We round up the key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from the midweek EFL Cup games.
Seven Premier League clubs were in action on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the results of the ties having big ramifications for Blank Gameweek 25.
That round of Premier League fixtures clashes with the final of the EFL Cup, so whoever is heading to Wembley on the weekend of February 25/26 will have their scheduled league match postponed.
BLANK GAMEWEEK 25: CITY’S MATCH GOES AHEAD
Manchester City’s shock EFL Cup quarter-final elimination at the hands of Southampton means that their Gameweek 25 match against Bournemouth will go ahead – weather/Covid-permitting, of course.
Cup exits for Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers also mean that their respective Gameweek 25 fixtures against Arsenal and Fulham will proceed as planned.
All in all, this Blank Gameweek looks much easier to navigate than originally feared with well-owned FPL assets like Erling Haaland (£12.2m), Kevin De Bruyne (£12.5m), Gabriel Martinelli (£6.8m), Martin Odegaard (£6.7m), Andreas Pereira (£4.6m) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (£7.2m) all now playable.
Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur were already in the clear with regard to Gameweek 25.
So who are the teams we have to be concerned about? Manchester United and Newcastle United are the bookies’ favourites to win their EFL Cup semi-finals, so their Gameweek 25 league matches against Brentford and Brighton and Hove Albion look most at risk of being postponed:
|GW25 Premier League fixture||Status||A blank will happen if the following occurs:|
|Fulham v Wolves||On|
|Newcastle v Brighton||Possible blank||If Newcastle reach the EFL Cup final|
|Everton v Aston Villa||On|
|Leeds v Southampton||Possible blank||If Southampton reach the EFL Cup final|
|Leicester v Arsenal||On|
|West Ham v Nottm Forest||Possible blank||If Nottm Forest reach the EFL Cup final|
|Bournemouth v Man City||On|
|Crystal Palace v Liverpool||On|
|Man Utd v Brentford||Possible blank||If Man Utd reach the EFL Cup final|
|Spurs v Chelsea||On|
There is a situation whereby a team has their original Gameweek 25 postponed but still plays in that same Gameweek; upcoming FA Cup results will have a say in that.
Above: The FA Cup fifth round falls in the midweek between Gameweeks 25 and 26. Thanks to @Legomane for the graphic.
Here’s an example:
- Newcastle reach the final of the EFL Cup, resulting in the postponement of their original Gameweek 25 fixture against Brighton.
- West Ham United are eliminated from the FA Cup by Derby County in round four.
- With Newcastle already out of the FA Cup, their outstanding fixture against the Hammers could slot into the midweek when the FA Cup fifth round is being played. This would result in a normal, ‘single’ Gameweek for Newcastle and a Double Gameweek for West Ham.
STONES FITNESS LATEST
Just when it looked like he was working his way into FPL managers’ thoughts for the upcoming Double Gameweek, the in-form John Stones (£5.4m) goes and misses City’s midweek cup tie at St Mary’s.
Stones had strung together six successive Premier League starts, making Pep Guardiola’s line-up in 11 of the last 12 league matches he had been available for – his only benching in that time coming straight after he had recovered from a hamstring injury.
But he was absent from the matchday squad on Wednesday night, with quotes from the City camp ahead of kick-off suggesting he was “not fully fit”.
We’ve heard that ambiguous term before from the City head coach, and it doesn’t always mean lacking match fitness as the FPL flag now states. So unless it’s code for ‘a rest’, it might be a tall order for the England international to recover for the Saturday lunchtime Manchester derby.
All eyes and ears will be on training ground images and Guardiola’s pre-Gameweek 25 press conference, which will be held on Friday.
CITY ‘SECOND STRING’ FLOP
While it’d be wrong to label the entire City XI as back-ups, the benchings of Haaland, De Bruyne, Rodri (£5.6m), Ederson (£5.4m), Bernardo Silva (£6.8m), Manuel Akanji (£5.0m) and Riyad Mahrez (£7.5m) did hint at Guardiola resting the majority of his currently in-favour big guns for the imminent clash with Manchester United. Rico Lewis (£3.9m), incidentally, was also among the replacements.
And the resulting performance against bottom-of-the-table Southampton was pretty dire, with City not managing a single shot on target against the side who have kept just one Premier League clean sheet all season.
“The best team won. They were better. We had a bad night, they played good. We had a bad start. They performed well. We have to deserve it. I want to deserve it and today was not the case. Southampton deserve to be in the semi-final of this competition.
“Mainly these guys have done these years and three days ago vs Chelsea, we have to be prepared every single game when you play for Manchester City. Today we were not.
“A different competition, of course if we perform in this way [against Manchester United] we don’t have a chance. I know the moment they have. Many years they’re looking forward to stay in this position. We know exactly what to do to play better and we’re going to try to do it.” – Pep Guardiola
Guardiola was asked about his decision to bench De Bruyne and Haaland, who emerged as second-half substitutes to try and turn the game around – to no avail.
“They were on the bench against Chelsea [in the FA Cup] and you didn’t ask me the question because we won!
“Always I have the belief that when you play four competitions, you have to use everyone. Everyone has to be ready. And the guys who don’t play, you have to do something with the body language to help the guys who are going to play and everyone has to be involved.
“So who knows with Erling or Kevin if it would have been different? I don’t know it. We try to do our best with everyone and we rotate the team. When we played Chelsea after the Premier League, it is ‘so good, how nice are the decisions’. I understand how it is, how it works, this business. What we try to do for everyone involved and we have to do it and today was not the case.” – Pep Guardiola
While a midweek start is no guarantee of a weekend benching, and vice-versa, it’s hard not to think that this result made any selection dilemmas a hell of a lot easier for the derby.
Kyle Walker (£4.8m), Phil Foden (£8.2m) and Joao Cancelo (£7.2m), who have struggled for Premier League minutes since the resumption, all started here, with Walker in an unusual centre-back role (as part of a two), Cancelo at right-back and Foden initially deployed in the middle of the park. All of those were in positions you’d struggle to imagine them occupying at Old Trafford.
Walker and Foden had largely shone against Chelsea in the FA Cup but didn’t catch the eye here, not that they were alone or indeed the worst offenders. Even the second-half introduction of the cavalry, including De Bruyne and Haaland, could only spark a modest improvement and it failed to turn the course of the game around.
Ilkay Gundogan’s (£7.3m) post-match words were scathing; for owners of City’s FPL assets, let’s hope it gees them up for the derby.
“It was a lack of attitude today, lack of confidence, lack of commitment. I feel like, especially today but in the last few weeks, we could have done better.
“We’ve won games but I feel like something is missing, something’s off. At the minute there’s a special recipe missing in the team – performances, the desire and hunger is not as in recent years.
“Hopefully it was the right wake-up call for us. If it is it’s something good we can take out of the game. We need to start the hard work again, be humble because things won’t come to us automatically.”
MARTIAL/DALOT INJURY UPDATES
Another team who ‘double’ in Gameweek 20, Manchester United, eventually saw off Charlton Athletic on Tuesday.
Absent from that match were Anthony Martial (£6.6m) and Raphael Varane (£4.8m), while Diogo Dalot (£4.7m) limped out of the contest in the first half.
Martial had also been missing from training ground images earlier in the week.
United boss Erik ten Hag sounded fairly positive when asked about his walking wounded, however, giving an update on Dalot and Donny van de Beek (£5.1m) before confirming that Varane and Martial had been rested.
“Both [van de Beek and Dalot], I can’t tell that much.
“We have seen Diogo come off but it was a precaution and we have to see how it develops in the coming hours and make a clear decision.
“Donny, we are doing some final investigations and then when we have that, we will update you.
“[Martial and Varane] are resting tonight. I think, yeah, [they’ll be ready for the derby].” – Erik ten Hag
Any serious injury to Dalot would of course elevate the game-time prospects of a cut-price Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.3m) ahead of Double Gameweek 20.
BUENO BENCHED, ANOTHER SUPERB NEWCASTLE DISPLAY + MORE TALKING POINTS
Nottingham Forest’s penalty shoot-out victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers may have come at a cost, with goalscorer Willy Boly (£4.2m) – someone who had just been promoted to our Watchlist – limping out of the contest with an ankle injury. The stopper and striker Taiwo Awoniyi (£5.7m), who missed this cup tie, will both be assessed ahead of Gameweek 20.
While Forest went about as full strength as they could go for this match, Wolves rested some key individuals. Ruben Neves (£5.5m), Nathan Collins (£4.4m) and Daniel Podence (£5.3m) all began life on the bench, so owners of Hugo Bueno (£3.9m) – who was also named among the substitutes – will be hoping that Rayan Ait-Nouri’s (£4.2m) promotion to the starting XI was mere rotation ahead of a crucial Premier League fixture against fellow strugglers West Ham United.
With Diego Costa (£5.5m) injured and Matheus Cunha (£5.5m) still getting up to speed following his winter move, Raul Jimenez (£6.7m) led the line for Wolves at the City Ground, converting Cunha’s cross to equalise after earlier wasting a huge chance.
Like Forest, Newcastle United and Leicester City also went full strength for their cup clash – although in the Foxes’ case, with an eight-strong injury list that still includes James Maddison (£8.0m), it wasn’t all that strong.
It was another excellent display and yet another clean sheet from the Magpies, who ought to have been out of sight in the first half before goals from Dan Burn (£4.5m) and Joelinton (£5.9m) settled the tie. Danny Ward (£4.1m) was kept busy, making seven stops to Nick Pope’s (£5.4m) one.
“The best team won. The players worked hard and showed the effort and commitment but we lacked quality in our play. We didn’t pass it how we would want to. Sure, the players gave everything but the best team won so congratulations to Newcastle.” – Brendan Rodgers
Marcus Rashford (£7.0m) made it seven goals in six post-restart fixtures to continue his excellent form heading into the Double Gameweek. Rashford scored a brace off the bench against Charlton, with an almost-second-string United side initially sent out by ten Hag. Luke Shaw (£5.1m) and Christian Eriksen (£6.3m) were among the other big names rested, while Bruno Fernandes (£9.8m) was suspended for that cup tie.
Going right back to where we started, we end at St Mary’s. It was a thoroughly deserved win for Southampton and a much-needed result for the maligned Nathan Jones, who was already under pressure from the St Mary’s faithful.
Saints’ underlying defensive numbers haven’t actually been all that bad in 2022/23, with some iffy goalkeeping one of the undermining factors. Jones was keen to point out the strides his troops are making at the back.
“Against Fulham, we were really organised. Against Forest, they hardly had a chance in 90 minutes regardless of the apparent ineptitude of the performance. Palace was exactly the same. We’re building.” – Nathan Jones
James Ward-Prowse (£6.2m) was deployed in a more advanced number 10 role against City. While it may have been a horses-for-courses tactic and acknowledging that he’s a long way off many FPL managers’ radars, having some open-play threat to add to his set-piece expertise wouldn’t do his appeal any harm.
“We shifted Prowsey to a 10 position as we felt he understands it. He understands how we want to press and he has the athleticism to do that. Let’s be honest, he’s been wonderful for me since I’ve come in, productivity and product. Everything has been superb and tonight was his best game.” – Nathan Jones