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!