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Confirmed Lineups: Man City vs Villa and Sunderland vs WBA

Can Liverpool’s Sturridge Stir Captain Debate?? FPL

GW17 Preview: Man Utd’s Danny Welbeck can step in for Sergio Aguero and nail Hammers



The calf injury sustained by Sergio Aguero in Manchester City’s madcap 6-3 win over Arsenal will have given plenty of Fantasy bosses a dilemma over this week, but the answer could be lying on the other side of the city.

Obviously every Fantasy boss who has any ambition of doing well this season needs to have Luis Suarez (£12.9m) in their team – more on him later – but if Aguero’s injury has left you one South American down in your strike force, then replacing him with one of England’s forward might well be the way to go.

Fresh from scoring twice in a morale-boosting 3-0 win at Aston Villa – and that League Cup win at Stoke’s Winter wonderland – Danny Welbeck (£7.0m) and Manchester United head into a festive run of fixtures which looks as though it’ll be kind to them, starting with the visit of West Ham to Old Trafford on Saturday.

Wayne Rooney (£11.1m) registered an assist in that Villa game, and he did look to be the logical choice to replace Aguero until injury made him a doubt for the weekend, ensuring that Welbeck is currently considered to be United’s only fully-fit forward.

In the continued absence of the injured Robin van Persie, the doubt over Rooney and also problems with Javier Hernandez (£7.2m), then United will be looking to Welbeck for inspiration ahead of a match that they will expect to win as they chase the teams above them in the table.

West Ham have drawn one and lost three on the road since their memorable 3-0 win at Tottenham in October, a run which culminated in them shipping four goals at Anfield in their last away game.

Scoring goals is also a problem for them, with just six netted in the nine games since that Spurs win – three of which coming in one match against struggling Fulham. Such a record means that the likes of Phil Jones (£5.8m) and Jonny Evans (£5.0m) should also come into your considerations this weekend.



Anyway, what were we saying about Suarez?

Ah yes, Liverpool’s main man continues to score goals and rack up Fantasy points for fun, with his tally of 61 in the last three games alone proving more than all but 11 of the other forwards in the game have managed all season, with the likes of Roberto Soldado (£8.6m), Dimitar Berbatov (£7.0m) and Christian Benteke (£8.8m) all amongst those outside the 11.

Suarez’s next opponents – or should that be victims? – are Cardiff City at Anfield, and whilst he should obviously take your captain’s armband, Jordan Henderson (£5.9m), Raheem Sterling (£4.9m) and defender Jon Flanagan (£4.5m) could be worthy additions after their Spurs heroics. Liverpool do go to Manchester City and Chelsea next though.

The Blues face Arsenal in a huge clash on Monday night, and although the Gunners will still be licking their wounds following the six-goal mauling by City, they will at least welcome the return to goalscoring form of Theo Walcott (£9.1m), who registered his first two goals of the season last weekend.

Aguero’s absence might mean a chance for Edin Dzeko (£6.7m) as City go to Fulham, whilst there will be even more emphasis on Everton’s Romelu Lukaku (£8.6m) at Swansea following a hamstring injury to Gerard Deulofeu (£5.4m) in the victory over Fulham.

The sacking of Andre Villas-Boas following Tottenham’s heavy loss to Liverpool will put even more pressure on Spurs as they go to Southampton, and a Saints side containing the talents of Jay Rodriguez (£5.9m) are likely to cause them problems. The England forward has scored three goals in his last four games.

The most recent of those came in the draw at Newcastle, and the Geordies will expect to get back to winning ways as they go to Crystal Palace, where they’ll be helped by the return of the influential Yohan Cabaye (£6.5m) from suspension.



GW10 Preview: Sergio Aguero to star in a tale of two Cities


Following a somewhat unpredictable opening to the campaign, the Fantasy Premier League season is beginning to settle down somewhat.

The familiar names are bagging points by banging in the goals – three of them in the case of Luis Suarez – and whilst there is still the odd hiccup (thanks Tim Howard) and the continual surprise (are Southampton ever going to concede a goal again?) things are beginning to look a little more straightforward.

As such, it’s probably time to go with what you know.

Sergio Aguero (£11.3m) knows exactly where the goal is, and following a run of nine strikes in his last seven games in all competitions, he looks to be a man to back ahead of Manchester City’s home clash with Norwich City on Saturday afternoon.

On form, the Argentinean is potentially the best forward in the division, and whilst Manuel Pellegrini’s side have had their troubles at the back recently, going forward they remain the top scorers in the Premier League with 21 goals.

Aguero has scored a third of them to sit just one off Daniel Sturridge at the top of the goalscoring charts, and he’ll be confident of finding the net against a Norwich side who conceded seven in matches against Arsenal and Chelsea earlier this month.

City’s premier forward scored four goals against Norwich over the course of his previous two seasons in Manchester, and with the support of the likes of David Silva (£9.3m) and Alvaro Negredo (£9.1m) around him, he could continue his recent stellar form at the expense of Chris Hughton’s struggling side.

Elsewhere, the big game of the weekend comes at the Emirates Stadium, as arguably the two most impressive teams of the season so far meet up in what could be a cracker.

Arsenal and Liverpool’s players – plenty of whom have been popular Fantasy picks this season – have the potential to cancel each other out in what promises to be a fascinating contest, but the qualities of Mesut Ozil (£10.8m) and Suarez (£11.6m) make them impossible to ignore.

You also can’t miss Southampton’s excellent defensive record so far this season, with Mauricio Pochettino’s side seeking to further improve that at Stoke this weekend.

The central defensive partnership of Jose Fonte (£5.3m) and Dejan Lovren (£5.7m) have been terrific so far, with the Croatian perhaps the preferred pick due to his increased goalscoring threat. Further forward, Rickie Lambert (£7.2m) racked up 12 points in the Fulham win last week and will be confident of keeping that form going.

Fernando Torres (£8.3m) earned the same score in Chelsea’s win over Manchester City, and whilst the Spaniard has been the subject as several false revivals in the past this one looks like it could continue. He could be one to watch as the Blues go to Newcastle, where Frank Lampard (£7.7m) has scored a couple of times in the past.

Chelsea’s neighbours Fulham welcome a Manchester United side who seem to have their forwards firing on all cylinders judging by the Stoke win.

Robin van Persie (£10.9m) and Wayne Rooney (£10.9m) will provide the hosts with concerns, whilst Romelu Lukaku (£8.1m) and Roberto Soldado (£9.2m) look set to battle it out as Everton host Tottenham in what could be a cracker.

There is guaranteed to be fireworks as Cardiff meet Swansea in the South Wales derby on Sunday afternoon, a match which will see the club from the Welsh capital leapfrog the Swans in the table with a victory.

In what is sure to be a close contest with challenges flying in, perhaps set pieces could play a huge role, with Cardiff’s specialist Peter Whittingham (£5.1m) perhaps a man to back.

At The Hawthorns, West Brom host managerless Crystal Palace, and although the Baggies are coming off the back of that heavy defeat to Liverpool they’ll expect to earn victory.

Stephane Sessegnon (£6.6m) was subdued at Anfield but he’ll expect to do better here, as will his teammates.




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Clichy Expects Classy City

Fantasy Football Preview GW36: Double up on Aguero as finish line looms


Well we’re nearly there aren’t we?

As the season’s finish line looms large over the horizon each and every point becomes vital in your head-to-head, mini-leagues and of course the #FYCup, the fact that six teams are playing in a double Gameweek shouldn’t be ignored.

More important still, is that three of those teams happen to house three of this season’s Fantasy favourites.

Okay, maybe Sergio Aguero (£11.0m) doesn’t have the ownership percentage he deserves following a campaign which has been blighted by injuries, but there should be little doubt that he is Manchester City’s best forward when on form, and after a goal against West Ham last week and with an FA Cup final place to play for he is sure to be ready to impress as City go to Swansea and then face a home game against West Brom in the next week.

As usual with Roberto Mancini you have to be careful when selecting his forwards, but with the Italian likely to go with a front two of Aguero and Carlos Tevez (£9.2m) for the showpiece final against Wigan next week then he’d be wise to give them as many minutes on the pitch together as possible ahead of Wembley.

That should mean they play the vast majority of the fixtures against Swansea and the Baggies, and although the threat of Edin Dzeko (£6.8m) can’t be ruled out the Bosnian has failed to score in City’s last eight matches, of which he only featured in five.

Whilst City’s two opponents this week do possess popular players on double Gameweeks in Michu (£8.2m) and Romelu Lukaku (£6.6m), our next port of call is the Champions League-chasing Tottenham Hotspur.

Gareth Bale (£10.6m) received much Fantasy Premier League attention before, during and after Spurs’ visit to Wigan last weekend – from which he eventually emerged with a goal, an assist and two bonus points.

The PFA Player and Young Player of the Year will be looked to by many as a solid captaincy choice ahead of Tottenham’s matches against his old club Southampton and then a trip to Chelsea which is likely to go a long way towards sorting out those all-important top four places.

Bale is almost certain to be joined by Jermain Defoe (£7.9m) in both of those contests, and the form of both could well be key to just how Spurs do now the pressure is on. The good news for them is that Bale has responded well to pressure all season.

The impressive form of Wigan’s Shaun Maloney (£5.2m) is an aspect to consider ahead of the double Gameweek for the FA Cup finalists which sees them face must-win matches at West Brom and at Swansea in their battle to stay up, but it is Chelsea we focus on for our third key pick.

The sixth of the teams facing this crucial double header, the Blues have tricky fixtures away at Manchester United and at home to Spurs.

The likes of Juan Mata (£10.0m) and Eden Hazard (£9.6m) will of course be looked to to shine in both of those fixtures, but the recent goalscoring form displayed by their teammate Oscar (£7.8m) surely makes him worthy of recognition.

The Brazilian struck in the draw at Anfield and the win over Swansea in Chelsea’s last two Premier League fixtures – matches that he picked up 18 Fantasy Premier League points from.

Crucially cheaper than the rivals he battles for a Chelsea starting berth with, Oscar seems to be coming into form just as the season draws to a close and can take these good performances into Chelsea’s double Gameweek.

He could just be a handy addition as the clock ticks down on your campaign.


Fantasy Football GW33 Preview: Arsenal pair can offer double delight


The business end of the season has already both approached and made its presence felt, and as if that wasn’t ramping up the pressure enough this Gameweek has an added element of complications about it.

Whilst some teams such as Tottenham and Swansea will go through Gameweek 33 without a fixture, others – five others to be exact – are playing twice.

For Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Fulham and West Ham a double Gameweek lies in store, and of those sides it is arguably the Champions League-chasing Gunners who offer the best chance for Fantasy points.

Home matches against Norwich and Everton over the next week will go a long way towards confirming whether or not Arsenal will finish in the top four come the end of this season, and two of Arsene Wenger’s men in particular could end up having a huge say in whether or not that becomes a reality.

Both Santi Cazorla (£10.0m) and Olivier Giroud (£7.6m) have impressed at various points over their first season in English football; the Spaniard no doubt more often that the Frenchman admittedly, although both can shine over the next few days.

Four of Cazorla’s last five Gunners league goals have come at the Emirates Stadium, whilst a staggering nine out of Giroud’s 10 Premier League goals this season have come on his home turf.

Both men clearly like their home comforts, and with these back-to-back matches in North London offering them the chance to further improve their records in front of their own fans, then the pair should really be backed to do well for both Arsene Wenger and for you too.

Elsewhere across a Gameweek which has been affected by the FA Cup semi-finals, Manchester United will be seeking to recover from their loss to rivals Manchester City with back-to-back games which could help them seal the title.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men face tough contests though, firstly at a Stoke City side who are fighting for their lives at the bottom before a trip to West Ham in midweek.

With both matches looking to be on the tight, uncompromising side then it could pay to back United’s defensive players as opposed to their more famous attackers.

Goalkeeper David de Gea (£5.8m) had kept six clean sheets in a row prior to the City loss, whilst Rafael (£6.2m) completed 90 minutes for the first time in three games in the same fixture.

It could be a former United player who enjoys his double Gameweek a little more though.

Dimitar Berbatov (£7.3m) has scored five in his last five, and with the Bulgarian facing matches against a leaky Aston Villa defence and then a tired Chelsea he could just be the man to make the difference for Martin Jol’s men.

The forward has also scored four in his last four Craven Cottage appearances, and so it might be the Chelsea game which really sees him catch fire following Fulham’s visit to Villa Park.

Of the other clubs who are playing two matches this Gameweek, the return of Andy Carroll (£8.2m) to the West Ham side and of both Marouane Fellaini (£7.4m) and Steven Pienaar (£6.6m) at Everton should be noted, although the Blues’ other Belgian Kevin Mirallas (£6.8m) has been the man to watch following three goals in his last four games. Sadly he’s listed as a forward.

Elsewhere, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez (£11.2m) will be backed to cause damage to a frequently creaky Reading defence at the Madejski Stadium, whilst Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse (£8.8m) has rediscovered a scoring touch recently and will be looking to score for the fourth St James’s Park appearance running in Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby against Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland.

In midweek, Manchester City will hope to keep up their momentum following the win at Old Trafford, and Sergio Aguero (£10.9m) should start against Wigan following his Manchester derby heroics.

If he does, there could be more goals in the horizon.


Follow @FantasyYIRMA on twitter for updates and chat during the games. Shoot us your FPL questions and queries on twitter or in the comments below. Best of luck this GW!


The Mark Jones Column: Roberto Mancini deserves another year

Soccer - Pre-season Package

Whatever happened it could never be as exciting as the end to last season, but the closure of this campaign looks to be somewhat quieter for Manchester City.

Of course they have an FA Cup semi-final against either Manchester United or Chelsea to prepare for, but as much as fans will enjoy that day and acknowledge that it was winning this trophy in 2011 which really kickstarted City’s time amongst the big boys, it’s not quite the ending to the season they envisaged.

This was supposed to be the year when City – fresh from that remarkable ending to last season and buoyed by their title of champions – made a big impact both home and abroad; starting an era of dominance in the Premier League and establishing themselves as a big hitter in the Champions League.

That hasn’t happened.

With neighbours United running away with the league title in England, and having fallen foul of a devilishly tricky Champions League group for the second season running, this has so far been a year of standing still for City.

Of course they could still rescue it by winning the FA Cup back at Wembley in May though, and that prospect alone should be enough to convince City’s infamous owners that manager Roberto Mancini should be allowed another crack at the job next season. Whether or not he will is another matter of course.

As we discussed on these pages back in October, City’s summer signings didn’t look as though they were going to significantly improve the squad. Maybe this year it will be different.

With Mario Balotelli having packed his no doubt eccentrically coloured bags for Italy and Edin Dzeko an apparent target for Borussia Dortmund, Mancini will almost certainly be in the market for another forward to complement Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez in the summer. He simply must be allowed to spend big this time.

Missing out on Robin van Persie last year was one thing, but Mancini then had to watch the Dutchman slot into Manchester United’s winning machine and only add to their ruthless nature. That simply can’t be allowed to happen again.

Providing the Italian with a top class forward in the summer – in other words a Radamel Falcao, or maybe even a Luis Suarez – is simply essential if City want to be challenging for the type of honours they want to be in the mix for at the end of next season. A statement needs to be made.

Sadly, a much more likely statement could be made with the removal of Mancini, a man who has been in his position at City since December 2009 but has frequently made enemies during that time.

Just like Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez before him – and right now come to think of it – Mancini has frequently paid the price for being a bit different, and for saying things that we don’t normally hear from the mouths of managers in the Premier League.

He shouldn’t be shunned just for simply having a personality though, and if he can spend the summer finding the personality that his team produced in their epic Premier League victory last season then there is nothing to suggest that they won’t be celebrating success again next year.

It’s safe to assume that if this were Chelsea then Mancini would have lost his job already, but this is Manchester City and they have admirably stuck by their man so far.

Stick by him a little more, give him some better players and they might find out that they won’t regret their decision come 2014.


Gameweek 26 preview: Time for some Stevie Glee?


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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Gameweek 25 preview: Gareth Bale to sting The Hawthorns?




The closure of the January transfer window may excite manic Sky Sports News presenters, the Twitter rumour-mongers and Harry Redknapp, but Fantasy bosses are often better off just sticking to what they know.

At this point of the season – pretty much exactly two-thirds of the way through – you’ll know who you can rely on in your team, who you’ll be keeping an eye on bringing in and who you desperately need to get rid of. New arrivals into the division shouldn’t alter that.

Of course there are those new players who can arrive into the Premier League and immediately take it by storm – Papiss Cisse last season anyone? – but the bedding in period often needed by foreign imports makes adding any deadline day signing to your team a risk. At least this weekend anyway.

No, it would be better to go with the tried and tested ahead of an intriguing set of games, and there aren’t many players in the division this season who have proved their worth more than Tottenham’s Gareth Bale (£9.8m).

The Welshman’s fine solo goal at Carrow Road on Wednesday night was a 10th Premier League strike of the season, and with eight of those 10 coming in matches away from White Hart Lane – in which he can make more use of the space afforded to him – then the winger will be the man to watch when Spurs visit West Brom on Sunday afternoon.

The Baggies have only won two of their last 11 in the league, and so whilst you don’t want Bale running at you at the best of times it is likely to be especially tough for Steve Clarke’s men to cope with the confidence of the winger here. Bale could score big.

Elsewhere, the headline match of the weekend is probably the last one, as Manchester City welcome Liverpool in a contest which the hosts will need to win after dropping points at QPR last time out.

Sergio Aguero (£10.9m) returned to the team there and should definitely be considered here, but even though Liverpool are facing a tough game the eagle-eyed Fantasy bosses will have noted that they have a Double Gameweek coming up next time around which brings home matches against West Brom and Swansea. Luis Suarez (£10.5m) is only going to see his price go up. More on him next week…

Reading’s Adam Le Fondre (£4.7m) might be a slightly less talked about forward than Suarez, but he proved more than his worth with the two late goals which earned a point against Chelsea in midweek, and at home to Sunderland he’ll be backed by many to find the net again. If you need a cheap forward to supplement your big boys then there are few better options at the moment.

Defensively, the scope for clean sheets doesn’t look all too great this weekend, but although QPR’s match at home to fellow strugglers Norwich will be full of new Rangers players introducing themselves to one another, it might just see the home side keep it tight at the back.

After the 3-0 loss at home to Liverpool before the turn of the year, Redknapp’s boys have kept back-to-back clean sheets at Loftus Road against opposition of the calibre of Tottenham and Manchester City, as well as shutting out Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The Canaries should offer little to be worried about then, and after playing 90 minutes in each of QPR’s last four games the on-loan Manchester United defender Fabio da Silva (£4.2m) could just be worth considering if you need to add a cheap defender to make room elsewhere.

At the other end of the scale Leighton Baines (£7.5m) is the game’s most expensive defender and he’ll be looking to follow-up his brace against West Brom when Everton entertain Aston Villa, but the Blues have only kept two clean sheets at home all season and so Christian Benteke (£6.5m) shouldn’t be discounted for the visitors.

Finally and not too far away at Wigan, the hosts will hope that the increasingly effective Franco di Santo (£5.3m) impresses as they host Southampton on Saturday.

That’s if no-one else has signed him by then of course…


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