Are we almost there? Yes, we have been on a roller-coaster ride that is coming towards its end with just a quarter of the season left to play. Who would have thought that Liverpool would dominate the ‘best league in the world’ by a massive 22 points clear of defending champions Manchester City with 26 wins, a draw and a recent shock defeat. Did anybody expect Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester to sit in the third spot of the table and run past usual heavy lifters Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal? Did anybody see the Citizens to be slapped by a ban that can possibly see them out of the Champions League for the next two seasons, allowing the fifth position to qualify for a prestigious European spot? And how impressive have Wolves and Sheffield United been in becoming very real contenders to bring Europe to their respective stadia?
What a run the Premier League has been, and it’s still not over folks. Let’s have a look at questions to consider for the final 10 weeks.
1. How Soon Can Liverpool Win the Premier League?
Liverpool sit comfortably on top of the mountain, as they need 12 points to end their 30-year wait for a 19th league title. Even after suffering a shock 3-0 Watford defeat the past weekend, there are still a few records to break. Phew, Arsenal fans.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils hold the record for the fastest team to win the Premier League, doing so on April 14, 2001 with five games left. If they can get back to winning games, the Reds are on course to be crowned champions on April 5, 2020 against Manchester City with seven extra games that would beat United’s record.
If Leicester and Pep Guardiola’s side drop points in the coming weeks – the only two teams closest to ‘challenge’ the European champions – Jurgen Klopp and his Reds could be named champions of England even sooner.
And that may be the just first record of many...
2. What Records will Liverpool Break or Match the Remainder of the Season?
As mentioned, the Reds might soon set the record for the earliest EPL title in a season both in terms of the date and having the most games remaining. Many other records also remain in reach for the Reds to set or match this season, including: most trophies, most points, biggest points margin over 2nd place, most wins, best goal differential, quickest to score 100 goals, and most goals. On top of that, Liverpool remains alive to set or match the record for most straight home games without a defeat, but that would have to wait until next season.
[SOURCE NOTE: For the full list of Liverpool records they could set/match (or were formerly in the running for) with further details, visit Sportinglife]
3. Will Banned Manchester City Claim the Champions League Title?
After breaching Financial Fair Play rules, UEFA banned the current Premier League champions from participating in all of their competition for two long seasons (pending appeal). Pep Guardiola’s contract expires in 2021, and many had predicted the Spaniard would not renew his deal even before the ban was announced.
Manchester City has a 2-1 advantage over Real Madrid with the second leg left at the Emirates during their Round of 16 clash, and this is the only time they can hope to grab the Champions League title if the ban is not lifted in the summer.
Guardiola has long known that they cannot compete with Liverpool for this season’s EPL crown. With his goal of chasing the Champions League intact, does this mean he will rotate and keep his preferred players fresh for the elite fixtures in Europe? Shifting the likes of Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bryune and Riyad Mahrez to maintain their abilities to maximum level for the European fixtures will be his aim during this time around. Fantasy managers will likely face a headache when deciding to pick players from the Citizens’ squad which is why it’s highly important to choose the correct one depending on how near the Champions League game is next to the league match. What Man City player(s) can you depend on in the world of fantasy?
4. Will The Reds Also Rotate Players to Focus on the Champions League?
Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea are still in the Champions League but only the first two are expected to go further. The Blues are expected to exit the competition courtesy of Bayern Munich’s 3-0 spanking, which is why Frank Lampard should play his strongest side in the Premier League. As mentioned, the Citizens will look to play their top players in Europe. Might the Reds join them in that effort as they try to repeat?
Will you take the risk to involve players that have the potential to provide you with points but might not appear in the league? What is your plan regarding the rotating of players from these teams?
5. Does the Top Four Race Show that the EPL is not the Best League in the World?
Despite having a transfer ban last year and losing his best player in Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard began the season splendidly. The Blues sit fourth, five points beneath third-position Leicester, but only five points ahead of the 8th spot (Sheffield United) surrounded by Manchester United, Tottenham, and Wolves. The Blues have won just once in their previous five tries but have relatively friendly fixtures for the rest of the season, Manchester City, Liverpool and Wolves being the only difficult games left.
Manchester United and Tottenham just never seem to take advantage of a lead whenever they see their close opponents spilling points. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side sit fifth with two wins in previous five fixtures, and the only light in the tunnel for them is Bruno Fernandes’ arrival. The Red Devils have defeated the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, and they’re the only side to share a point with Liverpool this season, but they’ve also suffered losses to the likes of Crystal Palace and Burnley at home, as well as Watford away. They just don’t seem to capitalize on fixtures that should be won, which is why they are stuck in a tricky situation.
Jose Mourinho’s Spurs have conceded 22 goals in 16 games. This is the 8th worst defensive record in the league since his arrival, with Norwich, Brighton and Newcastle conceding only 1 more. The problem is not just the loss of scoring at forward without Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, but being known for ‘parking the bus’. It just seems the driver has lost his keys and is struggling to keep hold of the vehicle. They have a case similar to the Old Trafford team for sure.
Sitting 10th in the table with 37 points, Arsenal are always in trouble and have to be patient under Mikel Arteta. The Gunners rely heavily on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when moving forward and if they have any chances to have a European spot, give him the ball and hope for the best.
Chris Wilder’s Sheffield and Nuno Santo Espirito’s Wolves have been the most impressive of the lot. Who would have thought Sheffield would begin to dream of hearing the Champions League theme song at Bramall Lane? To even be in such a situation is a massive achievement, and many suggest Wilder will earn the best manager of the league award and rightly so. Wolves have been on fire, defeating the likes of Spurs and Manchester City this season, and the manner in which they play attacking football is most impressive. Many regard them as contenders to win the Europa League, and they may even have enough ammunition to reach a Champions League spot even without doing so.
Whom do you think will end up being in the fourth and fifth positions for Champions League football next season? And is the EPL the world’s best league this season, or is it another?
6. Which Team Will go Furthest in the Europa League?
Wolves and Manchester United are through the Round of 16 round as they face the likes of Olympiacos and LASK. These two are the tricky teams to choose players from in FPL as both are contenders for the fourth and fifth spot in the league but also in an ideal position in the Europa league as well. Solskjaer seems to not rotate the likes of Red Devils fantasy stars Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial, while Wolves remain a team that switches players around more. Their progression in Europe will bring difficult choices to make when it comes to picking players.
7. Who Will Win the Golden Boot?
There was a time in December when Jamie Vardy scored his 17th goal in 18 appearances, giving him an overwhelming advantage to win the Golden Boot. However, the English striker hasen’t scored since, and he suffered a calf injury lately. He did not feature against Norwich but seems to be fit now with upcoming fixtures with Aston Villa (H), Watford (A), Brighton (H), Everton (A) and Crystal Palace (H). Back Vardy to regain his form and aim for the Golden Boot.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who last season shared the Golden Boot with Liverpool duo Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, has 17 goals so far and can pick up a booster in the next four friendly games of West Ham (H), Brighton (A), Southampton (A), and Norwich City (H), but then come tougher Leicester (H), Tottenham (A) and Liverpool (H). He is the only goal-scoring machine for the Gunners, and his teammates will constantly look for him to keep banging the ball in the net, so he is massive favorite to win the prize at the end of the season.
Sergio Aguero missed a penalty against Leicester, as the Argentine has now goalless in the previous four league games. He stands with 16 goals to his name but faces a difficult situation with the league not being the Citizens’ priority anymore but Aguero is still a favourite.
Mo Salah is aiming for a third consecutive Golden Boot award, with 15 goals now. The Egyptian has the ability to do something magical at any minute of the game, and he has consistency when it comes to scoring – with his longest barren run just three league games. The Liverpool forward has 69 goals in 98 league matches.
Danny Ings is having his best career season, with the same number of goals as Salah. Southampton’s forward had a fabulous scoring streak of 13 goals in 16 appearances at one point, but he has scored just once in the last six games. However, he still averages a goal every 125 minutes, about the same as Jamie Vardy’s 124. Plus the Saints face the likes of Newcastle (H), Norwich (A), Arsenal (H) and Watford (A) in the next four so expect the striker to put the ball in the net.
Sadio Mane, who is also aiming to win another Golden Boot, has 13 goals in the league so far. The Liverpool striker always finds the net when his team needs scoring the most but shifting focus to European matches will have an effect on his appearances on the domestic league for sure.
Which player are you placing your bets on to win the award at the end of the season?
8. Which Player Will be Fantasy MVP?
Kevin de Bruyne is leading the charts with 178 points, with Mo Salah at 177 second, Sadio Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold sharing third position at 162 points, Jamie Vardy with 156 in fifth and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 150 at sixth. Whom do you think will end the season with the most overall fantasy points and who has been your MVP so far this year?
What answers to these questions do you have ready? Are there other questions on your mind as we enter the final quarter of the season? Please let us know in the comments section below.