Koscielny ($3,500 DraftKings, $8.1M Mondogoal) v. Stoke City – Best option for a clean sheet Sunday belongs to Arsenal.
Midfielder:James Ward-Prowse ($5,400 DraftKings, $7.7M Mondogoal) at Manchester United – Has five assists in his 10 appearances this season and appears to be healthy once again.
Forward:Peter Crouch ($6,000 DraftKings, $7.1M Mondogoal) at Arsenal – Mame Diouf will be absent and Bojan is dealing with an injury. Someone has to take shots for Stoke City and Crouch may be the only healthy legs available to do so.