An extended round 34 that only finished saw 14 games, 36 goals and some odd results. After beating City 3-2 from behind last out, United then proceeded to go down 1-0 to basement side West Brom to hand their crosstown rivals the title officially with five to play, after City managed to come away from Wembley with a 3-1 win over Spurs. Elsewhere, Newcastle managed a 2-1 win over Arsenal, continuing the away woes for the Gunners, and Spurs followed up the City loss with a draw at Brighton. Harry Kane did manage a goal in that one though and once he’s claimed Eriksen’s from the City game, and Giroud’s two against Southampton, he might catch Salah in the top scorer charts…
In terms of top scorers, Salah has 30 now and needs just two more in Liverpool’s last four to beat the previous record for most goals in a 38 game season (he needs five to beat the all-time PL record from back when there were 42 games).
Another goal for Chris Smalling means he takes out the rounds top Fantasy billing with 16, which probably doesn’t fully make up for his embarrassing loss to the Baggies.
Following a monster round 34, 35 is only a little one, with just six games coming our way this weekend.
West Brom v Liverpool (Game of the Round)
This game gets the nod from me this week due to it being the one that can formally relegate West Brom, should Swansea pick up a point or more against a City team who’ve already secured the title. The Baggies will also be looking to add to the win over United in 34, only their fourth of the season. It could also be the game Salah beats the scoring records and it’s the early Saturday game, so it gets my tick for this round.
A very good win for West Brom last time, but they’ve been few and far between and is their only one in the last five. Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners at Bournemouth and have three wins from there last five, but do have a Champions League semi-final mid next week to worry about.
This one finished 0-0 back in December, and there have been three draws in the last five meetings between the two, but longer term the Reds have the strong advantage, leading 14-4 in terms of wins from 23 clashes between the sides. It might be a weakened Reds’ squad, but I think they still get the job done. Bye Baggies.
Watford v Crystal Palace
Shocking form for the Hornets, no wins and just one point in their last five. Palace have two wins and a draw in the same period, but they sit further down the table albeit six points from safety.
The visitors do have the better head to head record, winning three and drawing one of the five times these two have met in the top flight, including the round 17 fixture 2-1. Combine that with Watford’s form and Palace technically still fighting the drop and I see an away win here.
Arsenal v West Ham
Prior to last week’s loss to Newcastle, Arsenal had won three on the bounce after a loss to Brighton in round 29. The Hammers on the other hand have only managed the one win in their last five, but are unbeaten in three.
These sides have met 43 times before at this level and the Hammers have only won seven, with the Gunners winning 27 and nine draws. One of those draws did come back in December however, with a 0-0 at the London Stadium. Arsenal might have half a mind on the Europa semis as their only passage to the Champions League with fourth spot 14 points away. Potential for a draw here.
After I’ve written most of this, I caught the news that #WengerOut has finally worked, and the long serving gaffer will be leaving the club at the end of the season after 22 years of service. Does this fire up the team to give the boss a send-off or negatively impact them? Not too sure, so sticking with draw.
Stoke v Burnley
Stoke’s last five games have been four losses and a draw. In the same period, Burnley managed four wins on the trot before losing to Chelsea early Friday morning. The form is reflective of the respective positions on the table, with the Potters in 19th and the Clarets in 7th. Stoke are five points from safety with just the four games left so would love a win here.
The history isn’t quite on their side though, with Burnley leading 3-2 from seven previous meetings, including winning the last two 1-0. Both of Stoke’s wins did come at home though. I think the Potters will try to fight but it won’t quite be enough. Burnley win.
Man City v Swansea
After wrapping up their third Premier League title, it will be interesting to see if City rotate some players. That said, they aren’t still in any other competitions and some of the big names might want to stay match-sharp ahead of the World Cup.
It looks like mass rotation would be the only thing that might help Swansea here. They’ve only lost on in five, but have also only won one in that time and sit just above the drop zone. They’ve also only managed one win against City before, and that was at the Liberty. To be honest, City could put their under-12s out and probably still sneak it.
Everton v Newcastle
Closing out the shortened round, Newcastle follow up the win over Arsenal with a trip to Goodison early Tuesday morning. The Magpies on red hot form, four wins on the bounce and in the best 2018 form of any team outside the top four. Everton have no win in three, but that does include a point in the Merseyside derby two weeks back. The resurgence of Newcastle on the back 9 of the season means this is now a 9th against 10th clash.
This fixture has occurred 45 times before in the PL, with the Toffees winning 19 to Newcastle’s 17 (nine draws). Everton have also won the last four between the two since the Geordies last won in December 2015. I can’t look past the form of my boys in this one though and think they’ll take this.
Not a lot of surprise with the popular trades this round. Sterling (8.8m) and Jesus (10.1m) are the top two. With City having an easy match, Aguero missing and no other competitions to worry about they look smart trades to me.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (10.7m) sits third on trade lists after a goal or assist minimum in his last five in a row.
Firmino (9.4m) is in there. He’s been more consistent in the second half of the season fantasy-wise and could benefit if Salah is rested so there’s worse trades out there.
The top five is completed by Wilf Zaha (6.9m). On the surface it’s odd as he’s only scored just over 100 and his team sits 16th on the table. But unpacking it a bit, when you consider Watford’s poor form and Zaha scoring three in his last two, it’s a smart play. Palace also have a ‘not too bad’ run in so he could help himself to a few in the coming rounds.
Outside of that, I have to give a plug to my boy Ayoze Perez (5.3m). In line with the team’s improved form, he’s pulling in goals and assists from everywhere. He’s scored 12, 12 and seven in his last three and plays Everton, West Brom and Watford in the next three. Jump on!
Liverpool and City players the go here. Salah if you think he plays, but Mane or Firmino if not. Jesus my pick from City with Aguero injured, but Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Silva etc always likely to pop up with something as well.
Outside of those two, if Arsenal come out firing at West Ham maybe one of the two strikers are a play. I also like Perez as above and Ashley Barnes as riskier options for the armband.
Bet of the Week
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Shocker last week for tipping, just the four right and all at low odds. Hoping for better this week. Odds on my picks:
West Brom v Liverpool – Liverpool $1.50
Watford v Crystal Palace – Palace $2.40
Arsenal v West Ham – Draw $4.50
Stoke v Burnley – Burnley $3.50
Man City v Swansea – City $1.12
Everton v Newcastle – Newcastle $3.25