With only nine days left in the 2018-19 EPL campaign, we’re in the home stretch. Any fantasy management mistakes you make now will cost you dearly, as there will be very little opportunity to recover. Choose your squads wisely!
Let’s run through the fixtures and team news for insights that might guide you towards success.
Everton have been in fine form at home lately, drawing with Liverpool and beating Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United in their last four matches at Goodison Park. Today marks their final home game of the season, and I think they’ll try to go out in style.
Burnley had been in good form too, until Manchester City snapped the Clarets’ four-game unbeaten streak last time out. Burnley are on the road this week with nothing to play for, so it would be easy to assume that Everton will have an easy go of it. But Burnley made things difficult for the Citizens despite the loss, so don’t be too quick to write off the Clarets today.
Marco Silva has no new injury concerns, but Yerry Mina is training again and could feature. At $1.92 he makes a good enabler if he looks set to start. Indeed, he scored in the reverse fixture — a 5-1 thrashing of the Clarets. Phil Bardsley should also be available again after recovering from a gash to his leg, but it’s not clear whether he’ll be able to break back into Burnley’s starting 11.
Remember that the lineups for this match will be released prior to the Fantrax deadline, so tune in here if you’re interested in any Toffees or Clarets.
On paper it seems as though Bournemouth have little left to play for. They sit on 42 points and would need at least 9 more to finish in the top half of the table — a mathematical impossibility with just two games remaining. Perhaps this final appearance in front of the home fans will be enough to motivate them.
Spurs, however, have plenty left to play for. A win vs. the Cherries would finally cement a Champions League place finish for Tottenham, as it would put seven points between them and fifth-pace Arsenal. That gap would be more than the Gunners can overcome, even if they win out this weekend and next.
Tottenham will have to win without some of their stars however, as Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Eric Lamela, and Serge Aurier remain on the injured list. Worse, Jan Vertonghen is a serious doubt after suffering a gruesome head injury in the Champions League match loss to Ajax on Tuesday. He apparently did not suffer a concussion, but the specialists are recommending a “brief period of rehabilitation” before he returns to training.
Bournemouth will also be missing players through injury, with Dan Gosling, Dominic Solanke, Adam Smith, and David Brooks all doubts. Diego Rico, Junior Stanislas, Charlie Daniels, Andrew Surman, and Francis Simon all are done for the season.
West Ham snapped a four-game winless streak last time out by downing Tottenham on the road. But they perform best at the London Stadium, and the home fans will hope for a win when the Hammers play their final home game of the season tomorrow. They won the reverse fixture thanks to a Felipe Anderson brace — remember how hot he was back then?
The Saints haven’t won since beating Wolves on 4/13, but they ensured top-tier survival last week by drawing with Bournemouth in a 3-3 cracker that put them out of reach of Cardiff. Away from home and with safety secured, will they be up for the Hammers’ challenge?
Manuel Pelligrini will be boosted by the return to fitness of Jack Wilshere, Javier Hernandez, and Manuel Lanzini. And although Marko Arnautovic was subbed off with a muscle concern last weekend, the move is believed to have been precautionary, so he is expected to be available to face the Saints (but how long would he last even if he does pass fit?).
For the Saints, Maya Yoshida has been ruled out with flu, and Jannik Vestergaard will not feature again this season after suffering an injury against Newcastle two weeks ago.
These two aides were promoted to the EPL together last year, but their courses since then have diverged widely. Wolves are guaranteed a top-half finish, and Europa League qualification is still within their grasp. In contrast, Fulham have managed just 26 points and were assured of relegation weeks ago. But guessing the winner of tomorrow’s clash could be tricky. Although Wolves have now gone ten league games without a home loss and still have a huge reward to play for, Fulham have shown renewed steeliness under Scott Parker, having won their last three in a row, all with clean sheets from the former worst defense in the league. Can the in-form Cottagers (too little too late) spoil Wolves’ European dreams?
Nuno Espiritu Santo has a fully-fit squad, so we can probably expect the same template 11 he virtually always fields. Denis Odoi is Parker’s only new absentee, having suffered a head injury last week.
A loss for Cardiff tomorrow will doom them to relegation, and even a win won’t be good enough to guarantee them safety, so we can expect Neil Warnock to throw everything he has at the Eagles. I’d be looking at Cardiff’s offensive assets this week, if only there were any worth considering.
Palace, on the other hand, don’t have much left on the line. Currently 12th, the best they could possibly finish is 11th. Playing on the road with a top ten finish out of reach, could Palace be the perfect opponent to keep Cardiff’s hopes alive?
Harry Arter, Kenneth Zohore, and Aron Gunnarsson are doubts for the Bluebirds, but Zohore and Gunnarsson are expected to pass fit. Roy Hodgson has no new injury concerns to deal with.
Newcastle vs Liverpool
Newcastle are currently 13th and have already punched their return ticket to the Premier League for next season. Full credit must be given to Rafa Benitez, whose managerial genius has propelled his under-resourced side to overachieve. It will take every bit of Rafa’s brilliance to defeat a title-contending Liverpool side whose only league loss this season came 16 games ago.
The Reds trail Manchester City by a single point in their battle for the league trophy, so any dropped points against Newcastle will probably end Liverpool’s strained title hopes. Since their 0-3 loss to Barcelona has rendered the Champions League trophy and even longer shot now, they’ll likely pour everything they have into the Newcastle match. This should be a fun one to watch!
Rafa Benitez has declared Ayoze Pérez and Jamal Lascelles fit, but Deandre Yedlin is struggling with a groin issue.
Jurgen Klopp will have to face Newcastle without Naby Keita, who suffered a groin injury in the Barcelona match. Adam Lallana remains a doubt with a knock. As for Firmino, Klopp says “We will see.”
Chelsea vs Watford
Chelsea were blanked by Liverpool last time out, leaving them mired in the scramble for the last two tickets to next year’s Champion’s League tournament (and one of those is almost certainly Tottenham’s already). But it has been eight games across all competitions since they lost a match at Stamford Bridge. Another home win tomorrow will be crucial to their campaign for a top four finish, so expect them (and Hazard) to come out firing on all cylinders.
Last week’s loss to Wolves almost surely eliminated Watford from contention for a Europa League berth, so at this point Javi Gracia’s focus may shift to the upcoming FA Cup final with Manchester City. That, and Watford’s poor record against top sides, could auger well for Chelsea’s top-4 hopes.
Maurizio Sarri has lost another center back to injury, with Antonio Rudiger now joining Gary Cahill on the disabled list. Craig Cathcart is a doubt or the Hornets with a knock.
Huddersfield vs Manchester United
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Huddersfield are not good. In fact, they’re terrible — they’ve accumulated only 14 points all season and haven’t recorded a win since February. But despite the 0-5 scoreline against Liverpool last week, there were periods during that game in which Huddersfield actually looked more likely to score than the title-chasing Reds. This is consistent with manager Jan Siewert’s front-footed philosophy, which (admirably) didn’t change when the Terriers fell behind early in the match. Huddersfield’s fans love them for this proud and spirited approach, and they’ll be roaring encouragement from the stands when the Terriers host the world’s biggest football club on Sunday.
For their part, Manchester United have lately developed a fragility that could well cost them a Champions League position. Despite taking the field with auspicious intent, they’ve been victims of their own nervousness when their opposition has been able to draw blood (which has happened too frequently, given the slump in David De Gea’s form). They are winless in their last three, currently sitting in 6th place — 5 points behind Tottenham, 3 behind Chelsea, and 1 behind Arsenal. A loss to Huddersfield would essentially eliminate them from Champions League contention, so Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will go all out for a result. But can we trust this United side to beat this Huddersfield side?
Aaron Mooy has returned to training but remains a doubt for Hudderfield, and Zanka is struggling with a bad cold. OGS has a long list of questionable players, including Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, and Antonio Valencia.
Arsenal vs Brighton
It’s time for Arsenal to bring it. They’re two points outside of 4th place, but they’ve lost three in a row and are in serious jeopardy of failing to finish in a Champions League position. Can they conjure enough mojo to take three crucial points from their match with relegation-threatened Brighton?
Brighton are tantalizingly close to securing Premier League survival, and a victory against the Gunners would go a long way towards winning them another year of top-tier football. Both sides will want a result from this one then, and that should make it an entertaining match for the even the neutral observer.
Laurent Koscielny was withdrawn with “fatigue” from yesterday’s Europa League match, so he’s now a doubt for Sunday, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles is suspended. Chris Hughton has no new injury concerns.
Manchester City vs Leicester
City hold their fate in their own hands; if they can add just 2 more games to their 12-match EPL win streak, they’ll successfully defend their Premier League title. The Citizens are particularly devastating on their home turf, but Leicester have been a bugaboo for the Sky Blues this season — the Foxes beat City in the reverse league fixture, and took them to penalties in the Carabao Cup. Leicester’s gaffer once managed Liverpool, and the Reds will be desperate for Brendan Rodgers to do them a favor this week. Amazingly though, Leicester have never won an EPL match played on a Monday.
After suffering a knock in the game against Burnley, Fernandinho has returned to training and could be available. Rodgers’ squad has no new injuries.
Will this be the week that Manchester City or Liverpool stumble? Will Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, or Manchester United be able to close in on Champions League qualification? Will Cardiff survive the drop for one more week? Are you loading up on teams with something to play for, or are you picking players over fixtures? Please come in and share your thoughts with us.