Before I start with last round’s review, let me just recap the main transfer news. After much speculation, the Alexis Sanchez for Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap has finally been completed, bringing both players back to fantasy relevancy. After Theo Walcott’s arrival, Aaron Lennon’s services were no longer needed in Everton, so he was shipped off to Burnley for an undisclosed fee. Brighton, in a bid to avoid relegation, invested in its biggest purchase in history by bringing PSV Eindhoven’s 24-year-old striker Jurgen Locadia. They also loaned Leicester’s Leonardo Ulloa.
Another team that spent a hefty sum on a center forward was Southampton, when its management decided to buy Argentinian Guido Carrillo from Monaco. Diafra Sakho got what he wanted with his move to France. Stade de Rennais made its intentions known since the summer, and although West Ham’s brass was reluctant to sell then, it did so now. Joao Mario came the opposite way from Inter on a loan. He’s definitely a player to watch in fantasy circles. Sturridge has joined WBA on loan until the end of the season, which should signify a spike in his value. Barcelona’s Deulofeu returns to England, this time joining Watford (also on a loan).
Now, let’s go on with the review/preview section of the article, in which you’ll see a highlighted name fantasy owners should remember — James Ward-Prowse.
ROUND 24: FANTASY EPL REVIEW
Well, I was right about Liverpool’s visit to Swansea being a trap game. As ridiculous as it sounds, Jurgen Klopp’s men managed to follow up a victory over the undefeated first-place team with a loss to the last-place one. A clumsy clearance from Lovren somewhat luckily bounced off Federico Fernandez right onto Mawson’s foot, and the defender’s quick reaction brought Swansea the lead and eventually the three points. A truly disappointing day for all owners of Reds’ players.
The three teams ranked above Liverpool on EPL’s table all recorded victories. While Chelsea’s and Manchester City’s were convincing, Manchester United, in true Mourinho style, had to once again scrape a 1-0 win on the road in Burnley. Martial’s third goal in three games decided the outcome. Hazard (2 goals) and Willian (1 goal, 1 assist) were Chelsea’s difference makers in its 4-0 smashing of Brighton, whereas Aguero scored all three in City’s 3-1 comeback to winning ways against Newcastle. Arsenal was also authoritative for a change. The Gunners came out firing, putting four past Palace’s Hennessey in a matter of 22 minutes. Monreal, Iwobi, Koscielny and Lacazette found the net. Monreal had two assists as well. Tottenham’s visit to Southampton was decided in a three-minute span, during which Davinson Sanchez put one in his own net, and then Kane (who else?) equalized. That rounds up the top six.
Stoke and Leicester recorded 2-0 home victories. The Foxes were holding on to a 1-0 lead, given by Vardy’s converted penalty in the 39th minute, up until injury time, when Mahrez ensured that three points are added to Leicester’s total. Burnley’s three consecutive losses have allowed Claude Puel’s boys to catch them, as the two clubs now share the 7th position on the table. Allen and Diouf, on the other hand, helped Stoke jump out of the relegation zone, at least for the time being. West Ham and Everton failed in the roles as favorite versus Bournemouth and West Bromwich, respectively. Both games ended in 1-1 draws.
ROUND 24 HIGHEST FANTASY SCORERS
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Jack Butland (Stoke), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Willy Caballero (Chelsea), David de Gea (Manchester United).
Defenders: Victor Moses (Chelsea), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Alfie Mawson (Swansea), Federico Fernandez (Swansea), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Ben Davies (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Willian (Chelsea), Joe Allen (Stoke), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Jacob Murphy (Newcastle), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester).
Forwards: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Jay Rodriguez (WBA), Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Javier Hernandez (West Ham).
ROUND 25: FANTASY EPL PREVIEW
Swansea vs. Arsenal
– Will Mkhi make his debut? Likely so. Giroud is on the verge of returning from his injury as well. Therefore, Arsenal is, miraculously, relatively healthy at the moment. Tammy Abraham has had enough time to recover, and he’s back in the fold for Swansea. Despite the inspired effort against Liverpool, I’m having a hard time believing Swansea’s going to be able to avoid defeat here. With all the fuss surrounding Alexis now gone, Wenger’s lads can focus on the task at hand. Eliminating Chelsea and earning a spot in the Carabao Cup final (albeit with quite a bit of good fortune) must be a boost of confidence as well.
West Ham vs. Crystal Palace
– Just as things were beginning to look up for West Ham, injuries have struck. Lanzini, Arnautovic, Obiang and Carroll are all hurt and out, while Ayew and Noble are questionable. The midfield is running thin, making Joao Mario’s arrival a necessity. Javier Hernandez should see a rare start under Moyes. With vulnerable defenses, it’s likely that both teams will concede, yet with careful coaches, it’s unlikely we’ll see a goal fest.
Huddersfield vs. Liverpool
– Liverpool’s never-ending oscillations continue to amaze, as the team was eliminated by WBA (at home) in the FA Cup during the weekend. Huddersfield is not the type of squad that should threaten it, but hey, neither was Swansea. Nevertheless, judging by what happened in its previous two encounters, it’s time for The Reds to rebound. Therefore, feel free to include any of its players at your disposal in your fantasy starting lineups.
Chelsea vs. Bournemouth
– It has been a rough season for The Blues. Even during the so-called “breaks,” they haven’t had the free time to get some rest and re-focus, and it’s slowly beginning to take its toll. Courtois has missed the last three matches and is still questionable for this one. Morata and Willian are also hurt and unlikely to feature. Batshuayi impressed in the FA Cup at the weekend, and he fully deserves to get an opportunity to start in this matchup. Bournemouth hasn’t lost in its last five Premier League games but was eliminated by Wigan in the FA Cup. Chelsea is the clear favorite, and it should show in the final score.
Everton vs. Leicester
– This matchup screams 2-2 draw to me. The Foxes are a tight-knit bunch, but their defense can be unstable at times. That should be enough for Everton to grab a couple. Rooney’s experience is influential whenever he’s on the pitch. I look for him, and perhaps new member Theo Walcott, to be Everton’s main benefactors. There’s nothing much to say about Leicester. You already know who its main “culprits” are.
Newcastle vs. Burnley
– Another low-scoring Burnley match is to be expected here. With Tarkowski doubtful and Ward questionable, I’d say the advantage goes to Newcastle. A clean sheet by Darlow is a possibility, so don’t overlook The Magpies’ defenders.
Southampton vs. Brighton
– Brighton needs to stop the bleeding, or it risks fading out fast. The addition of Locadia and Ulloa should provide more firepower up front, and it could be enough to ensure survival in the long run, but not immediately. Bertrand is questionable for Southampton, while Austin is out. After a while, Gabbiadini started the last game. He could be in for another start on Sunday, and perhaps even a visit to the goal scoring sheet. Ward-Prowse is getting the playing time he deserves. It should help him realize his exciting potential and eventually transform him into the leader of this team.
Manchester City vs. West Bromwich
– During the last two cup games, Manchester City did its job, qualifying for the Carabao Cup final and winning in the FA Cup. However, those wins were marred by a reckless tackle that injured Leroy Sane and left Guardiola extremely annoyed at the official’s negligence for his player’s health, as the challenger received only a warning (yellow card). Bernardo Silva is his likely replacement in the starting lineup, although you can never know with Pep. With Mendy and Delph out, he’s had to improvise at left back by playing Zinchenko there, which is far from his natural position. With all that being said, The Citizens should have a routine run out onto the field, especially with Evans, Gibbs and McAuley all questionable to play for WBA. Other than Aguero and De Bruyne, I’m looking at Sterling to have a good game.
Stoke vs. Watford
– Watford has really struggled lately, and that won’t help them in their visit to The Britannia. New coach Paul Lambert has chosen to go with a 4-4-2 formation, instead of the 5-4-1 two-wing-backs formation preferred by Hughes. New signing Moritz Bauer has been inserted right into the starting lineup at right back, while the midfield is all about experience, with Joe Allen, Darren Fletcher and Charlie Adam patrolling that area of the field. Heurelho Gomes, Tom Cleverley and Troy Deeney are questionable for Watford, which means Andre Gray should be the starting forward.
Tottenham vs. Manchester United
– We conclude the round with a must-see showdown. Kane vs. Lukaku, Alli vs. Pogba, Sanchez vs. Eriksen, de Gea vs. Lloris. The list goes on and on, as two exceptional teams square off at Wembley on Wednesday night. Aurier is questionable, meaning we could see Trippier at that side of the field in the starting eleven for The Spurs. Eriksen and Lloris have been under the weather, but will likely suit up for such an important fixture. It is filled with headlines; however, fantasy owners shouldn’t expect too much, since this is going to be a hard-fought battle between two evenly matched squads.