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EPL Best XI: Top Picks for Week 16

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

Like the installment before it, Week 15’s Best XI flirted with disaster, but narrowly avoided such tribulation thanks to the exploits of their South American captain. However, both his heroics and the performances of his peers were much less significant than in the last gameweek, yielding one of the more forgetful Best XI showings to date.

In goal, Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet did not allow West Ham to score on him, but the same cannot be said for his own teammate Martin Skrtel, whose 66th minute own-goal prevented the Belgian from earning clean sheet points. Along with that, Mignolet made just one save Saturday.

Defensively, Gary Cahill and Chelsea stunningly allowed three goals to Stoke, giving the Potters just their second win in 12 tries. Then, despite Gareth McAuley leading his team in clearances (eight), interceptions (four), and aerial duels won (four), the defender was unable to keep a clean sheet, as West Brom fell 2-0 to Norwich City.

In one of few bright spots, Glen Johnson picked up an assist by finding Best XI teammate Luis Suarez with a cross late in Liverpool’s 4-1 win. However, Kévin Théophile-Catherine’s sleeper selection failed to pay dividends, as it was his opponents, Crystal Palace, who put forth a scoreless defensive effort in Saturday’s 2-0 tie.

Last weekend’s midfield trio entered play with a combined 18 goals and 10 assists, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their respective performances in Week 15. Samir Nasri’s most notable fantasy contribution unfortunately came in the form of a yellow card, while Aaron Ramsey mustered nothing outside of minutes played, and for just the second time this season, Eden Hazard did not attempt a shot in Chelsea’s high-scoring road loss to Stoke.

Similarly, last week’s strike-force had it’s share of troubles, but thankfully one selection paid off.

In light of Robin van Persie’s return and a rare Javier Hernandez start, Danny Welbeck was relegated to an unused substitute, as Manchester United was blanked at home by Newcastle. Also restricted, Alvaro Negredo was withdrawn after 62 ineffective minutes against a physical Southampton defense.

Unlike virtually all of his Best XI teammates, Luis Suarez proved to be an excellent selection and captain. The Uruguayan peppered West Ham’s goal to the tune of nine shots (five on target) and two goals, saving face for last week’s side.

With that gut-wrenching review now complete, let’s look ahead to this week’s slate of games with new optimism, since fantasy sports certainly have their shares of ups and downs.

Week 16 of fantasy Premier League play sees all 20 sides in action and, unlike recent weeks, no teams will have midweek competition to consider, possibly allowing for more regular squad selections. Yes, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Man United, Tottenham, and Swansea will be coming off European play this week, but with a normal rest period following their respective matches at the weekend, it’s likely they’ll be able to deploy their strongest sides.

In that regard, Arsenal at Man City headlines this gameweek’s slate of games, with Newcastle-Southampton and Tottenham-Liverpool also featuring tightly contested teams.

On the other hand, Chelsea host Crystal Palace and Everton welcome Fulham in some of this weekend’s expectedly more lopsided fixtures.

Now, in a rebound effort, let’s try to highlight some of Week 16’s best fantasy Premiership prospects.

Formation: 3-4-3

Goalkeeper:
Tim Howard
(Everton) – Fantasy’s best keeper to date, Howard hosts a Fulham side that has failed to score in five of their last six away outings. With an impressive eight clean sheets through his first 15 games this season, Howard and Everton will look to extend their streak of 10 straight home wins against the Cottagers with a solid defensive effort.

Defenders:
Branislav Ivanovic
(Chelsea) – The Blues' defense has shockingly allowed six goals in their past two showings, matching the total of home goals they’ve conceded all season. Luckily, the Blues return to their stomping ground this weekend to play Crystal Palace, scorers of just three away goals this term.

James Tomkins (West Ham) – With opponents Sunderland without a goal in their last five away matches, Tomkins and West Ham will look at Saturday’s match as a perfect opportunity to earn three points and distance themselves from the relegation zone. Returning home after leaking four goals at Anfield last weekend, Tomkins is a solid bounce-back candidate.

Bryan Oviedo (Everton) – Since Leighton Baines (toe) went down to injury, Everton has experienced no drop-off at left-back, as Oviedo has scored two goals and handed out a pair of assists in the Toffees' last three contests. Over that same span, the Costa Rican’s side has allowed just one goal. As such, Oviedo is a very promising option against Fulham this Saturday and can probably be afforded by most fantasy owners.

Midfielders:
David Silva
(Manchester City) – The Citizens remain the only team this season with a 100 percent home record, so they’ll be confident ahead of hosting league-leaders Arsenal this Saturday. Silva started and scored Wednesday versus European Champions Bayern Munich in his return from a month layoff due to a calf injury, so manager Manuel Pellegrini should be tempted to hand the Spaniard another first-team selection. If so, look for Silva to help City add to their 29 goals in seven games at the Etihad Stadium thus far.

Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) – The German figures to be Silva’s opposing No. 10 midfielder Saturday and is coming off consecutive league matches with a goal. Arsenal’s record-signing was brought in to be a difference-maker in games like these, so expect Ozil to be plenty involved as the Gunners aim to make a statement in a difficult away atmosphere.

Oscar (Chelsea) – After missing a few matches with a minor ankle injury, Oscar returned to Chelsea’s starting lineup during their midweek Champions League triumph and provided an assist along the way. The Brazilian goes against a Crystal Palace team with clean sheets in four of their last five, but with Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge, Oscar should be able to break their defense.

Michu (Swansea City) – Michu played a full 90 minutes Monday after missing a few weeks with an ankle ailment. The versatile attacker faces the league’s second-worst defense in Norwich City this weekend. Although the Canaries fare much better at home, Michu returning to Swansea instantly makes the Swans more threatening moving forward.

Forwards:
Romelu Lukaku
(C) (Everton) – Lukaku is pitted against a Fulham defense this weekend that has let in nine goals over their last three away games. Further, the Cottagers are expected to be without their defensive leader Brede Hangeland once again. With that in mind, Lukaku should like his chances of adding to his tally of eight goals come Saturday and earns this week’s captain designation.

Roberto Soldado (Tottenham) – Coming off a hat-trick in Tottenham’s midweek Europa League victory, Soldado will be eager to carry his form over to Premier League play against Liverpool on Sunday. The Reds are far more vulnerable defensively away from Anfield and could be lacking leadership without captain Steven Gerrard, potentially opening the door for Soldado to take advantage.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) – Suspended for last weekend’s loss to Newcastle, Rooney returns Sunday for United’s away match against Aston Villa. The Englishman leads his club in goals (eight) and assists (five) this season and with partner Robin van Persie ruled out for the next months with a thigh injury, Rooney should be the focal point of United’s attack this weekend in a game they need to win.

Howard

Ivanovic – Tomkins – Oviedo

Silva – Ozil – Oscar – Michu

Lukaku (C) – Soldado - Rooney