In light of a savory midweek slate of Premier League matches, the standings remain relatively unchanged.
At the top, Chelsea prevailed with a fairly routine 3-0 home win over Tottenham without the services of their top striker Diego Costa (suspension).
Meanwhile, Manchester City kept pace by convincingly ending their four-year losing streak at Sunderland by beating the Black Cats 4-1 behind a pair of goals from league-leading forward Sergio Aguero.
After losing to City over the weekend, Southampton’s recent struggles continued, as Ronald Koeman’s side was unfortunate to concede late and lose 1-0 at Arsenal, marking the Saints’ third-straight match without a win during a brutal stretch of their schedule.
Manchester United has taken advantage of Southampton stumbling and even though their 2-1 win over Stoke City required some late defensive heroics, the Red Devils now sit one point behind the top three.
Fifth-place is still held down by West Ham, who earned a hard fought 2-1 comeback win at West Brom. Elsewhere, Swansea City took its time to muster a 2-0 win versus Queens Park Rangers, leaving the Swans two points behind the Hammers leading into this weekend’s match.
Jumping into the top 10 was a Liverpool team that quickly overcame an early deficit to clinch a 3-1 win at a 10-man Leicester City side that is stuck in last place at the moment.
Inching toward the drop zone exit was Burnley, who managed a 1-1 draw versus a Newcastle outfit that may be coming back to Earth following an astronomic ascent.
Also picking up a draw was Hull City at Everton, where a 1-1 result allowed the Tigers to avoid relegation territory and prolonged the Toffees’ inconsistencies on the campaign.
Finally, Aston Villa extended their unbeaten stretch to four games by topping Crystal Palace 1-0 on the road to move into twelfth place on the table.
From those outcomes, the Best XI contributed totals of four goals, four clean sheets, and one assist in Gameweek 14.
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski registered his sixth clean sheet of the season behind one save for Swansea against QPR.
In defense, Leighton Baines was shown a yellow card for Everton and fellow left-back Aaron Cresswell also conceded a goal with West Ham, while Chelsea’s Gary Cahill missed out on a clean sheet after injury forced him off at halftime versus Tottenham.
Thankfully, Cahill’s teammate Eden Hazard notched a goal and a clean sheet to propel the Best XI midfield, where Manchester City’s Yaya Toure failed to make a real impact, but Santi Cazorla of Arsenal also claimed a clean sheet.
Furthermore, Swansea midfield maestro Gylfi Sigurdsson had a stellar free kick surprisingly saved, but still provided clean sheet points for the cause.
Finally, the front line’s performance was marred by Wayne Rooney’s absence from Manchester United’s game versus Stoke, but fortunately Romelu Lukaku scored for Everton and Best XI captain Sergio Aguero bagged a brace and an assist for Manchester City.
Looking ahead to the weekend, another full slate of 10 matches awaits, with Chelsea opening Saturday’s action at Newcastle in a matchup that has seen both teams claim three wins from their past six league encounters.
From there, a relegation battle of Queens Park Rangers versus Burnley will take place back in London, where Tottenham face Crystal Palace in a contest with less intense implications.
However, 16th-place West Brom at Hull City represents another one of Saturday’s bottom-half battles, as both teams have been in horrible form lately.
Likewise, Stoke City has lost three consecutive games and will hope to right the ship at home against Arsenal, while Liverpool’s two wins on the spin could improve with a victory at home versus Sunderland.
To close Saturday, Everton travels to Manchester City for a pairing that has proven plenty entertaining in recent seasons.
Sunday’s marquee match of West Ham hosting Swansea City should impact the top five, while last-place Leicester City visiting Aston Villa finishes weekend outings.
But wait, there’s more! In fact, Monday’s meeting between Southampton and Manchester United is Gameweek 15’s best match on paper, as third-place will be at stake at St. Mary’s Stadium.
Given those matchups, here are some players that could fuel fantasy flourishes this weekend.
Thibaut Courtois v.
While Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas steal all the headlines, Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic certainly deserves to be in the conversation of the Blues’ most important player. What does that have to do with Courtois? Well, with Matic – Chelsea’s leader in tackles and interceptions – suspended for this weekend’s clash at Newcastle, as well as Gary Cahill carrying a head injury, Courtois may be tested more than usual. Given the young Belgian’s league-leading 76.2 save percentage, Courtois seems prepared for any challenge and Courtois should also take confidence from the fact he’s posted three consecutive Premier League clean sheets heading into St. James’ Park.
Glen Johnson v.
With back-to-back victories, Liverpool appears to have found some decent form of late. Furthermore, the Reds have allowed just one goal over that abbreviated span, which could boost their defense ahead of Saturday’s match versus a Sunderland side they’re unbeaten against in 12 home meetings across all competitions. Being stationed at Anfield seems to play a big factor in Liverpool’s defensive solidarity, as Brendan Rodgers’ men have conceded just six goals at home compared to 13 on the road. Meanwhile, Sunderland has scored less than one goal per away game this season, making Johnson a worthwhile selection this weekend, especially after the Englishman supplied the winning goal last time out at Anfield.
Jan Vertonghen v.
Sure, Spurs appeared shaky defensively in their most recent match, but who hasn’t against Chelsea this season? Mauricio Pochettino’s team should take comfort in returning to White Hart Lane this weekend, after arguably their best performance of the season came at home last Sunday versus Everton. This time around, Tottenham plays London opponents Crystal Palace, who failed to score against Aston Villa in the midweek and have won just once in their past eight league outings. Enter Vertonghen, who is probably the most reliable of Tottenham’s defensive options coming into Saturday’s match.
Aly Cissoko v.
As just mentioned, Aston Villa secured a clean sheet in Gameweek 14, which marked the Villains’ fifth such performance this season. Given that sound ratio and a home matchup versus last-place Leicester City, an Aston Villa defender like Cissoko carries intriguing potential for fantasy owners this weekend. Only one team has scored fewer than Leicester’s mere three away goals this term, as the Foxes have been blanked an incredible five times out of seven road trips on the campaign.
Samir Nasri v.
Following an early season injury layoff, Nasri has now been provided the requisite run of games to return to form, as the Frenchman enjoyed perhaps his best post-injury showing Wednesday at Sunderland, where he doled out an assist. That momentum should serve Nasri well this weekend, particularly with Manchester City playmaker David Silva still sidelined due to a knee injury. As a result, Nasri will be looked upon to stir the Citizens’ midfield creativity, which has surfaced quite regularly against Everton in recent seasons. In fact, City registered six goals versus the Toffees in last season’s two meetings. With only four teams having allowed more goals than Everton this term, Nasri will hope Saturday’s tie can produce his first goals of the campaign.
Christian Eriksen v.
Along with Everton, another defense that has proven vulnerable this season has been Crystal Palace, whose 23 goals conceded is only better than 19th-place Queens Park Rangers and 20th-place Leicester City. Such futility bodes well for Eriksen this weekend, as the 22-year-old boasts goals in two of his past three matches and leads Tottenham with nearly three shot attempts per game. Moreover, the midfielder’s four scores in 14 Premier League matches represents an admirable record in front of goal that could improve further against a Palace defense whose 13 road goals allowed tie for the second-most among Premiership outfits this season.
Another Chelsea midfielder whose efforts are often overshadowed by his talented teammates, Oscar has been fantastic this season, evidenced by his three goals and four assists through 12 Premier League appearances. What’s more, the Brazilian averages nearly as many tackles (2.4) as shot attempts (2.9), which displays his versatility in Chelsea’s advanced central midfield role. That industry should be required even more this week given the Blues’ aforementioned absence of Nemanja Matic, which could force Oscar’s impact to become more noticeable. With an assist in two of his past three Premiership matches, the 23-year-old approaches Saturday’s early game at Newcastle in great form.
Adam Lallana v.
Similar to Oscar, Liverpool’s Lallana has turned in some fine displays recently, as the Englishman totes one goal and one assist from the Reds’ past pair of Premiership performances. The former Southampton man seems to be finding his feet at Liverpool and could take another step in the right direction this weekend against Sunderland, whose 23 goals conceded are currently tied for third-worst in the league. After blanking Chelsea last weekend, the Black Cats shipped four to Manchester City during the week and now enter yet another trying match at Anfield – where Sunderland has allowed at least two goals in six of their past seven visits. With his opponent’s defensive focus perhaps a bit fatigued, an in-form Lallana could take advantage of Saturday’s matchup.
Robin van Persie v.
Going against Southampton on Monday, van Persie could stand to benefit from the Saints’ banged-up defensive ranks. On that front, the absence of vital defensive midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin (groin) is troublesome, while central defender Toby Alderweireld’s (hamstring) recent injury only complicates matters further for Southampton. Although Ronald Koeman’s side still claims the league’s best defensive record, Southampton’s relatively light early season schedule appears to be catching up with them, as they’ve gone three matches without a win. Those considerations could help van Persie, who is Manchester United’s top goal scoring threat given Wayne Rooney’s (knee) uncertain fitness level and Falcao’s underwhelming start to Premier League life. Spearheading a side with four straight wins, van Persie could help extend Manchester United’s streak of three Premier League games with at least two goals.
Diego Costa v.
Suspended for Gameweek 14, Costa will return to a Chelsea starting lineup that still managed three goals without their top scorer. In doing so, the Blues registered their impressive twelfth Premier League match with at least two goals over a 15-game span. With a perfect 11 goals in 11 league outings, Costa’s impact on the league-leaders cannot be overstated, as his clinical finishing complements Chelsea’s crafty yet disciplined setup to a tee. Jose Mourinho’s team should be motivated by their scoreless outing in last weekend’s road match, so Saturday’s game at Newcastle could offer a redemption of sorts, with Costa leading the offensive charge.
Sergio Aguero (C) v.
The only player with more goals than Costa, Aguero has been simply unstoppable this season. To that point, the Argentine talisman has tremendously tallied 19 goals and four assists in 20 total appearances for Manchester City this term. However, that count includes merely 16 starts, making Aguero’s impact all the more extraordinary. A constant threat, Aguero is averaging over five shot attempts in Premier League play, which should pester an Everton defense that has underachieved to this point in the season. Manchester City scored three goals in both matches against Everton last season, which coupled with Aguero’s amazing achievements, makes the South American the Best XI captain for the second straight gameweek.
Johnson – Vertonghen – Sissoko
Nasri – Eriksen – Oscar – Lallana
van Persie – Costa – Aguero (C)