By the time you read this preview you may well be more stuffed than Cardiff City, sick of the site of turkeys like Everton fans, and just glad that the whole horrible experience is finally all over, like Manchester United fans.
Since I’m likely to be in various degrees of alcohol and/or food induced comas over the next few days, this is a super-duper bumper double preview, as I try to guide you through GW19 and GW20 before I return for the GW21 preview refreshed and invigorated (or most likely dishevelled and despairing).
You can buy a guaranteed starter in the best defence in the league this season (and joint best defence in the history of the Premier League) for under £5m, and he’s owned by under 3% of players. With a home game against a relatively shot-shy Newcastle United on Boxing Day, this is a no-brainer if you’re looking for a low-risk defensive 6 pointer during this period of notorious rotation.
Spurs face two ‘home’ games at Wembley next week with Bournemouth and Wolves coming to town. While there’s a clear rotation risk at this time of year, the fact that Wolves have only scored more than once away from home this season (at Newcastle) points to the GW20 fixture being one that points towards Spurs defensive assets. Add in the fact that Spurs are genuinely in the title race this season despite being overlooked by most, and you get the feeling that Pochettino won’t be too keen to rotate while they seek to push City and Liverpool as far as they can.
ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS NUMBER 1
THREE MINUTES OF YOUR LIFE YOU WILL NEVER GET BACK!!!
Last week I theorised that Manchester United may well react positively to the removal of Jose Mourinho, and lo it came to pass as they whipped Cardiff City. This was less a ‘new manager bounce’ more than it was a ‘ding dong the witch is dead, praise the lord’ reaction by players finally free from a stifling and unconducive work environment.
I expect this reaction to continue in the short term, but this is due to their kind fixture list, and not a season-long expectation. However, when opportunity knocks you answer the damn door, and a home game with Huddersfield Town is knocking louder than a pizza-delivery boy arriving at the Playboy Mansion. £6.7m and ownership of under 5% presents an affordable differential.
If ever a result saved a manager’s job, it’s likely that the Foxes victory at Stamford Bridge last weekend has kept Claude Puel in the hotseat for a few months more. James Maddison was an early season ‘find’ for many FPL managers, but interest in him cooled off after a minor injury was followed by a red card. However, while form is temporary, class is permanent, and young Maddison is showing that class once more. Two goals and an assist in his last five appearances points towards a return to his early season form, and a home game to Cardiff City could well be the ideal match for Maddison to round out his 2018 in fine style.
His last four starts have produced four goals and an assist, but alas they were interrupted by an injury that ruled him out for four GW’s. However, he’s bounced back in fine style, and a managerial change at St. Mary’s has led the Saints to find renewed faith in their own ability. An encouragingly porous Hammers defence travels south on Thursday night, and I fancy D. Ings to dent the Irons.
Some players just like scoring against certain teams, and for Bobby Firmino it’s Arsenal. He’s plundered four goals against the Gunners at Anfield and has five goals against them in total. In fact, he’s not scored against any other team more often, and with a recent upturn in form he could have a huge night next Saturday.
He’s getting back to his imperious best form, Liverpool are looking to put the foot down to try and stretch the gap to Manchester City before their pivotal clash on Jan 3rd, and he faces Newcastle United at Anfield. If you held onto him, pile in. If you need to get him in, he may be worth a -4 to do so.
Six goals. Four assists. That’s his record over his last 8 games. Rotation wise, he rarely gets dropped, and he faces Wolves at home. Time to round out 2018 on a high note.
If only as a reward for that volley against Manchester City, but also because he’s shown some real form in recent weeks. A goal and two assists since GW14 led up to that spectacular goal of the season contender last weekend, and an ownership of under 3% combines with a home game against Cardiff City.
Eagle eyed readers may have spotted that I’ve tipped quite a lot of players facing Cardiff City in this preview, and they’d be right. I have. They’re muck.
A first clean sheet of the season for Fulham may indicate that the Tinkerman may finally have found the right defensive formation and system to allow Fulham to compete in the Premier League. The true test of this theory will be when they host the most toothless Terriers since my neighbour’s dog ate nothing but sherbet and Diet Coke. He has an ownership of 0.1%, which means quite a few members of his own family don’t own him. Show Alfie some love this festive season.
Both seem to have cemented places in their respective sides and if recent results indicate a possible upturn in form, then best to get in there quickly.
Written by Niall Hawthorne.