Another round of festive games over and some defences have been gifting the forwards, with 35 goals scored in round 20, three and a half a game on average, continuing a run of high scoring rounds. A lot of that for round 20 is courtesy of two teams hitting five, with Liverpool and Spurs both getting bit wins in the battle for fourth spot.
United dropped points for the second successive round. Not only has that extended City’s lead at the top to 15 points, it also loosens United’s hold on second place, with Chelsea now just a point behind. A second successive treble saw Harry Kane take out back to back top scores, hitting 17 in both round 19 and 20.
By my calculations, everyone has played everyone now, so all games from now have current season history. However, given a few teams have done 180s in terms of performances over the first half of the season, I’m not sure how much the first half results will count for. This round also signals the start of the fun with non-ten-game rounds, where team planning considerations and the FPL chips come into play. Spurs and West Ham have no game this round but play twice in round 22. That basically means if you haven’t got Kane in your team, do what you can to get him in by the next round.
Let’s have a look at the teams who are playing this round:
Liverpool v Leicester (Game of the Round)
Until Leicester’s recent mini drop in form, this was a game between two of the form teams in the league. It’s also a game that’s produced nearly five goals on average in the last three league meetings, including the 3-2 Reds’ win in September. The history in this is not as one sided as you’d think. 23 PL meetings, 11 Liverpool wins and five draws.
At Anfield, Leicester have taken points in more games than they haven’t, winning three and drawing three of 11 games here. If you’re looking at patters, the last five have alternated between Liverpool and Leicester wins, suggesting a Foxes win. With their attacking firepower though, I think the Reds will get up in this.
Salah (10.1m) broke the 150 mark in round 21 and Coutinho (9.1m) and Firmino (8.9m) moved past 100. It’s hard to look past any of those three for fantasy options currently. For Leicester, Mahrez (8.5m) also brought up his ton last round, with a goal, while Jamie Vardy (8.6m) isn’t too far away. Okazaki and Albrighton (both 5.5m) continue to provide cheaper options to the two main men from a fantasy perspective.
Bournemouth v Everton
Another game that’s produced goals recently, the five PL meetings between these two have seen 22 goals, culminating in the 2-1 Everton win earlier in the season. At the time, both sides were down the bottom of the table. Since then, the Toffees have found form and moved into the top half while the Cherries remain at the wrong end. A late equaliser last time did end a run of three straight defeats, but Everton haven’t lost in seven in the league. Toffees’ win.
For the Cherries, Nathan Ake (4.9m) grabbed a goal and assist from the back in round 20. Dan Gosling (4.8m) also grabbed a goal and will look to get a good run of minutes now. Defoe likely to miss this, so Callum Wilson (5.7m) will look to keep scoring after his equaliser last out.
The flue kept Rooney (7.5m) out of Boxing Day, but you’d hope he comes back from this given his form prior to illness. After coming into the side in round nine, Jonjoe Kenny (4.5m) has played every minute, collecting five clean sheets and two assists along the way.
Chelsea v Stoke
Yet another game with high-scoring history. 16 in the last five league games, an average of four, which was exactly how many Chelsea won by earlier in the season. Stoke have a win and a draw from their last two to stop a poor run of defeats, but this will be tough for them- 19 PL games have seen 14 Chelsea wins and just two for Stoke, never at Stamford Bridge. Cheslea have second place in their sights and will account for the Potters in this one.
Morata (10.6m) back into the side and scoring in round 21, he bagged a hat-trick against Stoke in September. Hazard (10.8m) only played 18 minutes in the previously meeting, so could combine with the Spaniard to punish the Potters even more here.
For Stoke, Ramadan Sobhi (4.5m) has scored two off the bench in his last two, but lack of minutes would be a concern. Joe Allen (5.1m) has moved closer to Stoke’s fantasy big three of Shaqiri (6.1m), Choupo-Moting (5.4m) and Diouf (5.5m).
Huddersfield v Burnley
Two tough games for Burnley, losing to Spurs but taking a good point off United, sees them fall away slightly from the fourth place battle, but they’re still having a great season. The Terriers have also been on a good run, the loos to Chelsea their only loss in the last five and they sit just outside the top ten. 0-0 in the reverse game, it’s likely to be another tight one. With the Claret’s better defensive record, I’ll back them to get the win here.
Tom Ince (5.5m) scored his first PL goal last round, but he’ll want to add to just a single goal and assist in 20 games. Depoitre (5.4m) and Mounie (5.7m) seem to be rotating as starting striker, suggesting the former will get a go here.
Burnley look set to have Ward and Tarkowski still out, so Mee (4.8m) and Lowton (4.5m) the defensive picks if any. A great free kick for Defour (5.4m) against United, but he’s another who’ll want to have more output. Chris Wood a big doubt, so Barnes (5.2m) will hold the attacking hopes for the visitors.
Newcastle v Brighton
Newcastle’s tactics against City have drawn some criticism from pundits, but a 1-0 loss to City, rather than a pasting by 5,6, or more will give the team and fans confidence heading into an important three games. Both sides will see this as a must-win after poor runs. Brighton were the victors back in round six and will look to do the double. A home game for Newcastle, coupled with team and fan confidence sees my head and heart in agreeance for once, home win.
The Magpies will look to Ritchie (5.5m) and Atsu (4.8m) to provide the creative spark from out wide. Joselu (5.5m) will relish a potential start in a more offensive line up compared to the City game. If Brighton are to win this, it will once again likely come through Pascal Gross (5.9m), close to bringing up his 100. Hemed (4.8m) has also been preferred to Murray upfront for the Seagulls.
Watford v Swansea
Watford stopped a dreadful run of defeats with a good three points over Leicester on Boxing Day, while the Swans were battered 5-0 by Liverpool and remain at the foot of the table. After such a poor run of form, the Hornets will see this as a great chance for a confidence-boosting win. The visitors will be hoping the appointment of ex-Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal will reap instant reward, but I can’t look past the home side doubling down on their earlier 2-1 win over the Swans.
Another on the cusp of 100 is Richarlison (6.5m). He’d gone a bit quiet with Watford’s poor run of games, but came back with an assist last week and will be involved if the Hornets are to win this. Another Watford’s big performers in Doucoure (5.3m) grabbed the other assist last round and has been scoring some great goals. With Deeney still suspended, Gray (6.3m) should lead the line, although he was rested last time.
Bony still injured to Abraham (5.7m) the striking chance. Naughton (4.6m), Mawson (5m) and Fabianski (4.6m) the defensive options for the Swans, though I don’t think they’ll keep a clean sheet.
Man United v Southampton
Two successive 2-2 draws for United. A late equaliser conceded at Leicester followed by having to come from 2-0 down at home to Burnley have likely put the title out of reach, as you can’t see City dropping 15 points in the remaining games on their current form. Following that disappointment, this is probably one of the better games the Red Devils could have, with Southampton in poor form, no win in seven and 14th on the ladder, heading to a ground they’ve only won twice on, against a team they’ve only beaten seven times from 37. All signs point to a home win.
Lingard’s (6.1m) form of late sees him become the Red Devils’ top scoring midfielder. Martial and Smalling may miss this one, and Valencia and Bailly definitely will. Jones still remains a cheap defensive choice at 5.6m. United will also hope Pogba (7.9m) and Lukaku (11.4m) fire here.
Austin, Bertrand and Cedric miss this one, and you wonder if van Dijk plays following the announcement of his 75m move to Liverpool. If I’m pressed to choose anyone from the remainder, I probably go Tadic (6.4m).
Crystal Palace v Man City
Palace were on great form prior to the loss to Arsenal, moving up and out of the relegation places. All the form in the world won’t help them here though, with City one fire, dropping just two points all season. 15 Premier League games between the two have produced ten City wins to 2 Palace wins. The last two have finished 5-0 City, and you wouldn’t bet against something similar.
Townsend (5.6m) and Zaha (6.9m) the danger men for Palace, but I can’t see them causing too many problems for the Citizens. The visitors have five players over 100 – Otamendi (6.3m), Sterling (8.8m), De Bruyne (10.3m), Silva (8.2m) and Aguero (11.6m) – and Sane (8.6m) on 99. There’s always a risk of rotation, but I think Sterling, De Bruyne and Otamendi are safe for this one and Silva should come back in.
West Brom v Arsenal
Closing out the round early on New Years’ day Australian time, sees Arsenal travel to the Hawthorns. 23 PL games played have seen 16 Gunners’ wins and three draws. West Brom have won the last two at the Hawthorns, but given the current form I don’t see them getting anything from this. The Gunners took out the earlier fixture 2-0 and I expect them to do the double over the Baggies.
Matt Phillips (5.5m) back for the Baggies, but I can’t recommend too many of their players. Arsenal have Sanchez (11.8m), Ozil (9.3m) and Wilshire (5.4m) in form and will be hoping that Lacazette (10.3m) can find his again.
Firmino (8.9m) the most traded-in player this round, after three great rounds. Sterling (8.8m) also among the top trades after continuing his stellar form, moving to 136 points for the season so far, second only to Salah.
Jess Lingard’s recent form sees him the second most traded in ahead of round 21, and given he’s just 6.1m, there’s definite consideration to be given here if you’re looking to downgrade a mid to get Kane in for 22.
Marcos Alonso (7.1m) tonned up against Brighton and has been rewarded by being among the top five most traded in players.
Rounding out the top five is Harry Kane (12.9m), who obviously doesn’t play this round, but players may be trying to load up on Spurs and Hammers’ players ahead of 22. With not playing, however, Kane has the unusual honour of being the third most traded in and second most trade out player this round.
After missing the last two through illness, Rooney (7.5m) is also one of the more traded out players, with FPL players opting for Kenny (4.5m) and Calvert-Lewin (5.5m) instead. I reckon Rooney comes back this weekend though, and Everton have a good game coming up, so if you fancy the risk he’s not a bad trade option.
As always, City players good value, De Bruyne and Sterling in particular are flying and worthy recipients of the armband.
Alexis Sanchez looks to have hit form and might be a good shout for captain with West Brom’s poor form. Home games for United and Chelsea also brings the likes of Lukaku, Pogba, Lingard, Hazard and Morata into contention.
Liverpool also have a home game, but it’s a tougher one against Leicester. That said, Salah and Coutinho seem to be scoring in most games so could be worth the armband.
Further afield, if Watford are to restart their season, they won’t get much better of a chance that a home game against Swansea, bringing Richarlison into the frame.
Bet of the Week
No good all round last week.
This weekend, I think Everton are great value at $3.25, given their and Bournemouth’s forms. Throw in Arsenal to beat West Brom and you get a decent $5.50 double.
At slightly higher odds, you can get Lingard, Sanchez and Sterling all to score anytime at $16.30.
Sterling’s goal took him to a good 22.1 points last week and Zaha scored a respectable 9.3. Decent picks but nothing spectacular.
For this week’s Saturday Hooligan Special, I’m backing Morata to follow up his hat trick last time against Stoke at 8.3k. I’m also getting behind Richarlison against Swansea at 7.8k