I hope everyone is having a good time over the holiday period and that everyone enjoyed the matches on Boxing Day. Bottom of the table teams were on fire this week and many of them picked up valuable points to get out of the relegation zone. There were some great upsets today along with some unfamiliar fantasy stars and we have a lot to cover.
Don’t forget the next set of matches begins on Saturday so you only have a couple of days to set your fantasy lineup for week 19. I’ll throw in a few suggestions in here if you are trying to change things up.
Hull City 2 – 3 Manchester United
What a game to start off the day. Manchester United started off in horrible fashion and quickly went down 2-0 on goals from James Chester and David Meyler. Manchester showed the kind of composure they had under Sir Alex Ferguson in a great comeback led by Wayne Rooney. Rooney was the man of the match for me in this one as he was once again involved in everything Manchester did. His efforts showed up on the stat sheet with a goal and an assist and he has become a premium fantasy option. I recommend him going ahead and I think he is matchup proof.
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Aston Villa 0 – 1 Crystal Palace
Both teams came off defeats and were desperate to win points here. The game was shaping up a lot like a 0-0 draw when Dwight Gayle gave Palace a stoppage time winner to steal all the points from Aston Villa. After beating his man, Gayle scored with an incredible 20-yard strike that left Brad Guzan helpless. Before that shot, Guzan had shown off his skills with a number of incredible saves and made another strong case for taking over United States goalkeeping duties ahead of next year’s World Cup. I will consider using him in goal for my fantasy team over the weekend when Villa face Swansea at home. I would avoid all Palace players except maybe Joel Ward because they have an extremely tough away match at Manchester City next.
Cardiff City 0 – 3 Southampton
Both teams had been out of form before the start of the match but Southampton turned their luck around and were winning 3-0 by the 27th minute. Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert, and Adam Lallana were all phenomenal and picked Cardiff apart in the first half hour. After going up 3-0, the Saints slowed the game down and controlled it comfortably. Cardiff couldn’t get anything going and despite improving in the second half, couldn’t even get one back. This was the first clean sheet for Southampton in nine games but it seems the Saints may finally be overcoming their injuries and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them challenge Everton for at least a point at Goodison Park on Sunday. Morgan Schneiderlin picked up a fifth yellow on the season and will miss the weekend match.
Chelsea 1 – 0 Swansea City
The game started with Chelsea being the better team and they rightly went up 1-0 in the 29th minute. Ashley Cole intercepted a pass and played the ball to Eden Hazard, who took it down the left side, cut back on his right foot, and put the ball past Gerhard Tremmel. Tremmel had a few saves later in the game to keep Swansea within striking distance as Chelsea once again failed to capitalize on their chances. Samuel Eto’o started at striker for the Blues for wasted a few chances and will probably be replaced for the game against Liverpool. Despite Chelsea not being able to double their lead, Swansea didn’t cause Petr Cech any worries as they failed to create any chances and that left Jose Mourinho a happy man after the game. Ramires will miss the next match due to getting his fifth yellow today and that means Frank Lampard is almost certain to start against Liverpool.
Everton 0 – 1 Sunderland
Everton were in fourth place before today and had looked like a real top four contender; Sunderland were dead last. 23 minutes in, Everton keeper Tim Howard was sent off for bringing down Ki Sung-yueng in the box. Everton went down 1-0 on the penalty that followed and couldn’t get a goal back with 10 men. The Toffees pushed Sunderland back in the closing minutes, but Vito Mannone was in fine form and wouldn’t allow a goal. Everton only go down to fifth place but they need to find a way to beat relegation zone teams even with 10 men if they are to fight for a Champions League place. Sunderland, on the other hand, looked better and are now only three points away from getting out of the relegation zone. They face struggling Cardiff City next.
Newcastle United 5 – 1 Stoke City
Lots of things happened in this game but lets start with the red cards. Glenn Whelan, Marc Wilson and even manager Mark Hughes were all sent off in the first half and those three decisions shaped the game. Stoke were up 1-0 on a beautiful Oussama Assaidi goal but Newcastle were able to dominate the second half with their two man advantage. The result could have been different were it for a different referee. With that said, Newcastle are in sixth place and will need to continue their strong results if they are to stay ahead of in form Manchester United. Yohan Cabaye was once again in form and scored a goal to make fantasy managers happy; I would consider playing him next week.
Norwich City 1 – 2 Fulham
These two bottom of the table teams were headed for a draw but just like in the Aston Villa – Crystal Palace game, the away team scored a fantastic late goal to steal the points. Fulham’s Scott Parker scored a superb winning goal in the 87th minute and gave Fulham enough points to avoid being tied for last place. Gary Hooper scored the goal for Norwich and he has been in good form lately, making for an interesting fantasy choice at a fair price.
Tottenham 1 – 1 West Brom
Tottenham were coming in hot after beating Southampton in a shootout last weekend but things were different against West Brom. Spurs took the lead from a Christian Eriksen free kick but West Brom’s Jonas Olsson equalized before Tottenham could regroup. New Spurs boss Tim Sherwood failed to give fans what they wanted and his team struggled in creating and finishing chances just like they have all season long. I’m not sure Sherwood deserved to be named manager after just one win and now I’m even more skeptical after seeing his team struggle against West Brom at home.
West Ham 1 – 3 Arsenal
West Ham started the game hot and kept Arsenal scoreless in the first half. At the beginning of the second, Carlton Cole surprised the Gunners and gave West Ham the lead. That didn’t last very long as Arsenal regrouped well and scored three goals in 11 minutes to put the game away. Theo Walcott scored two and Lucas Podolski added the third. Both of them looked healthy and once again give Arsenal a potent attack from the wings. I would feel good using Walcott in fantasy. One man to avoid in the next few weeks is Aaron Ramsey; the midfielder limped off and was deemed unfit for the next few games by Arsene Wenger.
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Manchester City 2 – 1 Liverpool
The most entertaining match of the day ended with a narrow win by the home side. Manchester City continued their great run at the Etihad by seeing off Liverpool. Phillippe Coutinho opened up the scoring in the 24th minute after a great move by the Reds. Vincent Kompany tied things up soon after and Alvaro Negredo’s shot found the back of the net right before halftime. Simon Mignolet should have saved Negrodo’s effort but the Belgian goalkeeper’s error ended up being the deciding factor. City are now in second place and Liverpool go down to fourth. The top of the table is extremely tight and games like these will end up deciding who takes home the trophy.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow because we will have a lot of content to get you ready for Week 19.