08 March 2019
Palace are better than Liverpool. And Tottenham. According to the last six matches, that is. The previous ten put them bang in the middle of the table, which is the least a squad of their quality should be aiming for. But the last 29 – the one the Premier League use – has them just close enough to get a bit of relegation quicksand on their shoes. Another win or two should sort that out though. Especially against teams like Brighton, who are 3pts closer to the mire and in nothing like Palace’s good form. Only three teams have been less productive in the last eight matches. And two of them are probably down already. Some call this the M23 derby. I’m not going to though. It’s silly.
Hot Shot – Batshuayi (CP) looks tailor-made for Palace.
Midfield General – Milivojevic (CP) has played through his £6.3m valuation with 117pts.
Case for the Defence – And so has van Aanholt (CP) at a measly £5.4m.
There are a few twitchy bottoms around Cardiff these days. February started on a wave of good wishes and back to back wins, but three punishing defeats on the trot – shipping ten goals in the process – means much of that good feeling has turned to sympathy. The uphill battle that started in August looks like getting steadily steeper until May. West Ham won’t help matters by turning up in reasonable form. Two wins and two draws from their last five has stabilised the Hammers in mid-table. And leaves them just a point away from the magical 40pt mark which used to guarantee survival. It will be plenty this season.
Hot Shot – Chicharito (WH) on price (£6.1m), Arnautovic (£6.8m) on ability. Neither on form.
Midfield General – Anderson (WH) has been quiet of late. But might enjoy this one.
Case for the Defence – Rice (WH) probably peaked last week, but you never know.
Hmm. Huddersfield’s form hasn’t nose-dived like you might expect since resigning themselves to relegation. Which they surely must have. In fact, it might even have levelled it. Four solid performances have only yielded 3pts, but that’s 2pts more than the previous 14. But they might smell blood at the arrival of their injury-ravaged visitors. Bournemouth have managed just 1pt and two goals from their last five and won’t want to lose any more ground. Relegation – even the bun-fight just above – is not a realistic worry, but they could be leapfrogged by a clutch of teams this weekend.
Hot Shot – Eddie Howe might be tempted to play a patched-up Callum Wilson (BOU). So might you.
Midfield General – Fraser (BOU) is the only sensible option.
Case for the Defence – Hmm. Ake (BOU) is your man I think.
Brendan Rodgers should’ve had enough time to prepare a team to beat Fulham. If he hasn’t, this could be the start of another strained relationship between manager and fans at Leicester. The Foxes have been uncharacteristically all over the place this season. Beating Man City and losing to Cardiff at home. Beating Chelsea but shipping four to Bournemouth and Wolves away. They are managing to hold down 11th place – which they always seem to. But with the resources at his disposal their new manager will be wondering why Everton, West Ham and Watford are currently looking down on them.
Hot Shot – Vardy (LEI) if his bump on the head doesn’t keep him down.
Midfield General – We’ve persisted with Maddison (LEI), but BR should get a tune out of him.
Case for the Defence – Pereira (LEI) has out-performed his £5.4m price tag.
Newcastle have developed a swagger at home. Only goal difference separates them and Man City and Arsenal over the last four. Burnley, Huddersfield and Cardiff were probably teams the St James’ Park faithful would expect to get something from, but all three? Well, happy days. Throw Man City’s scalp into the mix, and everything looks rosy. Certainly, better than it’s been for a while anyway. Everton will be chuffed with a deserved draw in the Merseyside derby. But hampering their neighbour’s march to a possible Premier League title looks like the high spot of their season. Their away form has been hit and mostly miss. But they’ve only lost three of 16 matches v Bottom Half teams. So another draw isn’t out of the question.
Hot Shot – Rondon (NEW) isn’t full of goals, but often in the vicinity.
Midfield General – Sigurdsson (EV) is a class act.
Case for the Defence – Schär (NEW) is as good value as is Dúbravka or Lascelles.
It’s looking like a straight fight with Cardiff for the final relegation place, but the signs are decent for the Saints. The gutsy, narrow defeat at Old Trafford won’t do their confidence any harm – and they’ve been solid against the teams in and around them (although lost twice to Cardiff, which could come back to bite them). They’ve also taken 4pts from home ties with Man United and Arsenal, two teams within spitting distance of Tottenham. Mainly thanks to a 1pt/three-match slump from Spurs. Their midweek heroics in Dortmund will have cheered them up slightly. But taken a bit out of the tank too. A sniff of a chance for Saints here.
Hot Shot – Kane (TOT) doesn’t look quite right. But hasn’t all season.
Midfield General – Son (TOT) too has slowed a little of late.
Case for the Defence – Tripper (TOT) too. But injury threatens to rule the full-back out. Try Aurier.
It won’t be lost on Jurgen Klopp that Man City have developed a knack of scruffily winning 1-0 just as Liverpool have developed a bit of stage fright. But Pep might also be a tad concerned where the goals have gone. Only two in their last three (and a bit, if you include extra time in the EFL Cup final). Plus, a certain amount of focus will be on Wednesday’s Champions League engagement. But because of the FA Cup, this will be City’s last league fixture until March 30th, so it’s a big one. And Watford’s 0-5 hiding at Liverpool the other week might offer City something to shoot for and give pundits a barometer to measure the two Champions-elect.
Hot Shot – Aguero (MC) has a big role to play in the next two months.
Midfield General – Sane (MC) might get a start with Sterling on Champions League duty.
Case for the Defence – Ederson (MC) is as productive going forward at City’s back four.
Liverpool’s hint of a wobble could officially become a stumble if they don’t beat Burnley. But they probably will. There’s not a lot wrong at Anfield – perhaps a slight misfiring of the normally finely tuned front three. But when the spotlight is on you, a mini-crisis can look full blown. Five draws in seven matches (all comps) doesn’t read well, but they haven’t been anywhere near losing any of them. And they’ve only failed to win one of their last eight on home turf. Burnley’s mini-revival failed to go full blown. They’ve lost their last two after a barnstorming couple of months – W5 D3 – helped them scramble away from the relegation zone. Still a bit of work to do, but it’s unlikely to get done here.
Hot Shot – Five in six makes Barnes (BUR) the surprise choice.
Midfield General – Salah and Mane (LIV) look far from their fluent best but remain the pick.
Case for the Defence – Robertson and van Dijk (LIV) are separated by just 6pts and £0.3m.
Funny old club Chelsea. The substitution debacle that looked like sounding the death knell for either the manager or their season (or both) actually seems to have galvanised them a bit. They were as functional and effective beating Tottenham and Fulham as they have been since the early part of the season. They’re still in the shake-up for the Top Four and could end up with European silverware. Wouldn’t bet on Sarri or Hazard being there next season though. No such off-field issues for Wolves, although they haven’t hit the heights on it in the last three – dropping disappointing points at Bournemouth and Huddersfield. However, they’re still 7th and just one place (but 13pts) below their hosts.
Hot Shot – Higuain (CHE) is a class act, even if he is reading a different script to his teammates.
Midfield General – Hazard (CHE) has scored a pitiful two goals in nine matches. Due one.
Case for the Defence – Luis (CHE) has looked more likely than Alonso for months. £0.4m cheaper too.
Only Man City have amassed more points than Arsenal at home this season. Only City and Liverpool have scored more goals. They’ve hit ten in their last three (all comps) and their performance at Tottenham was perhaps their best of the season. But… this is all about Man United. Who seem to be able to go anywhere and beat anyone, regardless of the team of reserves or kids they put out! Only one defeat in 17 (all comps) since Ole took the wheel. Including the scalps of Tottenham, Chelsea, PSG and Arsenal in the FA Cup. The unexpectedly competitive Top Four scramble adds even more spice to this always fragrant encounter. Anyone’s guess.
Hot Shot – Lacazette will start following his suspension in the Europa League, but Rashford (MU) on price and swagger.
Midfield General – Pogba (MU) will want to join the party he missed on Wednesday.
Case for the Defence – Fancy goals. But De Gea (MU) can always have one of those days.