Holding out for a hero in the home stretch
It’s that time in the Fantasy Football season where you are at one of two stages: you have either long given up and are instead plotting your NFL draft strategy or you have a chance to win and are trying to squeeze Rob Holding into your new trendy back three.
It’s a nightmare time for Premier League managers (the important Fantasy ones not, yawn, the likes of Arsène Wenger). The main trick seems to be working out which teams are still interested and which ones are putting all their effort into their Dubai summer holiday.
Chelsea, you hope, should still be keen given that they can win the league tonight by beating West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. In truth, the title race is over and now has all the tension of a smoky night in with Snoop Dogg.
Jürgen Klopp, however, will be sweating on a top-four place with Manchester City and Arsenal finding form (or at least victories) and breathing down his neck.
Down the bottom, Sam Allardyce, funnily enough, chose not to explain his tactics this time after getting his pants pulled down by City. The Crystal Palace manager’s decision to play Jeff Schlupp at centre back has been filed alongside Jay Bothroyd’s international cap and Harry Kane taking every England corner in the ‘What The F***?’ folder.
In greater danger are Swansea and Hull, with the former’s win against Everton and the prospect of a trip to Sunderland making them favourites to stay up.
With all that to be decided, this is a double Fantasy week. So here’s a quick rundown of all the games left before the final weekend.
11am kick-off unless stated
Everton v Watford
Ross Barkley’s future seems to be the hot topic with Ronald Koeman decidedly indifferent to the prospect of losing the Englishman. Could it be that Barkley is not as good as we all hope he is?
West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea
WBA are winless in six so all the smart money has to be on Chelsea getting this thing done and dusted on a romantic Friday night in the post-industrial West Midlands town.
Manchester City v Leicester City
Should a test for City but with the home side having more to play for and seemingly having loosened up a little now the beach is in sight, a home win.
Bournemouth v Burnley
Easy street for these boys with both teams safe. Bournemouth have scored 12 in their past five games so have the edge.
Middlesbrough v Southampton
So interesting I almost left this game off the list. Boro are counting the cost of some poor decisions this season. Rudy Gestede among them.
Sunderland v Swansea City
The momentum is with the Welsh side but there is a feeling Sunderland are playing with the shackles off now the worst has happened. If Palace do them a favour, a point may be okay for Paul Clement’s team.
Stoke City v Arsenal
Stoke are so often the nemesis of Wenger and Arsenal. And that thought alone should be enough to get Mark Hughes’s team up for this. Another win and Arsenal will really fancy their top-four chances.
Crystal Palace v Hull City
Probably the game with the most consequences this weekend. Can Hull regroup after their dispiriting defeat to Sunderland? The relegation trapdoor will make this a nervy, jittery affair.
West Ham United v Liverpool
Watching Liverpool right now is a little like watching masters football — slower and worn out but still capable of great moments. They are in danger of losing their grip on the top four all together.
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United
Europa League glory will be all United are thinking about now and I expect José Mourinho to send out a depleted line-up, which by the way will still be decent.
Let’s hope he doesn’t instruct the attacking creativity of Henrikh Mkhitaryan to do a defensive job at wing back like he did against Arsenal.
The last game at White Hart Lane is bound to feature a home win, surely.
Chelsea v Watford
Given my earlier prediction, this game is basically a coronation ceremony. Pity poor Watford in that case, who will feel like they’re stuck at a party they weren’t invited to.
Arsenal v Sunderland
By this point, Jermain Defoe will be busy packing and sending out texts to his agent. Hard to predict anything other than a Gunners win.
Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion
Imagine WBA will look forward to this in the same way I look forward to the dentist.
Southampton v Manchester United
A non-top six team so United may actually attack. Bad news for Southampton.
Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur
Having not played for the first half of the season, expect Jamie Vardy to be the only person on the pitch with any energy. Honourable draw.
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