It’s a slightly different week in Fantasy Premier League, and so we’re bringing you a slight different type of preview.
Instead of our usual offering we’re going to run through the five matches taking place this weekend, picking out players that you should consider for what is likely to be a severely shorthanded team.
This was written before the international fixtures, so forgive us if anyone has picked up an injury, and we’ll start with the early game at The Hawthorns:
West Brom v Manchester United
Previously such messy weeks in the Fantasy game would see you place your trust in the men from Old Trafford, but their unconvincing season makes them less enticing now.
Robin van Persie (£13.6m) has been surpassed by better and cheaper forward options, whilst Wayne Rooney (£11.1m) has suffered far too many injury problems to warrant complete trust.
West Brom will be tough opponents too. They’ve drawn all four of their home games under Pepe Mel 1-1, including matches against Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea – all of whom are above United in the table.
Yet although Chris Brunt (£5.0m) will offer his usual threat from midfield, they don’t really convince at the moment and could struggle.
FPL key man: Adnan Januzaj (£4.8m): Cheap, and likely to start after missing out on the internationals, the youngster can be his side’s spark in the Midlands.
Cardiff v Fulham
This basement battle of the bottom isn’t likely to be one for the faint-hearted, with a defeat perhaps spelling relegation for one of the two sides.
In truth there shouldn’t really be a rush to pick anyone from two such out of form teams, but Cardiff’s Declan John (£3.9m) is a good, cheap defender who has started eight of the last 10 games, whilst Fulham’s Dan Burn (£4.0m) has come into the Cottagers’ side of late, too.
Cardiff have won just two of 10 home games since they beat Swansea in November, and so although Fulham’s away form is usually woeful it is tempting to side with them here. Darren Bent (£6.0m) should start upfront.
FPL key man: Steve Sidwell (£5.3m): Capable of scoring goals from midfield, Sidwell’s total of six this season is more than he has ever managed in a Premier League campaign before.
Crystal Palace v Southampton
Despite their improvement under Tony Pulis, Crystal Palace still sit just three points above the relegation zone and will know that matches such as these will be vital.
The return of last season’s top scorer Glenn Murray (£5.2m) has come at a good time for them however, and he’s likely to start after coming off the bench to score a late penalty at Swansea, whilst new signing Scott Dann (£4.0m) has seemingly taken Danny Gabbidon’s place in defence.
Southampton didn’t deserve to lose to Liverpool by a three-goal margin, but with little left to play for bar preserving their bodies for the World Cup, some of their England stars have gone off the boil a little.
FPL key man: Thomas Ince (£5.5m): Replaced by Murray at half-time at Swansea, Ince will nonetheless be vital to the Eagles at home, where his incisive running could hurt the Saints.
Norwich v Stoke
Norwich got their semi-regular ‘big win for Chris Hughton’ in their last home match against Tottenham, only to follow that up with anaemic display and defeat at Aston Villa.
The potential absences of both Robert Snodgrass (£6.0m) and Leroy Fer (£5.4m) could hit them hard here, especially with Stoke buoyed by last weekend’s win over Arsenal as they chase a top half finish.
Mark Hughes will turn to Peter Crouch (£5.6m) against one of the forward’s former clubs, and with Charlie Adam (£5.9m) now banned for three matches, Marko Arnautovic (£5.1m) could assume greater importance.
FPL key man: Jonathan Walters (£6.1m): The former Fantasy favourite netted the winner from the spot against the Gunners, and could be required to stand up and be counted again.
Chelsea v Tottenham
The standout clash of the weekend in the glamour stakes could see Chelsea move a massive seven points clear of second-placed Liverpool by Saturday night.
The Blues are in the groove and it will certainly be difficult for an injury-hit Spurs to live with them, despite Roberto Soldado (£8.4m) finally returning to goalscoring form in the edgy win over Cardiff.
The problems are in their defence though, and could be exploited by Andre Schurrle (£6.9) following his hat-trick at Fulham, where Fernando Torres (£8.1m) started and earned an assist and a bonus point.
FPL key man: Eden Hazard (£11.1m): Your most likely captain this weekend, the Belgian assisted two of Schurrle’s goals at Craven Cottage and will be a vital influence on his side once again.