The final round of midweek mayhem provides fantasy managers with a golden opportunity to get an all-decisive edge over the opposition.
Monday night saw Leicester City deservedly clinch the Premier League title without kicking a ball, and a season of poetic justice will be completed in GW38 when Claudio Ranieri receives a guard of honour from the team of the very chairman that sacked him twelve years ago. Subsequently, the attention turns to what remains a fascinating relegation dogfight.
A turbulent relegation battle has kept every so-called “expert” guessing one week after the next, but against all the odds, it is Newcastle that currently occupy the proverbial driving seat. Pending the results produced in double headers for Norwich and Sunderland, the Magpies may even yet avoid another last day scrap.
Apparently doomed after a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in Steve McLaren’s last game, Newcastle United are currently out of the drop zone, with the arrival of Rafael Benitez sparking a revelatory revival. A trip to whipping boys Aston Villa in their penultimate fixture provides another great opportunity for Newcastle to keep a vital distance between themselves and the other relegation candidates.
1. Chancel Mbemba
Aston Villa (A)
Mbemba is statistically Newcastle’s best defender, but even against an officially-relegated Aston Villa side, few rival managers will prioritise the Congolese full-back. He was influential in the crucial 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, and has largely thrived under the Benitez regime.
Aston Villa’s pile of dross reserved one of their ‘best’ performances in a dismal season in GW36, going down 3-2 at Watford with a brave and unusually spirited performance. Villa may attempt to end the season with a home win, but it will in no way serve as an apology for the preceeding games.
With everything still to play for, Newcastle will be by far the more motivated of the two teams.
2/3. Nathan Clyne & Roberto Firmino
Watford (H) & Chelsea (H)
Roberto Firmino retains his place on the list of must-haves, with Nathan Clyne included as Liverpool’s (statistically best) defender against two sides with nothing more to play for. Chelsea showed great vulnerability on the counter in the first half of their 2-2 draw with Tottenham in GW36.
After securing a place in the Europa League final, the power of the Kop has arguably been restored to a level not seen since the heady days of the 1970s and 80s. Six points will come as little surprise, with Liverpool still in mathematical contention for Champions League qualification via the league, if ultimate triumph in the Europa League is not forthcoming.
4/5/6. Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford & Anthony Martial
Norwich (A) & West Ham (A)
With Champions League qualification still firmly on the agenda, the relatively smaller matter of an FA Cup final will not prevent the Red Devils from giving their all until the bitter end of the season – and possibly Louis van Gaal’s reign.
Marcus Rashford remains an affordable and highly potent attacker after a hugely industrious spring in the famous red and white of United. So effective has the youngster been in leading the charge, he is already on the periphery of Roy Hodgson’s England squad for Euro 2016.
Anthony Martial is set to make an impact in GW37, especially when faced with a leaky Norwich defence. United also have a psychological edge against West Ham, having knocked out Slaven Bilic’s men in the quarter finals of the FA Cup at Upton Park.