Week 17 revealed a picture of some of the unheralded heroes of this season. Sterling, Son, Okazaki, Rooney, and lately Adrian have all shined under the spotlight and helped their teams when they were needed most. We’ll see what they’ll do in Week 18 now that I’ve jinxed them …
WEEK 17: Fantasy EPL REVIEW
Since Adrian took back the starting goalkeeper reins from Joe Hart, West Ham has faced Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal. That’s as tough as it gets. What has he done? Well, despite the loss, he played excellent in the first contest against City, and then registered two clean sheets versus the London teams (one last weekend and one this past Wednesday). Additionally, just by watching “The Hammers” it becomes obvious they’re playing with a renewed confidence their leader brings. The move to bring in Hart was controversial from the moment it happened. Adrian was visibly upset, yet he kept working in hopes of restoring what had been unfairly taken away from him. After three very impressive performances, I think it’s safe to say he’s back where he belongs. If you have a chance to add him in your leagues, do it, as he’s the ideal backup goalie for your fantasy rosters. Other than West Ham vs. Arsenal, there was one more scoreless draw in round 17 – Liverpool vs. West Bromwich. For me, personally, it was one of the most unexpected failures this season. The Reds were so dominant and then they choked in what were supposed to be two easy matchups against Everton and WBA, both at Anfield Road. Truly disappointing for their fans and fantasy owners alike.
Before the beginning of the EPL campaign, many perceived Sterling as another one in a long line of City busts. Odds were against him, yet Pep trusted him, and he has been handsomely repaid by the minuscule winger’s performances. Along with David Silva and De Bruyne, they’re leading Manchester’s “other” team to glory. Swansea was powerless (0-4). We’ll see whether Tottenham can do something to stop them. Speaking of Tottenham, it has its own unsung hero in South Korea’s (I dare to say) best player of all time – Heung-Min Son. He’s influential whenever on the pitch, scoring in the past three games, including the last one versus Brighton, which ended 2-0. Aurier was the man of the match in that encounter, with a goal and an assist. Rooney led Everton to a 1-0 road win at Newcastle and is also one of those players who is either substituted early or enters the game late, yet somehow always finds a way to make difference. Led by his experience and the team’s exuberant youth, The Toffies have escaped the relegation zone and have, all of a sudden, become a mid-table team. Japan’s Shinji Okazaki is Leicester’s version of the above-mentioned players. The energy and work rate he brings every time he steps on the field are priceless. Two goals and an assist in his club’s 4-1 drubbing of Southampton at St. Mary’s is merely a confirmation of that.
Manchester City’s main title rivals won relatively easily. Chelsea put three past Lossl in their 3-1 victory at Huddersfield, in which the star of the show was Willian, with a goal and two assists. Lukaku scored the only goal for The Red Devils in their win versus Bournemouth. The prognosis I made in the last article about another potential Burnley clean sheet came true. The experts for 1-0 victories are now tied with Liverpool and Tottenham with 31 points. Who saw that coming? Ashley Barnes, who came on as a sub, beat Jack Butland in the 89th minute, erupting Turf Moor. Crystal Palace remained undefeated for a seventh consecutive match, simultaneously extending Watford’s winless streak to four games in the 2-1 home victory. Watford had the lead for almost the entirety of the contest, with Janmaat finding the net in the 3rd minute. However, Cleverley’s ill-timed red card cut his squad’s wings and put them onto Palace’s. First, Bakary Sako leveled the scoring in the 89th minute, and then James McArthur brought euphoria to the stadium. Both Sako and McArthur came in from the bench in the second half.
Week 17 highest fantasy scorers
Goalkeepers: Nick Pope (Burnley), David De Gea (Manchester United), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Ben Foster (WBA), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Adrian (West Ham).
Defenders: Serge Aurier (Tottenham), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Ragnar Klavan (Liverpool), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Kevin Long (Burnley), Phil Jones (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Willian (Chelsea), David Silva (Manchester City), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Tiemoue Bakayoko (Chelsea), James McArthur (Crystal Palace), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester), Heung-Min Son (Tottenham).
Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester), Wayne Rooney (Everton).
WEEK 18: Fantasy EPL PREVIEW
Leicester vs. Crystal Palace
– Four wins in a row have Leicester on the verge of a Europa League spot. Seven games without a defeat have Crystal Palace on the brink of exiting the relegation zone. The Foxes’ major weapons are clear – Mahrez, Vardy and Okazaki. Palace is a different story. Every game somebody else steps up. Milivojevic and Sakho are out injured and will be sorely missed.
Arsenal vs. Newcastle
– The Gunners have had trouble with The Magpies in the past. However, this time around, Newcastle’s poor form and Arsenal’s streak of three matches without a win play right into Wenger’s hands. Giroud didn’t realize his opportunity, so we should see Lacazette back in the starting lineup. Ramsey is hurt and will likely miss the contest. Alexis Sanchez, Lacazette and Kolasinac are players I like the most in this matchup.
Brighton vs. Burnley
– Two similar teams face off in the battle of the B’s. It’s unwise going against Burnley after everything its shown thus far, yet I have a feeling Brighton might have the upper hand. I see Izquierdo and Gross as the X factors.
Chelsea vs. Southampton
– The Saints haven’t shown anything that would make me think they can pull off an upset here. Conte’s men simply have to keep winning in order to maintain pace with the leader. The last game must have done wonders for Willian’s, Pedro’s, Moses’ and Bakayoko’s confidence. With Morata injured, the manager decided the leave Batshuayi on the bench and play without a true striker at Huddersfield. It worked. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether Batshuayi gets a chance during the weekend, since Morata is still questionable. Regardless of how it turns out, the fact is that Hazard is Chelsea’s talisman.
Stoke vs. West Ham
– Mark Hughes’ unwillingness to play Berahino doesn’t make sense considering the problems Stoke has scoring. With both managers applying a defense-first tactic, you’d probably be better off choosing defenders such as Ogbonna or Pieters, or even the goalkeepers, as a goalless draw is a realistic outcome. Zouma’s injured and will likely be replaced by Wimmer.
Watford vs. Huddersfield
– Watford is getting depleted further and further. The players are not making it easy for Marco Silva, as Zeegelaar’s red card last weekend was followed by a Tom Cleverley second yellow in the middle of the week. Femenia, Britos and Richarlison are all banged up and might miss the encounter. Richarlison is the big news here, as it will be impossible to compensate for his absence. Huddersfield will look to exploit its opponent’s defensive deficiencies on the counter-attack.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham
– We have gotten to the point where even a match against Tottenham is not seen as a big challenge for City. The Citizens’ inspired soccer is proving many doubters wrong, and that’s also where Pep’s lads draw plenty of motivation from. Manchester City has all the momentum, but The Spurs won’t come into the game waving a white flag. Therefore, it’ll be interesting to see how the match unfolds.
West Bromwich vs. Manchester United
– A shocking point in Liverpool will give West Bromwich a nice lift in preparation for Mou’s crew. Will it be enough to repel them? Unlikely. Luke Shaw and young Scott McTominay saw playing time versus Bournemouth, which is why United struggled to find its rhythm throughout the match. With Pogba still out, Herrera should get the starting nod, and Ashley Young should be back there as well. I see Lingard and Rashford as potential goal scorers.
Bournemouth vs. Liverpool
– It’s inexplicable how a team can have such uneven performances on a game-to-game and week-to-week basis. Klopp had the same problem in Dortmund, and it was one of the main reasons why he lost his job. After suffering with underachieving managers for several years, Liverpool’s fans are happy to finally have one who wins (most of the time) and prefers attractive offensive soccer. That’s why the patience bar is high. Nevertheless, if the instability lingers, the German will start succumbing to more and more scrutiny. It’s a dangerous game to play. This visit will be a good opportunity to right the ship. As for Bournemouth, it’s a spirited squad, but the quality’s lacking for it to be able to resist adversaries when they’re at their best.
Everton vs. Swansea
– On paper, this looks like the ideal matchup for Everton to resume its revitalization. Pickford, Kenny, Sigurdsson and Rooney should all have fantasy-worthy games.