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!
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.
Liverpool eventually delivered for Fantasy bosses on their Double Gameweek, but the absences of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge this time around will have those managers looking elsewhere.
Neither Liverpool nor Swansea are in action in Gameweek 27 following the Reds’ 5-0 win at Anfield last Sunday, and so without the Reds and the Swans to call upon then points will have to be picked up from other sources. It’s not the happiest of places right now, but maybe one of those sources will be the Emirates Stadium.
Defeats to Blackburn and Bayern Munich have left Arsenal in the grip of the usual ‘crisis’ they go through about seven times a season, but purely in Premier League terms they aren’t doing too badly.
Three wins and a draw from their last four matches have taken the Gunners to within four points of fourth-placed Tottenham, and with Spurs not playing until a tricky trip to West Ham on Monday night then Saturday’s visit of Aston Villa offers Arsene Wenger the chance to lighten both his own and the club’s mood.
Wenger should start with his compatriot Olivier Giroud (£8.0m) upfront, especially given that the French forward has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances at the Emirates.
The experiment of playing Theo Walcott (£9.5m) through the middle has produced good results, but Arsenal looked stronger when Giroud came on against Bayern in midweek and can make that strength tell against a notoriously weak Villa back line. If you’re a striker short given the non-appearances of Suarez and Sturridge, then he could be your man.
Elsewhere it’s top against bottom at Loftus Road, where it is simply impossible to ignore the claims of Robin van Persie (£14.0m) as your captaincy pick.
Manchester United’s mercurial Dutchman actually came down in price for the first time since October before United’s last league game against Everton, but he responded by registering a goal and an assist – a 19th and 10th of the campaign respectively – in his team’s 2-0 win. He was rested for his team’s FA Cup exertions on Monday night and so should be primed and ready to go for this visit to Queens Park Rangers.
As always with United it can be quite difficult to pick their midfield, but with an apparent injury to Phil Jones (£5.6m), then Sir Alex Ferguson could look to pair Michael Carrick (£5.8m) – who scored in this fixture last season and is United’s top points-scoring midfielder this time around – with Tom Cleverley (£5.6m, and the pair will be targeting points in what should be a routine victory.
There will be nothing routine about the big game of the weekend, as Manchester City host Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.
There is an intriguing battle going on to see who will finish as City’s top points-scoring forward, and although he is bottom of the list at the moment the smart money should perhaps be on Sergio Aguero (£10.9m), who has started the last three league games whilst Carlos Tevez hasn’t played a minute of the last two.
Clean sheets might be hard to come by in that clash, but they could be seen in the opening game of the weekend at Craven Cottage.
Stoke have only scored once in their previous five away games, and against a Fulham defence marshalled by Brede Hangeland (£4.8m) they could find that record tough to improve.
The Norwegian centre-back was once a Fantasy favourite but he has seen ownership dwindle due to not yet scoring a goal this season. That could all change here.
Another player who hasn’t scored as often as he’d like this season is Papiss Cisse (£8.8m), but it might be worth keeping an eye on Newcastle’s Senegalese forward ahead of what looks a huge game against Southampton at St James’s Park.
A goal there could kick off a much-needed run of form for both him and his team, and perhaps provide you with that all important edge in the coming weeks.
Check out our new Club article – This week Fulham
Gameweek 26 still has one fixture remaining with Liverpool playing Swansea this weekend, but here is the round up of the 10 other games so far. Many thanks as always to @shots_on_target for his review, check out his site at www.shotsontarget.co.uk a fantastic #FPL resource!
A much needed win for Aston Villa although overall they performed below average for a home
team up against a travelling West Ham, Villa’s red arrows indicating below average totals in
all shot categories. Their limited attack is all through Benteke though, which makes him
always in with a chance of a goal. The Nolan-Carroll partnership combined well again
producing plenty of chances in the box but none of real gilt-edge quality.
Torres had a rare performance here where he is the Chelsea player with the most shots on
target, usually he’s second behind one of the midfielders. There were a lot of efforts to
share out here though, and with many at range from Lampard and Luiz. Both players can hit ’em though. Hazard’s goal and assist flatter his underlying numbers.
A rather muted, some might say controlled, performance from United against Everton.
Ferguson did not need to take any risks with this game, especially after City’s loss, and
this kind of performance was always on the cards. United’s attack, and Van Persie in
particular, are just so clinical this season they continue to score goals from
limited chances. Evans, when he gets a start, probably warrants his new found goal scoring tag this season. Rooney’s lack of threat up-front will have those managers who signed him up recently reverting back to worries of a few months back, will he play too deep too often? Everton were well contained here. The talismanic Fellaini was marked out of the game by Jones and Anichebe was no match for Vidic, leaving the best chances falling for Osman from midfield.
If any game was going to be 0-0 this week it was this one. Fulham have just lost it whilst
Norwich have learnt how to defend. New signing Becchio looked to be a useful focus for
Norwich’s attack with Snodgrass maintaining his position as my favourite fantasy option in the
Canary’s attack. I’ll try not to mention Berbatov anymore than is necessary.
The report’s after this game centred on City’s shocker but I’d like to draw some attention to
Southampton’s performances of late since their Argentine coach came on board. This was not a result in which they earned a plucky result against defending champions. They dominated
City at both ends of the pitch, deserving of a dominant victory. Puncheon continues to present an excellent cut-priced option. As for City.., who can tell? Aguero and Silva are not paying
back their price tags yet and rotation risk continues to hang over Dzeko, although he’s
maybe worth that kind of risk with his career goal scoring record.
Stoke managed a lofty number of shots here, hauling themselves all the way up to an average level performance against Reading, thanks in part to Walters bluster up behind Crouch and plenty of set pieces. There was no miracle comeback for Reading this time but Stoke really should’ve kept a clean sheet.
This was a game with a lot more chances than the score line suggests. Despite Giroud being restored to the central strikers berth it’s young Theo once again who posed the most threat in
Sunderland’s penalty box, followed by Cazorla who looks to be finding his spark again. For
Sunderland, Fletcher will feel unfortunate not to have been on the score sheet.
This was another terrific display from Swansea, led up front again by their main man in Michu. The Spaniard’s brace and assist will have overshadowed team-mate Hernandez who was rewarded here after some great performances recently. QPR look doomed already but if they do get anything it’s usually from a Taarabt pass.
What can I say about Gareth Bale that you don’t already know? With Defoe out and Adebayor
rested after his duties with Togo there’s was plenty of room up front for Bale to exploit, although it was Dempsey who started up front. Holtby‘s performance will have caught the eye too, with 4 shots, all in the box, showing a potential knack for getting into scoring positions. Gouffran’s was looking good for the visitors until his injury and that’s blow for Newcastle. Sissoko‘s lack of shots here is a downer on his virtuoso display last week but an away game at White Harte Lane should not dampen expectations too much, unlike Cisse though who has failed to step it up since Ba’s Chelsea exit.
West Brom’s gameplan worked a treat here. They had to ride their luck at times with Foster in fine form, especially saving Gerrard’s penalty. But with 70 minutes of pressure successfully soaked, Clarke threw on Lukaku and his enviable strength and pace was enough to hit Liverpool with the sucker-punch.. With Sturridge out injured Suarez was up front but his shooting was off today, failing to hit the target with any of his 7 shots. Gerrard continued to put in the kind of shift that has seen him amass so many FPL points recently. If he had scored his penalty, which was won by Suarez, this gameweek would have told a whole different story, and it still may with the final fixture, LIV vs SWA, to come this Saturday.
Enrique stole the crown for top points with a goal, assist and clean sheet, plus full bonus points.. Suarez and Sturridge were next best and despite Suarez outscoring Sturridge by 5 pts it was very close between the two of them again. Suarez won a perhaps fortunate penalty for his assist. Sturridge was generously handed his penalty by Gerrard, but could have easily scored one or two more from open play. Couthino’s full debut also showed he’s one to watch.
Liverpool’s victory was emphatic. They had 35 shots in total, the most from any team this season, and this has prompted me to take a look back through this season’s results for other dominant performances from a shot data perspective. As can be seen from the number of goals scored in these games it’s still shots on target that is the important stats. Sure, lots of shots are good, but if they don’t hit the target it doesn’t count for much.
You can read more on the Liverpool v Swansea game at http://www.shotsontarget.co.uk/2013/02/liv-5-0-swa-and-other-emphatic-wins.html
It has possibly escaped your notice but in between GW26 and GW27 there is the small matter of a little match taking place at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. It’s a low profile game so it may have gone under your radar…
The Champions League is back and there is a HUGE match up with Manchester United travelling to Spain to take on Real Madrid.
All the talk is on Ronaldo taking on his old club, however from an Fantasy Football perspective many will be hoping that the likes of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie come through this match unscathed! With such a high percentage ownership for RVP in particular you have to wonder with a 12 point lead in the League if Sir Alex may decide to rest his star man in some of the upcoming Premier League games should they continue to challenge in Cup competitions also.
To coincide with this match up StanJames.com are giving away a FREE £25 BET to the winner of our Caption Competition.
To enter all you have to to is Tweet your best Caption response for the picture below to @StanJames @FantasyYIRMA and @FPL_advice_Tips. You must be following all 3 accounts for your response to be counted!
I would say try and keep it clean but having seen some of the replies already I know that won’t happen!!
Winner will be selected by StanJames during the Real Madrid vs Manchester United game on Wednesday 13th of February.
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.
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The GameWeek 25 Review is brought to you by the team behind www.shotsontarget.co.uk
Both these teams have a weakness that is all too often exploited. Villa can’t defend set pieces and Everton’s defence is as shaky as the come when they are attacked with verve. Result…? Six goals. With Baines’s deliveries and Fellaini aerial threat and with the pace and power on show from Villa’s front line it’s not too surprising. Doubts over Fellaini’s role should be allayed now with Gibson back giving the Belgian license to menace alongside the hulking frame of Anichebe, in the team on merit ahead of Jelavic.
Rooney and Van Persie played very closely together as a front two in this one. Despite a lack of attacking drive from central midfield pair of Carrick and Cleverley, Rooney was not tempted to drop deeper and try and play from there. Fulham’s put up a good fight although without Berbatov they are lack the kind of class that Rooney showed with his precision finish. Surprising to see so little creativity from United’ wingers though.
With Carroll back at the point of their attack West Ham were able to get to something like their early season attacking numbers, and the Nolan-Carroll partnership promises to be very fruitful for both parties. Mark Noble too, beneficiary of an assist here, should see some joy from his set-pieces with Carroll to aim for. I’m not all that sure Swansea are equipped for a visit to Allardyce’s Upton Park, and I imagine too that this is a point Laudrup will concede – you can’t win them all. Pablo Hernandez and Michu had the best chances for the Swans ahead of their DGW 26.
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.
What are your thoughts on GW23?? Leave a comment below. You can also follow us on Twitter @FantasyYirma
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.