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Crystal Palace vs Liverpool: Confirmed Lineups

Gameweek 2: Fantasy Football Preview

What do you get if you mix Fantasy Football and Supergrass??

Gameweek 2: Fantasy Football Preview

Fantasy Premier League: 7 Key Tips to Avoid FPL Burnout

We Didn’t Start Mo Salah…Sorry

Manchester United, Liverpool and Wolves make the Gameweek 1 Preview

Off the Mark: Why Premier League experience counts in the battle at the bottom

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Take a look at the three teams currently residing in the Premier League relegation zone, and indeed at West Brom, the team just outside it. What have they got in common?

The Baggies, Sunderland, Cardiff and Fulham all replaced their managers during this season – Fulham did it twice – and all four men now in charge of those respective clubs are currently in their first ever Premier League managerial role. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.

This new quartet aren’t alone amongst the 20 managers at the 20 clubs in the top division in the land.

Tottenham’s Tim Sherwood and Swansea’s Garry Monk are also in their first Premier League roles, actually their first managerial roles full stop. Monk and Swansea, who always had a decent enough points cushion from the moment they dispensed with Michael Laudrup, picked up a good win over Norwich last time out but had gone winless in nine before that, whilst the less said about Sherwood’s tenure at Tottenham the better. We probably said enough last week, anyway.

There’s also Manuel Pellegrini, but the money available to him at Manchester City ensures that he’ll never truly be a failure on a grand scale. He’s been told to win the Premier League, and he’s got City into a good position to do just that. And besides, he’s vastly experienced elsewhere.

It is at the bottom of the division where this lack of experience in the vagaries of the British game can be shown up though.

At this stage of the season when every point needs to be scrapped for and every goal seems to be worth double, having that knowhow of this division is only going to stand you in good stead.

Of course some of these managers aren’t novices. Fulham’s Felix Magath has been in charge of plenty of clubs in his homeland, including Bayern Munich, whilst West Brom’s Pepe Mel took Real Betis into the Europa League this season.

Both have been good managers elsewhere and both will probably go on to be so again, but are they the right men for their clubs at this particular time? Magath was out of work for 18 months before being jettisoned into Fulham. What sort of preparation can he have done for the role?

It’s a different story for Cardiff’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Sunderland’s Gus Poyet.

Solskjaer, an extremely decorated player thanks to his storied spell with Manchester United, doesn’t want a Premier League relegation on his stellar CV, and in truth he never really should have been given the chance to. Hopefully there will be a good manager in there somewhere, and he started off well in his native Norway, but this really isn’t the time to be taking a punt on someone.

Of the quartet of clubs we’ve mentioned, Sunderland perhaps have the best man for this sort of situation in Poyet, who cut his managerial teeth at Brighton. Defeats such as the one against West Ham on Monday won’t help though, and his side now face a huge challenge to climb out of trouble given their difficult away fixtures.

The chairmen at these four clubs must be looking at the jobs that the likes of Tony Pulis, Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce have been doing this season and feel more than a little envious – that’s indeed if Vincent Tan is capable of emotion. Indeed, there’s a good argument to suggest that Crystal Palace are the only Premier League club to have benefitted from a mid-season managerial change in this campaign.

This isn’t supposed to be a tub-thumping rally cry backing the mediocre British manager, they’ll always find jobs somewhere regardless, but gaining that experience of this division and this culture seems vital to success in the Premier League, look at Roberto Martinez, Mauricio Pochettino and Brendan Rodgers. Don’t look at David Moyes, as it will ruin the argument.

This season’s relegation battle seems to be all about who can arrest poor form first, as none of the teams involved are particularly inspiring.

And when they need points more than ever before, shouldn’t club chairmen have gone with the tried and tested to try and pick them up?

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Heads you lose, Pardew

Ever since Alan Pardew’s headbutt on Hull’s David Meyler, Newcastle have scored one goal in four matches, conceding eight.

It is another worrying run in a 2014 which featured eight winless matches prior to a small turnaround and three wins in four, but as their players appear to have gone on a collective holiday judging by the non-performances against Everton and Southampton, surely it is time for a “conscious uncoupling” between Pardew and his vanity project.

The Premier League wants its old, entertaining Newcastle back.

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Everton and Arsenal to share spoils

We’re massively in profit now thanks to Peter Odemwingie scoring the only goal of Stoke’s victory last week, and this time we are turning our attentions to Sunday’s big meeting between Everton and Arsenal.

In a huge match in the context of a top four finish, the Gunners will be looking to show the improved form they displayed in the second half against Manchester City last week, and they can build on that to earn a point at Goodison Park to keep Everton at arm’s length.

The draw is 9/4 with BetMcLean.com, whilst it’s a tempting 11/2 for the match to finish 1-1.

@Mark_Jones86

Off the Mark: Cardiff and Fulham face off in the dysfunctional derby

Fulham v Cardiff City - Premier League

It’s only the first week of March, but the loser of this weekend’s clash between Cardiff City and Fulham will find it very difficult to prolong their Premier League futures beyond the next two months.

That might seem to be somewhat of an overreaction given that after it there will be nine games remaining and 27 points available for both to try and climb from the lower reaches of the table, but the misery that currently engulfs both clubs makes it difficult to imagine any sort of winning run being put together, let alone a season-saving one.

Their presence together at the foot of the Premier League table – Fulham bottom on 21 points, Cardiff immediately above them on 22 – might have been established for a few weeks now, but it is made all the more interesting because both have arrived there via very different routes.

For Fulham, this is a 13th consecutive season in the top flight, a run that is only bettered by six of the current top seven (the pre-Sheikh Mansour Manchester City were in the Championship as recently as 2003) and Aston Villa.

For a long time they were almost the ghostly figures of the Premier League, drifting around, going unnoticed until you were able to pick them out of a crowd. A little like Kevin Spacey in that Oscars selfie.

But Mohamed Al-Fayed’s decision to end his ownership last summer always meant that something was going to change. Shahid Khan entered and a season of struggled ensued, with manager Martin Jol paying the price when he was sacked in early December.

That was all well and good – and indeed plenty of Fulham supporters welcomed the decision – but what was key now was that the club united behind the new man as he looked to make improvements, exactly as we have seen with the likes of Tony Pulis at Crystal Palace and Gus Poyet at Sunderland. Fulham didn’t do that.

The decision to sack Rene Meulensteen just 75 days after replacing Jol was a crazy one, especially as the Dutchman had just overseen credible displays against Manchester United and Liverpool. Darren Bent earned his side a hard-fought point from the former, and only a last gasp Steven Gerrard penalty denied them one in the latter.

At Cardiff there have been different, but entirely similar acts of shooting themselves in the foot.

It is a shame – although simply a fact of modern football – that it took the Welsh club’s elevation to the Premier League to finally make the national press take notice of the destructive acts of owner Vincent Tan.

Plenty of the club’s fans – although importantly not all of them – could get over the kit changing from blue to red, but the needless decision to sack manager Malky Mackay was a step too far.

Mackay attracted widespread sympathy when he was given the bullet in the week between Christmas and New Year, with Tan using that occasion and plenty since to show the watching world who the club’s real boss is. All well and good in an ego stroking, self-publicity kind of way, but for keeping a football club in the Premier League? Not so much.

And so it has come to this.

Venerable old Fulham head for South Wales on Saturday, when they will be managed by fierce old Felix Magath. Opponents Cardiff, loud and garish this season thanks to their owner, will be overseen by the quiet, reserved and largely inexperienced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Neither look a good fit, and neither will be managing a team shaped in their image – however many Norwegians and ex-Manchester United  players Solskjaer has managed to rustle up by kick-off.

In many ways, this is the most unpredictable match of the Premier League season so far. Cardiff won 2-1 at Craven Cottage in September, but the teamsheets for this one will be virtually unrecognisable from back then. Two different managers will shake hands before the match, too.

Whoever wins will still face a huge task to stay up, but for whoever loses that task could be too great.

One or both of them looks certain to fall in May, but at least they’ll be leaving behind a valuable lesson both for those that remain and those that replace them.

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Ban isn’t enough to tame Pardew

Given his previous – a shoving match with Arsene Wenger, pushing an assistant referee, abusing Manuel Pellegrini – then what use is a touchline ban for Alan Pardew?

After headbutting Hull’s David Meyler the Newcastle boss should be given anger management classes, or at least be made to see a sports psychiatrist such as Dr Steve Peters, who does intermittent work at Liverpool and has just been hired by England for the World Cup.

It is easy to scoff at the mental side of the game when there are those such as Pardew who seek to redefine the word, but controlling your emotions is increasingly important within it, as we saw at the KC Stadium.

Hazard warning for Tottenham

In a shortened Premier League weekend, the big game comes on Saturday night as Chelsea host Tottenham.

The Blues are have clicked into gear as they chase glory on two fronts, and they can see off their London rivals with main man Eden Hazard getting on the scoresheet.

Back Hazard to score at any time and Chelsea to win at 5/2 with BetMcLean.com.

@Mark_Jones86

Update

Crystal Palace vs Fulham: Monday Night Football Preview

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