That was the longest international break on record. About 7 years ago, when gameweek 11 ended, I had cobbled together 49 points. It marginally beat the average of 44 and saw me rise to 60,502nd. It was looking good for a bumper week after Saturday’s games, as Mo Salah did me a good turn, but captain Kane blanked at home (again) and a good week became an average one. One day, I will learn. Anyway, onto this week, and what’s that coming over the hill? Is it a North London derby? (North London derrrbbbyyyy?)
Arsenal vs Spurs is a good way to welcome back the Premier League. I’m still not overly convinced by any of Arsenal’s players in an FPL sense, and you certainly wouldn’t back them to keep out Tottenham over 90 minutes – provided everyone is fit. Alli and Kane both missed England duty with injuries so their fitness is paramount to how good a proposition either team is this weekend.
Rampant Man City are away to Leicester, who have had an upturn in form since Claude Puel took over but it would take a brave man to predict a win for the Foxes here. In the corresponding fixture last season, Jamie Vardy scored a hat-trick which I guess is one crumb of comfort, even if Man City are a much improved proposition since then. Man City’s attacking resources are as numerous as ever, especially as Sergio Aguero has declared himself fine on social media after his scare on International duty. As ever with Pep you can never really second guess what team he will pick, only that whichever 11 he puts out will probably score a hatful. An ongoing problem.
Chelsea are at West Brom, and whilst it’s never easy playing a Pulis side away I get the feeling all is not well at the Hawthorns, and you certainly wouldn’t be backing WBA to get a result here. Hazard picked up a slight knock on International duty but is expected to be fine, whilst Morata will fancy himself to add to his winning goal against Man Utd in the previous game week.
Liverpool at home to Southampton is more of a clear cut match, though once again Sadio Mane is injured. There’s no doubt Mane’s appearance in the side adds value to everybody else due to the pace and movement he provides, as seen against West Ham. Salah was in exceptional form in that match and he will fancy his chances against uninspiring Southampton. Coutinho played for Brazil at Wembley on Tuesday, so he is back to full fitness.
The late kick off is where we find Man Utd hosting Newcastle. It’s fair to say Man Utd’s form has been patchy of late, whilst Romelu Lukaku’s goal threat has diminished during that time. You’d certainly expect Man Utd to win here, even if Benitez’s side has been typically well organised – the fitness of Jamaal Lascelles could be crucial to just how good an evening Lukaku owners have.
Whisper it quietly but Crystal Palace have 5 decent games coming up, starting with a home game against Everton this weekend. Christian Benteke is back from injury and whilst I would wait before investing £7.6m in him, his appearance boosts the prospects of Zaha (£6.8m) and Townsend (£5.7m) as Palace become a tougher team to defend against. England’s latest hero Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£4.5m) is doubtful with a back injury, though you have to say he is excellently priced if fit. Another team in the bottom half with decent fixtures is Bournemouth, who have three home games in the next 4. Simon Francis is only £4.4m if you want a cheap defender, but you get what you pay for. There’s a scrap on for places at Bournemouth, with Callum Wilson, Defoe, Josh King and Benik Afobe all options in the centre forward position.
It’s the week after Internationals so be mindful of those travelling back from far and wide. It’s Champions League in midweek which might also have an effect. I would make next week a prime wildcard week, if you’re still holding onto your pre-new year one. You get a new one in January so use your current one sooner rather than later.
Romelu Lukaku is the obvious “good home team vs poor away team” option, which I can understand. When Man Utd play well you can pretty much guarantee he will score. Salah at home to Southampton is another good option, he’s a constant threat but I actually prefer him away from home as teams tend to leave more space for him to be magic in. Whenever Harry Kane is on a pitch that is not at Wembley I would back him to score but I don’t like captaining in the early game, and it’s hardly a gimme. My left field pick is Glenn Murray, as Brighton will probably get a pen off Ryan Shawcross and he sticks them away for fun. It would make Monday night football interesting anyway.
My team is hanging on a bit. I seem to be stuck in the habit of just mindlessly rotating a striker who is injured, I have £1.5m in the bank and my only injury is Christian Atsu, who looks set for a spell on the sidelines – but he’s relatively cheap and I will wait to see who gets the nod to replace him. I hope Rolando Aarons, as he’s only £4.4m, but I’ll see how long Atsu is sidelined for first. So basically I’ll end up buying Lukaku for Jesus and regretting it later. Life ooooh life.
De Gea, Mee, Fernandez, Monreal, Eriksen, Salah, McArthur, Brady, Lukaku/Jesus, Vardy, Kane. Subs: Elliot, Atsu, Mbemba, Cedric
Fairly grim, but be that as it may, I wish you luck with your own teams and may all your arrows be green. Toodles!