ROUND 22: Fantasy EPL REVIEW
After four rounds in two holiday weeks, the Premier League took a relative break (relative since there were Cup games being played). In the meantime, the winter transfer window opened, and with it came the first few influential moves. The big one is, of course, was Coutinho’s departure from Liverpool (great news for Sadio Mane owners). Chelsea beat out its rivals for the signing of Everton’s Ross Barkley, although it’s unlikely he’ll see enough minutes to be fantasy relevant. Everton used the money to acquire a much needed striker – Turkish international Cenk Tosun, who has made a name for himself with his excellent performances this season. They also sent Kevin Mirallas on loan to Olympiakos. Coquelin swapped Arsenal for Valencia, while Huddersfield loaned talented center back Terence Kongolo from Monaco. Another loan move was Tottenham’s N’Koudou joining Burnley, whereas Stoke signed Austrian right back Moritz Bauer from Russia’s Rubin Kazan. Meanwhile, in an up-and-down period for his team, Jesse Lingard, through being unfazed by the pressure, has distinguished himself from the rest of the pack.
It’s not surprising to see so many Tottenham players in the highest scorers list, considering it played two games during this round – a 2-0 win at Swansea (Llorente, Alli) and a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham (Obiang, Son). West Ham was the other team with two games, the first one was a 2-1 win against WBA in which Andy Carroll did the double that included some late-game heroics (scored the second goal four minutes into injury time). The most meaningful match of the round was played in London between Arsenal and Chelsea and finished in a 2-2 draw. All goals were scored in the second half. Wilshere opened the scoring, then Chelsea turned it around through a Hazard penalty kick and a goal by the best defender in fantasy – Marcos Alonso. The match would’ve been over had Morata converted at least one of his clear-cut chances. He didn’t, and Chelsea was punished by a nicely taken half-volley by Hector Bellerin in added time. The result meant that Manchester United, who defeated Everton earlier on, jumped back up to No. 2 on the table. Martial and Lingard were the goal scorers in that one. Manchester City went back to its winning ways after the unexpected stumble against Crystal Palace, by outclassing Watford 3-1 (Sterling, Aguero and an own goal by Kabasele). Palace, on its behalf, built on that overachievement, simultaneously extending Southampton’s misery with a 2-1 victory at St. Mary’s. Shane Long gave The Saints the lead, but McArthur and Milivojevic ensured The Eagles were the ones flying high back home.
Burnley was inches away from snatching a point versus Liverpool after Gudmundsson had canceled out Mane’s 61st-minute strike. His countryman Ragnar Klavan, however, made sure Liverpool escaped a dangerous trip with all three points. Leicester recorded the most convincing victory of the round, 3-0 against Huddersfield (Mahrez, Slimani, Albrighton). Ayoze Perez’s 73rd-minute strike further embarrassed Stoke in what was a forgettable first half of the season. In the very first encounter of the matchday, Brighton and Bournemouth shared the spoils, and at the same time brought joy to those owners who had Murray (1 goal), Izquierdo (2 assists) and Callum Wilson (1 goal) on their rosters.
Round 22 highest fantasy scorers
Goalkeepers: Karl Darlow (Newcastle), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), and the rest who kept clean sheets.
Defenders: Ragnar Klavan (Liverpool), Steve Cook (Bournemouth), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Hector Bellerin (Arsenal), Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle), Ben Davies (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester), Marc Albrighton (Leicester), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Heung-Min Son (Tottenham), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Pedro Obiang (West Ham), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace), Dele Alli (Tottenham).
Forwards: Andy Carroll (West Ham), Ayoze Perez (Newcastle), Fernando Llorente (Tottenham), Glenn Murray (Brighton).
ROUND 23: Fantasy EPL PREVIEW
Chelsea vs. Leicester
– Chelsea’s schedule didn’t let up during the mini-break, as it was one of the busiest teams during the period, having had to play Norwich and Arsenal (again) in England’s two Cups. The later one was the third draw between the teams this season. Not many players managed to get rest, so it’s not the ideal scenario coming up against an always tricky Leicester. Yet, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Morata’s form has visibly declined. It’s more than obvious he’s not used to this type of tempo of game after game after game. I’d say it’s time for Batshuayi to get a start or two, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Even if Morata rests, Conte has shown he’d rather play with Hazard or Pedro as the false nine. Bakayoko should be back in the starting lineup instead of Drinkwater, who has been receiving significant minutes lately.
Crystal Palace vs. Burnley
– This one has all the makings of a draw, although all of the injuries on Burnley’s side definitely give Palace the advantage on paper. Heaton, Ward and Wood will all miss the game, while Arfield, Mee, Tarkowski and Kevin Long are questionable, making Burnley extremely thin on defense. The situation with Palace is not much better, as all four regular starters (Sakho, Ward, Dann and Schlupp) will likely miss the match. Look for Kelly, van Aanholt, Fosu-Mensah and Riedewald in the free agent pool if you need replacements. Townsend is doubtful, while Loftus-Cheek is questionable. Cabaye, Milivojevic and McArthur will patrol the midfield, while Zaha and Benteke remain the main threats to score, despite the fact that the Belgian has done so only once this season.
Huddersfield vs. West Ham
– Since Wagner prefers to play with one striker up front, the debate between who to start, Mounie or Depoitre, is something that will drag on. Considering West Ham’s defense will be depleted (both Creswell and Reid are doubtful to play), the odds are good that whoever does start finds the scoresheet. Antonio is also doubtful, while Arnautovic is questionable, meaning Ayew and Lanzini will be relied upon for creativity.
Newcastle vs. Swansea
– Newcastle defense is stronger with Lascelles commanding the back line. There’s uncertainty over his availability, as the weather forecast is rainy with a chance of thunderstorms. Good that they’re facing Swansea, who will be without Naughton (suspended). Abraham is questionable, which means Bony is in line to lead the attack alongside Ayew. Benitez’s constant switching between Joselu, Ayoze Perez and Gayle makes it almost impossible to trust any of them in fantasy.
Watford vs. Southampton
– Despite only one win in the last nine matches, Watford still finds itself in the golden middle (#10) of the EPL table. Southampton has been an utter disaster (real life and fantasy). Austin will be out for some time, so either Long or Gabbiadini will start. Cedric Soares, Wesley Hoedt and Jeremy Pied are all questionable on the defensive side of the ball. Watford is the favorite here. Carrillo has been in good form lately and is the team’s second best player at the moment (behind Richarlison).
West Bromwich vs. Brighton
– This shouldn’t be a high-scoring affair by any stretch of the imagination. Gibbs, Evans and Phillips are all questionable for WBA. Evans is heavily linked with a move away. Those speculations can have an effect on whether he plays or not, as well. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said before – there aren’t many players valuable for fantasy purposes on either of these teams (especially in this particular match, since Brighton is the away team).
Tottenham vs. Everton
– With Rose out and Winks questionable, Sissoko and Davies are in line for starts. The dilemma between Trippier and Aurier will not go away soon, as both have been performing admirably when called upon. Another great game for Harry Kane is brewing. I would recommend against using any Everton player in this matchup. Generally speaking, it’ll be interesting to see whether newly-signed Cenk Tosun makes his debut.
Bournemouth vs. Arsenal
– With King and Defoe out, Callum Wilson has the number 9 role all to himself. Arsenal represents a true challenge for his skills. All in all, Bournemouth is pretty healthy and will relish the opportunity to put a dent in Arsenal’s Champions League aspirations. Monreal, Kolasinac, Koscielny, Ramsey, Wilshere and Giroud are all out for The Gunners, whereas Ozil is questionable. Alexis Sanchez’s place in the starting lineup is also in doubt due to all the transfer rumors. Mustafi, Chambers, Holding, Bellerin and Maitland-Niles have been starting in defense recently, while Xhaka, Iwobi and Elneny will have to fill the voids of the missing squad members in midfield.
Liverpool vs. Manchester City
– The timing of this fixture is not ideal for either team. Liverpool’s locker room must be affected by Coutinho’s departure and City’s demanding schedule (cups included) will have taken its toll. Regardless of that, it should be a fun game to watch. With Jesus’ injury, Aguero once again becomes City’s go-to boy. Sterling and De Bruyne have established themselves as the safest options for the highest scoring team in fantasy. Like I mentioned before, Mane is the one who should profit the most now that Coutinho’s gone. Salah is questionable with a groin injury (he’s expected to play), and it would be a real pity if he were to miss the contest. Van Dijk will likely be thrown to the lions right away. Despite the hefty price tag, he’s a player who should bring stability to a defense in desperate need of some. The fact that he’s an upgrade over Lovren and Klavan is not even up for discussion.
Manchester United vs. Stoke
– This should be a piece of cake for The Red Devils. I expect Lukaku, Pogba and Lingard to be at the forefront of the highest scorers list in my next article. Valencia is still hurt, while Ashley Young is suspended. Nevertheless, a clean sheet is to be expected.