12 April 2019
The Foxes are flying under Brendan. Just Man City and Liverpool have been better over the last six. And you can only add Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea to that list over the previous ten. So, they now find themselves in 7th and homing in on the unofficial Best of the Rest championship. The change of fortunes has coincided with main man Vardy rediscovering his shooting boots. Or maybe it hasn’t – he didn’t see eye to eye with his last boss, after all.
Newcastle have wobbled a bit of late. The point at Bournemouth and defeat at Arsenal was no drama. But losing at home to Palace will have stung. Especially after dominating the play.
Hot Shot – Vardy (LEI) – eight in eight for Jamie.
Midfield General – Maddison (LEI) looked back to something like his best last time out.
Case for the Defence – Pereira (LEI) has been worth his £5.4m fee this season. 122pts.
Spurs are 100 per cent at home so far in their new ground. The Champions League win over Man City will have excited fans more than the routine beating of Palace the week before – and with two more City meetings coming up (the second leg followed by one in the league) – their minds will be focused on the fixtures ahead. But with just 3pts separating themselves, Arsenal and Man United in a scrap for a Top Four finish, it is the less glamorous ties like this that will decide their fate. Brighton, West Ham and Everton are still to come so a good win here will have them back in pole position.
Hot Shot – Llorente (TOT) could be vital if he stands in for Kane again.
Midfield General – Son (TOT) is the key man from here on in though.
Case for the Defence – Tripper (TOT) will be glad when the season’s over. But got a sheet in him here.
Ain’t no sunshine on the south coast at the moment. Two Premier League defeats has got Brighton bottoms twitching, and their run-in looks more horrific every time you look at it. Trips to Wolves, Spurs and Arsenal don’t promise much. And hosting a Man City team potentially chasing a quadruple is not the fixture you want on the final day. Especially if your Premier League status depends on it. Which it might if things don’t go well here. And at home to Cardiff next week. And then again at home to Newcastle at the end of the month. Bournemouth have been on the ropes since the end of January, only beating Huddersfield in their last nine matches.
Hot Shot – Murray (BRI) can cement his legendary status with a winner here.
Midfield General – Fraser (BOU) has chalked up six goals and ten assists this season. Remarkable.
Case for the Defence – Duffy (BRI) is honest as the day is long. The longer the day, the less he does wrong.
Burnley’s unlikely win at Bournemouth looks like it has made them safe. But with only a game to spare, because if they had gone into this one with 3pts less, a win for Cardiff would’ve left a genuine four-way bun fight to dodge the final relegation place. As it stands, a victory for the Bluebirds will make for a three-way bun fight. So that might actually give them a better chance. They’ve only won twice (at Leicester and Southampton) away all season – and drawn another two. So this will have to rank high in heroic performances. Then on Tuesday, they’ll have to top it at Brighton and at least match it at Fulham. Then they might not have to win at Old Trafford on the final day. Easy.
Hot Shot – Barnes (BUR) has turned up when needed in the last month.
Midfield General –Can’t think of a single player I’d tolerate.
Case for the Defence – Tarkowski (BUR) could get a sheet here.
Everton have looked a decent side in the last month. Almost as good as their on-paper squad should be. Three wins on the spin is not to be sniffed it. Three clean sheets is as good as it has got all season. And Fulham are rubbish, looking for their tenth consecutive defeat. So, this is more than likely the match that Everton go off script (or back on, depending on your viewpoint) and get beaten. To be fair, they have been pretty efficient v Bottom Three teams – winning four of the five fixtures so far. And the 7th place which used to be their favourite spot is still within their grasp. But I don’t trust them.
Hot Shot – Not a player worthy of the title, I’m afraid. Look elsewhere.
Midfield General – 12 goals and four assists is good work from Sigurdsson (EVE).
Case for the Defence – Getting some stick, but Pickford is three from three.
It’ll be interesting to see what we get from Wolves over the remainder of the season. Falling at the FA Cup Final hurdle will have been a choker. It would have been a fitting finale to their excellent season, which could still end up with a 7th place finish of course. But the incentive of a short summer, early pre-season and eight extra Europa League matches don’t have the same pull as the FA Cup. Southampton have been excellent in recent weeks – winning three of their last five. But they are only one bad result – and an unlucky one from elsewhere, perhaps – from being right back in the mire.
Hot Shot – Jimenez (WOL) perhaps owes the fans one for that mask business.
Midfield General – Moutinho (WOL) has been a class act all season.
Case for the Defence – Likewise (WOL) Doherty.
It could be a testing last few weeks for Ole and United. They’ve got four home matches to two away, so the Top Four cards are stacked in their favour to an extent. But Wednesday’s Barcelona match will have taken its toll. And next Tuesday’s will too. Then there’s Man City and Chelsea to face! Matches that used to push United onwards and upwards, but there are a few question marks over the present crop’s head for heights.
Does anyone take notice of West Ham’s results anymore? They are pootling to the finish line, failing to muster a single goal in their last three away matches, which will suit a nervy United just fine.
Hot Shot – Rashford (MU) is looking all grown up these days.
Midfield General – Pogba (MU) isn’t. But, has the tools to win this one.
Case for the Defence – As does De Gea (MU). If his mates can get one, that’ll probably do.
City didn’t look quite ‘at it’ at Tottenham in midweek. But their relationship with the Champions League is a funny one. The Premier League is much more their bag – and with Liverpool’s fixture v Chelsea looking much more titanic than this one, it could be a pivotal weekend in the race for the title. Yes, another one. But Palace never really do what you expect them to. Hitting City for three at the Etihad at Christmas is a case in point. Their win at Newcastle last weekend looked just as unlikely for much of the match. But has lifted them to 12th and surely put any lingering worries about relegation behind them. Or below them.
Hot Shot – Jesus (MC) might be the call here, with big fish to fry next week.
Midfield General – Sterling (MC) can’t really be left out. Despite the fish mentioned.
Case for the Defence – Laporte (MC) might just be the best defender in the PL.
Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson have been Top Ten performers in the FPL this season. And they will want another clean sheet here if Liverpool are to claim all three points. Chelsea have burst into a bit of form again – largely based around the mercurial talents of Eden Hazard. He has won their last three matches for them and is their best chance of strengthening Top Four claims here. It might end up a shoot-out between him and Mo Salah. Who will be relieved to have ended his barren goal-scoring run at Southampton.
Hot Shot – Firmino (LIV) has three goals and two assists in his last four.
Midfield General – Hazard (CHE) has three in two.
Case for the Defence – But Robertson (LIV) has arguably been better value at £6.8m for 180pts.
It will end up a good season for Watford no matter what happens during the rest of the season. Currently tenth and FA Cup finalists was as much as anyone could’ve hoped for at the start of the season (up until minute 79 of last weekend’s semi-final, in fact). But a 7th place finish and an FA Cup win will make them legends. And the ability, experience and spirit of the current squad means it’s not out of the question. Arsenal can match them for ability and experience, but the latter might cost them like it has done so many times on the road this season. They still haven’t beaten a single top half team away from home.
Hot Shot – Deeney (WAT) is a monster. In the best possible sense.
Midfield General – With Deulofeu a doubt, Pereyra (WAT) gets the nod.
Case for the Defence – Foster (WAT) will be back. Top performer this season.