FANTASY FOOTBALL: Cooke leads the way

Fantasy football
Fantasy football

Simon Cooke remains top of the Scarborough News Fantasy Football League heading into the first weekend of the new year.

Cooke’s seadoggeees team earned 71 points in Game Week 19, with Carl Sample leapfrogging Jamie Ramm to return to second place, Sample’s #uptheburn team racking up a superb 85 pointd compared to Ramms EPL Team’s steady haul of 60.

The decision of Cooke to select Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil as his skipper proved crucial as he snapped up 28 points, with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku adding 13 points for the pacesetters.

Sample also selected Ozil as his captain and has Lukaku up front, but clean sheets from West Brom defender Jonny Evans, along with a goal apiece for Spurs striker Harry Kane and Watford ace Odion Ighalo helped his team back into second spot.

At the other end of the league table, Alec Coulson’s Ridsdale Rovers remain stuck at the bottom on 513 points, with Craig Rackham’s Rackti Dettori second-from-bottom with 574 points and JEF United, managed by Commercial boss Geoff Osguthorpe third-from-bottom on 623.

The Scout Preview - Gameweek 20

Four of the top four teams in the Barclays Premier League play at home as The Scout analyses the Gameweek 20 schedule.

League leaders Arsenal look to extend their eight-match unbeaten home run as struggling Newcastle United roll up to the Emirates Stadium. Leicester City entertain AFC Bournemouth, Manchester United welcome Swansea City to Old Trafford and Crystal Palace host London rivals Chelsea on Sunday lunchtime.

Elsewhere, West Ham United face Liverpool at Upton Park, Everton play host to Tottenham Hotspur, whilst bottom two Sunderland and Aston Villa go head-to-head at the Stadium of Light.

Talking tactics

Eden Hazard was fielded as a “false nine” for Chelsea’s trip to Manchester United last Monday. With Diego Costa serving a one-match suspension, the fit-again Belgian was handed a first start under Guus Hiddink after fully recovering from a hip injury. Costa is available once again, though, and is expected to lead the line as the Blues make their way to Crystal Palace this time around. This leaves Hiddink with a dilemma in the final third - the Dutchman has now fielded Pedro, Oscar and Willian in the three attacking midfield slots in both his matches in charge but will need to make changes if he is to accommodate Hazard in his starting XI.

Mauricio Pochettino trialled a 3-4-2-1 formation for Tottenham’s trip to Watford earlier in the week. The Spurs boss moved Eric Dier from central midfield into the back-three, while Erik Lamela and Dele Alli were afforded central support roles behind lone striker Harry Kane. Although the 2-1 win saw his side climb into the top four, Pochettino is likely to roll out his default 4-2-3-1 set-up for the trip to Everton this weekend. With Mousa Dembele a real doubt, Alli could be forced to drop deeper alongside Dier in the double-pivot, allowing Monday’s match-winner Song Heung-Min a chance to return to the starting XI.

Claudio Ranieri opted for a 4-5-1 set-up for Leicester’s home encounter with Man City on Tuesday evening. Having mainly utilised a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 formation since arriving at the King Power, the Italian called upon Gokhan Inler alongside fit-again Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante in the centre of the park, allowing Marc Albrighton and Riyad Mahrez to patrol the flanks. Although the Foxes earned a point in the goalless draw, they have now drawn blanks in each of the last two Gameweeks, having previously scored in the first 17 league outings. With a home encounter against Bournemouth up next, though, Ranieri is likely to go on the offensive and partner Vardy with Shinji Okazaki or Leonardo Ulloa as he attempts to return to winning ways.

Ones to watch

Robert Huth – having kept out Manchester City on Tuesday evening, the Leicester centre-half looks a strong shout for points at both ends of the pitch as Bournemouth make their way to the King Power. Given that the Cherries have conceded more times from set-plays than any other side, Huth’s aerial ability in the box could come to fruition.

Michail Antonio – since being handed a first start of the season in Gameweek 16, the winger has played a part in all three of West Ham’s strikes. Antonio’s goal and assist against Southampton last time out served up a 13-point haul and, at a price of just 5.2, he looks excellent value for the visit of Liverpool.

Gerard Deulofeu – a home encounter with Tottenham brings the Everton wide man into contention this weekend. The Toffees are second only to Manchester City for goals scored in front of their own fans and, having netted against Stoke at Goodison on Monday, the 3%-owned Deulofeu looks in fine form.

Marko Arnautovic – a goal and assist against Everton last time out took the Stoke winger into fourth place in the midfield standings. Priced at just 6.4, Arnautovic has now scored four times in the last five Gameweeks and pays visit to a West Brom side that boasts the second-worst home record for goals conceded.

Olivier Giroud – after blanking against Bournemouth, the Arsenal forward will fancy his chances of returning to the scoresheet as Newcastle make their way to the Emirates. Giroud – who still managed an assist in the 2-0 win over the Cherries – has now earned points in eight of the last 11 Gameweeks and faces a defence that is second only to Sunderland for goals conceded so far.