Following a weekend in which third round FA Cup action occupied English clubs big and small, the Premier League is slated for a rare mid-week round to be played Tuesday and Wednesday.
With another round scheduled for this weekend, fantasy owners have an opportunity to compile points in quick succession. In hopes of maximizing this week's returns, here's the Best XI side for Gameweek 21:
In only his first season as Stoke City’s No. 1 goalkeeper, Butland has emerged as one of the most promising young players at his position. With eight clean sheets and 76 saves so far, Butland actually leads all goalkeepers in fantasy points in the Premier League’s official game, and only four teams have conceded fewer goals than Stoke, for whom he’s started all 20 matches. This week, the 22-year-old enters a home meeting with Norwich City, a side that’s failed to score in three of their last four away matches in the league. The Canaries have also been shut out in two of their last three visits to the Britannia Stadium, bolstering Butland’s stock ahead of Tuesday’s tussle.
While Butland leads the goalkeeper position, Alderweireld tops the defender ranks in the Premiership’s fantasy contest thanks to outstanding production in recent weeks. To that point, the Belgian has accumulated one goal, two assists and three clean sheets over Tottenham’s past eight games, earning bonus points four times over that span as well. Although he played the entirety of Tottenham’s 2-2 draw versus Leicester City in the FA Cup on Sunday, Alderweireld could fare better in a full strength side for Wednesday’s rematch in league play, where the Foxes have failed to score in three consecutive games, and now have to cope with their top scorer, Jamie Vardy, coming off a small groin operation.
A man that found himself on the scoresheet in Crystal Palace’s FA Cup win over Southampton this weekend, Ward has also scored twice in 13 Premiership appearances. With four clean sheets as well, Ward’s fantasy point average resides toward the top amongst defenders, and this week’s game at Aston Villa presents a golden opportunity to improve his pegging. No team in Europe’s top five leagues has compiled fewer than Aston Villa’s eight points thus far, and the Villains’ have also scored the fewest goals in the Premiership. Conversely, no team in England has conceded fewer away goals than Crystal Palace, making Ward a stellar selection this week.
One of the best fantasy defenders over the past few seasons, Ivanovic’s star faded significantly while Chelsea struggled mightily to start this season. However, since sacking manager Jose Mourinho, the Blues have gone unbeaten and Ivanovic’s performances have restored him to fantasy radars. In his last four matches, the Serbian sports one goal, one assist and back-to-back clean sheets. Such improvement comes ahead of his Gameweek 21 matchup versus West Brom, whose 20 goals through 20 games is better than just three teams. Moreover, the Baggies have only scored six goals on the road, offering Ivanovic and company a good chance to continue their recent success.
Handed a well-deserved rest for Arsenal’s FA Cup win over the weekend, Ozil is expected to reclaim his No. 10 position for Wednesday’s match at Anfield, where Liverpool are hamstrung by an injury crisis. Along with midfielder Philippe Coutinho (hamstring), manager Jurgen Klopp will be without center-halves Martin Skrtel (hamstring) and Dejan Lovren (hamstring). That shapes up well for Ozil, whose weekly wizardry has resulted in three goals and 16 assists already. The Gunners’ playmaker also scored against Liverpool last season, and considering Arsenal have gone unbeaten while scoring eight goals in their past four games versus the Reds, Ozil should enjoy plenty more attacking touches this time around.
Kevin De Bruyne
Since joining Manchester City, only Ozil and Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez have averaged more points per game than De Bruyne in the Premiership’s fantasy contest. That standing stems from the Belgian’s five goals and eight assists, though such production has almost exclusively come at home. In fact, De Bruyne has contributed merely one goal and no assists away from the Etihad Stadium in Premier League action. While that’s certainly a development for fantasy owners to consider going forward, De Bruyne can be thankful that Man City’s Wednesday game against Everton comes at home. Only Sunderland has leaked more goals over their past six games than Everton, so De Bruyne’s appetite for home cooking could prevail once again.
While some of his teammates have welcomed a return to form since the firing of manager Jose Mourinho, Willian has been one of the Blues’ few standout performers over the whole of this season. The bushy-haired Brazilian has racked up eight goals across all competitions, and has been credited with six assists in the Premiership’s fantasy game. That includes four assists in Chelsea’s four matches since Mourinho’s departure, and he also scored in the Blues’ last league outing. This week, while contentious countrymen Oscar (toe) and Diego Costa (knock) carry injury concerns, Willian could be looked upon to provide the cutting edge at home against a West Brom side that shipped three last time they faced Chelsea.
Following a haul of 17 assists through his first two Premier League seasons, Arnautovic has added goals to his game this term. The Austrian currently sits on seven goals, but he’s been especially active lately, scoring four in Stoke City’s last six league encounters. In doing so, Arnautovic has flown up to fourth in points among midfielders in the Premiership’s fantasy game, and Wednesday’s matchup at home versus Norwich City seems to favor another strong showing. Only Sunderland have conceded more goals than Norwich over their last six away matches, while no team has scored more goals than Stoke in the past six gameweeks, a span in which Arnautovic has led the charge.
Olivier Giroud (C)
With a goal in Arsenal’s 3-1 FA Cup win over Sunderland on Saturday, Giroud brought his record to 16 goals in 21 starts for the club this season. In Premier League play, Giroud has recorded an assist in back-to-back matches going into Wednesday’s game at Liverpool, an opponent he’s fared well against recently. Specifically, Giroud has scored in two of Arsenal’s last three meetings with the Reds, and this week’s occasion could prove similarly fruitful for the Frenchman considering Liverpool’s aforementioned injury issues. With two central defenders already ruled out, manager Jurgen Klopp could be forced to start Mamadou Sakho (knee) and 34-year-old Kolo Toure (knock), both of whom are banged up themselves. All in all, those factors earn Giroud this week’s Best XI captain’s armband.
Across North London, Kane also scored in FA Cup action over the weekend, coming on as a substitute to provide a late equalizer in Tottenham’s draw with Leicester City. Come Wednesday, Kane should be in the starting lineup for Spurs’ rematch with the Foxes in the league, where 10 of his 11 goals have come in Tottenham’s last 11 efforts. Such form contrasts with that of Leicester, who haven’t scored for three matches and whose defense remains a bottom-half unit. Bearing that in mind, it seems reasonable enough to expect Kane to make it two-in-two against the Foxes, but Kane has also proven capable of bigger bounties to boot.
Finally back fit, Aguero played at least 85 minutes for the time since September in Manchester City’s most recent Premiership outing, and just so happened to score a superb, equalizing header at Watford on that day. The Argentine followed that with an assist in the League Cup versus Everton, and then scored again at Norwich City in the FA Cup on Saturday. Now that he’s rounding back into form, Aguero is certainly a favorite to find the back of the net in Wednesday’s subsequent match against Everton. That’s because Manchester City will be playing at home, where they’ve scored six more goals than any other side thus far, and because only one outfit has surrendered more goals than Everton’s defense over the past six gameweeks.
GK: David de Gea
The anchor of the Premiership’s second-best defense, de Gea is pitted against Newcastle, the league’s third-worst attack.
DEF: Hector Bellerin
After dishing out two assists in Arsenal’s FA Cup win, Bellerin now looks forward to playing a depleted Liverpool, whom he scored against last season.
DEF: Aaron Cresswell
Coming off his seventh clean sheet of the campaign, Cresswell could get his eighth against Bournemouth, who’ve been held scoreless in three straight matches.
MID: Dele Alli
This season’s breakout Englishman at White Hart Lane, Alli has three goals and two assists in Tottenham’s six matches heading into Wednesday’s affair against Leicester City.
MID: Yaya Toure
With Everton’s vulnerable defense in front of him, Toure will look to improve his recent stretch of three goals in Manchester City’s last four league games.
FWD: Diego Costa
Although he’s an injury concern, Costa has three goals in his past three Premiership appearances ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with West Brom, whom he scored versus last term.
FWD: Romelu Lukaku
Tied for the league-lead with 15 goals scored, Lukaku and Everton’s third-ranked offense will aim to take advantage of a Manchester City defense that seems suspect at times.