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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...

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