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.
All were new signings in 2011/12, and all impressed in Yirma, but can the five players below keep up that form heading in to 2012/13??
Demba Ba, Newcastle, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £7.5m
Few players had more schizophrenic seasons than Ba last time out, as the arrival of a man we’ll mention below saw his goalscoring form at first dry up and then evaporate completely.
It was tougher to find a Fantasy manager without the Senegalese in his team in the first half of last season than one who did have him, as Ba’s goals shot Newcastle up the table and kept several Fantasy bosses scratching their heads over captaincy selections on Saturday mornings.
Then the forward headed off the Africa Cup of Nations in January, returned with his international team-mate alongside him and suddenly the goals dried up.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew had of course decided to alter Ba’s position slightly, and although it must be said that he did still weigh in with some assists, the forward’s impact was seemingly reducing game by game, so much so that the summer of transfer rumours surrounding his exit from Tyneside were hardly surprising.
He stayed of course, but a repeat showing from last year’s dazzling first few months looks unlikely.
Nikica Jelavic, Everton, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £8.5m
Up in Scotland, Jelavic is now merely a substantial if solitary profit in the Rangers accounts, but the happy memories that Gers’ fans had of him are now being shared in the Blue half of Merseyside.
Jelavic’s predatory instincts have unsurprisingly gone down well amongst Everton fans who have arguably not seen a finer forward in Blue since the early days of Wayne Rooney, and the Croatian will be determined to shine in his first full campaign at Goodison Park.
Much was made last season of Jelavic’s instant, one touch finishes, and so whilst you may want to avoid him if you prefer your forwards to be more involved in the play and frequently able to contribute with assists, as an out-and-out goalscorer in a team who will play to his strengths there can’t be many better picks.
After a summer away at the Euros, this campaign will be the ultimate test to see if the Croatian can produce it consistently in Fantasy Premier League.
The early signs are all encouraging ones.
Papiss Cisse, Newcastle, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £9.5m
It can’t possibly go as well for Cisse as it did from January to May. Can it? CAN IT???
The Senegalese’s impact at Newcastle following his transfer from German club Freiburg was nothing short of extraordinary, as goals were scored and records tumbled all over the place.
A clinical, almost effortless forward, Cisse’s performances at St James’s Park (sorry Mike Ashley) have drawn comparisons with Andy Cole’s, and there is no doubt that Newcastle will once again look to play to his strengths as they did so well during the latter half of last season.
However, what with the demands of the Europa League, yet another Africa Cup of Nations coming up in January and now that defenders know his threat a little more, it will be extremely difficult for Cisse to repeat last season’s heroics again this time around.
At £9.5m he’ll have plenty of takers, but expecting him to produce the same fireworks as he did in 2011/12 might just leave you disappointed.
Sergio Aguero, Manchester City, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £11.5m
The moment that Aguero secured the league title for Manchester City in May will be burned into the brains of his club’s supporters’ for a lifetime, and probably the minds of Manchester United fans for even longer.
It was deserved too, both for the club and a player who made the transition from La Liga to Fantasy Premier League with ease ever since he scored twice on his debut against Swansea in City’s opening match of the campaign.
Aguero is a livewire; a player who never gives defenders a second on the ball and leaves them wondering for hours just what they can do to stop him.
Bar Robin van Persie he was the best forward in England last season – that Kyle Walker took the PFA Young Player of the Year award ahead of Aguero isn’t a good advert for the decisions of footballers – and the Argentinean looks more than ready to help his side defend their title this time.
He is a simply brilliant attacker, and one that you need to find room for in any team – Fantasy or otherwise – whatever the cost.
Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle, Midfielder – Fantasy Price Tag £7.0m
As this column indicates, Newcastle bought pretty well last season, and there is an argument for saying that Cabaye was the best addition of the lot.
A lively midfielder, the Frenchman showcased more than a keen eye for goal the longer 2011/12 went on, and after a year of getting used to playing against the big-hitters of the league he’ll now have to understand that he is one.
One of the lesser discussed qualities of Cabaye, however, is his toughness. He can mix it in the middle with pretty much anyone, and so seeing as he is highly unlikely to become overawed by the new challenges he faces as he becomes a marked man, there is nothing to suggest that he won’t prove to be a success on Tyneside again.
As discussed above, the rigours placed on Newcastle this season might ensure that they don’t reach the highs they did in the last campaign, but their French midfielder can still impress.
A bargain buy? Oui.