ESPN — Fantasy Soccer (Week 16)
Current Overall rank: 162
Burnley .v. Southampton
The first game of the week sees a fighting Burnley take on Southampton. Despite Burnley managing to pick up 8 points from their last 5 games, Southampton just cannot loose 4 in a row. Southampton will win this game and I expect them to take a lesson from their games against the big boys and keep a clean sheet in the game. From a fantasy perspective, I would be very happy playing the likes of Forster, Pelle, Tadic or any of Southampton defender this week. However, I would not be hell bent on adding them to my team as the Saints have some tough fixtures in the coming weeks.
Chelsea .v. Hull City
Hull have been struggling to score goals and fail to show grit in their performances. Chelsea can be run away winners in this game. Chelsea continued to play well despite their loss to Newcastle and I expect that good play to turn in to goals this Saturday. Costa has been quiet off-late and has failed to get on the score sheet in the last three games now, I expect that trend to come to a screeching halt this weekend. Looking forward, Chelsea play Stoke, West Ham, and the Saints in the coming three weeks, despite these fixtures not being easy, a Chelsea win is not out of the question. Their defence is improving and I would continue to hold on to the tried and tested back four, along with one of Hazard and Fabregas and an absolute must, Diego Costa, in my fantasy team for the weeks ahead.
Note: Fabregas is suspended for this weekend.
Crystal Palace .v. Stoke City
Crystal Palace continue to fight and at home can win against an improving Stoke side. They have significantly improved their defensive form, not conceding more than a goal in one game since early November. From a fantasy perspective, Zaha and Bolaise are the best options but because of their lack of consistency they cant a make a case for a place in my fantasy team. Stoke are energized by the creativity Bojan has brought to their attacking third, together with the power of Walters and Crouch they will create serious problems for the Palace defence. However, I expect Palace to fight hard and limit Stoke’s efforts on goal this week. I just don’t fancy any player from a fantasy perspective from these sides, I would only consider Walters and Bojan as 5th choice midfielders due to their goal scoring prowess.
Leicester City .v. Manchester City
Leicester have not won a game in the Premiership since September and that will not change against the champions. City continue to fly high with a big win in Rome. Yaya Toure should return to the lineup following his suspension in Europe, Silva (and possibly Kompany) also return from injury this week. At least for this game, City will not miss Aguero. I expect City to take control of the game early and cruise to a comfortable win. The City defense is improving, and with Joe Hart being in the form of his life I can see them keep another clean sheet this week. I would love to stack up on City for this week, Yaya Toure has to be the pick of the lot especially with Aguero out. Dzeko proved last campaign that he can put the ball in the back of the net and can make for a good replacement for the injured Aguero in fantays teams
West Bromwich Albion .v. Aston Villa
West Brom are a compact unit and despite their dip in form they have never really lost the plot in any game. Irvine is the right man for West Brom and I expect them to stay in the Premiership. Against a Villa side that has not lost since early November it wont be easy but I can see them grind out a draw. Villa has only scored four away goals this season, and with Dawson and Lescott they should have enough about them to see out Villa and keep West Brom floating above the relegation zone. From a fantasy perspective, I would not take any players into consideration; both teams play as cohesive units and on a given day almost anyone can end up with the goals. I want my fantasy football picks to be the heartbeat of their respective teams and these guys just dont cut it.
Sunderland .v. West Ham United
Sunderland have improved their defensive performances significantly since their mauling at St. Mary’s. On the other hand, West Ham have won three in a row and are looking really strong. That being said, Sunderland have only lost two at home. I expect a tight game of football but Sunderland will have their hands full with Caroll and Sakho up-front. Caroll and Sakho should provide the strength to overcome Sunderland, but Sunderland wont be pushovers. I expect a tight game, Pantilimon should be involved heavily and can prove an outside bet to top the GK charts this week (obviously he’ll need to get a clean sheet). At current prices, my favorite striker has to be Andy Carroll, I can see him scoring more goals this week and in to the future. If you are short on cash, pick him up now!
Swansea City .v. Tottenham Hotspur
Swansea will be missing Fabianski due to suspension but have no other injury concerns going into this weekend’s game. Swansea have played attractive football and been able to translate their performances into points, especially at home. Tottenham continue to struggle for goals as Soldado just cant get to sorts with the Premiership and although Kane shows a lot of promise, he lacks the killer instinct in front of goal. I expect Swansea to come out on top, they are well drilled at the back and with Bony returning to form I can see them notching up a couple of goals. Tremmel has been a strong cover in goal in the past seasons and I expect him to deliver against the Spurs. However, with the likes of Lamela, Chadli, and Eriksen I would not count on a Swansea clean sheet. Sigurdsson, Bony and Eriksen are my pick of the lot for this game, and Sigurdsson has been quiet off-late and he is my dark horse to notch up with a goal this weekend.
Arsenal .v. Newcastle United
Can the Gunners string together any consistency? The central defensive pairing is critial, Koscielny’s pace is an absolute necessity next to the much slower Mertesacker and if the two remain fit and start to emulate the form of last season, Arsenal will go much higher up the table. The return to goal-scoring form of Ramsey is crucial as teams double team Sanchez to cut out Arsenal’s offensive threat. In this game, I can see goals. Arsenal have problems at the right and left side of defence; Chambers is suspended, two starts in a row for Debuchy will be tough, and Gibbs and Monreal continue to struggle for fitness. Newcastle will have to play their third choice keeper in goal and have defensive injury concerns of their own. For fantasy purposes, this game has the making for plenty of points. Ramsey has scored in two games in a row and his first against Galatasaray showed how calm the Welshman is in front of goal, and the attacking trio of Sanchez, Giroud and Welbeck will be fresh from the midweek rest. Newcastle pose a threat on the counter and regardless, Arsenal usually find a way to concede. I’m expecting an open game and Ramsey and Sanchez will be in my team for the long-haul. I cant pick a Newcastle player simply because their attacking threat is shared between Cisse, Sissoko, Ameobi, Perez and Cabella, too many for my liking.
Everton .v. Queens Park Rangers
Everton have looked out of sorts while Redknapp has managed to squeeze his QPR side out of the drop zone. However, QPR still have the worst record in the league away from home with a whopping 7 losses from their 7 away games. I expect Everton to control large portions of this game and to come out as clear winners. Everton have shown certain sparks, Lukaku looks to be getting sharper with every game, Mirallas has added more firepower following his return from injury, and Coleman and Baines provide arguable the best coverage in the wide roles from defense. Everton should be too strong for QPR at home, I expect Everton to keep a clean sheet, and the likes of Lukaku, Coleman, and Baines to be knocking on the door of big fantasy points this week.
Manchester United .v. Liverpool
The game of the week sees a Pool side that cannot buy a goal go against United that seem to win no matter how bad they play. Can this crazy trend continue? Arguably, this is the toughest game to predict… one has to say that Liverpool must score against a shambolic United defense but recently they have offered little to no attacking threat. On the other spectrum, Man Utd struggle to string simple passes together. Going with recent form, United should be blowing Liverpool away but such has been their performances in this 5 match winning streak that Liverpool may well get something from this game. For Liverpool’s sake, I hope Sterling is given the ball at every opportunity for he can run complete havoc in a young United defense. On the other hand, RVP and Rooney should be enough to combine for a goal or two. I believe United will grow in stature in the coming weeks and their performances will also improve. From a Fantasy perspective, I would not touch anyone apart from the menacing trio of Sterling, RVP, and Rooney.
Note: I am assuming Di Maria will not feature due to injury
Any comments, suggestions, and/or questions are most welcome.