Week 14 of fantasy Premier League play produced some wild results, as half of the top-flight’s 20 teams scored two or more goals and one player single-handedly outscored all but one club. Thankfully, that striker happened to be in the Best XI, which helped make up for an otherwise unflattering squad.
To review, goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen made four saves at Crystal Palace, but conceded a corner-kick goal just before halftime to erase his clean sheet bid.
Defensively, Per Mertesacker extended his eye-opening streak of clean sheets across all competitions to eight games with another rock solid showing against Hull City. However, both Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Southampton’s Luke Shaw leaked three goals in disappointing efforts Wednesday, taking away from Mertesacker’s accomplishment.
In the midfield, Yohan Cabaye attempted four shots, but failed to score for Newcastle, while an illness prevented the risky Theo Walcott selection from paying off, since the speedster featured for just 17 minutes Wednesday. Then, despite both Paulinho and Peter Whittingham taking three shots, neither player could find the net, but the latter earned a clean sheet, making for the midfield’s only meaningful contribution.
Up front, Olivier Giroud was afforded a game off, which should help his stock in the long-term, but certainly hurt fantasy teams in Week 14. Fortunately, his striking partners produced for the Best XI, albeit at much different levels. Fernando Torres picked up an assist in Chelsea’s narrow road win, but Luis Suarez went ballistic on Norwich City, tormenting the Canaries to the tune of four goals and one assist.
In total, the Suarez selection saved Week 14’s team from a very poor showing, but his inclusion ultimately proved to be the best fantasy advice one could have received for the midweek slate of games.
Moving on, all of the Premiership’s sides play again this weekend, which will likely cause the managers to rotate their squads to some degree. This expectation should come as no surprise, since it’s been discussed in the past couple editions of the Best XI, but it’s worth noting once again for good measure.
In terms fixtures, six of the league’s top nine teams play one another in a trio of games that could shake up the standings this weekend. League-leaders Arsenal host fifth-place Everton, while ninth-best Manchester United welcome seventh positioned Newcastle and Southampton-Manchester City pits eighth versus fourth.
It’s a weekend of parity atop the table, making some of the more glorified players difficult to rely on. As such, don’t be shy to take a gamble or two on lesser-known players facing more favorable matchups.
Before diving into this week’s team, an addition to the selection process in this article needs to be detailed. Since most fantasy Premier League formats require owners to select a weekly captain to have his points doubled, that extra decision will now be reflected in the Best XI and designated with a “(C)” next to the captain’s name. With that added recommendation in mind, let’s have a look at some of Week 15’s potential difference-makers.
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool) – Mignolet and the Reds’ defense is a different unit away from Anfield this season, evidenced by their -1 goal record on the road compared to +14 at home. Fortunately for them, West Ham come to town Saturday sporting just four goals through seven away games. It’s a favorable matchup for Mignolet, who is averaging nearly four saves per game and has posted three-of-four clean sheets at home this season.
Gary Cahill (Chelsea) – Cahill’s Chelsea side have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last eight matches against Stoke City in all competitions. Along with that, the Potters have been held scoreless in their last two matches and have failed to win 10 of their past 11, so Chelsea will aim to take advantage of a light matchup in their title pursuit.
Gareth McAuley (West Brom) – McAuley will be without suspended defensive partner Jonas Olsson this week, but facing a Norwich City side that has lost six of seven away matches this season bodes in his favor. Additionally, combative midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu figures to return from resting in the midweek, which should add further defensive stability for McAuley to benefit from.
Glen Johnson (Liverpool) – With the second-best defensive record at home this season, Liverpool will be happy to host West Ham this weekend. The Hammers have been held scoreless in their last five visits to Anfield and have mustered just six goals in their last 28 trips to the ground. All of that makes Johnson a fine choice in defense this gameweek.
Kévin Théophile-Catherine (Cardiff City) – Saturday’s match of Cardiff at Crystal Palace features two of the league’s three lowest scoring teams, so there’s a chance a clean sheet could result from either team, if not both. Théophile-Catherine has been impressive for Cardiff so far, leading his side in tackles per game, while offering some offensive threat down the right side. He’s a sleeper pick that just might pay dividends.
Samir Nasri (Manchester City) – The Frenchman, with four goals and two assists, has enjoyed a return to form so far this season. Nasri will go against a Southampton team whose defense has been unable to maintain their strong start, exemplified by the eight goals they’ve allowed over their last three outings. City rarely fails to score and Nasri could help them win their second consecutive road game Saturday.
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) – With an assist in Arsenal’s midweek triumph over Hull City, Ramsey now has five helpers and eight goals this season. The Gunners face an Everton side unbeaten in their last seven Saturday, but after a big win at Manchester United on Wednesday, the Toffees may have little left in the tank come Saturday at the Emirates. The all-action Ramsey could take advantage of the opposition’s tired legs.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – The Belgian scored twice and assisted once in Chelsea’s midweek win at Sunderland and greets another decent matchup at Stoke City this weekend. The Blues have scored at least three goals in their last three league ties, so they’ll look for Hazard’s creative abilities to continue the trend versus a banged-up Potters defense.
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) – The pressure is on United following three games without a win and a very disappointing start to this season. They’ll host a Newcastle side fresh off allowing three goals at Swansea City, so a visit to Old Trafford could test the Magpies similarly. With Wayne Rooney suspended and Robin van Persie’s (hip) status for Saturday uncertain, Welbeck could benefit from his club’s depleted crop of forwards.
Álvaro Negredo (Manchester City) – Rested in City’s midweek win at West Brom, Negredo has scored eight goals in his last seven games across all competitions. With Southampton expected be without both their preferred defensive midfielders and their starting goalkeeper Saturday, the Spaniard should like his chances of scoring.
Luis Suarez (C) (Liverpool) – It would be crazy not to include Suarez in this week’s team after his four-goal, one-assist outing Wednesday. However, that’s not the only reason he makes yet another Best XI. Liverpool has scored at least four goals in their last three home matches and Suarez now has 10 of his 13 scores this term at Anfield. That being said, Saturday’s tie against West Ham marks another opportunity for Suarez to shine, especially while fellow striker Daniel Sturridge (ankle) remains injured.
Cahill – McAuley – Johnson - Théophile-Catherine
Nasri - Ramsey – Hazard
Welbeck – Negredo - Suarez