Hive FPL - Game Week 23 Match Previews & Key Stats

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The double game weeks keep on coming and this one sees the top 2 clubs go head to head in a match that could go a significant way to deciding the title.

Elsewhere the stats suggest goals at the King Power Stadium, Ethiad and Elland Road while the matches taking place at Craven Cottage and the Vitality Stadium could be where to find your clean sheet bonuses this week.

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The Hammers will hope to continue their recent up turn in both performances and results that has seen them move away from the bottom 3. Jarrod Bowen (MID) is the form man for David Moyes’ side at the moment, in his last 5 games he ranks 3rd amongst midfielders for threat on the ICT rating behind only Martinelli and Rashford but while the former has struggled to add points to his performances, the West Ham man did rack-up 16 points in his previous home match.

For Chelsea, despite all the excitement in the transfer market, they’ve failed to live up to expectations on the pitch to date. In fact, they’ve managed just 3 goals in all competitions since the turn of the year and haven’t scored in the Premier League for over 200mins of play. At the same time, they’ve now kept 3 clean sheets in a row so those managers who have kept faith with Kepa (GK) in goal are being rewarded while the return from injury of Reece James (DEF) will also see some movement in the FPL transfer market.

You may remember way back at the end of last summer that Chelsea won the corresponding fixture in controversial fashion after a West Ham equaliser was disallowed by VAR. However, the Hammers have a pretty good record at home against their West London rivals having won 6 of their last 10 matches here. It might be too much to hope for another 3-2 thriller (the result West Ham have achieved in 2 out of the last 3 Premier League seasons) but who knows.

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The form team of the league travels to the top side in what looks likely to be a massive week as far as Arsenal’s title challenge is concerned. The Gunners can at least point to the fact that they are the only big 6 club to come away from a match at Brentford with 3 points but they know they will have to improve dramatically on their performance at Everton last week if they are to repeat that achievement. However, it’s not just Brentford’s home form that is impressive this season. They’ve not lost on the road since a 4 nil humbling at Aston Villa at the end of October and they’ve not conceded away from home in the Premier League since the last game week before the WC break when of course they snatched all 3 points at the Ethiad.

Player wise, the obvious picks for FPL managers come from the Arsenal squad not least of all because of the double GW. Bukayo Saka (MID) scored in last season’s corresponding fixture and his current form of 5.7 points a game is based on consistency. Eddie Nketiah (FWD) hasn’t quite managed that level of consistency yet and despite having the highest threat rating on the ICT over the last 4 matches, he has delivered blanks in 3 out of those 4 matches with the alternative being a 13 point GW vs United. Which Nketiah will managers get in this match?

Of course, he will be up against one of the inform defences in the Premier League at the moment. 4 clean sheets in their last 5 game weeks certainly helps with Ben Mee (DEF) also scoring on his last outing. He’s now up to 92 points for the season and currently averaging 8.7 points per game. Brentford’s other form player is Mathias Jensen (MID) who has had a goal involvement in 3 of his last 4 games and at just £4.8 million represents a budget option in midfield.

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Not quite a derby but certainly a grudge match as the Seagulls travel the short distance up to South London. Palace might do well to think of this as a big match though given their current poor form and the general sense of lethargy that’s been evident in recent performances. Sitting just 6 points above the relegation zone and with a few of the teams below them beginning to pick up momentum, the Eagles need to start picking up points themselves in order to avoid being sucked into the fight for survival.

In previous years, Selhurst Park has been a fortress for Palace but they haven’t won here in the league since the end of October. Clean sheets too have been difficult to come by with just 5 so far this season for a team who are usually much tougher to break down. Brighton meanwhile are one of the most watchable teams around at the moment. You have to go all the way back to October when they went 3 games in a row without scoring for the last time they drew a blank and since then they’ve been recording just shy of a 2 and a half goals per game.

Kaoru Mitoma (MID) is the form player in the FPL at the moment having recorded goal contributions in his last 5 matches. Managers will also be keen to see whether Evan Ferguson (FWD) returns from injury given his fine form and very reasonable price. If you do fancy a punt on a Palace player then perhaps Michael Olise (MID) is your man. His creativity rating is very high and perhaps if Palace had an out and out goal scorer then his points return would be better.

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Having looked like a genuine attacking threat earlier in the season, Fulham have slowed up since the start of 2023 with just 3 Premier League goals in their 5 games this year and none in the last 3 outings. I dare say that their tactics of hitting it early towards Mitrovic have been found out and Fulham are struggling to add the necessary variety to continue to challenge. Andreas Pereira (MID) continues to be a popular FPL pick and is probably the side's main creative force (he’s currently ranked 3rd overall for creativity on the ICT) but has delivered just 1 goal involvement in his last 5 matches.

Forest are certainly a side that are heading in the right direction but that form has generally come for home fixtures. Away from home, they’ve scored just 3 goals all season and picked up a solitary victory and therefore you wouldn’t expect this to be a thrill a minute game. Their form player is Brenan Johnson (FWD) who has at least a goal involvement in his last 4 matches while Morgan Gibbs-White (MID) is looking like an increasingly solid performer in this much more settled Forest team.

While this will be the first time the 2 teams have met in England’s top flight since the 1960’s, Forest can at least point to the fact that they’ve won their last 2 visits to the Cottage in the Championship.

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Big wins for both these teams in their last fixtures. The Foxes came from behind twice at Villa to win a 4-2 thriller and record their first win of 2023 while Spurs continued their home dominance against champions Man City with their 2nd 1-0 win in as many EPL matches. If history is anything to go by then this match should produce goals! In the last dozen Premier League meetings between the 2 teams, there have been 56 of them for an average of 4.7 goals per game.

Harry Kane (FWD) has been remarkably consistent this season and there’s no reason to suspect that his goal scoring will end against this opposition. Spurs record all time goal scorer has more goals v Leicester (20 in 19 appearances) than against any other club. Heung Min Son (MID) too has a strong record against the Foxes and came off the bench to score a hattrick when the 2 teams met earlier in the season.

Leicester too have plenty of attackers in form. New signing Tete (MID) made an immediate impact with a debut goal, Harvey Barnes (MID) has a goal and 2 assists in his last 2 matches and James Maddison (MID) found the back of the net with his return from injury. While Leicester will hope to draw inspiration from last week’s result, it is worth noting that their home form this season has been dreadful with just 9 points from 11 matches at the King Power, only Southampton have a worse home record in the 2022/23 season.

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Nathan Jones was given the dreaded vote of confidence this week by the Southampton board and you’d imagine that he’ll face an even more uncertain future if his side don’t win this relegation 6 pointer at home. As noted just above, the Saints have won just once at Saint Mary’s this season, a record which needs significant improvement should they hope to survive. It probably doesn’t bode well for them that they’ve lost their last 4 Premier League matches against Wolves and haven’t won in any of their last 7 league meetings.

Wolves meanwhile have enjoyed a rebound in form since the Premier League restart with 3 wins in the 6 games they’ve played. It’s worth remembering that despite their struggles this season, this is a team with 12 first team players still out injured so if they can get everyone fit and on the pitch there’s no reason to think that their results can’t continue to improve.

In terms of individual players on either side that you might want to bring into your squad, it’s difficult to find too many appealing options. Wolves defenders would probably be your best bet given their recent form and the fact that the Saints haven’t scored in over 200 mins of Premier League football at home.

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The Magpies are getting a reputation as draw specialists this season. They’ve drawn 10 matches so far this season and are on course to equal or even break their own record of 17 draws in a season that they achieved back in 2003/04 season. Goal scoring appears to be the biggest issue for them at the moment given that most sides are struggling to break their water tight defence. They’ve scored just 5 times since the return of the Premier League with expected goals of over 10 meaning that their efficiency in front of goal during that period is the 3rd worst in the league behind strugglers Chelsea and Liverpool.

Of course Bournemouth aren’t exactly smashing in the goals themselves and worse yet they are failing to create the chances. A single goal in their last half a dozen Premier League matches does not bode well for their chances of survival and they’d do well to change those stats against the league’s meanest defence. At the same time, Bournemouth’s average expected goals against per game is worse than any other side since Boxing Day so if Newcastle are to open the flood gates it could well be here!

In that regard both Alexander Isak (FWD) or Callum Wilson (FWD) returning to his former club could be good options as a 3rd striker. Equally, any of the Newcastle defenders are likely to bolster their already impressive points haul with a clean sheet bonus and it’s also worth remembering that the Cherries have been truly awful at defending set-pieces this season which could well be exposed by some of Newcastle’s bulky defenders.

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Ground Hog Day! Just 4 days after the pair saw out an exciting 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, United return across the Pennines to pay their old rivals a visit in what will be a fiercely contested match which has a tradition for goals. Leeds have only lost 3 games at home this season including to the current top 2 of Arsenal and City so United should not expect this to be any easier than their match on Wednesday was when they found themselves 2 goals down.

United looked fairly short of ammunition upfront at times during that game and it’s noticeable that new signing Wout Weghorst (FWD) is recording expected Premier League goals of 0.04 per 90mins to date. Much then rests on the inform Marcus Rashford (MID) and Bruno Fernandes (MID) to keep the goals coming while at the back United haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last 5 EPL games.

Leeds meanwhile are still without a manager or indeed a win in 2023. Their expected points since the turn of the year of 7.23 v their actual return of 3 is second worse to only Chelsea in as far as points v performance. Wilfried Gnonto (FWD) continues to be their main attacking threat. The young forward is averaging 0.36 expected goal involvements per 90mins since the World Cup break.

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City’s patchy form continued with a defeat at Spurs last weekend but in general their home record has been very strong this season with 28 points and 38 goals in 11 matches at the Ethiad.

By contrast, Villa have found scoring on the road difficult with just 8 away goals in their 11 matches this season and trips to City have not proven fruitful in recent years. The Villains have lost ever single league match they’ve played at this stadium since the 2008 Abu Dhabi take over at City. Of course they did find themselves 2-0 up here on the final day of last season before a dramatic comeback secured Pep another EPL title and they did hold the same opposition to a 1-1 draw at Villa park back in September.

Despite returning a couple of blanks recently, Erling Haaland (FWD) still has more expected goals than any other player since the return from the World Cup and should be considered a must have. However, the difficultly for FPL managers will be who is going to start this match with many expecting Pep to swing the axe following a lacklustre performance last week. If Ilkay Gundogan (MID) is brought back in then he might be worth consideration with 5 goal involvements in 7 previous appearances against Villa.

Ollie Watkins (FWD) has emerged as a genuine consideration for selection. Since Unai Emery took over, he has contributed 5 goal involvements in 8 matches (only 9 players have bettered that) and for the first time in his career his actual goals outweigh his expected goals suggesting that he’s beginning to finish with more efficiency.

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What a great time for a Merseyside derby. You’d expect tension whatever the situation but both clubs are in dire need of a victory. For Jurgen Klopp defeat could go a long way to ending his tenure as Liverpool boss while Everton’s new manager Sean Dyche will be keen to ride the wave of optimism created via the home victory against Arsenal.

Recent history suggests it’ll be a tightly contested match with 12 of the previous 21 Premier League games between the 2 rivals having ended in a draw. In fact, the only victory that Everton have tasted during that same period came 2 years ago at Anfield with a 2-0 win.

Neither side has much in the way of forwards who you’d bank on scoring. Darwin Nunez (FWD) ranks highly in regards goal threat and expected goals but he hasn’t actually scored since early November. Meanwhile, Everton’s 2 primary strikers in Calvert Lewin and Maupay have scored just a goal each all season in all competitions.

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Bonus game! I’m sure that most managers will be picking at least 5 players to benefit from the double GW of the top 2.

It doesn’t bode well for Arsenal that they have lost their last 10 league meetings with City but Gunners supporters will point to the fact that that was then and this is now. City did manage to get the upper hand in an FA Cup tie here last month but both sides are likely to be much changed from that fixture.

Equally, Arsenal have won 5 of their 6 matches to date against fellow ‘big 6’ clubs while City have won 3 and lost 3. The onus is really on City to win this game (albeit that we don’t know the results from the weekend at this point) while a point wouldn’t be a bad result for the Gunners. We wait to see then how that will impact each team’s approach to the match.