Monday, 10 February 2014

GW26 FPL #JackInTheBox

Guys/gals, with 13 fixtures left in the English Premier League season, there are ELEVEN sides within 7 points of the bottom.  ELEVEN!  None of these teams are safe by any stretch of the imagination as we approach the business end of the season.  I cannot even begin to imagine the excitement we are in for as these 11 squads battle it out over the coming weeks.  If things continue to stay this close, we are virtually guaranteed of a "six-point relegation battle" every gameweek.  It makes the battle at the bottom of the table a nervy test of survival that will surely be almost as closely scrutinized as David Moyes' handling of the Manchester United job.

But I digress.  Our spotlight, although touching the edges of the full 11-squad free-for-all, centers pointedly on the bottom 8 clubs; those clubs who have accumulated 26 points or less from their first 25 EPL fixtures this season.  Not an accomplishment to write home about, is it? Combined, these squads represent an overall record of 47 wins, 49, draws, and 104 defeats. That's an average of 6 wins apiece, or one win out of every 4 fixtures.  As a group, they've combined to score 186 goals while allowing 318 footballs to hit the back of their net, for a combined goal differential of -132.

Surprisingly, at least 5 of these squads (and maybe more, depending on how the 3 currently above them in the table fare over the coming weeks) will survive and play in the Premier League again after the World Cup has come and gone.  Your current 8 #JackInTheBox eligible squads are:

20)  Fulham, playing home to Liverpool (4)
19)  Cardiff City, playing home to Aston Villa (12)
18)  West Bromwich Albion, playing home to Chelsea (1)
17)  Sunderland, playing away at Manchester City (3)
16)  Norwich, playing away at West Ham (15)
15)  West Ham, playing home to Norwich (16)
14)  Crystal Palace, playing away at Everton (6)
13)  Stoke City, playing home to Swansea (10)

It is almost impossible to resist the six-pointer taking place between West Ham and Norwich tomorrow, but I'm going to.  I'm choosing to train my eye on Wales, where Cardiff City host Aston Villa.  Everyone knows that Villa play better away from home and that Christian Benteke is gaining form.  That scares me, which is why I'm not choosing a defender this week.  Cardiff are in desperate need of a positive display, especially after the derby thumping they were handed by Swansea at the weekend, and Villa's position just outside the bottom 8 shows they are susceptible, especially when coming to visit a nasty, snarling, angry, intimidatingly-named Bluebird side (who wear red).

GW26 FPL #JackInTheBox:  Wilfried Zaha

Yes, Ince has shown his promise and has found a way to the score sheet both times he's suited up in a Palace uniform, but I've yet to see him play and am gonna withhold the armband at least until I'm able to get a chance to watch him.  Zaha is quick and tricky; elusive and explosive.  I can certainly see him causing trouble for a Villa defence known for its difficulty in keeping a clean sheet.  Zaha has been fielded twice by Cardiff, notching an assist on his 53 minute debut and getting the start at the weekend before being subbed in the 76th minute vs Swansea.  I think he has something to prove, will approach the home game with something of a chip on his shoulder, and I hope he produces crowd-pleasing results tomorrow evening when Benteke and Co. come to town. Heck, even if he doesn't, he will surely be fun to watch ;)

Good luck in Gameweek 26 everyone!