There can be no greater proof of Dimitar Berbatov’s commitment to the Fulham cause than the sight earlier this month of the Bulgarian resplendent in oxygen mask undergoing Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy in a bid to recover from a muscle injury.
Sadly, this intense form of therapy was not quite enough to ensure he was fit to face Southampton in Gameweek 7 but with Martin Jol admitting Berbatov was close to making the squad, the signs are strong that he should make a full recovery to lead the line for Villa’s visit to the Cottage in Gameweek 8.
Since signing for Fulham on a two-year deal at the end of the summer transfer window, experienced Fantasy managers have been keeping a close eye on Berbatov’s performances. During his time at Spurs and United, the maverick Bulgarian was not just a key Fantasy asset, but a game changer at times, capable of 20+ point hauls, regardless of opponent, to propel savvy Fantasy managers up their mini-leagues with gusto.
His hat-trick for Tottenham in the London side’s 6-4 demolition of Reading in December 2007 proved to be the first of five in England’s top-flight. Berbatov became the first Man United player to bag three against Liverpool for 64 years during the Red Devils’ 3-2 victory over their bitter North West rivals back in September 2010.
Later in that golden boot winning season, he cemented his credentials as one of the Premier League’s greats with an incredible five-goal haul as United hammered Blackburn 7-1 at Old Trafford. More was to come during 2011, a year which started and ended with a hat-trick. Berbatov struck three times in a 5-0 home win against Birmingham City in January and in the Boxing Day home clash with Wigan, which the Red Devils won by the same margin.
Despite these impressive hauls, Berbatov spent long periods of his United career on the bench, which has seen his starting price plummet this season to just 7.0 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) and 7.5 in the Sky Sports game. However, in stark contrast to his final months at Old Trafford, Berbatov finds himself as very much a wanted man, with Jol declaring last month:
“The big difference for him (Berbatov) is that he knows, if he is fit, then he will play a lot of games. He’s an important part of our set-up, of course. He’s probably our biggest player. At Man United, which of course is a bigger club, it was maybe different in the last year or so.”
Judging by his two starts at Fulham so far this season, not only has the 31-year-old retained his keen eye for goal but he is emerging as the main attacking focal point of the team, who seemingly have one mission; get the ball to the Berbatov and let him do the rest. During his first start, against West Brom at home, the Bulgarian scored twice and achieved maximum bonus points in the FPL game, where he also accrued 13 points.
He failed to score during his second start, away to Wigan the next week, but managed an eight point haul in the FPL game with an assist and another maximum bonus point haul. His goal threat and team mates’ zeal to target Berbatov in the penalty box ensured he received an EA Sport Index score of 43 in each of those games, an indication that more goals and bonus points are set to follow.
While their home form under Jol continues to appeal, the West Londoners have also proved hardier foes on the road; they have found the net six times over four matches on their travels, already half their total number of away goals for the previous campaign. With fixtures (AVL, rea, EVE, ars, SUN), price, goal threat and a pedigree that places Berbatov among the Premier League’s greatest ever strikers, he may soon become a player that is impossible to ignore.