Boxing Day featured devastating home knockouts by two of the major clubs. Tottenham steamrolled Southampton 5-2, featuring Harry Kane’s second straight hat trick, and Liverpool dominated Swansea 5-0, featuring a brace by Roberto Firmino.
We have two more of the “Big Six” teams playing lesser competition on Wednesday and Thursday, but these are on the road, so they could be more competitive. Weather is expected to be brisk but clear. What do we have in store?
Wednesday: Newcastle v. Manchester City
15th place hosts rampant first. A bad team with five league wins on the season faces the super team with 17 straight league victories. All expect an 18th.
Sergio Aguero bagged a brace (his first since a mid-September hattie against Watford), and Raheem Sterling had a goal plus an assist in the 4-0 demolition of Bournemouth, so those are among the plethora of form horses for the visitors.
Newcastle comes off a big 3-2 victory at West Ham, but that followed four straight losses and was only the second time all season that the Magpies had scored three times... with the first also coming against the Hammers.
The only real hope for Newcastle is that City rests too many of its stars. And honestly, isn’t that what Pep Guardiola should do? Kevin De Bruyne has started all 19 games, David Silva and Fernandinho 18. Sterling has started the past nine, Kun has started three straight, and Leroy Sane has started the past pair. Fixture congestion is now a rolling boil, and the team has plenty of depth (Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Iklay Gundogan and Yaya Toure are raring to go). The Premier League title is all but wrapped, and the Champions League knockout stage looms ahead, so why not rotate a couple/few of the regulars? Even if Man City starts its entire second team, would you pick Newcastle to win?
Thursday: Crystal Palace v. Arsenal
The 16th place squad welcomes sixth. Both teams are coming off draws. While the 3-3 Arsenal-Liverpool affair was eminently exciting, the 1-1 Swansea v. Crystal Palace match lacked any sort of similar drama. With fifth place Spurs and fourth place ‘Pool both taking three points (as well as third place Chelsea), the pressure will be on Arsenal to keep pace. A win would move Palace up to 13th (or even 12th if by an improbably wide margin), while a loss would leave it in 16th or drop it to 17th if crushed.
Crystal Palace has not lost in eight games (three wins, five draws). The Eagles have a -3 goal differential at home, but the Gunners are -4 on the road, so I wouldn’t be overconfident if I had a lot of Gunners in my fantasy team. That said, I wouldn't feel that great about having too many Palace players either. Jack Wilshere is coming off a surprise start, so it will be interesting to see if Arsene Wenger sticks with him or rotates again.
Palace welcomes back Christian Benteke following accumulation suspension. Roy Hodgson would not mind ditching the false nine to return to having a true forward, but Benteke hasn’t been all that “true” this season. Neither team is expected to rest its stars, so despite the gulf in the table, this really should be a good one!
How did your fantasy teams do in the eight game Boxing Day feast? Did you have Kane, Firmino and/or any of the other players who enjoyed big hauls? What players do you have going today? Let us know in the comments!