Another round full of goals, with the net hit 29 times in round 18. In among those City smashed Spurs 4-1 and Liverpool breezed past Bournemouth 4-0, but Chelsea and Arsenal wins were by a lower than expected 1-0 margin. Everton and West Ham continued their good runs under new managers, whilst Leicester’s hit a roadblock in the form of a 3-0 loss to Palace.
That 11 point gap at the top is still there, but then there’s only 10 between 2nd and 7th and four teams who could find themselves in fourth at the end of this round. Top round fantasy score for round 18 was tied between Mooy and Lanzini, but given the latter’s retrospective ban for diving, I’m giving it to the Aussie.
This weekend marks the halfway point in the season and the last games before Christmas, and serves up a couple of big games in terms of historic rivalries and current year battles for positions. It’s also (I think) the first ‘return fixture’ for teams this season, with the reverse fixtures played in round three, so we have some recent history for this week’s previews:
Arsenal v Liverpool (Game of the Week)
Game of the week goes to this game as it’s 4th against 5th in the table and teams separated by just a point. It also happened to be between two of the most successful top flight teams, and two mainstays of the first 25 years of the Premier League era. That means they’ve met 51 times in the PL.
Of those 51, Liverpool have won 19 to Arsenals 15, with 17 draws. The Reds are also unbeaten in the last five meetings between the two and have won the last three, culminating in the 4-0 demolition in August. Both sides are also in good form coming into this, the only loss in each of the sides last five was Arsenal defeat to United. Tough one to call, two good attacks on show, but also two sides that seem to have tightened their supposedly weak defences recently. I’m sitting firmly on the fence and picking the draw.
Ramsey out until the end of the year for the Gunners, which might open up a chance for Jack Wilshire (5.4m) to get a run in the side. Mesut Ozil (9.3m) scored a cracker last week and is a good one to have. Less so Sanchez, who isn’t doing enough currently to justify an 11.8m price tag. Sead Kolasinac (6.1m) had been one of the better performing defenders, but he’s been left out of the last two, so Monreal (5.6m) maybe a safer choice.
Salah (10m) and Coutinho (9m) flying for the Reds, and at least one of them in your side is a must-have. Gomez (4.7m) and Lovren (5.3m) are among the visitor’s top scoring defenders and while it would have been inconceivable to suggest Liverpool defenders earlier in the season, they do appear to have shored up their back line a bit of late.
Everton v Chelsea
Two more Premier League lifers in this one, with 9th placed Everton hosting 3rd placed Chelsea. Both sides come into this in some good form, Chelsea’s shock loss to West Ham a few weeks back sits among 9 unbeaten fixtures since the shock loss to Palace in round eight.
Everton haven’t lost their last five, since Southampton pasted them 4-0 in 13, and have only dropped two points in those games, a great start for Sam Allardyce. This will be a big test for them though: of 51 PL meetings, they’ve only managed nine wins to Chelsea’s 25 (which includes the 2-0 win earlier in the season). I think the Toffees will score, but I think the visitors will come away with the points here.
Rooney (7.6m) missed a penalty last out but still scored 13, and he’s flying under the new manager. Calvert-Lewin (5.4m) also going well as the out-and-out forward in the team, keeping out Niasse, who had been scoring well before suspension, but has only had 45 minutes since round 12. Record signing Sigurdsson (8m) is also starting to look the business.
Alonso got the winner last week, and has 90 points, but is pricey at 7m., as is Azpilicueta at 6.9m for his 89 points. Morata is suspended for this one, so again Hazard (10.9m) and Willian (6.7m) look set to take the attacking reins for the Blues.
Brighton v Watford
Two sides in poor form here, with no wins for either in their last five. The Seagulls took a point from Burnley last round, but the Hornets were well beaten by Huddersfield. These two have one previous PL result, the 0-0 draw in round three. On currently form, I could see that repeating easily, but I’ll stick my neck out and back the visitors.
Mat Ryan (4.5m) has been picking up a few points through saves and bonus points and scored 11 last round. Pascal Gross (5.9m) has been quiet of late, but still isn’t a bad shout to make things happen. I’ll be interested to see if Murray’s penalty miss last season means he misses out to Hemed (4.8m) this week.
Alongside Gross, Richarlison has been one of the midfield performers this season in that cheap-mid price range. Like his counterpart, the Brazilian has also had a quiet last couple of rounds, but is always the danger man if the Hornets are going to win this. Doucouré scored a great effort last week, but is suspended for this one.
Man City v Bournemouth
The Cherries were well beaten by Liverpool last weekend, and have just two points from their last five. It doesn’t get much easier here, travelling to Man City, who they’ve lost to in all five previous meetings with a net goal difference of -15. City came through a potentially tough game against Spurs with a resounding 4-1 win and look every bit the Champions. Long way to go in the season, but they won’t lose this one.
Quieter one for Otamendi (6.2m) in 18 after three big weeks, but he’ll be a good chance of a clean sheet here. De Bruyne (10.3m) has also been in form, as has Sterling (8.5m) and Silva (8.2m), although the latter may be doubtful due to a “serious family issue”. Aguero (11.5m) my pick to lead the line for the Citizens.
Can’t offer up a lot for the Cherries in this. They won’t keep a clean sheet and Defoe and King are doubtful. That leave maybe Wilson (5.7m) and Surman (4.8m), but even then there’s better options elsewhere.
Southampton v Huddersfield
12th against 11th here, with the Terriers travelling to the Saints. Southampton are underperforming this season, although how long does it have to go on before it just becomes being poor? They’ve taken two points from their last five. The visitors had appeared to be on a slump, but in their last three they’ve sandwiched two victories around a defeat to Chelsea. No goals in their first meeting this season but I’m tipping the away side to sneak the return game.
The Saints’ season summed up by the fact that Fraser Forster (5m) is their top scoring fantasy player. Nobody really stands out for me as must-haves. Davis (5m) and Austin (6.2m) have been good in spells, but Gabbiadini (6.4m) and Redmond (6m) have not lived up to expectation. Yet.
Aaron Mooy (5.3m) bagged two more last round and is a cheaper option for his 68 points. Depoitre (5.3m) was preferred to Mounie (5.7m) up top and scored one and set up two, so will be likely to start again this week.
Stoke v West Brom
Relegation battle here. West Brom sit second from bottom without a win in their last five while Stoke sit one place above the drop zone after three straight losses. Both sides underperforming based on previous seasons. They’ve met 17 times in the PL, the Potters winning seven and Baggies five. The earlier game this season finished 1-1 and a draw wouldn’t be a bad shout again, but I have a sneaky feeling Stoke will nick it.
If Stoke are going to win this it will come down to Shaqiri (6.2m), Choupo-Moting (5.5m) or Diouf (5.6m). If the Baggies get anything, likely it will come from Phillips (5.5m) or Rondon (6m). With two sides out of form, not much else in terms of recommendation here.
Swansea v Crystal Palace
Another manager sacking saw Paul Clement leave Swansea this week, I’ve almost lost count but I think that makes six for the season and we’re not even halfway! The Swans actually boast the head-to-head in this one, they’ve won four of nine with Palace only winning once and never away from home. Swansea also triumphed 2-0 in round 3. That said, the recent form tells a different story – Palace have won their last two and are unbeaten in seven while the Swans have one win in five and have slide to the bottom of the table. On current form, backing the Eagles in this one.
Bony’s out for the Swans, so all attacking hopes rest on Tammy Abraham (5.8m) once again. Naughton and Fabianski (both 4.6m) the better defensive scorers, so maybe picks if you think Swansea are a chance of a shutout. For Palace, Benteke is suspended, so back to the usual suspects of Zaha (6.9m), Townsend (5.6m) and Loftus-Cheek (4.6m).
West Ham v Newcastle
A few weeks back, I looked at this one as a good chance for three points for the Magpies after a few tough games. How times have changed! Since then, the Hammers have found some form under Moyes and are unbeaten in three, which includes a win over Chelsea and a draw against Arsenal. Newcastle have now gone nine game without a win, picking up a solitary point along the way, and find themselves in the relegation zone. The visitors won the first meeting this season 3-0 and have an 18-11 head-to-head advantage, but that won’t help them on their current slide. Hammers win.
Lanzini hit form last week, but he’s been banned for this one. Kouyate also likely to miss out, leaving Antonio (7.4m) and Arnautovic (6.8m) as my picks. Cresswell (5m) has been one of the higher scorers from the back and popped up with the odd assist. Can’t throw up much my means of Newcastle choices, maybe Ritchie (5.6m) or Atsu (4.8m).
Burnley v Tottenham
Burnley have been one of the success stories of the season so far. The fact that this game is a potential battle for 4th spot shows how well they’ve been going. The Clarets are unbeaten in three, keeping clean sheets in all those games. In fact, they’ve only conceded two goals in their last five. Spurs were well beaten by City last out, but had bounced back from a mini-slump before that. Two sides set up well defensively. It was 1-1 in round three and I think the draw might be on the cards again.
Burnley will miss Stephen Ward for this one through injury and James Tarkowski through suspension. Their season has been built on a strong defence though, so Mee (4.7m), Lowton (4.6m) and Pope (4.8m).
For Spurs, Ben Davies hasn’t featured in the last couple, so Jan Vertonghen (6m) might be a better defensive choice. Further up the field, the familiar faces of Eriksen (9.3m), Son (8m) and Kane (12.8m) are the choices from a fantasy perspective.
Leicester v Man United
Two Premier League winners meeting here, and two sides in good form. Leicester’s defeat to Palace last week was their only blemish in the last five games while United’s loss to City three rounds back is their only loss in five. As expected, United have the better of the head to head, winning 15 and drawing six of 23 clashes, including the 2-0 win in August. The Foxes are on good form and are at home but I think United will be too strong.
Being well beaten and not scoring in round 18, none of Leicester’s players scored well. Prior to that though, the form players were Mahrez (8.6m), Vardy (8.7m), Maguire (5.3m) and Okazaki (5.5m).
The Red Devils were knocked out of the Carabao Cup midweek after a shock loss to Bristol City. Mourinho’s comments afterwards suggested the players rotated in for the cup had not done enough to earn a league start. Whether than included Pogba (7.9m), Rashford (7.6m) and Martial (8m) remains to be seen, but you can be assured Mkhitaryan won’t get a look in. David de Gea (5.9m) is about to be the first keeper to break the 100 this season, with ten clean sheets from the 18 games this season. After a slight barren spell, Lukaku (11.3m) has scored in his last two and will look to continue here.
Three City players in the top five trade-ins this week, with Sterling (8.5m), De Bruyne (10.3m) and Otamendi (6.2m) among the fan favourites. With a home game against Bournemouth coming up, you would take any of the three in your side.
Rooney (7.6m) is also among the top five. For good reason too, he’s been scoring well the last few weeks averaging 9.8 ppg over his last five. Tougher game this week, but if he can grab at least a goal or assist he’s worth it.
Rounding out the top five this week is Firmino (8.6m). He went well last time, but as he’s still not put two decent scores back to back this season, I’m still reluctant.
As per usual, can’t look past the City players – Sterling, De Bruyne, Aguero the standout choices for me (I’m assuming Sergio plays as Jesus started the Carabao Cup midweek).
There’s a lot of other games I look at and can’t pick a winner with a lot of confidence, which makes it hard to pick a captain. Of the remaining games, I’m drawn to Stoke and Palace, so outside the box captain choices this week would be Shaqiri or Zaha. If you back Watford to break their poor run, Richarlison would be another maverick choice.
Bet of the Week
Let downs all around last week – Leicester and Watford ruined the multi and Hazard and Sanchez didn’t score, never mind two.
This weekend, I’m backing Stoke, West Ham and Palace at $11. I can’t get behind an Aguero hat-trick at just $9, but I can get behind Sterling to score two or more at $5,50 and Shaqiri anytime at $4 ($22 if you double them).
The low scoring wins for Arsenal and Chelsea last out restricted my Willian and Sanchez picks to just 10.5 and 6.95 points respectively.
This week, I’m opting for Sterling to fill his boots for city at 9.7k and Zaha to put Swansea to the sword at 7.6k.
Merry Christmas everyone, see you on the other side for the Boxing Day games!