RotoWire Partners

FPL Best XI: Top Picks for Gameweek 25

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

Last weekend’s Premier League slate was headlined by a pair of classic derbies and Saturday’s opening match of Tottenham versus Arsenal proved one to remember for Spurs fans.

Behind a second-half brace from home product Harry Kane, Spurs were able to jump their North London rivals in the standings by scoring a come-from-behind 2-1 win.

Later on, Saturday’s other famed derby of Everton and Liverpool played out a scoreless draw that made Steven Gerrard’s final Merseyside clash an anticlimactic encounter.

That somewhat underwhelming element was curiously found across the league, as Chelsea was the only team besides Tottenham to score more than one goal Saturday.

While the Blues took care of Aston Villa by a score of 2-1, most fantasy owners were probably disappointed that Jose Mourinho’s men conceded a goal to the Villains’ awful attack.

Similarly, Manchester City needed a stoppage-time goal to save a 1-1 home draw against hapless Hull City. In doing so, the Citizens served some false hope in terms of fantasy potential last weekend.

In fact, other than both Liverpool-based teams, Southampton and Crystal Palace were the only setups to secure a clean sheet, as they topped Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City, respectively, by 1-0 score lines.

Meanwhile, Swansea and Sunderland came to a 1-1 draw on Saturday, which matched the outcome that prevailed between Newcastle and Stoke, as well as West Ham and Manchester United on Sunday.

In those ties, both Stoke and Man United required stoppage-time heroics to return home with a point, which resembled West Brom overcoming a two-goal deficit to draw at Burnley in Sunday’s other match.

Overall, only four teams earned a victory in Gameweek 24 and fantasy outputs mostly mirrored this mild-mannered nature.

Nevertheless, the Premiership returns with a full round of fixtures carried out over Tuesday and Wednesday this week, making for a quick turnaround across fantasy formats.

Tuesday begins with all three current relegation-bound teams in action, as 18th-place Hull City hosts Aston Villa, 19th Queens Park Rangers travels to Sunderland, and last-place Leicester embarks on a trip to Arsenal.

After those games, Tuesday’s ties are closed by a tasty top-half tussle of fifth-place Tottenham at seventh-place Liverpool, where European implications will be in focus.

On that note, Wednesday’s pairing between West Ham and Southampton also features two top-eight outfits, which should heighten hopes at the St. Mary’s Stadium.

Elsewhere, second-place Manchester City will aim for revenge at Stoke City, Manchester United will await Burnley at Old Trafford, and leaders Chelsea will welcome Everton after Gameweek 3’s 6-3 stunner at Goodison Park.

Once those games are in the books, Wednesday’s slate is sealed by Newcastle at Crystal Palace, where Eagles’ boss Alan Pardew will face his former club, and Swansea at West Brom, where Tony Pulis embodies another recently appointed manager.

Given those matchups to consider for Gameweek 25, it’s time to target some potential fantasy difference-makers by unpacking this week’s Best XI.



Goalkeeper:

Costel Pantilimon

After not claiming Sunderland’s regular goalkeeping position until November, Pantilimon has gone on to post six clean sheets and 67 saves in 15 matches since then. In doing so, the former Man City shot-stopper has become one of fantasy’s best at his position in terms of average points per game. This week, Pantilimon is presented with an outstanding opportunity to add to his totals, as Sunderland welcome a Queens Park Rangers team that has embarrassingly earned zero points from away matches this season. The R’s also rank second-last in away goals (six), are undergoing a transition at manager, and will be without top scorer Charlie Austin.

Defenders:

Marcos Rojo

Yet to convince of his talents at Old Trafford, Rojo has still played on a fairly consistent basis for manager Louis van Gaal. While his appearances have come at either center-half or left-back, teammate Luke Shaw’s suspension makes Rojo a virtual lock to start Wednesday versus Burnley. While Burnley has gone winless in 10 of their past 11 away matches, Manchester United has won six of their past seven home matches. Additionally, the Red Devils have come away with three clean sheets over that span, which helps Rojo’s defensive prospects heading into Gameweek 25.

Vincent Kompany

Following an injury-riddled holiday period, Kompany has returned in recent weeks to reclaim his central role in Manchester City’s defense. While matches against Arsenal and Chelsea have hardly helped Kompany’s stock of late, Wednesday’s game at Stoke City figures to provide extra motivation for a City team that just dropped points at home to Hull. That’s because the Potters won at the Etihad Stadium back in August, thus allowing Manuel Pellegrini’s men an opportunity to return the favor this week. Bringing Kompany back into the equation, Man City’s defense has blanked Stoke in four of their past five meetings.

Nacho Monreal

Arguably his team’s best defender over the past few weeks, Monreal figures to maintain his left-back position for Tuesday’s game versus last-place Leicester City. That would be fantastic for the Spaniard’s fantasy value, as only one team has scored fewer goals than the Foxes this season. Furthermore, Leicester has netted just one goal from their last three away outings, which all ended in losses. Given the Gunners’ expectedly easy home matchup, it wouldn’t be surprising if January signing Gabriel made his Premier League debut in place of either Laurent Koscielny or Per Mertesacker, which makes the veteran Monreal Arsenal’s most reliable defensive option for fantasy owners this week.

Midfielders:

Mesut Ozil

Speaking of reliable Arsenal players, Ozil has provided a goal in each of his three games since returning from a knee injury. He also doled out an assist over that stretch and could be plenty involved this week against lowly Leicester. Not only have Leicester shipped at least two goals in seven of their past eight away Premier League games, but no team has scored more goals at home than Arsenal has this season. While the Gunners’ wealth of attacking options makes Ozil a potential victim to manager Arsene Wenger rotating his squad, the German’s recent goal-scoring exploits may provide enough incentive for Wenger to keep his record signing in the starting XI. Should that indeed happen, Ozil is gifted with a very favorable matchup to build on his stellar showings of late.

Oscar

While Oscar’s Chelsea teammates like Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa steal most of the headlines, and rightfully so, the Brazilian’s season totals of six goals and seven assists simply cannot be overlooked. The versatile midfield man has been particularly effective at home, where he’s supplied three goals and five helpers. As Costa remains suspended and Fabregas’ status remains uncertain, Oscar’s influence in Chelsea’s attack becomes all the more important ahead of this week’s match versus Everton at Stamford Bridge. Encouragingly, the Toffees have kept three straight clean sheets; however, given Chelsea’s comfortable league-lead in goals (54), as well as their six-goal searing of Everton earlier this season, Oscar figures to have a decent chance of making more meaningful contributions this week.

Remy Cabella

Bought this summer from France by Alan Pardew, Cabella did little to reward Pardew’s investment while he coached Newcastle. However, since Pardew was introduced as Crystal Palace’s manager, Cabella has been increasingly dangerous under new boss John Carver, attempting nine shots, including one goal, in his last four league matches. The spiky-haired attacker was unfortunate to not score over the weekend versus Stoke, but despite expressing his frustration with being subbed-off early, he should be plenty revved-up for Wednesday’s game at Palace. With tension between the teams expected to be high, Newcastle can take confidence from having scored at least two goals in their past four total visits to Selhurst Park.

Alexis Sanchez (C)

Poised to return from a brief injury lay-away, Alexis should be chomping at the bit to face the Premiership’s worst team, Leicester City, this week. However, it’s not like Alexis needs a good matchup to make a dynamic impact, as his 16 goals and eight assists across 26 total appearances for Arsenal would suggest. Should he start Tuesday’s match, the tireless Chilean could terrorize a Leicester back-line that’s conceded the third-most goals league-wide this season. Meanwhile, Arsenal has tallied the third-most goals offensively and Alexis has clearly been their best player in the final third. All in all, Alexis’ quality and Leicester’s lack thereof make him this week’s Best XI captain.

Forwards:

Harry Kane

While Arsenal have embraced a new goal-gobbler in Alexis, their London rivals Tottenham have taken massive delight in the breakout season Kane has enjoyed. To that point, the 21-year-old Kane has exploded for 20 goals through 25 appearances across all competitions this season. Furthermore, Kane is riding consecutive brace-scoring outings into Tuesday’s match at Anfield. While Liverpool have commendably preserved four straight clean sheets and generally been in great form, it’s hard to envision them maintaining their flawless defensive stretch versus an ascending Tottenham outfit. What’s more, with a combined four goals and one assist from games against Chelsea and Arsenal this year, Kane tends to relish the big game stage.

Robin van Persie

With teammates Wayne Rooney, Angel di Maria, Falcao and Juan Mata seemingly playing a new role each week, van Persie has been one relative constant in countryman Louis van Gaal’s stable this season. That consistency helps van Persie’s fantasy value, as he’s regularly deployed at the top of a Manchester United attack that ranks fourth in the Premiership. The Dutchman is especially potent at Old Trafford, where six of his nine league goals have come this season. As a result, van Persie is an awesome fantasy commodity heading into Wednesday’s match versus Burnley, who have unwittingly allowed the second-most goals on the road thus far, including at least two in five straight away games.

Sergio Aguero

Kept quiet over the weekend in a two-striker setup, Aguero will likely return to lead the line by his lonesome this week at Stoke City. If that happens to transpire, Aguero should receive the bulk of Manchester City’s scoring opportunities against a Stoke defense that will be without captain Ryan Shawcross. When healthy, Aguero has assaulted opposing defenses on the road, scoring eight times in just 10 away matches this season. Additionally, the Argentine hasn’t found the scoresheet in league play since the beginning of December, which could mean he’s due to finally unleash his talents once again. Although City against Stoke tends to be a low-scoring affair, look for Aguero to be the Citizens’ biggest threat when kick-off rolls around Wednesday.