Yet another FA Cup weekend to spoil everyone’s February. They’re even worse when your team’s already been knocked out and you’ve got nothing to do, except constantly change your SuperCoach team after reading through all the articles and listening to the podcasts on this site!
Thankfully, the Premier League is back this weekend so I’m back with another preview. Round 27 seems so long ago, but it contained some humdingers. The mighty Newcastle triumphed over United, extending Mourinho’s blues at St. James’ Park. The loss, coupled with City’s 5-1 thrashing of Leicester sees the gap at the top sit at 16 points, surely unassailable with 11 games to go. Huddersfield showed some signs of life after several losses on the bounce, beating Bournemouth 4-1 to move out the drop zone.
Top fantasy points went to Sergio Aguero, scoring four goals en route to a 21 round score. He’ll be looking for more of the same when the action starts again Saturday night, so let’s look at the weekend ahead:
Man United v Chelsea (Game of the Round)
With the title pretty much in the hands of City, the most interesting game this weekend becomes the battle for second, with just three points separating these two heading into the round, and the added incentive of a matchup against a former employer for Mourinho and a couple of the players.
United couldn’t park the bus last time and Chelsea took out their November meeting 1-0. The Blues lead the PL head to head 18-14 from 51 and have lost only once to the Red Devils in the last 14 in all competitions. That was this fixture last season though, and United will be gunning for a home win to redeem the loss last out. I think they’ll sneak it as well. 2-1 United.
Leicester v Stoke
Despite a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of City last time, the Foxes remain in eighth. They’ll look to bounce back in the early Saturday game and condemn Stoke to more time in the drop zone. Both sides without a win in their last three and would love three points.
In seven previous encounters, Leicester have won 3 and drawn three. There’s also an interesting pattern of 2-2 draws at Stoke, followed by Leicester winning to nil at home. Far be it from me to predict against trends. Leicester to win 2-0.
Bournemouth v Newcastle
Fresh off a win over United that kept them out of the bottom three, Newcastle travel to Bournemouth, whose loss to Huddersfield last out keeps them almost in the relegation battle – they sit 10th, but only five points off relegation places.
Not a lot to go on here in terms of past results, only three in the top flight. The Cherries have won two of them, including the round 11 meeting 1-0. With the lack of firepower this season for both sides I could see this being 1-0 again, just can’t pick which way.
Brighton v Swansea
A true relegation six-pointer here, with just a point and two places between the two sides. After sitting bottom, Swansea have gone on an impressive unbeaten run to move up the ladder. The Seagulls are also unbeaten in three, which makes this all the more interesting.
Brighton took this one out 1-0 in Novemember, but that was before the Swans were on the up, and I can see them getting up this time around.
Burnley v Southampton
At first glance, this would seem like a cert for the home side- Burnley sit 7th while Southampton languish in the bottom three. When you look closer though, it could end up a bit closer. The Clarets have no win in their last five, while the Saints have only one loss in the same time.
Five previous matchups have produced three Burnley wins and two Southampton victories, so a draw seems unlikely. It’ll be tight, but the home side should still sneak it.
Liverpool v West Ham
Both sides come into this one from 2-0 wins, Liverpool over Southampton and West Ham over Watford. That’s the end of the similarities though – Liverpool are flying in third while West Ham sit 12th and aren’t out of the drop discussions yet.
These sides have met 43 times in the league and the Reds have took out 25 of them, losing only nine of the rest. When you add in the fact that the last two meetings have finished 4-0 and 4-1 to the Reds, you can easily get behind another big loss for the Hammers here.
West Brom v Huddersfield
The talk since round 27 is that Alan Pardew has two or three more games to keep his job. Realistically though, if he can’t get a win against Huddersfield here, who will West Brom actually beat to stay up? If that’s not motivation I don’t know what is.
The Terriers ended a rotten run with a resounding victory over Bournemouth last out and will be hoping for the same again here. The Baggies are on a rotten run of their own, losing the last three straight on winning only once since round two. Huddersfield took the reverse fixture out 1-0 and I think they’ll do the same again.
Watford v Everton
If you take out the 4-1 win over Chelsea in round 26, Watford have been on a horrible run of late. Their early season form is the only thing keeping them safe from the relegation battle. The inverse is true of Everton, their improvement after a poor start sees them overtake the Hornets and move into the top half and they’ll see this as another three points for the taking.
Nine previously meetings in the Premier League has produced six Toffees victories and just the one win for Watford. The round 11 matchup finished 3-2 and I sense another high scoring game here, with the Toffees the victors.
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Spurs have been in good form of late, culminating in three points from the North London Derby last time out, but will be disappointed to be sitting outside the top four, albeit just by a point. With Chelsea having a tough game at United, they’ll see this game as a great chance to take back a Champions League spot if the Blues slip up.
Palace lost 3-1 to Everton in round 27 and despite improvements from their early season form, they are still well within the relegation battle being just one point above Southampton in 17th. They’ll find three points tough to come by here, having beaten Spurs just three times in 17 PL meetings. Tottenham have won all of the last five, four of them by a 1-0 margin, but I see them scoring more than that this weekend.
Arsenal v Man City
Closing out the round sees Arsenal host Man City next Friday morning, in a repeat of the Carabao Cup final to be played this Sunday. After losing to Spurs last time, the Gunners sit eight points outside of the top four and will be desperate for three points to keep the chase alive.
On paper, the Gunners have a good record against the Citizens, winning 23 and drawing ten of 41. Most of those wins would come pre-cashed up City though, and recently games would undoubtedly be closer. Of the last five, Arsenal have won one and City two, including 3-1 back in round 11.
A lot will depend on how serious the teams take the cup game. You would think both will go hard having been dumped out of the FA Cup already. In that case, there may be some rested for the league game. Either way, I still think City’s squad is strong enough to see off the Gunners here.
Ben Davies (5.6m) the most traded-in player ahead of this round, having found himself back in favour for 90 mins and back among the assists. Cheap price and a decent matchup, there’s worse trades out there.
Four-goal hero Aguero (12m) second favourite. He’s always someone you should look to have in your squad, but a tougher game and the potential for rotation after the cup makes it a riskier trade.
Lot of love for Niasse (4.9m) this week, who seems to be the main man upfront for Everton, given Big Sam’s reluctance to play 27m man Tosun.
Firmino (9.2m) also among the top trades, not surprising given Liverpool’s record against West Hame of late.
Arnautovic (6.9m) rounds out the top five, having returned from injury last. He’d been in great form before that, but will find the Liverpool game tough.
Outside of the top trades, it could be time for Mane (9.3m) to fire against the Hammers. I would suggest Salah, but surely we all have him by now?
Spurs will see Palace as a winnable game and Eriksen (9.2m) is coming back into form, so bring him in without hesitation.
Elsewhere, I fancy Leicester to beat Stoke, so look at bringing in Vardy or Mahrez (both 8.6m).
Liverpool’s “easier” game brings all of Salah, Mane and Firmino into captain contention.
Similarly, for Spurs, any of Kane, Son, Eriksen and Alli could go big if you throw the armband on them.
Outside of the big six sides, I like Everton’s chances, and would back Sigurdsson, Walcott or Rooney to be involved in any goals. I also think Huddersfield beat West Brom, and if you’re looking for a left-field option, Mounie up front wouldn’t be the worst choice.
Bet of the Week
Swansea are paying $3.75 to beat Brighton, which on current form is good value. When you combine it with an Everton win for a $12.40 double it looks even better value in theory.
I also don’t mind $5.50 for Vardy to bag two against Stoke and $4.20 for Salah to do the same against West Ham (a $23 double if you fancy the risk).