So here we are. The home stretch. The finish line of the fantasy footballing season from hell now well and truly in sight. At least for the small handful of the 3.7 million registered “fantasisers” who are still “active” and still “playing”. Just reach out and “touch” it! Actually, I better stop there, for fear Louis van Gaal may be “watching”. The Dutchman has proven in recent days that he’s quite the expert on certain non-football matters, especially those where descriptors such as “fantasisers”, “active”, “playing”, “touch” and “watching” are apt. As long I don’t take the opportunity to pull my own hair, hey Louis? I could go on, but I’m beginning to lose track of why I started this piece…
Oh yeah, something about Captains. That is, those who we expect to “dominate” the “scoring” this week. OK, LVG might still be reading. Wow, this is descending very rapidly (not in Van Gaal’s case, though, it seems). OK, OK, I’ll stop there, I haven’t the “stamina” to continue. The lawyers will start “whipping” me back to the script. Forgive me “Sir”…
Anyhow, now that I’ve been “whipped” into a state of frenzy, I want to take this opportunity on behalf of all football fans in Oz to congratulate Leicester on what is arguably the greatest footballing story of the modern era, if not all time. Truly amazing stuff. With the pressure now off and nothing to lose, here’s hoping we see the Foxes and indeed Spurs free their arms this week (no LVG, not like that). I expect goals will flow from those two sides this week, which makes their players prime captaincy contenders notwithstanding neither team features in a double. On this basis, I consider Harry Kane (home vs Southampton) and Jamie Vardy (home vs Everton) to be leading contenders this week, especially when both have the Golden Boot to chase! And they both have plum home fixtures against opposition with little left to play for! Indeed, with injuries and rotation likely to make their inevitable marks this week (Liverpool cappo anyone?), and the usual captaincy contenders from City and Arsenal locked in their own head to head showdown this week, it makes the search for candidates just that bit more difficult.
With the Triple Captain Chip likely to decide many a mini-league, with little time to reflect on 2015/16, and in addition to Kane and Vardy above, I present to you 3 DGW picks (plus a sneaky differential), and the penultimate selections for this season of woe (and which for some cannot end fast enough):
Eden Hazard – (away vs Sunderland & Liverpool)
A game-week 37 cappos pick wouldn’t be complete or credible without the inclusion of a ghost of fantasy footballing past, one thought dead and brought back to life, or simply exhumed, or simply immortal. Hazard’s world-class finish this week to gift Leicester the title, coupled with the fact that his entire goal scoring tally this season has been achieved in his last 2 matches, has caused many a manager to rush to enter the Garden of Eden, fig leaves and all!
And what better way to sample the forbidden fruit of Eden than Sunderland and Liverpool? Yes, the Black Cats are performing their usual end-of-season Houdini act, but the statistics don’t lie: Sunderland have not beaten Chelsea at home in their past 11 Premier League matches, with their last home victory coming way back in 2000!!!! And apart from the 0-0 at the Stadium of Light in November 2014, there have been goals galore in this fixture: the 4 prior fixtures resulting in 4-3, 3-1, 2-1 and 4-2 wins for Chelsea. The case for Eden can’t get more compelling than that! Oh, and if you needed any further convincing, Eden scored a brace in the 4-3 result (December 2013).
Chelsea were clearly up for spoiling Spurs’ title charge early this week, so one might think a let-down of sorts could ensue, however manager Guus Hiddink has made it clear that he wants his team to finish the campaign on a high, so I expect the usual service to continue this weekend. Plus, bear in mind that Chelsea then travel to Anfield: and boy is this one party they love to spoil! Liverpool haven’t beaten Chelsea at Anfield in the Premier League since May 2012. Eden scored in the corresponding fixture in 2013.
Chelsea appear keen to be as much nuisance value to their peers as possible in closing out 2015/16, so expect the fun and games to continue. And the goals.
Sunderland 1 – 3 Chelsea
Liverpool 1 – 2 Chelsea
Andy Carroll – (home vs Swansea & Man Utd)
Oh Andy! Where for art thou, Andy? Where have you been all season?
That Andy Carroll is back, injury-free, and scoring goals, just about sums up 2015/16, does it not?
6 goals and an assist in his last 6 games makes Carroll one of the form players of the Premier League. And 4 of those goals were against top tier opposition: Chelsea, Leicester (WTF?) and Arsenal (well, “top tier” is a subjective concept). All bar one of his 9 goals this campaign have been at home, so what better time to get on him than with a home DGW on which to feast?
Swansea await first up, and whilst they spanked an eighteenth-string Liverpool side last weekend, they’ve well and truly put the cue in the rack for 2015/16, and a procession could be on the cards. West Ham then welcome Manchester United in what is likely to determine which team will finish the higher of the two (and both with an outside chance of a top 4), so it’s all to play for: there’ll be no point in approaching this fixture timidly, so expect goals. Those with the Triple Captain Chip still in play could do a lot worse than the enigmatic Carroll this week. I say go for it!
West Ham 3 – 0 Swansea
West Ham 3 – 2 Manchester United
Dimitri Payet – (home vs Swansea & Man Utd)
Two home games this week. 9 goals and 11 assists (including in his last 2 games) this season. And with West Ham still having plenty to play for. What’s not to like about Payet this DGW? Unfortunately, Payet was injured when the Hammers played Swansea and United earlier this season, so we don’t have much by which to gauge his performances against those clubs (and both were drab 0-0 affairs).
However, and in view of the reasons provided above, expect the “Assist Master” to lay on an absolute platter the first class service to allow Carroll to flourish this DGW, which means assists galore. I need not elaborate any further. Most DGW37 squads will have triple West Ham cover, and the statistics suggest Payet is the fulcrum around which West Ham’s fortunes will rotate. A Payet-Carroll double-act could provide very profitable this DGW!
West Ham 3 – 0 Swansea
West Ham 3 – 2 Manchester United
The Punt: Branislav Ivanovic – (away vs Sunderland & Liverpool)
For those who’ve comfortably wrapped up their mini-leagues or haven’t a chance in hell of winning, and therefore want to have a bit of fun in the closing stages, I offer Branislav Ivanovic as a cheeky differential. Branislav scored and assisted versus Sunderland earlier this season (picking up 3 bonus points as well in a 14 point haul), and history has shown this season that players who’ve done well against a particular team seem to back that up in the reverse fixture. Anyone looking for a premium DGW defender might wish to run their eye past Branislav!
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