With only five games last weekend, fantasy Premiership leagues were always bound for some unusual results. Fortunately, some of the top teams – Chelsea, Manchester United, and Southampton - took care of business to avoid throwing another wrench into the fray.
Looking at last week’s Best XI, a stout defense and a keen captain selection produced a commendable point total.
At goalkeeper, Norwich City’s John Ruddy made two saves, but was beaten on a penalty kick to lose his clean sheet bid during the second half against Stoke City.
Conversely, all three of last week’s defenders earned points for holding their respective opponents at bay. Chelsea’s John Terry and Manchester United’s Patrice Evra escaped the weekend unscathed, but Southampton’s Dejan Lovren was shown a yellow card to put a slight damper on his clean sheet performance.
Like the defense, last week’s midfield unit also possessed a trio of clean sheets. Juan Mata of Manchester United and Adam Lallana of Southampton were two beneficiaries, while Chelsea’s Eden Hazard pitched a clean sheet and scored a penalty kick goal as the Best XI captain.
On the other end of the coin was Steve Sidwell, whose Fulham side fell 3-1 at Cardiff City.
That game featured Cardiff striker Fraizer Campbell, who failed to score on two shot attempts.
Southampton’s Rickie Lambert mirrored Campbell’s scoreless, two-shot outing, while Robin van Persie notched an assist for Manchester United and also earned a yellow card.
To recap, Week 29’s side produced six clean sheets, two yellow cards, one goal, and one assist, an impressive return considering the lack of options last weekend.
Thankfully for fantasy owners, England’s top-flight contains a full slate of games this weekend.
The only other considerations in terms of scheduling are Arsenal, Manchester City, and Tottenham coming off midweek European matches and Spurs, Chelsea, and Manchester United continuing play across the continent next week.
Previewing this weekend’s Premiership action, after three weeks without a league game, Manchester City opens Saturday at Hull City. Later in the day, some favorable fantasy matchups include Everton hosting Cardiff City, Southampton welcoming Norwich City, and perhaps Newcastle versus Fulham.
In more tightly contested matchups, Swansea City-West Brom and Sunderland-Crystal Palace pit teams fearing relegation.
At the other end of the table, league-leaders Chelsea finish the day at Aston Villa.
Saturday’s eight games set the stage for two epic rivalry encounters on Sunday.
In England’s northwest region, second-place Liverpool head to Old Trafford to play sixth-place Manchester United, a game of teams with surprisingly different fortunes thus far.
Following that tussle, England’s capital will hold this season’s second North London Derby, as Arsenal visit White Hart Lane to play Tottenham with six points separating the sides.
Without further ado, it’s time to unveil the Best XI for gameweek 30 of the Premier League.
Vito Mannone (Sunderland) – In 17 games this term, Mannone boasts an eye-opening 77 saves and seven clean sheets. This time around, he hosts Crystal Palace, a setup that have not only scored the fewest total goals (19), but also the fewest away goals (six) this season.
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City) – After blanking Hull City 2-0 previously this season, Manchester City will look for a similar result this Saturday. Kompany’s team will be coming off a midweek game at Barcelona, one of the world’s best offensive teams. Thus, when playing a far inferior league opponent, City should find the sledding a bit easier.
Seamus Coleman (Everton) – Playing to a scoreless draw in August, Everton hosts Cardiff City this weekend in the return fixture. Before scoring three against the league’s worst defense last weekend, Cardiff had been held without a goal in four straight games. Further, the Bluebirds have failed to score in eight of their past 10 away league ties, so Coleman’s Everton side shouldn’t be troubled defensively.
Luke Shaw (Southampton) – England’s blossoming left-back has 10 clean sheets to his name thus far and could add another Saturday versus a poor Norwich City attack. While Southampton’s home form has taken a dip, only Crystal Palace have scored fewer goals than Norwich City this season. As such, Shaw will look to make it back-to-back clean sheets come Saturday.
Yaya Toure (Manchester City) – Tied for the league lead in goals from a midfielder with 13, Toure scored earlier this season against this weekend’s opponent Hull City. The Tigers were thumped 4-1 in their last league game and have won just once in their past seven home games. With City looking to keep pace for the title, Toure should see some scoring chances come his way.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) – Named Arsenal’s player of the month for February, Oxlade-Chamberlain is in top form at the moment. The 20-year-old was the Gunners’ best outfield player against European champions Bayern Munich this week and will need to rise to the occasion versus arch-rivals Tottenham this Sunday. Arsenal hardly ever fail to score, so with an injured midfield requiring someone to step up, look for “The Ox” to lead the charge.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – With 13 goals and seven helpers, Hazard has been fantasy’s best midfielder to date. In Week 30, the Belgian goes against Aston Villa. Oddly, the Villains have struggled at Villa Park this season, conceding the third-most goals at home. Also helping Hazard is the fact that Chelsea has scored at least twice in six of its past seven meeting with Villa across all competitions.
Adam Lallana (Southampton) – Yes, it’s Lallana’s third straight Best XI selection. And yes, he failed to score in the two previous inclusions. However, against Norwich City’s second-worst road defense, Lallana receives another chance. The midfielder has been unlucky not to score since early February, so he receives the benefit of the doubt in a tasty matchup this weekend.
Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – In two games since returning from an ankle injury that cost him over a month, Lukaku has kicked on to score in both contests. With 20 Premier League appearances for Everton, Lukaku has tallied an outstanding 10 goals and five assists. This weekend, he’ll aim to make it three-in-three versus Cardiff City’s second worst ranked defense.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) – The Man United legend has scored in consecutive league games, which currently has him tied with strike partner Robin van Persie for the team lead of 11 goals. However, Rooney also leads the Red Devils with 10 assists this term, including one last weekend. In a fierce tie against Liverpool this weekend, Rooney could exploit a comparatively poor Reds away defense.
Luis Suarez (C) (Liverpool) – The Premiership’s leading scorer broke over a month-long stretch without a goal last weekend, while contributing an assist as well. Although he’ll play a Manchester United defense coming off three consecutive clean sheets, Liverpool have scored at least three times in four straight matches. With that in mind, Suarez figures to be active, especially with Liverpool firmly in the title picture, and earns the captain’s armband.
Kompany – Coleman – Shaw
Toure – Oxlade-Chamberlain – Hazard – Lallana
Lukaku – Rooney – Suarez (C)