This article is part of our The Armband series.
Close your eyes. Now open them again. Yes, it's another weekend full of Premier League action. Per usual, we'll try and make sense of the fixture overload and take a gamble at the players least likely to get rested. It doesn't help that Man City host Tottenham on Saturday, making it a little harder to use a captain from either side.
As for the previous gameweek, things didn't go nearly as planned. Sergio Aguero managed a late goal, but Liverpool and Arsenal were held scoreless and Harry Kane didn't find the score sheet in a 2-0 win. The usual names like Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva came through while lesser-used options like Willian and Shinji Okazaki topped the lists. That's what can happen when teams are playing three or four matches in a tight period. With Gameweek 18 already upon us, the hope is that we won't be as surprised as the midweek matches.
Arsenal are suddenly seventh in the table, but have a favorable match at home against Newcastle, who have lost their last three matches and allowed nine goals in their last three on the road. Alexis Sanchez continues to start and play the majority of minutes so I won't back away from him now. The Gunners have slipped up in recent matches, but this is a good spot to get back on track and that'll be through Alexis, who has five shots on goal and 12 chances created in the last three. If you want risk, Alexandre Lacazette will likely return to the starting XI and the Emirates is his favorite place to be, scoring there in his last two. The problem is that he hasn't surpassed six fantasy points in his last 11 appearances. A clean sheet could be had for Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin, but Newcastle have already scored at Man Utd and Man City.
Chelsea are the next side to examine at home against Southampton. The Blues are coming off a nice win, and while the Saints have allowed just nine away goals this season, they gave up two to Man City and three at Liverpool. Eden Hazard was unfortunate not to make the score sheet at Huddersfield, and he only played 68 minutes to be fully ready for this one (hopefully). Willian stood out last match, but there's a good chance he won't start. Alvaro Morata should return to the lineup and if he doesn't, Hazard may be the only reasonable play for captain.
Both Man United and Liverpool are on the road against West Brom and Bournemouth, respectively. West Brom just kept Liverpool scoreless at Anfield and Bournemouth have allowed nine goals at home this season, so neither one of these sides will be easy to back.
With Paul Pogba still out, I don't feel comfortable giving the armband to any of the Red Devils in this spot, and that includes Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian scored last match, but the last time he scored away from home was back in September. Liverpool are a bit harder to trust after their last result, but I'll still back them for at least a goal against Bournemouth. At this point, Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho are the best bets as long as they start. Salah didn't have a shot on net last match for the first time in a while, but that won't become a trend. As for Coutinho, he's been slightly more reliable with nine shots on goal and nine chances created in his last four appearances.
I'm completely avoiding Spurs, with De Bruyne the only one from Man City that I'll consider. At this point, I don't want to play the Aguero against Gabriel Jesus game. That leaves us with a number of differential captains in a weird week.
Jamie Vardy (v. Crystal Palace), Xherdan Shaqiri (v. West Ham), Richarlison (v. Huddersfield) and Wayne Rooney (v. Swansea) are all in good positions to capitalize. I'd even throw Riyad Mahrez into the conversation on a cruising Leicester team against a Palace side that amazingly still hasn't scored on the road. Vardy is harder to trust as a goal poacher up front and has just one goal in his last seven starts. Mahrez has been extremely active with six shots on goal and 10 chances created in the last three matches.
Shaqiri may have the best draw against the Hammers, who have allowed at least two goals in their last five away matches in all competitions. Shaqiri is out of the limelight due to some difficult fixtures, but he has scored or assisted in his last seven matches against teams outside of the top six in the table. That's good enough for me.
Everton have quietly turned things around, sitting at 10th in the table. Rooney is on fire with five goals and an assist in his last four matches and will be the most popular choice. As for Richarlison, it's best to stay away as he deals with a groin injury.