Round 18 of the English Premier League fantasy campaign serves us up our first partial game week. The Liverpool/West Ham match originally scheduled for this weekend was postponed due to Liverpool’s participation in the Club World Cup tournament, and indeed, the Reds did end up advancing through to the championship match tomorrow in Doha, Qatar. The blank fantasy week for the Hammers and the Reds means you’ll need a strategy to deal with any of their assets you hold in your squads. Please see Chris’s excellent treatment of this subject in his Player Picks article.
But you also need the 411 on the matches that will be played this round, so let’s roll through them now.
Both of these clubs are about to welcome new managers — Carlo Ancelloti at Everton, and Mikel Arteta at Arsenal — but both teams will continue under caretakers for one more game. The leadership shake-up has been a shot in the arm for the Toffees — they’ve beaten Chelsea and tied Manchester United under Duncan Ferguson’s guidance. But the atmosphere at Arsenal remains gloomy. Freddy Ljungberg has produced just one win from his five games in charge, and rumors are swirling that fully half of Arsenal’s first-team squad is looking for the exit door, including stars such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Everton Outs/Doubts: André Gomes (ankle), Fabian Delph (hamstring), Lucas Digne (groin), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh), Morgan Schneiderlin (thigh), Djibril Sidibe (illness), Gylfi Sigurdsson (illness), Theo Walcott (calf)
Arsenal Outs/Doubts: Mesut Ozil (foot), Hector Bellerin (hamstring), Dani Ceballos (hamstring), Kieran Tierney (shoulder), Sokratis (1-match ban), Sead Kolasinac (ankle), Rob Holding (knee)
This is a crucial clash between two relegation-threatened clubs: Villa and Soton are tied on points at 15, with Southampton one place below them (and in the drop zone) on goal differential. But Villa arrested a three-game losing streak with a Carabao Cup win over a depleted Liverpool side on Tuesday. Perhaps the elation of advancing to the Cup semi-finals will buoy them to victory in the league this weekend.
Aston Villa Outs/Doubts: Tyrone Mings (hamstring)
Southampton Outs/Doubts: Sofiane Boufal (toe), Moussa Djenepo (hamstring), Yann Valery (illness)
This weekend Eddie Howe will welcome his former club — and the man who replaced him there — to Dean Court for a mid-table tie between teams separated by just two points. Injuries could play a huge factor in this game’s outcome: Bournemouth has almost a full team’s worth of players on the disabled list, and Burnley’s leading scorer is a doubt.
Bournemouth Outs/Doubts: Adam Smith (ankle), Nathan Aké (hamstring), David Brooks (ankle), Charlie Daniels (knee), Josh King (ankle), Steve Cook (wrist), Callum Wilson (hamstring), Harry Wilson (dead leg), Andrew Surman (calf)
Burnley Outs/Doubts: Johann Berg-Gudmundsson (hamstring), Ben Gibson (groin), Kevin Long (hip), Charlie Taylor (hamstring), Kieran Westwood (groin), Chris Wood (Achilles)
This weekend will mark the first meeting of these two teams in top-tier competition. Only five points separate them, but Sheffield United are the form favorites: they’re undefeated on the road this season, and have lost only one of their last 10 league matches. Brighton, on the other hand, have won just one of their last six.
Brighton Outs/Doubts: Solly March (groin), José Izqierdo (knee)
Sheffield Outs/Doubts: John Fleck (1-match ban)
This one could be a grind, with both squads featuring organized defenses but lackluster attacks. Palace’s form player, Wilfried Zaha, has three goals in his last five games, while Newcastle’s danger man, Allan Saint-Maximin, will miss out with a hamstring injury. That could prove to be the difference in this match.
Newcastle Outs/Doubts: Ciaran Clark (calf), Ki Sung-Yeung (unknown), Jamaal Lascelles (leg), Matt Ritchie (ankle), Allan Saint-Maximin (hamstring)
Crystal Palace Outs/Doubts: Gary Cahill (knock), Mamadou Sakho (final game of 3-match ban), Jeffrey Schlupp (muscle), Andros Townsend (knock), Joel Ward (knee), Scott Dann (muscle)
The Canaries held second-place Leicester to a draw at the King Power on Saturday, and this weekend they’ll be looking to spring a similar surprise on Wolves. That may be a tall order, though: Norwich’s cheesecloth back line will have to contend with a Wolves’ side that is still stinging from Jan Vertonghen’s injury-time winner that condemned Nuno Espírito Santos’s men to a cruel defeat.
Norwich Outs/Doubts: Grant Hanley (groin), Timm Klosé (knee), Ben Godfrey (knee)
Wolves Outs/Doubts: Willy Boly (ankle), Morgan Gibbs-White (back)
The EPL’s second and third-place clubs face off this weekend, but even if City emerge victorious they won’t be able to leapfrog the Foxes in the table. And a win for the Sky Blues is anything but a sure thing: Leicester are in searing form, their last loss coming 10 games ago against Liverpool. And City, who seemed all but invincible in the campaign before last, have already suffered four losses this season. This is the weekend’s marquee match, and it promises to be an entertaining watch.
Manchester City Outs/Doubts: Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), David Silva (knock)
Leicester Outs/Doubts: Matty James (match fitness)
Earlier this month Watford appointed Nigel Pearson manager — the third man to hold that job this season. Although he did rally the Hornets to an inspired display at Anfield last week, ultimately the result was more of the same: a 0-2 defeat. Watford’s offense is the worst in the league — the team’s goal tally remains in the single digits — and their defense is third-worst. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will hope to capitalize on Watford’s manifest weaknesses, but United’s struggle for consistency means a Red Devils win is far from a sure thing.
Watford Outs/Doubts: Tom Cleverley (heel), José Holebas (ankle), Daryl Janmaat (knee), Adam Masina (thigh), Roberto Pereyra (groin), Sebastian Prödl (knee), Danny Welbeck (hamstring)
Manchester United Outs/Doubts: Eric Bailly (knee), Diogo Dalot (match fitness), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee), Paul Pogba (ankle), Marcos Rojo (muscle)
This match features two teams whose recent form has them heading in opposite directions. On the day José Mourinho was named as Tottenham’s new gaffer, Chelsea were in third place and Spurs in 14th. Since then, The Special One has guided Spurs to victory in five of seven matches across all competitions, lifting them to fifth place in the league. In contrast, Chelsea have won only two of seven and have fallen to fourth. Should Mourinho outwit Frank Lampard — whom Mou managed during his stint at Chelsea — on Sunday, Spurs will climb into the top four.
Spurs Outs/Doubts: Ben Davies (ankle), Erik Lamela (hamstring), Hugo Lloris (elbow)
Chelsea Outs/Doubts: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Achilles)
Do you hold any Liverpool players at deep enough Fantrax discounts to justify taking zeroes for them this weekend? How about Hammers players? How will you handle the partial game week in FPL? How do you feel about the appointment of Arteta and the impending appointment of Ancelotti? Who do you favor in the clash between Mourinho and Lampard? How do you see the City/Leicester match playing out? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section.