Round 26 served up goals galore, with a whopping 35 scored across the ten games, which by my calculations is the highest average in a round this season. A minor upset saw Burnley steal a point off City, reducing the margin at the top, and a major upset saw Watford trounce Chelsea 4-1. Liverpool and Spurs’ 2-2 draw was not without controversy, but served to keep the battle for the top four alive and kicking. The battle at the other end remains tight too, with just three points between 12th and 19th. That’s shaping up to be an exciting relegation dogfight, if you’re not a supporter of one of the teams involved!
Arsenal put five past Everton on the weekend and three of those went to Aaron Ramsey. His first professional hat-trick saw him earn 20 fantasy points, the highest for the round and joint top single-round score for the season.
We got our first looks at the squads post transfer window last week, so there will be some trades to consider this round from the new boys. Let’s get straight into the weekend ahead:
Spurs v Arsenal (Game of the Round)
Not the hardest choice for GOTR this week, with the North London derby kicking off the weekend. One of the biggest rivalries in football is only amplified by the fact that Spurs are now competing with Arsenal at the top end of the league and besting them currently.
These sides are both ever presents in the Premier League era. In the 51 meetings since 1992, there have been 21 draws, with the Gunners taking out 19 wins from the remaining 30. Both of the last two games between the sides in the league has finished 2-0 to the home team. This one’s at Wembley though, and the Gunners would have a good record here, having made the FA Cup their ‘consolation silverware’ during the long spell without a league title.
The two key questions for this are around whether the Gunners’ defence will hold and whether their new signings will fire. If that happens, I can see an away win in this.
Everton v Crystal Palace
The Toffees were taken apart by Arsenal last out, shipping five and prompting a scathing post-match assessment from Sam Allardyce. They’ll be looking to bounce back this week and Palace present a good chance of that with no wins in their last three.
Everton are unbeaten in their last six matches against this weekend’s visitors and lead the head to head 7-5 from 17 games. Lots of draws in the recent fixtures however, including back in round 12, and I reckon that’s the outcome again here.
Stoke v Brighton
A relegation six-pointer here, with Brighton travelling to Stoke. This is 13th against 18th, but just three points separate the two sides. Both haven’t been in great form either, with just one win each from the last five. Brighton do come into this straight from a 3-1 win over West Ham though and will be higher on confidence. This finished 2-2 last time, but I can see the away side sneaking the victory this time.
Swansea v Burnley
Earlier in the season, Swansea were down and out. Bottom of the league and not a win in site. Back in November, Burnley beat the Swans 2-0, their only win in this fixture. Since then, the Swans have changed manager and picked up some great wins, moving out of the relegation zone. The Clarets die take a point off City in round 26, but have no win in their last five.
Prior to round 12, all four of the PL meetings between the two were won by the Swans. Add the form and the home field advantage and it’s hard to see past a Swansea win.
West Ham v Watford
Contrasting fortunes in round 26 with the sides on different side of big scores. West Ham were downed 3-1 by Brighton while Watford put four past Chelsea. This one is now 11th against 12th, with just a win between them points-wise.
The history is pretty even, with three Hammers wins, four Hornets wins and two draws from nine matchups. Watford took out the reverse meeting and will be flying high on confidence after the win last time. Away win.
Man City v Leicester
A draw for Man City last week, only the fourth time they’ve dropped points in 26 games. Leicester were also held 1-1 by Swansea and remain in 8th place. Form for both sides is good, with just one loss apiece in the last five rounds.
Considering City’s dominance over recent years, it’s a surprisingly close record for the two, City leading 6-5 from 13 meetings, including the 2-0 triumph last meeting. With the continued absence of Riyad Mahrez, who apparently is now back training, I can’t see past the home win.
Huddersfield v Bournemouth
Bournemouth’s turnaround of late was re-confirmed last week when they beat Stoke to move into the top half. Indeed, they remain unbeaten in their last five. Huddersfield on the other hand are the opposite, having lost all of their previous five and slipping to 19th on the table.
It’s looking awfully like the Championship next season for the Terriers and facing a team who spanked them 4-0 with ten men in round 12 is probably not ideal. Given the run of form for the home side, I’d back the visitors here.
Newcastle v Man United
Both of these sides have lost only one of the last five, but the similarities end there. United have won the other four, while Newcastle have three draws in there. In 45 Premier League matchups, the Red Devils have won 26 and drawn 14. Along the way, the Magpies have conceded more goals against this week’s visitors than any other team they’ve played in the PL.
Newcastle went one up early in the reverse fixture in November, but fell to a 4-1 defeat. Add Alexis Sanchez into that mix and it’s probably heading for a similar scoreline this time.
Southampton v Liverpool
Liverpool travel south to face their ‘feeder club’ with new signing van Dijk likely to face his former employers for the first time. The Reds have won three and drawn one of the last five and the Saints have finally shown some signs of life and are unbeaten in four.
These two have played 37 times in the top flight and Liverpool lead the head to head 17-10. In the last five meetings, there have been three draws and a win apiece, with Liverpool taking out the most recent showing 3-0. If the Saints are as improved as their recent form suggests then this might be closer but I still reckon the away side take this out.
Chelsea v West Brom
Closing out the round this week, Chelsea host basement side West Brom. Both sides come into this from back to back losses and will be gunning for a win to keep their respective top four/relegation battles going.
23 previous league meetings have seen 17 Chelsea wins and just three Baggies wins and three draws. Back in November the Blues took this out 4-0 and if they are as fired up as they should be after a couple of disappointing losses, they could get close to that again.
Unsurprisingly, Aaron Ramsey’s (7m) hat-trick last week has him among the most popular trades this round. Arsenal’s big win over Everton has also seen demand for new signings Mkhitaryan (7.8m) and Aubameyang (10.5m) soar.
New Watford signing Deulofeu (6m) got off to a flyer and he’s the third most popular trade ahead of this week, especially with a game against a weakened West Ham side.
Rounding out the top five this week is Jordan Ayew (5.4m), benefitting from a surge in Swansea’s form.
Outside of the popular trades, Morata’s continued absence could pave the way for a Giroud (8.2m) start this week in a very winnable game against West Brom.
Elsewhere, after a tough loss to Arsenal, Everton move into a good patch of games. That brings the likes of Walcott (7.3m), Sigurdsson (8m), Rooney (7.3m) and the returning Seamus Coleman (6.4m) into the mix.
In the opposite direction, the most popular trades out this week are Alonso, who’s a doubt with injury and Mahrez, who will not play and has only just returned to training. What has surprised me is that Pogba (8m) and Lingard (6.2m) are also in there with United’s string record against Newcastle.
My focus for captain choices this round is firmly on the Newcastle Man United game, with the strong record the Red Devils have. That means Lukaku, Martial, Sanchez, Pogba and Lingard all become great choices for the armband.
City’s home matchup against the Foxes could be tough, but Aguero and De Bruyne are always great choices for captain.
With Liverpool likely to beat Southampton, Salah and Firmino are also good choices.
Further afield, I like Walcott to be involved for Everton and ex-Toffee Deulofeu to run West Ham ragged.
Bet of the Week
For bets this weeks, I can’t look past Arsenal’s $3.75 odds against Spurs. It’s a tough game, but it’s not often you get the Gunners at those odds.
I also can’t shake the feeling that a United forward will out a hat-trick on Newcastle this round, so would opt for Sanchez at $41.
We’ve partnered with neds for the 2018 season. Follow the link below to get a $150 deposit bonus. Remember to gamble responsibly (i.e. don’t put the whole $150 on a Sanchez hat-trick!).