|START 'EM - WHICH PLAYERS SHOULD YOU PICK?
As Manchester City go in search of their 100th goal of the season (yes, already) at home to Cardiff City, Alvaro Negredo (8.0) stands out as the man to back – even in spite of Sergio Aguero's goalscoring return in midweek. The Spain international has scored in all but one of his last 12 Etihad outings, notching an incredible 16 times at home since the start of October. Negredo has netted against the Bluebirds this season already and is likely to do so again.
In the absence of Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey, and with Mesut Ozil's form dipping in recent weeks, Jack Wilshere (6.5) has stepped up to carry Arsenal's title charge. The England international bagged a goal and an assist within the space of a minute against Aston Villa last time out, and, of all the Gunners' attacking options, the 22-year-old is the player most likely to exploit a staggeringly inept Fulham defence that has conceded 22 goals in eight games under Rene Meulensteen.
After some surprisingly leaky defensive displays at the start of the season, Jose Mourinho has whipped Chelsea's back-line into shape and they are a formidably solid unit once more. John Terry (5.5) has marshalled the defence to four clean sheets in their last five league games, and in the big matches, such as trips to Old Trafford and the Emirates, they have set-up not to concede with great success. Expect more negativity, and a clean sheet, when Manchester United visit on Sunday.
Steven Gerrard (8.0) made a goalscoring return from injury against Stoke City as he resumed spot-kick duties to net on his first league start since December 7. A home fixture against Aston Villa is exactly the kind of opponent Liverpool have chewed up and spat out with such swash-buckling, goalscoring vigour recently, and Gerrard has enjoyed himself against the west Midlands outfit in the past – in fact, he has scored more goals against Villa (11) than any other side in the Premier League.
|SIT 'EM - WHICH PLAYERS SHOULD YOU AVOID?
Tottenham midfielder Lewis Holtby (6.5) had occasionally threatened to become a key player for the north Londoners this season, netting a match-winning screamer against Fulham and consistently impressing in the Europa League. New head coach Tim Sherwood, though, has not been impressed with the one-time Germany Under-21 captain, and the former Schalke man looks set to be sent back to Gelsenkirchen barely a year after leaving.
Samir Nasri (7.5) has performed fantastically for Manchester City this season, but a potential eight-week lay-off coupled with the fact that he has not registered a goal or assist in his last five games means it is time to part company with the French playmaker. Another City player worth keeping an eye on, for now, is Edin Dzeko, who could return to the bench sooner rather than later following Aguero's return to action.
Fulham boss Meulensteen has enacted some positive changes at Craven Cottage, but a more robust defence is not one of them. Though Brede Hangeland (4.5) is expected to return to the starting XI, even the towering centre-back's presence is unlikely to prevent Fulham from being torn apart by Arsenal. The Cottagers have conceded four or more goals in 50 per cent of their games under the Dutchman and should be given a wide berth this weekend.
Teenage sensation Ross Barkley (4.0) has been one of the stand-out performers in the Premier League this season, though a fractured toe looks set to sideline the Everton attacking midfielder for up to six weeks. Despite his undoubted talent, the 20-year-old had netted just once since the end of September, while the Toffees' thin squad will be stretched to the maximum over the coming weeks.
|THE BARGAIN BASEMENT
Theo Walcott's season-ending injury is bad news for everyone associated with Arsenal, though Serge Gnabry (4.5) is primed to profit from the Englishman's absence. The teenager started in the Gunners' 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Monday after an excellent display and assist against Tottenham in the FA Cup third round, and the German is expected to retain his place for this weekend's match against an unpredictable and porous Fulham defence.
Quite why Swansea City allowed Ki Sung-Yueng (4.5) to join Sunderland on loan remains a mystery, especially with the South Korean in such excellent form. The 24-year-old is thriving under Gus Poyet's tutelage and change of style, frequently deployed off a lone frontman, and has duly notched four goals or assists in as many league matches – as well as netting the winner against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup quarter-final.
Crystal Palace, rejuvenated under Tony Pulis, have several favourable home fixtures they will be looking to profit from over the coming weeks, beginning with the visit of Stoke City. The Potters are among the lowest scorers on their travels, and have accrued the joint-fewest points (5), while the Eagles' back-line has been resilient at Selhurst Park, save for a collapse against Newcastle. Adventurous full-back Joel Ward (3.5), used in midfield recently, offers good value.
When Nikica Jelavic (7.0) first arrived in England he struck with such regularity that he even drew comparison with a certain Ruud van Nistelrooy. Since then, however, the Croatia international has struggled for form, but a transfer to Hull City offers the chance reignite his career. The last time he made a January move, he netted nine goals in the 13 remaining matches of the season, and struck twice on his maiden visit to Carrow Road – where the Tigers travel on Saturday.
|CAPTAIN'S CHOICE - TOP TIP FOR DOUBLE POINTS
The captain's choice is becoming rather predictable, with Liverpool hot-shot Luis Suarez (10.0) once again the best bet to haul in the points this week. The Uruguay international is, quite simply, the most deadly player in Europe right now, let alone the Premier League. His 22 goals in 16 league outings is more than any other player has managed, and he's averaged a goal or assist every 53 minutes.
Partner in crime Daniel Sturridge is back in action now too, and already the devastating SAS telepathy was on show as Liverpool indulged in yet more goals, this time at the regularly impenetrable Britannia. A word of warning, though: only Everton have conceded fewer away goals than Saturday's visitors Aston Villa, while Suarez has netted just once in five appearances against the Villans.
|GAMEWEEK 22 - BEST XI
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