This weekend marks the beginning of a tortuous schedule in the English Premier League. While the rest of Europe’s elite will be celebrating the holidays with their friends and families, players in England will be working overtime. Therefore, be ready for many articles in a short period of time, combined with plenty of lineup setting. As for this round, Tammy Abraham might be your fantasy Santa.
WEEK 18: Fantasy EPL REVIEW
Swansea took the lead through Leroy Fer in Everton, but the hottest team in the league after Manchester City made a spirited comeback in a 3-1 win. Calvert-Lewin, Sigurdsson and Rooney were the goal scorers. Wilfried Bony got injured early in the match, which is the main reason why Abraham found his way into my intro. West Ham was in a similar predicament like Everton and is also showing some signs of life lately. Noble, Arnautovic and Diafra Sakho brought the first away victory (at Stoke) this season for The Hammers. Huddersfield pulled off somewhat of an upset, not by beating Watford on the road, but by defeating them so heavily. Mooy (2 goals) and Depoitre (1 goal, 1 assist) were the stars of the show. Depoite, in particular, is making a case for himself as the weekly starter over Mounie. Kachunga was the other scorer for the visitors, while Doucoure scored the consolation goal for the home team. Deeney was sent off and is set for a spell on the sidelines until January 13. Marco Silva’s men are fading away. One more relative upset was Palace’s 3-0 victory in Leicester that saw it extend the undefeated streak to eight games. Benteke, Zaha and Sako all found the net. Nick Pope kept yet another clean sheet for Burnley, his third in a row in the 0-0 road tie with Brighton.
All the “Big Guns” delivered in Week 18. Chelsea and Arsenal were rather modest, recording 1-0 wins versus Southampton and Newcastle, respectively. Manchester City and Liverpool were not so modest. City kept rolling by routinely expediting Tottenham 4-1. Gundogan, De Bruyne and Sterling (x2) were the goal scorers, whereas Sane had two assists. It could’ve been worse for The Spurs, as Gabriel Jesus missed a penalty, leaving a number of fantasy owners disappointed. Liverpool was as convincing at Bournemouth in a rare occasion in which Mignolet didn’t concede. Coutinho, Lovren, Salah and Firmino found their way to the scoresheet. Manchester United managed to preserve its early 2-0 lead, courtesy of Lukaku and Lingard, in West Bromwich. Alan Pardew’s boys didn’t give up and pulled one back late in the contest through Garreth Barry, but the effort wasn’t enough to earn them a point.
Week 18 highest fantasy scorers
Goalkeepers: Mathew Ryan (Brighton), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), and the rest who kept clean sheets.
Defenders: Marcos Alonso (Chelsea), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Andrew Robertson (Liverpool), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Aaron Cresswell (West Ham).
Midfielders: Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Leroy Sane (Manchester City), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Marko Arnautovic (West Ham).
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Everton), Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United).
WEEK 19: Fantasy EPL PREVIEW
Arsenal vs. Liverpool
– We seldom see a Friday derby, yet that’s what we have this round. Despite its defensive woes, Liverpool is the favorite in my book, despite the fact the game is being played in London. Wenger is continuing his tradition of preferring to give youngsters opportunities, instead of focusing on Ws. Kolasinac and Mustafi have been sitting on the bench, while Maitland-Niles is tasting the EPL waters. The transfer window is about to re-open as well, meaning the Alexis Sanchez transfer saga will hit the restart button. That tells me that The Gunners are entering the busiest part of the season. Sadio Mane has been in and out of the starting lineup lately. I see him as a potential difference-maker if he’s in. Otherwise, Coutinho and Salah are and will remain Klopp’s lethal weapons.
Everton vs. Chelsea
– The Blues vs. The Blues. It’ll not be simple for the reigning champions. Everton is riding the crest of a wave, and it’ll take a champion’s effort to make it fall, especially with Morata out due to a suspension. I’m apprehensive in predicting the final outcome. What I can say is that I’m quite assured both teams will score.
Brighton vs. Watford
– Both squads are desperate for victories. Watford is severely decimated, with Deeney’s and Doucoure’s suspensions adding salt to the wound. Brighton will definitely be looking to make the best of this opportunity, at the same time stopping its own bleeding. Glenn Murray missed a penalty against Burnley, thus it’s possible Hughton decides to give Hemed a chance in the starting eleven. The German Pascal Gross has been quiet lately. He could go into full hibernation if he doesn’t wake up soon.
Manchester City vs. Bournemouth
– Back in Week 3, these two teams played a controversial game in which Bournemouth was as tough as nails, nearly pulling out a draw. If it wasn’t for the 10-minute injury, during which Sterling managed to score and get sent off, City would’ve had two fewer points on the table right now. As painful as it was, I find it doubtful to be enough motivation to avoid defeat here. Considering Jesus played the entire match in the mid-week cup encounter at Leicester, Aguero could be in for a great fantasy day. Sane and Sterling are the other two I’d bet on.
Southampton vs. Huddersfield
– Huddersfield’s win over Watford will definitely give it a lift. On the other hand, Southampton has gone five matches without a win and will be eager to turn the tide. I don’t think Mauricio Pellegrino will finish the season at the helm of The Saints. As long as he’s in charge, it’ll be unwise to trust any of his players. Cedric will likely miss the contest, while Bertrand is questionable. Kachunga suffered a serious injury, and he’ll be out until March.
Stoke vs. West Bromwich
– This is a matchup of two awful teams, at least at the moment. Some sneaky value can still be found for fantasy purposes. For example, there could be a clean sheet for one, or possibly for both goalkeepers. Or, if we see a more open contest, players such as Diouf and Sobhi could thrive.
Swansea vs. Crystal Palace
– Swansea is looking like the No. 1 relegation candidate. The fact that Renato Sanches and Roque Mesa have failed to adapt has a lot to do with that. If they find their groove, the Welsh side’s prospects might improve. For now, however, Palace is the odds-on favorite. That doesn’t mean Abraham won’t score, though. With Benteke out, Zaha will be The Glaziers’ main threat.
West Ham vs. Newcastle
– Adrian’s resurgence continues. A third consecutive clean sheet has West Ham digging its way out of the pit. Newcastle’s recent form suggests Adrian’s streak can go on. While Adrian’s fantasy owners love Moyes, Hernandez’s owners must hate him, as he has failed to play the Mexican, despite him being fully fit, instead preferring a tactic without a true striker. Lanzini will miss the game, and he’ll be sorely missed as well.
Burnley vs. Tottenham
– Burnley can take a huge step forward here, both toward European soccer and being taken seriously. Tottenham’s dip in form will certainly give The Clarets some extra confidence, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to see them prevail. Tottenham’s stars should step up, and I believe they will.
Leicester vs. Manchester United
– Both squads had a strenuous mid-week in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals and come into this affair with bruised egos. Leicester lost on penalties to Manchester City, while United was shocked by a Bristol City buzzer-beater. Mourinho has scraped and clawed plenty of points, but as the season progresses, stamina reduces and fatigue begins to take effect. Will The Red Devils be able to scrape one more? Rashford or Martial and Okazaki are the players to watch.