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Only Leeds scored more than a single goal (and they put in 5!) during game week 16. It was an odd week of cancellations and low scores. Overall, it was a week to forget for many of us.
So just like I’d rather not look back at 2020 but instead forward to 2021, let’s do the same and just move on to week-17 match ups.
Everton vs West Ham
Everton gained some extra rest when Manchester City’s Covid outbreak postponed their GW-16 match. The Toffees also have won four straight, conceding only once in that stretch. Their back line during those four games was unchanged, with two defenders scoring. Gylfi Sigurdsson continues to be on set pieces and penalties.
David Moyes’ Hammers sit comfortably mid table, which is about where they belong. Michail Antonio’s return is a boost for the Hammers’ offense, which has struggled without him, failing to score in two of their last three. It’s a roll of the dice as to which West Ham will come to play.
Player Updates: Richarlison is available after clearing concussion protocols. James Rodriguez and Lucas Digne are not quite ready. Allan is still out. Michail Antonio is back for West Ham.
Manchester United vs Aston Villa
United continues to get results, grinding out a win against Wolves, which is something that successful EPL teams have to do from time to time. The Red Devils also kept a clean sheet, which they have done only three other times this season. Bruno Ferndandes is making a strong case for player of the year, notching his 8th assist (tied for second in the league) and having scored ten of his own (tied for 3rd). Marcus Rashford has also come to life, with four goals in his last four games.
Aston Villa has impressed recently. Anwar El Ghazi has five goals in as many games, bursting onto the scene as a week in and week out option. The Villans have been scored on just once in December (by Chelsea last game). With a game in hand on United and two on the league leaders, a win keeps Villa in the hunt for a top four spot.
This is a big game for both clubs who are looking to make their mark on the season.
Player Updates: Neither team has any key injuries to report.
Tottenham vs Leeds
The Spurs offense is sputtering, which explains their slip into 7th place. Harry Kane has no goals or assists in the last three games. Spurs need to get him going again to climb back up the table. They remain solid in the back, as you’d expect from a Jose Mourinho team, but they haven’t kept a clean sheet in four games (after recording four in a row). Spurs will be relatively rested after Fulham’s Covid woes gave them a day off last GW.
Leeds scored five (okay, one was a gift-wrapped West Brom own-goal) in an impressive display against the Baggies. They also have two straight clean sheets, although to be fair, those were against teams near the bottom of the league.
This will be a fun contrast in style. Spurs rely on counterattacking, which could benefit from Leeds wanting to get forward, press, and go for goal.
Player Updates: Giovani Lo Celso and Garreth Bale are both out according to Jose. Liam Cooper and Mateusz Klich are major doubts for Leeds.
Crystal Palace vs Sheffield United
Palace has scored just once in the last 300 minutes of football while shipping eleven in that time. Wilfred Zaha does have eight goals on the season, and Eberechi Eze has emerged as a solid player.
What else is there to say about Sheffield? Still no wins. Still two points. Still under double digit goals. This could be the bounce back game that Palace needs.
Player Updates: Sander Berge and John Lundstram are out. Oliver McBurnie is doubtful. Nothing new or major to report from CP.
Brighton vs Wolverhampton
Brighton has won only twice thus far, sitting just outside the drop zone. They don’t beat themselves though. They are battling injuries and could use some help.
Wolves have been a little disappointing this year, but not bad; expectations were high. Without Raul (injured) and Jota (at Liverpool) they are still finding their way forward. They have lost four in six with no clean sheets.
Player Updates: Danny Welbeck is doubtful. Tariq Lamptey and Adam Lallana are out. Raul Jimenez is out still. Willy Boly probably won’t make it back.
West Brom vs Arsenal
West Brom’s one win came against Sheffield. They were embarrassed by Leeds. They have conceded the most goals in the league and are 18th in goals-for. It’s a recipe for relegation.
The Gunners have won two in a row for the first time since the opening two games. Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli, and Pablo Mari started both of these matches and injected some much needed life, grit, and skill into the Gunners squad. A match against West Brom could make it three straight.
Player Updates: No new injury news for West Brom. Thomas Partey and Gabriel are still out for the Gunners. There are minor injuries for a set of Arsenal players.
Burnley vs Fulham
[ Because of Fulham’s Covid outbreak, this match is in doubt as we’re writing, so stay tuned to news & comments for updates. ]
Burnley has found defensive form. James Tarkowski and blog favorite Ben Mee are putting in good work for keeper Nick Pope. But the offense is still having problems scoring consistently.
Fulham has drawn four straight, while not conceding or scoring more than a goal. The Cottagers have scored two goals (well, one plus receiving an own-goal) in their last five. This is a big match for them against similarly-ranked opposition, but it will be tough for them to break down the Burnley defense.
Player Updates: Dwight McNeil has a chance, but Charlie Taylor is not likely to play. Nothing to report for Fulham, which is bad because the last word was postponment of Fulham’s match last GW. All eyes will be on the next Covid report to find out if this Burnley match will suffer the same fate.
Newcastle vs Leicester
Vintage Newcastle: I have no idea what to ever predict with them. This is the team that recently drew against Fulham and was crushed by Leeds. But the Magpies showed up against Liverpool and put in a quality performance. Will they be able to do it again? They have scored only once in three, so I have my doubts.
The Foxes keep their spot in the top four. They need wins like these to stay there. Injuries haven’t helped, and they don’t have a lot of depth. Harvey Barnes has scored in two straight.
Player Updates: James Maddison should be back in the lineup for Leicester. Wesley Fofana has a chance too, but Cengiz Under won’t be ready. Allan Saint-Maximin still needs time, as does Ryan Fraser.
Chelsea vs Manchester City
It’s been a tough set of games for Chelsea, and it won’t get easier with this one. They dropped to 6th with the draw to Villa. This was always going to be an important game, but they really need a result now. Will they be able to handle the pressure?
Manchester City’s game was postponed because of Covid, so the Citizens have had a chance to rest and recover, though some players may still test positive. At least they’ve returned to training, so we expect this match to go forward. But that doesn’t help us know whom Pep is going to start. Ederson and the back line are getting the job done with five clean sheets in six games. They have two games in hand, so their 8th place standing isn’t as bad as it looks, but they need to pick up points.
Player Updates: Hakim Ziyech may be available, but a start might be a bit of a reach. Reece James is doubtful, and with solid cover it doesn’t look like Frank needs to rush him back. As long as players have recovered and gone through COVID protocols, Pep should have a pretty full squad available, which of course makes it hard to rely on his players for your squad.
Southampton vs Liverpool
No goals in three for Southampton, but also only one given up. Danny Ings is back, but he failed to make his mark last game. This is a solid team across the field, but Saints need to start picking up wins over draws, a daunting prospect against the table leaders.
The Reds have dropped points against West Brom and Newcastle but still lead the league. They aren’t dominating like the did a year ago, but one has to give some credit to Jurgen Klopp who is getting the most out of a team that has been dealt key injuries through the season. Center backs are still an issue, but they are making due with what they have.
Player Updates: Jannik Vestergaard and Nathan Redmond are not available. Joel Matip is out for a few weeks, meaning Nathaniel Phillips or Rhys Williams will fill again most likely. Thiago played 17 minutes against Newcastle and should be available.
How are your fantasy teams shaping up? How are you adjusting to the latest Covid risks? What’s the latest news? And oh yeah, Happy New Year! Make any resolutions? Please share with us in the comments!
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