Fantasy football players should be advised to keep a close eye on the fixtures over the busy Easter period. With Swansea playing Newcastle at the Liberty on Good Friday, the deadline for picking your team is this afternoon at 4pm. Gameweek 34 is not too far off and it’s worth noting that with the FA Cup semi finals, Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton will not be playing Premier League football that weekend. Looking further ahead, Gameweek 36 could be make or break week, with no fewer than eight teams with double headers. It is a few weeks off, but it could be worth putting the wheels in motion sooner rather than later.
Anyway, back to Gameweek 32 and the Easter weekend, when Manchester United will effectively wrap up the title, Everton will look to make it three wins on the bounce, while Chelsea might claw back a few points on Arsenal and Spurs in the race for the top four…
At this stage of the season, as well as looking at players in form, you’ll be looking for impact players: the ones who seem to have an effect every time they’re on the pitch. Manchester United have a magnificent opportunity to open up a decisive lead at the top of the Premier League with fixtures against relegation-threatened QPR and Wigan, while City travel to the Emirates. Rafael Da Silva (£5.4m) seems to have established himself as Sir Alex Ferguson’s first choice right back in recent weeks and United will often keep clean sheets with the Brazilian in the back four. From the midfield, you’d be mad to overlook Antonio Valencia (£8.2m), who is far cheaper than Ashley Young and Luis Nani, not to mention bang in form at this crucial stage of the season. Wayne Rooney (£13m) didn’t score against Blackburn on Monday. We doubt he’ll make the same mistake against QPR or Wigan, so he’d be a decent candidate for the captain’s armband over Easter.
Everton are looking to make it three wins on the spin at Carrow Road on Saturday and still have a lot to play for this season. David Moyes will want a good run of form ahead of the Toffees’ FA Cup semi final against Liverpool, while there is the added incentive of finishing above their Merseyside neighbours in the league. Everton are also vying for three consecutive cleanies, although they are facing a Norwich side which rarely fails to score at home. Leighton Baines (£7.9m) has justified his high price all season, particularly in recent weeks, and will offer goals and assist points as well as potential clean sheets. The Everton midfield looks too overpriced to get involved with, so we’re looking to the forwards. Nikicia Jelavic (£6m) is looking like a decent bet at the minute and should prove a handful for the Norwich defenders. Another worth considering is Victor Anichebe (£4.9m). While he’s not exactly a 90 minute week in, week out type of player, he usually repays the manager’s faith in him when he is selected. He’s a cheap option and is bound to get some minutes under his belt during the busy Easter period.
While Arsenal and Spurs face tough-looking fixtures against Manchester City and Sunderland respectively, Chelsea have been given an opportunity to take full advantage of any slip ups by their top four rivals with a home fixture against relegation-threatened Wigan. Although the Latics are unbeaten in four and have impressed with back-to-back victories, Chelsea should prove too strong for Roberto Martinez’s side. David Luiz (£6.3m) and John Terry (£7.4m) appear to be Roberto Di Matteo’s first choice pairing at the heart of the Chelsea defence, but with the skipper’s broken ribs and the fixture pile-up, Gary Cahill (£5.4m) could offer a cheaper option. From the midfield, Ramires (£6.9m) could prove better value-for-money than Frank Lampard (£11m) or Juan Mata (£9.6m) during Chelsea’s next couple of fixtures. The Brazilian is likely to impress against the lesser sides and could well nab a goal or two at Wigan or Fulham’s expense. For the first time this season, £50million man Fernando Torres (£10m) repaid our faith in him with a goal and two assists at Villa Park. £10million could prove a good price for an improving striker at this stage of the season, while the likes of Robin Van Persie trail off with back injuries, having carried their sides for 30-odd games.
Others worth considering
We’ve already mentioned that Rafael Da Silva could be a decent bet and to be fair, that’s true of the entire United back five at the minute. If you’re going to tie your money up in one of the more expensive keepers, David de Gea (£6.2m) is by far the best bet. We also noted that Arsenal and Spurs have tricky games this weekend, but if you’re leaning towards the North London clubs, look to two big game players in fairly decent form: Theo Walcott (£9.3m) and Rafael Van der Vaart (£9.5m).
To the other end of the table and Bolton Wanderers. The Trotters are looking more and more like hauling themselves away from danger, having racked up three wins on the bounce and face a Fulham side with a shocking away record at the Reebok on Saturday. David Wheater (£4.4m) has been in very good form lately and could free up some cash for the big hitters.
If you’re looking for a bit of a gamble, look to the defences of Swansea and Newcastle (not that their defenders have disappointed at all this season). But a lot of people will have jumped on the Papiss Cisse, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Hatem Ben Arfa bandwagons and we can see the two sides playing out a goalless draw this evening. Both are unlikely to concede too many in gameweek 33 and have some cheap defensive options. Incidentally, our gamble from gameweek 30, Nicklas Bendtner (£6.1m), is looking anything but a gamble right now!
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