Pull up a chair, guys and gals, and maybe drop some Prevagen or Focus Factor. Pre- and post-ponements have wreaked havoc on the EPL schedule, and Official FPL and NMA leagues for Fantrax are treating the changes differently. You’ll want to pay close attention to keep things straight. Half the teams in the Prem have a FPL double game week this go-round (followed by a bunch of blanks in GW-33!), but it’s a normal game week in Fantrax (again, NMA leagues; YMMV).
Let work through the list of clubs alphabetically to sort out the week ahead.
Single game in both formats: Home vs Newcastle.
Arsenal are undefeated in their last 5, a 1-1 draw with Tottenham their only dropped points during that stretch. Their run of form has seen them into 4th place — two points ahead of Manchester United, whom the Gunners beat in their last league outing. Unai Emery will try to maintain his team’s focus when they return from their warm weather training camp in Dubai, as Chelsea are also within striking distance of ousting Arsenal from the Champions League position they currently occupy.
Nacho Monreal did not travel with the team to Dubai due to a calf problem, Granit Xhaka was subbed off against Denmark on Tuesday with an adductor issue, and Aaron Ramsey withdrew from the Wales squad with a thigh injury. Lucas Torreira is suspended.
Singe game in both formats. Away vs Leicester.
The Cherries won the reverse fixture 4-2 back in September, with Josh King and Adam Smith each adding a goal to Ryan Fraser’s brace. But Brendan Rodgers is in charge of Leicester now, and having won only one of their last seven, the Cherries may not find things as easy this time around. Despite his side’s recent form, Eddie Howe will want to take full points from this match, as Bournemouth need only 2 more to clear the mythical 40-point threshold for top-flight survival.
Unfortunately, Adam Smith is a doubt to feature with a hamstring injury. Dan Gosling (knee) and Junior Stanislas (thigh) are also touch-and-go. Andrew Surman may be out for the season with a calf injury, and Steve Cook looks set to miss all but the season’s final couple games after he developed an infection from an injection.
FPL: DGW, home vs Southampton, away vs Chelsea.
Fantrax: Home vs Southampton
As we enter the run-in, Brighton are locked in a struggle to the death with the rest of the relegation-threatened clubs. They’ll surely recognize how difficult it will be to leave Stamford Bridge with a victory, so they’ll view Saturday’s home match against the Saints as a crucial opportunity to pick up three points: Their top-flight hopes for next season could depend on it. They will carry a run of form into that match, having won their last two league games and having beaten Millwall in a penalty shootout to advance to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Florin Andone has returned to training after pulling his groin in warm-up for the Crystal Palace match three weeks ago. He faces a late fitness test for the Southampton match. Pascal Gross remains unavailable with a hamstring injury.
Single game in both formats. Home vs Wolves.
We’re in the home stretch, and Burnley are floundering. They’ve lost four straight and have won only two of their last eight. Last time out, they lost to Leicester despite the fact that the Foxes played with 10 men for virtually the entire game. And they’ve conceded goals in the 90th minute in 10 of the 31 league games they’ve played this season. In the history of the Premier League, only two other teams have done that, and they were both relegated (all of the above stats sourced from betting.betfair.com). How important is it for Burnley to pick up points tomorrow? Pretty dang important.
But they may have to do it without Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who missed Iceland’s defeat to France on Monday, sidelined with a calf injury. Also, in case you missed it, Jonathan Walters retired from professional football last week.
FPL: DGW, home vs Chelsea, away vs Man City
Fantrax: Home vs Chelsea
Two of the three teams that will be relegated this season have pretty much been determined: There’s no digging out of the hole into which Fulham and Huddersfield have sunk. Right now Cardiff occupy the “bubble” relegation slot, but they managed a home win over West Ham in their last outing, and they hold a game in hand over many of the other teams in the relegation scrum (and 2 games in hand over Brighton). But their prospects for the near-term look bleak, with both of their next two games against clubs from the Big 6. By the time this game week ends, the Bluebirds could well find themselves five points adrift of safety.
Callum Paterson was taken off with an ankle injury during Scotland’s match against San Marino earlier this week; after surgery he’s out for the season. Harry Arter withdrew from the Ireland squad with a minor issue, and Joe Bennett suffered a hamstring injury in the league match against West Ham on 3/9. They are all iffy for this week. Sol Bamba, on the other hand, has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
FPL: DGW, away vs Cardiff, home vs Brighton
Fantrax: Away vs Cardiff
Chelsea sit just three points shy of a Champions League position, and this week’s matches against relegation-threatened Cardiff and Brighton offer a very real chance for the Blues to leapfrog into the top four. But they’ve won only one of their last three, and only three of their last eight. If they cannot muster performances good enough to take full points from the tilts against the Bluebirds and the Seagulls, Chelsea’s Champions League hopes for next year could be scuttled.
Fortunately, Maurizio Sarri has nearly a full squad to choose from this week. Davide Zappacosta picked up a knock in the Europa League demolition of Dynamo Kyiv on March 14, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek withdrew from the England squad with an undisclosed injury.
Of fantasy note: Chelsea is one of the two teams who play three matches between GW-32 and GW-33.
FPL: DGW, home vs Huddersfield, away vs Tottenham
Fantrax: home vs Huddersfield
Now that they’ve crashed out of the FA Cup tournament, Palace are free to focus all of their attention on the league. Given that they remain squarely in the midst of the relegation battle, that may be a good thing. They’ve won only two of their last nine, and taking a result from Tottenham will be a tall order. So the visit of the league’s worst side represents a golden opportunity to bank precious points, but history is not on Palace’s side. The Eagles have never beaten Huddersfield at Selhurst Park in Premier League play. In fact, they’ve never even scored against them on that pitch.
And circumstances seem to be conspiring against them yet again. In his presser, Roy Hodgson revealed that Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Wilfried Zaha trained today, but that the duo remain “touch and go” for tomorrow. Mamadou Sakho is a long-term absentee due to a knee injury.
Of fantasy note: Palace is the other team to play three matches between GW-32 and GW-33.
Single game in both formats, away to West Ham
Although Everton are coming off a shutout victory over Chelsea in their last league game, the Toffees have only managed to win two of their last seven, scoring more than one goal only once in their last nine. In truth, both sides may find it difficult to muster motivation for this match. With West Ham in 9th place and Everton in 11th, they’re both safe from relegation yet also effectively out of contention for a European slot. In the end, home field advantage may carry the day: The Hammers haven’t lost a home match since 2018.
Marco Silva’s only injury concern is Yerry Mina, who picked up a hamstring injury against South Korea on Tuesday. He’ll be out of action for weeks.
FPL: DGW, home vs Manchester City, away vs Watford
Fantrax: home vs Manchester City
Fulham are skidding badly. They’ve lost seven straight and haven’t notched a victory in any competition since January. They’ve only scored four goals since then, for Pete’s sake. That slide has left them in 19th place, 13 points adrift of safety. Things don’t look to get any better for them this week: A home meeting with the 2nd-place Citizens is followed by a tricky road trip to face Watford.
Scott Parker has no new injury concerns. He should be able to welcome Andre Schurrle back to the starting lineup after the forward missed several games with a virus, but it hardly matters. Stick a fork in the Cottagers, because they’re done.
Single game in both formats, away vs Crystal Palace
Huddersfield sport a single-digit win percentage this season and are almost certain to be relegated. In fact, if they are beaten by the Eagles while Burnley and Southampton win their matches, their fate will be mathematically sealed this weekend. Perhaps that will inspire them to rise up and beat the Eagles this week. If they do, it would be only their third win in their last 21 games across all competitions.
Unfortunately, they’ll have to work with a fairly depleted squad: Jason Puncheon is ineligible to face his parent club. Juninho Bacuna, Karlan Grant, and Aaron Rowe all suffered knocks before the break. Laurent Depoitre, Demeaco Dehaney, and Adama Diakhaby are confirmed out. Isaac Mbenza has been training after his calf injury last month, but he is still not ready to feature.
Single game in both formats, home vs Bournemouth
Happy Birthday Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha! Leicester is celebrating its owner’s birthday this weekend, and the team’s fans are getting the gifts: free beer, water, and cupcakes! There’s more to celebrate too: Leicester have won three of their last four, clearing that crucial 40-point milestone that typically guarantees Premier League safety. Brendan Rodgers will look to make it four out of five when he hosts Bournemouth this weekend — the Cherries have won only one of their last seven and are pretty terrible on the road.
He’ll be without Harry Maguire this week though, who is serving a one-match suspension.
Single game in both formats, home vs Tottenham
Liverpool reclaimed the top spot from Manchester City by defeating Fulham in their last league outing. But the Citizens hold a game in hand, and have been in much better form than Liverpool in the second half of the season. From here out, any dropped points could cost Liverpool the title. Jurgen Klopp will therefore be happy to be hosting a Tottenham side that has lost its way over the last several weeks — Spurs have gone from genuine contenders to a team that is winless in their last four.
Trent Alexander-Arnold pulled out of international duty with a back complaint, and a dental issue caused Andrew Robertson to do the same. Both are expected to be fit for the weekend though. Jordan Henderson returned from injury to play for the Three Lions over the break, so he should also be available for selection. Naby Keita could also be ready. But the Tottenham match comes too soon for Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
FPL: DGW, away vs Fulham, home vs Cardiff
Fantrax: away vs Fulham
Just before the break, Liverpool overtook City by beating a dire Fulham side to return to the top of the table. This week’s it’s City’s turn to face the Prem’s punching-bag team, who’ve now gone two months without a win. That means that by the time ‘Pool take the pitch on Sunday, City will probably already have leapfrogged them back into first. The good times should continue to roll on Wednesday, when the Citizens spend their game in hand against relegation-zone dwellers Cardiff.
Except for Fabian Delph, who was forced to withdraw from the England squad during the international break, Pep Guardiola has a fully-fit squad.
FPL: DGW, home vs Watford, away vs Wolves
Fantrax: away vs Watford
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will make his debut as United’s permanent manager on Saturday. His revitalization of Jose Mourinho’s neutered side has brought United back into contention for a Champions League position, but they’ve stumbled recently, losing to-nil to Arsenal in the league before getting tossed from the FA Cup by Wolves. A match against Watford is never an enticing prospect, but the Hornets must surely be keeping one eye on their upcoming FA Cup semi-final against Wolves, as well as their mid-week tie with Fulham. Those distractions could play in United’s favor. Either way, Tuesday will bring a tricky away fixture against Wolves, who got the Red Devil’s number just a week ago.
OGS will be worried over his list of injured players, which includes some of his biggest stars. Belgian hitman Romelu Lukaku is set to miss out with a foot injury; Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw, and Eric Bailly all picked up injuries on international duty and are doubts for the tilt with Watford (all but Bailly have been spotted at the team hotel though); and Alexis Sanchez remains sidelined with a knee injury.
Single game in both formats, away vs Arsenal
Newcastle currently sit in 13th place on 35 points, having lost only one of their last six league matches. They can virtually assure their EPL survival with another win this weekend, but that will be tough to pull off on the road at the Emirates. Rafa Benitez has taken just two points from his previous seven meetings with the Gunners.
Fabian Schar was knocked unconscious during the international break, but he is suspended for this match anyway (his second game of a two-match ban for yellow card accumulation). Rob Elliot and Jamal Lascelles have returned to training, but this weekend may come too soon for them to feature.
Single game in both formats, away vs Brighton
Southampton sit just three points shy of Brighton, and both are firmly entangled in the battle to stay above the drop zone. Consequently, Ralph Hassenhüttl has declared the match with the Seagulls a six-pointer (saintsmarching.com). He’ll be encouraged by his side’s come-from-behind victory over Tottenham last time out. He certainly will not want to see a repeat of the reverse fixture, in which a Saints side led by Mark Hughes conceded a PK goal in the game’s dying moments to lose to Brighton after having initially established a 2-0 lead.
Shane Long is doubtful after withdrawing from the Ireland squad with a recurrence of his nagging hamstring issues. He only returned to training yesterday, with Hassenhüttl saying it will “not be so easy” for him to be ready after missing out for a week (southamptonfc.com). Mario Lemina also seems unlikely as he continues to deal with setbacks during his recovery from an abdominal injury.
FPL: DGW, away vs Liverpool, home vs Palace
Fantrax: away vs Liverpool
Mauricio Pochettino’s head must be reeling. Though advancing in Champions League, he has dropped 11 of a possible 12 points over his last four domestic games, with two losses coming at the hands of relegation fodder. Considered legitimate title contenders just weeks ago, Spurs are now desperate just to secure a ticket to Europe next year. The team’s mental toughness has come under question, especially on the road against top sides. That does not auger well for them when they travel to Anfield this week, nor does the fact that they have won only one of the last 13 meetings between these two sides. The home match against Palace offers a better opportunity for a result, especially as it will mark the first time Spurs play inside their new stadium. Spurs will surely want that inaugural game to be a win.
Poch’s will have some fitness concerns to contend with though. Serge Aurier, Harry Winks, and Eric Dier will all miss the Liverpool match through injury, and Son Heung-Min may need to recover from travel fatigue.
FPL: DGW, away vs United, home vs Fulham
Fantrax: away vs United
Watford are in fine form in 2019, with league losses coming only against each of the top 3 sides. Having climbed to 8th, they are now positioned to contend for a Europa League berth. They also progressed through to the FA Cup semi-finals by downing Crystal Palace 2-1 on Saturday. But tomorrow they’ll have to travel to Old Trafford, where they’ve never won a league match. Worse, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be making his debut as permanent manager in front of the Red Devils’ home fans. How badly do you think the Norwegian will want to win that game? But Tuesday brings greener pastures for Watford when they will host Fulham, who’ve become the EPL’s whipping boys. The Hornets will expect to take full points from that match.
Javi Graci has a fully-fit squad from whom to choose.
Single game in both formats, home vs Everton
The Hammers have not been beaten at home in 2019, while Everton’s win percentage for road games is only 25%. And Marco Silva has never achieved victory in any game played in London. But Everton are fresh off a rousing home victory over Chelsea, and will carry a huge load of confidence with them into London Stadium. With only two points separating these two mid-table teams, this one could be a cracker.
Samir Nasri is a doubt with a calf injury, but otherwise Manuel Pelligrini has no new injuries to worry about this weekend.
FPL: DGW, away vs Burnley, home vs United
Fantrax: away vs Burnley
What a season Wolves have had. Theirs is currently the first name to appear in the table after the Big 6, and beating Manchester United put them through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Not bad for a newly-promoted side! It has been 12 games since they’ve kept a clean sheet, but their next victory will mark the first time since 2011-12 that a newly-promoted side has accumulated 47+ points. Although Burnley are in poor form and Wolves just beat United two weeks ago, the Wolves’ FA Cup semi-final appointment with Watford a week from Sunday may distract them from their league games and tempt Nuno Espirito Santo to rest and rotate.
Santo will at least have a deep squad to work with over those next three games, as Joe Bennett is the only player currently unavailable to him.
Brighton, City and Palace all have a Sat/Wed split. All other DGW teams have only 2 days rest between games.
The week’s opening match is Fulham vs Manchester City, so we should have confirmed lineups for that game ahead of the Fantrax deadline. Join us right here for the mad scramble to accommodate Pep’s surprises.
Fantrax managers should also keep an eye on their GW-33 deadline. It comes right on the heels of the weekend’s barn door (Monday’s match completes Fantrax GW-32, and Tuesday’s match begins Fantrax GW-33). It’ll be like Christmas in April.
How are you handling the mad schedule? What late news have you read? What matches will you be watching? What beer are you drinking? Please talk to us in the comments below!