Not a lot of major upsets in round 28, but some interesting results in the context of the relegation battles. With the title in City’s hands, the drop is what will be more interesting in the run home.
Focusing on the relegation candidates, West Brom are all but gone having failed to beat Huddersfield last out and sit seven points from safety. Aside from the Baggies, it remains tight at the bottom, with just six points between 19th and 11th in the table. It really is anyone’s guess as to who goes down and really makes the game between those sides in the bottom half even more important.
Outside of the league, City smashed Arsenal to take the season’s first piece of silverware, the Carabao Cup. The teams then met in the league early Friday morning and there was no Silva lining for the Gunners, with Bernardo and David both scoring en route to another 3-0 win.
It was a relatively quiet round, fantasy-wise, summed up by the fact that the highest scoring player before Ederson scored 15 in the last game was Emre Can with 13 points, which would have been the lowest score to take out the top spot for a gameweek. Even Ederson’s score is the second lowest to take out a round this season.
Some big games this weekend at both ends of the table and the expected continuation of the bad weather could throw a spanner in the work of some games. Let’s look at what’s coming in round 29:
Southampton v Stoke (Game of the Round)
This game gets top billing for being one of the relegation ‘six pointers’ mentioned above. Going into the round, the two sides are separated by just a single point and are both very much in contention for the drop to the Championship.
Form-wise, the sides are pretty similar with a win a loss and three draws from the last five. Against each other, the Potters have the edge, winning four of the 11 meetings to the Saints’ two. Stoke have also won the last two, and are unbeaten in four of the last five. It finished 2-1 to the visitors last time, but I think this one ends in a draw.
Burnley v Everton
Burnley’s start to the season was fantastic and at one point they were knocking on the top four. A prolonged run of poor form however has seen them slip off the pace, while still sitting a respectable 7th. Everton’s form has been a mixed bag following last week’s lost to Watford, with two wins and two draws from their last five.
The Clarets took out the return fixture back in October 1-0, but the Toffees have the slight lead in head-to-head history, winning four of the seven. There has never been a draw between the two in the Premier League and I reckon that will stay the same here, with the away side taking advantage of Burnley’s bad form.
Leicester v Bournemouth
Both sides grabbed come-from-behind draws at home in round 28 following big defeats the week before. The Cherries are the furthest side from the drop zone and are probably safe, but will feel good with another three points here. The Foxes sit in the top half, but are without a win in four and will also be chasing three points, which could make for an entertaining game.
The history doesn’t quite support that though, with four draws from five between the two and no side scoring more than one against each other in the PL. In all likelihood, a draw is the most likely result against here.
Tottenham v Huddersfield
Spurs left it late against Palace last out, and are unbeaten in ten in the league, with wins over Arsenal and United in their last five. Huddersfield beat West Brom to record back to back wins after a long run of defeats and are doing their utmost to avoid an immediate return to the second tier. They’re likely to struggle here though, against a strong Spurs side who turned them over 4-0 back in round seven. I don’t think it will be as high a score, but the outcome will still be the same. Home win.
Swansea v West Ham
Another one in the relegation battle category, with three points between the two sides. Both sides come into this having been battered 4-1 in the last round. The loss to Brighton ended a good run for the Swans which has seen them move from the foot of the table, but they still remain in the drop zone. The Hammers big loss to Liverpool is more understandable, but it still leaves them with the possibility of being overtaken by their opponents with a big enough loss.
The PL history suggests that won’t happen however, with West Ham losing only two of 11 games against the hosts, winning six along the way including the last meeting in September. I’m backing the Hammers to get up and push the Swans further into the drop places.
Watford v West Brom
A fourth defeat on the trot for the Baggies sees them rooted to the foot of the table and the market suspended on them being relegated. They face Watford this week who, while on a bad run save for a couple of good wins, are sitting just above the drop-zone drama in 10th. The Hornets beat Everton 1-0 last out and will bring a bit of confidence into this with two wins from three potentially signalling a turn in fortunes. This finished 2-2 earlier in the season, but the Baggies woeful form, the fact they’ve never won here and my dislike of Alan Pardew sees me leaning towards the home win.
Liverpool v Newcastle
Earlier in the season when Newcastle were sitting in the top half, they managed to hold Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at St. James’ Park. Since then, the fortunes for these sides couldn’t be more different. The Reds sit firmly in the top four and are winning games comfortably whereas the Magpies have dropped back down the ladder and are sneaking the odd 1-0 here and there in a bid to survive. As a fan though, survival was all I ever asked for this first season back in the top flight.
Recent form for both sides is good, with one loss each in the last five. Newcastle’s habit of throwing lead away though means that they have more draws in there than the home side. A decent Premier League history for both sides means they’ve met 45 times since 1992, with Liverpool winning 24 to Newcastle’s 11. Sadly, I can only see this weekend becoming number 25 for the hosts.
Brighton v Arsenal
It’s a rarity for Arsenal to come into a Premier League game in worse form than the opposition when they play someone outside the top six, but that’s the case here. The Gunners have lost their last two and three of the last four, while Brighton are unbeaten over the same period with two wins and two draws. You’d expect the visitors to bounce back in this one, but beware a team fighting for survival with some confidence behind them, as Arsenal found out against Swansea a few weeks back. I’ve a sneaky feeling that the Seagulls will sneak a point from this one.
Man City v Chelsea
After City easily saw off Arsenal at the end of round 28, Liverpool remain the only team to have beaten them in the league this season. Chelsea would be another of the potential contenders to do so, but their current form isn’t great, losing three of the last five whilst the Citizens have dropped just two points in that time. The Blues do have the head to head wrapped up, with 24 wins to ten from 41 meetings, most leading back to pre-cashed up City, although they have won two of the last three.
Chelsea will need a win to keep up with the top four and there’s a possibility City may take the foot off the gas with the title all but secured. Will they? Probably not, home win.
Crystal Palace v Man United
Closing out the round sees United travel to Palace, whose team contains a couple of their ex-youth players. Zaha and co will definitely be aiming to get one over the Red Devils and stay above the relegation places. However, when you look at the fact that in 17 games they’ve never beaten United and have only managed three draws, it doesn’t look likely. Palace come into this with no win in five, so I can’t see them getting anything here, but I also said that about Newcastle against United a few weeks back…
The players have flocked back to Ben Davies (5.8m) ahead of this round after he’s started to see decent minutes again. He’s currently top spot for trades.Second in the list is Shaqiri (6.3m) after he’s scored in each of his last three and is a good chance to do so again this week given Southampton don’t seem to like clean sheets.
Willian (6.8m) is third on the list. It’s a somewhat strange one for me – he did grab a goal and nine points last out, but his floating in and out of the side means the big scores are spread apart. Add in the fact he plays City this week and I’d stay away.
Two Liverpool players round out the top five in Andrew Robertson (4.8m) and Emre Can (4.9m), with Firmino (9.3m) in sixth. Robertson and Can are bargain basement players who are likely to get 90 mins in a winnable game. Whether Can offers much value from a deeper role remains to be seen, last week’s goal likely a one-off.
Outside of that, I see West Brom’s poor form continuing so I’d want some Hornets’ players. Deulofeu is out injured so look to the old guard in Doucoure (5.5m), Richarlison (6.1m) and Deeney (6.3m) to take the points this week.
I’m surprised to not see more love for Spurs players ahead of Huddersfield. I know 50% of us have Kane, but Eriksen (9.3m), Son (8.1m) and Alli (8.9m) are all good options ahead of the round ahead.
Round 31 is very bare, with just eight teams in action now, so you’ll probably need to use your free hit and pick a new team just for that week. If you have already burned it, you have three weeks of trades to get players in from Bournemouth, West Brom, Huddersfield, Palace, Stoke, Everton, Liverpool or Watford.
Some good games for captaining the big guns this week. Spurs have a decent home game, meaning Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min should go well if you throw the armband on them.
Liverpool play Newcastle so Salah and Firmino also good choices. The only potential worry is that Rafa Benitez has the Geordies playing some decent defensive football, conceding just over 1 a game on average and they may not score too many. History disagrees, Liverpool have averaged two a game against the Magpies in the PL and have scored in the last 22 against them at home.
Arsenal’s desire to bounce back should see them too good for Brighton and in the process Aubameyang, Ramsey and Ozil become solid captain choices.
Man United having never lost to Palace also opens up Lukaku, Sanchez, Martial and Pogba to have big scoring games.
As much as Man City’s big guns still excite, I’m staying away this week with a tough game for them against Chelsea. If you fancy the risk however, you can still throw the C on the likes of De Bruyne, Sane or Aguero.
If I’m looking outside the big games for “rainmaker” captain choices, I’d be looking at Arnautovic, or Walcott as I fancy their respective teams to get up, or Shaqiri given recent form.
Bet of the Week
My big bet this week is a Lukaku hat-trick at $41 as United run riot over Palace.
You can also get $5 for Shaqiri to score anytime, good money given he’s bagged in his last two. Double is with Arnautovic anytime in West Ham’s game for a cool $17 return.
Odds for all of my picks from above in the games this week:
- Southampton v Stoke: Draw $3.60
- Burnley v Everton: Everton $3.10
- Leicester v Bournemouth: Draw $3.60
- Tottenham v Huddersfield: Spurs $1.17
- Swansea v West Ham: West Ham $3.00
- Watford v West Brom: Watford $2.00
- Liverpool v Newcastle: Liverpool $1.17
- Brighton v Arsenal: Arsenal $1.83
- Man City v Chelsea: City $1.57
- Crystal Palace v Man United: United $1.50
Definitely not recommending throwing all ten on a multi, or betting on the $1.17 odds, but there’s some good value in there for a ‘mix-n-match’ multi or two.