Manchester United’s frontmen both find the net ahead of a weekend derby match at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Chelsea have to rely on an own goal for a share of the spoils with Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge.
It says everything about Romelu Lukaku’s recent fall from grace that, ahead of this Sunday’s Manchester derby, he is second only to suspended team-mate Paul Pogba for transfers out in Fantasy Premier League (116,000 to 190,000)
The Belgian forward’s ownership has been on the slide since Gameweek 8, losing more than a million managers during an eight-match slump in which he’s managed just one goal.
As a result, his equaliser in United’s 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow last night could not have been more timely.
Partnered by Marcus Rashford as Jose Mourinho continued with a 3-4-1-2 set-up, Lukaku steered home a Pogba pass as United finally found a way past the Russians to secure top spot in Group A of the Champions League.
Even more encouragingly for the 35.1% of FPL bosses who have stayed loyal to the forward, he was a purposeful presence throughout the match, although he did miss one big chance when the score was still 0-0.
More than 115,000 have sold Lukaku this week, with 47,000+ moving on to Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata. That’s the most popular swap ahead of Gameweek 16, while 70,000+ made the exact same move last week as well.
But Man City’s defence have kept just one clean sheet over the past six matches and once the derby is done, United’s schedule is set fair until a New Year’s Eve trip to Tottenham.
Rashford hit last night’s winner from a Juan Mata assist to break his own nine-match scoring drought in all competitions.
The 7.6-priced England international was a constant threat against the Russians last night, firing five efforts to Lukaku’s three.
However, Mourinho’s recent teamsheets indicate that Rashford – who has played just 26 minutes in the last two Gameweeks – could be back on bench-warming duties against City.
Anthony Martial was afforded just 17 minutes as a substitute last night and, having started the last four Gameweeks – supplying two goals and an assist – looks likely to partner Lukaku up top on Sunday.
Similarly, Jesse Lingard – unused against the Russians – looks likely to replace Mata in the support role, having netted twice against Arsenal last week.
In defence, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof worked in tandem for the fifth straight match in all competitions, with Daley Blind completing the back three as Marcos Rojo was rested.
The United boss made a total of five changes ahead of the derby, also giving the likes of David de Gea and Ashley Young the night off, with Sergio Romero, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Mata and Rashford coming in.
The draw for the Champions League knockout stages takes place on Monday.
The first legs of the Round of 16 will take place on February 13/14 (after Gameweek 27) and 20/21 (prior to Gameweek 28), the second legs on March 6/7 and 13/14, either side of Gameweek 30.
Hazard productive in Chelsea stalemate
Chelsea came from behind to draw 1-1 with Atletico Madrid, but it wasn’t enough for the Blues to win Group C.
Coach Antonio Conte made just three changes from the team that beat Newcastle United at the weekend, with the most significant player rested on the night the 15.8%-owned wing-back Marcos Alonso.
Notably, Alonso is the only outfield player to start every league match for the Blues this term and now looks set to return to the teamsheet away to West Ham on Saturday lunchtime.
He was joined on the sidelines by Antonio Rudiger and Danny Drinkwater, with Davide Zappacosta, Gary Cahill and Tiemoue Bakayoko coming in.
The two most popular purchases heading into Gameweek 16, Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata, both started. The former played the full match, while the latter was replaced by Michy Batshuayi for the final nine minutes.
The in-form Hazard, who has five goals and three assists from his last six league starts, was a threat throughout and instigated the equaliser when his cross/shot was turned into the net by Atletico defender Stefan Savic.
However, it was Morata who boasted the hosts’ chief goal threat – he fired seven attempts to Hazard’s two and also bettered him for shots on target, by five to zero.
FPL managers owning Hazard (12.5%) and Morata (35.5%) will have been concerned to see their star men play so long last night, although Conte had little choice but to go with his key attackers with the chance to top the group up for grabs.
With a trip to the London Stadium on Saturday followed by a clash against Huddersfield just three days later, those owners will be hoping that Conte doesn’t manage their minutes too keenly.
Of the two, it’s arguably the Spaniard who looks more at risk of a rest as he’s started the last seven Gameweeks, and finished the last five, whereas Hazard sat out all but nine minutes of Gameweek 14’s win over Swansea City.
Meanwhile, emerging Fantasy asset Andreas Christensen made his sixth straight start in all competitions, and the 5.5-priced centre-half underlined his potential at set-pieces with a couple of headed chances last night. He would seem destined for another start the London Stadium with David Luiz set to remain on the sidelines with his ongoing knee problem.