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.
A limited weekend of Fantasy Premier League action saw just six matches played but there was enough drama in them to fill 10.
At St James’ Park on Sunday, Papiss Cisse’s last minute winner completed Newcastle’s stunning turnaround against Stoke, a strike which both earned his team three points and the Senegalese forward three FPL bonus points of his own.
Elsewhere, the game of the weekend at Anfield saw Luis Suarez pick up his by now customary three bonus points – the eighth time this season his taken the maximum amount as he took his tally to 30 extras for the campaign – as Liverpool came from 2-1 to beat Tottenham 3-2 in a terrific game at Anfield. Spurs’ double goalscorer Jan Vertonghen picked up two BPs, whilst Reds goalscorer Stewart Downing grabbed one.
Saturday’s goalless draw between Norwich and Southampton at Carrow Road saw three bonus points picked up by Saints midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and two for goalkeeper Artur Boruc after he saved Grant Holt’s late penalty, whilst Andros Townsend’s stunning strike in QPR’s 3-1 win over Sunderland led to the midfielder picking up three extras.
Gabby Agbonlahor added three extras to his total after scoring the winner in Aston Villa’s crucial 2-1 win at Reading, whilst both Liam Ridgewell and James Morrison shared the top BP honours in West Brom’s win by same margin over Swansea.
Norwich 0-0 Southampton
2 Boruc, Turner
QPR 3-1 Sunderland
Reading 1-2 Aston Villa
West Brom 2-1 Swansea
3 Ridgewell, Morrison
Newcastle 2-1 Stoke
Liverpool 3-2 Tottenham
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.