Last weekend lived up to the hype with the City-Spurs and Leeds-Man Utd games being two of the best this season. Due to the EFL Cup Final the fixture list is shorter than normal but filled out with a midweek game. We do get a Friday night game and so far this season they have been a good watch for the neutrals despite the combatants not always being one of the top sides in the division.
Southampton v Norwich City
The last time Norwich played on a Friday night they took the three points, Josh Sargent scored a unlikely goal of the season contender, the floodlights lost power and they ensured Claudio Raneri lost his job as Watford manager. Considering the home teams form the only likely repeat occurrence will be the floodlights going off and no one wants that again with the 20 odd minutes injury time! This should be a home banker but Southampton have it in them to pull out a absolute shocker performance when times are good. Dean Smith won his first game in charge of the club during the reverse fixture if he can draw a victory Friday night it will be Norwich’s first at St Mary’s in the Premier League, while the last away win was back in 1994 at The Dell when Chris Sutton scored. Former Canary Nathan Redmond could play a part in this game following a injury spell and could be the difference maker. A large reliance has been on the same attackers lately by Hussenhulti and the two footed Redmond has something no other Saint possesses, hybrid ten/eleven!
FPL One to Watch – Nathan Redmond £5.9m
Bet Select – Southampton win
Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur
Two teams who are major disappointments this season could offer a fun lunchtime match on Saturday or send us all to sleep way to early. Both midweek results for these teams sum them up, Spurs losing to Burnley after beating Manchester City while Leeds once again getting thumped by a top four side. So many media outlets still favour Tottenham to grab the fourth Champions League and it’s ludicrous to me, they are a dangerous unit on their day but those occasions come around very rarely. Man Utd have the best players while Arsenal, Wolves and West Ham offer more consistency. Elland Road needs to be like they were last Sunday versus The Red Devil’s to help their side win, insanely passionate with a ferocious undertone. Raphinha has the feel of a future Tottenham player but for now he holds all of the home teams hopes on his shoulders. This one is too tight to call result wise but goals will surely flow.
This is the biggest game of the season for both teams, Brentford need to halt the losing form while Newcastle winning takes them above their hosts plus with results going their way also taking 14th spot. We are yet to see a true Newcastle attacking performance since Trippier got injured as they have played once and grounded out a negative display, drawing with West Ham. Willocks goal was fortunate and testament to him not giving up when the ball looked set to be defended by the home side. The Athletico Madrid signing had become a key man at both ends of the pitch since his arrival, supplying a true England international impact, who is going to be Roy of the Rovers now? Saint-Maximin is the man for that role but he is a doubt for Saturdays game, if fit his pace will cause the home team endless issues, speed is severely lacking within the bees defence. Brentford could name their strongest XI in months with no known injury doubts, players returning like Zanka & DaSilva plus Christian Eriksen should be named on the bench at least. If this match is a Hollywood film the Dane will score the winner in the last few minutes, the majority of the football world would not begrudge that ending. His creativity for Toney or Mbuemo is what Thomas Frank hopes will keep the west Londoners in this division. Mbuemo especially is a due a multi goal scoring game and like his countryman Saint-Maximin his pace will cause the opposing defenders issues, matching up with Dan Burn will be advantageous.
FPL One to Watch – Bryan Mbuemo £5.2m
Bet Select – Brentford win and over 3.5 goals
Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa
Villa seem to be getting dragged nearer the bottom of the division but despite some shaky form they are two wins away from safety, 33 points should suffice. The investment in players like Countinho and Ings was done to push them close to European places but they have regressed rather than powered on. Strangely enough the stand out man since Gerrard arrived has been home grown talent Jacob Ramsey, let’s hope he develops like Foden rather than Ali. Brighton lost to Burnley due to not fielding Dunk or Webster, they will return to watertight levels as long as one of them is back for this game. The key match up in this fixture will be the battle of the fullbacks Lamptey & Cucurella v Cash & Digne, the Brighton pair are the better players but it needs to be shown on the field. If Buendia and Coutinho can occupy the gaps within the pockets between midfield and defence that could halt the Seagulls fullbacks bursting forward allowing the away sides pair to always operate on the front foot.
FPL One to Watch – Marc Cucurella £5.1m
Bet Select – BTTS
Crystal Palace v Burnley
Palace awoke majorly during midweek when thrashing relegation bound Watford, in front of their home fans they could make it two time in a week regarding smoking a bottom three team. That’s the prospect but the reality is Burnley are on not just a good run but impressive one after beating Brighton and Spurs and not conceding. The Eagles possess an array of explosive forwards who will try to penetrate the low Burnley block, something Spurs could not do with arguably better players. Feeding Zaha plenty of the ball one on one against Conor Roberts will be a key showdown, the Welshman is great going forward but undoubtably will struggle with the Ivorian if he’s feeling it. Weghorst was singled out for praise last Saturday on MOTD and his battle this weekend with Andersen and Guehi will be a old school affair. Both Palace defenders are strong lads but never seem happy with the physical battles, the Dane loves the ball to feet while the Chelsea recruit tends to lose his head if embroiled with another strong man. The chance of moving out of the bottom three is a massive carrot for Burnley but with so many games still to come taking one point is not the worst prospect.
FPL One to Watch – Wout Weghorst £6.5m
Bet Select – Double Chance Crystal Palace or Draw
Manchester United v Watford
Performance wise during ninety minutes Man Utd are so patchy but as bad as they can be when on fire they are lava hot. After stealing a draw during the week in the Champions League, facing off with Watford after they leaked four will be a dream come true. Controlling the midfield for Utd will be key in applying pressure constantly, Paul Pogba has the X factor for them in that area of the field, his all round game should be the deciding element. The beating Watford gave Utd at Vicarage Road in November now feels like a blessing in disguise as they finally moved on from Ole and working towards the club being a sustainable league force once again. Chief tormentors from recent Watford victories over the Red Devil’s, Sarr and Dennis will be playing Saturday, this gives their team a chance. Both men will still be playing in the top flight next season if (when) Watford go down, between them they could bring in around £50m in transfer fees. The issue will be defending, despite all Roy Hodgsons efforts and slight improvements the Palace result showed the deficiencies of the players rather than tactics. Worse case scenario for the away side is scoring or conceding early as either way the game narrative becomes a lopsided level of pressure from the hosts, all the time its all square and can be a tactical chess match Watford have hope.
FPL One to Watch – Paul Pogba £7.4m
Bet Select – Man Utd win
Everton v Manchester City
When you're struggling and facing the champions is bottom of your wish list, and despite the game being at home, it’s hard to see Everton having any chance. Sterling, Walker and Cancelo should all be starting either due to excellent form or recent rests and will be the key danger men among the all star City lineup. Out wide the two fullbacks with their differing styles will pen back the home sides attacking threat while Sterling’s movement centrally will cause Mina and Keane trouble. It’s widely regarded the home fans at the first sign of strife jump on the back of the players, is it too soon for them to abuse Lampard? A great deal of ex players are not cut out for the head coach/manager role and by the end of this season that will be clear in Super Franks case too. I could see him as a Director of Football for a club establishing a clubs DNA or back into punditry which he’s excelled at before, just not as a teams gaffer. Possible future City player Calvert-Lewin or the enigma that is Richarlson pose the main threats for Everton, the service will be few and far between though.
The pre curser to the EFL Cup Final promises to be one hell of a scrap between two clubs looking to gate crash the Champions League qualifying spots. Form wise bar the defeat Thursday to Arsenal is firmly on the side of Wolves. Playing away from home suits their style of play, they remind me of a continental side playing away in a European competition, dangerous on the break with pace and skill, technically proficient and full of time wasting. West Ham are a tough, hard working squad of players and positive form will return soon, it would not be a surprise if it’s Sunday. As mentioned within my previews before Soucek is due a return to goal scoring activity like last season, surely it will happen soon? Wolves concentration from set pieces is a worry for their manager Bruno Lage as they are adept defending during live passages of play. Declan Rice taking on Neves and Moutinho from penetrating his defenders is a mouthwatering proposition. The England man will likely be playing elsewhere within the next 18 months but his swashbuckling level of play will continue, it’s the only way he knows to perform. Seeing who within the three Wolves centre backs will try to pick up and out muscle Antonio is a a game changing duel, if it’s the wrong man like Coady the West Ham man will have a field day.
FPL One to Watch – Pedro Neto £6.4m
Bet Select – Draw
Burnley v Leicester City
March kicks off with this unspectacular fixture but depending on the home sides weekend result it could be another gigantic step towards safety. Leicester have the weekend off and while a few of their injured players will not be back those who are available need to turn around this bad bout of form. Ricardo Pereira is one of the few Leicester players to return from injury lately and after a few games gaining match sharpness now is the time for him to hit some level of performance which made him a FPL darling over recent seasons. Even if Burnley win Saturday making it three wins on the bounce I find it hard to see them gaining another next week, a wounded Fox is a angry, vengeful foe. Patson Daka still has not impacted the dicision like his talent suggests it could, experience is being gained and he could be a force next season
FPL One to Watch – Ricardo Pereira £5.2m
Bet Select – Leicester win
Quite the conservative acca build this week if you use my Bet Selects as they odds are 1139.82/1, good luck if you do follow them and if you don’t just enjoy your football weekend.