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06 Feb 2019 by Colm Hayes

FPL Gameweek 26 – Captain Picks

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Considering that Manchester City are playing another GW25 fixture tonight, we have decided to overlook their assets in the armband debate with Chelsea visiting the Etihad on Sunday. Captain picks mainstay Mohamed Salah will be aiming to post his first returns in three gameweeks, while several other premium options warrant consideration going into GW26.

PREMIUM OPTIONS

Mohamed Salah (£13.6m) vs Bournemouth (H)

The Egyptian recorded a second consecutive blank on Monday night as Liverpool struggled to a 1-1 draw away to West Ham. Salah mostly operated from a wide-right position at the London Stadium, managing to get off four shots (two inside the box) against the Hammers. One of those penalty-area efforts hit the target but failed to really trouble Lukasz Fabianski (£4.7m).

The 1-1 draw at home to Leicester last Wednesday was a poorer outing for the Liverpool star as he managed just one open-play goal attempt, an effort which was blocked outside the box. Salah’s two blanks over GW24 and GW25 are the first time he has failed to return in successive fixtures since Gameweek 8. The midfielder has not blanked three times in a row so far this season.

Much like West Ham, Bournemouth are inconsistent from a defensive standpoint. The Cherries kept Chelsea scoreless as part of a 4-0 home rout before conceding twice in a poor showing away to Cardiff in GW25. Eddie Howe’s men allowed the Bluebirds three big chances and 12 efforts on goal at the weekend, with nine of those (including a penalty) taken inside the box. Chelsea were afforded 11 goal attempts (seven inside the area) at the Vitality in GW24. Maurizio Sarri’s side spurned both of their big chances in that encounter. Bournemouth are also without a win or draw on the road since GW10.

Salah may be restored to the striker’s role for the visit of the south-coast side, having bagged a hat-trick against the Cherries from that position in Gameweek 16. Liverpool’s form and recent lack of attacking fluency is a slight worry but the Egypt forward’s armband credentials remain strong. Salah has averaged 8.7 points per match at home to teams outside the top six across the campaign.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.2m) vs Huddersfield (a)

The Gabon striker’s armband audition in GW25 did not quite go to plan as Arsenal were dominated by Man City at the Etihad. The Gunners managed just four efforts on goal, one of which was an off-target Aubameyang shot.

However, a trip to take on the league’s bottom side should be just what the doctor ordered for Arsenal and Auba. 13 of the forward’s 15 goals this season have been scored against non-top-six sides, while his PPM away to ‘lesser’ opposition this season stands at 7. Out of eight games on the road, Aubameyang has blanked twice – against Southampton in GW17 and at West Ham in GW22. In the five games where he found the net, he picked up at least two bonus points.

Huddersfield are falling adrift at the bottom of the Premier League, with a 5-0 hammering at home to Chelsea exposing the Terriers’ set-up under new boss Jan Siewert. Eden Hazard (£10.9m) was fortunate to be awarded a penalty after Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.3m) was fouled outside the box but Huddersfield allowed the Blues a further 22 shots and six more big chances at Stamford Bridge.

A fixture against the Terriers proved to be an excellent tonic for Maurizio Sarri’s men in GW25 and should benefit Unai Emery’s outfit this weekend. Auba’s last league benching came back in GW9, with his pitch-time potential and record against lower-table sides making the striker a standout captaincy pick in Gameweek 26.

Paul Pogba (£8.6m) vs Fulham (a)

The France star provided a brilliant assist for Marcus Rashford (£7.7m) as Manchester United beat Leicester 1-0 at the King Power stadium last Sunday. That takes Pogba to six goals and six assists in FPL since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the hotseat at Old Trafford.

Pogba had an otherwise quiet day at the office, supplying one more key pass and surprisingly failing to register a shot over the 90 minutes. Rashford, on the other hand, fired off five efforts (two on target, three inside the box) against the Foxes. But the striker comes with the risk of being shifted to a wide attacking role – as he was against Burnley in GW24 – while Pogba’s near-guaranteed pitch time and penalty-taking duties promote him in our captaincy considerations.

The United midfielder should have plenty of opportunities to shoot at Craven Cottage. Fulham are conceding an average of 15 shots per game over the season, with the Whites still leaking goals under new boss Claudio Ranieri. The Cottagers have shipped twice in each of the last four gameweeks and have the worst defensive record in the league with 55 goals conceded.

Pogba’s lack of goal attempts against Leicester appears to be an anomaly; the Frenchman racked up 23 shots over the previous four gameweeks, with 10 of those hitting the target. Up against a defensively frail Fulham side, he will be aiming to post attacking returns for the eighth time in nine gameweeks.

Heung-Min Son (£8.7m) vs Leicester (H)

The South Korean attacker has made a seamless return at Spurs, scoring twice in two games since his return from a tiring Asian Cup trip. Son has now returned attacking points in six of his last seven starts, including four double-figure hauls.

The Tottenham star’s GW25 goal came with a bit of fortune, as Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) let Son’s only shot on target of the game slip through his hands. However, the Spurs man did fire off four other efforts (two inside the box, three blocked) before eventually striking the match winner.

Leicester have restricted both Liverpool and Man Utd to just one goal apiece in the past week following their defensive horror-show away to Wolves in GW23. The Foxes did allow 20 shots (15 inside the box) over those two most recent ties, however, with United afforded two big chances in GW25.

With Harry Kane (£12.4m) and Dele Alli (£8.9m) still sidelined, Son will be Spurs’ chief attacking threat for the near future at least. A move to a more central attacking role in the second half against Newcastle paid dividends for Son and Mauricio Pochettino, as the attacker made excellent use of Fernando Llorente’s (£5.7m) knockdown for his goal. Owners and potential captainers of the Tottenham midfielder will be hoping the Spurs manager uses Son in that position for Leicester’s visit on Sunday.

DIFFERENTIAL CHOICE

Pascal Gross (£6.7m) vs Burnley (H)

The German has been quietly ticking away over the past five gameweeks, scoring once and providing two assists en route to racking up 29 points. The 1.6%-owned Gross created a slightly ridiculous 10 goalscoring opportunities at home to Watford in GW25. Five of those attempted assists came from set-pieces, while two constituted big chances.

Such was the midfielder’s influence on the game against the Hornets, he netted three bonus points despite not posting an attacking return. His passing at the Amex Stadium included seven accurate crosses and six long balls that found a team-mate, while Gross also registered three off-target shots.

Burnley have tightened up in recent games, conceding four times in the last four gameweeks and generally cutting down on shot concession – though the Clarets did afford Man United 28 efforts on goal (15 inside the box) at Old Trafford in GW24. Sean Dyche’s side conceded a more modest 10 shots (six inside the box) at home to Southampton last weekend in a 1-1 draw.

Set-piece specialist Gross should have plenty of opportunity to register returns even if a meaner version of the Burnley defence turns up in GW26. While Brighton’s blank Gameweek 27 means the midfielder is not a current transfer target, owners seeking to take a big captaincy risk might have the right man in their squad.

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