Neither Crystal Palace nor Everton are quite mathematically safe from relegation, but with the two sides playing twice in this game week, there is ample opportunity for both clubs to put right their respective wrongs of 2016.
With both clubs in dire league form however, it may be a false economy to invest in more than one player from either club this week. Indeed, the dawning of spring 2016 has only seen the good get better, and the bad (or mediocre) get worse, with Norwich City being the only real exception after a strong recent run putting daylight between them and the bottom three.
1/2/3. Fraser Forster, Virgil Van Dijk & Sadio Mane – vs Newcastle (H)
Two down, one to go – or so the Geordie faithful would have the nation believe. Newcastle’s plight took an almost certainly fatal turn at Carrow Road, with Rafael Benitez’ men failing to convert dominance into points en-route to a 3-2 defeat.
With the Tyneside club staring firmly into the abyss of oblivion, there can be few worse prospects on the horizon than a long trip to St Mary’s Stadium.
In GW32 they were bit players in the latest chapter of Leicester’s title charge, but Southampton will still approach this match in a buoyant mood. Statistically, the aforementioned trio all lead the way in their respective divisions across the pitch and anything but a comfortable win for the Saints would be a huge surprise.
4. Eric Dier
Considering the history between Tottenham and Manchester United in the Premier League era, to include a Tottenham defender in a list of ‘must-haves’ is a risky move – except in this case.
Many rival managers may shy away from investing in a Tottenham defender this weekend, but Manchester United’s starting XI looked decidedly off-colour in the unremarkable 1-0 home win against Everton. Even with home advantage, United did not attack with purpose on many occasions.
A repeat performance at White Hart Lane will result in a landslide defeat to nil against a title-chasing Tottenham side that largely controlled the 1-1 draw at Anfield in GW32.
5. Dimitri Payet – vs Arsenal (H)
Payet’s efforts could not prevent Crystal Palace from taking a point in GW32, but his contributions were telling throughout the ninety minutes. As the dead ball expert, he is set to play a vital role as West Ham seek what would be only a second league double over Arsenal in fifty years.
6. Romelu Lukaku – vs Watford (A) & Crystal Palace (A)
Evertonians across the country are despairing at a recent downturn of league form, which has cast fresh doubt on the managerial capabilities of Roberto Martinez as the club approaches a new era of ownership.
Two solid cup runs remain the only redeeming feature in what many consider a season of lost opportunity for the blue half of Merseyside, as the squad continues to look disjointed and incompetent in defence.
There is also the overwhelming feeling that, whether or not Everton end their 21-year trophy drought, the star striker of Everton Football Club will be departing for greener pastures this summer. Lukaku has only grown in strength and stature since arriving at the club in July 2014 for a record £28 million, and he remains a worthy pick in the first of two ‘double’ game weeks for Everton.
Aaron Lennon is one of few players that can emerge with any credibility from Everton’s dismal run of recent league form, and he makes the reserve list for GW33.