Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 26: How to manage the shortened slate

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Thursday February 23rd, 2017

The following Fantasy Premier League advice is tailored toward players of Togga's Perfect XI. It's a weekly game in which every Premier League player is eligible to be selected into a 4-4-2 formation. There is no salary cap, no squad restrictions and you pick a fresh XI every week.

It only took 26 weeks, but we've finally arrived at a short slate of matches for this weekend's English Premier League action. Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Southampton will all see their scheduled matches moved to a later date, with Southampton and United set for Sunday's League Cup final and Arsenal and City slated to be their league opponents. With only 16 teams in action there's a limited player pool and fewer differentials to select, which makes it vital to find good value wherever you can. This is a perfect week to take a risk on a player you've considered in other weeks but passed over because there were better options.

Selecting the Perfect XI each week isn't an easy task and even the best-laid plans can use a Plan B, so we've provided alternatives for each position. Those designated (d) are differentials–players we expect will be owned by fewer than 5% of FPL managers this week. Togga has added "Own %" to its app so differentials are based on players' ownership percentage at the time of writing. You can check for updates when you set your squad.

Goalkeeper

Joel Robles (vs. Sunderland)

Key Stats: The Toffees have been excellent at home, blanking Southampton and Manchester City in consecutive Goodison Park tilts before conceding three to Bournemouth. Even with that match, Robles has five clean sheets in his last eight league starts. Jermain Defoe has the ability score on any defense, but with little else in the Sunderland attack Ronald Koeman's back unit should be keying on the Black Cats' lone scoring threat, making for a favorable day for Robles.

Plan B: Thibaut Courtois (vs. Swansea); Tom Heaton (at Hull); Ben Foster (vs. Bournemouth)

Bournemouth hasn't won in six league matches, but the Cherries have been shooting. In a 6-3 loss at Everton, the Toffees sold out their defense to press the attack. Tony Pulis's West Brom won't employ those same tactics and boasts clean sheets in its last two home league matches. Foster's fantasy value benefits from the save opportunities, and he may earn the clean sheet as well.

Defenders

Marcos Alonso (vs. Swansea); Kyle Walker (vs. Stoke); Gareth McAuley (d; vs. Bournemouth); Calum Chambers (d; at Crystal Palace)

Key Stats: Over the last nine weeks, Chambers has played eight matches, scoring 10+ points in seven of those, including his last five outings. The key? Contributing on both ends of the pitch. In his last five, Chambers has five key passes and an assist. He has also won 13 tackles and made a massive 35 clearances in that span. He may not end up in the Perfect XI, but he's a great differential play this weekend.

Plan B: Michael Keane (d; at Hull); Winston Reid (d; at Watford); David Luiz (d; vs. Swansea); Seamus Coleman (vs. Sunderland)

Chelsea defenders will be heavily owned this weekend, but Marcos Alonso (286 points) and Cesar Azpilicueta (262.75 points) are the names most frequently selected. While Luiz (192.25 points) trails his teammates on the season, his 10.2 point average over the last three league matches is the best among Blues' defenders–significantly better than second-placed Alonso (7.8). That average is bolstered by his goal against Liverpool, and he should have opportunities to get forward against the Swans.

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Midfielders

Sadio Mane (at Leicester); Eden Hazard (vs. Swansea); Dele Alli (vs. Stoke City); Ross Barkley (vs. Sunderland)

Key Stats: Mane has returned from the Africa Cup of Nations and re-established himself as one of the best attacking players in the Premier League. Mane scored both Liverpool goals in the Reds' 2-0 win over Spurs two weeks ago. He scored those from four shots on target and also recorded a key pass en route to 31 fantasy points. That was his second-best return of the season trailing on the 31.5 points he scored Gameweek 4. The opponent that week? Leicester City.

Plan B: Matt Phillips (d; vs. Bournemouth); Victor Moses (d; vs. Swansea); Alfred N'Diaye (d; vs. Burnley); Manuel Lanzini (d; at Watford)

Remarkably, none of the Plan B midfielders are currently owned in 5% of Perfect XI. That lack of ownership presents an excellent opportunity to outwit the opposition. West Ham's Lanzini may be the best value of a high-value bunch. With two goals and three assists in the Hammers' last five league matches, Lanzini has blossomed in Dimitri Payet's absence. Andy Carroll is an injury doubt for Saturday's match, leaving Lanzini positioned to possibly lead the line against the Hornets.

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Forwards

Roberto Firmino (at Leicester); Troy Deeney (d; vs. West Ham)

Key Stats: This weekend does provide an excellent chance to fade a big name and selecting Troy Deeney (15.2 average over the last three weeks) over Diego Costa (one goal, two assists in his last five league matches) is a risk worth taking. Deeney has only seven goals this season, but he has three in his last four and has scored four at home.

Plan B: Pedro (d; vs. Swansea); Christian Benteke (d; vs. Middlesbrough); Diego Costa (vs. Swansea); M'Baye Niang (d; vs. West Ham)

Five of the top 12 forwards, by total points scored, will be off this weekend. Strip away new arrivals Gabriel Jesus and Maolo Gabbiadini and the remaining pool of forwards is shallow and top heavy. Missing from the selections here are Romelu Lukaku (calf) and Harry Kane (knee). Both face late fitness tests but are worthy fantasy starters if they wind up playing. 

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