So, where were we? The Premier League took a week off for international duty, but returns this weekend with World Cup Qualifiers and friendlies now behind national teams. Understandably, there should be some unusual squad selections by managers in Week 8 to compensate for players traveling from near and far to rejoin their club sides. Along with that, not all players will return to England in the same physical conditions they left country in, so be sure to check the latest injury report before choosing your side for this weekend.
With that being said, let’s refresh on how the last round of Premiership games went by looking at how Week 7’s Best XI fared:
At goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet allowed a set-piece goal in the 76th minute of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace and made just one save during the match.
Last week’s defense proved ineffective, as Kieran Gibbs, despite leading Arsenal with nine clearances, unfortunately allowed one goal to West Brom. Likewise, David Luiz attempted two shots versus Norwich City, showing his offensive prowess, but allowed one goal to the Canaries. Then, Kyle Walker, whose Tottenham defense had let in just two goals prior to their last game, surprisingly conceded three scores against West Ham, while Erik Pieters led Stoke in tackles (five) and clearances (seven), but fell 1-0 to Fulham.
Across the midfield, Mesut Ozil was effective as usual, but failed to score versus West Brom, while Frank Lampard’s Chelsea side scored three goals, but the Englishman failed to contribute to the scoresheet. On the bright side, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard notched his first goal of the campaign with a penalty kick goal, but Hatem Ben Arfa was disciplined by manager Alan Pardew for his lack of defensive effort and thus only featured as an 86th minute substitute for Newcastle.
Up front, Robin van Persie failed to score against Sunderland’s league-worst defense, as youngster Adnan Januzaj stole the show with two goals in his first start. However, Luis Suarez scored his third goal in two Premier League games since returning from suspension.
In all, Week 7’s team didn’t produce the statistical output needed for fantasy success, but as an improvement on prior weeks, 10 of the 11 selected players completed a full 90 minutes, slightly making up for the scoresheet shortcomings.
Looking ahead to this week’s fixtures, all 20 teams are in action, but beware of the aforementioned effects of international play. In some games of added intrigue, Southampton, winners of their last three matches, travel to a Manchester United team off to its worst start in 24 seasons. Also, seventh-place Everton hosts eighth-place Hull City, while, at the bottom of the table, Crystal Palace welcomes Fulham in a game featuring a combined 10 points this season between the two teams.
As a return to the routine, here’s this Week 8’s Best XI:
Petr Cech (Chelsea) – The Blues have allowed a league-best four goals this season, which includes only one conceded at Stamford Bridge (a first-half stoppage time goal to Christian Benteke in Week 2). Cech could improve on his save numbers (17 through seven games), but looks a decent clean sheet choice against Cardiff City this weekend.
Leighton Baines (Everton) – Baines is coming off a Tuesday assist for England against Poland, a game in which he attempted a whopping 13 crosses. The left-back should be up for the occasion once again when Hull City visit Goodison Park on Saturday.
Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal) – A rock in the center of Arsenal’s defense, Koscielny is coming off a clean sheet for France against Finland on Tuesday. The Gunners face 17th place Norwich City on Saturday, giving Koscielny a decent shot at another blanking.
Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich Albion) – Under manager Steve Clarke, West Brom have looked improved this season and have allowed just six goals in seven matches. In the heart of their defense, Olsson’s 2.9 successful aerial duels per game should be useful when playing a Stoke side known for their long-ball pursuits.
Yaya Toure (Manchester City) – The Ivory Coast international last played Saturday, so he should be good to go against Aston Villa this weekend. The midfielder is tied for his club’s lead in goals with four through seven matches and has completed 91.5 percent of his passes so far this season, evidencing his supreme technical ability.
Andros Townsend (Tottenham) – Townsend has big shoes to fill following Gareth Bale’s departure, but to this point in the season, the speedy winger has looked very promising. He leads the league with 4.3 shot attempts per game and scored in his England debut against Montenegro last Friday. It seems a matter of time before he opens his Premier League account.
Michu (Swansea) – At 27-years-old, Michu finally cracked the incredibly deep Spanish national team for his country’s World Cup Qualifiers over the break and should feel good about his game entering a tasty home fixture against Sunderland. While most fantasy formats list Michu as a midfielder, he plays as more of a striker for the Swans, evidenced by his team-leading 22 shots (nine on goal) this term.
Frank Lampard (Chelsea) – Predicting who will start in Chelsea’s loaded midfield on a weekly basis is a challenge that manager Jose Mourinho struggles with himself, so picking their wily veteran seems the safest selection this week. With a favorable home matchup with Cardiff City, Lampard’s side should score some goals and the Englishman is usually involved in the build-up.
Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – In three appearances since joining Everton on loan, the 20-year-old has mustered four goals and one assist. In his two World Cup Qualifiers for Belgium over the international break, Lukaku picked up two goals and an assist. Look for him to ride his impressive form against Hull City.
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) – Giroud has four goals and two assists this season and currently sits second in the Premier League with 3.9 shots attempted per game. After scoring twice in France’s friendly against Australia last Friday, Giroud is a threat to score versus Norwich City.
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) – Sturridge’s debut in the Best XI is long overdue. Arguably the best player in the Premiership so far this season, the Liverpool front-man leads the league with six goals to go with two assists. He scored a penalty-kick for England over the break and with strike partner Luis Suarez returning from South America, Sturridge should be more fresh to assume Liverpool’s scoring duties against a vulnerable Newcastle defense.
Baines – Koscielny – Olsson
Toure – Townsend – Michu – Lampard
Lukaku – Giroud - Sturridge