There are two points of emphasis regarding this round. The first one is that Tottenham and West Ham will play two games each, and the second one being that a lot of regular starters will be rested due to the fixture density during the holidays. I’m suggesting you check to see if Okazaki is available in your leagues, as he’s a player who could soften the blow of all the absentees.
ROUND 21: Fantasy EPL REVIEW
Two surprises, three goalless draws and wins for Liverpool and Chelsea. That’s the sum of EPL’s Saturday. The Blues obliterated Stoke, who basically had to play with its second unit on defense, considering how many regulars were missing. Conte used the opportunity to give a breather to his main cogs and was certainly thrilled to see their replacements decide the final outcome. Rudiger, Willian, Pedro, Drinkwater and Zappacosta (as a sub) were the goal scorers. Leicester put in a solid effort at Liverpool, but Salah’s legend continues to grow, as he has exceeded even the loftiest of expectations. The only blemish was the fact that he suffered a small knock, which in essence might not be such a bad thing (except for fantasy owners), as he deserves some rest.
The two surprises were Everton’s defeat at the legs of Bournemouth, courtesy of Ryan Fraser’s brace, and Watford’s late collapse against Swansea (Jordan Ayew and Narsingh turned it around with goals in the 86th and 90th minutes). Huddersfield vs. Burnley and Newcastle vs. Brighton were the early scoreless affairs, followed by Manchester United’s inability to penetrate a compact Southampton. The effort was nothing but disheartening for fantasy owners, as not only did they not find the net, but Lukaku left the pitch on a stretcher following a head collision with Wesley Hoedt. There’s a silver lining, though, as De Gea and his defense kept a clean sheet.
Sunday brought with it two more draws and distraught for City fans and players alike. Gabriel Jesus suffered a serious knee injury which will likely keep him out for a while. And if that wasn’t enough, De Bruyne got the worse end of a bad challenge in injury time which also might cost him a couple of missed games. Crystal Palace could’ve won, but Ederson saved Milivojevic’s 92nd minute penalty shot. Certainly not how Pep wanted to close out the year. Arsenal’s visit to West Bromwich almost ended the same way. A late own goal by McClean and an 89th minute penalty converted by Jay Rodriguez ensured that we at least saw some goals n New Year’s day.
Round 21 highest fantasy scorers
Goalkeepers: Ederson (Manchester City), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield), Alex McCarthy (Southampton), David De Gea (Manchester United), Karl Darlow (Newcastle), Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), and the rest who kept clean sheets.
Defenders: Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Gaetan Bong (Brighton), Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield), Phil Jones (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Willian (Chelsea), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Danny Drinkwater (Chelsea), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Luciano Narsingh (Swansea), Guido Carrillo (Watford).
Forwards: Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Jay Rodriguez (WBA), Jordan Ayew (Swansea).
ROUND 22: Fantasy EPL PREVIEW
Brighton vs. Bournemouth
– The good news for Brighton is that it hasn’t conceded in three of the past four games. The bad news is that the attackers haven’t found the net in four of the past five contests. Izquierdo will likely come into the squad as a replacement for someone, making him an interesting option in what I see as a good matchup for The Seagulls (Hemed should start as well). Why? Because despite the win at the weekend, Bournemouth is rather depleted, especially after King left the game against Everton, in all likelihood making him unavailable for this fixture.
Burnley vs. Liverpool
– As brilliant as Burnley has been at home, things haven’t worked out quite so well on its own turf. Liverpool wasn’t as potent as in previous rounds, but did manage to overturn a first-half deficit against Leicester thanks to its Egyptian God. Mane did start, so he could find himself on the bench here, although I believe the most likely scenario is that Firmino takes a seat. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexander-Arnold should start, too, while Coutinho and even Salah might be rested. The draw versus Huddersfield was the fourth consecutive contest without a win for The Clarets, and that streak is unlikely to end now.
Leicester vs. Huddersfield
– I like Shinji Okazaki here. He should begin the match in the starting lineup, and his relentlessness will be a huge advantage against a tired Huddersfield. Mounie should take Depoitre’s place on the other side. In general, I expect The Foxes to prevail.
Stoke vs. Newcastle
– With so many defenders on the shelf, it’s not shocking that Stoke had a hard time keeping Chelsea away. The fact Hughes’ boys are at home helps, but the problem still remains. Plenty will depend on Newcastle’s wish to attack and take advantage of the situation. If they do, players who didn’t start (or didn’t play at all) at Stamford Bridge such as Choupo-Moting, Shaqiri, Joe Allen and even Crouch could profit the most from an open game. If not, then we’re looking at a dull, uneventful encounter.
Everton vs. Manchester United
– Rooney vs. Manchester United part 2. Fully recovered from his illness, the long-time Red Devil will have mixed feelings and a desire to show he’s not scrap metal yet. Gueye, Bolasie, Lookman and Tom Davies are all players who will need to show what they’re capable of if The Toffees are to stand a chance. United is coming off back-to-back-to-back draws, having not only lost pace to its city rival, but surrendered the second place on the table. Adding to the misery is Lukaku’s head injury. I don’t believe Mourinho’s troubles end here. I see Rashford and Herrera as the game-changers in a potential win.
Southampton vs. Crystal Palace
– Southampton went into the match in Manchester looking to leave undefeated. That was achieved. Now it’s time to build on that success against a Crystal Palace squad coming off games against Arsenal and City in the middle of the holiday season. Tadic, Redmond, Gabbiadini and Davis should all be in the starting lineup, happy to finally move on from all the pre-season/mid-season drama revolving around Van Dijk’s transfer and hungry for three points.
Swansea vs. Tottenham
– A rested Tottenham will be too much for Swansea. Harry Kane is sick and will likely be given more time to recover against inferior opposition in order to be in the starting lineup on January 4. Son would profit the most in that scenario, while Alli will need to step up and be the leader. On the other side, Carlos Carvalhal might have found something with Clucas, Sanches and Mesa together on the field. If he were to replace Carroll with Fer, it just might spring Swansea back up into contention.
West Ham vs. West Bromwich
– West Ham is the other team that will have two matches in one round, so fantasy owners should take notice. Arnautovic has been thriving in a false nine role, with five goals in the last five games (none up to that point). Regardless of its current position, WBA isn’t a naive team. However, realistically, there simply aren’t any players worth owning in fantasy at this moment.
Manchester City vs. Watford
– Another day, another joyful holiday for City fans. The entire campaign has been a holiday, really. That is, until December 31 came along. Without the services of Gabriel Jesus, Aguero should bag at least a couple. A clean sheet is more of a probability than a possibility.
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
– With Hazard, Fabregas and Bakayoko rested, Willian, Pedro and Drinkwater needed to showcase their abilities. That they did. All of them scored in a festive atmosphere, which put an exclamation point to what was a wonderful year for everyone at the club. The new one begins with a clash against its city rival. Will Conte’s lads be up for the challenge? Last times these two met, Arsenal was excellent. Was it due to motivation, or is it something about their style that just doesn’t suit Chelsea? We’re about to find out. Personally, I’m looking forward to this one.
Tottenham vs. West Ham
– The long round culminates with another London derby. If Kane recovers in time from his illness (and I think he will), he’ll be in the spotlight, as many pundits and fans alike will be anticipating whether he can become the first player in Premier League history to record three hat-tricks in a row. As far as who plays and who rests for both teams, you’ll have to be on the lookout as the week progresses.