Week 11 Fixtures
Manchester City v. Middlesbrough
West Ham v. Stoke City
Burnley v. Crystal Palace
Bournemouth v. Sunderland
Chelsea v. Everton
Arsenal v. Tottenham
Hull City v. Southampton
Liverpool v. Watford
Swansea City v. Manchester United
Leicester City v. West Brom
So, which games to Pass (avoid) and which to Shoot (spend your funds)?
An Unpredictable Mess for a Pair of Floundering Squads
After beginning the season with a trio of victories, Manchester United has won only one of its past seven games (with three losses and three draws otherwise mixed in) and Jose Mourinho seems adrift in his first season with the Red Devils. Meanwhile, after winning the opener, Swansea City has no wins in the subsequent nine games (two draws, seven losses) including the past three under new skipper Bob Bradley. If the game were at Old Trafford, I would envision a victory for the home side and laud a strong possibility of a clean sheet. But in South Wales, all bets are off. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a draw or a victory for either side. I wouldn’t be surprised to see nil-nil or 3-2. On top of that, both managers will be tempted to tinker with their starting line-ups in an attempt to get some kind of spark going. Not only will it be difficult to feel confident about fantasy returns from this one, but you can’t even be certain the players you pick will see much of the pitch.
A More Predictable but Inevitably Unrewarding Outcome
West Ham v. Stoke City, on the other hand, I harbor much more of a feeling about. Two mediocre to bad teams. West Ham is averaging one goal scored and 1.6 goals allowed at home. Stoke City is averaging one goal scored and 1.4 goals allowed on the road. Sure, Stoke City’s in better form, but the match is at the Olympic Stadium. This one has 1-1 written all over it, maybe 2-1 but really 1-1 seems right. If you pick a defender or keeper, you’ll probably just miss out on the clean sheet. If you roll with an offensive player, you could easily miss out on his side’s goal/assist. Weak tea, this affair.
The North London Derby is an Unfortunate Bit of Both Worlds
In the past seven Arsenal-Tottenham tilts, each side has two wins, with three draws otherwise. The most common score lines have been 1-0, 1-1 and 2-1 (twice each), with the other being 2-2. So it’s pretty clear to see that in recent history, these teams generally do not end up with open games. Rather, they play tough, competitive games that tend to be low-scoring, but not to the point where you can rely on a clean sheet. The slight edge should go to the Gunners with the game at the Emirates, but then again, the past two derbies at that famed site resulted in 1-1 ties. It is the game I am most looking forward to watching this weekend as a fan of quality football, but it’s slim pickings, fantasy-wise, as it could go either way and will probably end up in the 1-1 vicinity.
Form Horse Rather Than Trap Game
1st place at home vs. 15th place on the road. Manchester City has scored 11 while allowing only four goals at home. The Citizens are also coming off a demolition over West Brom followed by a rousing mid-week Champions League victory over a little team named Barcelona. However, Middlesbrough can be a tough nut to crack, having given up two or more goals to only three teams thus far (Crystal Palace, Everton and Tottenham). Other than the nil-nil Arsenal affair, though, Middlesbrough has not yet proven itself against top-tier competition, with the likes of Chelsea, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Southampton having been avoided thus far...along with, of course, Manchester City. So don't worry about a trap game as Middlesbrough should be the team that ends up caught in the snare.
With Enough Rolls of the Dice, Your Number Should Come Up
With such a wealth of attractive attacking options, picking the right Liverpool player or players can be a maddening experience, but when the Reds light up the score sheet, the odds are in your favor. Liverpool has the best home offense in the league, averaging 2.75 goals per game at Anfield. And while Watford has been stingy on the road (1.0 goals gpg allowed) thus far, its back line is only middling overall. As well, Watford’s away record looks like a mirage as none of the teams the Hornets have played away from the comforts of Vicarage Road sits in the top eight. Meanwhile, Liverpool has netted at least two goals in seven of its 10 games so far, notching four or more on four separate occasions. Another strong offensive output with a spreading of spoils seems like a pretty safe bet for the rampaging Reds.
An Unexpectedly Strong Home Side Welcomes an Unsurprisingly Poor Away Team
Bournemouth is +5 at home (9 goals for, 4 against), tying for the fifth-best mark in the league in that category, whereas Sunderland is -5 away (2 goals for, 7 against), which is sixth-worst. In other words, don’t be shy about going with Cherries...offense, defense, you name it!
Which fixtures and sides have you raring to splash your cash this weekend?