Fantasy managers are once more battling that annual dilemma; with four Premier League teams being granted a weekend away from Premier League action due to the Capital One Cup Final. Without the presence of key players from stronger teams, the source of points generally becomes far less predictable in the final weekend of February – this year is, however, a notable exception.
The fixture computer has unwittingly pitted most of the league’s better teams at home in GW 27, and the best starting XI truly picks itself. Most significantly, Tottenham play Swansea at home, and although the Swans have made a slight improvement since the appointment of Francesco Guidolin, managers would still be well advised to max out on Mauricio Pochettino’s young, title-challenging jewels.
1/2. Angelo Ogbonna & Dimitri Payet – vs Sunderland (H)
Sam Allardyce’s side remain unable to establish a run of form to escape the relegation zone, while West Ham host the Black Cats on the back of an encouraging win at Bournemouth.
Significant chances will come at a premium for the men in green, and a point from what will be their final visit to Upton Park would represent a positive result. Ultimately, it is only logical to include the still-affordable Ogbonna in defence, while Dimitri Payet’s influence will cause an array of problems for the visiting Wearside team.
3. Erik Pieters – vs Aston Villa (H)
A 6-0 home defeat to Liverpool merely served to further illustrate the problems that the Championship-bound Villa side has faced throughout the season. Even the very real prospect of a midlands derby with Burton Albion or Walsall has failed to inspire Remy Garde’s men.
Lately, the Potters have themselves suffered through a spate of torrid performances in defence, and Pieters has struggled without the presence of Ryan Shawcross, particularly during the Potters’ galling 3-0 home defeat to Everton. However, the visit of a doomed Aston Villa side appears to be the perfect tonic for Mark Hughes’ men.
4/5. Riyad Mahrez & Jamie Vardy – vs Norwich (H)
Although Leicester were beaten by Arsenal in GW 26, the five point gap the Foxes once boasted over the Gunners could easily be restored if Arsenal slip up at Old Trafford – although Tottenham will likely remain hot on their heels if they deliver their expected annihilation of Swansea.
Collectively, the usual Norwich City starters are a shambles, and it is not inconceivable that Leicester will acquire a rugby score against the hapless Canaries. The chemistry between Mahrez and Vardy remains as strong as ever, making them crucial inclusions in any squad.
Christian Fuchs should also be strongly considered, in lieu of the aforementioned Ogbonna, but it is arguably Norwich that will be the likeliest of the relegation-threatened sides to score in GW 27.
6. Olivier Giroud – vs Man United (A)
Manchester United have seldom utilised home advantage this season and, with Arsenal still the outright favourites to win the title, there is little to suggest that this will change.
Key United defenders are still fighting for full match fitness ahead of this clash, and Olivier Giroud’s consistency will almost certainly cause problems; and with Arsenal playing away, he’ll likely be a less popular pick amongst rival managers, making him a worthy inclusion this weekend.