The first half of this season was riddled with shock results and surprise packages, which put paid to the devious plans of many a fantasy football manager.
Now past the half way point of 2015/16, every team has a firm objective in mind, but with the title race still wide open, unpredictability remains the overriding theme of what has been a fascinating curio of a season to date.
1/2/3. Hugo Lloris, Christian Eriksen & Harry Kane – vs Sunderland (H)
The difference between these two sides is stark, with Tottenham clear favourites to be the big winners of GW22. Aside from Fabio Borini and ex-Tottenham striker Jermaine Defoe, Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has little with which to threaten this weekend’s hosts.
Realistically, a draw would be an excellent result in what is (for Sunderland) an increasingly fraught battle to avoid relegation. By sharp contrast, Tottenham remain on the periphery of the title fight, and with Sunderland set to ‘park the bus’, a creative element is needed to break the resistance.
Christian Eriksen’s vision is sublime and up there with the likes of Ozil and Silva, and an astute performance from the Dane will be crucial to Tottenham’s success this weekend, as he links with Harry Kane. Kane himself should be considered for captaincy in any fantasy team, since he is now regaining the form of last season which thrust him into the international limelight.
Given that Sunderland are likely to play for a point, Hugo Lloris is also set to be one of the safest goalkeepers in GW22.
4. Kurt Zouma – vs Everton (H)
Many managers are still unsure about Zouma, with the Frenchman enduring an erratic first half of 2015/16. The young centre half still has much to learn at the top level, but in recent weeks he has shown greater levels of maturity as Chelsea’s fight to avoid a shock relegation continues.
For Everton, Romelu Lukaku remains as menacing as ever, and the ex-Chelsea striker will be closely marked throughout the match. However, it is worth noting that Everton are without a win at Stamford Bridge in 21 years, and with just two clean sheets in the last seven Premier League games, defensive solidarity remains an unaddressed issue for the Merseysiders.
The last two Stamford Bridge meetings between these sides have ended 1-0 in favour of the Londoners, and again there should be little to separate the two sides. However, all the signs point to another frustrating West End blank for the Toffees.
5. Dimitri Payet – vs Newcastle (A)
Payet was one of West Ham’s key components in the club’s stunning sequence of away wins at the start of 2015/16. Statistically, he remains the club’s most valuable and efficient player, despite enduring a long absence that could only hinder the Hammers’ challenge for a Europa League berth.
Despite the hard fought draw against Man United mid-week, Newcastle’s erratic form should remain a major concern for Steve McLaren, and the atmosphere at home typically does little to help the Magpies.
6. Marko Arnautovic – vs Arsenal (H)
Arsenal utterly despise visiting the Britannia Stadium, and this has the potential to be a particularly painful experience for the Gunners.
In recent weeks, Stoke City have played without fear in the presence of their ‘betters’, having outfoxed both Manchester clubs already this season. Arsenal may be front runners in the title race, but the North Londoners have struggled when pressed by opposition teams.
Marko Arnautovic has been a crucial outlet for the Potters this season, and this weekend’s game represents a great opportunity for the Austrian attacker to control the game.