Week 32 of the Premiership saw seven teams score at least three goals, while five sides held their opponents scoreless. One team to achieve both feats was Liverpool, who took the league-lead after Chelsea laid an egg by falling 1-0 at Crystal Palace.
One of two Chelsea players in last week’s Best XI, goalkeeper Petr Cech prevented Crystal Palace players from scoring, but could not keep teammate John Terry off the scoresheet, as the Chelsea defender registered an own goal in the Blues’ loss. Besides conceding that blunder, Cech managed four saves.
Also suffering from the own goal was Branislav Ivanovic, who matched Everton’s Seamus Coleman in conceding once over the weekend.
Unlike them, Dejan Lovren posted a clean sheet in Southampton’s 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle.
Elsewhere, the Manchester City midfield duo of Yaya Toure and David Silva both were shown yellow cards, but Silva netted the Citizens’ lone goal at Arsenal.
Likewise, Kevin Mirallas came through as a second-half substitute to notch his sixth goal of the season for Everton.
A player to watch as the season concludes, Michu notched an assist in Swansea City’s win versus Norwich City.
Up front, the in-form Romelu Lukaku went scoreless despite attempting four shots Sunday.
Daniel Sturridge was also grounded, but his Liverpool comrade Luis Suarez – last week’s captain selection – paid dividends by tallying his 29th goal of the campaign.
So after a horrid prior performance, Week 32’s Best XI accomplished the mission of a rebound by totaling three goals, one assist, and one clean sheet.
Eyeing this weekend’s run of games, all 20 teams are scheduled to play, with only Chelsea and Manchester United possessing midweek Champions League matches to consider in their respective squad selections.
Kicking off Saturday, Manchester City host Southampton, a match that pits two of the league’s three highest-scoring teams over the past three weeks.
On the back half of the table, three ties feature the teams occupying 13th-18th place in the standings, with Swansea City (13th) playing Hull City (14th), Norwich City (15th) welcoming West Brom (17th), and Crystal Palace (16th) heading to Cardiff City (18th).
Another bottom-half game sees Aston Villa take on Fulham with both sides coming off two losses in a row.
To close out Saturday, both Chelsea and Manchester United will have revenge on the agenda in respective games against Stoke City and Newcastle. Chelsea fell 3-2 at Stoke earlier this season, while United lost 1-0 to Newcastle the same day.
The Sunday schedule will once again include both Merseyside squads, as Everton host Arsenal in a pivotal match with major Champions League implications, and Liverpool travel to West Ham in the weekend’s most uneven matchup in terms of current points.
Finally, Sunderland finish off the Premier League’s action with a second consecutive Monday match, this time a road trip to Tottenham.
With the final push for both England’s and fantasy leagues’ champions expected to heat up in the remaining weeks, let’s dive into Week 33’s Best XI.
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) - Although Guzan has conceded the third-most goals in the league this season, he faces a Fulham team that currently ranks dead last in away shot attempts per game (eight) this weekend. Also, the Cottagers have averaged less than a goal on the road this term and haven't won in 12 trips to Villa Park in club history.
Martin Skrtel (Liverpool) - Facing a West Ham side currently ranked second-last in percent of possession (41.9 percent), Skrtel doesn't figure to be busy in defense, especially considering Liverpool's offensive firepower. Further, Skrtel should be plenty familiar with defending West Ham forward Andy Carroll given the Englishman's stint with the Reds. As an added bonus, only Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, and Steven Gerrard have scored more goals for Liverpool than Skrtel's six this season, so the menacing defender holds sneaky potential from set-pieces.
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) - A tireless presence down Chelsea's left flank, Azpilicueta has somewhat flown under the radar despite starting regularly for the league's best defense. The Blues have held Stoke City scoreless in six straight meetings at Stamford Bridge, where they have also kept a clean sheet in five consecutive league games. With that in mind, Azpilicueta earns a place in this week's defense.
Danny Rose (Tottenham) - Although Rose plays in a Tottenham defense wounded four times last weekend, the left-back's side should find matters relatively easier this time around. That's because Spurs host a plummeting Sunderland team that has not scored more than one goal in a game since February 1. While Tottenham has been wildly unpredictable lately, Monday's game seems a decent chance for Rose.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) - Coming off scoring Chelsea's lone Champions League goal this week, Hazard will be relied upon to help Jose Mourinho's team reclaim top position in the coming games. This Saturday, he'll go against a Stoke City side unbeaten in its past five Premiership showings, but the Potters' defense has dipped away from home this season, allowing 30 away goals compared to 15 at home. Thus, Hazard should be determined to make a dent in the opposing defense and certainly boasts the ability to do so.
Yaya Toure (Manchester City) - A constant presence in Manchester City's loaded midfield, Toure should be decisive in tilting the scales between the Citizens' third-ranked possession game (57.7 percent) and Southampton's second-ranked setup (58.2 percent). With City presently tied for both the most home goals scored (48) and least home goals allowed (nine), Southampton figures to be hard-pressed in dictating the game as it usually does. Finally, Toure's team has scored at least twice the last three times Southampton have visited the Etihad Stadium, so history favors the Citizens' leading scorer's fantasy prospects.
Leandro Bacuna (Aston Villa) - With striker Christian Benteke (Achilles) out for the remainder of this season, Aston Villa will need to find goal sources elsewhere and Bacuna currently ranks second on the team with five. The 22-year-old goes against Fulham's league-worst defense on Saturday, a unit that has shipped at least two goals in 10 of its last 12 Premiership outings.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) - Statistically Tottenham's best midfielder with five goals and four assists, the 22-year-old Eriksen has done well for himself during his debut season in England's top-flight. He scored twice and dished out an assist in Spurs' most recent home game, so playing a Sunderland squad that has allowed at least two goals in five of its past six league encounters should bode well for Eriksen at White Hart Lane.
Edin Dzeko (Manchester City) - While teammate Sergio Aguero has been sidelined and a healthy Alvaro Negredo has been ineffective, Dzeko has relished his starting role as Man City's sole striker. On the season, the Bosnian is averaging more than three shot attempts per game, good for seventh in the league. That trigger-happy manner could benefit Dzeko this Saturday, when City look to keep its title pace against a Southampton side that has allowed three goals in two of its last three away games.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) - In red hot form of late, Rooney has brought his season totals to 15 goals and 10 assists, comfortably making him Manchester United's leader in both categories. He should easily be able to maintain those titles while Robin van Persie (knee) remains sidelined, and playing Newcastle this weekend doesn't hurt his chances. The Magpies have allowed seven goals over the past two weeks.
Luis Suarez (C) (Liverpool) - The Premiership's top scorer (29 goals) and assister (11), Suarez is a must-have when it comes to fantasy leagues. That definitely holds true this weekend, when the Uruguayan heads to West Ham to play a Hammers side ranked last in shots conceded per home game (16.6). Suarez bagged a brace in the reverse fixture this season and with Liverpool having scored at least three goals in seven of its past eight league games, Suarez dons this week's captain's armband yet again.
Skrtel - Azpilicueta - Rose
Hazard - Toure - Bacuna - Eriksen
Dzeko - Rooney - Suarez (C)