After a long time without EPL action, we get a long weekend of fun! Without further ado...
Everton took 8th place both last season and the season before. The Toffees were even better, finishing in the 7th spot three seasons ago. I’m serious, not joking at all. Look it up if you don’t believe me!
This season, they’re somehow in 18th place so far, despite a favorable schedule wherein they’ve faced only a single “Big Six” team. They’ve scored only six goals, third-fewest in the league. Meanwhile, their defense has imploded: After keeping two clean sheets to start the season, they’ve given up 13 goals in the past six matches. From a fantasy perspective, Everton is the Titanic, and if you haven’t noticed, it has already hit the iceberg. Jordan Pickford ranks 14th in FPL points at the keeper position. Lucas Digne is 21st among defenders. Richarlison is 14th and Gylfi Sigurdsson is 49th for midfielders. Moise Kean is 30th at forward.
Meanwhile, following an opening home loss to Manchester City (no shame there), West Ham has improved, with only one loss in the past seven games. Unfortunately, that loss came in Week 8 at home against Crystal Palace. For fantasy managers with Sebasien Haller, though, he nicked the goal in Week 8 after an assist in Week 7, so he’s looking for a third straight game to reward his backers. The 8th place Hammers are clearly in better form than the floundering Toffees over the past half dozen games, but each side is coming off a loss, and this game is at Goodison Park, so anything could happen.
Bournemouth is the clear favorite in this one, 10th place with an even goal differential welcoming 19th place at -11 to the Vitality. The visiting Canaries have lost all four away games this season by a total of 10-1. So if you have Callum Wilson, Joshua King, Harry Wilson & Co in your fantasy plans, you will be watching this game with high hopes.
Meanwhile, many will be looking for a referendum on the Pukki Party; keeping in mind that the Finland sensation has scored 5 goals and 2 assists at home, but has only 1 goal with no helpers on the road, the fest may just have to wait for a return to Carrow Road.
The Villans won 5-1 last week at Norwich, while Brighton is coming off a 3-0 shock win at home against Spurs, so both of these teams will be confident. Since it’s 14th place against 15th place, if either side can come away with all three points it could prove vital at the end of the season. Villa’s Wesley and Brighton’s Aaron Connolly each notched a brace last week, so it will be fun to see if either can keep his form going. The rest of us want to know how the heck Villa scored five goals without John McGinn involved in any of them.
The Blues have mostly feasted on lesser competition this season, with wins over Southampton, Brighton, Wolves, and Norwich. Newcastle will look to the other result — Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge — for inspiration. The Magpies can also find confidence from their 1-0 win over Manchester United in Week 8 and their 1-0 victory at Tottenham in Week 3. This is the the Magpies’ 5th game against “Big Six” competition already, with only Manchester City looming in the rest of the first half of the season.
From a fantasy perspective, Chelsea is an offensive oasis and Newcastle is a desert of sand. Tammy Abraham leads the Blues with eight goals, while nobody on the Magpies has more than one! In defense, it’s almost the reverse, though, as Martin Dubravka is tied for the league lead with three clean sheets, but Kepa Arrizabalaga has managed only one. That’s absolutely not a mirage, as Kepa unbelievably has the same number of saves as goals conceded (14 each), while Dubravka has considerably more saves (22) than scores allowed (13). Seems like this one will turn on who wins between the Chelsea attack and the Newcastle back.
King Power Stadium should be in for a cracker as 7th place Burnley visits 4th place Leicester. Both teams have gotten it done on the defensive end while boasting solid if not spectacular attacks as well. Interestingly, each team boasts eight players with 25+ FPL points, but Nick Pope is the only player selected by 15% of managers. Make no misake, the Foxes will be favorites to come away with the home win, but nobody should be surprised by a draw or a Claret victory.
If Everton is this season’s Titanic, then what of Tottenham? Though Spurs clawed their way into the CL Final last season, alarm bells have been sounding in the league since early 2019. It seems there are plenty of icebergs to go around.
Hugo Lloris was the 16th-ranked keeper in FPL, and now he’s out with a long-term injury, Toby Alderweireld is the highest ranking Spurs defender way back at #49 at the position, Son Heung-Min is 9th at midfield (but has the 5th highest price tag), and Harry Kane is 7th in scoring at forward (but costs the 3rd most).
Spurs sit in 9th place, but really it feels worse. The comprehensive 2-7 evisceration by visitors Bayern Munich in the Champions League followed by a listless 3-0 defeat at Brighton have left the Lily-whites absolutely lost in a London fog.
Normally the visit of last place, winless Watford would be a tonic for all that ails any club. But can the fans (and players) at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium actually turn aside their dread and summon any confidence? Is that violin music I hear on the fancy new speaker system?
Wolves v. Southampton
Will the real Wolverhampton Wanderers please stand up? (Or maybe they already have?) After an anemic first half-dozen string of winless games, Wolves followed up a 2-0 home win against relegation-bound Watford with a shock 2-0 away win over defending champs Manchester City who had scored 27 times in their first seven affairs. (Wow!)
Enter 17th place Southampton. The Saints have as many wins on the season (two) as Wolves, but have lost three straight. If you’re going by form, Wolves should win this one easily. If you’re basing it on location, this one’s at the Molineux. If you’re judging by last season’s pedigree — Wolves were 7th and Southampton 16th — again Wolves are the favorite. But if Wolves can beat Manchester City, anything can happen, even to Wolves.
Crystal Palace v. Manchester City (late game)
After the Citizens lost at Norwich, nobody wanted to be in Watford’s shoes. What happened? The Citizens romped 8-0 at the Etihad. (After beating Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in between in Champions League action, of course.) Now the Sky Blues look to rebound from a 2-0 home loss to Wolves, so it might not be fun to be in Crystal Palace boots. Then again, the Eagles have won two straight and are unbeaten in three, so maybe they’ll be up for the challenge.
Manchester United v. Liverpool
One game? Guess that makes this the Sunday showcase! Of course, as the only “Big Six” match-up, it would have been anyway, though United aren’t looking “Big Six” recently. The two teams are going in entirely different directions as Manchester United has only two victories on the season, none in the past three games, while Liverpool has won 17 straight EPL matches going back to last campaign. With a chance to tie Manchester City’s record of 18 straight EPL wins, Liverpool certainly has both motivation and momentum.
But since this is at Old Trafford, and since the Reds have merely been eking out close victories lately rather than running roughshod over the competition, anything can happen... especially if some crocked Manchester United stars can get back to fitness.
Sheffield United v. Arsenal
Another day with only one game? Um, okay, I don’t really get it, but sure, why not? If I told you that the home team had a goal differential of zero and the away team was at +2, you’d call it an even game, or even favor the home team, right? Of course, knowing that Shefffield United is the home side and Arsenal is the away squad, you might not take that tack.
For me, the interesting part is that the attack-oriented Gunners (13 goals scored, tied for 6th-most) visit the defensively-minded Blades (7 goals allowed, tied for 2nd-fewest). What gives? Fantasy managers holding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Dani Ceballos, John Lundstram and Dean Henderson can’t wait to find out!
Which games are you watching, and what fantasy stars are you counting on in Week 9 to wash out the awful taste of Week 8? Join in the live fun, and if you spot any barn door candidates as the action unfolds, please chime in!