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Liverpool turn on the style, and Diego Costa's fantasy worth rises again

Sunday's fixtures had the perfect mix of drama and controversy, and they should ensure this year's title race will go all the way to May (Gameweek 37's Man City vs. Arsenal, anyone?).

Saturday, meanwhile, was a great day to be a Sunderland fan, with three vital points against Manchester United followed by Chelsea's 5-1 win over Newcastle.

Here's how Gameweek 26 of ESPN FC Premier Fantasy most definitely lived up to the hype.

WEEKLY WONDERS

Chelsea's dismantling of Newcastle was led by Pedro (£6.6m), who was given his first league start in four games and promptly helped himself to two goals and 15 points.

Liverpool defenders Nathaniel Clyne (£5.6m) and Kolo Toure (£4.9m) matched that tally, each recording a goal and a clean sheet in the 6-0 humiliation of Aston Villa.

Willian and Pedro were both among the goals for Chelsea.

Willian (£6.8m) has led the way all season for Chelsea, through the bad times and now the good. His goal and an assist, for 12 points, against Newcastle took him into the top 15 for midfielders -- 20 points clear of his nearest teammate.

Our most recent "last chance saloon" nominee, West Ham's Dmitri Payet (£7.0m), took the hint and fired in a goal and an assist for 12 points at Norwich, his first notable return in four matches. With Sunderland at home next, we might not be waiting so long for more.

TEAMSHEET TALK

Illness meant Stoke had to make do without Marko Arnautovic (£6.6m) at Bournemouth. Jonathan Walters (£6.0m) proved to be a more than adequate replacement, providing an assist in the 3-1 win.

But it wasn't exactly plain sailing for the Potters -- Glen Johnson (£5.9m) and Marc Muniesa (£4.7m) both limped off and by the end of the match, centre forward Mame Biram Diouf (£5.7m) was being employed as a full-back and centre-half Dionatan Teixeira (£4.6m) was playing only his second league match in three seasons at the club.

While Pedro was scoring big, Eden Hazard (£7.3m) again failed, but at least had the full 90 minutes to do so -- the first time he's started in the league in 2016. A calf injury meant Oscar (£6.4m) played no part for the first time since the end of October, while Jon Obi Mikel (£5.7m) was benched after seven consecutive starts.

As expected, Gary Cahill (£6.5m) replaced the long-term injured Kurt Zouma (£5.9m) at the heart of an increasingly robust Chelsea defence.

Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck could prove a fantasy hit in the final weeks of the season.

Francis Coquelin (£5.3m) was given his first Arsenal start since early November, replacing Mathieu Flamini (£5.8m), while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.4m) made it consecutive league starts for only the second time this season.

And after nine months out, Danny Welbeck (£7.0m) took just eight minutes to grab the headlines -- and give ESPN FC Premier Fantasy managers a potential selection dilemma as the season enters its final third.

Daniel Sturridge (£8.3m) and Philippe Coutinho (£7.7m) returned to devastating effect for Liverpool.

Coutinho's two assists caught the eye, suggesting he will once again be the go-to man at the heart of the Reds' midfield. Most under threat in terms of points potential could be Roberto Firmino (£7.2m), who was no longer fielded as a false 9 and instead took up residency behind Sturridge, gaining a solitary assist against a wretched Villa defence.

THE NUMBERS GAME

Chelsea are now unbeaten in 10 league matches, and 12 overall, under Guus Hiddink. Segment 2's prices came into effect just as that run began, with almost the entire squad seeing their values drop on the back of a terrible first half of the season.

The stats detailing their marked attacking and defensive improvement over the last 10 gameweeks mean those values will not stay so low for long.

Since Hiddink's first match in charge, in GW17, Chelsea have the third-most clean sheets (four) and fewest goals conceded (10) and lie second best for errors, just two, and for shots conceded in the area (63). The defence has also allowed the least headed chances (13).

At the other end of the pitch, the Blues have been the second highest scorers, with 20 goals, and are second for big chances (23). The attack is also in the top six for minutes per chance (7.1) and total attempts (134).

Diego Costa is back in top form for Chelsea.

The main beneficiary of the Hiddink evolution has been Diego Costa (£8.6m). In that 10-match period, the Spaniard leads the way with seven goals, 83 penalty area touches and a 108.6 minutes per goal average among regular starters.

His 29 penalty area attempts is the third-highest figure and his 26.2 minutes per chance figure puts him comfortably in the top 10.

Costa started Segment 2 valued at just £7.8m. His stock is rising quickly -- as are the values of his teammates.

Chelsea have a good run-in, with six of the league's bottom 10 still to face. The time to invest in the Blues is now.

By The Scout from Fantasy Football Scout -- the tips, news and views site for Premier League Fantasy Football managers. @FFScout on Twitter.

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