ROUND 34: FANTASY EPL REVIEW
Who saw that coming? Manchester United followed up its win at Manchester City with a home loss to last-placed West Bromwich. That result, combined with City’s 3-1 victory at Wembley against Tottenham, means the Citizens are officially the new champions of England. Jay Rodriguez was the only scorer in the shocker at Old Trafford, whereas Sterling, Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus found the net for City.
With the title race over and the Champions League berths practically sealed, only the last Europa League spot is up for grabs. Burnley has a stronghold on it, and the grip became even tighter when it defeated Leicester – a direct rival for the spot. Chris Wood and Kevin Long scored two early goals and Leicester couldn’t get more than a consolation goal (scored by Vardy in 72’).
Second-half substitute Olivier Giroud made the difference for Chelsea in its 3-2 comeback win at Southampton. He scored two of Chelsea’s three goals within an eight-minute span that turned the game on its head. Hazard was the other goalscorer for the Blues, while Tadic and Bednarek (first Premier League goal) got the goals for the Saints. Liverpool’s deadly trio struck again in its routine 3-0 victory over Bournemouth. Salah, Mane and Firmino scored one goal each.
Arsenal’s 10-match winning streak over Newcastle has ended (as I predicted). Lacazette opened the scoring in the 14th minute, but goals from Ayoze Perez and Matt Ritchie turned the game around and gave the Magpies the three points, simultaneously extending their winning run to four.
We saw five goals within the first 35 minutes in the match between Crystal Palace and Brighton and none in the rest of the contest. It finished 3-2 for the home team, with Wilfried Zaha finding the net twice. Tomkins was the other goalscorer for Palace, whereas Murray and Izquierdo found the scoresheet for Brighton.
The remaining two fixtures of the round were 1-1 ties. Stoke was minutes away from a much-needed win on the road against West Ham. However, Andy Carroll had other plans. He scored in the 90th minute and the teams divided the points. Swansea versus Everton was the second encounter that finished with the same scoreline.
ROUND 34: HIGHEST FANTASY SCORERS
Goalkeepers: Ben Foster (West Bromwich), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield) and Loris Karius (Liverpool).
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Mathias Jorgensen ‘Zanka’ (Huddersfield), Kevin Long (Burnley), James Tomkins (Crystal Palace), Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield).
Midfielders: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ilkay Gundogan (manchester City), Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace), Dusan Tadic (Southampton), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Matt Ritchie (Newcastle).
Forwards: Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Ayoze Perez (Newcastle), Chris Wood (Burnley), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Jay Rodriguez (West Bromwich).
ROUND 35: FANTASY EPL PREVIEW
Like I mentioned in my previous article, some of the games from Round 35 were played during the week because of the FA Cup semifinals being played this weekend. Those matches were Brighton vs. Tottenham, Bournemouth vs. Manchester United and Leicester vs. Southampton. Additionally, Burnley and Chelsea played their delayed Round 31 match as well. Harry Kane scored again, but Tottenham failed to register three points, as Pascal Gross’ penalty kick gave a point to Brighton in the 1-1 draw. Goals from Lukaku and Smalling were enough to see off Bournemouth, Leicester and Southampton didn’t find the net, and Chelsea ended Burnley’s winning streak with a 2-1 road victory. As a consequence, there are only six EPL games on the schedule this weekend.
West Bromwich vs. Liverpool
The win against Manchester United is all good, but realistically West Brom’s chances of staying in the Premier League next season are slim to none. Liverpool will be saving its energy for Tuesday’s Champions League first leg versus Roma, yet that doesn’t mean Klopp’s men won’t have enough motivation to defeat the league’s worst team. The problem for fantasy owners is the possibility that some of the main contributors might be rested. Can, Lallana, Matip and Joe Gomez are out of contention for the Reds, while Dejan Lovren is questionable. Jonny Evans is a doubt for WBA.
Watford vs. Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace is the better team at the moment, but I don’t think it has enough to win here. Watford is on a five-match winless run and will be inspired to end it on its home terrain. It will be interesting to see whether Roy Hodgson inserts a fully recovered Christian Benteke back into the starting lineup. I expect both squads to score and I see Zaha and Deeney as the main threats.
Arsenal vs. West Ham
This is a London derby, and in London derbies anything’s possible. However, considering Arsenal is coming off a loss, I expect it to step up and grab a win here. Lacazette and Aubameyang were partners for the length of a match for the first time in Newcastle. Despite the final score, it was an encouraging sign. We might get to see more of the same on Sunday, although Wenger could decide to rest Lacazette for Thursday’s Europa League clash with Atletico Madrid. Mkhitaryan is injured and Ramsey is questionable for the Gunners.
Stoke vs. Burnley
With four games left to play and an eight-point advantage, Burnley needs to simply play smart until the end and it will claim that coveted Europa League spot. Stoke is in desperation mode, so the Clarets must be careful not to slip up.
Manchester City vs. Swansea
This will be a title-celebratory game for Manchester City, and parties like this usually end well for the team doing the celebration. It’ll be a reward match for the fans. I anticipate plenty of goals in Swansea’s net, so choosing any City player in your fantasy squad is advisable. Aguero and Stones are injured, while Fernandinho is suspended.
Everton vs. Newcastle
These are two clubs sitting comfortably in the safe zone, so this encounter has all the makings of a draw. With goals in three straight matches, Ayoze Perez is one of the hottest players in the league right now and Newcastle’s most dangerous asset. Cenk Tosun could have a nice game for the Toffees.