Europa League Thursday nights mean one thing: another Sunday packed full of games. We finally get to see Leicester test themselves against one of the traditional top four in Chelsea and how they react will go a long way to deciding if they truly have what it takes to challenge for a title. Aston Villa v Arsenal could well get messy and sandwiched in between we will find out if Tottenham can keep up their preposterous unbeaten run.
Aston Villa v Arsenal
Doom and gloom is always the order of the day at Villa Park and things aren’t about to get any better this week when Arsene Wenger’s group of crocks pitch up in the Midlands. Remi Garde has still failed to win any of his Premier League games since arriving and this weekend that will continue. They did get a spirited draw last weekend at Southampton and Jordan Veretout looked like the player that Villa pinned a small amount of their hopes on during the summer. Veretout took an assist after winning in six crosses, four of which were accurate, and had three key passes. This was all obviously working towards getting the ball onto the head of Rudy Gestede to try to start justifying the purchase. Arsenal had a huge win midweek to advance to the next round of the Champions League and do well historically at Villa Park. Three of the last four times these teams have played in the Premier League midweek hat-trick hero Olivier Giroud has scored a goal and he is the Gunners’ biggest threat this time round too.
Who to Pick?
Jordan Veretout, Aston Villa ($3,200)
Jordan Ayew, Aston Villa ($4,000)
Olivier Giroud, Arsenal ($7,000)
Mesut Ozil, Arsenal ($7,800)
Liverpool v West Brom
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp gets his first taster of Tony Pulis’ when West Brom bring their very special brand of defend-till-you-die soccer to Anfield. Philippe Coutinho is key to Liverpool’s game plan and his 4.6 shots per game lead the league this season. This is not the kind of game made for Christian Benteke (6.8 aerials won per game) due to the fact that Pulis tends to pack his defence with as many central defenders as is humanly possible. The number is four, for anyone that was wondering. West Brom have hit some form of sorts with no losses in three games and they have conceded just three goals across those clashes. Stephane Sessegnon being out is a big loss as he creates a lot through his relentless dribbling. What it does mean is that James McClean and Callum McManaman will occupy wide positions and attempt to take advantage of Salomon Rondon’s battering ram approach to football. Just like Pulis likes it.
Who to Pick?
Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool ($6,300)
Alberto Moreno, Liverpool ($4,600)
Salomon Rondon, West Brom ($4,200)
James McClean, West Brom ($3,900)
Spurs v Newcastle
Spurs celebrate their advancement into the last 32 of the Europa League with the visit of Newcastle, a side that has been very successful in this corner of North London over the past few years. Harry Kane, fresh off a rest from Europa League action, will fancy his chances against a Newcastle United defence that shipped five at Palace only two weeks ago. Kane averages out at 3.9 shots per game. Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela (3 and 2.2 key passes per game respectively) are the keys to unlocking the defence and the latter is coming off the back of a hat trick against Monaco. Newcastle have won their last two games in North London and will be hugely buoyed by their win against Liverpool last weekend that was built on an inspired performance by Georginio Wijnaldum. The problem with Steve McClaren’s side is that they are so week-to-week there’s no way they can be relied upon. Newcastle have the second lowest shots per game (9.2) and the old adage that if you don’t shoot you don’t score couldn’t be any more true here. Otherwise, how are you going to win?
Who to Pick?
Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur ($7,600)
Erik Lamela, Tottenham Hotspur ($4,400)
Georginio Wijnaldum, Newcastle United ($4,900)
Moussa Sissoko, Newcastle United ($4,400)
Leicester v Chelsea
In what is definitely the most interesting clash of the weekend, Chelsea travel to Leicester to face Claudio Ranieri’s champions in waiting. Any person with even a passing interest in soccer cannot fail to be impressed by Leicester this season. Jamie Vardy’s scoring run stopped at 11 and thankfully Riyad Mahrez picked up the can last week with a hat trick to give the Foxes another win. Even so, Leicester have only faced two of the traditional top four, both at home, and taken one point in a 1-1 draw against Manchester United. The other clash was a 5-2 loss to Arsenal. Chelsea have been a shadow of the team that walked to the Premier League title last season and, even though there has been the odd bright spot, it’s been exceedingly bleak for Jose Mourinho. The win against Porto on Wednesday was probably their best performance of the season and Willian was, yet again, a huge part of this. Diego Costa looks as though he’s cranking back up again and with Eden Hazard pulling the strings there should be no one completely writing them off for a top four spot. It’s been one of those seasons after all.
Who to Pick?
Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City ($8,500)
Christian Fuchs, Leicester City ($4,000)
Diego Costa, Chelsea ($6,400)
Willian, Chelsea ($6,500)