Breathe. Another GameWeek starting another 2 days later…for Fantasy Football lovers it’s brilliant, but for us poor writers it gets pretty hectic! My Preview I had to post Christmas night was very stripped back, but I’ll make up for that with an in depth look at this week’s games. If you’re like me you are currently limping towards the next wildcard, but who gets rotated this week?
Sunderland v Tottenham
Mignolet; Bardsley, O’Shea, Cuellar, Colback; Larsson, Gardner; Johnson, Sessegnon, McClean; Fletcher.
Rose is unavailable against his parent club so Colback will jump to left back. Elsewhere, rotation is anyone’s guess!
Lloris; Walker, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen; Lennon, Sandro, Dembele, Bale; Defoe, Adebayor.
It’s hard to see AVB tinkering with a team which completely dominated on boxing day, but a slight niggle to Dembele could see Scott Parker handed his first start in yonks. Dempsey is a doubt with a groin issue so the front two look unchallenged.
This won’t be as easy as Aston Villa was for Spurs, as Sunderland will set up to suffocate them, much the same as they did to Man City. Sunderland’s defence is solid, and has been all year- it has been their attacks that have been blunt. Tottenham will probably breach their defence once, but I can’t see them slamming too many past the Black Cats at home. A 1-1 draw sounds about right.
Aston Villa v Wigan
Guzan; Lowton, Herd, Clark, Baker, Bennett; Westwood, Bannan, Holman; Weimann, Benteke.
Hard to say what Villa are going to come up with after being absolutely bludgeoned 12-0 in the last 2 fixtures. At half time Lambert switched to a 4-2-3-1, which resulted in 4 second half goals, so I’m tipping a reversion to their preferred 3-5-2 at home. Weimann is a doubt though, so if he doesn’t come up maybe we could see a one man forward line with an extra midfielder. Delph is banned so Bannan will reprieve his midfield start.
Al Habsi; Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa; Boyce, McArthur, McCarthy, Beausejour; Di Santo, Kone, Maloney.
Injuries are starting to ease for Wigan, with Ramis deemed fit, which should make Boyce push up on to a wing back role and Stam drop to the bench.
How hard is this one to pick? Lambert and his bunch of pre-schoolers are devout of any confidence, while Wigan are sitting dangerously close to being relegated for about the 54th straight season…The interesting thing about Wigan is that nobody is panicking, and that they back themselves to bounce back. I am tipping that they will too, but with their 3 man defence up against Villa’s duo of Benteke and Weimann they should have their castle knocked over at least once. It’s hard to see Wigan go through the game without scoring either, given Villa’s 12 goals in 2 game record. It’s definitely a good game to have an attacking asset in, so Kone and Benteke should be set for glory. 1-2 to Wigan.
Fulham v Swansea
Schwarzer; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Dejagah, Baird, Sidwell, Kacaniklic; Ruiz; Berbatov.
Thank god for Fulham, Ruiz is back. Thank god for Berba owners too. Diarra is a doubt, while Duff is out. Hughes was dropped/rotated for Senderos last week but I’m tipping him to return at Craven Cottage.
Vorm; Tiendalli, Chico, Williams, Davies; Britton, Ki, De Guzman; Dyer, Graham, Routledge.
It’s confirmed that Michu will miss: Shechter or Graham are his likely replacements, with Ki and Agustien filling the midfield role alongside Britton. Hernandez is probably going to feature from the bench following a lengthy layoff.
Another side bereft of any belief in themselves are Fulham. They are always shite on the road, but it is their home form that has started slipping in recent weeks; a 1-1 draw with the lowly Southampton is cause for concern. Ruiz‘s inclusion should mean that they score a couple of goals, but the problem will come in quelling Swansea’s tikka takka passing game with their lazy defence. Berbatov will fancy himself here, and boy does he need it after luckily scoring last week. 2-1 to Fulham, the clincher being Michu isn’t there to cause havoc for the Swans.
Man United v West Brom
De Gea; Smalling, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Young; Hernandez, Van Persie.
Kagawa is a chance to return, but I reckon he might do it from the bench. Jones and Rafael are doubts, so Smalling could slip into RB. Hernandez is a definite to partner RVP, the only thing that might thwart him is Kagawa’s potential inclusion in the hole in a 4-4-1-1 formation- unlikely though.
Foster; Jones, McAuley, Tamas, Ridgwell; Odemwingie, Morrison, Dorrans, Brunt; Gera; Lukaku.
Injurie doubts galore for West Brom, with Olsson, Mulumbu unlikely, while Yacob is definitely out. Lukaku has trumped Long for the starting role the last two games and that should continue.
It’s a huge ask for West Brom to go to Old Trafford and get anything- mind you Newcastle almost did and they are substantially worse than West Brom this campaign. Man United’s problem is that their defence is about as trustworthy as a blind lesbian in a fish market- you just don’t know what they’re going to do. They will concede at some stage, but West Brom’s problem is without stalwart Jonas Olsson, keeping Man United at bay will be tough. RVP should be in for some goals, while smokey Brunt will cause trouble. 3-1 Man United.
Norwich v Man City
Bunn; Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Pilkington; Holt.
Norwich will probably go in unchanged, and without any real options for rotation I can’t see who would break into the XI.
Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy; Milner, Y Toure, Garcia, Silva; Aguero; Dzeko.
Tevez missed training midweek through illness and is a doubt- regardless I think Dzeko will start. Nasri is back but I think Saturday will come too soon for him, meaning Milner starts again. Clichy is expected to play, moving Zabaleta back to RB after deputising at LB.
All signs are pointing towards a tight one. City haven’t been creating anything in their past 2 games, netting only once against two bottom half teams, while Norwich have conceded very few goals at Carrow Road- highlighted by their 0-1 loss to Chelsea last week. I think Man City will turn it around this week, and here’s why… He’s seen what not to do in the past two weeks, ie. Play too narrow. He will drop the wayward Tevez for Dzeko, and he will prove a handful up front. For Norwich, I find it hard to see them getting past City- who to their credit have been defensively sound for the past month (after the Man United game). 0-2 to city, with Aguero breaking his 1 goal in 7 appearances rut.
Reading v West Ham
Federici; Gunter, Mariappa, Pearce, Harte; Kebe, Karacan, Guthrie, Leigertwood, McAnuff; Pogrebnyak.
Harte has started the last two games above Shorey, while Guthrie looks to have won back his starting role behind Pog.
Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Collins, O’Brien; Noble, Nolan, O’Neill; Taylor, Cole, Jarvis.
Cole‘s ban was overturned following his ridiculous red card, while Demel should be fit to play despite being ill v Everton.
I predict a boring game that no one cares about. West Ham have had a lot of rest following last week’s blank, but Reading have got the wood over them, beating them BOTH times they met in the Championship last year. At the Madejski I reckon they could go for it, as it’s really now or never for McDermott’s side. West Ham will be defensive all game as they always are on the road, but all Reading need is one chance to win it. 1-0 to Reading. Upset alert.
Stoke City v Southampton
Begovic; Wilkinson, Huth, Upson, Shotton; Kightly, N’Zonzi, Whelan, Etherington; Walters; Jones.
Cameron and Shawcross are both unavailable, meaning Wilkinson and Shotton will deputise with Upson. God he’s fallen a long way since scoring for England last World Cup!
Davis; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Cork, Davis; Puncheon, Ramirez, Lambert.
A 4-3-3 was adopted by the Saints v Fulham, and that looks set to continue at Stoke, as they try to find a way through their defences. Lallana is still missing while Davis had a shocker in allowing Berbatov‘s goal so may be set for rotation.
Four goals conceded in home games this year. The fact that they are playing relegation candidates Southampton only makes their defence seem all the more stoic. Yes, they are missing Shawcross and Cameron, but Upson has appeared internationally for England and has experience, while Shotton has proved he is more than capable of tying down a fullback role. 2-0 to Stoke, with Jones again proving a handful- he looks to have nailed the Striker role down from Crouch.
Arsenal v Newcastle
Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla; Walcott, Giroud, Podolski.
Giroud is apparently fit and I’ll tip him to start up front with Walcott pushing wide right and really testing Newcastle’s fullbacks. Alternatively Walcott may play up front with Oxlade on the right, but I think Newcastle are too physical to play Theo alone as a striker against- Coloccini will make a meal out of him.
Krul; Simpson, Coloccini, Perch, Santon; Tiote, Anita, Bigirimana, Marveaux; Cisse, Ba.
Williamson is out so Perch will have to play out of position at CB. Anita is a doubt, should he fail to front up Obertan may deputise on the right. Gutierrez‘s absence hands Marveaux another start.
Newcastle are as fucked as a chorister locked in a church with Father Gilbert. They are without Gutierrez, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, S Taylor and Williamson. They are playing several players out of position- something nobody wants to do when playing a refreshed Arsenal. Wenger has no new injury worries and will be ready to smash the lowly Magpies. 3-0 to Arsenal, with Giroud and Walcott proving the difference.
Everton v Chelsea
Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Hitzlsperger, Gibson; Osman, Pienaar, Anichebe; Jelavic.
Gibson is a doubt, meaning that Osman could move into the middle and Naismith onto the right should he fail to play. Neville looks set to continue at RB despite Moyes being optimistic about Coleman‘s return.
Cech; Azpilicueta; Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Luiz, Ramires; Hazard, Mata, Oscar; Torres.
Moses is probably due a rest in Benitez’s scheme of things, while Luiz looks set to continue in the double pivot. Lampard and Mikel will be fighting Ramires for a starting spot mind you. Mata has been the fulcrum of the Chelsea attacks since Benitez has taken over, but could also be due a rest.
This’ll be tight. Everton at Goodison is no easy task at the best of times, and Benitez placing an emphasis on defending Chelsea will find chances hard to come by. I think they have too much class to stop them scoring. Seeing as Everton have scored AND conceded in their last 14 matches, I think a 1-1 draw is the proper prediction. If Luiz scores I’ll be stoked, but it’ll probably be another bit of Mata brilliance. Jelavic is due after having a terribly quiet season by last years standards.
QPR v Liverpool
Cesar; Fabio, Nelsen, Hill, Traore; Wright-Phillips, Mbia, Faurlin, Mackie; Taarabt; Cisse.
Onuoha is a massive doubt through injury and Bosingwa is just a plain spud, which leaves only Fabio available to cover the right of defence. Wright-Phillips and Mackie look set to maintain their positions on the wings, with Hoilett waiting from the bench.
Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard, Allen; Sterling, Suarez, Downing.
Suso is due a rest, with Sterling raring to go. Downing would be hard pressed to be dropped, but I could see it happening for Shelvey or perhaps in Suso‘s favour.
Rangers beat Liverpool in this fixture last year 2-0, and I think this could be a lot closer than people think. QPR were unlucky to lose to West Brom- and have Green to thank for the fact that they didn’t. Liverpool looked woeful v Stoke, who play physically, something Mbia loves to do in the middle. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw, with Taarabt showing his brilliance and Suarez slipping one in. It won’t be pretty though, that’s for sure.
So that’s about it for this week. Just thought I’d try something new and go with my Dream Team for GW20. It’ll mix up a few heavy hitters with a few smokies and budget options… so here it is!
Wilkinson Luiz Mertesacker
Walters Mata Cazorla Walcott
RVP Berbatov Benteke
Szczesny Nastasic Lowton Taarabt
Good luck one and all! ANOTHER short gap between the next two fixtures…so it’ll be a quick turnaround once again. Make sure you keep checking in for all your hints and tips!