FA Cup week is now done and dusted so we can get back to what everyone actually cares about, the Premier League. 27 goals across the 11 games in round 22, around 2.5 per game on average. Chelsea’s draw with Arsenal means we are back to a Manchester one-two after United’s win at Everton. Liverpool round out the top four after they saw off Burnley 2-1, pushing the Clarets further from European contention.
City are the runaway leaders, but I fell the top six will be the teams there now, just not necessarily in that order. Beyond those, there are a couple of teams hovering in the middle and then a very close bottom half, with just five points separating tenth from the relegation zone.
The double game week plans failed miserably with an injury-affected Kane (the most captained player) failing to score big. Indeed, the top scoring Fantasy Player wasn’t from one of the teams with two games. Instead that honour goes to Riyad Mahrez with 14, the joint lowest score to be the highest for a round this season. In fact, only three players from Spurs or West Ham feature in the Dream Team for game week 22. All in all, a bit of a bust for the first DGW, but never fear, there’ll be more.
We’re also well into the transfer window now and we’ve seen van Dijk in and Coutinho out for Liverpool and Barkley in and Costa out for Chelsea as the big ones so far. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more over the month so we’ll keep an eye on those.
After the fast and furious Christmas fixtures, the week off felt like a lifetime, so I’m very happy to be looking ahead to this round’s fixtures:
Liverpool v Man City (Game of the Round)
Fourth against first in this one, and a first Coutinho-less EPL game for Liverpool. Liverpool will be hoping not to have a repeat of round four, where they were spanked 5-0 at the Etihad and will instead look to hand the Citizens their first defeat of the season. On paper they’re a good chance to do it – of the 41 PL meetings between the two they’ve won 18 and drawn 15 and only lost once at home. Prior to the September drubbing, they’d beaten City in three of the last four, drawing the other.
Both sides come into this with four wins and a draw from their last five. The Reds have been flying, especially in attack, but will they miss the magical Brazilian too much here? I think so, City to win.
The home side will be reeling from the loss of Coutinho, who had amassed 100 points despite missing eight of the 22 games this season. They do have two other centurions in their squad though, Firmino (9.1m) and Salah (10.1m), who is a slight doubt with a groin injury. You would imagine Virgil van Dijk (5.4m) comes into the backline for the first time in Reds’ colours – why pay 70m for someone and leave him on the bench. Who partners him from Matip (5.4m), Lovren (5.3m) or Klavan (4.4m) remains to be seen however.
De Bruyne (10.2m) bounced back from an injury scare at Watford with two assists last out, but Jesus (10m) looks to be out for a while still. Positive side, that does almost guarantee Aguero (11.7m) a start. You would imagine Raheem Sterling (8.9m), the second highest FPL scorer behind Salah, also gets a start against his former employers. David Silva (8.1m) also comes back into contention, having returned from some personal issues in round 22.
Chelsea v Leicester
The Foxes put Huddersfield away in round 22 to end a poor run of form after a good turnaround earlier in the season. This will be a tough trip for them though, they’ve only won once at Stamford Bridge in the league and haven’t beaten Chelsea since 2015, one of only four victories over the Blues in 23 attempts.
Chelsea won this one 2-1 last time and are unbeaten in their last five. Both sides are scoring similar amounts, but the Blues’ defence is conceding about half that of Leicester’s, which I see as the difference here.
Marcos Alonso is back among the points, averaging over eight points a game in recent weeks, but his price tag is a hefty 7.3m. Azpilicueta in similar form but similarly pricey at 7m. New signing Ross Barkley is not yet fit enough after hamstring surgery earlier in the season, so the attacking threat continues to come from Hazard (10.7m) and Morata (10.5m).
Vardy (8.6m) looks to have shaken off a knock for this one. Mahrez (8.6m) the other high-scoring Fox. On the cheaper side, Marc Albrighton is going well at just 5.5m. I jumped on him last round and he scored a solid 13 for me, so I for one am hoping he can stay among the goals and assists as a cheaper alternative to the two star players.
Crystal Palace v Burnley
Palace were dead and buried a few rounds back. All of a sudden they’re on a flying run and moved from the bottom of the table to 14th, with just the one loss (to Arsenal) in their last 11. Burnley remain 7th but will be starting to crave a win, they haven’t had one in their last five. This would seem to be the game to get it, the Clarets have won their last three against the Eagles and haven’t lost since January 2015. The struggle for both sides is upfront, averaging less than a goal per game each. The visitors have the tighter defence, which accounts for their good league position and should account for Palace in this one.
Potentially four defenders out for Palace, so the backline almost picks itself. Best of those for fantasy picks would be Tomkins (4.3m). Up the pitch, Townsend and Loftus-Cheek are doubts, so I’d be focussing on Zaha (6.9m) and Benteke (7.6m) to do the damage if anyone.
Stephen Ward continues to miss out for the Clarets. Mee (4.9m) and Tarkowski (4.7m) have slight injury worries, but between the two of them they’ve only missed five of 44 possible games this season so I imagine they’ll both play. A string of recent assists sees Gudmundsson (5m) site as Burnley’s top scoring midfielder. Chris Wood will miss this with a knee injury so expect Barnes (5.2m) to lead the line.
Huddersfield v West Ham
Huddersfield have been the definition of mixed bag this season. They put a few good results together than lose a winnable game. They go on a losing streak and then beat United. Mid table is probably the fair result for them so far. The loss to Leicester last out followed four unbeaten games.
West Ham started poorly, sacked the gaffer and turned around a bit (there’s a trend of that this year). The 3-2 loss to Newcastle is their only defeat in five and they came out of the double game week round 22 with four points, including a good draw at Spurs. No real PL history here, just the 2-0 Hammers’ win back in September. I’m probably leaning towards a similar result in this meeting.
I don’t fancy the Terriers in this, but if they are going to get a result, they’ll need more from the likes of Ince (5.5m) and van La Parra (4.8m) and can’t just rely on Mooy (5.4m) and Depoitre (5.5) alone. There are a few minor injury concerns across the positions for the Hammers, but hopefully the likes of Arnautovic (7m), Lanzini (6.8m) and Obiang (4.4m) can feature and lead them to victory.
Newcastle v Swansea
After a disastrous run of results, Newcastle have finally put two unbeaten games together. Swansea have just one win in five and remain rooted to the foot of the table. That win did come in new manager Carlos Carvahal’s first game in charge, and he will be looking to bounce back from a defeat to Spurs and turn the Swans’ fortunes around, like so many replacement managers seems to have done this season.
The History is with the away side, six wins and two draws from 11 matchups and three wins and a draw from five at St. James’. The Magpies have taken the last two PL matchups though, including the reverse fixture 1-0 in round four. Both sides are finding the net that often, so I’m backing a low scoring one, probably in the favour of the home side.
Rob Elliot remains injured so Darlow (4.4m) will look for three clean sheets in a row here. Ritchie (5.5m) and Atsu (4.8m) look the most likely to produce for the Magpies. You would think after the winner last time and a couple of goals in the cup, Ayoze Perez (5.2m) is the most likely to benefit from that production.
Abraham still doubtful for the visitors and Bony (5.7m) has missed the last four, so Ayew (5m) is a good chance to continue to lead the line. If the Swans are going to win, the attackers will be involved. Otherwise, I can’t recommend anyone FPL-wise on current form.
Watford v Southampton
The return game of this matchup ended in a 2-0 Watford win earlier in the season. The Hornets have gone off the boil a bit since, with just one win from their last five. Southampton have been off the boil all season, and they only have four wins to their name in total and are just a place above the relegation places. Having van Dijk moping around wanting a move can’t have been helpful and they’ll be hoping his move leads to better morale off the pitch and better results on it. But until they start showing something, I’m continuing to back against them, Watford win.
Slim picking for FPL after recent form for both sides. If the Hornets are to pick up, it will come through Richarlison (6.4m) and Doucoure (5.3m), with the former likely to bring up his 100 this week. If the Saints are to break their slump, it likely rests with Tadic (6.3m) and Gabbiadini (6.3m) with Austin missing.
West Brom v Brighton
West Brom appear to be the exception to the new manager turnaround rule, they sit 19th, two places lower than when Tony Pulis was sacked. They have two decent points taken from Arsenal and Everton recently but they’re the only points they have from their last five games and they haven’t won since round two.
The Baggies will see Brighton as one of the more winnable games, but the Seagulls are in a decent run of form, losing only to Chelsea in their last five. Brighton took this one out 3-1 in September and are my shout to do so again this weekend.
Rodriguez (5.5m) and Rondon (6m) the most likely to get involved for the Baggies, but even then I’m sceptical in their current form. Brighton continue to rely on Gross (5.9m) and Murray (5.7m) for attacking threat, but also have the likes of Ryan (4.5m) and Duffy (4.6m) to thank for their tight defence so far.
Spurs v Everton
Spurs remain outside the top four, but came through the double game week unbeaten and have three wins and a draw from their last four. Everton have lost their last two, but had been on a good run before that, which they’ll want to try to get back to.
That’s a tough ask with this week’s visit. These two have played 51 times since the Premier League started in 1992, with Spurs winning 25 to Everton’s eight. The Toffees haven’t got a win in the last ten meetings and were beaten 3-0 earlier in the season. That was before the revival under Sam Allardyce, but they’ll still find it hard here. Spurs win.
Harry Kane (12.9m) should be back firing on all cylinders after an illness in round 22. Alli (9m) and Son (8.1m) have both had good output in the recent weeks. With the defence shuffling that’s occurred this season, my best defender picks remain Vertonghen and Sanchez (both 6m). However, Danny Rose looks set to miss this one which opens up an almost-guaranteed sport for Davies (5.5m).
Rooney (7.5m) has also recovered from illness ahead of this one so should see more game time than rounds 22 and 21 and had been in great form before the illness. Sigurdsson (8m) missed the United game, but had also started to come good after a slow start. Niasse look set to leave so Calvert-Lewin (5.5m) should lead the line.
Bournemouth v Arsenal
After back to back 4-0 losses to City and Liverpool, the Cherries are unbeaten in three and are out of the relegation places for now. They have tough visitors this week however, having taken just a point from Arsenal in the PL. The Gunners haven’t lost their last five in the league and I’m backing them to follow up the 3-0 win from round four with something similar here.
King and Defoe out for the Cherries, so Callum Wilson (5.7m) will start upfront. Surman (4.7m) has been the standout midfielder for the home side so far. Against Arsenal, I wouldn’t back too many more players.
Monreal, Kolasinac and Koscielny will miss this for the Gunners so Bellerin (6m) and Mustafi (5.4m) likely starters. Sanchez (11.8m) probably won’t play with the transfer saga ongoing and Ozil is doubtful so the attacking threats could rest on Lacazette (10.3m) and Welbeck (7.3m).
Man United v Stoke
Closing out the round sees Stoke travel to United. The Potters finally lost patience with Mark Hughes after Coventry dumped them out the FA Cup last weekend. Their league form has been equally as poor and they come into this from back to back losses, sitting 18th and conceding over two a game on average.
Stoke have played United 19 times and have only two wins, none of them at Old Trafford. They did manage a 2-2 draw in September, but have gone downhill since then and its likely to be closer to the 7-2 they lost to the other Manchester team in this one.
As I reckon Stoke get smashed, I can’t in any conscience recommend their players here. For the home side, Lingard (6.3m) is in great form and Martial (8m), Pogba (7.9m) and Lukaku (11.3m) could run amok here. Defensively, de Gea (5.9m), Jones (5.7m) and Smalling (5.3m) a chance of clean sheet points.
Jesse Lingard (6.3m) the most sought after player this round, after a barnstorming few games for United. Mahrez (8.6m) also among the favourites having seemingly discovered his form for Leicester, though not sure I’d be taking him on with a visit to Chelsea this week. Kane (12.9m) also amongst it, with players bringing him back in after his illness in the last round.
Sterling (8.9m) and Aguero (11.7m) round out the top five. Again, it’s theoretically a tougher game for City, but if they go like they did against Liverpool last time these are smart trades.
With United playing a poor Stoke side, I’m surprised more of their players haven’t been jumped on. Aside from Lingard, I’d be backing Pogba (7.9m), Jones (5.7m) and Lukaku (11.3m) at least.
Arsenal have a winnable game, albeit away, so Lacazette (10.3m) my pick there. With the form of Southampton, I’d be going at Richarlison (6.4m) had I not just booted him from my squad in the middle of Watford’s poor run.
Virgil van Dijk is currently 5.4m. It’s a tough game for him this week, but I think he’ll be costing more than this shortly.
I still can’t look past United’s game for points, so my main picks for the armband this week have to be Lingard, Pogba and Lukaku.
I wouldn’t want to touch City-Liverpool, Spurs-Everton or Chelsea-Leicester for fear of close games, but if I was it would have to be the main men in each, Kane, Morata and Mahrez. Newcastle’s home game against a struggling Swansea mean Matt Ritchie could be involved with a few assists.
I want to back Arsenal players, but I’m not sure who’s even in or out. A few injury doubts and a potential Sanchez move mean the best captain options here are probably Lacazette and Xhaka.
With West Brom’s poor form the likes of Gross and Murray for Brighton aren’t bad outside the box calls either.
Bet of the Week
My pick for this week is a Watford-Brighton double paying a cool $10. Throw in Arsenal and it’s up to $17!
You can also get close to $15 for both Lukaku and Lacazette to bag two or more in winnable games for their respective sides.
The Saturday Hooligan Special s back this week. My picks: Ayoze Perez is in bit of scoring form and is a steal at 3.8k, which frees up some cash for the in-form Marcos Alonso (9.4k).