There was only half a round of games in the Premier League this past weekend, what with FA Cup action also going on, and so with just ten teams taking part picking a best XI may be slightly different to usual. Sunday’s action was fun-packed, as Everton raised some eyebrows by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Goodison Park – their first home victory since mid-January – putting a big dent in Chelsea’s top-four ambitions. Liverpool were tested more than many will have been expecting at Craven Cottage, a late James Milner penalty putting them top of the table with a 2-1 win against Fulham. On Saturday, Bournemouth played out a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, Leicester won 2-1 at Burnley and West Ham beat Huddersfield in a 4-3 thriller.
One step forward, two steps back. That has been the story of Chelsea’s 2019 and the trend continued with Sunday’s 2-0 defeat by Everton, a result which leaves Maurizio Sarri’s side as outsiders in the race for the top four.
It’s FA Cup weekend coming up so there are just five EPL matches to look forward to.
Saturday’s games see Bournemouth host Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United at the Vitality Stadium while Huddersfield Town make the trip to London to face West Ham United.
Brendan Rodgers brings his Leicester team to face Burnley at Turf Moor at the same time. Burnley have lost their last three league games while Leicester won 3-1 against Fulham last time out.
On Sunday, Liverpool travel to meet Fulham as The Reds look to go back to the top of the Premier League, temporarily at least. Everton play host to Chelsea later that day. The Toffees have won just once in their last six games. Chelsea drew 1-1 with Wolves last Sunday.
Life at the top is certainly tough! The old adage that it is harder to defend a title than to win it has certainly seemed apt in recent Premier League seasons, with champions often finding themselves struggling to put up a serious defence the year after lifting the trophy. That has not been the case this year, however, with Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions Manchester City sitting on top of the league table with just a handful of games remaining. Liverpool seem to be the only genuine contenders to City’s crown, with the Reds sitting just one point behind the Citizens at the time of writing.It is imperative, therefore, that City’s players continue their excellent run of form as the season begins to wind down.
With a reduced run of fixtures in the Premier League this coming weekend owing to FA Cup Sixth Round action, there are only ten teams from which to take this week’s weekend picks. The pick of the upcoming fixtures is arguably Everton hosting Chelsea in the 4.30pm kickoff on Sunday, while Bournemouth host in-form Newcastle on Saturday. Burnley do battle with Leicester and West Ham take on Huddersfield in Saturday’s other games, while Sunday’s earlier game sees Fulham welcome Liverpool to Craven Cottage. Taking all of that into account, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 this time and see which players could be set to work their way into fantasy management consideration.
Newcastle fans have had something of a rough time of things this season – they have seen their side struggle to finish off the opposition, struggle to pick up the wins and all the while without the safety of knowing that their popular manager will be at the club for a great deal longer. With rumours surrounding the future of Rafa Benitez refusing to go away, the players have, at times, seemed unable to muster what was needed to get the job done. The quality in the squad can not be disregarded, but this has not always lent itself to fluent performances. As a result, when the Toon Army saw their heroes fall two goals down at home to Everton on Saturday, they could have been forgiven for expecting the worst.
Last Saturday evening, Manchester City went in at half-time with the score still 0-0 against Watford. Liverpool’s staff, players and fans worldwide will have watched on with the hope that Javi Gracia’s Hornets were going to do the unthinkable and prevent City from taking all three points.
A second-half hat-trick from the brilliant Raheem Sterling changed all of that. Yet, it could all have been so different.
Ben Foster and the Watford back four had frustrated City in the first period. If they had held out for even ten minutes after the interval, who knows what may have transpired?
The first goal should not have stood. Sterling was offside from Sergio Aguero‘s knock on. As soon as City’s number seven moves for the ball he is interfering with play. The whistle should have been gone before the Watford defender got a foot on it.
This 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.
Not for the first time, Chelsea relied on a moment of magic from Eden Hazard to get them out of jail. A goal down to Wolverhampton Wanderers in second-half stoppage time on Sunday, the Belgium international stepped up to find the net with a superb strike from just outside the box. That goal prevented a second loss of the season against Nuno’s men and extended the Blues’ unbeaten run to six games.
It is not really creating any headlines to say that Premier League new boys Wolverhampton Wanderers have impressed many a neutral this season. The club have been in the Premier League before, of course, and have experienced football as low as League One in the intervening years, but this time they have played their top flight football at a level which seems assured to keep them among England’s elite for the forseeable future. While things can change in the blink of an eye, of course, Wolves have some real quality among their ranks – chief among them is this week’s EPL Player of the Week, Diogo Jota.