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Liverpool, United, Villa and a load of Red Flags

Written by @NiallHawthorne

We’re in the run up to Christmas and the ‘happiest time of the year’. You might say I’ve gone a bit early, but I’m only talking about it. I know loads of people who have gone the whole hog and put up the tree.

In any case, it may be a bit of a challenge for this Christmas to be considered the happiest time of the year. Can you be happy when deciding whether or not you’ll see Mum/Dad/Granny/Grandad for Christmas dinner and then calculating the odds of them catching COVID?

If only the vaccine had come through a couple of months earlier we could all have had one from Santa Claus to allow us to really celebrate Christmas properly, except for those who don’t believe. In vaccines, obviously,

Tesco are telling us that there’s no naughty list this year. Every Lidl helps, right? Meanwhile every other marketing guru is hellbent on making us cry our eyes out after every advert, at the end of the most harrowing year of all our lives. How about a laugh or two, eh? Why couldn’t we have slapstick moments with Ant & Dec falling over a Christmas tree or Tom & Jerry giving each other gifts that they then use to wallop each other with?

Leave my heartstrings alone please, they’ve been plucked, strummed and ripped this year.

Even FPL has turned on us in our hour of need, as I open up my team to see that my team has erected it’s Christmas decorations early. There’s red, yellow, orange and white all over my squad thanks to COVID, tendons, ligaments and hamstrings.

All my tips this week are subject to a caveat – I have no idea who will be fit or able to tog out this weekend.

All I can do is recommend that you dive deep into the Twitter account and website of @BenDinnery because if he doesn’t know, nobody does.

Onto GW9!

Defender: Alex Nicolao Telles, Manchester United

Yes, I’m tipping a player who hasn’t played a minute of action in FPL this season, but I have my reasons!

He isn’t reported as being injured, sick or AWOL, which is a distinct advantage this week. His direct competitor for a place in defence has twanged his hammy. He’s facing an opponent that has scored one goal in their last five games, and have more than a couple of their forward/attacking players in doubt.

You can pick Telles and watch him in action at 8pm on Saturday night or it’s Strictly Come Dancing. It’s your choice. You should know however that even Strictly is suffering. They’re so short of judges that Anton Du Beke got called into action last weekend.

It’s carnage out there ladies and gents. Absolute carnage.

Midfielder: Diogo Jota, Liverpool

It would be easier to predict the weekly lottery numbers, or the next insane thing to be tweeted by former President Trump (that feels very nice to type) than it would be to predict the defensive players picked by Liverpool and Leicester City this Sunday night.

Both are, in the words of Leo Tolstoy, up shit creek without a paddle.

Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold all out. Fabinho, Robertson, Williams all doubtful.

Soyuncu, Amartey out. Schmeichel, Pereira, Castagna, Fofana all doubtful.

There’ll be goals at Anfield this weekend, I’m certain of it, and with Mo Salah out with the ‘rona there’s a sure fire starting spot for a man who was muscling in on the fabled front-three in any case.

If you were offered the chance to take a regular starter in the Liverpool attack for under £7m and 10% ownership, would you turn it down?

Well, would you?

Forward: Jamie Vardy, Leicester City

Eight goals this season already for Vardy, and seven of them have come away from home. This week, as mentioned just above, he faces a patchwork Liverpool defence that were hardly covering themselves in glory this season anyway.

When you consider he steamrollered over Manchester City’s defence for a hat-trick, what could he do here?

You know how Liverpool have gone 63 games at home without defeat? Well if you potentially take Salah, Henderson, Thiago, Fabinho, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Gomez and Robertson out of their team, that run could come to an end. It could be James Milner at CB. It really, really could.

Captain: Jack Grealish, Aston Villa

I will admit that I have a pretty strongly defined hump with Jack Grealish. The GAA-playing, Irish-shirt-wearing midfield dynamo chose to play for England, and now he’s the next coming of Gazza.

However FPL is all about being cold-blooded and calculated, and the boy Grealish is the real deal. Indeed, his recent displays for Villa have not reminded me of a young Paul Gascoigne, they’ve reminded me of an older Steven Gerrard (calm down, I’m not saying he’s as good or better, I’m just saying he reminds me of him). The Gerrard who linked with Torres and scored over 20 goals a season, that Gerrard.

Put this Grealish in that kind of team, and who knows what he could achieve? He’s doing a pretty good job with Villa right now, and I expect them to swat aside Brighton this weekend with Grealish the star of the show.

Outsider: Richarlison de Andrade, Everton

Returning after his three game ban for trying to amputate Thiago’s leg during the Merseyside derby, it’s fair to say that Everton have missed their frontman. Dominic Calvert Lewin has ‘only’ had a goal and assist during those three games, whereas he had seven goals in five games with Richarlison alongside him.

Everton travel to Craven Cottage to face Fulham in what looks like being the most watched Premier League game of the weekend, because it’s on the BBC on Sunday morning.

Fulham are rotten and the return of Richarlison, with under 4% ownership, gives you a chance to truly makes this a Sunday morning of worship. Or it could ‘Marr’ the day for you altogether.

I’ll get my coat.

http://twitter.com/niallhawthorne

Gameweek 8 Preview: Chelsea, Spurs and Far, Far Too Much Donald Trump

Forget The Presidential Election: Gameweek 7 Review

GW6 Review: Posted After The Final Whistle & The GW7 Preview

Fantasy Football GW7 Preview: EARLY DEADLINE

Gameweek 5: Spurs, Sheffield United and WBA make the Preview

I think it’s fair to say that we are living through unprecedented times.

In fact, I can’t remember back to a time when things were precedented. I often find myself wondering how historians will view the times we are currently experiencing. How will they view the decisions made by our leaders and ourselves?

I have no doubt that one of the things that will confuse the bejaysus out of them is the decision to proceed with international football during a global pandemic….

The logic behind sending footballers out of their club ‘bubble’ around the globe to play international games that are as important as my opinion on Masterchef Australia (No Poh! No!), leading to an inevitable surge in positive COVID-19 cases which are then brought back into the club ‘bubble’, therefore possibly bursting the bubble of professional football happening at all….

Yeah, onto GW5!

Defender: George Baldock, Sheffield United

I’m not saying that The Blades have had a ropey start to the season, but right now Richard Osman has them written down as an answer on his desk. Yep, they’re pointless.

This weekend they face the only team below them in the table, as Fulham come calling. While The Cottagers racked up three goals at Elland Road in GW2, they’ve been firing blanks elsewhere.

I’ve had to ignore the fact that George’s surname references a very niche fetish, and focus instead on the fact that he has a knack of adding goals and assists to his clean sheet hauls. He’s already notched an assist this season, and he’s due a clean sheet.

Midfielder: Matheus Pereira, West Bromwich Albion

West Brom welcome Burnley to my gaff this weekend, so I may open the curtains to watch them in the garden.

Pereira has started the season strongly with a goal and a brace of assists thus far, and he faces Sean Dyche’s men who have conceded SEVEN goals in their two away games. SEVEN! Imagine conceding that many goals in two away games! What eejits!

Oh….

Forward: Neal Maupay, Brighton And Hove Albion

Here’s a player who is smashing it while flying under the radar of many.

Four goals and an assist already this season, adding to his ten-goal haul last season. He travels to Selhurst Park as The Seagulls take on The Eagles.

Based on knowledge of ornithology alone you’d fancy the Eagles, but have you seen how rowdy the Seagulls have become in recent years? They’d have your fish supper out of your hand and slap you across the face with their wing if you don’t have your wits about you.

Neal Maupay is a French seagull. Just imagine the attitude…

Captain: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

I’ve seen plenty of stats during this interminably daft international break about West Ham United and how sound defensively they have been. Their xGA is tiny, apparently. Their xGF is decent. Their xGEEKS is as yet unknown.

My fantasy football methodology is far more straightforward. Old Moyesey has self-isolated and rid himself of his COVIDness, so he’s back on the touchline and The Hammers are going to hell in a handcart once more.

Harry Kane will profit handsomely

Outsider: Rhian Brewster, Sheffield United

Whether you’re one of those (like me) who has had Rhian tucked up safely on the corner of your bench since the season started, or you’ve taken the plunge once you saw him move to Bramall Lane, welcome to the beginning of the ‘£4.5m Bloody Hell He’s A Bargain At That Price’ adventure.

The kid is a talent, and his first big chance is against at home to a team that has a habit of conceding three goals in every game.

All aboard!

Written by @NiallHawthorne

Written by Niall Hawthorne.

Drop Niall a follow on twitter. Good thing about Twitter – you can always unfollow again later!

Niall Hawthorne has a strange view on most things.

Check out his blog for proof rantsofarebel.wordpress.com.

GW4 Preview

Written by Niall Hawthorne

The big debate in the world of football this week has been the handball rule, and its application in the Premier League this season. The debate itself has borne remarkable similarities to the debate around Covid-19 restrictions. If I had a euro for every person I heard bemoaning the handball law or the ‘lockdowns’, I’d be rich enough to buy myself a Covid-free island and spend all day every day recreating Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ against the actual Peter Shilton. What larks!

My point is that it’s easy to give out about ‘rules’ that you don’t agree with. It’s a damn sight harder to come up with a plan yourself. Don’t agree with the handball law as it stands? OK then, how should it be?

The most common refrain to that question is for referee’s and lawmakers to ‘use common sense’. Yet we’ve had decades of experience of common sense and judgement being lambasted by every pundit in the land when they didn’t agree. In fact, it sounded exactly like it has for the past week!

Don’t agree with the lockdown restrictions and feel that we ‘must learn to live with the virus’? Great, tell me how. Go on, I’m waiting. Remember though, unless you’re a fan of eugenics, or believe that a form of apartheid should be implemented against the aged or vulnerable, then you must protect them while ‘living with the virus’. Not so easy now, is it?

In summary, it’s easy to chastise those who come up with plans, it’s far hard to come up with plans to replace them.

Which reminds me that I should really tell you how to plan for GW4!

Defender: Timothy Castagne, Leicester City

Now here’s a man who likes to make a good first impression.

A goal, three assists, a clean sheet and four bonus points in his first three outings will certainly get you attention. He faces back to back home games against Claret and Blue opposition with West Ham and Villa calling to the King Power stadium.

West Ham are first up, and they are the antithesis of consistency right now. (On a side note, I reckon ‘antithesis of consistency’ would make a great name for an up and coming band). One minute they’re getting walloped by Newcastle, then they shellac Wolves while their gaffer watches on at home with a mug of Ovaltine, which they then follow up by getting chewed up and spat out by the Toffees.

Could Castagne be the new Alexander-Arnold? Can you have a ‘new’ Alexander-Arnold when the old one is only 21? Am I confused?

I’m saying ‘Yes’.

Midfielder: Adama Traore, Wolverhampton Wanderers

A player who has disappointed thus far this season, but who has a huge opportunity to impress against a frankly hilariously poor Fulham side who stutter into Molineux.

He’s going to get those naturally muscly limbs oiled up nicely before taking his place in the front three as an ‘out of position FPL dream’ should, before racking up at least 10 points.

On a side note, if you are watching this game, keep an eye out for Scotty Parker’s clobber. A double-breasted cardigan and a tie-pin wider than your tie? Relegate them now. Disgraceful.

Forward: Anthony Martial, Manchester United

No logic here, just pure gut instinct.

‘Tony’ has been abysmal thus far this season, but then again, that’s what he does, isn’t it? He’s due, is what I’m saying. A classic ‘Super Sunday’ slot at home to Spurs should be enough to get him to switch his FPL owners from screaming “Merde” to whispering “Ooooh la la, c’est magnifique”

Keep an eye out also for Eric Dier and any unplanned toilet breaks. If he’s defending the wrong end, it’s a long way to the tunnel and the bathroom…could get messy.

Captain: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

Pop Quiz:

Q1: Who has completed the most passes into the penalty area in the Premier League this season?

A: Mo Salah

Q2: Who has received the most passes in the penalty area in the Premier League this season?

A: Mo Salah

Q3: Who has carried the ball into the penalty area the most in the Premier League this season?

A: Mo Salah

He’s doing alright this season. He faces an Aston Villa side who have beaten Sheffield United and Fulham thus far, flying high with 6 points. Of course, Sheffield United and Fulham have been bobbins this season, so they have a false sense of security and Liverpool are going to batter them.

Outsider: Andre Ayew, Crystal Palace

Just the one assist thus far, however he now faces a wonderfully enticing run of fixtures, starting with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. You should back a striker facing that defence! Also, all the attention will be on the impressive Zaha, so I fancy Ayew to nip in and steal the glory.

On a personal note I can’t wait for Frank Lampard to have a pop at Roy Hodgson on the side line. He will you know, he’ll actually pick on an old man. He’s that far up his own arse is Frank.

Written by @NiallHawthorne

Written by Niall Hawthorne.

Drop Niall a follow on twitter. Good thing about Twitter – you can always unfollow again later!

Niall Hawthorne has a strange view on most things.

Check out his blog for proof rantsofarebel.wordpress.com.

GW3 Review: Posted After The Final Whistle

Fantasy Football – Player Picks Ahead of Gameweek 3

The Fantasy Football Review: Gameweek 2

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