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.

EPL Best XI – Week 30

sterlingThis past weekend we saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lose his domestic unbeaten run as Man Utd manager, with Arsenal triumphing 2-0 at the Emirates. Elsewhere, Liverpool maintained pressure on league leaders Man City with their 4-2 win over Burnley at Anfield, and Southampton caused something of an upset by beating Tottenham 2-1 on the south coast. There were wins for Brighton and Cardiff, with Newcastle also putting in an impressive showing with their 3-2 home win against Everton. With that in mind, we will now adopt a 4-4-2 formation and see which players performed the best for their clubs in England’s top flight this past weekend.

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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 Player of the Week – Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)

deulofeuThe date was October 18, 1986 and Watford – managed by legendary boss Graham Taylor – beat visiting Aston Villa 4-2 at Vicarage Road. Little did anyone know at the time, but that match would go on to live long in the history of Watford Football Club. For in that game, Hornets striker Mark Falco netted a hattrick. He also scored against Villa the following year, before an unbelievably barren run saw Watford fail to even score against Villa again until late 2015 when they would win 3-2 at Villa Park – some 28 years later. The match in question however, until very recently indeed, held another record – it was the last time a Watford player had scored a hattrick in the top flight.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Round 13

David Silva

The 13th week of the 2018-19 Premier League season sees Manchester City travel to West Ham, while Tottenham host Chelsea in one of the biggest games of the campaign so far. Let’s take a look at 11 players who you should consider for your EPL Fantasy team this weekend…

GK – Rui Patricio (Wolves)
Wolves play two of the Premier League’s lowest-scoring sides — Huddersfield and Cardiff — over the next week, so Rui Patricio is well worth considering. The Portuguese goalkeeper has 18 points so far this season.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Round 9

Ross Barkley Chelsea

The ninth week of the 2018-19 Premier League season features one of the biggest games of the campaign so far, Chelsea v Manchester United, while Liverpool travel to Huddersfield and Arsenal host Leicester. Let’s take a look at 11 players who you should consider adding to your EPL Fantasy team before the weekend.

GK – Ederson (Manchester City)
Every EPL Fantasy team needs a reliable scorer of points in goal, and you can’t go wrong with Ederson. The Manchester City goalkeeper has recorded 37 points this season – more than any other player in his position in the Premier League – and there’s a good chance he’ll add to that tally at home to Burnley.

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Fantasy EPL – Predicted Lineups

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Tottenham vs Liverpool

Tottenham predicted lineup: Vorm, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Trippier, Davies, Dembele, Dier, Eriksen, Moura, Kane
Questionable: Lamela, Son
Out: Loris, Sissoko, Ali

Liverpool predicted linup: Alisson, Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner, Mane, Firmino, Salah
Questionable: Keita, Matip
Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lovren

Bournemouth vs Leicester

Bournemouth predicted lineup: Begovic, Frances, Ake, Cook, Smith, Gosling, Lerma, Rico, King, Wilson, Fraser
Questionable: Cook, Smith, Ibe
Out: Pugh Stanislas

Leicester predicted lineup: Schmeichel, Maguire, Morgan, Chilwell, Pereira, Mendy, Ndidi, Ghezzal, Albrighton, Maddison, Gray
Questionable: Iheanacho, Silva
Out: James, Soyuncu

Chelsea vs Cardiff

Chelsea predicted lineup: Kepa, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso, Azpilicueta, Kovacic, Kante, Jorginho, Hazard, Giroud, Willian
Questionable: Morata, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek
Out: Fabregas

Cardiff predicted lineup: Etheridge, Bamba, Morrison, Bennet, Manga, Camarasa, Reid, Ralls, Arter, Ward, Hoilet
Questionable: Zohore, Murphy
Out: Gunnarsson, Mendez-Laing

Huddersfield vs Crystal Palace

Huddersfield predicted lineup: Lossl, Kongolo, Schindler, Zanka, Hadergjonaj, Lowe, Billing, Moy, Van La Para, Diakhaby, Kachunga
Questionable: Mounie, Pritchard
Out: Hogg, Sobhi

Crystal Palace predicted lineup: Hennessey, Van Aanholt, Sakho, Kelly, Wan-Bissaka, Milivojevic, McArthur, Townsend, Ayew, Sorloth
Questionable: Benteke, Zaha, Soare
Out: Tomkins, Dann, Wickham

Manchester City vs Fulham

Manchester City predicted lineup: Ederson, Laporte, Stones, Walker, Mendy, Gundogan, Fernandinho, David Silva, Mahrez, Jesus, Aguero
Questionable: Kompany, Silva, Sterling
Out:
De Bruyne, Bravo

Fullham predicted lineup: Bettinelli, Le Marchand, Fosu-Mensah, Mawson, Odoi, McDonald, Sessegnon, Seri, Schurrle, Mitrovic, Vietto,
Questionable: Anguissa, Christie, Chambers

Newcastle United vs Arsenal

Newcastle United predicted lineup: Dubravka, Lascelles, Clark, Fernandez, Yedlin, Dummett, Diame, Ki, Kennedy, Perez, Rondon
Questionable: Joselu, Atsu
Out: Ritchie, Shelvey, Manquillo, Lejune

Arsenal predicted lineup: Cech, Mustafi, Sokratis, Nacho, Bellerin, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan
Questionable:
Torreira, Lichtsteiner, Iwobi
Out: Koscielny, Kolasinac

Watford vs Manchester United

Watford predicted lineup: Foster, Cathcart, Kabasele, Janmat, Holebas, Doucoure, Capoue, Pererya, Hughes, Deenye, Gray
Questionable: Success, Mariapa
Out: Cleverly, Deulefeu

Manchester united lineup: De Gea, Smalling, Lindelof, Valencia, Young, Pogba, Pereira, Matic, Lingard, Sanchez, Lukaku
Questionable: Bailly, Herrera, Martial, McTominay
Out: Fellaini, Shaw, Jones

Wolves vs Burnley

Wolves predicted lineup: Patricio, Coady, Boly, Bennet, Jonny, Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Jota, Traore, Costa
Questionable: Jimenez, Saiss, Bonatini
Out: Enobakare, Cavaleiro

Burnley predicted lineup: Hart, Mee, Tarkowski, Bardsley, Taylor, Cork, Hendrick, Lennon, Westwood, Wood, Barnes
Questionable: McNeil, Gibson
Out: Brady, Defour, Pope, Walters,

Everton vs West Ham

Everton predicted lineup: Pickford, Holgate, Zouma, Kenny, Digne, Sigurdsson, Davies, Schneiderlin, Tosun, Calvert-Lewin, Lookman
Questionable: Walcott, Baines,
Out: Richarlison, Keane, Jagielka, Mina, MaCarthy, Bernard, Coleman

West Ham predicted lineup: Fabianski, Cresswell, Diop, Balbuena, Fredericks, Wilshire, Sanchez, Snodgrass, Antonio, Andersen, Arnautovic
Questionable: Masuaku, Noble, Chicharito, Yarmolenko
Out: Reid, Carrol, Lanzini

Southampton vs Brighton

Southampton predicted lineup: MaCarthy, Soares, Hoedt, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Lemina, Hojbjerg, Elyounoussi, Redmond, Ings, Long
Questionable: Austin
Out:

Brighton predicted lineup: Ryan, Dunk, Duffy, Bong, Montoya, Propper, March, Bissouma, Knockaert, Murray
Questionable:
Balogun, Gross, Bruno,
Out:
Izquierdo, Andone
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Away win over Cardiff of huge importance to Arsenal

Before Sunday’s trip to South Wales to face Cardiff City, Arsenal had claimed just two away wins all year long. Indeed, their form on the road has been abysmal, contributing in no small part to the downfall of Arsene Wenger in the second half of last season. It’s why the 3-2 win over the Bluebirds was so significant.

On the face of it, Arsenal were less than impressive against Neil Warnock’s side, who are without a win since their promotion to the Premier League. Cardiff City should have been swept aside, but twice Arsenal allowed them back into the game, with Alexandre Lacazette‘s late winner giving them three points.

emery-efl

It was far from the perfect display by the Gunners. They looked vulnerable at the back, not for the first time this season, and allowed Cardiff to control the game in the centre of the pitch for spells. But the mere fact that they were able to win a game away from home represented a form of progress for Arsenal.

“It is good to get rid of that mental barrier, it’s important to win away,” Lacazette said after the victory. “Like when we started the game like, [we thought] ‘Okay we can play like we do at home.’ I think we won just two games in 2018 away from home. This season we want to be better away and it was the first game we have won. I hope that it will the first of many.”

There are still questions over the start Unai Emery has made as Arsenal manager, but much of his job is about overhauling the culture of failure that festered at the Emirates Stadium over the second half of Wenger’s reign. Part of that culture includes an inferiority complex on the road. The only way to eradicate that is to pick up away wins, like the one earned against Cardiff.

“You can see we had the right mentality,” Lacazette added, underlining the difference in mentality at Arsenal between last season and this. “Last season we lost this kind of game. But if you see the faces after the second goal we had confidence and that was why we came back.”

He’s right. Arsenal probably would have folded last season. Having been pegged back twice, they would have struggled to a point or worse, would have conceded a third. There are concerns over the way the Gunners are playing out from the back, particularly over the suitability of Petr Cech, and the way they are struggling for creativity behind the central strikers.

But Emery has a tough job on his hands to untangle all the years of mediocrity that have dragged Arsenal down over the years. This is why Sunday’s win over Cardiff City came with a hidden significance. It could prove to be a watershed.

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Eddie Howe continues to enhance his credentials

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Three games into the new Premier League season and Bournemouth are unbeaten and flying high.

Seven points from three games is a fine return for one of the ‘unfancied’ sides, with respect, and their performances include two comeback wins – away at West Ham and at home to Everton.

Their opening day victory over Cardiff City was a banker in all honesty, but the way in which they’ve gone about their work since has all of the hallmarks of their coach, Eddie Howe. Continue reading

Fantasy EPL Predictions: Matchweek 4

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Leicester vs Liverpool – King Power Stadium

While Maguire’s 95th minute winner will certainly send the Foxes tail up into this clash against the early league leaders, we think Liverpool will continue building their defensive record this season and claim the win. Fantasy managers who own stock in the Anfield Defense will look ahead with joy, as Leicester will be without Jamie Vardy, whose scoring record against the Reds is remarkable – 7 strikes in 5 games.

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