Although there are two English Premier League fixtures on the schedule today, the marquee event will unfold this afternoon at Wembley, when Manchester City and Arsenal square off in the championship match of the Carabao Cup. The match-up will be reprised in league mid-week, but that’s another story.
After the shock FA Cup defeat to Wigan on Monday, Pep Guardiola will not want to let a second trophy slip through his fingers. And with table position unlikely to qualify Arsenal for next season’s Champions League (though Europa could yet), Arsene Wenger is in desperate need of some consolation silverware.
It’ll be winner-take-all in this cup final, so I’m looking forward to an entertaining match that will showcase two of the EPL’s best attacking sides.
But, for fantasy purposes, let’s have a look at the league action that awaits us.
Crystal Palace vs Tottenham
Palace have lost this fixture the last 5 times it’s been played, scoring just a single goal. And their track record in London derbies is terrible: They’ve kept only one clean sheet in their last 27. On the other hand, Spurs are the league’s only team without a loss in 2018, and Harry Kane has registered 19 goals in his last 14 away games.
With Palace missing a staggeringly-long list of first-team regulars that includes Wilfried Zaha and Yohan Cabaye, and with Tottenham being fully-fit and firing on all cylinders, the smart money is on an away win here.
Fun fact: No team has scored more penalties this season than Palace, while Spurs have yet to concede a penalty-spot goal.
Manchester United vs Chelsea
A win for Chelsea would put the Blues level on points with the Red Devils. If Tottenham also defeat Palace, then only two points will separate 2nd place from 5th, and Manchester United will be in danger of falling out of the top 4 after spending most of the season comfortably in second place.
But not only will this be a key game between top-4 EPL clubs, it will also be a personal grudge match between rival managers. Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte really don’t like each other. For a timeline of the love affair between these two, click this link: http://www.skysports.com/football/news/11095/11254854/jose-mourinho-v-antonio-conte-a-timeline-of-quotes-between-the-rival-managers
Their back-and-forth ugly personal attacks over the past two years came to a head recently, with Conte seeming to suggest that he and Mourinho should settle their beef the old-fashioned way: “When is the game against United? We can meet in a room. To try and explain about these comments. I don’t know if he is ready to meet me in a room, just me and him.”
Both teams have lost two of their last three league matches. So in this emotionally-charged, crucially-important showdown, it will be interesting to see if the managers play to win, or if instead they choose to play to not lose. United are hard to break down at home, but their record against Chelsea is poor. My guess on this one is 1-1.
Oh, and if Conte and Mourinho “meet in a room”, my money is on Italy to beat Portugal.
Whom do you have playing for your fantasy sides today? Do you see any barn-door candidates so far this weekend? And are their any new injury or suspension worries we might need to replace in said barn door (which extends through Thursday’s match in some formats)? Let us know in the chat below...