Arsenal and Chelsea both recorded more wins in the Europa League on Thursday night as they prepare for London derbies this weekend.
Neither side deployed particularly strong line-ups but there were still plenty of Fantasy talking points ahead of Gameweek 14.
Interestingly, the most influential talking point actually involved someone who didn’t even play in the midweek European matches…
Chelsea 4-0 PAOK
Goals: Olivier Giroud x2 (£7.7m), Callum Hudson-Odoi (£4.2m), Álvaro Morata (£8.7m)
Assists: Pedro (£6.3m), Cesc Fabregas (£6.3m), Hudson-Odoi
Chelsea got back to winning ways by beating PAOK 4-0 at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night. A brace from Olivier Giroud (£7.7m) was the top story as he hopes to break into the side to face Fulham on Sunday. Maurizio Sarri rang the changes for the Europa League match with only Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.5m) keeping his place from the line-up that was thrashed 3-1 by Spurs.
Eden Hazard (£11.1m) owners will be hoping that Giroud gets to start in Gameweek 14 as he usually brings the best out of the Belgian. After averaging just 1.8 points per Gameweek in the last five, it is last chance saloon for Hazard against Fulham. The fact that Giroud was replaced by Àlvaro Morata (£8.7m) with 15 minutes left to play, despite being one goal away from a hat-trick, does imply that the Frenchman could be required when Chelsea host Fulham on Sunday. However, when asked if Thursday night’s performance had changed Sarri’s thinking about the league match, he said it did not. Hazard owners will have to hope that the Italian still considers Giroud.
“No. Because, in the last match, the problem was the team. Not one or two players. So I think that if there were two different players, it would have been the same. The big problem was the team.” – Maurizio Sarri
Sarri was also specifically asked by journalists if Giroud scoring twice would make a difference to which he said:
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. In that match, I think if we were able to draw five minutes from the end, we lost.” – Maurizio Sarri
Frustratingly, it appears that Hazard himself was not even mentioned in the post-match press conference, which was also supposed to act as the pre-match media commitment for the Fulham game. We were hoping for a further update on the injury he suffered against Tottenham but it looks as if we may have to go with the comments that came out before the PAOK match. That makes formulating a plan around him and Raheem Sterling (£11.3m) a little harder than we’d like.
“Hazard is not a serious injury, I think. He will not be able to play tomorrow [v PAOK], but I think that we will be able to recover him for the next Premier League match. 25 days ago he had a back injury, now the ankle, so he has lost a lot of training. So it is normal that he isn’t at the top of his physical condition. He needs to have one week of training and a couple of matches to [recover] his best level. I think that this week it’s useful for him to have [only] training [and not play v PAOK]. Of course, I think that he cannot play ten matches in 29/30 days. So sometimes he has to rest.” – Maurizio Sarri
Another 90 minutes on the continent for Ross Barkley (£5.9m) means that he is likely to be replaced by Mateo Kovačić (£5.9m) in the Premier League on Sunday.
There were some great performances all round from Chelsea, although, as Sarri said, Fantasy managers should not read too much into what they saw on Thursday night. Pacey winger Callum Hudson-Odoi (£4.2m) particularly impressed but there appears to be no chance of seeing Hudson-Odoi in the Premier League anytime soon. While he has plenty of attacking threat, Sarri wants to see more from him defensively first.
“He played very well, but the type of match was for his characteristics. So they were down to 10 men after seven minutes, so we needed only to play in the offensive phase. He’s really very able to do this. But I want to see him in matches where we also need him in the defensive phase. I don’t know if he is able for the Premier League at 18, especially in a big team. He can be the best player in Europe in two or three years. If he’s already ready now to make a difference in the team like Chelsea, he would be the best player in Europe in two years.” – Maurizio Sarri
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Emerson, Christensen, Cahill, Zappacosta (Ampadu 63′); Loftus-Cheek, Fabregas, Barkley; Hudson-Odoi, Giroud (Morata 75′), Pedro (Willian 66′).
Vorskla 0-3 Arsenal
Goals: Emile Smith-Rowe (£4.5m), Aaron Ramsey (£7.3m), Joe Willock
Assists: Mohamed Elneny (£4.3m)
Unai Emery went with a very youthful side in their 3-0 win over Vorskla on Thursday night. There was not a great deal riding on the match so there was a host of largely unrecognisable names in the side. For that reason, there is only a limited amount we can glean from a Fantasy perspective as most of those who were involved are unlikely to be on our radars any time soon.
Petr Cech (£4.9m) was used in goal with a defence consisting of Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m) and Stephan Lichtsteiner (£4.5m) at full-back with Rob Holding (£4.4m) and Carl Jenkinson at centre-back. Zech Medley replaced Holding on the hour-mark so it is currently unclear who will partner Shkodran Mustafi (£5.4m) at centre-half against Spurs. The fact that Holding started in Ukraine suggests he could miss out in the Premier League for the first time since Gameweek 5. The second-half substitution could be an indication that Emery was preparing him for the north London derby, although both Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos (£5.1m) were left back home.
Aaron Ramsey (£7.3m) was the man who stuck away a first-half penalty, which he had won, but it’s hard to read too much into that considering he was by far the most senior attacking player on the pitch. In fact, it was the first penalty he has ever taken for Arsenal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m), Alexandre Lacazette (£9.6m), Mesut Özil (£8.3m) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.7m) were all given the night off either as unused substitutes or absent from the matchday squad entirely. The fact that Ramsey was one of a few senior players involved among the youngsters does suggest he is in the backup squad for the time being and won’t be involved against Spurs.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.7m) was not involved on the night but still travelled to Ukraine which could mean he one of the names to lose his Premier League place on Sunday. For such an important game, Özil is likely to reclaim his spot.
Starts for Matteo Guendouzi (£4.5m) and Mohamed Elneny (£4.3m) in the Europa League all but confirm that Granit Xhaka (£5.3m) and Lucas Torreira (£4.9m) will patrol central midfield against Spurs.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Maitland-Niles, Holding (Medley 60′), Jenkinson, Lichtsteiner; Guendouzi (Gilmour 76′), Elneny; Smith-Rowe, Ramsey (Saka 68′), Willock; Nketiah.
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