Merry Christmas everyone! Hopefully by now you’ll all in a food coma in pool or in front of the TV, mentally preparing for the Boxing Day sport coming your way. We’ve got the Boxing Day test starting, NFL and Big Bash games and of course the Boxing Day Premier League games.
Round 19 was another goal filled round, averaging over three a game with 31 scored. United conceding a second injury time goal in a matter of days to drop two points at Leicester, extending the lead of City, who smashed Bournemouth, to 13 points heading into the second half of the season. The Citizens have also scored a whopping 60 goals this season, an average of over three per game and 19 more than any other team in the league!
Harry Kane’s hat-trick saw him score 17 points and take out the top FPL score for the round, beating Aguero by a point, making him the first player this season to top score a round twice, having also achieved the feat in round nine.
Round 20 starts late on Boxing Day and while there are no massive top of the table clashes, there’s some interesting games ahead:
Bournemouth v West Ham (Game of the Round)
Game of the Round status goes to this one for the fact it’s a relegation zone six pointer between 17th and 18th. Both sides will be desperate to get a much needed win here. The Cherries probably need it more, they haven’t got a win in their last five, whereas the Hammers have two wins and a draw before the 3-2 defeat to Newcastle last round. Four previous PL games have seen two wins either way. On the recent form and the nature of Bournemouth’s losses compared to West Ham’s, I’m backing the visitors here.
Potentially the same outs for the Cherries in this as the last round so Surman (4.8m) and Wilson (5.7m) the better choices. Thanks to a cup game, Lanzini (6.8m) has served his two match ban and returns, he was on fire in his last, diving aside. Arnautovic (6.8m) and Antonio (7.4m) my other Hammers’ picks.
Tottenham v Southampton
The first of the Boxing Day games sees Southampton travel to Spurs. In 19, Southampton were held at home to Huddersfield, while a Kane hat-trick led Spurs to a comfortable win over Burnley. Recent form favours the home side – their only loss in the last five coming at Man City, while the Saints have no win in their last five. The history leans that was as well, with 19 Spurs wins to 11 Southampton victories in 36 PL games. Spurs win this.
Harry Kane (12.8m) the obvious choice, but there’s a couple of cheaper options in Son (8m), Alli (9m), Vertonghen (6m) and Sanchez (6m) who should all play and can score well.
For the Saints, Charlie Austin starts a three match ban for kicking Huddersfield keeper Lossl in the head last out. In his absence, not many I can recommend, particularly as they won’t keep a clean sheet. Maybe Sean Davis (5m).
Chelsea v Brighton
Another good win and clean sheet for Brighton in round 19. A big ask for them in 20 though, heading to Chelsea, who still sit third after being held at Everton 0-0. No PL history between the two, but the Blues are scoring almost double and conceding almost half compared to the Seagulls. Can’t see past a home win here.
Morata (10.6m) comes back from suspension for this and will be raring to go. That likely means Hazard (10.9m) drops back a bit further, but has someone to lay assists on for. The Blues a good shout for a clean sheet, but Alonso (7m) and Azpilicueta (6.9m) are expensive. Maybe take the punt on Rudiger (5.8m) and Christensen (5.7m) instead.
The Seagulls’ backline, in particular Mat Ryan (4.5m) have been scoring well, but won’t keep Chelsea out here. Gross (5.9m) and Hemed (4.8m) would be the choices if any.
Huddersfield v Stoke
A draw for the Terriers last out, their only loss in the last four against Chelsea. Stoke stopped a run of three straight defeats with a good 3-1 win over West Brom, making this an 11th against 14th affair. Both sides have had the tendency to concede a few goals this season, while not scoring too many. If Stoke play like they can they will win, but they haven’t been this season so I’m opting for the draw.
Depoitre (5.4m) on form, continuing to keep out record signing Mounie. Mooy (5.4m) always a threat if the Terriers are going to get on the scoresheet as well. Stoke’s hopes continue to rest on Shaqiri (6.2m) and Choupo-Moting (5.4m) but Joe Allen (5.1m) also got among the points last time.
Man United v Burnley
Beaten by Spurs last out, another tough one for the Clarets here, travelling to Old Trafford. Six Premier League matchups between the two have produced three United wins and two draws. The Red Devils have conceded a couple of late goals recently, and the last on against Leicester cost them two points, but they’ve still only lost to City in their last five. Burnley have just one point at Old Trafford in the Premier League and I can’t see them adding to that this round.
Valencia and Bailly remain doubtful, but United a shout to keep it tight at the back so Jones (5.5m) and Lindelof (4.9m) may be the way to go. Pogba (7.9m) had last round as his ‘loosener’ and hopefully will start bossing the game again here. Lukaku (11.4m) likely to profit if he does.
The Claret’s great season built on a strong backline, but I don’t think they’ll shut out United in their own back yard, so a lot of the higher scoring players aren’t viable here. Chris Wood also may miss this with a knee injury, so not much I would go for FPL-wise.
Watford v Leicester
Watford are well and truly on a slide after an excellent start, with four defeats in a row, although they’re still clinging on to the top ten, just. Leicester will be buoyed by the late equaliser at home to United last out, and the Palace loss the round before their only defeat in the last five. Six PL games previously have four Foxes’ wins and a draw. Everything points to an away win in this.
No big scores from the Hornets on their poor run, but if there are going to get anything in this, it will be through Richarlison (6.6m), Doucoure (5.3m) or Gray (6.3m). The more likely option is that the Foxes get up, courtesy of Vardy (8.6m), Mahrez (8.5m) and/or Okazaki (5.5m). Albrighton (5.5m) also has a knack of sneaking the odd assist at 3, less than Mahrez.
West Brom v Everton
Missing a couple of key players with the flu, Everton held Chelsea in round 19, a big point for them. West Brom were well beaten by Stoke and sit above only Swansea on the ladder. 22 previous league meetings have seen the Toffees come away with 12 wins and four draws, including six wins and a draw in 11 visits to the Hawthorns. Unbeaten in six, and dropping points to only Chelsea and Liverpool in those, Everton will win this one.
Can’t say anyone from West Brom excites me. If pushed to pick one, it would be Rondon (6m). Everton on the other hand have a few players in form. Rooney (7.6m) is battling to beat the flu to play, but will be a must-have if he plays. Sigurdsson (8m) also is starting to show the form that made the Toffees pay 45m for him. Calvert-Lewin (5.4m) is a cheap forward option.
Liverpool v Swansea
Liverpool will be disappointed not to have left the Emirates with three points after leading 2-0 and spurning some glorious chances, but ultimately a point at Arsenal is always decent and they remain in fourth and unbeaten in ten. They’ll be looking to fill their boots in this one though. Swansea are bottom of the league had have scored just 11 goals all season. They’ve also only won once in six visits to Anfield, losing four and drawing one. Can’t see them getting anything here, and I expect the Reds’ forwards to run riot.
Take your pick from the Reds’ forward line here. Salah (10m), Coutinho (9m) and Firmino (8.8m) all flying. Gomes (4.7m) and Lovren (5.3m) a good shout for dome defensive points if they can keep a clean sheet. Swansea are struggling for points and goals, so not much appeal for fantasy. I liked Abraham (5.7m) earlier in the season, but he’s gone off the boil a bit of late.
Newcastle v Man City
Finally, a win for my beloved Magpies! Very happy to come away from the capital with a 3-2 win to stop a nine game streak without a win. Nice easy game to follow it up? No, we’re hosting City, who haven’t lost all season. It was a draw last time the two sides met in 2016, but in 34 PL meetings the Citizens have 20 wins and seven draws. On form and 13 points clear, City win this easily.
Newcastle won’t keep a clean sheet here, so no defenders this week. If anyone, I’d go Ritchie (5.6m) or Atsu (4.8m) to sneak a consolation goal/assist. City have the usual plethora of players to choose from. Sterling (8.7m) and Aguero (11.5m) my standouts, but special mention to De Bruyne (10.3m) and David Silva (8.2m). Defensively they’ll do well, so Otamendi (6.3m) , Walker (6.6m) and Danilo (5m) come into play.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Closing out the round, the Gunners travel to Palace. Arsenal have been held to draws in three of their last four since losing to United. Palace are eight since a loss to Spurs in early November. They’ve have a decent run though and will find this tough, having only won two and drawn three of 16 PL games against Arsenal. Palace won the latest meeting 3-0 in April, but I don’t see them repeating that here. Gunners’ win.
Benteke (7.6m) comes back from suspension here and will look to pick up where he left off, supported by Zaha (6.9m), Townsend (5.6m) and Loftus-Cheek (4.6m).
Giroud misses this one, so Lacazette (10.4m) will definitely start. Ramsey also out so midfield choices are in the form of Ozil (9.3m), Wilshire (5.4m) and Xhaka (5.3m). or Sanchez, if you want to gamble 11.8m.
No surprise to see Sterling (8.7m) and Otamendi (6.3m) among the top five most traded in players, as well as Harry Kane (12.8m). They’re joined in the top five by Laurent Depoitre (5.4m) after a stellar run of late, annoyingly for me as I opted for Mounie and he’s keeping him out the side!
Number one traded in player this round is Roberto Firmino (8.8m). I’ve been critical of his inability to back up good scores this season, but he did just that last round, following a 12 point week 18 with an 11 point week 19. With a decent run for Liverpool before the Man City clash in round 23, he’s not a bad choice if he keeps going.
Calvert-Lewin (5.4m) and Kenny (4.5m) sit just outside the top five. With a couple of decent games for Everton over the next couple of rounds, I don’t mind these two as cheaper options.
If he plays, Aguero goes well against Newcastle (and most teams!) and Sterling is on great form, both make solid captain choices.
A home gamer for Liverpool’s gun attack against bottom of the league Swansea open up any of Salah, Coutinho or Firmino as likely big scorers this round.
Harry Kane needs one more goal to break Alan Shearer’s record for goals in a calendar year. A home game against an underperforming Southampton means he’s a good chance to do it this round.
Elsewhere, a returning Morata could bang in the goal against Brighton, Rooney will look to shake off the flu and return to his golden form against West Brom and Lukaku will relish a home game against a non-top-four side.
No bets or Moneyball for the midweeks, but I’ll be back with those ahead of the weekend’s games. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas, I’m off back in the pool with a beer!