The late Jerry Reed once released a song entitled “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” – and no truer words could possibly be spoken about Marco Silva’s Everton of late. Just a few weeks ago, Silva’s position at the club seemed questionable, and the Toffees faced a nightmare run of home fixtures against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd – not the type of fixture list a manager under pressure would be hoping to see! Having now emerged from that run of games with three wins and one draw – and without conceding a single goal in the process – Everton fans will be delighted with the football their team has been playing against some of England’s top teams. Everton have been the club of the week several times in the last month or so, and beat Man Utd 4-0 this weekend.
Sport has many different forms, of course – competitive, friendly, amateur, professional – as well as different disciplines of course such as tennis, rugby, basketball and of course football. One thing every sport shares is that it really takes that special something to crown a champion. Patty Berg – record holding female PGA golfer – once stated “what does it take to be a champion? Desire, dedication, determination, concentration and a will to win.” Apt words indeed, and words which could well be applied to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side as they maintained their pursuit of a first-ever Premier League title by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Anfield on Sunday. The Reds have looked sublime this season, but this game showed a grit and determination lacking in recent years.
This weekend’s Premier League will see the season continuing to take shape as, with just a few games to go, there is still a wide open title race and only one relegation spot left to fill. Liverpool leapfrogged Man City back into top spot last weekend, but the Citizens have a game in hand – just how much of a say will Chelsea and Crystal Palace have on Sunday against the top two? Palace host City while Chelsea travel to Liverpool and so there could well be more twists and turns in this title race yet. Towards the bottom of the table, already-relegated Huddersfield and Fulham both have tricky fixtures, with the Terriers at Tottenham while Fulham host Everton. Let’s take on a 4-3-3 here and see which players will fancy their chances.
At this late-ish stage of the season, Premier League clubs do of course start gaining games in hand over some of their rivals. At the time of writing, for example, league leaders Liverpool have played 32 games, while second-placed Man City have featured in 31 and Arsenal (in fifth) are on 30. Of course, Monday evening games play a part, but so too does the progress of different teams in different competitions. Liverpool now have a two point lead at the top of the table, though City have of course played that one game less. It is now time to look at which players performed the best for their clubs in this past weekend’s round of games, adopting a 4-4-2 formation here. For simplicity, we are calling this week 32 but that may not apply to all teams of course.
When Paul Pogba re-joined Manchester United from Juventus for £89.3 million at the start of the 2016-17 season, Premier League fantasy players were excited about the point potential of the midfield powerhouse. His addition at Old Trafford also influenced a number of bettors to stake on United winning the league with the influential midfielder controlling the center of the park.
The Frenchman had been a commanding force in Serie A but, in his first two seasons at Old Trafford, Pogba was a serious let-down. In that time, the World Cup winner only notched eleven goals, and his fantasy returns were abysmal. But now that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken over from Jose Mourinho as the Red Devils manager, Pogba is reborn. In fact, the 25-year-old is well on the way to becoming a fantasy legend and a bettor’s dream.
There is no denying that Pogba is now an essential player for any fantasy manager hoping to finish the season in one of the higher rank tiers. On the official Fantasy Premier League page, the United man is in 43 percent of teams, and only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah can be found in more teams at 50.4 percent. Ever since Solskjaer took over as caretaker manager at Old Trafford, it has been clear that Pogba was restrained under the stewardship of Mourinho. The former United striker appears to have given his star player free reign to do as he pleases, and Pogba is relishing the opportunity. In fact, staking on the Frenchman to score in any game at the moment looks like a sensible bet.
United’s transformation under Solskjaer has been epitomised by the rise of Pogba. They began way outside the top four before the Norwegian came in, but now a Champions League qualifying place next season is theirs to lose. All the latest betting sites are favouring Solskjaer’s charges to hold out for a top-four finish, but staking on that eventuality with a free bet is the best way to avert risk with Arsenal and Chelsea breathing down United’s neck. Sites like MoPlay are offering £30 in free bets to new players, for example. At this rate, it wouldn’t be totally out of the question to put an early bet on United winning the league next year as well.
Since Solskjaer took over as manager of the thirteen-time Premier League winners, Pogba has scored eight goals and registered six assists in nine top-flight games. These are hugely impressive returns, especially for a player who can be signed for a mere 8.4 million in the game. Pogba not only represents an indispensable asset for every midfield, but he is also a major contender for the captaincy every week. The skilful ball player can add goals from open play but is also the designated penalty taker. This means he has the potential to explode and rake in tons of points on a weekly basis. Pogba is now easily the best value for money player in the game and is tussling with the likes of Salah to end the season with the highest number of points.
If Pogba can continue this output, his price will skyrocket in the 2019-20 season. He is proving to be one of the best, if not the best, player to own in Fantasy Premier League, and is on his way to making a name for himself as a point scoring legend. This is exactly what fantasy managers and bettors had hoped for from the United academy product when he returned to his old stomping ground.
This weekend’s Premier League action has one or two tasty fixtures coming at a great time, with arguably the match of the round closing out the weekend’s proceedings when Arsenal take on Manchester United at the Emirates in Sunday’s 4.30pm kickoff. Conversely, getting things underway with the Saturday lunchtime kickoff will be Crystal Palace hosting rivals Brighton at Selhurst Park. With the exception of Man City taking on Watford on Saturday and Chelsea hosting Wolves on Sunday, just about every other game sees a top-half side taking on a bottom-half side, and so there could be one or two surprises in store for fans attending a game in England’s top-flight this weekend.
When Man Utd parted company with Jose Mourinho back in December and brought in club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a caretaker basis, many assumed this was little more than a nostalgia act – a chance to see Ole back at the club for a time while the hierarchy went about searching for a permanent successor to the Portuguese boss. However, in the time since Solskjaer’s return, United have gone on a run of 13 wins in 16 matches, tasting defeat only once – and this run of form has led many to assume that the 46-year-old will be given the job on a permanent basis at some point between now and the start of the 2019-20 campaign. This past weekend, the Red Devils welcomed Southampton to Old Trafford in what would turn out to be a modern-day classic game. Continue reading
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!
This weekend’s Premier League fixture list promises another round of tension, goals, celebration and despair. Proceedings get underway Saturday lunchtime with the north London derby, Spurs welcoming Arsenal as their guests at Wembley. We also have a relegation clash as Brighton host bottom side Huddersfield, while on Sunday we have a west London derby – Fulham vs Chelsea – and the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Manchester City look to continue their bid to retain the Premier League crown when they travel to Bournemouth 24 hours before Liverpool’s trip across Stanley Park, and with both of those fixtures proving potentially slippery for the top two this weekend could well start to shape the landscape as the domestic season rolls on.
Manchester United are rapidly becoming favourites to finish fourth in the Premier League, a remarkable statement to make considering the club were 11 points off the pace when they dismissed Jose Mourinho back in December. A run of eight wins in all competitions (and over the hectic Christmas period no less) has put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to within three points of fourth. Don’t forget to share your tips on the UK’s biggest football tipping contest by clicking here.