Leicester City’s fairytale title charge is on the verge of completion, sending one final, cathartic shockwave through the world of football. Completing that task in GW36 will be difficult for the Foxes, with a trip to Old Trafford representing the ultimate psychological test for Claudio Ranieri’s men.
Away from the Premier League, GW35 saw the anointment of Crystal Palace and Manchester United as FA Cup finalists. How exactly this affects their outputs in the remaining EPL fixtures is unclear, but Manchester United still have an outside chance of Champions League qualification, making the Red Devils a side with a role still to play.
1. Georginio Wijnaldum
Crystal Palace (H)
The other finalists, Crystal Palace, are all but safe. As such, zealous exertion in the league is not anticipated from Alan Pardew’s men in the remaining fixtures. With this in mind, it may be time to invest more readily in Newcastle players this week.
Newcastle United remain rooted firmly in the relegation zone, and survival remains as remote a prospect as it has ever been throughout 2016. However, the Magpies have given themselves a ray of hope after a rousing comeback from 2-0 down at Anfield in GW35.
Though absent from the scoresheet, Wijnaldum’s half-time introduction (for Ayoze Perez) at Anfield proved influential in transforming the complexion of the game. Newcastle poached two well deserved goals, and thoroughly dominated a second half which could easily have yielded a victory for Rafael Benitez on his EPL return to Anfield.
Unsurprisingly, statistics indicate that Wijnaldum remains Newcastle’s best all-round midfielder.
2/3. Heurelho Gomes & Craig Cathcart
Aston Villa (H)
At the wrong end of the table, to the surprise of no-one, Aston Villa’s fate was finally sealed after a brave but ultimately futile performance.
Two weeks ago, the Villans fell to a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford, the same stadium at which midland rivals Leicester could clinch the title. However, it is ironic that Eric Black’s men at least produced an improved attacking performance in the 4-2 home defeat to Southampton last week.
Beleaguered Aston Villa players, representing a club with a past that Watford can only envy, travel to Hertfordshire with an uncertain future ahead. Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes should not experience a particularly taxing afternoon in GW36, and his agreeable price makes him an exceptionally safe pick against a Villa side with nothing left but time.
At the back, Watford’s number one defender Craig Cathcart endured a difficult afternoon at Wembley Stadium, failing to lead by example and prevent Palace’s winning goal. As an ever present in the Watford side, Cathcart should however experience an unusually easy shift against Aston Villa.
4/5/6. Roberto Firmino, James Milner & Daniel Sturridge
Liverpool’s focus is now purely on the Europa League, but Jürgen Klopp has sufficient firepower at his disposal to outclass Francesco Guidolin’s now-safe Swansea side. With a blend of youth, flair and experience, this group of three players has stood out as the most consistent of spring 2016, flourishing well under Klopp’s regime.
The Reds have already demonstrated the ability to take the initiative against opponents that have little to play for, regardless of the stakes, as evidenced by a 4-0 mauling of Everton at Anfield in the second Merseyside Derby of this season.