The race for the Premier League title and the battle to evade relegation are back on this weekend.
Here Press Association Sport examines five talking points heading into the action.
The honeymoon is over
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’ success as interim manager made his permanent claim to the Manchester United job impossible to ignore. But having auditioned so superbly, a less sympathetic phase begins as he works to prove he was the right choice despite his inexperience. A run of two defeats to Arsenal and Wolves must be ended against Watford to avoid any early-reign jitters setting in.
The international break is over, enabling Manchester City to resume their pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple. Fulham should be swatted aside with ease, leaving 14 games left for history to be made. Pep Guardiola’s men trail Premier League leaders Liverpool by two points but have a game in hand and their only rivals for the title host Tottenham on Sunday.
Callum Hudson-Odoi won his first caps in England’s recent Euro 2020 qualifiers, but will Chelsea pick him for Sunday’s trip to Cardiff? The outstanding 19-year-old has yet to start a Premier League match for the Blues yet is trusted by Gareth Southgate, albeit against the Czech Republic and Montenegro. Bayern Munich failed with repeated attempts to sign him in January and Chelsea must prove he is part of their plans if they are to convince him to stay.
Huddersfield have already escaped the embarrassment of being the worst side in Premier League history – that undignified record belongs to the Derby County team that managed 11 points in 2007-08. But were they to lose all seven of their remaining games then only the Rams would have performed more poorly and the Terriers could even match them for the earliest Premier League relegation on Saturday.
Counting the cost
Bournemouth’s ongoing top-flight survival is a warming against-the-odds tale, yet a delve into the figures reveals the financial challenges involved in safeguarding Premier League status. The most recent numbers show salaries climbing by 42 per cent to £101.8million and a net loss of £10.5million. In contrast, Huddersfield’s wage bill is substantially lower at £62.6million and their accounts show a net profit of over £25m.
Provided by Press Association Sport
Managing the money you have to play with in Fantasy Premier League can be taxing. That can be especially true when Free-Hitting, which many FPL managers will be doing for Double Gameweek 32.
There’s nothing worse than falling 0.1m short of buying a player you want while there’s something very unsettling about having too much in reserve when it could be invested in your squad and translate into points.
All over the pitch, there is value for money available. For every premium asset, there is a more than useful budget option.
Here, we pick the best premium and budget assets for Gameweek 30.
Premium – Kepa Arrizabalaga
Sure, Chelsea haven’t been the most reliable defence but they’re up against two of the worst attacks in Cardiff City and Brighton during DGW32. Kepa Arrizabalaga will likely have some comfortable saves to make from range and though he is a premium price keeper, he’s the cheapest way into Chelsea’s clean sheet points. And if you aren’t Free-Hitting, it helps that he plays in Blank Gameweek 33 as well.
Budget – Ben Foster
If you aren’t Free-Hitting, Ben Foster is a good and affordable option. Watford are due a clean sheet and play twice this week against Manchester United away before hosting lowly Fulham. Foster has just six fewer points this season than premium options Kepa and Hugo Lloris while boasting a lead by the same margin over David De Gea.
Premium – Aymeric Laporte
With City playing twice, and against the likes of relegation strugglers Cardiff and Fulham at that, you want to stock up on the attacking players but one defensive asset would make good sense as well. Aymeric Laporte is the most likely of the back four to play both fixtures and should get the nod.
Budget – Jeffrey Schlupp
Crystal Palace should get at least one clean sheet this week from their two matches. Jeffrey Schlupp is listed as a defender but gives his owners an advantage by featuring in midfield. He’s registered one goal, three assists and a clean sheet in the last six GWs.
Premium – Eden Hazard
Like Chelsea, Eden Hazard hasn’t been the most consistent but he’s already bagged 33 points in his games against Cardiff and Brighton this season. His high ceiling and form against his opponents in DGW32 makes him impossible to ignore and even something of a differential should you choose to captain him.
Budget – Diogo Jota
Wolves have been in good form and Diogo Jota has been a big part of that. Playing in a front two, he’s scored 17 points over the last two GWs. Manchester United at home should be a tough challenge (though he scored against them in the FA Cup) but a trip to Burnley before that is where he could deliver.
Premium- Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero has already plundered three hat-tricks this season on his way to a tally of 18 goals and should he hit his stride in at least one of these games, he could deliver big. DGW32 seems like the perfect time for an FPL legend like him to burst into life.
Budget – Raul Jimenez
The only player who deserves more credit than Jota for Wolves’ recent form is striker Raul Jimenez. He has produced the best value in FPL this season, ranking fourth for points among strikers, just 12 behind Aguero at the top and still only 6.8m.
Fancy pitting your wits against us? You can join “Sport360 Fans League” using the code 2326997-532303.
Tottenham players have finally got their first taste of the club’s new stadium after they trained there on Thursday.
Spurs’ long-awaited move into their new 62,062-seater home is less than a week away as they play Crystal Palace in the Premier League next Wednesday.
The first-team squad sampled the facilities as the group were together for the first time following the international break, building up to Sunday’s trip to Liverpool.
Captain Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Jan Vertonghen were among those to get acquainted with their new surroundings, where the home dressing room has leather seats with personalised screens and a charging point.
Alderweireld, who is expected to leave the club in the summer, posted on his Instagram story: “This is special, far beyond my expectations.”
It has been a long wait for the Spurs squad to get into their new home, officially called the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium until naming rights are sold.
They were supposed to be in there for the start of the current season, a date which was then put back to September as the project was beset by delays.
That has at least allowed the stadium to be fully ready and fans got their first peak at what life in their new home will be like as it staged its first official test event last Sunday, when Tottenham Under-18s beat Southampton.
The second one sees a Spurs ‘Legends’ side take on Inter Milan, with an attendance of 45,000 required to get the relevant safety certificates from Haringey Council.
One man was absent from the group training, though, as Harry Kane collected his MBE from Buckingham Palace.
Kane was recognised in the New Year’s honours list for his exploits in the World Cup in the summer, where he won the Golden Boot, and he was handed his gong by Football Association president Prince William.
Kane was expected to train separately at the new stadium on Thursday afternoon, where he is likely to take the opportunity to visualise scoring plenty of goals.
But the 25-year-old has not allowed himself to dream about becoming the first player to score there, insisting it is about the team winning.
“I think the most important thing is we want to win the game,” said Kane, speaking to Press Association Sport as he received his MBE from the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace.
“You never want to go into a new stadium without getting a result. Of course as a striker I would want to score but the most important thing is we win.”