Looking ahead to week 23 we have the fixture preview.
Arsenal v Watford
A very strong looking home win with Arsenal looking to close the gap over the league leaders before next weekends showdown at Stamford Bridge.
The Gunners have scored 2 or more in their last 4 games and against any side playing open football can take the game away from them early. Watford have lost 7 aways in a row and don’t look to have the form to punish the home side much to me.
A likely win by 2 or more for Arsenal making Alexis Sanchez a must. Olivier Giroud likely starts but I still advise caution on his starting status now Theo Walcott is fit once more. Covering the Arsenal clean sheet chance makes sense.
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace
These two cannot defend at all at this point in the season. Want something factual to prove my point? Palace have conceded at least 2 in 6 of the last 7 aways while the Cherries have conceded at least 2 in 5 of their last 6 home games. Goals galore on paper then.
Anything is possible here but picking any attacker must be the way to go. I currently have Junior Stanislas and Christian Benteke in my FPL squad so I hope the goal crazy run continues for both sides.
Burnley v Leicester City
The champion foxes are 13 without a win away from home and now face a strong home team. Burnley have won 6 of their last 7 home games and really must start as favourite here.
Leicester did dig out a late leveler in their FA Cup tie against Derby and that may have raised their belief on their travels.
Tom Heaton will once again be a must in FPL should you own him.
Middlesbrough v West Bromwich Albion
Two well organised teams in a game where a point would be one they would take pre kickoff. WBA though do have that feel good feeling about themselves right now.
Many Baggies fans didn’t and still don’t want Tony Pulis in charge with his brand of football, but the bottom line is he is a brilliant Premier League Manager. 8th place after 22 league games is an incredible showing.
Chris Brunt continues to be fantasy gold in FPL but this week he will be lining up against Adama Traore. Traore has been a frustrating but brilliant talent at times but he has been fringing on unplayable at times in recent games and seems to be making those key decisions correctly. With Brunts lack of pace at left back, Boro may have a great match up to focus their attacks with. Maybe Traore can turn performances into fantasy points and end Boro’s 5 game winless run.
Sunderland v Tottenham
PVA sold and Joleon Lescott in will mean hands over your eyes for the Black Cat fans in this one. For all the world it looks an away win and one where Spurs will plunder at least a couple of goals.
The park the bus system may be the only tactic Sunderland can hope to work with although on the plus side it will be a cold windy night which always can even the field a little.
With Spurs scoring at least 2 in their last 7 games and Sunderland conceding at least 2 in their last 5, it’s pretty much who do you like and who can you afford of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. There could also be a piece of value in the Spurs central defenders. Vertonghen is out and Tony A has a minor issue it seems. We could see the Spurs boss take no chances with him bringing Wimmer and Davies into our thoughts for a one week bash.
Swansea City v Southampton
Suddenly this one looks a fun game. The Swans had looked shot a couple weeks ago but the performances under their new manager have been much better. The incredible win at Anfield will take some of the fear away and they must be a good bet to start fast in this one.
The Saints meanwhile also had a wonderful win at Anfield and their players are now playing for their spot in the cup final.
Any result is possible but the Saints did look such a threat on the counter attack against Pool and Swansea are still very open without the ball. Selling siggy last week sums up my season so far and he remains the obvious choice but Llorente's ability to knock in braces will once again make him great value.
With Nathan Redmond the player the Saints attack is built around, Shane Long and Jayrod are fighting over that cup final start. Both are likely then to give just that little extra effort over the next few game weeks and both have the style to exploit this fixture. Swansea have conceded at least 3 goals in 5 of their last 6 games so surely Southampton score at least once, even on the road.
Finally Tom Carroll was excellent on debut at Liverpool and had the look of a young player trying to advantage of finally getting a chance in a first team. Look for him to be a bundle of energy.
Liverpool v Chelsea
The big one and whilst mathematically it isn’t in all reality this is must win for the reds in their title challenge.
Liverpool bullied and beat up the league leaders early season and the 2-1 score flattered Chelsea, it could have been much worse. Amazing to think manager Antonio Conte was apparently/maybe under pressure for his job back then. A switch of formation and bonding with his players has seen them win 15 of their last 16 games. What a statistic that is.
I have said many times that I’m surprised just how many clean sheets the blues have provided with Gary Cahill and David Luiz as two parts of their back trio. Its the protection that N’golo Kante and Nemanja Matic provide that is the real key and both look fine to start again. Kante in particular is a player that stands out on the pitch and as far as asking prices go in football the 30ish million they paid makes him an even more amazing signing.
In the only defeat in that run against Spurs we did see what you can do if you can get the ball beyond that midfield duo and provide angles and movement for the Chelsea central defenders. Liverpool do have the player to do this hand have been excellent in the big games. Their 3 losses have come against B’mouth, Swansea and Burnley and it’s those games they find tough not ones like they have here.
I smell dropped points for Chelsea bringing more spice to next weekends top two showdown with Arsenal.
I’m always a sucker for Philippe Coutinho at Anfield as a fantasy selection, while both Diego Costa and Eden Hazard will have space galore against the Liverpool back line. 2-2 has a ring to it for me.
West Ham United v Manchester City
Revenge is a dish best served cold they say and the Hammers owe City one. Just a couple weeks back City beat West Ham 5-0 at their new home in a total humiliation. Slaven Bilic is proving himself very capable of tactical adjustment and has also handled the Payet situation just as any fan would wish. The players response has been excellent with 2 wins in a row over Boro and Palace scoring 3 goals in both games.
City are work in progress and so very susceptible in defence. The Hammers should approach with differing tactics to the FA Cup game and 10 days of training to work on them. It’s a game where any result is possible but as always with City games, one full of goals.
Most important they may have a fully operational Andy Carroll. Can you see a more obvious scene of chaos that crosses into Carroll and Bravo trying to deal with them?
I also think Michael Antonio will cause many problems as could revitalised and now key player Manuel Lanzini. For City the obvious Kun and KDB are expensive options playing in roles that don’t yet bring the best out of them but this is a side they put 5 past just a couple weeks ago so they should at least score.
Manchester United v Hull City
Strange one this, a week or so ago you would bet on the home team winning but maybe 3 goals. While they are clear favourites to win, the game looks tougher that it did. Hull have been much better under their new manager, have new signings and beat an almost full strength Utd side with a Hull side that had made 7 changes from the one at Stamford Bridge.
Utd are settling and improving under Jose but are some way from a serious side title winning side as the table shows. Still I will want to load up on a couple from the home side in the belief they will improve. Zlatan, Pogba and Micki have been the match winners for them all season and if Eric Bailey is able to play I may take a United defender.
Stoke City v Everton
Really hard one to call. Everton are much improved and have made some strong signings, Stoke are always tough to beat.
Everton have 3 clean sheets in a row, 4 is rare in the Premier League so I don’t think I’d go chasing one this week. Having said that I do have Holgate in my FPL squad so he likely plays for me.
Really I think this will be a low scoring game of just a few chances. Both sides are sat just where they want to be in the table and a point suits all.
Week 26 will now see no game for Manchester United and Arsenal so your FPL planning will need to consider that fact. I have 5 from the clubs combined so tough choices to make.