For the third time this season we’re ignoring those Fantasy Premier League attention-seekers and instead looking at those who often miss out on the headlines.
Yes, never mind your midfielders and forwards, the case for the defence has been opened again and this time ahead of a Gameweek which offers ample chance for a few clean sheets.
The best of those opportunities probably comes at Old Trafford, where Manchester United welcome a managerless Reading side in a contest that the hosts will not just expect to win – but expect to win well.
Brazilian defender Rafael da Silva (£6.2m) has excelled in the United defence this season, and with 16.9% ownership he finds himself as the most selected player from the champions-elect after Robin van Persie.
Sir Alex Ferguson surprised many by leaving Rafael out of the 4-0 win over Norwich two weeks ago – his first non-appearance of the year in the league – but the right-back was back in the team for the FA Cup tie against Chelsea last weekend, and he’s almost certain to start here in a match in which United are of course likely to be on the front foot.
Following earlier struggles for clean sheets United have now kept four in successive league matches, and with Rafael contributing three goals and five assists this season – including that stunning strike at QPR recently – then the Brazilian could be a key player in their run-in towards an almost certain league title.
Elsewhere, Tottenham will be bidding to rediscover their excellent form which they displayed prior to last weekend’s thrilling 3-2 defeat at Liverpool.
They have a good chance to find it at home to a Fulham side who have won just two away games this season, and with defender Michael Dawson (£4.6m) having now recovered from previous injuries to start and crucially finish the last 10 league games at the heart of the Spurs defence, the centre-back could be a valuable and cheap addition to your squad as Andre Villas-Boas’ side close in on a Champions League place.
Another Sunday fixture sees Chelsea host West Ham at Stamford Bridge, and although the make-up of Rafael Benitez’s defence does have a habit of changing regularly, David Luiz (£6.5m) has started the last three league games – registering his first assist of the season in the 1-0 win over West Brom last time out, a match in which he also picked up a bonus point.
Manchester City go to Everton in the opening match of the weekend, and with defender Pablo Zabaleta (£6.2m) a firm Fantasy favourite after starting the last 16 league matches there is sure to be plenty of interest in him. Leighton Baines (£7.6m) will of course provide a threat going in the other direction.
For cheaper options, the Sunderland v Norwich match offers the possibility of a stalemate with visiting defender Javier Garrido (£4.7m) bidding to follow up from last weekend’s clean sheet against Southampton with another blank against his opposition’s name. Teammate Michael Turner (£4.2m) also picked up two bonus points in that 0-0 draw.
This weekend Southampton face the tough prospect of facing a Liverpool side who have won their last three in the league, and whilst it was Daniel Agger (£6.4m) who scored the winner when the Reds beat the Saints 1-0 at Anfield in December it is the form of teammate Jose Enrique (£6.0m) which can’t be ignored here.
The left-back registered an impressive sixth assist of the season which he provided the first goal for Luis Suarez in the Tottenham win, and with two goals to his name as well he is certainly one to watch ahead of a match which Brendan Rodgers will expect his Reds to win.
If they can win it with a clean sheet then that is sure to please many.
*We’ve focused on defenders again for this Gameweek, but if you have any selection issues, dilemmas or problems then feel free to tweet us at @FantasyYirma. Goalkeepers, midfielders and forwards are allowed!
As we enter the final 10 Gameweeks of the season, form is becoming more and more important.
That old cliché about form being temporary and class being permanent is of course a correct one, but in these closing weeks it will surely pay to trust in those players who are doing well week after week.
Rickie Lambert (£7.0m) is currently one of those players, and fantasy bosses have definitely noticed.
Almost a quarter of Fantasy Premier League teams now feature Southampton’s Scouse striker, a forward who has racked up eight, nine and 11 points respectively over the last three Gameweeks as he’s scored twice and picked up three assists.
Lambert and the Saints welcome rock bottom Queens Park Rangers to St Mary’s on Saturday, and the forward will be eyeing even more goals there.
It’s an important game for the hosts, who have impressed in patches under new boss Mauricio Pochettino before suffering a 4-2 loss after making the long trip to Newcastle last time out.
Lambert scored his 100th goal for the Saints and his 12th in the Premier League this season in that game, and with the arrival of ex-Saints boss Harry Redknapp and his struggling side on Saturday, Lambert will be confident of finding the net again.
He scored against Rangers in a 3-1 win at Loftus Road in November, and with talk of an England call-up swirling around him then the forward can deliver and help move Southampton away from the relegation zone by beating a team who are firmly stuck in it.
One of the teams currently desperate to stay out of the bottom three are Wigan, and they face a tough task on Saturday evening when they welcome Liverpool to the DW Stadium.
The impact of Daniel Sturridge (£7.5m) at the Reds has been easy to see, and with the forward currently having only 7.4% ownership he could prove a strong differential choice in the closing weeks.
Liverpool’s fixture list isn’t as demanding as the one faced by several of the teams around them, and after scoring in all but one of his five Premier League appearances for the Reds so far – picking up 31 Fantasy points in the process – Sturridge could shine in those games, starting with this trip to Wigan.
Elsewhere, Sunday sees Arsenal try to become the latest team to stop the juggernaut that is Gareth Bale (£10.3m).
The Tottenham man continues to rip through the Premier League, with his latest demolition job on West Ham on Monday night seeing his ownership increase even more.
Against Arsenal he’ll of course come face-to-face with his former Southampton team-mate Theo Walcott (£9.6m), and with the frequent madcap nature of these North London derbies meaning that clean sheets are unlikely to be on the agenda, both could find themselves in the points come the end of the afternoon.
Elsewhere, both Chelsea and Manchester United face winnable looking home matches against West Brom and Norwich respectively, but both sides go into the contest with forward issues. Rafael Benitez is again faced with the dilemma over whether to choose Demba Ba (£8.0) or Fernando Torres (£9.3m), whilst there is an injury doubt over Robin van Persie (£14.0m) for United. None of the trio can be trusted confidently.
Monday night sees Manchester City travel to Aston Villa, and whilst Yaya Toure (£7.7m) and Carlos Tevez (£8.7m) regained some lost friends with goals in the 2-0 win over Chelsea last time out, it is the fact that City kept a clean sheet in that game which should perhaps be of greater importance.
Defender Pablo Zabaleta (£6.2m) was a key element of that shutout, and given that he has now started City’s last 15 Premier League games the Argentinean is again likely to be an important part of the visiting back line.
Against a Villa side who have often struggled for goals this season, Zabaleta can keep things tight at the back whilst impressing further forward too.