As Fantasy Premier League introductions go, it will be hard for anyone to ever beat the one made by Eden Hazard (£9.5m).
A staggering six assists and one goal in his first three games saw the Belgian explode onto the English football scene, but it also meant that the seven goals and seven assists he registered over Chelsea’s next 27 league games were made to look a little disappointing.
The Blues face a busy end of season schedule featuring matches in both the FA Cup and Europa League, and although that means that Rafael Benitez is sure to rotate his squad across those competitions, surely he can trust Hazard to deliver when he needs him too.
Four goals in his last seven appearances for club and country show that the Belgian might just be finishing his first season in England on a high note, and ahead of Chelsea’s game with Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, he could be just the man to trust.
Staying with Chelsea, an injury to Ashley Cole in the FA Cup win over Manchester United also means that Ryan Bertrand (£3.9m) could be a useful cheap addition to your squad ahead of the meeting with Sunderland, who have struggled to score goals all season and are now without the injured Steven Fletcher.
Elsewhere, another full-back could be worth keeping an eye on.
Glen Johnson (£6.5m) has scored three of his last four Premier League goals against his old club West Ham, and with the Hammers making the trip to Anfield on Sunday without the ineligible Andy Carroll, the right back will be confident that he can play a part in what would be a seventh home clean sheet in the last 10 for Liverpool, as well as getting forward and looking to improve on hitting the post against Aston Villa last week.
Speaking of Villa, they go to Stoke in a huge game for their hopes of avoiding relegation, and after Christian Benteke (£7.2m) scored again last weekend, he could be the man to back there.
Gareth Bale (£10.9m) and Robin van Persie (£13.6m) have been men to back for the majority of the season, and after both became the first to pass 200 points for the season last weekend, they both have big games in which they’ll be hoping to increase their tally this time around. Unfortunately for Bale, he picked up an ankle injury in Europa play and his status is in doubt. (*editor’s note)
Bale and Tottenham face Everton at White Hart Lane, and given that the visitors will be without Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar for a second successive week, they could find goals hard to come by. There aren’t many better in the division than Spurs’ Jan Vertonghen (£6.5m) at keeping out the opposition at one end while providing a goal threat at the other.
For van Persie, Monday night brings a Manchester derby which has been spoiled slightly by Manchester United’s dominance at the top of the table – but should still be watchable nonetheless.
The Dutchman didn’t get credited with the goal at Sunderland last weekend after we’d given him our big build-up, but perhaps he can make up for that at Old Trafford as United seek to take yet another step towards the title.
At the other end, QPR and Reading face must-win home games in their battles against the drop, and with Southampton and Wigan both capable of capitalizing on the nervousness that is likely to be all around Loftus Road and Madejski Stadium respectively, then Rickie Lambert (£7.1m) and Arouna Kone (£6.6m) could take advantage. Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez (£5.1m) has also scored in his last two games.
Santi Cazorla (£9.6m) has only scored in his last one, but he could be the man to watch ahead of Arsenal’s trip to West Brom, where the Gunners will be looking for a seventh win in nine.
Here are @RotoZdroik‘s captain rankings for help on deciding who to give the armband this weekend.
YOU’RE THE CAPTAIN
The Manchester derby isn’t usually what Fantasy players like to see in the schedule, but it actually isn’t all that bad of an occurrence. Obviously, it has been immensely fun to watch in recent years, but unpredictability is always a problem in Fantasy and when the two best teams are going head-to-head, it’s hard to pick your captain for the weekend. Earlier this year at the Etihad, there was a total of five goals with United grabbing the win 3-2. For Fantasy and viewing purposes, it would be nice to have another multi-goal game to watch on Monday night.
*Due to the Gareth Bale injury, the rankings have been updated
- Luis, Suarez, Liverpool
- Robin van Persie, Manchester United
- Steven Gerrard, Liverpool
- Juan Mata, Chelsea
- Dimitar Berbatov, Fulham
Because of that unpredictability of the two top clubs going against each other, a couple other teams have favorable matchups like Liverpool.
Luis Suarez gets the nod as the best captain option of the week. He may only have one assist in the last two matches, but he had five goals and three assists in the three games before that. The Reds will face West Ham, a team with a -17 goal differential on the road. The Hammers have lost seven of their last eight on the road, scoring four goals while allowing 17. Suarez deserves this spot.
RVP still hasn’t scored in four straight league matches, but he has three assists during that period which makes things easier for owners. Manchester City has allowed just one goal in their last six matches in all competitions which is worrisome, but again none of those were at Old Trafford against the Red Devils. Many people will still be sticking with the Dutchman because you live and die with RVP, that’s just how it goes.
Read the Suarez section above. West Ham is just brutal away from home. Gerrard has had somewhat of a revival this year and playing better in a more attacking role. He currently has 10 goals and 12 assists this season, the most he’s had since the 2008-09 campaign.
Mata was rested for last weekend’s match at Southampton because they faced Man United two days later in the FA Cup. While they do have matches with FK Rubin surrounding their weekend fixture with Sunderland, Mata will likely be back in the lineup considering Chelsea still doesn’t have a spot in the Top Four locked up. Mata only has one assist in his last three league starts, but I’m not one to sleep on the Spaniard.
Berbatov has been on fire with five goals in his last five matches. He’s coming off a brace against QPR and will now get a depleted Newcastle back line that hasn’t held a clean sheet since early January. A few owners captained Berbs last weekend and were rewarded with a bold decision, will he do the same this weekend?
The RotoExperts on SiriusXM won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Award for Radio Show of the Year. Read more about the honor here.