Plenty of action in round 25, with 24 goals scored, six clean sheets and a couple of upsets. Chelsea and Arsenal both suffered shock defeats, conceding three goals to Bournemouth and Swansea respectively. City smashed West Brom at home, but United’s lost to Spurs to extend the lead at the top to 15 points with 13 games left. Some would say uncatchable now.
It’s a fair bit tighter at the bottom. Just five points separate 10th from 19th, setting up for an interesting back end of the season in terms of a relegation battle.
Top fantasy points this round shared between Theo Walcott and Sam Clucas each scoring two goals in their team’s wins to amass 15 points.
The transfer closed with round 25 and we saw the biggest deadline day yet, with 150m of deals done. Some of the more noteworthy saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang complete a move to Arsenal, with Olivier Giroud moving to Chelsea. Spurs nabbed PSG winger Lucas Moura and Andre Ayew moved back to Swansea from West Ham.
With the dust settled on the transfers, the attention now turns to how these squads can go between now and the end of the season. That starts with this weekend’s games:
Liverpool v Tottenham (Game of the Round)
Another big game in the battle for a Champions League spot here as fifth placed Spurs travel to Anfield to take on third placed Liverpool. Both sides are in some form, the loss to Swansea in round 24 the Reds’ only blip in their last five, while Spurs have no losses in their previous five, culminating in a 2-0 win over United midweek.
Back in round nine, Spurs won this comfortable 4-1. It’s a different story at Anfield though, with Liverpool losing only one of the last 23 home games against Spurs. In fact, the visitors have one won once here from 25 attempts. With that impressive home record, and an overall Premier League advantage of 23-14 from 51 meetings, I have to back the home side here.
No surprises as to the best FPL options here – Firmino (9.2m) and Salah (10.3m) for the home side and Kane (12.9m) and Eriksen (9.2m) for the visitors.
Burnley v Man City
The early Saturday game sees leaders Man City travel to Burnley. City have a draw and a loss (their first of the season) in their last two away games but otherwise have been on fire and sit 15 points clear at the summit. Burnley were challenging the top four sides earlier in the season, but a barren run sees them firmly in 7th and out of the European conversations for now.
Seven previous meetings have produced four City wins, two draws and just the sole Clarets win, back in 2015. This one finished 3-0 City last time and on current form it’s easy to see a similar result this time.
There’s potential for Stephen Ward (4.7m) to make a return from a knee injury. That likely won’t help a Clarets side still missing Chris Wood against the City guns of De Bruyne (10.2m), Sterling (8.9m), Aguero (11.9m) and Otamendi (6.5m). New signing Laporte (5.5m) already has six points and is a good chance for another clean sheet here.
Bournemouth v Stoke
Bournemouth are flying! No losses in their last five and wins against Everton, Arsenal and now Chelsea to boot. The solid run of form has seen them break the top ten. Stoke followed up a slump-busting win over Huddersfield with a point against Watford and they remain very much in the relegation battle.
Five matches between the two has seen two wins apiece after the Cherries’ 2-1 victory in round nine. Interestingly, Bournemouth have never had a home win against the Potters, but will consider themselves a good chance of one this weekend.
Callum Wilson (5.9m) continues his good scoring form and will look to be the match winner here. Shaqiri (6.1m) was quiet last round, but is still the most likely to fire for the Potter if they are to get a win.
Brighton v West Ham
A 1-1 draw for each of these sides in round 25. Brighton haven’t seen a win in their last five and sit a point above the drop zone. West Ham are unbeaten in their last five and have moved up to 12th, although they themselves are only four points above relegation places.
First season in the PL for the Seagulls, so they have only played the Hammers at this level once, winning 3-0 back. Given a change in fortunes for the two sides, I sense a reversed result this time around.
Brighton’s season has been built on defensive performances at home, so maybe Ryan (4.5m), Duffy (4.6m), Bruno and Dunk (both 4.5m) are worth a shout. The Hammers are missing a lot of players, leaving Kouyate (5m) and Chicharito (6.7m) as their main attacking threats.
Leicester v Swansea
The Foxes managed to hang on to wantaway star Riyad Mahrez in the transfer window and will now turn attention to consolidating their top eight status. They would have looked at this game as an easy three points a few weeks back, but Swansea now come into this unbeaten in three, beating Arsenal and Liverpool in the last two. No draws in the seven games between the two (Foxes winning five) and Swansea have never won an away fixture in this. The Swans will be full of confidence, but I feel the home side will be too strong.
Mahrez (8.7m) is still a Foxes player and still one of their biggest threats alongside Vardy (8.6m). Adrien Silva (6m) has an assist in his two games since being registered as a player at the start of the year. Swansea have resigned Andre Ayew (6.8m) and will hope scores as well as his namesake Jordan (5.3m).
Man United v Huddersfield
The Terriers won this one 2-1 in round nine and would desperately love to do the double, having lost four on the bounce. They’ll find it tough in this though – United’s loss to Spurs last out was their only in the last five and they have the home advantage. Huddersfield have looked increasingly poor of late and I can’t see them taking anything away from this.
Lukaku (11.3m) grabbed an assist last time against the Terriers and will look to go one better here. Martial (8.1m) and Valencia (6.7m) have also been scoring well. The Red Devils will also look to midfield guns Pogba (8m) and Sanchez (11.7m) to go big in this.
West Brom v Southampton
Swansea’s good wins of late mean West Brom have replaced them at the bottom of the league. Southampton aren’t going much better, accompanying them in the bottom three. The sides have just one win between them in the last five rounds and just seven over the whole season combined.
This will be the 16th meeting between the two sides. Of the previous 15, the Baggies have five wins and the Saints six, including the 1-0 win earlier in the season. Can’t see this being a game of great quality, but I think the home side will nick it.
The Baggies have signed Daniel Sturridge (7.9m) on loan and will look to home to lead the line with Rondon (6m) and Rodriguez (5.5m). The Saints will be hoping new signing Carrillo (6.5m) can get off the mark, with Austin and potentially Gabbiadini missing.
Arsenal v Everton
Both sides have just one win in five. The Gunners sandwiched a 4-1 win over Palace with losses to Swansea and Bournemouth and have slipped off the pace at the top. They also shipped out a few players in January, including Walcott, Sanchez and Giroud, but did bring in Mhkitaryan and Aubameyang, who could feature here if he shakes off an illness concern.
Everton had slipped back into a form slump, but recorded a good win over Leicester in round 25 and remain in the top half of the table. They historically find this one tough, winning one of 25 away and seven of 51 overall against the Gunners, who have won 31 (19 at home) including a 5-2 triumph last time the sides met. The Toffees will sense an opportunity here, but can they take it? I don’t think so.
The defenders are flying for the Gunners, with Monreal (5.7m) and Bellerin (6.1m) scoring well. Further up the field Ozil (9.3m) and Lacazette (10.3m) will battle with new signings Mkhitaryan (7.6m) and Aubameyang (10.5m) for attacking stats.
Crystal Palace v Newcastle
Just one place and two points separates these two sides, with Palace in 13th and Newcastle 14th. The recent history is similar two, with one loss each from their last five games. 13 Premier League games between the two has seen an 8-2 lead for Newcastle in terms of wins. The Magpies won this one last time and will hope to be boosted by their three January signings. I have this one down as a draw.
Benteke (7.6m) scored midweek and will be aiming to get a run going. Behind him, Zaha (6.9m), Townsend (5.6m) and Milivojevic (4.7m) my choices. For the Magpies, new loan signing Kenedy (4.7m) looked good on debut and grabbed an assist and two bonus points. The other loan signing in Slimani will struggle to be ready for this week with a thigh injury.
Watford v Chelsea
Closing out the round sees Chelsea travel to Watford with the wounds of the 3-0 loss to Bournemouth midweek still fresh. That was their only loss in the last five though and they remain in the top four. Stoke on the other hand haven’t won in their last five, losing three of those.
These sides have met nine times in the league, with a solitary Hornets win and six for the Blues. In each of the last two meetings, Chelsea have scored four goals and average over three a game across the last five meetings. Add that to the nearly two a game they’ve scored across this season and it’s easy to see them getting another big win here.
Watford have signed Deulofeu (6m) who is someone I’ve always liked and someone I believe can re-invigorate the Hornets attack. If he and Richarlison (6.3m) can hit form, Andre Gray (6.3m) upfront may also benefit.
Morata is still out, so Giroud (8.2m) could be in line for a start and will present the key attacking threat alongside Hazard (10.7m). Alonso (7.4m) and Azpilicueta (7m) are the Blues’ top scorers given their penchant for bombing forward and grabbing assists/goals.
After a match winning turn last out and a good start at his new club, Theo Walcott (7.2m) is the most sought after player ahead of the weekend. Another January transfer in Aubameyang (10.5m) is also in the top five trades.
Jordan Ayew (5.2m) also popular after a couple of good wins for the Swans that he’s performed well in. 25 points in his last three sees Callum Wilson (5.8m) back in demand as well.
Nacho Monreal (5.7m) completes the top five trade picks among fans after two high scoring games, even in the defeat to Swansea last out.
Of the five above, I’d be leaning toward Walcott after his start and Aubameyang given his goal scoring record this season.
Given Huddersfield’s poor form, I’d be throwing the armband on a United player, likely Lukaku, Sanchez or Pogba.
The current season form of City means that their players remain solid choices. De Bruyne in particular continues to look the business, but Sterling and Aguero also viable picks.
If Arsenal are to continue their good form against Everton, Mkhitaryan, Ozil or new boy Aubameyang are my picks to get involved.
Outside of this, I’d be looking at Hazard or Alonso in the Chelsea game or Vardy in a Leicester home game.
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