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.
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.
With the FA Cup taking place this weekend in England, the Premier League fixtures have been reduced but there are still some mouth watering ties for us to look over and debate about. Which teams will benefit this weekend and which players will be looking to make the difference and earn more fantasy points? Let’s take a look below.
Bournemouth v Newcastle
Newcastle could join Bournemouth on the same point (37) with a win here. The home side did get a win last weekend but that was against Huddersfield and have otherwise been poor. Newcastle’s form has been solid and they are scoring goals. Salomon Rondon is in great form and is Newcastle’s top performer with 41 points and he can brought into your team for just 7m. Newcastle to beat Bournemouth
Burnley v Leicester
Burnley have lost 3 games coming into this game and are in 17th and in danger of being relegated. Leicester have a new manager in Brendan Rodgers and they will not be afraid to attack. Jamie Vardy scored a brace last weekend and he is 11.5m to snap up but is Leicester’s best player in the fantasy rankings and gained 10pts last weekend. Burnley and Leicester to draw
West Ham v Huddersfield
West Ham have been in great form at home and should have no problems to beat Huddersfield. Felipe Anderson has 45pts for The Hammers and has already scored earlier in the season against Huddersfield, if he can do so again and put a good performance in he would be worth having in your team for 8m. West Ham to beat Huddersfield
Fulham v Liverpool
Fulham are going to be relegated this season and Liverpool are trying to win the title and there should be only one winner here. The Reds will be the massive favourites not only to win but score a few goals too. Goalkeeper Alisson rarely lets goals in and he is the best performing goalkeeper in ELF fantasy and can be brought into your team for 10m. He has a whopping 110pts already this season. Liverpool to beat Fulham
Everton v Chelsea
Everton have not been very good for the past four months and have won only odd games. They threw away a 2 goal lead at Newcastle last weekend and lost 3-2. Chelsea are hoping for a top 4 place and have improved, although could only draw against Wolves last weekend. Gonzalo Higuaín to score against Everton could be a shrewd move and the Argentina international is 10m and has already racked up 32pts for The Blues.
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The top-six of the Premier League are blessed with a large number of central midfielders, with the likes of David Silva, Fernandinho, N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba seen as the main and obvious ones around. These individuals have shown their quality for their respective teams over the last couple of years, whether it’s with their attacking contributions or their ability defend in front of the backline.
The midfield department has become a very demanding position, where many of the top clubs in Europe aim to have enough quality and depth in order to compete in all competitions effectively. Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City are good examples, three clubs that have the players available on and off the bench to take control of the game and to importantly dominate it.
Now, it is time to look at the talented central midfielders from outside of the Premier League top-six, those who play a crucial role for their sides and are expected to become a wanted man from the end of the season till the final days of the 2019 summer transfer window. For sure, it is still early days to consider these key players, but some individuals have been really impressive in recent months.
With no further ado, here are the central midfielders that deserve more appreciation and credit…
Javi Garcia’s Watford are enjoying a top notch of a season in the Premier League, because of how consistent they are in front of goal and how they are expected to break a personal record of the most points they have picked up in a single campaign before the current term comes to an end. And one of the main players that have allowed this to happen is Abdoulaye Doucoure, thanks to his technical ability and intelligence on and off the ball as well as his displays in the middle of the pitch.
Since his arrival to England from French side Rennes, he has shown his composure and quality in the centre of midfield alongside Etienne Capoue, where he completes the required interceptions and tackles in his own half to helping the side attack quickly through his dribbling ability and his burst of pace. Thanks to his positive mindset and attacking mentality, it allows the team to strive forward and to press high up the pitch whilst making sure that the goals don’t come only from the attackers.
Majority of the Premier League supporters would see Andre Gomes as a player that had failed to succeed the expectations that he once had at Barcelona, and he is now trying to revive his professional career in another country and league. However, Everton took a massive punt on him in the summer, and have reaped the rewards but are waiting to receive it consistently, due to the fact that he has had some minor injury issues and some difficulties in settling into the dressing room.
Nevertheless, the 25-year-old has regained fine form and reportedly expected to move to Goodison Park in the summer on a permanent basis, which instantly sums up the influence he has on Marco Silva’s midfield and how they are more proactive and efficient when he is in starting line-up. Without his range of passing and approach of how to control and dictate play, the Toffees would struggle to break the opposition’s defence down and would face a lot of defensive problems on the counter.
Despite Southampton’s below par season over the last two to three campaigns, James Ward-Prowse and his rise has been one of the most popular stories at St Mary’s Stadium. Having evidently proven himself on both sides of the pitch, he is also one of the few leaders that the Saints respectively have within the squad. On top of that, he has the incredible ability to pull off some insane free-kicks, which he did so against both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur over the last two weeks.
If he was playing for one of the top sides in the Premier League, he would be easily getting into the England squad and would have been a serious candidate in the midfield role of Gareth Southgate’s team. For the time being, he still has a lot of time to improve as a player and will have the perfect timeframe to review any potential offers that may come his way, given that he is in need of two more consistent seasons before deciding to move to Arsenal, Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur.
The main focus of this term has been Wolverhampton Wanderers and how they have turned up against the best teams in the league, where they have picked up victories against Chelsea at home, Tottenham away and crucial stalemates versus Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. Players such as Diogo Jota, Matt Doherty and Raul Jimenez have played the key role in Nuno Espirito Santo’s team, but it’s Ruben Neves who has stolen the media headlines and English press coverage.
With how the Portuguese international has been performing so far this Premier League term, it almost feels like he has been playing in the top flight of English football for quite a long time. Being a physical player off the ball and in the air, he has the ideal ability to distribute the ball that the full-backs and wingers look for from a midfielder. Also, he is another great player that is a dead ball specialist, whilst having the much needed understanding to play in any of the tactical role in midfield.
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.
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
Out: Speroni, Sakho, Souare (Crystal Palace); Balogun, Gross (Brighton)
This 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!
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)
And so that’s it, after spending 10 and a half seasons in England’s Premier League the Belgian Marouane Fellaini has left to join Chinese club Shandong Lueng. But how will Fellaini’s legacy be remembered in England?
Fellaini was bought by Everton’s David Moyes way back in the summer of 2008 and he immediately became a regular fixture in the Everton side, helping the club to top 6 finishes and they reached the 2009 FA Cup final, eventually losing to Chelsea 2-1.
Fellaini became instantly recognisable with his permed out hair, which looked as if he had just had an electric shock, but he was giving his opponents that kind of treatment in midfield, let’s just say you knew he was in the middle of the park and he certainly had that physical side to his game- the Everton fans duly loved him. Still there seems to be a myth that he was always receiving red cards, which simply isn’t true and he was given his marching orders less than 4 times in his career in England.
Once David Moyes had joined Manchester United in his ill conceived move, spurred on by a retiring Sir Alex Ferguson one of Moyes’ first purchases was to bring Fellaini to Manchester. At first it seemed short sighted, perhaps the Belgian was only good enough on a level for Everton. But over 5 seasons later he actually proved his worth to the United side.
Countless times it was Fellaini’s goals that got Manchester United out of trouble, where they have mostly belonged since Ferguson departed the club back in 2013. In his first difficult season he didn’t even score a goal and injuries also plagued him. But in his second season that changed and he netted 7 times. Under different coaches a lot changed for him and the trophies finally started to come in. The FA Cup under Louis van Gaal and then the League Cup and perhaps his most important trophy to date the Europa League with Jose Mourinho followed suit.
Fellaini leaves England with no Premier League title of course, but at least he ended up winning 4 trophies with United. He’s also very much proved his worth as a player, scoring crucial goals, and the key reason United are still in the Champions League was because of his goal against Young Boys in the group stages, otherwise United could well have been out of the competition.
His quality and worth to both Everton and Manchester United has been of great significance and he survived so many different coaches throughout the years. Him leaving feels like a small slice of Premier League memory ending and he richly deserves his move away to China. Although at just 31 one does wonder if he still had a few more seasons in him at the very highest level. That may never be found out.
Another week and another loss for Everton, this time it happened yet again at their home of Goodison Park where the club lost 3-1 against Wolves. There have been calls for manager Marco Silva’s sacking but is that justified?
First we need to look to look at the positives in Silva’s appointment. Some of his buys have reacted well, such as Andre Gomes and Bernard although the pair have not been consistent enough they have been willing to adapt to Silva’s tactics and have tried to play an attacking game. Richarlison was a cheeky buy from his former club Watford and in some ways it still seems bizarre that Watford were happy to sell to Everton when they had accused the club of coming forward for Silva. Richarlison has repaid his manager with 10 goals in the league and 11 in total, for a club like Everton that is a great debut season and return.
Everton have also played with a purpose and seemed much more of an attacking threat, especially at the beginning of the season. It is the reason that when the club did lose games, like away to Arsenal the fans stayed positive, because they knew that day the better side had lost. Some fans were happy to admit that they had not seen this type of play from Everton in a generation.
But then November came and since then Everton have been poor. Dumped out of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup too early and losing so many games that the club have won just 10 points from their last 30. Their form is on par with a relegation team. Even club owner Farhad Moshiri hinted at a club AGM that this wasn’t good enough. It feels as if Silva’s tactics have been found out and found out too early. His insistence for example on zonal marking does not work, and Everton have put in plenty of toothless displays.
In all honesty Silva does not come across as a bad coach, but one has to question whether he is the right fit for Everton? The Toffees thought so last summer as they did everything to get a man that has relegated Hull and not done much with Watford, so what were they expecting?
Everton will be fine this season but if Silva survives will the club look for a replacement? If it wasn’t for their early form they could be in a bottom three battle right now, that’s the problem. It may do both parties the world of good if they were to go their separate ways.