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Javi Gracia returns to England in time for relegation battle

James Ward-Prowse is just one behind David Beckham's Premier League free-kick record

Leeds United have appointed former Watford head coach Javi Gracia to replace Jesse Marsch, with whom the Yorkshire club parted ways this month, and the Spaniard’s first game back in English football is a huge relegation battle against Southampton at Elland Road.

On the Fantasy front, Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse scored his seventeenth direct free kick in the Premier Division last weekend, moving within one of David Beckham’s all-time record. The 28-year-old has now scored six goals, three coming from free kicks, along with two assists this season, and could prove a key differential pick for the Saints’ survival push.


February Monthly Leaders

MW24 Tot

1 CutsNation FC (Kwasi James) 81 265

2 Gabri3l (Kyle Hamilton) 68 264

3 HertzBeStill (Mike Tait) 51 256

4 Poinciana Road FC (Jorge Sanchez) 55 252

5 Mancunian Candidates (Nathan Swan) 55 249

5 Rooney Tunes (Keston Lewis) 53 249

7 Rebels Utd (Dermot O’Sullivan) 56 246

8 Krul Intentions (Azar Morrissey) 68 240

9 Warwick Wanders (Teddy Terceira) 73 239

10 Bjorn Ironside (Speedy Ming) 59 238

10 Bermy United (Kurt Repose) 54 238

10 Stegunda (Keith Steede) 57 238

13 Queen’s XI (Gordon Cox) 65 237

13 HotterDanDem TopSpur (L Williams) 55 237

13 Show me the Curry FC (Chris Burns) 60 237

16 True sire Aj (Aidan Barritt) 59 236

17 Smith-Rowe Your Boat (Tiago Garcia) 76 235

17 Guide & Protect (Malachi Jones) 70 235

17 Glory (Jamal Salaam) 47 235

17 Fish & Tings (Jack Fishlock) 60 235

17 Shambles FC (Justin Barritt) 59 235

22 Martial Law (Jesse Marshall) 67 234

22 Cha Bredrins BudBoyz (J Steede) 78 234

24 OnGuard (Antoine Minors) 52 233

24 Fish & Chips (Martyn C) 53 233

24 Wout There It Is (Jaylen Martin) 57 233

24 FC PDD (Pat Davis) 68 233

24 Botman & Rabin (Ronan Quinn) 72 233

Overall Leaders

MW24 Tot

1 Poinciana Road FC (Jorge Sanchez) 55 1578

2 HertzBeStill (Mike Tait) 51 1551

3 Untouchables (Julian Carpenter) 53 1548

4 Ur Muda’s Hary Kante (Victor Falcao) 52 1542

5 Gabri3l (Kyle Hamilton) 68 1541

6 KO for knockout (Kathryn Roberts) 54 1529

6 Who’s Ur Captain Dan (Lara Nash) 54 1529

8 Non Sequitur (J D) 51 1524

9 Funinthesun (Lester Woodhouse) 56 1523

10 Eze Does It (Kyle Harvey) 51 1521

11 GQ FC (Ian Simmons) 50 1520

11 Foy (Armand Foy) 51 1520

11 Fish & Chips (Martyn C) 53 1520

14 Why I Jotaaa (Blake DeSilva) 61 1519

15 Channelmarkers (Paul Watson) 49 1516

16 Dark n Stormy (Taliah Wade) 40 1511

16 Acacia Lane Xl (Da-Von Wade) 53 1511

16 One Hag Two Hag (Mark Godfrey) 59 1511

19 Erik ten Häagen-Dazs (Calum Maule) 50 1509

20 Fish & Tings (Jack Fishlock) 60 1506

21 V R United (Remson F) 43 1505

22 Warwick Wanders (Teddy Terceira) 73 1503

23 Harry Kane FC (Jordon Lindsay) 51 1502

23 Earth Wind & Maguire (C Alexander) 47 1502

23 Siuuu You Later (Isaiah Taylor) 48 1502


Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers (4pm)

Fulham moved into the top six after Manor Solomon scored a late winner to clinch victory at Brighton. Neeskens Kebano (Achilles) and Tom Cairney (ankle) remain out this week, while Aleksandar Mitrovic is doubtful with a minor knock.

Wolves are looking over their shoulder after their home defeat to Bournemouth and now sit just three points above the drop zone. Hwang Hee Chan, Francisco Oliveira, Boubacar Traoré and Sasa Kalajdzic are out with various injuries this week.

Wolves have won six of the 13 league meetings between these clubs, with the Cottagers winning twice.

Prediction: 1-1


Everton v Aston Villa (11am)

Everton have pulled one point clear of the bottom three since the appointment of new head coach Sean Dyche, who has won two of his first three games in charge. Andros Townsend and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are out, while James Garner, Nathan Patterson and Amadou Onana are doubtful for the Toffees this week.

Aston Villa twice squandered a lead in their home defeat to Arsenal last time. Diego Carlos (Achilles) is the only existing injury concern for manager Unai Emery.

Villa edge this series, winning 23 of their 55 meetings with the Toffees.

Prediction: 1-2

Leeds United v Southampton (11am)

Leeds dropped into the relegation zone after the away defeat to Everton. Stuart Dallas (leg) and Rodrigo Moreno (ankle) remain out, whereas Adam Forshaw, Luis Sinisterra, Archie Gray, Liam Cooper, Marc Roca, Pascal Struijk and Maximilian Wöber are doubtful this match.

Southampton remain bottom despite Ward-Prowse’s magical set-piece winner at Chelsea. Tino Livramento and Juan Larios Lopez are out with knee and muscle injuries, while Che Adams is doubtful for the Saints.

Leeds have won 14 of their 29 encounters.

Prediction: 2-0

Leicester City v Arsenal (11am)

Leicester were punished for lack of a finishing touch in their away defeat to Manchester United. Jonny Evans, James Justin and Sammy Braybrooke are out, while Ryan Bertrand is doubtful becase of a lack of fitness.

Arsenal came from behind to beat Aston Villa and edge three points clear of Manchester City in the title race. Mohamed Elneny and Gabriel Jesus are out with knee injuries, while Thomas Partey is doubtful with a muscle injury.

The Gunners dominate this rivalry, winning 20 of 33 meetings with the Foxes.

Prediction: 1-3

West Ham United v Nottingham Forest (11am)

West Ham failed to capitalise on clear-cut chances in their away loss at Tottenham. This weekend, Kurt Zouma, Maxwel Cornet and Lucas Paquetá are out with various injuries.

Nottingham Forest are maintaining their strong position in mid-table, losing only once in their last five league games. Dean Henderson, Scott McKenna, Gianluca Biancone, Willy Boly, Moussa Niakhaté, Omar Richards, Cheikhou Kouyaté and Taiwo Awoniyi are out, while Jesse Lingard, Serge Aurier and Ryan Yates are doubtful this weekend.

The Hammers edge this match-up with four wins from their nine league meetings, although Forest won the reverse fixture at the City Ground in August.

Prediction: 1-1

Bournemouth v Manchester City (1.30pm)

Bournemouth revived their survival bid with an away victory over Wolves, their first win since Gary O’Neill became permanent manager. Lloyd Kelly, David Brooks, Illya Zabarnyi and Lewis Cook are out this weekend, while Jordan Zemura, Jefferson Lerma and Marcus Tavernier are doubtful.

Manchester City are stuttering in their quest for three straight league titles, dropping points for the eighth time this season with their away draw with Nottingham Forest. John Stones is out with a hamstring injury, while Aymeric Laporte and Kevin de Bruyne are ill.

City have won all eleven Premier League meetings with the Cherries.

Prediction: 0-3

Crystal Palace v Liverpool (3.45pm)

Crystal Palace have taken just one win in their last seven league matches to stagnate in mid-table, just six points above the bottom three. Wilfried Zaha is out with a hamstring injury, while Nathan Ferguson, Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell are doubtful this week for the Eagles.

Liverpool took an away victory over Newcastle United to move within seven points of the top-four. Ibrahima Konaté, Calvin Ramsay, Thiago Alcantara and Luis Diaz are out for the Reds this week, while Arthur Melo is doubtful owing to lack of match fitness.

Liverpool have won 18 of their 27 league meetings with Palace, including nine victories at Selhurst Park.

Prediction: 1-1


Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea (9.30am)

Tottenham have taken three wins from their last five games to leap into the top four. Hugo Lloris, Ryan Sessegnon, Rodrigo Bentancur and Yves Bissouma are out this weekend for the North London club.

Chelsea have won just two of their last 14 league games and two of their last 18 in all competitions. Edouard Mendy, N’Golo Kanté, Christian Pulisic and Armando Broja are out this match for the Blues, while Cesar Azpilicueta is doubtful with a head injury.

Chelsea have dominated this rivalry, winning 33 of their 61 encounters with Spurs.

Prediction: 2-0

Wednesday, March 1

Arsenal v Everton (3.45pm)

Arsenal have won just one of their last five league encounters with the Toffees, but lead the overall series, winning 35 of 61 matches.

Prediction: 2-1

Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers (4pm)

Liverpool were all but eliminated from the Champions League after the embarrassing 5-2 home defeat by Real Madrid.

Although the Reds dominate the history of this game, taking 13 wins from 17 meetings, Wolves smashed them 3-0 in the reverse fixture three weeks prior.

Prediction: 2-2

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Published February 24, 2023 at 7:30 am (Updated February 23, 2023 at 5:36 pm)

Javi Gracia returns to England in time for relegation battle

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