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The Week Ahead (Week 21) - Déjà Vu Edition

After the rapid fire festive period brought us game after game in the space of a week, waiting two weeks between rounds of Premier League matches feels like an eternity. With each team facing off against their rivals from Week 1, we'll revisit the results and analyze how things might go differently now that half the season is gone.

The last time these guys were among the top weekly scorers was probably back in Week 1. Can they do it again in Week 21?
The last time these guys were among the top weekly scorers was probably back in Week 1. Can they do it again in Week 21?
Clive Mason

Let's dive straight into the fixtures to see where opportunities lie for fantasy gains, and which teams should be avoided as we build our fantasy teams for Week 21.

Hull City v. Chelsea

Week 1 Result: 2-0 (Chelsea Win)

Jose Mourinho picked up where he left off with Chelsea at the beginning of this season with a comfortable home win and clean sheet against a newly promoted Hull side. Steve Bruce's impact began to show on the offensive side of the field heading into winter as the Tigers claimed crucial points against Liverpool and utterly dismantled Fulham, but the club's true strength has proven to be their stinginess at home. With Chelsea's striker woes continuing into the second half of the season, Hull will be confident of avenging their defeat in the season-opener if they can limit the Blues' attacking threats.

Verdict: Hull defenders may be surprisingly solid investments, though the form of Eden Hazard and Oscar will be hard to ignore if they start, which we'll know before the deadline.

Cardiff City v. West Ham

Week 1 Result: 2-0 (West Ham Win)

Newcomers Cardiff looked nervous, shaky and ultimately like a Championship-level squad in their season opening match against Sam Allardyce's experienced West Ham side. Fast forward six months and the teams have switched roles. Even with the turmoil surrounding the Bluebirds and their mental owner Vincent Tan, Cardiff appears to be coming together at the right time to beat the drop. The Hammers are still heavily plagued by injuries, but could welcome back some of their big stars soon. This week will come too soon, however, so Cardiff look favorites to restore the balance in this fixture.

Verdict: Invest in Cardiff attackers against a porous West Ham defense. Caulker and Marshall are also strong bets for fantasy returns.

Everton v. Norwich

Week 1 Result: 2-2

It didn't take new Everton boss Roberto Martinez long to make his mark on the team, but there was a slight defensive wobble in Week 1 as the Toffees adapted to a new style of play before coming into their own as one of the best defensive teams in the league. Norwich came out swinging, but have endured a roller coaster season full of injury setbacks and inconsistent displays. At home in Week 21, Everton should be able to build on the run of form that sees them firmly in the race for a Champions League spot, though Norwich are always threatening when Robert Snodgrass is fit and playing.

Verdict: Invest in Everton attacking players, including attack-minded defenders like Leighton Baines.

Fulham v. Sunderland

Week 1 Result: 1-0 (Fulham Win)

Looking back to the beginning of the season, we probably wouldn't even recognize the Cottagers and Black Cats as the same teams about to face off this weekend. The two sides were working with (relatively) new managers trying to implement their wildly different styles on teams not equipped to play them. Despite remaining at the foot of the table, Sunderland have looked considerably more dangerous since the departure of Paolo Di Canio and subsequent appointment of Gus Poyet. Ditto for Fulham with the arrival of Rene Meulensteen after Martin Jol's sacking. This looks like a draw, in my opinion, as both sides will view this match as a real opportunity to climb the table.

Verdict: There are better matches this week, though Bardsley and Berbatov are in form and could be good holds if you have them at discount.

Southampton v. West Bromwich Albion

Week 1 Result: 1-0 (Southampton Win)

The Saints continued their brilliant late-season form from last year with their opening day victory over Steve Clarke's squad, who began life in the Premier League without ther services of Romelu Lukaku. The Baggies' defensive strength from the previous season dissipated in the late months of 2013, leading to Clarke's sacking. Mauricio Pochettino hasn't fallen quite as far, but Southampton have faltered after a strong start to the season that had people pipping them for a European place. With the imminent return of the vastly underrated Victor Wanyama, the Saints should begin to get back on track as a defensive powerhouse in the league, while West Brom's continuing search for a permanent manager leaves them in a strange period of limbo.

Verdict: Invest in Saints attackers. The form of Saido Berahino and absence of Artur Boruc devalues defenders slightly, but they could still come up with a home clean sheet.

Tottenham Hotspur v. Crystal Palace

Week 1 Result: 1-0 (Tottenham Win)

Another case where we look back to find two fallen managers at the helm of their respective clubs. Andre Villas-Boas can perhaps feel bit aggrieved to be out of a job, but Spurs have flourished under the tutelage of Tim Sherwood and will be confident of continuing their dominance against a Crystal Palace side that looked destined to drop immediately back to the Championship with Ian Holloway in charge. The appointment of Tony Pulis was a masterstroke by the Eagles' ownership group, as the defensive organization has breathed a new sense of hope and confidence into the side. Away from home may prove too difficult a test for Palace, but they will certainly make it difficult on their London neighbors.

Verdict: Invest in Tottenham defense and attack. Keep Joel Ward if you have him at a heavy discount.

Manchester United v. Swansea City

Week 1 Result: 4-1 (United Win)

David Moyes' tenure as Sir Alex Ferguson's replacement got off to a great start with a resounding away win against what had been the surprise team of the previous season. Michael Laudrup has had a difficult sophomore season at the helm of the Welsh club, particularly due to the injuries and poor form plaguing star player Michu. Moyes has had even more trouble since United's promising start, due to injuries, rotation and the form of his charges. After a third disappointing defeat to start the new year, United fans will be clamoring for a repeat of the Week 1 result, though after having scored twice in two games against them this season, Wilfried Bony will have something to say about their claims on the 3 points.

Verdict: If Wayne Rooney and/or Robin van Persie are fit, they warrant investment. Bony is in great form as well.

Newcastle v. Manchester City

Week 1 Result: 4-0 (City Win)

Whether it's the home support or something in the attitude of Manuel Pellegrini, City have been in phenomenal form in front of their fans at the Etihad going all the way back to the opening day destruction of Alan Pardew's Magpies. However, the Citizens have struggled mightily on their travels, and Newcastle righted the ship and quickly ascended the table to claim a place in the top half of the table. Missing star defenders Mathieu Debuchy and Fabricio Coloccini may mean the steadily improving Man City away squad will have plenty of opportunities to get on the scoresheet, but their own attacking threats are in good form and could make things interesting.

Verdict: Invest in City attackers. Consider hanging onto Yohan Cabaye at discount as it should be an open game.

Stoke City v. Liverpool

Week 1 Result: 1-0 (Liverpool Win)

It took a Simon Mignolet penalty save at the death to secure victory for Liverpool in the first match of the 2013/14 Premier League season, but it was a moment that in seasons past would have resulted in a deflating loss of points to start the season for the Reds. Brendan Rodgers' side built on that momentum throughout the first half of the season, unexpectedly (and all-too-briefly) claiming top spot in the league at Christmas. After suffering back-to-back losses on the road against Chelsea and Man City, Liverpool got back to winning ways against Hull last time out. Stoke have been surprising in their own regard under Mark Hughes, showing us they're capable of attacking flair and passing moves from time to time throughout the season. Star man of-late Oussama Assaidi is ineligible to play against his parent club, so Stoke will need inspiration from elsewhere if they are to take any points off the Reds.

Verdict: Invest in Liverpool attackers and consider defenders, particularly if there is solid news of who will start.

Aston Villa v. Arsenal

Week 1 Result: 3-1 (Villa Win)

Who would have guessed after their Week 1 defeat at the hands (feet?) of Aston Villa that Arsenal would go on to easily claim the title of best team in the league for the first half of the season? With the news that Theo Walcott is set to miss the remainder of the season with an ACL injury, Arsene Wenger will almost surely have to invest in the January window to maintain his side's title challenge. Until reinforcements arrive, however, it appears the league leaders will have to rely on youngsters and fringe players. Still, with Paul Lambert's Villa side struggling to rediscover their opening day form, there could be a reverse of the Week 1 scoreline on the cards in this match.

Verdict: Invest in Arsenal attacking players. Consider defenders as well if you don't think Christian Benteke will repeat his early-season performances.


Which match-ups are you looking at to build your team from in Week 21? Do you think the results will be different this time around, or are we in for a true déjà vu experience?