Let's start our week ahead with the most important piece of information Manchester United, Manchester City, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion has no fixture this week due to the shock Carling Cup final victory by Sunderland FC. Players that you are holding at discount should be benched if you can but dropped if you cannot.
Match of the weekend
Southampton v Liverpool
Liverpool have held on through the winter period and sit just 4 points off the leaders with 11 games left. Boasting the best attack in the Premier League having now scored 70 goals in 27 games they find themselves in with a title winning shout. The main factor up until recent weeks had been the goals and performance of their star player Luis Suarez. With a tireless work rate, fantastic first touch, ability to dribble with the ball, find and create space, score every type of goal going, injury resistant and oh of course also a reduced desire to nibble on people, Suarez is perhaps the best player in the Premier League. The positive news for Liverpool has been they have now stopped becoming reliant on him and In Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Steven Gerrard they have shared the goals and creation making the side much more difficult to plan for. This of course has started the drop Suarez as captain debate, something logical but are you brave enough to risk it? As Lefferman101 pointed out
"I do wonder whether Rodgers gave a slight indication of how he will tweak things over the next 6 tough games by introducing Allen back into the side in the second half vs Swansea, which in turn may see Sterling sacrificed to try and sure up the midfield. In turn I can see a return to Coutinho moving left and drifting infield, but more importantly from a fantasy point of view Suarez may play more centrally leading to more SOT potential, more free kicks won in and around the penalty area which then creates more opportunity for his set pieces which this season have been deadly. I can see the argument for dropping him from the captaincy, but I have a feeling the formation will change over the next 6 games again and whilst Suarez hasn't really exploded recently, law of averages suggest he will again soon"
Southampton meanwhile continue to impress although lack the consistency of the very top teams. In Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez they have two of England's brighter attacking talent coming through and of course in Luke Shaw they have a potential star. Southampton had somewhat of a shock last time out losing 3-1 at West Ham Utd. They have however shown the ability to bounce back from poor results. A home 3-2 defeat by Aston Villa was followed by a 1-1 draw against Man City. A home 3-2 defeat by Tottenham was followed by a 3-0 win at Cardfiff City. A 3-0 home defeat by Chelsea was followed by a win over West Brom. Based on that you would expect what, a draw against Liverpool? However you can see a pattern in just those recent results with 3 goals conceded at home to Villa, Chelsea and Spurs. Then consider the last two home saints games, both a 2 all draws with Stoke and Arsenal. Liverpool's away defensive form is just as poor. In the last six always they have conceded two or more in five of them. This game has goals and entertainment written all over it. Two teams far from watertight full of attacking intent. Picking a result is hard but a high scoring draw seems a fair bet. 3-3 anyone?
Fantasy value - Got to go both sides attack. Pick and Captain Suarez, keep Sturridge and look at Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Rodriguez
At first glance a home win on paper but West Ham may be the most difficult team in the league to play currently. Big Sam certainly knows how to build an efficient side and his happy hammers are just that right now. Everton have lost their mojo recently. First Lukaku's goals dried up. Then along with the other early season star Ross Barclay he got injured and suddenly the toffees free flowing pass and move style hit the wall a little. 11 points behind Liverpool with a game in hand it is looking unlikely they can maintain a Champions League challenge. The FA cup now will have become the clubs priority and just one week away from their quarter final tie against Arsenal now may be a dodgy time to invest on Everton. For me though the return of Lukaku and Barclay if confirmed should bring to an end this West Ham run.
Fantasy value -Who was on the Baines brace in the reverse fixture? Who therefore will not be able to resist him again? Six without a clean sheet is a stat they may put you off him but a soft penalty will do just fine.
Fulham v Chelsea
On paper an easy away win, would you agree? I'm not so sure. Chelsea may have been on true Jose Mourinho style, digging out the results but they have yet to as we English say "given someone a hiding". Missing a top level centre forward they are not that difficult to defend against sitting deep. Choose to over commit bodies on attack against them and they will pick you off with comfort as was shown at Man City a few weeks back. A much improved performance from Fulham last time out and early signs of a well organised unit suggests if they can hold level or better for the first half we may just have a banana skin game here. With Stekelenburg, Heitinga, Hangeland, Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell they have the basis to make life awkward for their local rivals. The crowd will be up and don't forget they drew at Old Trafford and almost did the same against Liverpool a couple weeks ago. OH Fernando Torres has just scored in Turkey. Hmmm I know we said he is dead to us but maybe just maybe he is back? Go on I dare you!
Fantasy Value - Eden Hazard is playing very well but that is not bringing many Yahoo fantasy points. Therefore as a gamble I suggest a little bit of value in either Fulham centre back or central midfielder this week.
Both sides come into this on the back of a win and a pair of clean sheets. The Hull strike force of Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic are working very well together and will test the Newcastle defence. Meanwhile Remy who showed he could be a streaky forward will enjoy space in behind the Hull backline as they push up. Its a classic game of a draw suiting both teams so don't be surprised if it ends that way
Fantasy value - Between the Hull forwards. Jelly had his turn last week so lets say Long get his this.
Stoke City v Arsenal
Is this a mini grudge match or as Ramsey remains out not so anymore?. Stoke will take heart with the improved results and performances lately. Arsenal played well against Sunderland but Stoke have given
testing games to Man City and Liverpool recently. If Huth is back this becomes a tricky tie for the gunners. If not Arsenal can outscore their opponents. Will Ozil start is the big question for his owners.
Fantasy value - I'm still saying Cazora is getting back to last years form. If he starts behind Giroud again he can be the difference here. BFG is also due a goal.
Aston Villa v Norwich City
Villa are awful at home, Norwich as bad on the road. This is also a relegation six pointer. There is a feeling Norwich just may be the better all round side but missing the cutting edge. They will get plenty chance here and if the Villians crowd go into moaning mode Norwich can pinch this.
Fantasy value - Always a risk he doesn't start but young 19 year old Nathan Redmond keeps showing promise. I feel there is a 20+pts breakout week before the seasons out. The risk is due to his age he has been in and out of the side. Assuming Norwich stick to a winning side he is tempting ALTERNATIVE in this match up.
The result in Napoli on Thursday evening will have an influence here. A walloping may bring the side down and leave them flat for Palace to pick off. A sensational result and on a high they are a real handful with their movement. Tony Pulis will enjoy the extra preparation day and hope the Swans go into extra time.
Fantasy value - Bony is the obvious pick here. However if the team are "tired" as only modern footballers can be then lets look at the value in the Palace side. Tom Ince had a fantastic opening game scoring and assisting but was kept very quiet by the awesome Man Utd side last week (i'm still bitter about last night readers). Ince should find much more space in this one and on the counter attack can be a real danger to Chico and his suspect defending.
Tottenham v Cardiff City
Home banker material, well it should be! Cardiff are in real trouble. They haven't kicked on with the new manager and are looking short in both attack and defence, Spurs though do not convince me under Tim Sherwood. In his last fixture he lined them up with four central midfield players plus Arron Lennon and K2. Quite what Andros Townsend has done wrong or for that matter Eriksen I'm unsure. If you are going to play with just the one forward you want your wide attackers to push up the pitch in support of that forward. This would seem to suit Lennon/Townsend. Then you want your playmaker behind the forward (surely Eriksen). Instead Eriksen who was playing very well in the playmaker role gets pushed wide left and flops. The Dembele move there with equal effect. Should Spurs play a balanced formation then its hard to see Cardiff living with them. But if they go with their strange set up and Cardiff survive the opening 30 minutes this seems just the type of tie they blow up.
Fantasy Value - I'm a sucker for him but Vertonghen gets my vote. No goals this season is a shock. A goal and clean sheet here then.
Any view on the above. Are you all looking forward the Saints/pool match and who will you select from that game?