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EPL Best XI: Top Picks for Gameweek 23

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.

Following a weekend of FA Cup action, the Premiership’s usual slate of games will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Before dissecting what may unfold in gameweek 23, let’s review how the previous Best XI fared.

At goalkeeper, Joe Hart let two shots past him against Cardiff City; however, he did manage four saves to salvage some value.

Defensively, last week’s unit disappointed. Pablo Zabaleta wasted a promising clean sheet opportunity, Kieran Gibbs did not play in Arsenal’s 2-0 win, and Leighton Baines allowed one goal at West Brom.

Fortunately, the midfield compensated for deficiencies elsewhere. Mesut Ozil earned a clean sheet, Yohan Cabaye put forth a tremendous two-goal effort at West Ham, and Christian Eriksen continued his strong form by notching an assist. That left Adam Lallana as the only midfield man to come up empty from a fantasy perspective.

Up front, three good matchups yielded zero goals, as Olivier Giroud went scoreless, Alvaro Negredo was shown a yellow card in just 62 minutes of play, and captain Luis Suarez surprisingly was held at bay versus Aston Villa.

Moving forward, Gameweek 23 features quite a competitive list of fixtures. Headlining the group of games is the biggest Merseyside Derby in recent memory, as just one point separates Liverpool and Everton and both clubs eye Champions League qualification for next season.

Also on Tuesday, Manchester United versus last-place Cardiff City seems like a matchup for fantasy owners to exploit; however, the defending champions’ embarrassing recent form is less than reassuring.

Wednesday sees Chelsea host West Ham in a London Derby, while Manchester City at Tottenham makes for another intriguing tie.

As previously mentioned, most clubs will be coming off FA cup matches over the weekend, but other than that consideration, squad selections should be mostly unaffected.

Without further ado, let’s project some of this week’s best fantasy options.

Formation: 3-4-3

Goalkeeper:
Petr Cech
(Chelsea) – With clean sheets in three of his last four games against West Ham, Cech should like his chances of posting a ninth scoreless performance of the season come Wednesday. The Hammers are averaging less than one goal per game on the road and in Chelsea’s past five showings across all competitions, they’ve conceded just once.

Defenders:
Patrice Evra
(Manchester United) – Only one team has scored fewer away goals than Cardiff City this season, making Tuesday’s visit to Old Trafford a daunting trip. Although United are currently in horrible form, hosting the league’s worst team should be a welcomed opportunity. Evra scored against the Bluebirds in November, but a clean sheet would be a more realistic expectation this time around.

Phil Bardsley (Sunderland) – Following a terrible start to the campaign, Sunderland has lost just once over its last 12 ties across all competitions. This week, Bardsley and the Black Cats play host to a Stoke City team that has scored eight goals in 11 away matches. Although the Potters blanked Sunderland prior this season, they could experience a reverse of fortune this week.

Leonardo Bacuna (Aston Villa) – Coming off consecutive games against Arsenal and Liverpool, Aston Villa return home this week to face a much less imposing West Brom attack. Even though Bacuna’s side has performed better on the road, the Baggies have failed to win their last eight away matches. As such, the scales are tilted in Aston Villa’s favor. Bacuna, a scorer of two goals this season, makes for a nice sleeper selection.

Midfielders:
Eden Hazard
(Chelsea) – With Chelsea having scored at least two goals in 15 of its last 16 home Premiership outings, offensive fireworks could be on the docket versus a banged-up West Ham defense that has allowed 17 goals in its last five games across all competitions. Hazard provided an assist in Chelsea’s 3-0 triumph over the Hammers in November and since that game, has only missed out on either a goal or an assist just four times in the league.

Juan Mata (Manchester United) – Hazard’s former teammate, Mata was made Manchester United’s record-signing over the weekend. The Spaniard is expected to start against Cardiff City, a team that has allowed at least two goals in its last six league games. Mata, who scored in his Chelsea debut, should be a threat, especially if new comrades Wayne Rooney (groin) and Robin van Persie (thigh) return from injury.

Kevin Mirallas (Everton) – A midfielder who excels in the final third, Mirallas has scored in Everton’s past two Premier League games. The Belgian now sits on four goals and five assists this season, which includes both a goal and an assist versus Liverpool. With the Reds missing defensive-minded players like Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson, and Lucas Leiva, to name a few, Mirallas and Everton’s attack could benefit.

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal) – After a brace last weekend, Cazorla responded with another goal in Arsenal’s FA Cup win on Friday. That brings Cazorla’s goal haul over the past four games to an even four, evidencing the Spaniard’s return to brilliant form. He’ll take the show on the road at Southampton this week and with Saints defender Dejan Lovren (knee) out, Cazorla could take advantage of a recently wounded opponent.

Forwards:
Sergio Aguero
(C) (Manchester City) – Since coming back from a calf injury, all Aguero has done is score six times in four matches across all competitions. In fact, the Argentine has failed to score just once during his past 10 games for club and country. Put simply, Aguero is on fire. He netted a brace in City’s 6-0 trashing of Tottenham earlier this term and with Spurs actually worse at home, “Kun” could very well strike again at White Hart Lane, earning him this week’s captain selection.

Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – Here’s the scenario with Lukaku: after a strong start to the season, he’s scored just once in his last nine games. While he’s provided four assists over that span, some still may shy away from the Belgian, while others figure he’s due to score. Given Liverpool’s current injury crisis in defense, the latter alternative seems more appealing. Lukaku struck twice in November’s Merseyside Derby and will aim to duplicate that performance in Tuesday’s titanic tussle.

Wilfried Bony (Swansea City) – With four goals in his last four competitive fixtures, Bony has found his form and is gifted with an excellent matchup this week against Fulham. The Cottagers’ atrocious defense has squandered 10 goals more than any team this season, while also leaking at least two goals in six of their last seven away matches. With that in mind, Bony is up this gameweek.


Cech

Evra – Bardsley – Bacuna

Hazard – Mata – Mirallas – Cazorla

Aguero (C) – Lukaku - Bony