FPL Gameweek 18 – Captain Picks

A host of heavy-hitters are vying for armband attention this weekend as midweek fixtures, rests, knocks, form and fixtures are all assessed in the GW18 captaincy debate.

PREMIUM OPTIONS

Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) vs Crystal Palace (H)

Benched for the second time in three gameweeks, Sterling netted soon after his introduction against Everton on Saturday. Another Premier League rest was a surprise for owners of the midfielder, but it should be a boost for his GW18 captaincy credentials.

While attempting to predict Pep Guardiola’s XI is a torrid task, Sterling appears a good bet to start this weekend. The Citizens travel to take on Leicester tonight in an EFL Cup quarter-final, with owners of Sky Blues attackers hoping for some clues from the Spanish manager.

Sterling’s GW17 header brought the attacker’s FPL tally to 33 in his last four gameweek appearances. Having failed to score against Chelsea in GW16, Guardiola’s team added another three goals to their ‘for’ column: the Citizens have scored 48 times this season (33 at home), 11 more than league leaders Liverpool.

City’s GW18 opponents Crystal Palace have conceded 23 times so far this campaign, with 15 of those shipped on the road. The Eagles have kept three clean sheets in the last five gameweeks; one away to Manchester United (GW13) and two at home against Burnley (GW14) and Leicester (GW17). The Foxes saw a Jamie Vardy (£8.8m) effort hit the post before rebounding into the hands of Vicente Guaita (£4.2m) at Selhurst Park on Saturday. Roy Hodgson’s men allowed their visitors eight shots inside the box, from a total of 12 attempts.

12 is also the amount of shots Palace have conceded on average over this campaign. Sterling is part of a City side averaging over 18 goal attempts per game so far. With 16 goal involvements already, the England star has the form and fixtures to reward captainers this weekend.

UPDATE: Sterling came on in the 67th minute of City’s cup tie, missing a shootout spot-kick as the Citizens went through on penalties (no extra time was played).

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.5m) vs Burnley (H)

The Arsenal striker is flattering to deceive following a 16-point haul in GW14. Aubameyang has only registered an assist since then, having posted a second blank in three gameweeks away to Southampton on Sunday.

An expected goals (xG) figure of 0.6 means owners can feel slightly aggrieved at the forward’s failure to return points against the Saints. All three of Aubameyang’s goal attempts in GW17 were deemed big chances.

The Gabon striker has now missed 10 big chances overall. Five of those have come in the last two gameweeks as the forward’s goal conversion rate regresses.

Despite these declines, Aubameyang must be considered for the GW18 armband. The Gunners host a Burnley side that have conceded 33 times so far, with 18 of those coming in away fixtures. The Clarets are maintaining an average concession of just over 20 shots per game. While Sean Dyche’s men did frustrate Spurs in GW17 with a 5-4-1 formation, they still allowed their hosts 15 goal attempts. Two-thirds of those were taken inside the box.

Arsenal have not been kept scoreless since a 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester City in Gameweek 1. While Unai Emery continues to flit between formations and change up his starting XI, Aubameyang has started in each of Arsenal’s fixtures from GW10. The Gunners play Spurs on Wednesday night in a big EFL Cup clash for the two clubs.

With Alexandre Lacazette (£9.6m) benched in GW17 after starting in the Europa League last Thursday, Auba owners will be interested to see Emery’s teamsheet for the Tottenham tie. Owners of both the striker and City winger Sterling could end up making a captaincy pick based on midweek minutes as the festive fixture pile-up starts in earnest this gameweek.

Eden Hazard (£11.0m) vs Leicester (H)

A first goal since GW10 saw the Belgian bag a 13-point haul against Brighton on Sunday. Hazard’s assist was his fifth (from an overall total of nine) in the past four gameweeks.

The midfielder was used as a ‘false nine’ for the second gameweek in a row at the Amex Stadium. Maurizio Sarri had alluded to the possibility of fielding Hazard centrally after Chelsea’s win against Man City. While the attacker admitted that “you don’t touch the ball a lot” in that position, his display against the Seagulls suggests he can inflict damage on weaker opponents whatever Sarri’s line-up might be.

Hazard was substituted late on in GW17 with a slight injury, though Sarri’s post-match comments were positive for owners and potential captainers. The Italian said: “It’s only a knock. I spoke with the doctor five minutes ago and the doctor told me it’s not a big problem. Maybe one day to rest, two days at most.”

That means the Belgium international should be rested for Chelsea’s EFL Cup clash against Bournemouth tomorrow but probably ready for Leicester’s visit on Saturday. The Foxes have conceded 21 times so far this season, keeping two clean sheets in the last six gameweeks.

Sarri will hopefully provide a further update on Hazard in his pre-match press conference on Friday. Positive news from the manager would put the attacker firmly in contention for the GW18 armband.

UPDATE: Hazard was pictured in training on Tuesday and is set for a late fitness test ahead of the Bournemouth game. Chelsea assistant boss Gianfranco Zola said: “Hazard is one of our best players so to have him available is a big deal. But we don't want to compromise anything. We will see. It depends on the fitness test today.”

Harry Kane (£12.6m) vs Everton (a)

The Spurs striker just pips Mohamed Salah (£13.1m) for the final premium captaincy spot this gameweek. Kane has scored seven times in eight league appearances against Everton; six of those goals have come in the forward’s last three ties versus the Toffees.

Many owners were left disappointed in GW17 as Kane failed to net at home to Burnley, though an assist soothed the pain. The England striker mustered just two goal attempts, neither of which were on target. The Clarets’ aforementioned 5-4-1 set-up meant Spurs required a late Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) winner, as Tottenham’s exertions against Barcelona in the Champions League seemed to catch up with them.

Everton also used a three-man central defence in GW17, though naturally were much more attacking than Burnley. Marco Silva’s men have conceded seven times over the last four gameweeks.

Spurs are another side whose midweek XI will be interesting, as Kane owners will be looking for Eriksen and Heung-Min Son (£8.5m) to be restored in Mauricio Pochettino’s league selection. But if the striker comes through tomorrow’s North London derby unscathed, he is certainly a contender for the GW18 armband.

UPDATE: Kane may be a substitute against Arsenal after failing to train outside on Tuesday due to a cold. Pochettino said: “We need to assess him because he had a cold this morning and he didn't go outside to train. It's a big decision. If we consider that he can cope with 90 minutes, maybe he can play. If not, maybe he will be on the bench [...] because to protect him, he didn't train outside. He was doing something in the gym.”

DIFFERENTIAL CHOICE

Salomon Rondon (£5.8m) vs Fulham (H)

The Venezuelan striker makes his second appearance of the season as a differential armband choice. Following a GW12 brace, Rondon failed to immediately deliver after being tipped as a captaincy punt in GW13. However, the Newcastle forward has scored twice and recorded an assist in the past three gameweeks.

The Magpies host a Fulham side that have shipped 24 of 42 goals on the road. The Cottagers show no sign of improving defensively under Claudio Ranieri so far, with 11 goals conceded in the five gameweeks the Italian has been in charge for.

With a tough fixture run to come after GW18, Rondon may not be a priority on many managers’ shopping lists ahead of the Christmas schedule. However, those wanting to take a risk with the GW18 captaincy could do worse than the Newcastle No 9, who has averaged almost six points per game over the last four gameweeks.