Gameweek 26 saw all 20 Premier League sides in action with a handful of mouth-watering matchups. Of the 20 teams, however, just one managed more than two goals (Manchester City hit five past a hapless Newcastle) and only four managed clean sheets. Late goals allowed to Burnley and Crystal Palace cost fantasy premier league managers clean sheet points for Chelsea and Arsenal defenders, respectively. Arguably the two biggest results of the weekend involved Manchester clubs as the Citizens ran-out 5-0 victors at home while the Red Devils struggled at the Liberty Stadium and fell 1-2 to the Swans.
It was a pair of Jonjo Shelvey assists which broke Manchester United’s back. The former Liverpool man made a series of incisive plays in the match. He finished the game with three chances created (of which two were assists), two successful crosses and three successful TakeOns. In the defensive half, he added a pair of tackles won to solidify Man of the Match status. Goals for Ki Sung-yueng, his second in three games, and Bafetimbi Gomis must be a welcome sight for manger Garry Monk. The Swans were held without a goal last time out against West Brom and hadn’t managed two in a League clash since 2 December.
Swansea were one of nine clubs to hit two goals in gameweek 27, but of the nine only Liverpool were able to keep it clean at the back, as well. Starting Dejan Lovren, Emre Can and Martin Skrtel against the Saints at St. Mary’s was a dicey proposition and Brendan Rodgers’ side was blessed with more than a bit of luck. Questionable decisions by the referee in both penalty areas, a handball of Simon Mignolet just inches outside his box, and a fair bit of bad weather all combined to see the Reds ease past their hosts. Goals for Coutinho and Sterling are slowly starting to amass and fantasy EPL managers and LFC’s own gaffer will be pleased to see that they were able to win despite the absence of Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard from the starting XI.
Ronald Koeman had his own stars on the bench in this one, and for his own reasons. Dusan Tadic, Morgan Schneiderlin and Sadio Mane all started from the bench and all were introduced in the second half. Schneiderlin (45′) played the most of the bunch, and none were able to stamp their authority on the game in substitute appearances. Koeman later revealed that Mane had arrived late to the stadium and been benched as a disciplinary measure. While his actions are understandable, Koeman’s decision to sit the six-goal scorer Mane proved decisive with Southampton failing to breach the Reds’ defense with a quality final touch.
Such was not the case at the Etihad, where the Magpies’ were breached early and often. However, a pair of early substitutes rightly left FPL managers fuming. Sergio Aguero (59′) and David Silva (58′) posted nine and 17 points, respectively, but each missed out on bigger hauls. The manager clearly kept on eye on approaching clashes with Barcelona (24 Feb) and Liverpool (GW27), and gave his stars a breather with the match well in hand. It is hard to look past the inclusion of Yaya Toure – fresh from his Africa Cup of Nations campaign – as the catalyst for the Citizens’ resurgence. He created a pair of chances and won two tackles in his first League action since New Year’s Day. The rampaging midfielder has shown his ability to carry the side for protracted periods and we expect some massive fantasy EPL hauls for the Ivorian down the stretch.
As we head into GW27, it’s important to remember that four teams – QPR, Leicester, Tottenham and Chelsea – all have a blank, which two of those teams – QPR and Spurs – have a double-fixture gameweek in GW28. A lot will be made of the importance of having Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane in your side. There is no doubt that owning those two players is important, regardless of the double-fixture, but that means you will be missing them for GW27. Harry Kane, 46.5% selected at the moment, is still priced a paltry £6.3m. He could easily be sold for the blank and re-acquired a week later. The same is true of Charlie Austin, priced the same but owned in just 14.6% of FPL sides. In fact, there is a good argument to be made for Austin during the double. He has managed goals against Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Southampton this term already and will be the primary scoring threat for a Hoops side hosting the Gunners and Spurs in GW28. With significantly less ownership, there is a modest chance at this remaining a differential play, particularly if his ownership dips due to the GW27 blank.
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