Michael Gregoritsch, Philippe Coutinho and Philipp Pentke (l-r.) could be just the players you need to kickstart your New Year in Fantasy Manager... - © DFL
Michael Gregoritsch, Philippe Coutinho and Philipp Pentke (l-r.) could be just the players you need to kickstart your New Year in Fantasy Manager... - © DFL
bundesliga

Bundesliga Fantasy Manager: The top 3 picks for Matchday 18

You may have unlimited transfers until Matchday 18 kicks off, but that's no excuse for not using them wisely. Check out our three shrewd suggestions ahead of the first round of Bundesliga fixtures of 2020!

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Michael Gregoritsch (Schalke)

Next opponents: Borussia Mönchengladbach (h)
Position: Midfield
Price: 9.7m

A fresh start awaits Gregoritsch at Schalke, having joined from Augsburg on loan for the remainder of the season, and not only could it be the making of the 25-year-old but also your fantasy team with Gregoritsch already a proven fantasy points resource – he scored 254 points through 2018/19 with his parent club.

What makes the Austria international so appealing is that, although listed as a midfielder, he may well feature up front for Schalke. David Wagner’s men are lacking a clinical striker to lead the line, despite their superb start which secured fifth spot at the halfway stage of the season, with midfielders Suat Serdar and Amine Harit the club’s top-scorers so far with six goals each.

New Schalke signing Michael Gregoritsch could provide the Royal Blues with an added cutting edge on Matchday 18. - AFP/Getty Images

It’s possible Gregoritsch will lead Schalke’s line and his last appearance for Augsburg was, in fact, a cameo through the middle against his new temporary employers on Matchday 10. He showed in 2017/18 what he can do up top with a career-best 13 league goals that season when largely deployed as a striker and has already played in the role to good effect in the Royal Blues' winter friendlies. Gregoritsch found the back of the net in Schalke's 4-0 win over another of his former clubs, Hamburg, where he led the line alongside Benito Raman as Wagner opted for a 4-4-2.

With Schalke’s match against Gladbach kicking off the Matchday 18 action on Friday, 17 January, it also means the chance to give Gregoritsch one of your stars, and, if it doesn't work out, you can always rotate it onto another player over the weekend. A star means 1.5 more points than usual and even if you’re not convinced he'll immediately start for Schalke, Friday evening’s match means you can check the teams before confirming your own selection minutes before kick-off.

Philippe Coutinho (Bayern Munich)

Next opponents: Hertha Berlin (a)
Position: Midfielder
Price: 18.4m

With such talent at Bayern’s disposal, plus the demands of balancing domestic league and cup campaigns with UEFA Champions League pursuits, picking players from their front line can be a tricky thing sometimes. Hansi Flick must rotate in order to give everyone playing time, while also keeping as fresh as possible as they compete across three fronts.

But, with injuries to Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, Bayern’s frontline suddenly looks a little light in numbers. They do have the wherewithal in their squad to deal with those two absences, but greater responsibility will now fall on the likes of Coutinho, Thomas Müller and Ivan Perisic, who are expected to take centre stage behind Robert Lewandowski in the Bayern attack.

And while all three would be great picks for the resumption, Coutinho has hit Fantasy form like no other in recent weeks. His superb performances in the final month of 2019 saw him win December’s Goal of the Month award and also be nominated for the Player of the Month.

His standout performance in December was Coutinho’s incredible display in the 6-1 win over Werder Bremen that saw the Brazilian score three and set up two more of Bayern’s goals. In doing so, he collected 47 Fantasy points on Matchday 15 as reward for those managers with the 27-year-old in their side, the biggest single week points haul of any player in the game’s history. Game changing stuff on Bundesliga pitches both in reality and the virtual realms.

Watch: Coutinho dazzles with hat-trick and two assists against Werder

Philipp Pentke (Hoffenheim)

Next opponents: Eintracht Frankfurt (h)
Position: Goalkeeper
Price: 1m

Hoffenheim No1 Oliver Baumann was struck down with injury during the winter break, sidelined for approximately four to six weeks after suffering damage to the meniscus in his knee while the club were in Spain. Die Kraichgauer signed Michael Esser from Hannover until the end of the season, but coach Alfred Schreuder has confirmed that it will be Philipp Pentke in between the sticks on Saturday.

Pentke has a wealth of experience in the lower leagues, having helped Jahn Regensburg to consecutive promotions and into Bundesliga 2 before joining Hoffenheim at the start of the season. With Baumann injured, he was thrown into the first-team picture in Hoffenheim's winter friendlies against Feyenoord and ADO Den Haag and looks set to keep his place despite the club signing Esser.

Philipp Pentke has only played in the DFB Cup for Hoffenheim, but will now make his Bundesliga debut with the club on Matchday 18. - via www.imago-images.de/imago images/MaBoSport

Hoffenheim also resume the season at home to struggling Frankfurt who have lost six of their last seven league matches and each of their previous two. Matchday 19 looks favourable for Alfred Schreuder’s men too, who will make the trip to second-bottom Werder; a team that has scored just once in their last four matches and all of which were defeats. Pentke could hardly have asked for two better fixtures to make his league bow for the club.

As is the case with No.2 keepers, his base price is minimal at just 1m and with a near enough guaranteed month of football ahead of him, if he can impress with his performances, Pentke offers great value for money as one of your two goalkeepers. His presence in your side will also allow you to free up cash elsewhere, meaning you can splash the cash on someone like Coutinho further up the pitch and not be hamstrung by cheaper options that aren’t likely to feature.