Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 14: The surprising, consistent contributors
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By John Wallin/Sports Illustrated via Planet Futbol
The following Fantasy Premier League advice is tailored toward players of Togga's Perfect XI. It's a weekly game in which every Premier League player is eligible to be selected into a 4-4-2 formation. There is no salary cap, no squad restrictions and you pick a fresh XI every week.
What do we do when we fall down? We get back up again. If you're like me you started Lukasz Fabianski last weekend and watched as the process to pick the perfect goalkeeper succumbed to Fabianski's–and his back line's–fallibility. His -3.75 points in Gameweek 13 certainly hurt, but shouldn't sway your resolve. Continue to trust your process, look for the best matchups and openings for points and you'll have a shot at sustained success.
Selecting the Perfect XI each week isn't an easy task and even the best-laid plans can use a Plan B, so we've provided alternatives for each position. Those designated (d) are differentials–players we expect will be owned by fewer than 5% of FPL managers this weekend.
Lee Grant (d; vs. Burnley)
Key Stats: The Potters' shot-stopper has been remarkably consistent this season, never allowing more than one goal in any of his eight starts. He's kept clean sheets in three of his last six, including a two-save effort against Watford at Vicarage Road last weekend. He's not a high-upside play, but he has limited downside and faces the worst road attack in the EPL. Burnley still has just one away goal this term.
Plan B: Ben Foster (vs. Watford); Jordan Pickford (vs. Leicester); Victor Valdes (d; vs. Hull City)
It would be fun to select Bournemouth's Artur Boruc home to Liverpool and cross your fingers for a clean sheet, particularly given the Reds' injury woes. But Jurgen Klopp's side is still firing on all cylinders, to the tune of 7.3 shots on target per game (95 in 13 matches). Boruc, who is likely to return following a two-match absence (back injury), has made only 35 saves all season including a season high eight at Manchester City. The downside to those eight saves? They didn't stop him conceding four goals. Take a look at these other options instead.
Virgil van Dijk (d; at Crystal Palace); Antonio Valencia (d; at Everton); Kyle Walker (vs. Swansea City); Cedric Soares (at Crystal Palace)
Key Stats: It seems people have forgotten about Southampton's van Dijk and United's Valencia, as both should be more widely selected. Van Dijk struggled early, not recording better than 5.75 points in any of Southampton's opening four matches. Those early returns hid an immensely successful real-life campaign, and he's posted at least 8.75 points in eight of nine with six double-figure returns in that span. Valencia is back from injury and a fixture in Mourinho's XI when healthy.
Plan B: Marcos Alonso (vs. Manchester City); Gareth McAuley (vs. Watford); Patrick van Aanholt (vs. Leicester City); Dejan Lovren (d; at Bournemouth)
Death, taxes and Marcos Alonso's name in this column. The Chelsea "defender" averages 16.31 points per match, nearly four points better than second-best Nicolas Otamendi (12.85). He recorded 19.5 points with an assist in the Blues 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United and he has 14 or more points in five of his last seven. Don't forget, after City, Chelsea faces West Brom, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Stoke. Alonso's name should be first in your team sheet for the next six weeks.
Wilfried Zaha (d; vs. Southampton); Sadio Mane (at Bournemouth); Christian Eriksen (vs. Swansea City); Riyad Mahrez (vs. Sunderland)
Key Stats: Zaha has notched an assist in five straight EPL matches. The Eagles' winger may not keep his streak against the resolute Southampton defense, but Zaha scores fantasy points across the board. His 50 successful take-ons trail only Eden Hazard (54). His 17 key passes are level with Joe Allen and Sadio Mane, while his six total assists are tied for third in the League with Dimitri Payet. The Saints may keep out goals, but they do not dominate by holding the ball, boasting just 52% possession this season. Zaha will get his chances.
Plan B: Matt Phillips (vs. Watford); James Milner (at Bournemouth); Paul Pogba (d; at Everton); Robert Snodgrass (d; at Middlesbrough)
Pogba may surpass 5% selected by kickoff, but his low selection illustrates how much a real-life price tag impacts perception. For FPL purposes Pogba has been excellent. He's 11th among midfielders (minimum 200 minutes played) in total points (161) while averaging the ninth best points per match (13.42). Sure, he only has one assist, but his 23 key passes are more than teammate Juan Mata (20) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (19), Mane (17) or Riyad Mahrez (16). You'll get stick for selecting him, then win the week going away.
Key Stats: Sunderland has just 33 shots on target this season, but Defoe has 11 of them. To underline the lack of finishing quality in David Moyes's squad: when Sunderland bested Hull City 3-0, the Black Cats were out-shot 17-11 in total shots and 7-4 in those on target. So why trust Defoe in this one? Leicester has been putrid on the road. The champions have allowed the fifth-most shots on target (65) and a league-worst 16 away goals.
Plan B: Roberto Firmino (at Bournemouth); Diego Costa (at Manchester City); Charlie Austin (d; at Crystal Palace); Alvaro Negredo (d; vs. Hull City)
Firmino faces a late fitness test, which will keep his ownership numbers low. If he's fit, he's a must-start against the struggling Cherries. If he's unable to play, Divock Origi is an excellent value proposition. The Belgian forward scored the opening goal in Liverpool's EFL Cup win over Leeds United on Tuesday and has an EPL goal already this season despite playing just 162 league minutes.