Week 26 Premier League Schedule
Saturday, February 13
Sunday, February 14
Best bets for 2+ goals: Chelsea, Everton, West Ham, Arsenal, Liverpool
Best bets for a clean sheet: West Ham, Everton, Southampton, Chelsea, Stoke
Fraser Forster - Southampton have yet to concede a goal since their #1 returned from injury 5 matches ago. While Swansea have been improved, they'll have a tough time getting through the man mountain between the sticks for the Saints.
Thibaut Courtois - While I am unsure of Chelsea's ability to keep a clean sheet with Gary Cahill at center back, I think chances are high for a win for the London club, and the Belgian keeper has been fantastic since Guus Hiddink took charge.
Joel Robles - It looks like Tim Howard may face a late fitness test ahead of the match against West Brom, but it may not matter as Robles looked very solid in the 3-0 victory over Stoke last weekend. With rumors that Howard may be on his way back to the US to play for Colorado Rapids in MLS, Robles could cement the starting role for the rest of the season. A good one-week pickup given the Toffees don't play in Week 27.
Adrian - The Hammers have one of the best away records in the Premier League this season and are traveling to face a goal-shy Norwich side that are looking increasingly likely to drop back down to the Championship next season. There are injuries across the back line, but the defensive depth is strong and should be able to help their keeper to a possible clean sheet, if not at least setting up some easy saves.
For the Brave: Simon Mignolet - Yes, Liverpool need a new keeper. Stat. However, that doesn't look like happening until the summer and with Jurgen Klopp unlikely to start Danny Ward (and certainly not Adam Bogdan), it looks like Mignolet is the #1 for the foreseeable future. The Reds' rear guard has been shaky at best this season, but the majority of their goals conceded have been from set pieces. The majority of Aston Villa's aerial threats will be sidelined for this one, so if you're feeling brave you may want to give Mignolet another chance in goal before Liverpool don't play next week.
Seamus Coleman - It feels like an age since Coleman was in the conversation as a good fantasy option on a weekly basis, but we may be seeing a resurgence for the Irishman after his goalscoring performance against Stoke. With question marks over who else will start in defense for Everton this week, Coleman is the best option if you think the Toffees will keep a clean sheet against the Baggies.
Angelo Ogbonna - Scored THAT goal to knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup midweek, and looks set to be the starter alongside James Collins with Winston Reid sidelined for at least a couple weeks with a hamstring injury. You may also want to consider Sam Byram if you're looking for bargain-priced options.
Erik Pieters - Bournemouth have been a tough opponent since the beginning of 2016, but I like Stoke to recover from their poor recent form this week and tighten up at the back. Pieters has been my go-to pick from the Potters this season due to his tendency to join the attack.
Virgil van Dijk - The added confidence of having Forster back in goal and the switch to a 3-5-2 formation has increased the stock of the Dutch center back, who now has more freedom to make forays into the attack during the run of play. His aerial prowess also makes him a goal threat from set pieces, and I like his chances to add to his goal tally this week.
John Terry - With Kurt Zouma out through injury, Terry will have a bit of extra responsibility to keep Gary Cahill in check alongside him. That could go either way, but the veteran thrives on being a leader and I think he'll be at his best against Newcastle. This also feels like a week where he pops up with an important goal.
For the Bold: Gabriel Paulista - Being tasked with facing the league's top scorer, who is on the league's top team, should be a recipe for disaster. However, Arsenal are one of two teams to come away with three points against Leicester this season, and have the added advantage of playing at home. When he isn't letting his emotions get the better of him, Paulista is capable of the type of performance that earns you a move to a club like Arsenal in the first place.
Dimitri Payet - Every time I watch the Frenchman play, I'm astounded that West Ham were able to sign him for just £12 million this summer. His passing range, vision, delivery and eye for goal are everything you look for in a player, and it's translated very well to fantasy. Norwich will struggle mightily to deal with him this weekend.
Willian - With Eden Hazard fit again and pushing for a start, predicting Hiddink's starting midfield against Newcastle is a bit of a crap-shoot. One name that should be safe from the selection headache is Willian, who is due a goal after a relatively dry spell by his standards this season.
Juan Mata - Finally deployed in his preferred position in the hole behind Wayne Rooney, Mata has been a major influence in United's improved attacking play in the past few weeks. With the in-form trio of Rooney, Anthony Martial and Jese Lingard to distribute the ball to, Mata looks primed for another good performance in the early kick-off.
Riyad Mahrez - It's almost a foregone conclusion to include the Algerian in player picks each week, but I wanted to take special care to make sure he was still included despite the difficult opposition this week. While Nacho Monreal has rightfully earned the left back role for the Gunners this season, I can't help thinking Mahrez may enjoy facing up against him rather than the pacier Kieran Gibbs.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - An old fantasy favorite is finally looking back to his best, just in time to face off against the most in-form defense in the Premier League. If the Swans are going to be the team to end the Saints' clean sheet streak, though, it seems likely that the Icelandic midfielder will be responsible.
Wahbi Khazri - With news that Adam Johnson has had his contract terminated and Jeremain Lens could need hernia surgery, any doubts over Khazri's starting status for the Black Cats should be cast aside. He was a constant nuisance against Liverpool, with his play directly responsible for both late goals. I expect him to be all over the Red Devils defense as well, and like his prospects for putting up an even bigger score this time around.
Aaron Lennon - While Ross Barkley has been the default choice from the Everton midfield, Lennon has been in better form lately and looks to have secured the right wing role ahead of Gerard Deulofeu for the time being. His defensive workrate makes him more likely to pick up additional points in formats that reward "phantom" points, while he has rediscovered his scoring boots recently as well.
Yohan Cabaye - Palace finally ended a 5-game skid with a draw last time out, and I like their chances to kick on with a bit of confidence in front of their home fans and cheerleaders at Selhurst Park. Cabaye has been the most important piece of the puzzle and will patrol the engine room alongside Mile Jedinak. With a potential two-striker formation, the Frenchman could be deployed in more of an advanced role for the match against the Hornets.
For the Daring: Philippe Coutinho - The little Brazilian returned from a lengthy injury layoff to score the equalizing goal against West Ham in the FA Cup midweek with a cheeky free kick, and didn't look too rusty despite his long absence. It remains to be seen whether he is ready to start twice in a week, but if news emerges that he'll be in the lineup against Aston Villa, you have to be tempted to bring him into your side. Be aware that the Reds won't play next week, however.
Diego Costa - What a turnaround for the striker since Jose Mourinho was sacked. Costa looks like a different man with Hiddink at the helm and looks among the likeliest candidates to score this week against an injury-ravaged Newcastle defense.
Roberto Firmino - Another player to experience a positive transformation with a new manager, Firmino has been on fire for Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp decided to play him as the lone striker in the Reds' setup. It will be interesting to see how the manager lines up once Daniel Sturridge is fit enough to start, but for this week Firmino should yet again lead the line.
Wayne Rooney - Like Mata, Rooney is making the most of being utilized in his preferred role. Big Sam isn't quite at Steve Bruce level for capitulating to the Manchester club, but the Red Devils should have enough quality to dispatch Sunderland this weekend, and Rooney will have his chances.
Romelu Lukaku - I would have listed Big Rom higher had it not been for some suggestions that Oumar Niasse may take some minutes away from him this weekend. I still think Niasse is more likely to be deployed on the left wing, but it's worth keeping an eye on this week to see how Roberto Martinez plans on using his new signing for the rest of the season. Still, Lukaku should get the start and we've seen that he doesn't need much time to make an impact.
Sergio Aguero / Harry Kane - The City-Spurs match is, in my opinion, the most challenging to predict this weekend. A goal fest seems just as likely as a 0-0, but it's hard to fault picking either of the strikers from these teams given their goalscoring records over the past two seasons. Maybe not the week to buy in on either at retail, but certainly not the week to drop at discount either. City don't play next week, so you may want to prepare to offload the Argentine if you have him at or near full-price.
Alexis Sanchez - Just as I expect Mahrez to enjoy facing off against Monreal, I'm imagining Sanchez running at Danny Simpson and a smile comes to my face. That flank should see plenty of action in this game, and I think the Chilean will give Mahrez a run for his money for most exciting player to watch on Sunday.
For the Adventurous: Emmanuel Adebayor - We haven't seen the usual quick start from the Togolese striker at his new club, but he looks like he'll be involved from the start against Watford. For an Eagles side hurting for goals, getting on the scoresheet would be a great way to ingratiate himself to his new fans. While there are certainly more appealing options this week, you could certainly do worse if you're looking for a differential or a bit of fun.
Who are you considering for your teams this week? Did I miss anyone? Anyone you disagree with? Share your thoughts in the comments as we approach the Week 26 deadline!