Gameweek 26 Fantasy Preview

Posted by John Culea

Gameweek 26 starts Saturday Feb. 9 and will last nine days - it's a double week for Liverpool and Swansea due to the Swans' advancing to the Capital One Cup final Feb. 24 against Bradford City. The Reds and Swans play Sunday, Feb. 17 as both are out of the FA Cup. That means a double bite of the fantasy apple for managers with players on both teams.

Saturday, Feb. 9

Tottenham (13-6-6) – Newcastle (7-6-6): The early game means no chance to see what the announced lineups will be for five other matches. An intriguing encounter with fourth-place Spurs hoping Emmanuel Adebayor will be in the lineup after his return from Africa. Otherwise, the attacking options are slim with Jermain Defoe out injured for three weeks. Gareth Bale has two goals in two games but Clint Dempsey has been inconsistent. The most impressive newcomer is Lewis Holtby (a steal at 5.3) who looks dangerous and pursues the ball like a tornado. Newcastle is revived thanks to French imports Moussa Sissoko, Yohan Gouffran and a healthy Yohan Cabaye.

Chelsea (13-7-5) – Wigan (5-7-14): Demba Ba seems unlikely to feature; however, David Luiz played for Brazil Wednesday. Chelsea (51 goals) is the second-highest scoring PL team. Goalkeeper Petr Cech is doubtful with a broken finger. Frank Lampard has seven goals in nine games and scored impressively for England. Wigan is the second-worst team for goals conceded (49), but should get top scorer Arouna Kone back.

Norwich (6-10-9) – Fulham (7-7-12): The Canaries face a team that buried them 0-5 on opening day and are winless in eight games. The road-kill Cottagers are without injured Dimitar Berbatov and Steve Sidwell. Brede Hangeland is doubtful.

Stoke (6-12-7) – Reading (6-8-12): Stoke have more draws than any PL team and a once-stingy defensive team has gone seven matches without a clean sheet. Reading got a brace from Jimmy Kebe v. Sunderland and super-sub Adam Le Fondre has 10 goals.

Sunderland (7-8-11) – Arsenal (11-8-6): Danny Graham, Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon give the Black Cats more bite.
Arsenal should start Santi Cazorla as the sixth-place Gunners hope to get closer to a Champions League spot. Theo Walcott, a slight injury doubt, has 11 goals, Olivier Giroud nine, and Jack Wilshere looks better each week.

Swansea (8-10-8) – QPR (2-11-12): Michu has not scored in his last six played. With Danny Graham gone, things may open up.
QPR lost transfer Loic Remy for eight weeks. Christopher Samba looked great in his debut. GK Julio Cesar is nails, but the Rangers have only scored 18 goals in 25 matches. Bobby Zamora is back, which will help.

Southampton (5-10-11) – Manchester City (15-8-2): Key Saints defenders Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne may be out. Rickie Lambert has 11 goals. Man City pulled off a late draw with Sergio Aguero’s miracle goal vs. Liverpool. Edin Dzeko (11 goals) is likely to start again. Vincent Kompany is out injured. Yaya Toure’s African football safari is over, but it’s not known if he will play. Carlos Tevez has not scored in nine games.

Sunday, February 10

Aston Villa (4-10-12) – West Ham (9-6-11): Christian Benteke has 10 goals for next-to-last Villa. Big Sam’s 11th place Hammers got a goal from Andy Carroll to beat Swansea.

Manchester United (21-2-3) – Everton (10-13-3) SAF’s men are running away with the title. Wayne Rooney scored for England and is in top form and now has 10 PL goals; however, Robin van Persie (18 goals) has gone two straight games without scoring. Patrice Evra is a defensive fantasy dream but David De Gea has just four clean sheets and United have given up more goals (31) than four teams have scored. Everton’s offense received a jolt that Marouane Fellaini, who had a brace his last game, faces a late fitness test.

Monday, Feb. 11

Liverpool (9-9-7) – WBA (10-4-11): The Reds still have not beaten a team in the table’s top half. Daniel Sturridge, partnering well with Luis Suarez, is a slight doubt. Steven Gerrard has five goals and seven assists in his last 10 games. Pepe Reina may need to be tied to his goal posts and not venture out as he did against Aguero. The spitter, Goren Popov, is suspended for ninth place Albion.

Sunday, Feb. 17

Liverpool-Swansea: The second game of the week for both teams.

ESPN Conversations