Another week in the Premiership brought about another league leader. Gameweek 25 saw Arsenal get thumped 5-1 by Liverpool and Manchester City surprisingly manage just a draw at Norwich City. Those results paved the way for Chelsea to reach the summit following a 3-0 win over Newcastle, a game that also benefited the Best XI.
With regard to last week’s side, at goalkeeper, Southampton’s Artur Boruc conceded two goals over a span of six minutes in a draw against Stoke City.
In defense, both Pablo Zabaleta and Branislav Ivanovic earned clean sheets, with the later right back also supplying an assist. Then, unfortunately, Marcos Alonso’s Sunderland side allowed two goals after losing Wes Brown to a red card in the fourth minute of Saturday’s match.
Across the midfield, Yaya Toure kept a clean sheet, but could now be facing a three-match ban after an incident during Man City’s draw at Carrow Road. Also receiving clean sheet points was Eden Hazard, whose hat-trick led Chelsea to the top of the table. A former Stamford Bridge outcast, Juan Mata recorded an assist for the third consecutive game in Manchester United’s home draw; however, his compatriot, Santi Cazorla, proved to be fruitless selection, as the Spaniard played a small role in Arsenal’s Anfield humiliation.
Last week’s strike force was carried by captain Robin van Persie, who scored his eighth career goal versus Fulham on Sunday. While the Dutchman’s selection paid dividends, his partners up front, Edin Dzeko and Jay Rodriguez, both attempted four shots in scoreless displays. In fact, Dzeko only featured as a second-half substitute.
To tally, the side registered four goals, four clean sheets, and two assists in Week 25.
Moving forward, the league reshuffles quickly this week, as all 20 teams play either Tuesday or Wednesday. That turnaround comes before FA Cup matches at the weekend, which will temporarily put the Premiership on hold.
Looking at Week 26’s fixtures, Arsenal headlines the action once again, as the Gunners host Manchester United in a rebound attempt from their discouraging loss on Saturday. Elsewhere, another top-half tussle sees Newcastle welcome Tottenham.
In matchups that could be exploited for fantasy purposes, Liverpool against Fulham seems to bode well for Liverpool’s attackers, while Manchester City at home versus Sunderland could also inspire goals from a Citizens team that was held at bay over the weekend.
Everton playing Crystal Palace and Chelsea at West Brom also appear to be uneven matchups, which contrast from West Ham against Norwich and Stoke versus Swansea, two ties that feature teams in the 25-27 point range.
Given some of those considerations, let’s dive into this week’s Best XI.
Tim Howard (Everton) – In Howard’s previous matchup against Crystal Palace this season, the American made two saves en route to a clean sheet. This week, the Eagles visit Goodison Park scoreless in their past three away outings and with just five goals in 12 away games thus far. Those statistics certainly paint a favorable picture for Howard come Wednesday.
Seamus Coleman (Everton) – Leading all defenders with five goals this season, Coleman has been a fantasy star. The Irishman also boasts nine clean sheets and stands a strong chance of adding to that total versus the dismal aforementioned Crystal Palace away attack that ranks last in road goals. With Everton lacking firepower at the moment, expect Coleman to be highly involved all over the pitch this week.
Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) – A Best XI selection over the weekend saw Ivanovic follow up his goal against Manchester City with an assist versus Newcastle. This week, the right back heads to West Brom in a game that Chelsea will look to avenge a 2-2 draw from earlier this season. The Blues have kept a clean sheet in four consecutive away ties, as well as their past four matches across all competitions, so Ivanovic’s stock is on the rise.
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City) – The Man City skipper’s seven clearances and team-high three interceptions helped preserve a clean sheet at Norwich City on Saturday. Meanwhile, his opponent this week, Sunderland, was held scoreless at home by Hull City. Traveling to Manchester won’t make matters easier for Gus Poyet’s outfit, especially considering City’s comparatively better home defense, which earns Kompany a selection.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – The Belgian’s hat-trick allowed Chelsea to claim the league lead over the weekend and also brought him level with Manchester City’s Yaya Toure for the highest goal total from a midfielder this season with 12. Hazard now eyes a matchup against West Brom, a team that has failed to win in 14 of their past 15 outings. After scoring at The Hawthorns last season, Hazard carries significant moment into this year’s fixture.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – Although he experienced an off game Sunday against Everton, ultimately being substituted at the 59-minute mark, Eriksen still gets the call this week. The 21-year-old is a gifted attacker and could prove to be a difference-maker at Newcastle. The Magpies have shipped three goals in both of their two most recent showings and all six scores came from midfielders. Enter Tottenham’s league-best away record and Eriksen seems a bigger threat this time around.
Kevin Nolan (West Ham) – The veteran has propelled West Ham to 2-0 wins with a brace in back-to-back games. While it would be some feat to extend that steak to three games, Nolan actually has another ripe opportunity to score goals this week versus Norwich City. Sure, the Canaries are fresh off a clean sheet against Manchester City, but they’ve fared far worse on the road this season, allowing more than twice on average away from home.
David Silva (Manchester City) – As just mentioned, Silva and City’s high-powered attack were surprisingly grounded versus Norwich City over the weekend. Fortunately for the Citizens, they return to the Etihad Stadium this week to play a Sunderland side currently ranked fourth-last in goals allowed. Additionally, City have scored at least three goals in their past four home contests against Sunderland. The Black Cats will be without suspended defender Wes Brown and since Silva’s teammate Yaya Toure could potentially be suspended also, more offensive duties could be required from the Spaniard.
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) – Three goals and two assists sprinkled across his last five appearances have Benteke back on the kind of form that made him a Villa Park sensation last season. The Belgian hit the woodwork with a shot over the weekend, but Tuesday’s match at Cardiff City could present more finishing opportunities. Cardiff have allowed two or more goals in eight of their last nine league games and Benteke’s Villains have been road warriors this season, so the striker’s prospects look bright.
Daniel Sturridge (C) (Liverpool) – The hottest striker in the Premiership, Sturridge has stunningly scored in seven straight games across all competitions. Considering his matchup against Fulham’s diabolical defense this week, the Englishman could very well continue his dominance of late. The Cottagers have allowed at least two goals in their past five games, while Liverpool have scored that amount all but once over their last six ties. Further, Sturridge claimed a hat-trick versus Fulham last season. With those notes in mind, Sturridge earns this week’s captain selection.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) – Don’t look now, but the Uruguayan has scored just once over his past five competitive outings. However, to his credit, Suarez has accumulated four assists over that span, proving he’s not a one-trick pony. Liverpool’s leading scorer should feast on Fulham’s league-worst defense this week, as he did previously this season by scoring a brace versus the Cottagers in September. Joining his strike partner Daniel Sturridge in this week’s Best XI, Suarez should have an appetite for goals Wednesday.
Coleman – Ivanovic – Kompany
Hazard – Eriksen – Nolan – Silva
Benteke – Sturridge (C) - Suarez