Swansea @ Liverpool
Key Factor: Martin Olsson/Tom Caroll. Discarded previous manager Bob Bradley rang the changes in the defense/midfield at such a pace one would be forgiven for thinking the starters pulled their names out of a hat. Was it Naughton or Rangel? Kingsley or Taylor? Amat or Mawson? Britton or Fer? New boss Paul Clement has been provided funds this window to refresh the squad and inject more change in the form of new left back Martin Olson and Tom Caroll as part of his midfield. This one could get ugly.
Scoreline: Liverpool 3 – Swansea 0
Watford @ Bournemouth
Key Factor: Bournemouth home form. Liverpool was slain. Arsenal almost. Can Watford survive where they failed? Unlikely. Bournemouth rank 8th for shots on target (49) at home only trailing the big 6 clubs and Everton.
Everton @ Crystal Palace
Key Factor: Christian Beneteke. The Belgian’s scoreless run now stands at 6 games and with Zaha at the African Nation’s Cup the streak could extend further.
Scoreline: Everton 1- Crystal Palace 0
West Ham @ Middlesbrough
Key Factor: Andy Caroll. In 5 games since returning to the starting lineup, Caroll leads all players in touches in the penalty area(52); immediately proving why Bilic has recently lauded his importance. The ponytailed assassin or donkey, depending on your rating, will be pivotal here but Middlesbrough have conceded less shots in the box at home(69) than Arsenal(71).
Scoreline: Westham 1 – Middlesbrough 1
Manchester United @ Stoke
Key Factor: Paul Pogba. United rises and falls on the Frenchman as seen in the recent home games against Middlesbrough and Liverpool. If the referees allow Stoke to bring the rough stuff then United may struggle if Pogba‘s influence and United’s assertiveness could be marginalized.
Scoreline: Manchetsr United 1 – Stoke 0
Sunderland @ West Brom
Key Factor: Matt Phillips. Both coaches have a traditionally conservative approach and with Sunderland suffering with injuries, Moyes will be even more focused on keeping the game tight. Philips delivery could be key to deciding the game as he leads the team in chances created(17) over the last 6 games.
Scoreline: West Brom 1 – Sunderland 0
THE BIG GAME
Spurs @ Manchester City
Key Factor: John Stones/Otamendi. The last time Guardiola faced a team playing a 3-5-2 system it was Chelsea and his response was a strange one. He uncharacteristically matched the formation playing a back 3 of Stones, Otamendi and Kolarov with Navas and Sane operating as makeshift wingbacks. The boldness of the formation revealed Guardiola‘s aspiration or blind hope to control 100% of possession and face no attacks. This is folly of course given the parity of his opponenets. This is not La Liga. Spurs WILL win the ball in dangerous positions and like Chelsea isolate either of the centrebacks who are in woeful form to be kind.
Scoreline: Spurs 3 – Manchester City 1
Leiceister @ Southampton
Key Factor: Demari Gray. With Mahrez at the African Cup of Nations his understudy Gray will be pressed to make an imact against a defensively sound Southampton side.
Scoreline: Leiciester 0 – Southampton 0
Burnley @ Arsenal
Key Factor: Tom Heaton. The Burnley keeper, who continues to lead the leagues in saves made, repelled Manchester United at Old Trafford so would not be intimated by the mountain the Emirates presents. Luck never persists though.
Scoreline: Arsenal 2 – Burnley 0
Hull @ Chelsea
Key Factor: Diego Costa. Well that China story escalated quickly. The hitman appears to be in line to return to the starting lineup having returned to team training on Wednesday. The engglish media meanwhile had him learning Chinese and on punishment from Conte. The hull defense will be the ones under punishment now further dispirited by the potential exit of their talisman Robert Snodgrass and confirmed exit of Jake Livermore.
Scoreline: Chelsea 4 – Hull City 0
Fantasy pick of the Week: Antonio Valencia. Flying under the radar with just 7% ownership Valencia is great value compared to the hot property Marcos Alonsso who though carries more goal threat carries far less creativity than the Ecuadorian who sits in the top 3 for crosses, passes received in the final third and passes in the final third.
Fantasy Drop of the Week: Nathan Ake. His recall to Chelsea and Alonso‘s assurances on his health ends his security of starts.