How long was that international break? About three years?
It certainly seemed that way anyway, but as Fantasy Premier League finally returns those internationals might well have helped one of its star men to rediscover his form.
A run of just one goal in his last six league matches has seen Manchester United’s Robin van Persie (£13.7m) lose plenty of support from Fantasy bosses, with his once seemingly unbeatable ownership percentage dwindling and now surpassed by Luis Suarez (£11.2m), who has also taken over as the Premier League’s top scorer.
Sir Alex Ferguson has notoriously been loathe to lose his players to international football over the years, but on this occasion he might just have welcomed Van Persie joining up with the Dutch team for two World Cup qualifiers in the past week, a week that saw the forward return to form.
Van Persie scored in the Netherlands’ 3-0 win over Estonia last Friday before following that up with two goals in the 4-0 win over Romania, and with those two matches both played at home the lack of travel time will mean that he’ll return fresh for the champions-elect in their early game at Sunderland on Saturday.
With Martin O’Neill’s side struggling and no doubt looking over their shoulders at the teams down below them – and now doing so without the injured Steven Fletcher, an early season Fantasy favourite who is now out for the rest of the campaign through injury – then the visit of Manchester United to Wearside isn’t likely to go down well with the locals.
The selection of Manchester United and Chelsea players should come with a warning this weekend given that the pair will meet in the FA Cup quarter-final replay at Stamford Bridge early on Monday afternoon, but Van Persie’s timely return to goalscoring form could come in handy here, and he’s likely to lead the line as United go for another win.
As for Chelsea, they make a tricky trip to Southampton from which it could be difficult to emerge with a victory.
The Saints have impressively beaten Manchester City and Liverpool at St Mary’s recently, and so Chelsea will know that a tough contest awaits them on the south coast. Having said that Demba Ba (£7.8m) has happy memories of the venue given that he scored there twice on his Chelsea debut in the FA Cup, and the Senegalese forward could be the man to back.
Arsenal could have things a little easier at home to Nigel Adkins’ Reading side, even without the injured Theo Walcott (£9.0m).
The absence of the Englishman could open the door for Olivier Giroud (£7.5m) to shine, but with Arsene Wenger confirming the fitness of Lukas Podolski (£8.1m) before the game then it could well be the German who impresses for the hosts in a game they’ll expect to win easily.
Elsewhere, Wigan’s usual end of season renaissance may have kickstarted with their late victory over Newcastle two weeks ago, and Roberto Martinez’s side offer some useful midfield options in Shaun Maloney (£4.9m), Jean Beausejour (£5.3m) and James McCarthy (£4.8m) ahead of their home match against Norwich.
Everton and Fulham will expect home wins against Stoke and QPR respectively, and that could spell more points for Fantasy favourites Leighton Baines (£7.6m) and Dimitar Berbatov (£7.0m). It is however worth noting that the Blues will be without the suspended Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar for the next two games due to suspension.
Pienaar’s old club Tottenham go to Swansea, where defender Jan Vertonghen (£6.3m) stands on the verge of surpassing 100 points this season, whilst Sunday’s game will see the usual interest in Suarez as Liverpool go to Aston Villa.
It could be a South American teammate of his who shines though, as after scoring twice and assisting two more in his brief career in England so far, the Brazilian Philippe Coutinho (£6.8m) has found plenty of admirers.
Against a Villa side who haven’t kept a clean sheet in 14 games he could make even more friends.
The #FYCUP starts on GW31 follow @FantasyYIRMA on twitter for updates and fixture announcements on Saturday Morning!
For the third time this season we’re ignoring those Fantasy Premier League attention-seekers and instead looking at those who often miss out on the headlines.
Yes, never mind your midfielders and forwards, the case for the defence has been opened again and this time ahead of a Gameweek which offers ample chance for a few clean sheets.
The best of those opportunities probably comes at Old Trafford, where Manchester United welcome a managerless Reading side in a contest that the hosts will not just expect to win – but expect to win well.
Brazilian defender Rafael da Silva (£6.2m) has excelled in the United defence this season, and with 16.9% ownership he finds himself as the most selected player from the champions-elect after Robin van Persie.
Sir Alex Ferguson surprised many by leaving Rafael out of the 4-0 win over Norwich two weeks ago – his first non-appearance of the year in the league – but the right-back was back in the team for the FA Cup tie against Chelsea last weekend, and he’s almost certain to start here in a match in which United are of course likely to be on the front foot.
Following earlier struggles for clean sheets United have now kept four in successive league matches, and with Rafael contributing three goals and five assists this season – including that stunning strike at QPR recently – then the Brazilian could be a key player in their run-in towards an almost certain league title.
Elsewhere, Tottenham will be bidding to rediscover their excellent form which they displayed prior to last weekend’s thrilling 3-2 defeat at Liverpool.
They have a good chance to find it at home to a Fulham side who have won just two away games this season, and with defender Michael Dawson (£4.6m) having now recovered from previous injuries to start and crucially finish the last 10 league games at the heart of the Spurs defence, the centre-back could be a valuable and cheap addition to your squad as Andre Villas-Boas’ side close in on a Champions League place.
Another Sunday fixture sees Chelsea host West Ham at Stamford Bridge, and although the make-up of Rafael Benitez’s defence does have a habit of changing regularly, David Luiz (£6.5m) has started the last three league games – registering his first assist of the season in the 1-0 win over West Brom last time out, a match in which he also picked up a bonus point.
Manchester City go to Everton in the opening match of the weekend, and with defender Pablo Zabaleta (£6.2m) a firm Fantasy favourite after starting the last 16 league matches there is sure to be plenty of interest in him. Leighton Baines (£7.6m) will of course provide a threat going in the other direction.
For cheaper options, the Sunderland v Norwich match offers the possibility of a stalemate with visiting defender Javier Garrido (£4.7m) bidding to follow up from last weekend’s clean sheet against Southampton with another blank against his opposition’s name. Teammate Michael Turner (£4.2m) also picked up two bonus points in that 0-0 draw.
This weekend Southampton face the tough prospect of facing a Liverpool side who have won their last three in the league, and whilst it was Daniel Agger (£6.4m) who scored the winner when the Reds beat the Saints 1-0 at Anfield in December it is the form of teammate Jose Enrique (£6.0m) which can’t be ignored here.
The left-back registered an impressive sixth assist of the season which he provided the first goal for Luis Suarez in the Tottenham win, and with two goals to his name as well he is certainly one to watch ahead of a match which Brendan Rodgers will expect his Reds to win.
If they can win it with a clean sheet then that is sure to please many.
*We’ve focused on defenders again for this Gameweek, but if you have any selection issues, dilemmas or problems then feel free to tweet us at @FantasyYirma. Goalkeepers, midfielders and forwards are allowed!
Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick, Gareth Bale impressed again and a Manchester United player ended up as the top points scorer. Gameweek 28 was a pretty standard one in truth.
Now though, with the forthcoming FA Cup quarter-finals creating havoc with the fixture schedule, Gameweek 29 is going to prove to be far from normal. Only 12 of the 20 teams are in action, with six matches spread across Saturday and Sunday, as no players from Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal kick a Premier League football. This one isn’t for the faint-hearted.
In honour of the altered Gameweek, we’re going to switch up the latest Fantasy Yirma preview and instead of the usual fare, we’ll give you a game-by-game breakdown of a weekend which could ultimately prove vital to just how your season ends up. As well as that, we’ll give you a player from each match who we’re tipping to score you some points.
Hold on tight for Yirma’s six appeal…
Norwich v Southampton, Saturday, 15:00
The Canaries have won just one of their last 11 matches, and with boss Chris Hughton declaring that this heralds the start of ‘a big month’ for his side then the pressure is sure to be on at Carrow Road. Southampton will also be eager to make up for their loss to QPR last time out, and so this has the potential to be a tight, low-scoring affair.
Saints forward Rickie Lambert (£7.2m) disappointed many as his fine recent run came to an end in the QPR game, and with Hughton struggling to partner Grant Holt (£5.9m) and Luciano Becchio (£5.1m) at the other end, this is a contest in which defenders could shine. Having started all but one match since he signed, Norwich full-back Javier Garrido (£4.7m) will hope to keep things tight at the back and get forward to try and add to his two assists thus far.
QPR v Sunderland, Saturday, 15:00
Will the Southampton win see QPR turn a corner or will it lead them down another cul-de-sac? In truth this could be seen as a pretty perfect game for Harry Redknapp’s side given Sunderland’s patchy away form, but the Rs frequently struggle when home expectations are high, and the visitors might find some momentum from bouncing back from two goals down to draw with Fulham last time.
Stephane Sessegnon (£6.9m) hasn’t hit the heights he scaled last season but his goal against Fulham was a second in a row, and the midfielder from Benin gets the nod in a contest which could well see both sides score. QPR’s hopes for a goal are likely to rest on Loic Remy (£5.7m), whilst Junior Hoilett (£5.6m) made a first start since November at the weekend and also provides an added threat.
Reading v Aston Villa, Saturday, 15:00
Reading really need to win this one ahead of trips to Manchester United and Arsenal, and they’ll be buoyed by the fact that Villa have only won two of 14 on the road this season. The home side will know that these three points will only look more important the longer the season goes on, and if they can stay in the game until close to the conclusion of it they can capitalise on Villa’s likely nervousness.
Brian McDermott isn’t averse to a bit of forward rotation, but with Pavel Pogrebnyak suspended he’s likely to have to rely on Adam Le Fondre (£5.0m) from the start, with the skipper Jobi McAnuff (£4.7m) another certain starter. ‘Alfie’ gets the not due to his goalscoring prowess though, but the Royals will of course have to watch out for Christian Benteke (£7.0m), who scored the winner when these two met in November.
West Brom v Swansea, Saturday, 15:00
An attractive match on paper, and one for fans of both sides to celebrate the giant strides that their clubs have made this season. However, Swansea have only won one in seven on the road and they face a Baggies side who have won the same amount of Premier League home matches as Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal this season. Steve Clarke’s side could just nick a close but entertaining contest.
They badly missed him at Chelsea last weekend, and Romelu Lukaku (£6.5m) returns here in a match in which his strength and power could prove telling. In a match in which the Baggies may be on top, Michu (£8.4m) could find it tough to improve on a run of scoring in just one match in his last eight, whilst Jonathan De Guzman (£5.7m) might find it difficult to make his midfield presence felt.
Newcastle v Stoke, Sunday, 15:00
Neither of these two are in particularly good form, with Stoke winning just one in their last eight in the league and hosts Newcastle never looking that convincing. Alan Pardew’s side will have targeted this clash for a victory though, especially off the back of the late loss at Swansea last time out, and the Geordies’ French connection can combine and help deliver what would be a hugely welcome three points.
The amount of new players in this Newcastle side can mean that the team can be somewhat hit and miss, but Yohan Cabaye (£6.6m) has been in the north-east for a while now and can show much-needed leadership skills in what could become a bit of a battle. Moussa Sissoko (£6.5m) is also likely to find plenty of fans given his recent goalscoring form at St James’s Park, but the vote goes to his compatriot.
Liverpool v Tottenham, Sunday, 16:00
Undoubtedly the weekend’s glamour league fixture, this promises to be a terrific watch for the neutral given the two sides’ recent form. Liverpool have scored nine goals without reply in their last two league matches, but Spurs are unbeaten in 12 since their last trip to Merseyside when Everton beat them in December. An exciting contest looks in store, with both sides likely to find the net and get the pulses racing.
This was always going to be between two names – although Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho (£6.6m) deserves an honourable mention – and it is home advantage which just sees Luis Suarez (£10.8m) get the nod ahead of Gareth Bale (£10.5m). The Premier League’s top goalscorer has been in devastating form recently, and although you really do need to have both him and Bale in your team at the moment it is the Uruguayan who could win the day here.
As we enter the final 10 Gameweeks of the season, form is becoming more and more important.
That old cliché about form being temporary and class being permanent is of course a correct one, but in these closing weeks it will surely pay to trust in those players who are doing well week after week.
Rickie Lambert (£7.0m) is currently one of those players, and fantasy bosses have definitely noticed.
Almost a quarter of Fantasy Premier League teams now feature Southampton’s Scouse striker, a forward who has racked up eight, nine and 11 points respectively over the last three Gameweeks as he’s scored twice and picked up three assists.
Lambert and the Saints welcome rock bottom Queens Park Rangers to St Mary’s on Saturday, and the forward will be eyeing even more goals there.
It’s an important game for the hosts, who have impressed in patches under new boss Mauricio Pochettino before suffering a 4-2 loss after making the long trip to Newcastle last time out.
Lambert scored his 100th goal for the Saints and his 12th in the Premier League this season in that game, and with the arrival of ex-Saints boss Harry Redknapp and his struggling side on Saturday, Lambert will be confident of finding the net again.
He scored against Rangers in a 3-1 win at Loftus Road in November, and with talk of an England call-up swirling around him then the forward can deliver and help move Southampton away from the relegation zone by beating a team who are firmly stuck in it.
One of the teams currently desperate to stay out of the bottom three are Wigan, and they face a tough task on Saturday evening when they welcome Liverpool to the DW Stadium.
The impact of Daniel Sturridge (£7.5m) at the Reds has been easy to see, and with the forward currently having only 7.4% ownership he could prove a strong differential choice in the closing weeks.
Liverpool’s fixture list isn’t as demanding as the one faced by several of the teams around them, and after scoring in all but one of his five Premier League appearances for the Reds so far – picking up 31 Fantasy points in the process – Sturridge could shine in those games, starting with this trip to Wigan.
Elsewhere, Sunday sees Arsenal try to become the latest team to stop the juggernaut that is Gareth Bale (£10.3m).
The Tottenham man continues to rip through the Premier League, with his latest demolition job on West Ham on Monday night seeing his ownership increase even more.
Against Arsenal he’ll of course come face-to-face with his former Southampton team-mate Theo Walcott (£9.6m), and with the frequent madcap nature of these North London derbies meaning that clean sheets are unlikely to be on the agenda, both could find themselves in the points come the end of the afternoon.
Elsewhere, both Chelsea and Manchester United face winnable looking home matches against West Brom and Norwich respectively, but both sides go into the contest with forward issues. Rafael Benitez is again faced with the dilemma over whether to choose Demba Ba (£8.0) or Fernando Torres (£9.3m), whilst there is an injury doubt over Robin van Persie (£14.0m) for United. None of the trio can be trusted confidently.
Monday night sees Manchester City travel to Aston Villa, and whilst Yaya Toure (£7.7m) and Carlos Tevez (£8.7m) regained some lost friends with goals in the 2-0 win over Chelsea last time out, it is the fact that City kept a clean sheet in that game which should perhaps be of greater importance.
Defender Pablo Zabaleta (£6.2m) was a key element of that shutout, and given that he has now started City’s last 15 Premier League games the Argentinean is again likely to be an important part of the visiting back line.
Against a Villa side who have often struggled for goals this season, Zabaleta can keep things tight at the back whilst impressing further forward too.
It may have snuck up on you somewhat, but Steven Gerrard (£9.7m) is currently the fourth top points scorer in Fantasy Premier League.
Only Robin van Persie (£14.1m), Juan Mata (£10.1m) and his Liverpool team-mate Luis Suarez (£10.7m) have picked up more points than the Reds captain, who has benefitted from a new fitness regime brought in by Brendan Rodgers as he’s played every single minute of Liverpool’s 25 league games this season.
The likes of Gareth Bale (£9.8m), Theo Walcott (£9.6m) and Michu (£8.4m) have all been passed by Gerrard in recent weeks, as the frequent niggling injuries which have dogged his last few campaigns and seen his team struggle along without him have become a thing of the past.
Seven goals and 12 assists tell their own story of a player who is arguably in his best form for five years, and the England captain could be a man to trust ahead of Liverpool’s double Gameweek.
Points look on offer for the men from Anfield in home matches against a West Brom outfit who have lost five of their last six in the league and then a Swansea team which will be playing just a week before their appearance in the Capital One Cup final. It must be noted that Liverpool travel to Zenit St Petersburg for a Europa League tie in between those matches, but Rodgers is likely to chop and change things for that one. It’ll be the league that he’ll be focusing on.
Gerrard – having picked up bonus points in six of his last nine matches – won’t be in a hurry to let go of that 100% league record, and off the back of his trademark goal against Manchester City last weekend he’ll be vital in his team’s hunt for points, and maybe yours too.
Despite the Englishman’s form, Suarez is still likely to be captaincy choice of the majority – and six goals in his last six games tells you just why – whilst the impact of Daniel Sturridge (£7.7m) at Anfield also makes him worth considering despite a niggling injury.
However with Liverpool now boasting the Premier League’s best home defensive record having conceded just 10 goals, a move for Glen Johnson (£6.4m) could prove wise given the right-back’s qualities going forward. The Reds are likely to be on the front foot in both of their matches, and Johnson could prove to be a key part of that.
Elsewhere the first of Swansea’s pair of matches is at home to bottom of the table QPR, and so there will be support for Michu and the increasingly popular Ben Davies (£4.6m).
Chelsea will be backed to beat Wigan at Stamford Bridge in a match which could see Fernando Torres (£9.4m) fire given the facial injury suffered by Demba Ba (£8.2m) – well, it could ― whilst Eden Hazard (£9.3m) will return from his ban. Wayne Rooney’s (£11.9m) renaissance might continue at home to former club Everton at Old Trafford, where Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea (£5.5m) will be looking to follow up what was only a fourth clean sheet of the season at Fulham last time out with another shutout.
Sergio Aguero’s (£10.9m) stunning goal against Liverpool last weekend might finally convince many that he is the Manchester City forward to bank on ahead of his side’s trip to Southampton, whilst Emmanuel Adebayor (£9.0m) is set for a return to the Tottenham squad for the home clash with Newcastle.
Whilst the Togolese was away at the African Nations Cup, Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke (£6.7m) picked up support from Fantasy bosses as the key man in his struggling team, and with the Belgian hitting five goals in his last five games to become one of the 26 players have reached over 100 points by Gameweek 26 he is sure to keep that support onside.
Villa face West Ham at Villa Park on Saturday, and with the visitors losing eight of their 12 away games this season, Benteke can improve on his tally even more.
You can still join the #FantasyYirma mini-league – be warned the competition is tough! The FantasyYirma mini-league is one of the TOP RANKED in the overall game! Click the link below to Join.
The Official FantasyYirma League is FREE TO PLAY and has a £50 cash prize for the winner.
The prize money is provided by the FY Admin team member with the lowest total score at the end of the season…
To take £50 off your mate in a bet is fun- to make him sponsor the league for an entire season …is funnier.
Five simple ways to win your FPL Mini League
There’s nothing better than beating your friends at fantasy football and Matthew Glazier of Bettingpro.com offers some straightforward advice to ensure the bragging rights
I’m no different to most of you reading this.
I go to bed every evening thinking about which players in the “Get It Ready” squad are underperforming. I log into my FPL account every morning to see if my team value has risen or gone down after the price changes. I spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons refreshing the points page and checking to see how my rivals are faring.
Having been playing FPL for a couple of seasons, I think I’ve cracked a way of beating friends and work colleagues, even if the top players are still streets ahead of where I want to be. Here are five useful pointers which can help you win your personal Mini League.
1) Make your transfers early
This is a contentious one but it’s worked well for me so far. The only reason to make transfers on a Friday evening / Saturday morning is because you’re waiting on injury news. However, Juan Mata, Frank Lampard or Demba Ba might have risen in price several times after last weekend’s bonus point performance – it usually pays to get the changes made quickly and boost your overall squad value.
2) Stick to your guns after a slow start
It’s all too easy to chop and change if one of your strikers doesn’t score for a game or two. The same applies to midfielders who are scoring two points every week but, providing there was a strong basis for why you picked the player, sticking to your guns often pays off. Robin van Persie last season was a classic example as the Dutchman started to find real scoring form after a few weeks. The same has applied to Gareth Bale this term.
3) Keep a note of the Premier League fixtures
I don’t have an algorithm which works out which teams have the easiest upcoming fixtures. However, simply inputting the next six weeks’ worth of fixtures into a spreadsheet and marking the home / away matches will give you a useful overview of what’s on the horizon. I often make a few short notes, eg Manchester United have four of their next six matches at home.
4) Hey! You’ve got to hide your points away
You’ve worked hard to get points on the board so think carefully about those four-point deductions because you’re convinced that Steven Gerrard is going to score a hat-trick in the Merseyside derby. OK, so if your squad is decimated by injury, there might be a case for taking a hit but it usually pays to be patient before making your next transfer.
5) Don’t pin your hopes on a DGW
There are 38 Game Weeks during the season and winning your Mini League isn’t about trying to smash it when two teams are playing twice in a week. For a start, they are facing each other in one of those games which negates their potential points-scoring impact. Secondly, you can be stuck with players that you don’t want in the long-term.
About the Author:
Matthew Glazier is a self-confessed fantasy football geek who runs www.bettingpro.com and finished 3,794th in the FPL overall standings last season. He’s currently 27,446th this time around.
Bettingpro.com is the number one source for sports betting tips, breaking news and expert views. With the help of exclusive promotions and a team of experts, their members remain one step ahead of all the leading bookmakers.
The closure of the January transfer window may excite manic Sky Sports News presenters, the Twitter rumour-mongers and Harry Redknapp, but Fantasy bosses are often better off just sticking to what they know.
At this point of the season – pretty much exactly two-thirds of the way through – you’ll know who you can rely on in your team, who you’ll be keeping an eye on bringing in and who you desperately need to get rid of. New arrivals into the division shouldn’t alter that.
Of course there are those new players who can arrive into the Premier League and immediately take it by storm – Papiss Cisse last season anyone? – but the bedding in period often needed by foreign imports makes adding any deadline day signing to your team a risk. At least this weekend anyway.
No, it would be better to go with the tried and tested ahead of an intriguing set of games, and there aren’t many players in the division this season who have proved their worth more than Tottenham’s Gareth Bale (£9.8m).
The Welshman’s fine solo goal at Carrow Road on Wednesday night was a 10th Premier League strike of the season, and with eight of those 10 coming in matches away from White Hart Lane – in which he can make more use of the space afforded to him – then the winger will be the man to watch when Spurs visit West Brom on Sunday afternoon.
The Baggies have only won two of their last 11 in the league, and so whilst you don’t want Bale running at you at the best of times it is likely to be especially tough for Steve Clarke’s men to cope with the confidence of the winger here. Bale could score big.
Elsewhere, the headline match of the weekend is probably the last one, as Manchester City welcome Liverpool in a contest which the hosts will need to win after dropping points at QPR last time out.
Sergio Aguero (£10.9m) returned to the team there and should definitely be considered here, but even though Liverpool are facing a tough game the eagle-eyed Fantasy bosses will have noted that they have a Double Gameweek coming up next time around which brings home matches against West Brom and Swansea. Luis Suarez (£10.5m) is only going to see his price go up. More on him next week…
Reading’s Adam Le Fondre (£4.7m) might be a slightly less talked about forward than Suarez, but he proved more than his worth with the two late goals which earned a point against Chelsea in midweek, and at home to Sunderland he’ll be backed by many to find the net again. If you need a cheap forward to supplement your big boys then there are few better options at the moment.
Defensively, the scope for clean sheets doesn’t look all too great this weekend, but although QPR’s match at home to fellow strugglers Norwich will be full of new Rangers players introducing themselves to one another, it might just see the home side keep it tight at the back.
After the 3-0 loss at home to Liverpool before the turn of the year, Redknapp’s boys have kept back-to-back clean sheets at Loftus Road against opposition of the calibre of Tottenham and Manchester City, as well as shutting out Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The Canaries should offer little to be worried about then, and after playing 90 minutes in each of QPR’s last four games the on-loan Manchester United defender Fabio da Silva (£4.2m) could just be worth considering if you need to add a cheap defender to make room elsewhere.
At the other end of the scale Leighton Baines (£7.5m) is the game’s most expensive defender and he’ll be looking to follow-up his brace against West Brom when Everton entertain Aston Villa, but the Blues have only kept two clean sheets at home all season and so Christian Benteke (£6.5m) shouldn’t be discounted for the visitors.
Finally and not too far away at Wigan, the hosts will hope that the increasingly effective Franco di Santo (£5.3m) impresses as they host Southampton on Saturday.
That’s if no-one else has signed him by then of course…
There has only been one star in Manchester United’s and in 44.8% of Fantasy Premier League teams’ seasons.
Robin van Persie (£14.1m) has been the main man, the top goalscorer, the top points scorer, the man outshining all the others. He has looked indestructible. He even survived that attack from Ashley Williams at Swansea before Christmas.
The man eclipsed by the rise and rise of Van Persie’s star has been Wayne Rooney (£11.8m), as frequent injuries and frustrations have left him looking enviously at his team’s Dutch master and wondering just how he let a top billing that he used to own slip so easily into the former Arsenal man’s grasp. Just recently though, he’s been making hay whilst Van Persie was away.
Alright, they were in the FA Cup. And okay, he did hopelessly miss a penalty in the West Ham game, but Rooney has found the net in each of United’s last two matches at Old Trafford – matches that Van Persie was rested for – and so should be in a confident mood ahead of the visit of Southampton on Wednesday night.
The forward is itching to impress after scoring just seven Premier League goals this season, and he could just be the key to a strong ending to the season for both United and for your Fantasy team.
As the pressure cranks up, each and every win for United looks more and more important as they seek yet another title. Sir Alex Ferguson could find himself turning to the man who has been there and done it before in a bid to get over the line.
That bid could start on Wednesday.
Elsewhere during this midweek Gameweek – everyone loves a midweek Gameweek don’t they? – there will be tales of cup woe to be shared at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal meet Liverpool.
Supporters of Bradford City and Oldham Athletic can watch that one with smug smiles on their faces, and one man that Liverpool will need to watch closely will be the Gunners forward Olivier Giroud (£7.8m), who could just shunt Theo Walcott (£9.4m) out to the right of midfield again following his excellent recent form.
There were also cup woes for Norwich and QPR at the weekend, and they don’t look like disappearing in the league as the duo host Tottenham and Manchester City respectively. Gareth Bale (£9.8m) and David Silva (£9.4m) look to be the men to watch.
Rafael Benitez takes his Chelsea team to Reading, and in amongst the usual suspects in his Blues side – although there’s no Eden Hazard here of course – it could also be worth looking at the visitors’ defence, particularly the Spanish right-back Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.7m) who has racked up four assists since becoming more of a regular in the Blues’ team in November. Against a Reading outfit who have been known to leak goals at home, he’ll be looking to get forward.
Everton should also be on the front foot in their match against a stuttering West Brom, and many bosses will be hoping that Marouane Fellaini (£7.7m) can return to scoring ways after failing to find the net since December 1st. Meanwhile, Nikica Jelavic (£8.0m) has lost support following just one goal in 12 games.
One man who is more used to hitting the back of the net recently is Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke (£6.5m), and with the Belgian forward providing one of very few rays of light amidst the doom and gloom surrounding his club this season, Villa will be looking to him to fire against a similarly out of form Newcastle United at Villa Park.
He can do just that, and ensure that whilst his star still isn’t as high as Van Persie’s or even Rooney’s, it will at least stay on the rise.
Norwich City must hate it that Luis Suarez (£10.4m) is never out of the headlines. It only brings back bad memories.
Liverpool’s Uruguayan forward may have found himself back in the news yet again, but he is unlikely to let that distract him from his goal this weekend, which is namely to improve upon the six goals he’s scored against Norwich the last two times he’s faced them.
Back-to-back hat-tricks at Carrow Road at the back end of last season and the beginning of this one make Suarez a player to watch when the Reds meet the Canaries at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, and with Liverpool coming into the match off the back of scoring 12 goals in their last five home games then they are sure to be confident.
Daniel Sturridge (£7.3m) is certain to make a first Premier League start for the Reds as he bids to follow up on last weekend’s goal in the defeat at Old Trafford, but it is Suarez’s form in this fixture that simply can’t be ignored, and the Uruguayan looks to be a man to follow following six goals in his last six Anfield appearances.
Elsewhere it is Arsenal who are attracting all of the attention ahead of their Double Gameweek, and rightly so.
Jack Wilshere (£6.4m) impressed in the FA Cup in midweek and could be a decent squad addition for those who have the cash, but the attention simply has to be drawn to Theo Walcott (£9.1m) once again.
One of the big hits of the Christmas period, Walcott should start in his preferred striking role as Arsenal go to Chelsea and then host West Ham in back-to-back matches which look to be vital for their hopes of a top four place.
The away game at Chelsea is of course the more difficult of the two, but Rafael Benitez’s team have struggled at home recently, and Walcott will back himself to impress against a defence who don’t look the quickest. They could become even slower should John Terry (£6.5m) return to the team at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Other Arsenal players to keep an eye on ahead of the Double Gameweek include Kieran Gibbs (£5.6m), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£7.2m) and Lukas Podolski (£8.2m), whilst the Gunners’ capability to concede a goal or two should also draw the eye to West Ham’s players this week, particularly given that the first leg of their double comes at home to bottom club Queens Park Rangers.
Kevin Nolan (£6.5m) features in 12.8% of teams already and that number only looks like going up ahead of those two tests, whilst the return from injury of Mohamed Diame (£4.7m) is also a boost to Sam Allardyce and his squad.
Elsewhere, the Manchester City defence looks likely to keep a clean sheet at home to a powderpuff Fulham attack, and with Vincent Kompany (£7.1m) now available after his red card at Arsenal was overturned he’s likely to take his place at the back alongside the likes of Matija Nastasic (£5.6m) and Gael Clichy (£5.6m).
Tottenham’s clash with Manchester United on Sunday looks to be one in which attacking players will shine in, and with Wayne Rooney (£11.8m) now back to fitness he’ll offer an interesting alternative for managers who can’t quite afford Robin van Persie (£14.1m).
Twenty-four hours earlier, Michu (£8.3m) will go in search of a first Premier League goal since before Christmas – a drought by his standards – as Swansea host Stoke in a clash of styles, whilst Southampton’s recent improvement will be tested by Everton when the two sides meet at St Mary’s on Monday night. Saints defender Luke Shaw (£4.0m) is proving to be a valuable wildcard addition to several teams.
Romelu Lukaku (£6.5m) could be one too, and on Saturday night the West Brom forward lines up against an Aston Villa outfit who have shipped goals recently.
Like Norwich, Villa might want to avoid the headlines on Sunday morning.
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To the die-hard Fantasy manager, the FA Cup is nothing but an inconvenience.
It is simply an unwanted chance for your players to get injured, to suddenly rediscover some flickering form or to play themselves out of contention for the next league game. What use were last weekend’s goals from Robin van Persie, Michu and Luis Suarez to anyone but Uruguayan Beach Volleyball Team selectors anyway?
Fear not though, for the Premier League returns this weekend, and it does so with a bang for the European champions (yes, believe it or not they still are).
Branislav Ivanovic (£7.1m) may have exhibited a worrying fondness for providing assists for the opposition during the midweek Capital One Cup defeat to Swansea, but if we’re going to stay strong and keep our disdain for the cup competitions alive then we are going to have to ignore that and instead look forward to him taking his place in a Chelsea defence which is about to embark on a Double Gameweek. Or will he?
The gradual return to fitness for John Terry (£6.5m) and the constant relocation of David Luiz (£6.6m) – sometimes inadvertently – means that the only member of Chelsea’s back four surely certain to line up against both Stoke and Southampton is Ashley Cole (£6.5m), who looks to be a fine investment for Fantasy bosses who may have activated their January wildcard ahead of this weekend, and who scored the winner and kept a clean sheet which Stoke visited Stamford Bridge in September.
Further forward, the signing of Demba Ba (£8.6m) has put the once secure place for Fernando Torres (£9.8m) under threat, whilst Rafael Benitez will surely avoid angering Fantasy bosses for a second Gameweek running and restore Juan Mata (£9.9m) to his Premier League line-up after resting him for the shock loss at home to QPR.
Harry Redknapp’s side entertain the manager’s former club Tottenham at Loftus Road in Saturday’s early match, with Gareth Bale (£9.8m) primed to score big on a weekend when many of his highly priced rivals are facing tougher fixtures. A wildcard move for the Welshman could have benefits well beyond this Gameweek.
Before the FA Cup so rudely interrupted us the name on everyone’s lips was that of Theo Walcott (£9.0m) but he and Arsenal face a tough test at home to Manchester City this weekend, with City likely to be missing the hamstrung Sergio Aguero (£11.0m) and Carlos Tevez (£8.9m) looking to start.
Suarez (£10.4m) won’t have many friends at Old Trafford and is unlikely to find many points either, with Robin van Persie (£14.0m) certain to lead the line for Manchester United against Liverpool. Those who back the Reds defence – which could include the cheap Andre Wisdom (£4.3m) after Jose Enrique (£5.9m) was ruled out for six weeks – to keep out the Dutchman aren’t short of options to replace him, with one of those options coming at Sunderland.
The Mackems have a relatively friendly set of four fixtures coming up, and so Fantasy bosses who had lost faith in Steven Fletcher (£7.0m) could be tempted to turn back to the Scotsman ahead of his side’s home match against West Ham, whilst the departure of Ba is sure to see Papiss Cisse (£8.8m) given a central striking role for Newcastle’s visit to Norwich if he can overcome a knock.
Another battling injury is Southampton’s Gaston Ramirez (£5.6m), but the Uruguyan is certainly worth keeping an eye on ahead of the Saints’ Double Gameweek trips to Aston Villa and Chelsea, whilst teenage full-back Luke Shaw (£4.0m) could find himself becoming an inexpensive addition to plenty of teams once that wildcard kicks in.
Whilst his price hasn’t yet risen, Marouane Fellaini’s (£7.4m) has been falling ever since his three-match ban, but with the Belgian back and ready to play a part in what look to be a winnable next four games for Everton, starting with this weekend against Swansea, then his addition could be crucial.