Friday, 23 March 2012

Fantasy Football: Gameweek 30

29 matches in, we have some idea as to what the final table might look like. The Manchester clubs have pulled away from the rest, and their derby in late April looks set to decide the title. Spurs' incredible winless run in the league continues as they've thrown away a 10-point lead to be leapfrogged by Arsenal, and have let Chelsea move to within 5 points of them. A final peculiarity worth pointing out is that this is the first time in my memory that no team in the league's top 3 are in any other competition at this stage of the season.

Moving on...

Gameweek 30 fixtures:

Chelsea v Tottenham
Arsenal v Villa
Bolton v Blackburn
Liverpool v Wigan
Norwich v Wolves
Sunderland v QPR
Swansea v Everton
Stoke v Man City
West Brom v Newcastle
Man United v Fulham

Player picks

The Premium Players

The standout fixture of the gameweek is the London derby at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Spurs. Having drawn closer and closer to a flailing Tottenham over the past month, Chelsea have the players and the form to close the gap by 3 further points.

Juan Mata always performs at home, and this will be no exception. Frank Lampard has quietly moved on to 13 goals and 7 assists for the season (a better return than the last campaign) despite sitting out more games than usual, and you feel he might rise to the occasion. Bale and van der Vaart may have something to say about that though.

The plum fixture is Liverpool welcoming Wigan to Anfield, where the Reds finally registered a win in the Merseyside derby. They choked on an easy fixture midweek but it probably won’t happen this time. Luis Suarez should be in the middle of all things good for the Reds, as should Steven Gerrard. Pepe Reina might register a shutout, which makes Jose Enrique a nice player to have as well.

Manchester United could continue their top-of-the-table form against Fulham who are never great on the road. The new system with Hernandez and Welbeck supported by Rooney seems to be working wonders. Just about any of that trio could take Fulham apart, and Valencia too, of course.

Arsenal are without doubt the league’s hottest team on form facing an average Villa side who have injury problems. Arsenal’s position is largely due to Robin van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen, who will be key again this week.

Manchester City must be buoyed after a big comeback win against Chelsea midweek, and look poised to start a run of form that could push Manchester United all the way. David Silva may return to the points after a long run of doing nothing. Sergio Aguero has just 3 away goals in the league this season, but expect him to add to that this week. The gamblers and fairy-tale believers among you might want to plump for Carlos Tevez.

The Ones You Don’t Think About

There is still a little doubt over whether Bolton’s game will be held in light of recent events (and this blogger would like to wish Muamba well, and hopes his recovery is swift), but I doubt Bolton will be reluctant to get back to business. Ryo Miyaichi will be key for the Trotters. However, Bolton will struggle to contain Hoilett, who has been vital to Blackburn’s recent upturn in form.

Norwich host bottom team Wolves, and you can sense the canaries smell blood. Pilkington, Holt and Whitbread must be rubbing their hands with glee. In fact, I’ll go all the way and back Ruddy too.

Sunderland and QPR registered surprising results midweek (and they were surprising for different reasons). Stephane Sessegnon will return from suspension, and should resume normal service. Djibril Cisse is in good form for QPR and Sunderland may not be able to stop him.

Swansea have been the best promoted side we’ve seen for many a season (certainly since Reading). You feel they’re more than a match for Everton at home, give the good form of Gylfi Sigurdsson that’s driving them. Danny Graham might net as well. I can’t fight off this strange feeling about Steven Pienaar though.

West Brom – Newcastle seems like a match between equals, and will probably end in a draw. Expect Chris Brunt, Peter Odemwingie, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba to have their say though.

Hunch of the Gameweek:

This edition’s illogical stab-in-the-dark is Stuart Downing, who I feel may just start delivering in the league.

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