EPL’s Boxing Day is upon us. With it comes frustration for fantasy owners. The way the strenuous schedule takes a toll on clubs, the same way player rotation takes a toll on fantasy rosters. For this week, I’m looking at Alvaro Morata, Callum Wilson and Marcus Rashford to be among the leaders in points when all is set and done.
WEEK 19: Fantasy EPL REVIEW
Half of the games during the weekend ended in ties. The most entertaining of them (and overall) were the first one and the last one. Arsenal played host to Liverpool in what was supposed to be a fun encounter for all soccer fans, and it fully delivered. The Reds shot right out of the gate, missing several chances until Coutinho opened the scoring in the 26th minute. The Gunners tried to strike back, but to no avail. Salah doubled the lead with a great solo effort early in the second half. Then came the fireworks that led to delirium in the stadium. In a six-minute span, Alexis Sanchez (header), Xhaka (long-range effort) and Ozil (smooth finish after a witty back heel pass) turned the game on its head. If it happened to some other team, the shock would’ve been much bigger. However, Liverpool has been prone to these types of drops in concentration for quite some time now. Anyway, that was not all. Wenger’s boys were flying high, but they were soon brought down back to Earth by a Firmino shot, which Cech deflected, yet not enough for preventing the ball from slowly rolling into the net for a 3-3 final score.
The Leicester versus Manchester United match was not as thrilling, but Albrighton and Maguire made sure it was a memorable one. Jamie Vardy’s four-game goalless streak came to an end in the 27th minute. Juan Mata (the man of the match) brought United back into the game in the 40th, and then gave his team the lead with a sweet free kick. As they had done all season long, Mou’s lads were holding onto that minimal advantage, applying a result-based tactic. It was all but over, especially after Amartey expulsion due to a second yellow card. Then, in the 94th minute, Harry Maguire latched onto a last-gasp long cross from Albrighton, and madness ensued. Manchester City routinely disposed of Bournemouth in a 4-0 victory at The Etihad, further extending the already wide gap between Pep and Mou at the top. Aguero with two goals and one assist, and Sterling with a goal and an assist, were the best fantasy players on the pitch.
Everton held on to a 0-0 draw versus Chelsea, while Tottenham recorded a much-needed 3-0 victory at Burnley, led by its locomotive – Harry Kane (hat-trick). The only other road win came in London, as Newcastle stopped the bleeding against West Ham. The Hammers were perhaps the better squad and dominated much of the possession. It was just one of those days when the opposition takes full advantage of its opportunities. Arnautovic and Saivet (who had his first start in a Newcastle uniform) canceled each other out in the first 10 minutes of the contest. The same thing would’ve happened in the opening 10 minutes of the second half if it weren’t for Andre Ayew’s missed penalty that followed Mohamed Diame’s first goal of the season. Christian Atsu, who assisted on the second goal, found the net himself for the third one, increasing the lead to two goals. Later on, Ayew partially redeemed himself by reducing the margin back to one. Swansea failed to win once again, saving a draw at home to Crystal Palace. Jordan Ayew and Luka Milivojevic (penalty kick) were the scorers. The same final result came in Southampton, as the hosts couldn’t overcome Huddersfield, putting further heat on Pellegrino’s hot seat. The two goals were scored by Austin and Depoitre. Elsewhere, Pascal Gross was the difference maker for Brighton in the 1-0 home win over Watford, while Stoke put three past Ben Foster in the 3-1 victory over WBA. Allen, Choupo-Moting and Sobhi (95’) ensured that Stoke supporters went home happy.
Week 19 highest fantasy scorers
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Robert Eliott (Newcastle), and the rest who kept clean sheets.
Defenders: Phil Jagielka (Everton), Markus Suttner (Brighton), Serge Aurier (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Juan Mata (Manchester United), Christian Atsu (Newcastle), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Stoke), Joe Allen (Stoke), Pascal Gross (Brighton), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield).
WEEK 20: Fantasy EPL PREVIEW
Before starting with the preview, I want to remind you that managers will rotate players during this holiday period, which means usual, every-day starters (even stars) will be benched for rest. It’s almost impossible to predict which ones will rest when (unless injuries occur) since official lineups are posted one hour before kickoff times.
Tottenham vs. Southampton
– The names suggest this should be an intriguing matchup. However, Southampton’s recent results suggest otherwise. Therefore, all hail Harry Kane!
Bournemouth vs. West Ham
– With Defoe out and King currently doubtful, Callum Wilson is in with a great opportunity to grab hold of and run away with the starting gig. Stanislas is doubtful as well (will likely be replaced by Marc Pugh), while Charlie Daniels could be back after missing the last game. Lanzini’s absence affected West Ham in the loss to Newcastle, resulting in a significant step back for Moyes and his squad in their attempt to get away from the danger zone. Chicharito is still (inexplicably) in the dog house, and as much as I hesitate to say this, it might time to consider dropping him from your fantasy rosters.
Chelsea vs. Brighton
– Having failed to break open Everton’s barrier, Conte will be enraged, and that should transfer onto Chelsea’s players. Therefore, I anticipate a bad day at the office for Brighton. Even more so, considering Brighton represents a similar challenge, turning the Everton encounter into a great preparation match for this one. I expect at least three goals in Ryan’s net, with Morata and Hazard each getting at least one past him.
Huddersfield vs. Stoke
– Stoke’s reputation in recent years has been one of a rigid defensive squad. Well, this season that’s not the case, as they’ve conceded the most in the entire EPL. If not for Depoitre’s recent run of good form, Huddersfield would be in much worse shape. Even though I see The Terriers as the favorites, Stoke’s win in the last game makes me hesitate. Depoitre and van La Parra are my players of choice.
Manchester United vs. Burnley
– Burnley’s habit of taking points away from the top teams should scare United. After what happened against Leicester, The Red Devils will be vulnerable and motivated at the same time, so a lot depends on who scores first. Valencia and Smalling will likely miss the contest due to injuries, whereas Wood is questionable, Tarkowski is suspended and Ward is highly doubtful. In all honesty, with Pogba back in the fold, Mou’s men should have it easy. Rashford hasn’t done much lately, and I have a feeling he’ll have a good game.
Watford vs. Leicester
– Watford’s injury crisis has seen them suffer four consecutive defeats. Britos, Femenia and Hughes are still hurt, while Doucoure is back from his suspension, unlike Deeney. Leicester loss to Crystal Palace must have bruised them a bit, but the late equalizer against ManU will pick them back up. An interesting, and potentially rewarding matchup for fantasy purposes.
West Bromwich vs. Everton
– Everton can do no wrong lately. These types of games are tests for mid-table teams, as they can make or break their seasons, since for them it’s not how they perform against the best, but how they perform against the rest. Baines and Gueye will likely miss the contest, while Rooney is questionable after the missing the Chelsea match due to an illness. Can somebody step up for either team, or are we in for another bore draw?
Liverpool vs. Swansea
– This might be a chance for Klopp to rest some of his worker bees. Henderson got hurt against Arsenal and will miss the game. Perhaps Solanke, Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain get a start. Nevertheless, it should be a methodical disposal of an inferior opponent.
Newcastle vs. Manchester City
– How do you know when is doing well and becoming one of the best? When regardless of it plays, it’s considered the favorite. That is what’s happening with Manchester City. Newcastle shouldn’t present a hazard.
Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal
– Both clubs will score. Therefore, avoid defenders and hope the goal scorers are on your roster. Good luck!