This article is part of our FPL Roundup series.
With just over a month left in the Premier League season, fantasy owners need to be aware of the implications of an all-too-common occurrence at this time of year: the relegation scrap.
As teams in the bottom half of the table strive to avoid being sent down to the Championship, they tend to employ tactics to prevent themselves from losing. More times than not, it seems these contests end in 0-0, 1-0 or 1-1 score lines, which gives fantasy owners good opportunities to clean-sheet hunt as the campaign winds down.
This past weekend, West Ham opened their home tie against 18th-place Swansea just five points clear of the drop zone, making it vital they keep their distance from that dreaded fate. Predictably, this resulted in a 1-0 win for the Hammers, who hadn't posted a clean sheet since mid-January.
Elsewhere, 19th-place Middlesbrough entered their home match versus Burnley with similar intentions. Although Burnley's seven-point cushion from relegation relieved them of some pressure, both teams' cautious approaches culminated in a goalless affair.
Typically, when a team sets up with the aim of simply not conceding goals, they can be pretty successful in doing so; just look at the results of West Brom at Manchester United (0-0), Stoke City at Manchester City (0-0) and Hull versus Liverpool (2-0) in recent weeks. However, when both teams enter a match with the same mindset, and neither team is very gifted offensively, the fine margins seem most conducive to producing a clean sheet for one or both outfits.
While the defensive records of teams like Hull, Swansea and West Ham may make it hard to trust them going into a game, their end-of-season focuses should instill more belief in fantasy owners than normally, which is something to keep in mind when selecting defenders and goalkeepers in the remaining weeks.
Whereas relegation battles can offer fantasy owners good value on inexpensively priced defensive options, an 18-year-old midfielder at Everton has emerged as an excellent asset since the calendar turned to 2017.
Then priced at just £4.3m in the Premier League's official fantasy game, Tom Davies started the year by either scoring or assisting in each of this first three league appearances. Although he understandably endured a dip in form during a sustained run in the side afterward, manager Ronald Koeman has stuck with him, and Davies' presence is beginning to pay dividends once again.
Fresh off inking a five-year contract extension last week, Davies needed only 30 seconds to score Sunday against Leicester. That came after the Englishman recorded an assist in Everton's previous home match.
In games that Davies has started since being promoted back in January, the Toffees have won seven times, posted three draws and lost just twice. That includes six starts over Everton's current seven-match home winning streak.
Although his second-half totals of two goals and three assists aren't overly impressive, Davies' cheap fantasy price, consistent playing time and notable upside make him an ideal option to round out lineups and save money to invest elsewhere.
Similarly, Davies' teammate at Everton and fellow youngster, Mason Holgate, represents another cost-effective option for fantasy owners to incorporate during the final stretch of this season.
The 20-year-old actually began the campaign as a starter in the Toffees defense, earning 16 fantasy points over their first three matches, but then dropped out of the side after the summer addition of Ashley Williams. In fact, from Gameweeks 4 to 29, Holgate made just six appearances.
However, after right back Seamus Coleman – the second-ranked fantasy defender at the time – gruesomely had his leg broken while on international duty, Holgate has returned to start Everton's last three games. While he's only accumulated four fantasy points in doing so, two of those matches came against Liverpool and Manchester United.
After playing well enough against those heavyweights to keep his place, Holgate can now look forward to matchups with Burnley (H), West Ham (A), Swansea (A) and Watford (H) before the season is over.
If those fixtures don't entice fantasy owners enough, then the fact that Holgate only costs £4.0m definitely should. Knowing that, they should return to the well and secure Holgate to end the campaign, much like they may have done to start the season.