'Tis the season to be jolly and judging by the performance of last week’s Best XI, you can see why. Four goals, three assists, and three clean sheets put Week 17’s team on the nice list, while an own goal and yellow card were of the naughty nature.
At goalkeeper, David de Gea only faced one shot on goal, but unfortunately was unable to make the save, breaking his clean sheet in the 81st minute of Manchester United’s win over West Ham.
Defensively, Vincent Kompany was in the holiday mood, providing a first half goal for Manchester City, before later gifting an own goal to Fulham in the second half. Merseyside rivals Glen Johnson and Phil Jagielka both allowed one goal, with the latter’s Everton side having their clean sheet bid undone by an own goal.
Across the midfield, David Silva set up City’s go-ahead goal in their win over Fulham. Then, the remaining midfielders, Theo Walcott, Eden Hazard, and Nathan Redman each earned clean sheet points for their respective roles in scoreless draws, with Walcott also picking up a yellow card.
Up front, Alvaro Negredo assisted his team’s final goal with a cross, and Rickie Lambert ended his goal drought by scoring against Tottenham. Along with them, last week’s captain, Luis Suarez, continued his incredible season by scoring Liverpool’s first goal, unselfishly setting up their second, and netting another to finish his team’s scoring.
In all, it was a mostly delightful performance from last week’s team, but with a full slate of games again this Thursday, it’s already time to shake up the presents to see what this week’s Premiership may behold.
The biggest gift under the tree is undoubtedly Liverpool at Manchester City, which pits the league’s two highest scoring teams to date. However, some matches of the stocking-stuffer variety, like Everton-Sunderland or West Ham-Arsenal, may prove to be more fruitful for fantasy owners looking to take advantage of knowing what they’ll likely receive.
Reflecting holiday spirit, managers may feel compelled to gift playing time to some new players amid the chaotic rush of games, so consider possible squad exchanges before making your Boxing Day selections.
That being said, let’s dive into this gameweek’s potential cast of fantasy helpers.
Tim Howard (Everton) – By posting a clean sheet in eight-of-17 appearances this season, Howard has led Everton to the league’s best defensive record thus far. On Thursday, the Toffees host a Sunderland side that has failed to score in their last six away matches, making Howard the top goalkeeper option this gameweek.
Seamus Coleman (Everton) – One of fantasy’s very best defenders, Coleman has found the back of the net in consecutive games, but may be bothered by allowing just one goal in both ties. As such, Everton should be eyeing a clean sheet at home against Sunderland, and their defense could be boosted by the return of Leighton Baines, although Bryan Oviedo has filled-in famously.
Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) – Coming off a clean sheet in which manager Jose Mourinho deployed a blatantly defensive gameplan, look for Ivanovic to have plenty of support in stopping Swansea City from scoring this week. While the Chelsea defense may be rotated ahead of Sunday’s game against Liverpool, Ivanovic is a stable presence at right-back and should bode well versus a Swansea side that’s scored just one goal in three straight games.
Sebastien Bassong (Norwich City) – With a streak of three unbeaten, the Canaries are on good form and have one of the league’s best home defenses thus far this season. Bassong anchors that unit and faces a Fulham team experiencing one of its worst seasons in recent memory this gameweek, so the defender makes for an on-sale gift.
Yaya Toure (Manchester City) – Over his last four outings, Toure has netted four goals, bringing his league total to nine this term, already his best seasonal mark in the Premiership. Given Thursday’s matchup against Liverpool, goals should be expected, especially from the Citizens, who have amazingly scored three or more in 10 of their last 12 competitive outings.
Theo Walcott (Arsenal) – After an injury lay-away, Walcott will likely use the crowded holiday schedule to build his fitness, making him one of Arsenal’s more certain lineup selections moving forward. Along with that, the Gunners have won their last six matches versus London opponents West Ham, while scoring three or more in the last three, bolstering Walcott’s prospects.
Yoan Gouffran (Newcastle) – With Newcastle unbeaten in their last five home showings, and Stoke City winless in their last six away outings, history favors the Magpies in Thursday’s fixture. In-form Newcastle’s second leading scorer, Gouffran tends to play as more of left winger, so his advanced position could help him break an injured Potters’ defense.
Jay Rodriguez (Southampton) – Although the Saints have lost their past five games at Cardiff, they’ll be desperate to break their current steak of six unbeaten in the league against a team whose manager is on thin ice. Rodriguez leads Southampton with six goals this season, so he’ll be leaned upon as they look to turn their recent run of form around Thursday.
Romelu Lukaku (C) (Everton) – The Belgian’s Everton side has scored at least three goals in their last three home games. Although Sunderland is coming off back-to-back clean sheets, Everton’s attack should find little trouble against the Black Cats come Thursday. The Boxing Day tilt provides a perfect opportunity for Lukaku to revive his scoring form after going scoreless in his last four outings, making him this week’s captain selection.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) – With strikers Robin van Persie (thigh) and Danny Welbeck (knee) banged-up, United’s offense figures to go through Rooney versus Hull City. The Englishman has been seasonally generous of late, dishing out three assists in his past two games, but considering the five goals he’s scored in United’s last couple games against the Tigers, Rooney could be finding the scoresheet as well Thursday.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) – Suarez’s inclusion in the Best XI and fantasy teams at large has become obligatory in recent weeks. If capable, it’s highly recommended to get Suarez on your fantasy team, especially while fellow striker Daniel Sturridge (ankle) remains sidelined. Although the Uruguayan goes against Manchester City’s stingy home defense this week, Liverpool’s record of at least three goals in six of their last seven provides further reason for selecting their talisman.
Coleman – Ivanovic – Bassong
Toure – Walcott – Gouffran – Rodriguez
Lukaku (C) – Rooney - Suarez