After the distraction of another FA cup weekend, we come back with two rounds in a week, with round 25 starting on Wednesday morning. Round 24 saw 25 goals, a couple of surprise results, but not much change to the places at the top of the league.
After beating City the round before, Liverpool were beaten by basement cub Swansea, but the win wasn’t enough to move Liverpool from the top four or the Swans off the foot of the table. Stoke’s win over Huddersfield saw them move out of the drop zone at the expense of Southampton, despite a good point for the Saints against Spurs.
Victor Moses and Sergio Aguero shared top fantasy points for the round with 17 apiece, Moses’ goal, assist and clean sheet enough to match Aguero’s hat-trick. Since the last round, we’ve also seen the transfer of Alexis Sanchez to United, with Mkhitaryan going the other direction. It’s a move that has the potential to be good for both sides: Sanchez was always going to leave and the Armenian was out of favour at United and will be glad of a fresh start at the Gunners, especially if they sign former Dortmund teammate Aubameyang.
Round 25 and 26 come in close proximity, so beware the risk of rotations, but regardless of teams there’s some interesting games coming up. Let’s start with the midweek games, the reverse fixtures of the round ten matches:
Tottenham v Man United (Game of the Round)
The game of the round this round sees two sides keen to keep their respective chases alive. United will want to keep the heat on City having pulled the gap back to 12 points, while Spurs will be desperate for a win to keep up with the top four and the coveted Champions League places.
The history doesn’t make for good reading for the home side. In 51 Premier League matchups they’ve only managed seven wins to the Red Devils’ 33 and they were beaten 1-0 in the reverse fixture in October. Spurs have managed a win in their last two home games against the visitors however and will be looking to repeat the feat in their temporary Wembley home. No losses in the last five for either of these sides suggests this will be a close one, I’m backing the draw.
Spurs’ top three scorers in Kane (12m), Eriksen (9.2m) and Son (8.2m) are among the top five trades out this week. Eriksen is supposedly ill and doubtful, but the other two just seem to be the result of a potential tough game here. Alexis Sanchez (11.7m) should make his league debut here and will want to hit the ground running.
Swansea v Arsenal
A second win and seven points in four PL games under new boss Carlos Carvalhal was not enough to take the Swans off the bottom of the table, but it’s a step in the right direction. They follow up Liverpool with another tough one this week, with the visit of Arsenal to the Liberty.
Arsenal won the Emirates leg of this fixture 2-1 in round ten, but haven’t dominated this clash as much as would be expected, leading 7-5 from 13 games. They have won the last three though and with the distraction of the Sanchez saga concluded I wouldn’t bet against them making it four.
Can’t really suggest anyone from Swansea on current form and against this opposition, maybe Ayew if pushed (see Trade Talk). For the visitors you could load up on most players, but standouts for me would be Lacazette (10.3m), Ozil (9.3m) and Monreal (5.6m).
West Ham v Crystal Palace
Two of the resurgent sides under new management, sees 11th take on 13th in a game that would have been between two sides in the drop zone a few weeks back. The reverse fixture finished 2-2, a score indicative of the relatively tight history between the two (West Ham lead 6-4 in the PL head-to-head). The Hammers are unbeaten in the last five between the two and the home ground advantage would see them sneak home in this one, before you consider all of their outs, which leans me towards the visitors.
The Hammers come into this missing potentially 12 players. Of those that might actually play, Hernandez (6.7m), Kouyate (5m) and Cresswell (5.1m) are my picks. Palace also have a few outs, but should line up with star players Zaha (6.9m), Benteke (7.6m), Townsend (5.6m) and Milivojevic (4.7m).
Huddersfield v Liverpool
Both sides come into this one on the back of defeats in round 24, but undoubtedly Liverpool’s loss was the more surprising. They’ll be desperate to bounce back here and they’ll fancy their chances against a side with three straight losses and no win in the last five. It finished 3-0 to the Reds last time, but can the Terriers sneak something at home? Probably not.
No Terriers in my team this week. Aside from the obvious Salah (10.3m) and Firmino (9.2m) picks, you fancy one of Mane (9.3m) or Oxlade-Chamberlain (5.7m) to step up in the absence of Coutinho.
Chelsea v Bournemouth
Both sides come into this one in good form. No losses in the last five for either and a couple of good wins in there for the Cherries, over Arsenal and Everton, to sit alongside the Blues’ thrashings of Stoke and Brighton over the same period.
These sides have met five times in the Premier League. Bournemouth won the first one back in 2015, and Chelsea have won the four since, including 1-0 in October. Potentially missing Courtois and Morata, but they have plenty of players who will step up in their absence. The Cherries are playing well, but I can’t see them getting anything here.
Morata and Willian could miss this one through injury. Hazard (10.6m) will still play though and Morata missing out could give another chance to Michy Batshuayi (8.1m). Alonso and Azpilicueta too pricy for me, but Rudiger (5.9m) and Christensen (5.5m) make cheaper alternatives. No defenders for the Cherries, but maybe back Wison (5.8m) to sneak a consolation.
Everton v Leicester
Having looked to have turned things around under Allardyce, Everton have hit a mini-slump, with two draws against West Brom sandwiching three defeats, albeit two of them were Spurs and United. Leicester have similarly been strong under a new boss and are unbeaten in three. Both sides have moved into the top half of the table after their poor starts and will want points in this to stay there.
These two have met 23 times in the league, the Toffees winning six and the Foxes four, including the 2-0 back in round ten. That means there have been 13 draws in those games, a result I wouldn’t be surprised to see again this round.
No joy for new Toffees signing Cenk Tosun (7.5m) yet, fans will be hoping he gets off the mark this round. In the meantime, sticking with top scorers Rooney (7.4m) and Sigurdsson (8m) not the worst strategy.
Same names for the Foxes – Mahrez (8.7m) and Vardy (8.5m) have been delivering the goods, as has Maguire (5.5m). If you can’t afford them, Albrighton (5.6m) and Okazaki (5.5m) have been scoring well at 3m cheaper than the main men.
Newcastle v Burnley
Two teams coming into this one from losses to the Manchester sides, Newcastle beaten 3-1 at City and Burnley going down 1-0 to United. These are two sides not in the greatest of form, with just one win between them in the last five rounds.
The Clarets took this one out 1-0 in October, the only win for either side in three PL meetings. If not a big enough sample to predict with any certainty, but given both sides are struggling for goals of late, a low scoring draw isn’t the craziest outcome.
Not a lot to offer in this one fantasy-wise. The play may be to gamble on the clean sheets for each side and back defenders. In that case, Lascelles (4.6m), Yedlin (4.4m), Mee (4.9m) and Tarkowski (4.7m) my choices.
Southampton v Brighton
Southampton took a good point from their last game with Spurs, but Stoke’s win sees them slide into the bottom three. Brighton were thumped by Chelsea and they sit precariously above the drop zone, making this a relegation six pointer.
The Saints have a good record against promoted teams at home, unbeaten in 27 such games. You can hardly trust their history though, as they’ve been far poorer this season than in previous years. Two struggling sides, without a win between them in the last five rounds, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends in a draw.
Not a lot of fantasy standout here. Tadic (6.2m) for the home side and Groß (5.8m) for the away side if anyone.
Man City v West Brom
Man City bounced back from a first loss of the season with a 3-1 win over Newcastle in round 24, while West Brom followed up a victory over Brighton with a good point at Everton. Both sides have only lost one of their last five, but that’s about where the similarities end. City are top of the league with 21 wins from 24, while the Baggies are second bottom with just three.
These sides have met 23 times in the league with the Citizens winning 16 and drawing three. They have also emerged victorious in all of the last 12 meetings, including the 3-2 win back in round ten. Can’t look past those stats, City win.
Bulk superstars for City – Aguero (11.8m), Sterling (8.9m), De Bruyne (10,2m), Sane (8.4m), David Silva (8m), Otamendi (6.5m) and Ederson (5.6m) all have 100 points or more so far. Sane will miss this one after a bad challenge in the Cup games, but all others are good choices to bring in. Hard to suggest a West Brom player, definitely not a defensive one, but maybe Jay Rodriguez (5.5m) to sneak one.
Stoke v Watford
Closing out the round sees Stoke, fresh out of the drop zone, hosting Watford, who’ve been on a poor run themselves. Both sides have just one win and one draw from their last five and will be gunning for the three points here.
Five previous PL matchups has seen four Potters’ wins and just the one Hornets’ victory, in their first meeting back in 2015. Stoke took out the reverse leg back in October and having never lost at home against the visitors, you wouldn’t bet against them taking this one out as well.
Shaqiri (6m) and Choupo-Moting (5.4m) continue to be the standouts for the home side and the most likely to make something happen, along with Joe Allen (5.1m), who’s scored well of late. No real standouts for Watford in their poor run of late, but before that Richarlison (6.3m) and Doucoure (5.3m) were the must-haves. Andre Gray (6.3m) also has a couple of goals in the recent games.
With a treble last out and an ‘easy’ home game this time, it’s no shock Aguero (11.8m) is the most traded in ahead of this round. Willian (6.8m) is second on the top trades, but may struggle to overcome a hamstring injury, making him a riskier choice.
Good form and a decent run of fixtures sees Riyad Mahrez (8.7m) back among the trades this week. Same for Nacho Monreal (5.6m) who scored 16 last time after four games out.
Rounding out the top trades this week is Jordan Ayew (5.2m), which is a bit odd as they play Arsenal this round. That said, he probably is the likely man involved in any Swans action.
With Willian’s potential injury out, I’d be looking to Hazard (10.6m) or Batshuayi (8.1m), who scored a couple in the FA Cup on the weekend, to take advantage of Chelsea’s winnable game. Sterling (8.9m) and De Bruyne (10.2m) also among the must-haves with a home game for City.
I have a sneaky feeling Mkhitaryan (7.6m) will fit in well at Arsenal, but he may need a round or two to transition in so I’d look at Ozil (9.3m) this round.
Usual suspects for the captaincy this week. Aguero, Sterling and De Bruyne all solid picks given City’s home matchup. Hazard and Alonso should go well for Chelsea and Lacazette and Ozil will be the ones to shine for the Gunners.
Mo Salah is getting closer and closer to the 200 mark. He probably won’t get there this round, but I think he’ll still go well against a struggling Huddersfield side and should be considered.
Outside of the big guns, I fancy Mahrez or Vardy to take charge against Everton.