Round 16 was a tight affair. With the exception of Spurs’ 5-1 drubbing of Stoke and Huddersfield’s 2-0 victory over Brighton, there wasn’t more than a goal in the games played. It didn’t stop the goals though, with 27 scored, just shy of 3 per game on average.
The Merseyside derby finished all square thanks to an allegedly controversial penalty (although having just watched the replay for the first time, I’m leaning towards right call). The Manchester derby went the way of the men in blue and they extend their lead at the top to 11 – too early to say uncatchable?
Top Fantasy plaudits go to Son Heung-Min after a goal, two assists and three bonus points for Spurs saw him score 16. For once the banner curse didn’t strike, with Charlie Austin scoring after three minutes for Southampton.
Another midweek round this week hasn’t left me much time between articles, so this might be a shorter one, sorry. Let’s jump straight in ahead of the Wednesday morning start:
West Ham v Arsenal (Game of the Round)
A London derby is always a game to look forward to, but add in the fact that West Ham come into this from a big win over Chelsea and Arsenal from no win in two, and this meeting gets that little bit bigger for both sides. The Hammers will be desperate to kick on and up the table and the Gunners will want to keep pace with the top four, sitting a point outside at present.
Strangely, the Hammers do better away in this one. Of their seven wins against this week’s visitors, only two have come in a home game. Arsenal have won 27 of these matchups, including 12 on the road, and should be big favourites. That said, if the home side can score early, which happened both for West Ham and against Arsenal on the weekend, they’ll consider themselves in the mix. Going out on a limb and calling this a draw.
Burnley v Stoke
Another win for Burnley in round 16, and another clean sheet, consolidating their hold on the top seven. In fact, they sit just two points from the Champions league place at almost the halfway stage. I’m not saying they’ll still be here come May, but it’s enjoyable to see an underdog doing well at the moment. They’ll also fancy themselves against Stoke, who come from being demolished last out and will be low on confidence. These two have played six times in the PL: two Burnley, two Stoke, tow draws. Stoke have never won away in this either. Got to be a Clarets’ win for me.
Crystal Palace v Watford
Palace continued their unbeaten run last out, but a lot of those (including round 16) have been draws and they slipped back to bottom of the pile after Swansea got three points. They’ll be happy to have stopped the defeats but will look to close out a few more of these games. They’ll also be hating on Benteke a little bit after he took their injury time penalty off Milivojevic (after the Serb had already scored one in the game) and missed the chance to bag the three points with a poor effort.
They host Watford this week, who have stumbled a little bit recently after a great start, not winning in three, but are still in the top half. They’ll see a trip to the bottom side as a good chance to find a way back to form and indeed their one win in the four PL meetings with Palace came in an away game. Can they do it? If Richarlison turns it on I can’t see why not.
Huddersfield v Chelsea
Every time I think the Terriers are on the slide they pull a good win out the bag. This time they accounted for the recently-impressive Seagulls 2-0. Having beaten 2nd and put in a good show against 1st, they now host 3rd place Chelsea, who were flying before a shock loss to West Ham on the weekend.
The home side can be well organised and have a few bright sparks including Mooy and the returning record-signing Mounie, but the visitors are oozing class in their 11. No PL history in this one, with Huddersfield just having come up, but don’t need to be a psychic to pick a Blues win here.
Newcastle v Everton
It continues to go from bad to worse for Newcastle, a late Ayoze Perez own goal condemning them to yet another game without a win and seeing them slide to 16th, just two points outside the drop zone. They desperately need some January investment, but have a couple of tough games to get through before then.
This is one of them, with Everton on a mini-resurgence in the last few weeks, losing just one of the last five to move to the top half and essentially swapping places with the Magpies. Can they continue that run with a result here? Heart says no but the head says probably.
Southampton v Leicester
The Saints struck early against Arsenal before a late Giroud header pegged them back to what is still a good point. Their mid table position is fitting of their mixed current season form. Nothing mixed about the Foxes recently, three wins on the bounce and turning around massively since a change in coach sees them up to 8th.
The history in this one is pretty close: 22 games, eight draws and 8-6 to the Foxes in the remainder. Only one of those eight has come in an away game however. The fact that the Saints have yet to click would lean towards an away win, but if they can turn the glimpses shown into a full game performance who knows.
Swansea v Man City
The timing of Bony finding his scoring boots couldn’t be better, with a visit from his former employer on the cards in 17. Even if he can find the net here, in all likelihood it will just be a consolation. City have been too good this season – 11 points clear and unbeaten. They also boast a great record against the Swans, losing just one of 12 with two draws. They’re also banging in about six times as many goals at this round’s opponents, so I have a feeling it could be a bloodbath.
Liverpool v West Brom
Whilst the Red side of Liverpool will be disappointed with a draw in the derby, it served to keep them in the top four. After three straight draws, West Brom went down 1-0 at Swansea on the weekend, but stay just above the drop zone.
Despite the dropped points on the weekend, Liverpool haven’t lost their last five and are still in good form. They also boast an impressive record over the Baggies, winning 14 and drawing four of the 22 PL games they’ve played and haven’t lost to them since 2013. With Salah and Coutinho running the show, can’t see past a home win.
Man United v Bournemouth
The Red Devils went down 2-1 in the Manchester derby and will see it as a missed chance to regain some ground on City at the top. They’ll be thinking they’re a good chance to do that against Bournemouth, who’ve only lost one in five but also haven’t won in four.
United have scored more than double and conceded nearly half of what the Cherries have, and have never lost to them at Old Trafford in the Premier League (in an admittedly small sample of four meetings). United to fight back from the weekend and put on a big score here.
Side note – just how good was Defoe’s second last week?! He wasn’t even looking at the goal, but still knew exactly where it was.
Tottenham v Brighton
Rounding us out on Thursday morning sees Brighton travel to the capital to face Spurs. The Seagulls will be disappointed not to have taken something from Huddersfield last time, especially when it was one of their ‘easier’ games in among some tough fixtures. One of those tough fixtures is Spurs, who returned to form in style after a few rocky weeks, smashing Stoke 5-1. With Harry Kane on 12 goals already, a home win almost looks a formality.
Lot of love for Harry Kane (12.8m) ahead of this round, he’s the most traded in at present. In a close second, lot of people backing the goal scoring exploits of Otamendi (5.9m) from the back.
Calvert-Lewin (5.2m) third favourite trade after a good run of goals and assists in Everton’s resurgence. Last round’s banner Charlie Austin (6.1m) fourth most wanted after four in four and Son (7.9m) starting to get some recognition from the shadows of Kane, Eriksen etc. at Spurs (although he’s still only at 2.4% ownership).
Elsewhere, Steve Mounie (5.7m) returned to the starting 11 and scored two last round. The Terriers have a tough game against Chelsea, but a great little run after that, so he’s a definite contender for me. You also can’t have a Liverpool home game and not suggest Salah (9.9m) or Coutinho (9m).
For anyone who’s intensely following my steak bet with Wenin (which I assume is no-one), Rooney (7.3m) has pulled the fantasy gap on Lukaku to just 11 points and I’m starting to believe. There’s a couple of hard games ahead, but some very winnable ones also.
I expect City to continue flying, and Aguero missed the derby so probably comes in here making him a good captain choice. Same for the two Liverpool guns previously mentioned or the four Spurs’ ones (Kane, Eriksen, Alli, Son).
Outside of that, I’m continuing my Richarlison love affair and backing him to do well at Palace. I also don’t think you can keep Hazard down for consecutive weeks and am tipping him to bounce back at Huddersfield.
No Bet Tips or Moneyball this round, saving the gambling for the weekends. With my form recently, that’s definitely a good thing!