What a difference a week or two makes in football! A few weeks ago, Everton and Leicester would have been in relegation conversations, but manager changes and a couple of good results have seen them both fly to the top half. Newcastle and Huddersfield have done the opposite, sliding down to 15th and 16th respectively after some good form at earlier points. Spurs too have fallen victim to a couple of bad results, and find themselves a few place outside the top four after looking solid in 3rd for most of the early rounds.
Round 15 served up a few less goals than 15, but we still got 27 of them, including five for Liverpool at Brighton. That helped Coutinho to the top round score, a goal and three assists helping him to 18 points, the joint-second highest for a game week.
We’re well into the festive season now, and this weekend is serving up some crackers (pun intended) including two big derbies. Let’s have a look at the weekend ahead:
Man United v Man City (Game of the Week)
Couple of big games this week, including the Merseyside derby, but GOTW billing has to go to the Manchester derby given it’s first v second and the two games over the course of the season have the potential to decide the title. City still hold that eight point lead at the top, but a United win, closes that and will give them belief.
The history in this favours United – 20 wins to 12 with eight draws. That’s understandable, given City weren’t competitive until the heavy investment from 2008 onwards. This season though the Citizens have the edge, they’re unbeaten and have dropped just two points from their 15 games. United have lost two and drawn two but have been good themselves. Both sides are tight at the back, conceding just over a goal every two games, but City have been more prolific going forward, scoring on average 3 times per game, whereas United are closer to two. The home side will be without Pogba, but will have the crowd behind them, which could be the deciding factor here.
No Pogba or Bailly, and Jones a big doubt, leaves United a bit thin, especially at the back. They’ll rely on their usual suspects heading forward in Lukaku (11.4m), Martial (8m) and the recently-impressive Lingard (5.8m).
United’s depleted backline will benefit the City forwards. You imagine Aguero (11.7m), De Bruyne (10.2m) and Sterling (8.3m) can’t get dropped for this one.
West Ham v Chelsea
West Ham continued their poor run of result, albeit with an improvement from the 4-0 pasting at Everton, going down to a late City winner 2-1. Chelsea came back from a goal down to dispose of Newcastle 3-1 and their last five in the league has seen four wins, a draw and only two goals shipped. They also boast an enviable record against the Hammers, 24 wins and seven draws from 42, with just one defeat in their last 22 PL meetings. Can’t see past the Blues here.
Carroll and Hernandez look set to miss this one, so striking for the Hammers rests with Sakho (5.5m) or Ayew (6.9m), although I’d advise against bringing anyone in claret and blue in for this one.
Chelsea will look to the in-form Hazard and Morata (both 10.8m) to run the show here. You might also see the likes of Alonso (6.9m) and Moses (6.4m) bombing forward from wing back.
Burnley v Watford
Two of the season’s surprise packages meet in this one, pitting 7th against 8th at Turf Moor. Watford took a good point off Spurs last out, while Burnley went down by a single goal at Leicester. Burnley have scored less than the Hornets this season, but they’ve also been tighter at the back, a key part of their tactics that has seen them win a few games 1-0. The limited PL history is one win apiece, both going to the home side. Can see that trend continuing here.
Robbie Brady’s been one of the Clarets’ best players in FPL, but he misses out with a knee injury, leaving the likes of Cork (4.6m) and Hendrick (5.4m) to step up. Chris Wood (6.4m) grabbed his fourth of the season in round 14 and will look to add to that tally here.
Watford’s threat continues to come from Richarlison (6.6m) and Doucoure (5.4m) especially when the impressive Will Hughes misses out with a hamstring complaint. Zeegelaar (4.4m) had started his first couple well but then had a quiet few. He is playing in mids as an FPL defender though, so could grab an attacking stat or two.
Crystal Palace v Bournemouth
Palace are finally off the bottom of the table and are unbeaten in four in the league, although they’re still in the relegation zone. Bournemouth were there recently, but they’ve gone on a bit of a run that’s moved them up to 14th. Both sides are averaging less than a goal a game so far, so can’t see this being a high scoring affair. Four PL games has seen two draws and a win for each team when they were the visitors. For some reason, I see Palace breaking that trend this weekend, home win.
We’ve still seen nothing from Benteke (7.6m), but surely he’s due soon? In the meantime, Palace’s threat continues to be Zaha (6.9m), Townsend (5.7m) and Loftus-Cheek (4.6m).
For the Cherries, Surman (4.8m) keeps adding to his FPL score with the odd stat here and there. Wilson (6.1m) and Defoe (7.6m) the main goal threats.
Huddersfield v Brighton
Two of the newly promoted sides meeting in this one, coming in from round 15 defeats. In fact, neither side has won their last four. The Terriers haven’t even collected a point in that time and have been on the end of a couple of big scores, seeing them slide down to 16th in the table. The Seagulls are 12th and were also on the end of a big score line last round, even if it maybe a bit harsh on them. On Huddersfield’s current form I would have to back the visitors for this one.
With the Terriers’ poor form, not much to excite me here. Depoitre (5.2m) always looks lively when I see him, but aside from Mooy (5.4m) lacks the midfield quality to create enough for him to score well in fantasy.
If the Seagulls are to win this (and I think they will, expect involvement from Gross (6m), Knockaert (5.7m) and Murray (5.8m).
Swansea v West Brom
Swansea’s defeat at Stoke last weekend saw them take Palace’s place at the foot of the table. Alan Pardew’s first game saw West Brom take a point of his old side, their third draw in a row, but they still sit just outside the relegation zone in 17th. Both sides are lacking in goals this season, less than one a game on average, so don’t expect a goal-fest here. The history leans towards a winner in this: in 12 Premier League matchups, there’s only been one draw. Of the 11 wins, eight have gone with the home side, as was the case for both last season’s games. Big game for both sides in the relegation battle, Swansea to sneak it for me.
Wilfried Bony (5.7m) finally got his Swansea account going in his second spell with the club last week. He’ll look to form a partnership with Tammy Abraham (5.9m) and will need to if the Swans have any chance of avoiding the drop.
West Brom have no standouts in mids or attack – Matt Phillips (5.6m) probably the pick but he’s a doubt this round. I also don’t see them keeping a clean sheet away, so defenders and keeper not great options either.
Tottenham v Stoke
Tottenham’s mini-slump continued last out, drawing 1-1 with Watford to go to four league games winless, keeping them out the Champions League places. Stoke halted their own winless run in round 15, with a win from behind at home to Swansea, and they sit in 13th. Spurs will be looking to this as a potential slump-buster, having won 4-0 in each of the last three PL games against the Potters. Despite recent results, Spurs are a good team and I expect them to come good in this one.
Spurs will be desperate to bounce back and will look to Harry Kane (12.8m) to do it. Aside from Kane, Eriksen (9.3m) and Alli (9.1m), Son (7.9m) has been scoring quite well in less game time. With Alderweireld, Sanchez and possibly Rose missing, the defence almost picks itself, so you can pick the impressive Davies and Trippier (both 5.6m) with high confidence they’ll get runs.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6.1m) is far and away Stoke’s best player, and for that reason he’s their top fantasy scorer. This season, he’s vontinued to be ably assisted by Diouf and Choupo-Moting (both 5.6m).
Newcastle v Leicester
Newcastle’s game with Chelsea followed a similar pattern to the Man U game, leading early before succumbing to the better side and conceding a few. What’s more worrying is the run of winless games that’s seen them drop to 15th. Leicester followed up their win over Spurs with a 1-0 triumph at home to Burnley and they’ve moved from around the relegation zone to the top half since their change of manager. The Magpies have a good home league record against the Foxes, but did lose both games against them in the relegation season. Current forms couldn’t be more contrasting and sadly lean me towards an away win.
Rafa finally dropped Joselu last week and his reluctance to play Mitrovic means Dwight Gayle (6.1m) probably gets a start and becomes the Magpies’ biggest goal threat. Matt Ritchie (5.7m) was poor against Chelsea, but has been the best fantasy player in black and white so far and will bounce back.
If Leicester are going to come away with the win I predicted it will be down to Riyad Mahrez (8.4m) and/or Jamie Vardy (8.6m). Marc Albrighton (5.5m) has also started grabbing bonus points, so might be a cheaper option to grab some more here.
Southampton v Arsenal
After injury time heartbreak at Man City, Southampton took a point from Bournemouth in round 15. Reflective of their ‘meh’ start to the season, they sit firmly mid-table. Arsenal were beaten 3-1 by United last weekend, the same margin they lost to City by a few weeks earlier, and they’ve been replaced by Liverpool in the top four. All of the Saints’ six PL wins against the Gunners have come at home, and they’ve only lost one of the last six here against them. That said, with their patchy current season form, I can’t look past an away win.
Charlie Austin (6m) starting to get a few more points and is keeping Gabbiadini on the bench. Sean Davis (5.1m) remains the best Saints midfielder for FPL. Arsenal’s best midfielder is Ramsey (7.2m), the Englishman flying under the radar a bit but scoring well. You’d think Sanchez (11.8m) and Ozil (9.3m) close him down soon though. Giroud started the Europa game midweek so you’d assume Lacazette (10.3m) starts up top.
Liverpool v Everton
The close second for GOTW is the Merseyside derby and will feature two sides high on confidence, something you couldn’t have said about Everton a few weeks back. Liverpool’s great run of form has seen them move into the Champions League spots and Everton’s turnaround since the manager change sees them venture into the top half. The Toffees will need all the confidence possibly here – Liverpool’s form aside, they haven’t won at Anfield since 1999, and have only done so twice in the PL era. In fact, home or away, you have to go back to 2010 for an Everton win. This will be a good game, but all signs point to the Red side of the city.
Salah (9.9m) continues to dominate, the top FPL scorer overall and only one above 100. Coutinho (8.9m) also flying, up to 63 points in just over half the playing time. With their form, Mane (9.4m) has been in and out of the team, but seems good for a goal when in.
Rooney (7.3m) remains the Toffee’s top scorer with Calvert-Lewin also scoring well for just 5.2m. Gylfi Sigurdsson (8m) finally starting to show some promise. My surprise package from this lot – Ademola Lookman (5.1m). He might not get picked, but he grabbed two goals in the Europa mid-week and looks a good prospect.
Philippe Coutinho (8.9m) is the most traded in this round, closely followed by Eden Hazard (10.8m). Both in scintillating form recently and both win potentially winnable games this week. Derbies can always be strange, but Coutinho’s value at 1.9m cheaper gives him the edge of the two for me. He’s also only in around 8% of teams, which is surprising.
Morata (10.8m) third on the list of trades in this week. He does keep scoring and has amassed 83 points so far, but if it’s a straight Morata v Hazard choice, I’d probably opt for the latter given the potential for assists and a higher value for his goals as a midfielder.
Firmino (8.5m) and Ramsey (7.2m) round out the top five. I’m happy to see Ramsey getting the recognition after flying under the radar a bit recently, he’s now approaching 10% ownership. For me, the jury’s still out on Firmino – he did go well against Brighton but still too patchy for me and there’s other I prefer at that price. One of those is Jamie Vardy (8.6m), with a couple of good games ahead for Leicester.
Elsewhere, riskier options include Abraham (5.9m), back into the side partnering Bony and with a must-win home game coming. If Brighton beat Huddersfield, Glenn Murray (5.8m) and Pascal Gross (6m) become the must-haves.
Hazard and Morata are solid choices when you consider Chelsea’s (and West Ham’s) form. Harry Kane at home to Stoke also a good option. If you think Liverpool get up in the Merseyside derby, look no further than Coutinho.
Outside of those, the two Brighton form players (Gross and Murray) might be ‘outside of the box’ plays, as would Mahrez/Vardy if the Foxes are to compound Newcastle’s misery.
Bet of the Week
Of the four teams in my Everton, Spurs, Stoke, Leicester multi last week, Spurs were the last team I thought would ruin it. Salah and De Bruyne didn’t get two goals either, the former cursed by me captaining him.
Bets for this weekend start with a Derby double – I’m backing Liverpool and City to get up, but the Reds are such strong favourites that it only pays $2.70, so you could add Arsenal and Chelsea to boost to $7.40.
For an ‘underdogs’ multi, I also like Brighton, Leicester and Burnley at $21.
Despite not scoring, Salah still grabbed a decent 11.85 points last week and Ozil 12.2 – not setting the world alike but two solid picks.
Most of the ‘big’ sides missing from this week’s Saturday Hooligan special, with none of the top five involved. I’m opting for Mahrez at $7.6k and I’m backing Spurs to hit a fourth consecutive big win against Stoke, making Eriksen tasty at $7.7k.