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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Thursday, 23 April 2020

NFL Mock Draft First Round 2020 (April 23rd)

So how is everyone doing?

This is without a doubt the strangest period of time I have lived through and I am sure many others are feeling the same. Everything we have taken for granted in the Western world has ground into a halt and that includes the things we love.

I have missed sports in general and it is a sad time to think this is when the NBA PlayOffs should be days from beginning, the Major League Baseball season would have been well underway and the European Football Leagues would have been entering the portion of the season when hopes are dashed and dreams are achieved.

The Tennis Tour would have begun the run to the French Open and we would have been plenty occupied from those who love any form of sport that is usually played in April.

Of course it all pales into insignificance when it comes to protecting those we love around us and so I have been taking the advice from governments very seriously- stay home, protect those around us and hopefully we will return to some level of normality in the weeks and months ahead.

Make no mistake, things will eventually get better but for now we have to follow the advice being given to make sure no one unnecessarily loses loved ones. I have already felt that impact around me so this is not an overblown message from the media, but a serious concern we all have to take on head on by making sure we are keeping our distance from others.


The same goes for the NFL where Free Agency was conducted in an unfamiliar way, but that is nothing compared to how the 2020 Draft is going to be run. I just hope all the teams have invested in top broadband providers in what is hopefully going to be the one and only time we have to see the NFL Draft in the manner it will be conducted this year.

Free Agency has already bared its teeth with the biggest move being Tom Brady's decision to join the NFC and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after spending two decades with the New England Patriots.

On the face of things you may think it is a backwards step, but the NFC looks much more open than the AFC (avoiding facing Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes before the Super Bowl is a boost in anyone's language) and the Buccaneers are loaded Offensively which makes them one of the favourites in the Conference.

And I would sign up to see Tom Brady versus Drew Brees twice this year all day long!

There is work for the Buccaneers to do if they are going to use the two years with Brady to win another Super Bowl, but the team is in a 'win now' position and I really like their chances to at least make the big game once in that time.


That was the big move, but as a Miami Dolphins fan I was mostly interested to see how the next stage of redeveloping this team would go.

Before the 2019 season the Dolphins were actively shipping away the majority of their assets which meant having a big Draft arsenal and plenty of cap space going into this off-season. Overachievement in the season meant a team who were expected to end with between 0-2 wins had 5 on the season, but a top five Draft position is not going to harm them at all.

Importantly they have gotten some big deals over the line in Free Agency with the standout signing being Byron Jones from the Dallas Cowboys. Along with Xavien Howard the Dolphins have locked down the Corner positions, while I am pleased with the Kyle Van Noy and Emmanuel Ogbah signings too which go along with Shaq Lawson to give Miami some punch up front on the Defensive side of the ball.

It all points to Miami taking an increased focus on fixing the Offense in the Draft and they have the capital to do that which automatically makes the team a much better prospect in 2020, especially if the Coaching staff can get more out of the team as they did in 2019.

With the Patriots weakened, the Dolphins and Buffalo Bills will be looking to take advantage, but like much of the League, it is all about getting it right in the Draft.


So a Mock Draft- usually I don't have the time to write this out with work and sports being run, but it is something that we all love to speculate on. I have to make some 'mock trades' just for the fun of it, but the Draft is regularly one which springs a lot of surprises so trying to second guess teams is not an easy thing to do.

Like many, this is going to look so dumb after the first five Picks are made on Day 1 with the surprises we see in the NFL Draft, but it is just a bit of fun and nothing to take too seriously.


1. Joe Burrow (QB)- go back twelve months and I was reading previews for the upcoming College Football season which had written they expected a big improvement from Joe Burrow as he moved into the starting spot as Quarter Back of the LSU Tigers.

However in the same preview he was rated as the fifteenth best QB prospect that would be eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft.

2019 proved to be a huge season for Burrow who led the Tigers to the National Championship and at the same time greatly improved his own stock to the point he is an obvious Number 1 Pick. Barring the house being given to Cincinnati for this position in the Draft, Burrow will be the new franchise Quarter Back for the Bengals.

Am I convinced about Burrow? Not completely with the potential of him being a one season wonder, but his character isn't in question and Cincinnati have to take him here.


2. Chase Young (DE)- there has been some suggestions from the Washington Redskins that they are doing their due diligence about the Quarter Backs in the 2020 Draft, but I do think that is smoke and mirrors.

It would take plenty of Draft capital for a team to move into this spot and I am not sure any team will want to offer what Washington will consider.

With that said Washington are getting the chance to pick a potential star at the next level- there is a recovery job being done in the nation's capital, but Chase Young is a great piece to add to the Defensive Line. Perhaps trading away Trent Williams will give Washington more resources to add the Draft, but with this many holes on the roster you have to take the best possible player on the board and that is Young.


3. LA CHARGERS TRADE with the DETROIT LIONS
Justin Herbert (QB)- I would be more surprised if the Detroit Lions were to pick Number 3 in the Draft than if they were able to pick some additional Draft capital and see either the Miami Dolphins or the Los Angeles Chargers move into this position.

It makes little sense for the Lions to do anything else, especially as they won't be slipping that far down the Day 1 Draft spots and in my Mock I have the Chargers being the team to pull the trigger.

Miami have the potential to do the same, but I think they seem happier in the Number 5 spot barring yet another team moving ahead of them. The Chargers seem to be more convinced about Justin Herbert than the Dolphins and at Number 6 in the Draft I think there is more urgency for them to move into the Number 3 or 4 spot than the Dolphins.

There is a chance that Detroit still pick here with the Giants looking to trade out of the Number 4 spot, but my feeling is that someone will just get a touch twitchy and make the move.

I am not at all sure about Herbert and am desperate for Miami to avoid him- he hasn't played away from Oregon and looked very inconsistent in 2019 against teams that are perhaps a tier below the very elite in College Football. His stock has risen in the weeks leading to Draft day, and I think that will see him picked high, with the Chargers supposedly very keen on him.


4. Jedrick Wills (OL)- the stories coming out of New York that the Giants have been scouting up Justin Herbert seem to be completely designed to produce a trade that will add Draft capital for the team.

If the Detroit Lions are not able to make a deal, it would not surprise me if the Giants are able to move down a couple of spots and still pick up the player I have registered for them here.

For this mock I have the Giants unable to make a deal, although I do think there is a potential for someone like the Jacksonville Jaguars to offer enough compensation to skip ahead of the Miami Dolphins if they feel they want to take a Quarter Back here.

That wouldn't surprise me at all, especially if they can deal away Yannick Ngakoue for what the Jaguars have been looking for. If they do that, I would expect them to trade above the Miami Dolphins, but for this Mock I have the Giants upgrading the Offensive Line and also someone who can pave the way for Saquon Barkley for years to come.

5. Tua Tagovailoa (QB)- any news story you read at this time of the year is designed to scramble what other teams are thinking and I think that is the case with the Miami Dolphins looking at other options in the Draft.

In a perfect world they don't have to move from this spot to take the Quarter Back that has been high on the agenda for a long time and ever since the 'tanking' was put in place last season. Injuries to Tua Tagovailoa are a concern, but in this day and age it is not a selection that is going to hinder Miami for years to come if they get this wrong.

Tagovailoa went into the 2019 season as the clear Number 1 Quarter Back and I think that will still be the mindset for the Dolphins despite the injuries he has suffered. Another year of 'Fitz Magic' can see Tagovailoa get healthy, and worst case scenario for the Dolphins is they are picking very high again in twelve months time and can change the direction of the team if Tua is shown to be too banged up for the next level.

I am not sure how I feel about Tua, especially the lack of athleticism that seems to be the way forward for players in this position in the NFL. However I think Miami have targeted him for some time and they can select him without losing any of the other host of early selections they have in the next two Drafts.

6. DETROIT LIONS TRADE with the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Jeff Okudah (CB)- in this Mock Draft the Lions are able to move down and add some additional capital as well as being able to pick the player they are most likely to take in the Number 3 spot if they stand pat.

Jeff Okudah looks to be the best Corner in the Draft and the Lions have lost Darius Slay who has been moved to the Philadelphia Eagles.

This looks a no brainer for a team who are rebuilding the Defensive unit in a 'make or break' season for the Coaching staff.

7. Isaiah Simmons (LB)- the Carolina Panthers are clearly in rebuilding mode with a first year staff, but the biggest holes are on the Defensive side of the ball. They did do some work to address the Offense in Free Agency, so anything but a Defensive player being picked in the First Round would be a surprise.

Adding more Picks by trading down is a possibility, but the way my Mock is unfolding I think the pressing needs begin to be addressed here.

The retirement of Luke Keuchly means there is a gaping hole to be filled by Isaiah Simmons and it would be surprising if the Panthers pass on someone who can be effective from a number of positions on the field

Derrick Brown is a possibility here too, but Simmons looks the more obvious choice.

8. DENVER BRONCOS TRADE with the ARIZONA CARDINALS
Jerry Jeudy (WR)- the Broncos have some Draft capital which helps them move ahead of other rivals who will be looking to upgrade their Wide Receiver corps.

I really was at loggerheads with this selection in the Draft as the Cardinals could easily select Derrick Brown here, but with a General Manager who is used to making moves and the lack of selections in the Draft I do think they can drop down and still fill a need.

Adding selections will help the Cardinals and the Broncos should be keen with the capital they have to offer in a trade as they get their first choice Receiver. That helps Drew Lock and Courtland Sutton going forward and I do think the Broncos have identified Jeudy as the best Receiver in the Draft.

9. Derrick Brown (DL)- there are plenty of Draft selections for the rebuilding Jacksonville Jaguars so I don't think there will be much interest in dropping down here.

With as many holes as the Jaguars have, I do think they will select the best player available for them and that is the monstrous Derrick Brown on the Defensive Line.

Both Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus are gone, and the Jaguars struggled to stuff the run last season so Brown makes the most sense. CJ Henderson is another they could target, but I think Brown is the selection here.

10. Tristan Wirfs (OL)- the Right Tackle position has been dealt with in Free Agency, but the Cleveland Browns protect Baker Mayfield a little more by taking the second Offensive Lineman off the board.

Like many teams as you move down the Draft positions there is a chance the Browns will trade down to add to their selections, but I don't think they find a willing partner here and take a player to fill a real position of need.

Things could change if Odell Beckham Jr is moved on in a trade prior to the Draft and Cleveland could go for a Wide Receiver ahead of the Jets and the Raiders, but right now I think they go with an Offensive Lineman to give their Quarter Back the best chance of success in 2020.

11. CeeDee Lamb (WR)- the Jets have a number of positions to address in the Draft, but the loss of Robby Anderson makes this an easy choice for a First Round selection.

With Jerry Jeudy off the board in my Mock, the Jets go with CeeDee Lamb as the gift for Sam Darnold.

There is a chance the Jets go with an Offensive Lineman to offer their Quarter Back better protection, but Darnold needs someone to throw to and I think that might be the more pressing concern in this position.

12. Henry Ruggs (WR)- it would be a big surprise if the Las Vegas Raiders do not take a Wide Receiver in the First Round and I think they can do that without moving up the Draft positions.

With both Jeudy and Lamb off my board in the Mock Draft, the Raiders pick up Henry Ruggs and don't have to give away any further Picks. There is a chance Las Vegas think about doing this earlier if they like one of the other two Receivers a lot more, but I think they will be happy with any of the three leading players at that position and give Derek Carr a chance to prove he is the franchise Quarter Back going forward.

13. ATLANTA FALCONS TRADE with the SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
CJ Henderson (CB)- in my Mock Draft the top three Receivers are off the board ahead of the San Francisco 49ers who are in the thirteenth spot thanks to a trade made with the Indianapolis Colts.

With a lack of Draft selections, the 49ers find a willing partner to see them move down a few spots and pick up an extra Pick.

I have the Atlanta Falcons making the trade as they look to move ahead of the Arizona Cardinals who may also be looking to upgrade the Defensive Back positions. This is a big season for the Falcons Coaching staff and I think they will be looking to pick up the clear second best Corner in the Draft with Jeff Okudah already off the board.

The 49ers can still pick a player of need a few spots down so this looks to make sense for both teams.

14. Andrew Thomas (OL)- I know there are some suggestions that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be moving up the Draft positions to take their Offensive Lineman earlier, but I think they can land one even if they stay where they are.

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have arrived in this part of Florida and that means the Buccaneers are in a 'win now' spot. The Offensive Line is the obvious weakness on this side of the ball and being able to land Andrew Thomas here is a huge boost for the team.

Any potential trade could depend on what the Arizona Cardinals do with the Number 8 Pick in the Draft- if they stay there and pick up an Offensive Lineman I do think Tampa Bay will look to move up behind them to take one, but in this Mock things work out perfectly for the Buccaneers who look a real power in the NFC already.

15. ARIZONA CARDINALS TRADE with the DENVER BRONCOS
Mekhi Becton (OL)- Kyler Murray has asked for some more Offensive help to take the next step in his career.

DeAndre Hopkins has been signed from the Houston Texans, but Murray will need time to make plays for his Receivers and Arizona get fortunate.

They are able to trade down in my Mock and still pick up a top Offensive Lineman in Mekhi Becton who has perhaps been overlooked by some teams due to the flagged drug test which recently hit the press.

He might be the fourth Lineman off the board, but the Cardinals have additional Draft capital and fill a big need in this Mock.

16. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers TRADE with the ATLANTA FALCONS
Javon Kinlaw (DE)- the San Francisco 49ers have traded away DeForest Buckner for the Indianapolis Colts First Round selection, but they use that to add some Draft capital as well as being able to take the player they likely would if they stayed in the thirteenth spot.

In this Mock Draft they are able to make the trade with the Atlanta Falcons and select Javon Kinlaw who will come in and fit Buckner's vacated spot.

17. K'Lavon Chaisson (DE)- I think the Dallas Cowboys have a number of options here and all make some sense.

There is the obvious need at Corner Back and Defensive End which can be filled here or they can choose to move down the Draft board and still have a very good chance of being able to fill positions of need.

One team I toyed with moving into this spot was the New England Patriots who could be keen on picking up Jordan Love as the potential Quarter Back of the future, but the way my Mock has worked out means they could stay at Number 23 and still be able to pick Love if they wanted.

This is a spot in which AJ Epenesa, AJ Terrell, Kristian Fulton, Jaylon Johnson could all fill, but I think the Dallas Cowboys might be encouraged by the upside K'Lavon Chaisson brings as they look to play him opposite DeMarcus Lawrence in the position vacated by Robert Quinn.

18. Josh Jones (OL)- after picking the Quarter Back of the future, the Miami Dolphins have to make sure they are able to protect him and I think that is why they will use the second First Round Pick on an Offensive Lineman.

Some Mocks have Cesar Ruiz settled in here, but Miami did sign Ted Karras for that position and instead may choose to upgrade the Tackle positions with Josh Jones from Houston.

Jones looks very capable at the next level and I would not be surprised if Miami are targeting at least one more Offensive Lineman in the Draft with the amount of selections through the first two Rounds. Ezra Cleveland is another name being linked with the team, but may be able to be picked in the Second Round so I think they go with the superior graded talent in Jones here.

19. Kristian Fulton (CB)- Eli Apple was supposed to sign with the Las Vegas Raiders in Free Agency but seemingly has changed his mind.

That might just strengthen the mind for the Raiders when it comes to the second Draft selection in the First Round and I think they could pick Kristian Fulton here as the Corner Back to slot in where Apple was expected to go.

With Henderson and Okudah off my board, the Raiders pick the third Corner Back here.

20. Xavier McKinney (S)- the Jaguars have lost a lot of pieces on what was a stellar Defensive unit just a couple of years ago and I think their second First Round Draft Pick will also be used on that side of the ball.

In my Mock Draft Derrick Brown has already been selected to help the Defensive Line, but the Jaguars back that up by picking arguably the best Safety in the Draft.

There are options at Corner Back too with AJ Terrell still on the board, but the Jaguars continuing to take the best player of need and that is Xavier McKinney.

21. Justin Jefferson (WR)- there is a chance that the Eagles will move up the Draft standings if one of either Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs drops below Number 12 in the order, but in my Mock Draft all three are gone.

For a long time the talk about the Eagles has been taking Justin Jefferson and I think he will still be there if they are picking at Number 21.

More weapons for Carson Wentz are needed and I think this goes some way to addressing that without having to give up Draft capital.

22. Jaylon Johnson (CB)- this is a spot the Minnesota Vikings have picked up in trading Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills, but the choice looks to be replacing pieces on the other side of the ball.

All three top Corner Backs from 2019 have moved on and Mike Zimmer is a Defensive Coach who will want to pick up someone to at least fill in. With three Corners off the board, Jaylon Johnson looks like someone the Vikings can pick up here ahead of AJ Terrell.

Johnson is ranked pretty highly by Pro Football Focus and this fills an obvious need for the Vikings as their fans look to see how they convert the stock picked up in moving Diggs.

23. BALTIMORE RAVENS TRADE with the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Patrick Queen (LB)- both the Patriots and Ravens have plenty of Draft Picks in 2020, but the Baltimore Ravens could entice a trade up with New England who don't have a Second Round Pick where Baltimore have two.

Maybe future considerations are given up as Baltimore look to get in front of the New Orleans Saints and take Patrick Queen who looks to be the clear Number 1 Linebacker in the Draft.

That would suit the Ravens and I also think the Patriots might be keen to drop down and add a Second Round Pick if possible assuming the rumours about not being overly convinced by Jordan Love is true.

If Baltimore are not able to make the trade, I would fully expect Queen to be gone in the next spot with the New Orleans Saints.

24. Grant Delpit (S)- this would be a popular choice in New Orleans if a loaded roster was able to give themselves another Defensive Back who played his College Football up the road at LSU.

Patrick Queen would be the obvious choice here if the Ravens haven't jumped ahead and taken him and I think if he is on the board he will be picked by the Saints.

Some are suggesting Sean Payton may be keen on Jordan Love, but I think Drew Brees signing for two years and Taysom Hill on the roster means they won't be picking a Quarter Back. This is a small window for success for the Saints with Brees at QB so they have to pick players who can play a part now, and adding a Defensive Back to the team can't be a bad thing when you think they have the Buccaneers sitting in the same Division.

Grant Delpit has some huge upside at Safety and he would be someone that may be able to match up with Rob Gronkowski.

However I think there is a potential for New Orleans to pick him up a few spots down so I would not be surprised if someone jumps back into the First Round to pick here and give the Saints some additional Picks having only five in the Draft in 2020 going into this one.

A trade down is most likely in my opinion, but for this Mock I will plug in Delpit here. Other options could be AJ Terrell or AJ Epenesa as New Orleans look to load up the Defensive side of the ball to compete with the talent Tampa Bay have put together.

25. Jalen Reagor (WR)- the Vikings might be in 'win now' mode, but this is a roster with a number of holes that need to be filled on both sides of the ball.

On Day 1 of the Draft I would expect the Vikings to select someone to help on both sides of the ball.

Having selected a Corner Back at 22, I have the Vikings looking to replace Stefon Diggs at 25 and the speedster out of TCU looks to be the player that fits the mould best. Laviska Shenault Jr will interest teams, but I think the Vikings go for the slightly shorter Jalen Reagor who has speed in abundance.

26. D'Andre Swift (RB)- the Dolphins have picked a Quarter Back and an Offensive Lineman in this Mock and there is every chance they pick another one here.

They might be reaching a little bit to do that and instead may want to pick up the first Running Back in the Draft before those coming up have a chance to do that.

D'Andre Swift could be the player to pair up with Jordan Howard in the backfield with Day 2 concentrating on strengthening the Line further. He looks to be the best Running Back in the Draft and may be the second part of the tandem in the backfield that Miami will be looking to turn the franchise around as Swift lines up behind Tua Tagovailoa.

27. AJ Epenesa (DE)- a poor Combine day has affected his stock, but this could be a god chance for the Seattle Seahawks to pick up a replacement for Jadeveon Clowney.

This is a spot from which the Seahawks may decide to trade down and pick up some extra Draft capital and it would not surprise me if that is the case.

But if the Seahawks do stay here I think they could decide to take an edge rusher who has better game tape than the Combine showing and has slipped into a good position.

28. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS TRADE with the BALTIMORE RAVENS
Jordan Love (QB)- there have been rumours both ways regarding New England's interest in Jordan Love and in this Mock they are able to trade back and still able to pick the player they might have gone with in their original position.

The Patriots do have Jarrett Stidham on the roster and he would have spent a year learning under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. That can't be discounted and perhaps the Patriots pick up more Draft selections by trading out of the First Round and having enough to stock up the front of the Defensive unit which has lost some key players.

However for this Mock Draft I will have Love landing here as the selection to take over from Brady.

29. Curtis Weaver (DE)- the Tennessee Titans would love for someone to trade in with the Seattle Seahawks in this Mock scenario and have AJ Epenesa land with them here.

It is clear that the Defensive Edge needs addressing and in this spot I slide in Curtis Weaver even if he was dominant at a level in College that was not against Power 5 opponents.

Yetur Gross-Matos is another potential selection for the Titans and they can address the Offensive Line on Day 2.

30. Tee Higgins (WR)- the Aaron Rodgers window for success at the Green Bay Packers is closing rapidly and there is no doubt the Quarter Back looks to have declined in recent seasons.

Last season the team did win thirteen games, but I can't count too many that were on Rodgers' back but rather an improved Defensive unit which kept the team in games.

The two heavy losses to the San Francisco 49ers shows a team that needs more Offensive weapons as teams continue to double Davante Adams. While Tight End will be addressed in later Rounds, the Packers do have some intriguing choices at Wide Receiver at the end of the First Round.

I have placed Tee Higgins here, but Green Bay could easily go Brandon Aiyuk, Denzel Mims, Laviska Shenault Jr or Michael Pittman Jr.

I think Higgins may be the best fit with his size as a big target in the End Zone.

31. Michael Pittman Jr (WR)- the 49ers are able to pick a Defensive End with their first Pick in the First Round and this time they help the other side of the ball.

Losing Emmanuel Sanders means there is room to bring in a Wide Receiver and they may go for a big body in Michael Pittman Jr to play opposite Deebo Samuel.

Jimmy Garroppolo is not the most accurate, but he can throw the ball up and let Pittman Jr use his size to make some plays and it might give the 49ers one of the best Receiving corps in the NFL when you add George Kittle to the cause.

The 49ers could choose to let someone high in the Second Round move in with the potential to take a Wide Receiver there and add Draft selections.

32. AJ Terrell (CB)- the Kansas City Chiefs look like a loaded team going into the 2020 season as they look to defend as Super Bowl Champions, but that doesn't mean there aren't any holes to still fill.

As good as the team are, losses in Free Agency in the Secondary means the Chiefs are in a position to bring in AJ Terrell here in my Mock.

At the back end of the First Round I would expect some teams to trade out of position to add Draft stock and that is the case with the Chiefs too. But I also think if the Draft lands like this they can pick up one of the better Corner Backs in the 2020 Draft and fill a real need for now and years to come.


That's the way it rolls in my Mock Draft, but as I said from the very beginning it could look very foolish just an hour into the real Draft on Thursday evening.

Rumours are running rampant with teams looking to move up and down the positions so things can get messy very quickly.

Players like Trent Williams and Yannick Ngakoue could both be moved for First Round selections with the latter being linked to the Las Vegas Raiders who have two selections in the first thirty-two on Thursday. That will again change the entire outlook of the Draft and make a mockery of any Mock you read.

It will be fun as always and fans are going to both love and hate selections made throughout the evening. The virtual setting will be weird to say the least, like playing Madden in real life, but it is a big moment for the thirty-two names that will be called.

Enjoy it.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (March 7-9)

I was away for a few days which meant I was not able to post a thread here, but Twitter followers would have seen my move from Jack Grealish to James Maddison for the FPL game... A move that didn't work out as well as I would have wanted.

It was still not a bad week, but I will get back to that at the bottom of this post.

Before we get into GW29 of the FPL game I will have my thoughts down for the Weekend Premier League Football, although those are feelings rather than anything more forceful.


Liverpool v Bournemouth Pick: There is no doubt that Liverpool have hit a slightly awkward patch in what has been a strong season for them, and it is going to take a serious turnaround if they are going to at least find some momentum to take into their Champions League Last 16 Second Leg to come.

Losses at Atletico Madrid, Watford and Chelsea would have stung as much for the level of performance as the actual result.

However it should be noted that all have come away from Anfield and this ground is still a fortress for Liverpool even if they had to rely on some big West Ham United mistakes to beat The Hammers 3-2 last time out here. Key players have been rested by Jurgen Klopp for the loss at Chelsea during the week and I expect they will have been itching to get back on the field and make up for the defeat at Vicarage Road last Saturday.

The opponent also looks a good one for Liverpool as Bournemouth continue to look haphazard at the back and have been struggling on the road for much of the last three months. Last weekend Bournemouth almost did enough to beat Chelsea, but the game was at home and they have lost 5 away games in succession while conceding a host of chances in those matches.

Goals have been flowing against Bournemouth too and I do think they could face something of a backlash here. The match up with Liverpool has not been a good one with 5 losses in a row by three or more goal margins, and I do think Liverpool are still playing well enough at Anfield to build some steam behind them.

I can’t completely ignore the form that Liverpool find themselves in, but losing back to back games has been rare for this team and I think they can bounce back with a comfortable win on Saturday afternoon. It is hard to imagine Bournemouth being able to defend well enough to contain the home team and so another big win would not be a surprise in favour of Liverpool.

Score: Liverpool 3-0 Bournemouth


Arsenal v West Ham United Pick: Both of these clubs have shown signs of improvement under new managers at different times, but it may be West Ham United who come into this League game with a little more spring in the step.

A solid performance at Liverpool was followed by a win over Southampton and that has dragged West Ham United out of the bottom three. However you have to be concerned with the amount of goals they continue to ship and now they face an Arsenal team who have looked in decent shape when they go forward.

The bigger issue for Arsenal has also been at the back and making sure they keep the door locked, From set pieces they have been a mess so it would not be a big surprise if David Moyes is able to set something up to give the home team problems to deal with.

Ultimately it feels like an entertaining and goal-filled afternoon is going to develop and that is my feeling from the fixture. Arsenal have scored plenty of goals, but look unlikely to keep a clean sheet, while West Ham United have also struggled at the back.

The level produced at Anfield is encouraging for the visitors, but I think they continue to have problems in conceding too many goals and that is where Arsenal should be able to take advantage. The Gunners have won 4 in a row at home against West Ham United and I think they continue that streak by winning a fixture featuring at least two goals scored on the day.

Score: Arsenal 3-1 West Ham United


Crystal Palace v Watford Pick: If Crystal Palace had not taken maximum points from their last 2 Premier League games they would have been firmly involved in the relegation battle that is developing. Instead they are now likely just a single win away from guaranteeing another season in the top flight, although Roy Hodgson won’t be taking anything for granted.

How could he after seeing the performance Watford produced in their 3-0 hammering of Liverpool last weekend?

Nigel Pearson will hope that gives his team some momentum with four good looking fixtures in front of them. Watford have been much improved under his watch and they have some exciting players that will believe they can win this game having beaten Crystal Palace 3 times last season.

Earlier in this campaign they had to settle for a draw, but Watford won’t be intimidated and they have the pace in the forward areas to cause problems.

Ultimately they have not been at their best at the back and that is where even a goal-shy Crystal Palace team can have some success. Goals have not been the order of the day at Selhurst Park this season, but these teams have tended to match up well with each other and it feels like being the case on Saturday too.

7 of the last 8 between Crystal Palace and Watford at this ground have ended with at least three goals shared out. That may be pushing things a bit, but the 1-1 is a real player and I do think both teams will be looking to get forward and can hurt the other when they do.

Both teams to score looks the play despite the low scores we have seen at this ground this season.

Score: Crystal Palace 1-1 Watford


Sheffield United v Norwich City Pick: Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United all failed to win last weekend while Sheffield United had the time off and that will have given the fans further belief that this could be one of the most memorable seasons in the history of the club.

While no one will be looking too far ahead inside Bramall Lane, you can't help but see there is a real path towards the Champions League places that Sheffield United can perhaps take control of over the next few weeks. They will play the likes of Wolves and Manchester United around them, but those matches will not mean so much if they can't beat Norwich City this weekend.

For all the positives about Chris Wilder and his team, you do have to wonder if they have enough goals in the squad. It is most evident when they have played the 'lesser' clubs in the Division and the likes of Southampton, Newcastle United, Watford and Brighton have all avoided losses here.

West Ham United almost stole a point too before a late VAR intervention, and in all of those five games mentioned Sheffield United have not scored more than one goal.

They might need more to win this game against a Norwich City team who have been creating chances even if they are not as clinical away from Carrow Road as they would like to be. There is a real confidence at the bottom club that they can surprisingly pull away from the bottom three, and Daniel Farke won't lose his principles now which means Norwich City will at least give this a go.

Defensively there remain some major questions that Sheffield United will be looking to have answered and I do think the home team might have just enough. While they are not completely easy to trust with the lack of goals an issue, Sheffield United have beaten Burnley, Bournemouth and Aston Villa here and in all of those games they did find the two goals needed to secure the points.

I will look for them to do that this weekend too.

Score: Sheffield United 2-1 Norwich City


Southampton v Newcastle United Pick: Both Southampton and Newcastle United may look relatively comfortable with ten League games to play, but both Ralph Hasenhuttl and Steve Bruce will be reminding their players how quickly things can change.

Neither team is in great form and the improvements that Bournemouth, Watford and now West Ham United are showing means the 5 points to Newcastle United and 7 points to Southampton is a bridgeable gap.

That makes this a very important game for both teams and I do think there will be chances at both ends.

Newcastle United earned a morale-boosting win at The Hawthorns on Tuesday, but both of these teams look capable of creating chances and struggling defensively at times.

It is particularly the case for Newcastle United away from home and I think it could mean a repeat of the earlier meeting between these teams and at least three goals being shared out. Before the goalless draw last season, that had happened the previous 4 times Southampton had hosted Newcastle United and the defensive performances of the two teams in recent weeks suggest we could see this one go back to that trend.

Tension and fear of a defeat could take some of the effective play out of this fixture, but I can see it ending 2-1 either way and I will back at least three goals to be the outcome of this one.

Score: Southampton 2-1 Newcastle United


Wolves v Brighton Pick: This is a pivotal game at the top and bottom of the Premier League as Wolves continue to chase down a surprise Champions League berth and Brighton look to reverse the slide into the bottom three.

There has been plenty of talk about Manchester United and Chelsea failing to take advantage of the slips each are making, but Wolves have quietly moved into their slipstream. The fixture list looks much kinder to Wolves than United over the next few weeks too and I do think this is a team capable of handling the pressures of Premier League and Europa League Football as they have all season.

A home game with Brighton has to be the kind of fixture Wolves have to take advantage of especially as Manchester United and Chelsea have much tougher looking games this weekend. However it is not always easy to trust Wolves to get the job done as you would imagine.

Newcastle United, Southampton and Burnley have all avoided losses here already this season and Brighton are a team who have been creating chances in recent games despite the 0-1 setback to Crystal Palace last weekend.

Brighton have the character that has seen them come from behind and draw with both West Ham United and Sheffield United in the last couple of away games played in the League, while they are also unbeaten in 5 against Wolves since October 2016.

That has to be respected, but Wolves look to be in good form and scoring plenty of goals. In what could be a surprisingly high-scoring affair, I do think Wolves can edge to a win in a game featuring at least two goals on the day.

Score: Wolves 2-0 Brighton


Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The live game on Saturday evening comes from Turf Moor and it is a huge test for Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham Hotspur team who have been in a miserable run of form.

They had lost 3 in a row in all competitions prior to the FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur have found themselves dumped out of that on Penalties. Injuries are piling up to the point that Mourinho has suggested he is going to speak to the board and ask them which competition he wants to prioritise this week with a Premier League and Champions League fixture to be played.

After losing 0-1 at home to Leipzig it could be argued the Premier League has to be the priority for Tottenham Hotspur who can close the gap to 4th placed Chelsea by winning twenty-four hours before The Blues are due to kick off against Everton. That makes this game even more important for Spurs to try and regain some lost momentum, but Burnley are anything but a soft touch and especially if the focus is not at 100%.

Tottenham Hotspur will create chances against this Burnley team, but I have little doubt the home team are going to do the same against a team that has just 3 away clean sheets in 20 games played in all competitions (and one of those was at League Two Colchester United). However the other side of the coin shows that Tottenham Hotspur have only failed to score in 4 of those 20 away games and I do think they can cause problems for their hosts too.

Burnley have been in the better form and they have narrowed into the home favourites- winning 4 of 6 Premier League games will do that- and I do think they are the more likely winners on the day.

In saying that I do think the defensive issues have not been underlined as much as they should have been and it may take two goals to win the game. Backing at least three goals to be shared out at odds against is a very appealing price, and 4 of the last 6 between Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur have ended that way.

1-1 is perhaps the most dangerous scoreline, but I can see there being enough chances on the day to see the total goals hitting at least three goals.

Score: Burnley 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur


Chelsea v Everton Pick: The first of the live games to be played on Sunday comes from Stamford Bridge and it may be a big opportunity for Chelsea to pull away from at least Manchester United in the race for the Champions League places.

If Frank Lampard’s men can win, it will put pressure on Manchester United to respond in the derby against Manchester City later in the same day. However it is no guarantee with Chelsea being a little inconsistent as it is and now suffering with a number of key players looking set to miss out.

That will have given Everton a chance anyway, but this is a team in good form and who will take the game to Chelsea.

Under Carlo Ancelotti Everton have been creating chances and they showed that again in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United last weekend. They should have perhaps gotten more out of the 3-2 defeat at Arsenal last month and Everton will certainly believe all the pressure is on their hosts.

A team creating chances like Everton are will be dangerous- but add to that the inconsistency of Chelsea and I can’t help feel they are a touch short here. Everton did beat Chelsea at home already this season and a weaker team earned a result at Stamford Bridge last season.

Being able to back Everton with the start looks very appealing here and I will do that as I look for the underdog to perhaps spring a surprise.

Score: Chelsea 1-1 Everton


Manchester United v Manchester City Pick: In the next few weeks I do think Pep Guardiola will turn his full attention to the Cup competitions Manchester City are involved in as they are closing on a top four finish in the Premier League. At that point they can only await the judgement set out by the CAS in terms of whether they will be playing in the Champions League again next season.

For now there is still motivation to keep the wins being churned out in all competitions which will give the Manchester City squad some momentum. It is a deep squad and that means rotations are being made, but I expect the Manchester derby to earn the full attention of the visitors especially as Manchester United have won 2 of the 3 games between these clubs this season.

The exception did come at Old Trafford where Manchester City ran out 1-3 winners in the League Cup Semi Final First Leg, the foundation for progressing to the Final, and Manchester City have won 4 of the 5 games played at this ground under Guardiola.

However Manchester United are coming into this one in fine form too with a 9 game unbeaten run to protect. They have won 6 of those games including the last 2 at Old Trafford, although it does have to be pointed out that it has been a good portion of the fixture list which has been negotiated and facing their cross city rivals is a different test for them.

Manchester United have looked threatening going forward with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes a real boost, while they have also been pretty effective at the back. Harry Maguire's potential absence is a blow, but I do think Manchester United will be confident regardless and it could be a very good game.

I do think United can have some success playing against this Manchester City defence which has struggled, and they will be even more confident if Kevin De Bruyne is missing. The Belgian is a major creative force and Manchester City have been producing plenty of threatening play in the final third in their wins over Leicester City and Real Madrid away from home.

I'd love to be wrong, but I do think Manchester City will find the win in this one- as well as Manchester United have been playing, they are still a team that looks like they could be vulnerable if Manchester City are at their best. In all of the games played it is Manchester City who have dominated the chance count and I think that is likely to come through for them again.

Sergio Aguero has hit some positive form with goals in the last two games and he has always impressed at Old Trafford. My lean is that Manchester City will win and they can do that in a game featuring two or more goals.

Score: Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City


Leicester City v Aston Villa Pick: Recent form will have made Brendan Rodgers very glad for the long run of wins at the back end of the 2019 calendar year which has given Leicester City some room for error in the race for the Champions League spots.

That room is closing all the time though and Leicester City have to find a way to get back to winning ways after another disappointing Premier League setback at Norwich City last weekend.

At least being at home should give them a real chance to get back on the horse and Leicester City are also going to be benefit from having Jamie Vardy return. This should boost their chances and coupled with the poor run Aston Villa are on it is no surprise the home team are favoured to win this one.

Aston Villa beat Leicester City with a late goal in the League Cup Semi Final Second Leg, but they have lost 4 in a row in all competitions since then and have been conceding far too many goals. Back to back away losses at Bournemouth and Southampton and the kind of performances produced are a massive concern for Dean Smith who saw his team slip to 19th in the Premier League table after results last weekend.

The confidence of beating Leicester City in the League Cup will help, especially as those memories are quite fresh, but this is a tough test for Aston Villa.

Asking relegation threatened clubs to out-score opponents to win games is a hard way to make a living and I do think Leicester City will be too strong. Motivation won't be a problem and the chance to regain complete control of one of the Champions League places on offer in the Premier League should focus the mind too.

The amount of goals conceded by Aston Villa in recent weeks means I will back Leicester City to get back to winning ways in the League and cover the Asian Handicap in the process.

Score: Leicester City 3-1 Aston Villa



Fantasy Football GameWeek 29
*KLAXON* It's time for another DGW!!

Manchester City and Arsenal are both playing twice this week after seeing their Premier League game rescheduled for Wednesday.

Most are going to have at least one player involved, but I would not be surprised if hits have to be taken to bring in a second or third player.

Clouding things is the status of Kevin De Bruyne who was set as a doubt by Pep Guardiola and that has to be a concern for all owners. I am one of those, although it was not enough to make me think removing him from my team was the right play.

Pep Guardiola has taken over from Sir Alex Ferguson in being very difficult to second guess, the new 'Tombola Operator' if you will.

In saying that my decisions were made much easier when the news broke that Alisson had been ruled out- it meant I could bring in a City defender (goalkeeper in this case) which would allow me to have just enough funds to move Roberto Firmino into Sergio Aguero.

Taking a hit is not ideal, but I am comfortable enough doing it in this case even if it is hard to trust Pep Guardiola to resist making wholesale changes between games. However it is a risk worth taking with the way things are shaking up and of course Aguero will be given the Captaincy armband.

Next week I am going to look at potential plans for the chips I have remaining, and that includes holding onto my Triple Captain chip for another week.



My GW29 Team
Ederson- two games this week and needed a definite replacement for an injured Alisson.

Serge Aurier- not sure I think Tottenham Hotspur are a good thing when it comes to clean sheets, but Aurier does produce attacking returns.

Caglar Soyuncu- home game against Aston Villa might see Leicester City turn things around defensively.

Enda Stevens- looks to be passed fit for a Sheffield United home game.

Mohamed Salah- has a good record against Bournemouth.

Kevin De Bruyne- would have been the easy Captain choice if his overall fitness was better going into the weekend.

James Maddison- good fixtures and I do think Leicester City can bounce back.

James Ward-Prowse- home game against Newcastle United and midfielder on set pieces.

Troy Deeney- not an easy game for Watford but Troy Deeney scored and assisted last weekend and will be a threat.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin- a tough away game at Chelsea, but this is a player in the form of his life and can be a threat regardless of fixture.

Sergio Aguero (C)- his record speaks for itself against Manchester United and Arsenal and two goals in two games should mean Aguero is given a chance to play both fixtures.


Bench- Michael McGovern, Adama Traore (injury concern means he might not earn the start), Federico Fernandez, Harry Maguire