2 goals from 2 shots on target in 2 games for Pavel Pogrebnyak. Worth a punt against Wolves?
Unsurprisingly the sports media here in England have taken great pleasure from last Sunday's result, as Arsenal put in an outstanding performance to destroy Tottenham at the Emirates. After building Spurs up as title contenders for months the press have enjoyed tearing them apart this week, just as they gleefully ripped Wenger and the Gunners to shreds for months before building them back up again over the past few days and just as they have done to the England national team and manager - before and after every tournament since I started following the sport.
It's the same with Harry Redknapp - from "our nation's saviour" to "tactically naive" in less than one week. The sole reason for this poisonous method of tabloid reporting is because they need to sell papers and the worst part is the fans who regurgitate the stuff they read in The Sun as if it's gospel on a daily basis. I've been hearing a lot of it as I'm the only Spurs fan on my floor at work so the last few days have been forgettable, but I started feeling a lot better when a colleague reminded me that Arsenal, Chelsea & Liverpool would all love to be in Tottenham's position.
I had a proper look at the table this morning to remind myself that Spurs are 7 points clear in 3rd for a reason; they have been the 3rd best team in the league for the first 26 games, playing the most exciting football I've ever seen the club produce and one terrible performance doesn't suddenly change that. Admittedly the next 3 league games versus Manchester United, Everton & Chelsea are going to be extremely tough but reviewing the Tottenham run-in for April and May calmed me down a lot: Swansea (H), Sunderland (A), Norwich (H), Bolton (A), QPR (A), Blackburn (H), Aston Villa (A), Fulham (H). All winnable games - so there's certainly no need for me and my fellow Spurs fans to panic.
Ok, now I've finished making myself feel better I'm ready to look at Week 27. Let's start with the fixtures ...
- Manchester City and Fulham appear to have the stand-out fixtures this week as they face Bolton Wanderers and Wolverhampton respectively at home. I expect City to put a lorry load of goals past Adam Bogdan, while Martin Jol has been doing a very decent job at Fulham - especially at Craven Cottage - so I'm expecting two comfortable home wins. Both defences are pretty mean so clean sheets for both are also very possible.
- The remaining games all look very tight but one always gets a gut feeling when looking through the fixtures. My gut tells me that Blackburn Rovers will sneak a vital win over an Aston Villa side lacking confidence and without Darren Bent, Robbie Keane & Richard Dunne. Meanwhile Chelsea will be boosted by last week's victory and should have enough quality to beat West Brom and I expect Stoke to hold off the challenge of Norwich at the Britannia. I'm also tipping Swansea to out-football Wigan and claim a win which should stop the whispers that they're this season's Blackpool.
- It's difficult to predict what will happen in the two biggest games of the weekend - Tottenham v Manchester United and Liverpool v Arsenal - but they will be hotly contested and could go either way. Unless you have discounts which you see as long term investments then I wouldn't bother bringing in any new players from these 4 teams as they are all pretty expensive.
- I reckon Queens Park Rangers v Everton could end 0-0 while Newcastle v Sunderland is a derby that both sides will be desperate to win. I predict goals for both sides in an entertaining draw.
With that in mind, let's get in to the players I'm recommending for Week 27...
I barndoored Mark Schwarzer @ 7ish knowing he was up against Wolves at home this weekend and he is still my top keeper pick as he ticks all the boxes (at home, makes saves, solid defence, playing a struggling side) but I wouldn't blame anyone if they opted to for pick up Blackburn's Paul Robinson at home to a demoralised Aston Villa side.
Robbo is undoubtedly risky (just look at his stats) but he's a better option than QPR's Paddy Kenny (who faces unpredictable Everton) so at a price of 1.68 you could save some serious cash to spend elsewhere. If you don't fancy either of those options then Michel Vorm could be the man for you. He's back from injury, costs less than 10.00 and Swansea travel to goal-shy Wigan.
Micah Richards was the source of much frustration against Bolton as he was benched in favour of Pablo Zabaleta but I'd be very surprised to see that happen two league games in a row, so again he's my pick of the Man City defenders and I may try to squeeze him in to my Week 27 team. Branislav Ivanovic remains Chelsea's most affordable defender for their trip to West Brom and I'll be sticking with him @ 7ish, while Stephen Kelly is the best Fulham defensive option (with Chris Baird the alternative if Kelly's injury keeps him out).
QPR's Taiye Taiwo is another player who came off injured last week but it's been reported as a bit of cramp so he should be back and remains a fine pick playing as a right-winger at home. Personally I've stuck with Nedum Onuoha @ 4 for the past few weeks and he seems to be doing the business without clean sheets, picking up phantom points via blocks and interceptions. Andy Wilkinson is the best value Stoke defender if you fancy a clean sheet against Norwich, Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs is priced below 6.00 which is decent despite a tricky trip to Anfield and my pick of the Blackburn defenders is Bradley Orr at 5.01.
Clint Dempsey will cost you a hefty wedge but he's at home to Wolves so I'm making him my top midfield pick this week, with expectations of a Deuce Double. David Silva continues to put in man of the match performances and has been returning decent points without a massive breakout week for some time - will Bolton be the week? I'm certainly hoping so, as I'm hoping that Adel Taarabt recent improvements and multiple shots on target will finally end with the ball in the back of the net against Everton.
Matthew Etherington had his best game for a long time in Stoke's victory over Sunderland so he's a player I have my eye on this week ahead of the Norwich game. Unfortunately I'd need to drop Gilfyi Sigurdsson to fit him in my team and I'm not sure I'm ready to do that as the set-piece expert will get opportunities to score big points at Wigan. Yaya Toure is very affordable if you want to add another City player, while Yohan Cabaye is at home to Sunderland and I'm expecting goals so I class him as a good option.
Some alternative picks that could separate you from the crowd this week are Liverpool's set piece and penalty taker Steven Gerrard costing under 10.00 at home to Arsenal (providing his tight hamstring doesn't keep him out), Barry Bannan who appears to have fought his way back in to Villa's team, is cheap and will be taking set pieces, while Chelsea's Michael Essien who seem to approaching full match sharpness, costs less than 6.00 and has shown some promising scores in the past 2 weeks.
The more I see of him the more I'm impressed by Sergio Aguero's work-rate and strength along with his obvious technical brilliance and he's my number one striker pick for City's game with Bolton. Robin van Persie remains high up the list despite a tough fixture but only if you hold him at discount (certainly don't pay full price) and as you may have already seen in the caption I'm tipping Pavel Pogrebnyak to continue his goal per game start against Wolves where he should get more chances than in his first 2 starts.
News on Twitter suggests Papiss Cisse in winning his race to fit for the game against Sunderland so given the big price difference he makes my list ahead of the excellent but expensive Demba Ba. I believe Mario Balotelli will continue ahead of Edin Dzeko so if you barndoored him last weekend you should keep hold of him until we get more solid team news on Friday. Yakubu has dropped to 12ish and I'm expecting him to score against Villa, Jonathan Walters is great value f you want a Stoke attacker and if you're feeling risky you could take a chance on Gabby Agbonlahor who costs just 6. and will lead the line at Blackburn.
That's it for the players - I promise I will actually do the striker analysis whilst at home watching the England game tonight). There will be plenty of fallout from these midweek internationals so please ensure you check back here on Friday for the important team, injury and suspension news which should help clarify any doubts you may be having.
As for me, I'm currently sitting at 398th overall after disappointing 85 points last week, so I really need to start pushing on if I want any chance of my first Top 50 finish (the gap is currently 101 points). This is what I have on my team page at the moment ...
Schwarzer, Onuoha, Kelly, Ivanovic, Sigurddson, Taarabt, Silva, Dempsey, Cisse, Pogrebnyak, Aguero
With just over 10 weeks to go I'm worrying less about discounts and more about fixtures - and it shows. Not many big names but they all have good match-ups, although 4 Fulham player might be overkill so that's something I still need to look at (along with the injuries to Kelly & Cisse). I'll either stick with Schwarzer or switch to Robinson to free up money to spend on upgrading a defender or a striker, but the midfield could stay as it is.
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Let me know how your team is shaping up for Week 27.