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Fantasy Premier League preview for Gameweek 23

The festive fixtures are finally over, and after a weekend off for the FA Cup, the Premier League is back in action this weekend.

The January transfer window is obviously open, and some big moves have already transpired (see below). Here are the top 10 things you need to know heading into Gameweek 23, from a fantasy perspective:

Say it ain't so: In case you missed it, somehow, Philippe Coutinho -- one of the most exciting players in the league -- has sadly departed Liverpool for Barcelona. He was on 12.2 percent of Fantasy Premier League rosters when the move was officially announced, so many FPL players have a big hole on their roster to fill.

Former teammate Sadio Mane is in a similar price range. Mane's been in and out of the lineup this season, appearing in only 14 of Liverpool's first 22 league games, but he should see his playing time stabilize with Coutinho out of the picture. He also has a goal and an assist in the past two games.

Mohamed Salah is a little more expensive, but he remains the top player in FPL this season with 168 points -- 22 more than second-place Raheem Sterling. If you're thinking about adding Salah, keep in mind that he missed Liverpool's previous two games (a 2-1 win league win at Burnley, and a 2-1 FA Cup win against Everton) due to a groin injury. But he has returned to training this week.

Liverpool, Part 2: There's so much going on at Anfield right now, we have to devote a second section of this column to the Reds. They've also already added a high-profile player in this transfer window, finally acquiring center back Virgil van Dijk from Southampton.

Van Dijk made his debut in that FA Cup victory over Everton, and he scored the game-winning goal with a late header -- a dream start. His FPL price is reasonable (5.4 million pounds), but I wouldn't rush to pick him up. Liverpool have conceded 25 goals this season, giving them only the sixth-best defensive record in the league. And they're hosting the runaway league leaders, Manchester City, on Sunday (at 11 a.m. ET).

I also would think long and hard about adding Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino right now. Firmino was involved in a row with Everton defender Mason Holgate in last week's game -- Holgate accused Firmino of making a racist comment, and the incident is being investigated by the FA. It's unclear how long the investigation will take, and whether Firmino actually made a racist comment. But Luis Suarez was given an eight-match ban when found guilty of the same charge while with Liverpool back in 2011.

Full speed ahead: Manchester City continue to roll toward the Premier League title. They're coming off a 3-1 win over Watford in Gameweek 22, a 4-1 win over Burnley in the FA Cup last weekend, and a 2-1 win over Bristol City in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday. With 64 goals in 22 league games, they're now averaging nearly three goals per game, and have 14 more than second-best Liverpool (50).

David Silva returned for the first two games mentioned above, and has revealed why he missed three of the previous four league games -- his son Mateo was born prematurely, and Silva was in Spain to be with him. But Silva was not in the 18-man squad for the Bristol City match.

The player I have my eye on (besides Sterling, who's already on my FPL team) is Sergio Aguero. Now that Gabriel Jesus is out for several weeks due to a knee injury suffered in Gameweek 21, Aguero should start practically every game. He's the second-ranked forward in FPL with 111 points -- 23 behind Harry Kane -- but he's started five fewer games this season. Aguero is also 1.2 million pounds cheaper ... savings which would help boost your roster elsewhere.

And if you want to get in on the Manchester City defense -- they also have the best defensive record in the league, giving up only 13 goals in 22 games -- John Stones has returned from injury, should be a regular starter, and will only cost you 5.4 million pounds.

Dual threat: Marcos Alonso is looking awfully tempting right now, if you don't have him. The Chelsea wing-back now has 123 FPL points -- nine more than teammate Cesar Azpilicueta, who's the second-best defender -- after scoring another goal in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal in Gameweek 22.

Alonso's also the most expensive defender in the game, at 7.3 million pounds, but with good reason. He's got six goals on the season, including three in the past five weeks, so he's picking up plenty of attacking points. He's also started all 22 league games for Chelsea this season, who've only given up 16 goals in those 22 games, equal with Manchester United and behind only Man City.

To put things further in perspective, Alonso has 27 and 28 more FPL points than teammates Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard, respectively. And Chelsea's next five opponents are Leicester City (home, 10 a.m. ET on Saturday), Brighton (away), Bournemouth (home), Watford (away) and West Brom (home).

Gut punch: During the holidays we had our first double gameweek of the season. Spurs and West Ham had two games in one gameweek, due to their matchup at Wembley having to be rescheduled. And that meant tons of FPL players acquired Kane, captained him and even used the Triple Captain chip on him, and loaded up on other Spurs and West Ham players.

It was a letdown -- at least for those counting on Kane.

Kane didn't even start the first game, a 2-0 win at Swansea City, due to illness. He came on in the 68th minute, but didn't have a goal or an assist. Kane returned to the starting lineup in the 1-1 draw with West Ham, but again failed to deliver a goal or an assist. His grand total for the double gameweek? Three points.

Spurs host Everton in the late game this Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET). I'll probably stick with Kane this week, but may switch to Aguero after that -- the double gameweek has really left a sour taste in my mouth. One other attraction? Aguero is on just 22.6 percent of FPL rosters, compared to Kane at 44.7 percent.

Here we go again: Arsenal appear headed in the wrong direction once more. They're now sixth in the table -- two points behind Spurs, and five behind Liverpool -- and went crashing out of the FA Cup with a 4-2 loss to Nottingham Forest this past Sunday. Manager Arsene Wenger played a "B" team against Forest, but it was still a terrible defeat.

Arsenal did look pretty solid defensively at least in a scoreless draw at Chelsea in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. They also play at Bournemouth on Sunday (8:30 a.m. ET), and their next three games are inviting as well: Crystal Palace (home), Swansea (away) and Everton (home). But I wouldn't add any Arsenal players to my FPL roster right now. Alexis Sanchez didn't even start against Chelsea, Mesut Ozil missed the game with a knee injury, and Jack Wilshere suffered a sprained ankle during the game. And defenders Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny have been out recently due to injuries as well.

Big scare: It was tough to watch Romelu Lukaku be carried off on a stretcher, wearing an oxygen mask, after suffering a head knock in Manchester United's scoreless draw with Southampton in Gameweek 21. But that didn't keep him out for long. Lukaku missed the following 2-0 league win over Everton, but returned and scored a goal (off the bench) in a 2-0 FA Cup win over Derby County last Friday.

Still, you should swap Lukaku for Aguero in a heartbeat right now, if you can come up with the extra 400,000 pounds. Lukaku has just two league goals since Gameweek 12, and three since Gameweek 7.

Jesse Lingard, on the other hand, is on fire. He scored one of the goals against Everton, scored a gorgeous goal against Derby, and has seven goals and two assists in the past nine league games. At 6.3 million pounds, Lingard looks like an absolute steal at the moment.

What's more, Man United host Stoke City on Monday (3 p.m. ET). Stoke have given up a league-high 47 goals -- seven more than any other team -- and just saw their manager, Mark Hughes, get the sack following an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Coventry City of League Two in the FA Cup. Need I say more?

Waaaa-yne: As mentioned above, Everton have a tough game this week, playing Spurs at Wembley. Sam Allardyce has done a nice job since taking over as manager in early December, guiding them up to ninth in the table. The defense has tightened up considerably, but I'm concerned about Everton offensively.

More specifically, I'm concerned about Wayne Rooney. He's still ranked seventh among all forwards with 93 FPL points, but he's produced just two points in the past four weeks. Yes, he missed two games due to illness. But he played only 45 and 61 minutes, respectively, in the two games after his return. And he played only 52 minutes in the loss to Liverpool in the FA Cup last Friday.

Everton has added another forward in the transfer window -- Cenk Tosun, who had 12 goals in 22 games for Besiktas this season, including four goals in the Champions League. Allardyce has spoken highly of him, so he should get plenty of playing time ... and he just so happens to have the same FPL price as Rooney, 7.5 million pounds. But I'd hold off until we see Tosun play.

Bounce back: It certainly doesn't compare with their title-winning season two years ago, but Leicester City stars Jamie Vardy and especially Riyad Mahrez are having good seasons after a disappointing 2016-17 campaign.

Vardy has nine goals and two assists, and is ranked fifth among all forwards with 97 FPL points -- two points behind Lukaku, and one ahead of Morata. Mahrez has seven goals and 10 assists, and is now ranked fifth among all players with 126 FPL points!

There are concerns about each player, though. Vardy missed Leicester's 3-0 win over Huddersfield in Gameweek 22, and their scoreless draw against Fleetwood in the FA Cup, due to a groin injury (although manager Claude Puel said Thursday he thinks Vardy will be available on Saturday). And rumors have been swirling about a possible Mahrez transfer in January, which could distract him, or impact his value down the road.

But Mahrez in particular still merits strong consideration for your FPL team. He's red-hot, with five goals and four assists in the past nine weeks -- he's had a goal or an assist in eight of those nine games, and still only costs 8.6 million pounds. But don't add him until after this week's game at Chelsea.

Burning up(date): So many FPL players have a Burnley defender or two on their roster, a status report about the fellas from Turf Moor feels necessary here.

Manager Sean Dyche said Thursday that left back Stephen Ward, who's still on 9.5 percent of rosters despite missing the past five league games due to injury, is out again this week at Crystal Palace (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET).

Center backs Ben Mee, Kevin Long and James Tarkowski -- on 15.6, 6.9 and 4.7 percent of rosters, respectively -- are all dealing with minor injuries. But Dyche said he expects all three to be available, meaning Mee and Tarkowski will most likely start, with Long on the bench.