As we head into the weekend, let’s review the events of the last week. In the Europa League, Chelsea defeated Dynamo Kiev 3-0 to take a commanding lead after Leg 1. Pedro and Willian both tendered standout performances, plus Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were both impressive after coming off the bench. The win was the third in a row for Maurizio Sarri after the defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup.
The Champions League brought us action from Tottenham and Manchester United, who were both victorious. Harry Kane sent Spurs through to the quarterfinals with a 48th minute game-winner over Borussia Dortmund, and Manchester United became the first side in CL history to come back from a 2-0 home defeat to dump French giants PSG from the tournament. Lukaku bagged another brace before Marcus Rashford put the Red Devils through by converting an injury-time PK. United’s performance is being hailed as one of the best ever in the Champions League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took another huge step toward securing a permanent gig at Old Trafford (if not knighthood and sainthood — stay tuned).
The final games of Leg 2 take place next week, with Manchester City hosting Schalke on Tuesday, and Liverpool visiting Bayern Munich on Wednesday. Those looming matches could impact squad selections for this weekend’s EPL games — buyer beware.
The Eagles vs the Seagulls
This is the week’s early game; tune in here for lineups ahead of the deadline.
Game Week 30 kicks off with the second leg of this season’s M-23 Derby, or as I like to call it, the Battle of the Birds. Brighton won the reverse fixture in December, claiming a 3-1 victory in a match that featured one red card and 5 yellows. Round 2 promises to ruffle just as many feathers, since only three points separate these two teams, and neither has flown clear of the relegation scrum just yet.
Wilfried Zaha seems certain to be on the rosters of many fantasy managers this week. With five goals in his last five games, he has been in searing form lately, and he has scored more goals against Brighton than he has against any other Premier League side. On the other side of the pitch, Glenn Murray could be a clever differential. He has been a star in this rivalry, netting in each of his last three matches against the Eagles.
Palace will have to face the Seagulls without Mamadou Sakho though, as he has now had surgery for the knock he sustained in Game Week 27. Scott Dann is therefore likely to continue in the center of defense, and he is available for just $1.00. For Brighton, Pascal Gross will miss out once again after his pulled hammy sustained in the Leicester.
The Bluebirds vs the Hammers
Cardiff has lost its last three matches, dropping back into the relegation zone on just 25 points. The Bluebirds have scored just six goals in their last nine games, and they’ll have a tough row to hoe again this week: West Ham’s defense has allowed just four goals in its last five games, which include holding Man City and Liverpool to a single-goal apiece.
Sol Bamba has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after sustaining a knee injury against Wolves last week, so Bruno Ecuele Manga should return to his favored center back position, with Lee Peltier continuing at right back. Manuel Pelligrini has no new injuries to sweat over, and will be pleased that Aaron Creswell and Fabian Balbuena have both passed fit.
The Terriers vs the Cherries
Make no mistake — Huddersfield is going down. But with the visit of skidding Bournemouth this week, perhaps Huddersfield sense an opportunity to please their loyal home crowd: The Cherries are winless in their last five matches.
In his presser, Jan Siewert said that Jonathan Hogg is remains a doubt with a rib injury, but that Jason Puncheon has been training and is available for selection. Tommy Smith is suspended, however. Eddie Howe will be delighted with Callum Wilson’s recovery — his knee injury has healed and his availability now only depends on match fitness.
The Foxes vs the Cottagers
Saturday brings us the Clash of the New Managers, as Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers welcomes Fulham’s Scott Parker to the King Power Stadium. Both suffered defeats in their debuts last week, so both will want to put notch a win this time around. Fulham sit ten points from safety with only nine games remaining, but will draw encouragement from the fact that they have not suffered a league defeat to Leicester since 1983.
Rodgers will be relieved to have Jamie Vardy available this week after the striker suffered a minor head injury at Watford last weekend. The former Celtic boss has no other new injury concerns. Fulham will be without Andre Schürrle, who has been laid low by a virus.
The Magpies vs the Toffees
Newcastle is in the midst of a turnaround, with four wins and a draw in its last seven matches (including a shock victory over Manchester City on January 29). Everton, on the other hand, have won only two of its last seven but were able to hold Liverpool scoreless in last week’s Merseyside Derby. A loss for Everton could drop them out of the top half of the table, while defeat for the Magpies could lower them right back into the thick of the relegation rumble.
Rafa Benítez will be forced to face the Toffees without Cieran Clark, who suffered a knock last weekend, and Sean Longstaff, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the same game. For Everton, Leighton Baines will miss out with a back injury, and Phil Jagielka is a serious doubt with a knock.
The Saints vs the Spurs
On Saturday, Mauricio Pochettino returns to St. Mary’s Stadium to face the team he used to lead. He knows many of the fans haven’t forgiven him for leaving to take over at Tottenham in 2014, but he still proclaims a deep affection for the Saints. “You change in your life and you need to move. But I still love Southampton, of course I want to beat them on Saturday but I wish them the best,” (from Sky Sports). The Saints are fresh off a heartbreaking loss to Manchester United, in which they conceded at the death to lose by a goal. Can they build on that otherwise-impressive performance, or has it demoralized them?
Unfortunately for Pochettino, he’ll have to watch the game from the stands after receiving a 2-game touchline ban for angrily confronting referee Mike Dean after Tottenham’s loss to Burnley. On the bright side, the Argentinian could welcome back Dele Alli, and Harry Winks also has a chance to pass fit. But Kieran Trippier looks set to miss out with a gluteal strain — a real pain in the butt for his fantasy owners.
Ralph Hassenhuttle hopes to have Danny Ings back soon, but the striker will probably not be ready in time for Saturday. Mario Lemina is back in training after recovering from an abdominal strain.
The Citizens vs the Hornets
Manchester City is unbeaten in all competitions since losing to Newcastle back in January, a run that includes a PK-shootout victory over Chelsea to claim the Carabao Cup. That stretch of form has propelled them to first-place in the league, one point (and significant goal differential) clear of Liverpool. The 8th-place Hornets have never beaten City in any of their nine previous meetings, losing the reverse fixture 1-2 at Vicarage Road in December.
But even after winning the Carabao Cup, City still contest three campaigns (the league, the FA Cup, and the Champions League). Pep Guardiola will surely be eyeing Tuesday’s CL leg against Schalke as he considers his team sheet for this weekend. He’ll also have to contend with a center-back crisis, as Aymerick Laporte is doubtful and John Stones is ruled out. Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne will also miss out, but Fabian Delph could be back from an ankle injury.
Kiko Feminia has cleared fit after recovering from illness, and Sebastian Prodl returns after a prolonged absence due to a knee injury. Javi Gracia can therefore select from a fully-fit squad for the trip to the Etihad.
The Reds vs the Clarets
Hear that air being let out of a ball? That’s the sound of Liverpool choking. Of the eight league games they’ve played in 2019, they’ve won only three. That slide has allowed Manchester City to glide past them into top-dog position in the table. So there will be tremendous pressure on Jurgen Klopp’s men to take all three points from the match on Sunday. And the visit of Burnley should provide a perfect opportunity for that. Liverpool have scored eight goals in their last two home games, and the 16th place Clarets have lost their last two games in a row.
Klopp may be able to include Dejan Lovren and James Milner in the squad for this weekend. Lovren has returned to training after a long spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, and Milner is working to shake off a muscular issue. Sean Dyche’s side has no new injury concerns to contend with.
The Blues vs Wolves
In the race for fourth place, Chelsea are one point behind Arsenal, and two points behind Manchester United. The Gunners and Red Devils square off against each other this weekend, so a defeat for either of them could allow Chelsea to climb into 5th place if the Blues can take all three points from Wolves on Sunday.
Although Wolves won the reverse fixture back in November, they have blanked in each of their last four visits to Stamford Bridge, and they’ve scored only five goals in their last five games. Investment in Chelsea’s defense could be a wise move this week then, while Wolves attackers might be best avoided.
Maurizio Sarri has no new injury issues to contend with. He looks set to reinstall Gonzalo Higuain, N’Golo Kante, and Eden Hazard to the starting lineup after resting them in yesterday’s Europa League victory over Dynamo Kiev. Nuno Espirito Santo will be without Ryan Bennett, who is suspended after accumulating his 10th yellow card of the season last week.
The Gunners vs the Red Devils
Manchester United’s amazing unbeaten league run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now stands at twelve games, a remarkable turnaround in form that has propelled them into 4th place and contention to return to the Champions League next season. The stakes will be especially high on Sunday, as United must travel to the Emirates to face an Arsenal side who trail them by only 1 point. United is brimming with confidence after their commanding win over Paris Saint-Germain in UCL action on Wednesday, but Arsenal are not afraid. Says Arsenal defender Sokratis, “Of course we watched (the PSG match). Everybody watched. But we will be ready, everybody is thinking about Sunday’s game already and we will give 100 per cent” (Sky Sports).
Unai Emery will not be able to call Lucas Torreira’s number on Sunday; the Uruguayan was shown straight red at Tottenham and is now serving a 3-game ban. Emery has no new injury concerns to worry about, however. OGS has passed Anthony Martial fit, and is also hoping to have Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera available.
What’s on your mind as the deadline approaches? Heard any breaking news? What matches do you plan to watch? Who’s on your barn-door shopping list with so many blanks in store for GW-31? Have any unanswered questions? Please join us and let us know in the chat below!