The weight on the Premier League from the pandemic is escalating, and some sides are slowly cracking. Another match has been postponed, coming after a record number of positive tests were recorded among Aston Villa players and staff.
There has been concern raised over the consistency of the Premier League’s decisions over match suspensions, and why they have been made within hours of games being played. Unsurprisingly, there are now increasing demands for the season to be paused in a form of a ‘circuit breaker’.
Remember the FPL deadline is at 4.30 pm UK time
Sheffield United vs Newcastle United
[This is the only match of the next 22 that will show Fantrax managers its confirmed lineups before their deadline, and it’s slim pickings at that. Even so, many will want to be tuned in near deadline time just in case there is any other late breaking news.]
Sheffield Utd: Each of Sheffield’s last five home league defeats has been by a one-goal margin. The once tactically demanding Blades have lost the edge that made them stand out last season, and with lack of goals that makes them near certain casualties of the drop despite club-record buy Brewster from Liverpool.
Newcastle: The Magpies have won their last three meetings by two or more, but this isn’t that Sheffield United anymore; they only seem to lose games by narrow margins so don’t expect a goal fest. Still, Callum Wilson will be the most likely name on the goal list.
Burnley vs Man United
Burnley: Burnley won 2-0 at Old Trafford in their last league meeting with Manchester United, but this is a United high on confidence, so I can see Sean Dyche coming not to play, choosing instead to frustrate. Burnley wants to avoid the Red Devils’ counterattack that, with penalty that they always seem to get, has lifted them to their current league position.
Injuries: Charlie Taylor is a doubt with a thigh injury while fellow defender Kevin Long will also be monitored after rolling his ankle. Jay Rodriguez and Dwight McNeill are also battling injuries and will also be assessed ahead of the game.
Man United: This could be the game United goes top of the Premier League for the first time in ages. Anthony Martial has scored in all three of his Premier League games at Turf Moor. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hinted that he will rotate his squad for the match at Burnley, and he has his sharpshooter Edinson Cavani available after serving a three-match ban.
Injuries: Eric Bailly the recent hero against Villa will be assessed after sustaining a sore neck in Manchester United’s FA Cup win against Watford. Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, and Paul Pogba are all doubtful.
Wolves vs Everton
Wolves: Everton has not won at Molineux since a 3-0 victory in April 2011. This Wolves side without Jimmez lacks that bite needed to push them up the table to the heights of last season.
Injuries: Wolves have no new injuries, just long term absentees such as defender Wily Boly, who hasn’t played since mid-December. He could return, but Jonny and Raul Jimenez remain out.
Everton: They are looking record three successive away wins, each with a clean sheet, for the first time since December 2008. Carlo Ancelotti’s side has let in just four goals in their last seven Premier League fixtures.
Injuries: Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin is out with a hamstring injury and Allan will be sidelined for a couple of weeks with his hamstring complaint.
Manchester City vs Brighton
Man City: Manchester City has won all six of its Premier League matches against Brighton & Hove Albion, scoring 20 goals and conceding only twice. Despite their well-documented defensive injuries, Guardiola’s men continue to perform fearlessly and consistently, letting in only three goals in their last ten home matches in all competitions, largely thanks to the resurgent John Stones and reliable Ruben Dias.
Injuries: Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake both remain sidelined through injury, and there is a question mark over Raheem Sterling’s involvement after City reported that he was not “fully fit” for the FA Cup match over the weekend.
Brighton: Brighton’s dismal form means that only three points separate them from the drop zone after 17 matches, and Fulham do have two games in hand over the relegation-threatened Seagulls.
Injuries: Brighton’s ever-growing absentee list with additions of midfield lynchpin Yves Bissouma, who is suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Danny Welbeck, Aaron Connolly, and Adam Lallana all missed the trip to Rodney Parade and remain doubts for this one, and it is still too soon for Tariq Lamptey to return to action.
Tottenham vs Fulham
Tottenham will host Fulham rather than visiting Aston Villa on Wednesday night (and the Cottagers’ weekend fixture against Chelsea slips back a day) in a deft piece of rescheduling that shows both the challenge of continuing elite sport during the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the increasing flexibility being discovered in the absence of thousands of fans who would otherwise be inconvenienced.
So Tottenham’s prospects are good as their usual suspects look healthy and their match-up just softened and came home to London. However, except for a possible Mitrovic sighting, I don’t think Fulham interests many fantasy managers yet, especially with Chelsea and Man United looming in the ensuing seven days.
Arsenal vs Crystal Palace
Arsenal: Arsenal is finally putting a run of results together following their dire situation before Christmas. Thomas Partey is in line to return to the Arsenal squad for Thursday’s match with Crystal Palace.
Injuries: Gabriel (Covid-19), Martinelli (ankle)
Crystal Palace: The partnership of Eza and Zaha shows promise, and along with the reassurance of Bentake makes Palace a real threat going forward. Roy Hodgen will definitely have the whip out to shape his defense ready for the Arsenal onslaught.
These are unprecedented times. If I were you, I would wait until the 23rd hour before committing any changes (unless a chip allows you to churn) as players and fixtures are dropping like flies. If you have been affected by the recent fixture changes and loss of players, please share in the comments so maybe someone can suggest a solution to your problems (or at least commiserate).
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