Arguably the biggest surprise of last weekend’s Premier League action, Manchester City went scoreless and lost at bottom-three side Burnley. The Citizens were also bounced out of the Champions League this week, leaving the Premier League as their only opportunity for a trophy this season.
However, on the heels of last weekend’s loss, Manuel Pellegrini’s team sits six points behind leaders Chelsea, who still have a game in hand, and just one point ahead of Arsenal for second-place.
Given their peculiar situation, City will hope to capitalize on a home matchup against West Brom in this weekend’s opening contest of Gameweek 30.
From there, Saturday’s main slate of fixtures includes top-12 pairings of Newcastle versus Arsenal, who also crashed out of the Champions League this week, as well as Stoke City versus Crystal Palace.
Conversely, an expectedly less even matchup may be found between seventh-place Tottenham and last-place Leicester City, and despite their home heroics last round, 18th Burnley may still face an uphill battle at sixth Southampton.
At the back end of the top-10, ninth Swansea and tenth West Ham enter respective matches against 16th Aston Villa and 17th Sunderland, who sacked coach Gus Poyet and appointed long-time manager Dick Advocaat this week following a 4-0 thumping from the Villains last weekend.
Once those games are in the books, Sunday’s schedule is headlined by what should be a heated match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Anfield, as just two points currently separate the Premier League giants vying for Champions League qualification.
Later on, front-runners Chelsea will aim to get back to winning ways at Hull City, while Queens Park Rangers hosts Everton with sights on avoiding relegation between now and the fast-approaching end of the season.
With Gameweek 30’s matchups now touched upon, let’s unveil the Best XI for the latest round of the Premiership:
Although Hart and Man City slipped up last weekend at Burnley, the English goalkeeper put forth an astounding mid-week effort at mighty Barcelona, where he stopped an eye-catching 10 shots on goal. As City returns home this weekend to face West Brom, Hart should face significantly less fire on his goal. That’s because the Baggies have scored just nine times in 14 away games this season, the second-worst road goal record in the Premiership. Additionally, Hart has secured consecutive clean sheets at the Etihad Stadium, where Man City will be desperate to rebound from their pair of disappointing results over the past week.
With Southampton’s former league-leading attack hitting an impasse, the Saints’ defense has remained resolute throughout this season. To that point, Ronald Koeman’s side still ranks first in the Premiership with merely 21 goals allowed, and Clyne has been a standout performer at right-back. The emergent Englishman sits one clean sheet behind the Premiership’s top mark for defenders, and eight of his 12 such performances have come at St. Mary’s Stadium. That’s where Clyne will face Burnley this weekend, and although the Clarets have proven capable offensively, Southampton’s defense still figures to be tough to crack.
By totaling 13 clean sheets, four goals and four assists, Ivanovic leads Premier League defenders in the first two statistical categories, while placing in the top-five in the final grouping. In doing so, the Serbian has been the best fantasy player at his position this season and could very well add to this standing against Hull City on Sunday. Chelsea has blanked the Tigers in six of their past eight meetings across all competitions, including the teams’ prior encounter this season. More recently, Hull has found the back of the net just once from their last three games, which shouldn’t pose too much of a threat against a Chelsea defense that ranks second-best in England this term.
Despite the fact that West Ham has horribly only won one Premier League match in 2015, Cresswell’s side should circle Saturday’s home game versus Sunderland as a golden opportunity to double that lone figure. The Black Cats have been held scoreless in four of their past six contests, which contributed toward Gus Poyet being sacked following last weekend. That recent turmoil could leave Sunderland searching for answers Saturday. Meanwhile, only the league’s current top-six teams have allowed fewer goals at home than West Ham this season, offering nice reassurance for Cresswell’s clean sheet prospects in this matchup.
As teammate Cesc Fabregas
’ form appears to be enduring yet another second-half slump, and two-thirds of striker Diego Costa
’s 18 goals have come at home, Hazard seems to be Chelsea’s best bet to find the scoresheet at Hull City this weekend. That’s because Hazard’s last four goals have come away from Stamford Bridge, a stretch that has coincided with Chelsea’s past five road trips. What’s more, the Belgian scored against Hull earlier this season, as well as at the KC Stadium last season. For a team looking to avoid the drop zone, Sunday’s match versus a reeling Chelsea side couldn’t come at a worse time for Hull City, who should have their hands full with Hazard in Gameweek 30.
In his first start in over a month, Ramsey produced a Man of the Match quality performance last weekend versus West Ham, registering a goal and an assist while putting any injury concerns behind him. The Welshman followed that act by scoring Tuesday in the Champions League, albeit in a second-half cameo. Nonetheless, Ramsey figures to start this Saturday at Newcastle, a team Arsenal has impressively recorded 16 goals against in their past five matches. In 15 league starts this season, Ramsey has picked up either a goal or an assist seven times, which when coupled with his recent form, makes him an intriguing selection this weekend.
Reminiscent of his team’s poor form in February, Downing failed to score and managed just one assist through four league matches last month. However, on the whole, the attacker still sports five goals and eight assists on the campaign, which has helped make him a top-10 midfielder in most fantasy formats. This weekend, Downing boasts an enticing home matchup versus Sunderland, who will be under a new manager and have allowed more goals than any other team over their past three outings. Downing also scored against the Black Cats earlier this season, which could provide him the confidence needed to snap his current scoring drought.
While some of Southampton’s attackers have seen their form dip dramatically over the course of this season, Mane has been a bright spot. That holds especially true since Christmas, as the Senegalese midfielder totes five goals despite making only eight league starts. Mane scored in Southampton’s most recent match at St. Mary’s Stadium, where they’re slated to face bottom-feeders Burnley this weekend. The past three times the Clarets have visited Southampton, they’ve allowed a total of eight goals, potentially opening the door for Mane to continue his success in the final third and kick-start Southampton along the way.
With his team and his job security under scrutiny this week, expect Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini to trust his hefty January signing Bony to start Saturday versus West Brom. Should that transpire, the Ivorian would figure to replace Edin Dzeko
and add life to a Citizens attack that failed to score at lowly Burnley last weekend. When given a starting gig, Bony has accounted for nine goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season, though he’s yet to score for Man City. That could change Saturday, considering the pressure on City to perform, as well as the fact that West Brom conceded twice to the league’s lowest-scoring team in their most recent away match.
When healthy this season, Giroud has been an excellent fantasy performer, as his 11 goals and three assists in just 13 starts evidence. The Frenchman has been particularly hot lately, scoring seven times in Arsenal’s past eight matches across all competitions. Following a mid-week Champions League goal, Giroud is expected to start Saturday at Newcastle, a foe he has tormented since arriving in the Premier League. In fact, Giroud has notched a stellar six goals in Arsenal’s past five matches versus the Magpies. Moreover, only Tottenham has conceded more goals than Newcastle over their past six league matches, and the Magpies’ defense ranks third-worst overall this season.
Harry Kane (C)
In wake of a scoreless outing at Old Trafford last weekend, Tottenham and star striker Kane could bounce back in spectacular fashion this time out, as they await last-place Leicester at White Hart Lane on Saturday. The Foxes have leaked at least two goals in 10 of their last 11 away Premier League matches, while Spurs have scored at least twice in five straight home games. Kane has scored five times himself over that same span, and he also dished out both a goal and an assist the last time he faced Leicester this season. Given that history and this outstandingly favorable matchup, Kane earns this week’s Best XI captain’s armband.