Hopefully yesterday’s free-wheeling 3-3 tie between Arsenal and Liverpool brought you bountiful fantasy returns. As for me, I had Coutinho, Salah, Ozil, and Sanchez — 4 of yesterday’s 6 goalscorers — in my Fantrax squad... for last week. Yes, unfortunately I sold Ozil and Sanchez for Game Week 19 as part of a fairly extensive overhaul of my side. I won’t know whether that was a wise move until today’s results are in the books, but right now it looks like I may have made a mistake.
Speaking of today’s action, here’s what’s waiting for us:
Everton have won four of their last five to climb out of the relegation zone, and incredibly, are now just 6 points behind seventh-place Tottenham. Chelsea have also been in good form, winning 8 of their last 10, but remain three points behind Manchester United in third place.
In August the Blues won the reverse fixture 2-0 on goals from Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Morata, but Morata will miss out today after picking up his fifth yellow card for celebrating his midweek goal in the Carabao Cup. Michy Batshuayi failed to impress in that game, so Eden Hazard could be handed the false 9 role today.
Brighton have only beaten Watford once in their last 11 meetings, and the Seagulls have registered just a single goal in their last 6 league outings. But Brighton’s prospects will be bolstered by the suspensions of Watford players Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure. Doucoure in particular has been key to his side’s success. He is the Hornet’s top goalscorer, top passer, and top pass interceptor. If Pascal Gross can snap out of his slump (one goal and zero assists in his last 8 games), Brighton could nick this one.
Bournemouth have not won since November 18. They sit just 1 point clear of the relegation zone after being blown out 4-0 at home by Liverpool last weekend. This week, like lambs to the slaughter, they travel to Manchester to face the City juggernaut. City will record an unprecedented 17th straight league win today. The only question is: How lopsided will this game be?
The reverse fixture in August was a boring 0-0 draw. This one won’t be. Although they are in 12th place, Southampton sit just 3 points above the relegation zone, and Huddersfield sit just one place and three points above them. Both clubs need the points that are on offer today. This time around, there will be goals.
The reverse fixture in August ended 1-1, snapping a two-game win streak for the Baggies. They have not won an English Premier League game since. Tony Pulis was fired, and Alan Pardew was brought in to replace him, but Pardew has not been able to stop the rot. Under his management the club has claimed just 2 points from four games, and has fallen to 19th place.
There is pressure on the opposing manager as well. Mark Hughes has lost 5 of his last 6, and another defeat today would drop Stoke into the relegation zone. Such a loss, at home to the free-falling Baggies, would put Hughes on seriously thin ice.
A resurgent West Ham hosts a slumping Newcastle. David Moyes is undefeated since assuming the helm at West Ham, having beaten Chelsea and Stoke, and drawn with Arsenal. That unbeaten run has lifted the Hammers out of the relegation zone for the first time all season.
Although Newcastle beat the Hammers 3-0 in the reverse fixture, they’ve now lost 8 of 9 and have replaced them in the drop zone. Rafa Benitez is trying to stay positive, saying “sometimes you just need a little bit of luck.” What his team actually needs is investment in the January transfer window.
Midfielder Leon Britton will take command of basement-dwellers Swansea after they cut ties with with Paul Clement following Wednesday’s loss to Everton. Britton will not name himself in today’s squad (he’s injured anyway), and he denies interest in managing the club permanently. Knowing the club and players as he does, it will be interesting to see what changes he makes, and whether his inside insights can right the ship.
Britton may do well to take cues from his opponent, Roy Hodgson, whose management has stabilized a previously-floundering Eagles squad and lifted it into 14th place. That is no small feat, considering that Crystal Palace lost their first seven games to nil and did not climb out of the relegation zone until game 17.
Tottenham have won only two of their last seven and now occupy seventh place in the table, one point behind Burnley. They desperately need three points away from home at Turf Moor today. However, Burnley have lost just once in their last eight home games, and Spurs are winless in their last five on the road.
Turf Moor has seen fewer goals than other other EPL ground this season. Burnley will probably try to keep it that way, while Spurs will need to find their shooting boots.
Leicester v Manchester United
The big story here will be the return of Paul Pogba. He has already shown us once (after his hamstring injury) what difference he makes when he returned from a prolonged absence: Manchester United were dangerous again, and he consistently posted excellent fantasy returns. His red card and 3-game absence have now brought him to a Fantrax price point that has enticed slews of managers to buy him back. Will he deliver for them as well as for his real-life manager?
Here we go then! Fill your cup with coffee, or your glass with beer, and let’s chat!