Saturday's fixture list for Game Week 32:
West Ham v. Crystal Palace
Bournemouth v. Manchester City
Sunderland v. West Brom
Arsenal v. Watford
Liverpool v. Tottenham
In the early game, Chelsea looks to be the latest to take advantage of a match-up with miserable Aston Villa, which has lost its past six tilts by a combined score of 18-2. Ouch! The resurgent visitors should come in feeling confident thanks to an unbeaten streak of 14 games, although eight of those have been draws. Did you load up on Blues, or does the Villa Park locale, combined with the continued suspension of Diego Costa and injury absence of Eden Hazard, leave you expecting a close result?
Norwich v. Newcastle features an exciting relegation battle, with the Canaries coming off an away victory over West Brom following a draw with Manchester City. The visiting Magpies, on the other hand, have not won in their last five tries with only one draw to show for that handful of games as Rafa Benitez desperately looks for a three point result to build on. Second string keeper Robert Elliot was injured over the break, leaving third choice Karl Darlow to fill in with Tim Krul still out. Do you have anyone amongst strong newcomers Timm Klose, Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend, or are you relying instead on mainstays such as Robbie Brady and Ayoze Perez?
West Ham and Crystal Palace have been headed in different directions for quite some time now, with the home side surging toward a possible Champions League berth and the visitors plummeting close to the relegation line. Are you expecting Dimitri Payet, Michail Antonio and Enner Valencia to continue their fine form, or are we in for a surprise with Yohan Cabaye or Yannick Bolasie turning their activity into results?
Without Sergio Aguero, Manchester City dispatched Bournemouth 5-1 at the Etihad earlier in reverse fixture. Kun is back, but Yaya Toure and Raheem Sterling are out injured this time around, with the returning Kevin De Bruyne unlikely to be fit enough for a start. Will City get the needed away result to keep them in the top four, or will they be looking ahead to the midweek Champions League fixture and fall short against a pesky Bournemouth side looking to give its fans something to remember?
Buoyed by recent acquisitions Wahbi Khazri and Jan Kirchhoff, Sunderland is coming off three straight draws, but could definitely use a victory to crawl out of the relegation zone. Which West Brom team will show up, the one that recently won three out of four or the side that followed that up with a home loss to Norwich?
Arsenal looks for revenge against a Watford squad that prevailed in the F.A. Cup, as the Gunners look to be aided by their focus on the only challenge remaining, catching Tottenham and Leicester City. You may be surprised that the Londoners have won only one of their prior four games at the Emirates (including a shock loss to Swansea), but Watford has been shut out four times in their past five times on the road while the formerly prolific Odion Ighalo has not scored in his past seven games overall. Are you looking for a repeat of the 3-0 victory by Arsenal in the reverse fixture, or will Arsenal's inconsistency return to the fore against the plucky Hornets?
The loss of Jack Butland to injury has to worry defense-minded Stoke City as Swansea City comes to town, especially as the Potters have only managed one clean sheet in their last seven games and the Swans have won three of their past four contests. Gylfi Sigurdsson has scored seven times in his past dozen affairs, while the home side has been spreading the offense around a bit more as Marco Arnautovic, Mame Diouf, Joselu, Xherdan Shaqiri and Jon Walters have been responsible for the team's five goals in its past four games.
In the late game, Liverpool will look to continue its recent dominance of Tottenham, having won five of the past six match-ups between the sides. However, the visiting Spurs can find a measure of comfort in having drawn the Reds in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane earlier this season, along with the fact that Harry Kane and Dele Alli (five goals and four assists, respectively, in the past three games) are on fire. Liverpool will have the 3-2 defeat at Southampton fresh in its mind, having seen a two goal lead evaporate late, but will look to recent injury returnees Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge to continue their goal-scoring, perhaps joined by Roberto Firmino.
My teams (named Stallone Wall) at the moment:
Adrian / Alerweireld, Bellerin, Fuchs / Alli, Mahrez, Ozil, Payet / Aguero (V), Kane (C), Vardy / Bench: McCarthy, Arnautovic, Wollscheid, Otamendi
Adrian / Clichy, Kirchhoff, Klose, Rangel / Antonio, Mahrez, Payet, Townsend / Aguero, Kane
Togga Perfect XI:
Adrian / Clichy, Fuchs, Monreal, Van Dijk / Antonio, Eriksen, Ozil, Payet / Aguero, Kane
There's surely no shortage of high hopes going in fantasy with today's octet of games. Who are you relying on and how do you expect the games to turn out?
Good luck everybody. Let's chat!