The battle for Premier League safety

As you would expect, a lot of the focus on the English Premier League is directed to the top of the table. Even more so this season, as we have a title race that looks like it could go right down to the wire. The fight at the other end, the one to retain premier league status should definitely not be ignored though. It is every bit as fierce and close, and involves several teams that know the very future of their clubs hinge on what happens over the next 8 or so games.

Those that have gone

With apologies to Huddersfield and Fulham fans, I am going to assume you are already down. Fulham have been hamstrung from day one by a raft of signings that were bought with little or no knowledge of what it would take for a fight in the world’s most competitive division. As for Huddersfield, if they have achieved nothing else this season, they have made life easy for punters around the globe as a shoe-in for their for their weekly football accumulators. On the plus side, The Terriers at least will look like they will be well equipped for a challenge next season for a quick return.

Those that are relatively safe

Several teams that have flirted with the drop zone appear to have pulled themselves out in recent weeks. Newcastle are a case in point. They have had far from a vintage season, but they have picked up some crucial wins of late and have done enough for another season in the top flight. It is a reverse situation for Bournemouth. Their form and points picked up in the first half of the season should be enough to see them safe despite a worrying drop in form in recent weeks.

Those very much in the fight  

Crystal Palace

I was very tempted to put these in the preceding category. Though they have not got the points on the board to guarantee safety, they have been playing well – especially away from home – and have a team that should have enough to see them over the line. A win against rivals Brighton would have all but seen them safe, but it wasn’t to be, their poor home form coming back to haunt them. Their run in is not the easiest but they should be able to pick up the 3 or 4 points they need.

Brighton

Back to back wins, including that one at Selhurst have breathed new life into the Seagull’s fight for survival, and it has come at just the right time. They play Arsenal and Man City on the last two games of the season. They do however have home games against Cardiff, Southampton and Bournemouth, and you would think in those games alone they would be able to secure the points required.

Southampton

Sticking or twisting regarding the manager is always a tricky decision, but bringing in a new man in the shape of Ralph Hasenhüttl looks like it may be the difference to the Saints’ survival. They are playing with a belief and freedom that just was not there before, and crucially they are scoring goals. Their last three games are against Bournemouth, West Ham and Huddersfield, all who are unlikely to be playing for anything other than pride. They should be safe, and it will be interesting to see how they push on next season.

Burnley

Sean Dyche’s team payed heavily for their European run, one which meant their season started when most of their rivals were still on the beach. Since the turn of the year they appeared to have turned a corner, going on a run and picking up crucial points. Suddenly however their form has deserted them, just when they had safety in their grasp. Their run in is tricky to say the least. They face Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City as well as Wolves and Everton. It is doubtful how many points they will amass from that, and their fate will more than likely depend on how the one remaining team fare:

Cardiff

The Welsh outfit were all but down at the end of the year, but they have shown a fight and crucially a nose for goal, that has seen them still in with a sniff of safety. It comes down to a head to head with Burnley. Like The Clarets, Neil Warnock’s team have not been handed a comfortable run in, with games against Man U, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea to come. They will need to pick up points against Brighton, Palace and Fulham. There is however one game that could decide it all. Saturday 13th April sees the ultimate relegation 6 pointer when Cardiff go to Turf Moor. The winner of that match, as well as the 3 points could well also be taking home EPL survival.

The EPL’s likely starting lineups for this weekend

Ross Barkley

This weekend we have another full schedule of ten EPL matches to look forward to. Here are the predicted lineups for every EPL game.

Crystal Palace v Brighton

Crystal Palace XI: Guaita, Wan-Bissaka, Dann, Tomkins, Van Aanholt, Kouyate, Milivojevic, Schlupp, Townsend, Batshuayi, Zaha

Brighton XI: Ryan, Montoya, Dunk, Duffy, Bernardo, Propper, Stephens, Bissouma, Knockaert, Andone, Jahanbakhsh

Questionable: n/a

Out: Speroni, Sakho, Souare (Crystal Palace); Balogun, Gross (Brighton)

EPL Best XI – Week 29

pereiraThis past weekend saw no less than three local derbies in the Premier League, with two of them winding up as draws. Of the six clubs involved in these three games only Chelsea triumphed, toppling Scott Parker’s Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage. It was a spirited performance from the hosts, who sacked manager Claudio Ranieri last week after only 19 games in charge. Spurs hosted Arsenal while Liverpool made the short trip to Everton, with both of these games ending in stalemate. Arguably the finest action to be seen was at Old Trafford, where resurgent Man Utd battled to a 3-2 home win against Southampton, who on this performance alone really should not find themselves in the trouble they are in. Adopting a 4-3-3 this time, let’s see which players stood out!

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EPL predicted lineups for this weekend

Chelsea

There is another full list of Premier League fixtures this coming weekend with all games being played over Saturday and Sunday.

Spurs v Arsenal

Spurs XI: Lloris, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Aurier, Sissoko, Winks, Rose, Eriksen, Kane, Son

Arsenal XI: Leno, Sokratis, Koscielny, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Lacazette, Aubameyang

Questionable: Jan Vertonghen (Spurs); Lars Koscielny, Stephan Lichtsteiner (Arsenal)

Out: Dele Alli, Eric Dier (Spur); Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)

Why West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic could be right to demand a move to China- but should be honest about it

ARNT(1)

This week it has emerged that West Ham’s best striker Marko Arnautovic has demanded that the club listen to an offer from an unnamed Chinese club who have come in for him and offered West Ham £35m.

This is a bombshell for The Hammers given that they have no quality back up to replace the Austrian who has scored 7 goals in the league this season and saved the club almost single handily against Brighton a few weeks ago with a brace.

Arnautovic has been a breath of fresh air who has really stood out at the club for the past year after his move from Stoke and his height has caused all sorts of problems for opposing defenders. But is he right to want a move to China?

In China it has been reported that he could earn £10m a year over a four year contract meaning that he is guaranteed £40m and that doesn’t even take in all of the freebies and luxuries he will get over there together with any bonuses. At West Ham once we take away tax he is earning about £2.5m a year, so in four years he would earn what he could in one year.

Of course this situation seems grotesque given that Arnautovic even with a deduction of tax still takes home nearly £200,000 a month- that would take the average worker in England 10 years to earn. However this is the crazy world of football and the Austrian’s thinking has to be that he will be 30 soon and his career at the top is winding down- what does he have 3 or 4 years at the top at the most?

The problem then isn’t that he wants away- although a little bit of commitment and passion would be a good thing in today’s game. No the problem lies with his excuse for going- to win trophies. This claim seems a little far fetched. True if he went to China it would be for the best team that may well win league titles and cups in China- but with all due respect nobody would have these wins at the tip of their tongue the next time you play a football quiz.

Arnautovic is more than likely going for the fantastic wage and at his age he could end up earning quite a retirement package. It feels wrong that he wants out but at the same time if you look at the situation from his point of view it does actually make sense.

As for West Ham, they seem backed into a corner- they cannot give Arnautovic such a pay rise but they do have the player under contract. The problem there is that we have seen in the past that contracts mean very little and the player usually ends up getting what he wants. The fee of £35m seems scant too for a club who paid £20m for him. That £15m profit is reduced because as part of the deal his former club Stoke would be good for £7.5m, and so West Ham would only end up making a profit of £7.5m on a player they really can’t afford to lose.

It does sadly for The Hammers look like he will be going. The key for them is simply holding onto him until the summer, lose him now and it doesn’t look like they will have the time or find the quality in January to replace him.

 

Dismal display sees Crystal Palace fall to defeat against arch-rivals Brighton

Ask any Crystal Palace supporter what their favourite game of this decade has been and there is a good chance they will refer you to the 2-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion in May 2013. That underdog triumph came in the second leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals, as Wilfried Zaha’s brace sent Palace to Wembley and their arch-rivals out.

Palace have visited the Amex Stadium twice since then, drawing 0-0 in the Premier League this time last year and losing 2-1 in the third round of the 2017/18 FA Cup. That defeat was a disappointment, of course, but both sides made changes to their starting XIs and the narrow margin of victory meant the evening did not go down as an embarrassment. The same, however, cannot be said for Tuesday night’s encounter on the south coast.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Round 14

Dele Alli

The 14th week of the 2018-19 Premier League season sees Liverpool host Everton, while Tottenham make the short trip across north London to face Arsenal. Let’s take a look at 11 players who you should consider for your EPL Fantasy team this weekend…

GK – Jordan Pickford (Everton)
We’re going to look specifically at players who have gone under the radar in EPL Fantasy this season, starting with Jordan Pickford. Everton’s 7.00m-rated No.1 has picked up 15 points in 2018-19 — only five goalkeepers have a better record.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Round 12

alvaro morata chelsea

The 12th week of the 2018-19 Premier League season sees Manchester City take on Manchester United, while Liverpool host Fulham and Chelsea welcome Everton to Stamford Bridge. Let’s take a look at 11 players who you should consider for your EPL Fantasy team this weekend…

GK – Alisson (Liverpool)
Alisson is an expensive addition at 10.00m but he’s worth every last million. The Liverpool goalkeeper has 42 points this season and he’s likely to add to that tally against Fulham on Sunday.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Round 11

Riyad Mahrez

The 11th week of the 2018-19 Premier League season sees Bournemouth take on Manchester United and Liverpool travel to Arsenal. Let’s take a look at some players who you should consider adding to your EPL Fantasy teams before the weekend…

GK – Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
We’re going to look specifically at high-scoring players who sometimes go under the EPL Fantasy radar in this week’s picks, starting with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. The World Cup winner has 21 points this season — only four goalkeepers have more — and he could easily add to that tally against Wolves on Saturday.

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EPL Best XI – Ross Barkley leads the way

Ross Barkley Chelsea

The 10th weekend of the 2018-19 Premier League season saw Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea maintain their unbeaten starts, while Arsenal’s winning streak ended with a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace. Let’s take a look at the top EPL Fantasy points scorers from the weekend’s games…

GK: Ben Foster, Watford – seven points
Ben Foster gets the nod in goal after helping Watford to a 3-0 win against Huddersfield on Saturday. He has kept two clean sheets in a row, earning an impressive 14 points in the process.

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