I’ve got to admit, I’ve been treading water for days. Stricken by man-flu that has me sweating Lemsip and coughing up Fishermen’s Friends, I’ve also been struck by the dull hiatus caused by the FA Cup weekend. A rude interruption to our flow of Gameweeks, my Fantasy Football flame has been doused and I’m wading through snot-ridden tissues to rekindle it.
My spirits are not helped by the fact that, like so many Fantasy managers this weekend, I’m struggling for a starting XI and left praying at the alter of Guy Demel. The Hammers full-back is unlikely to figure against Spurs, even less likely to earn points if he does and yet, for the last seven days, he’s had his full fifteen minutes of Fantasy fame, as we scratch around for eleven men.
With Gameweek 29’s blanks looming large, this is truly a testing time for us all. It would have been nice to approach it feeling match fit. Instead, I’ve had to try to find space in my mucus-filled bonce to decode the various fixture configurations that lie in store. In the end, I gave up and left it to Paul.
For a while this week, I took some comfort in the fact that Wayne Rooney shared my pain. Ruled out of Monday’s FA Cup clash with Reading with sinusitis, Sir Alex was quick to count him out of the equation for the trip to QPR later today. I had visions of Rooney, wrapped in a duvet, slippering the floor while Colleen scampered up with another can of lager and a packet of Oreos. Another worthy man, battling back from the brink. Or so I thought.
Friday’s pictures from the United training ground showed Rooney cutting a sprightly figure, seemingly untroubled by the crippling illness that would allegedly rule him out of today’s game. It remains to be a seen if his recovery is completed by an appearance on the Loftus Road turf: I haven’t got the patience to try to second-guess Sir Alex on that one.
Not surprisingly, the press have turned their backs on the prospect of Rooney figuring today, with Danny Welbeck seemingly the favoured partner for Robin Van Persie up top. Only the Telegraph dare to suggest that Javier Hernandez will get a start in West London – the solitary paper of our six this morning that grant the Mexican the opportunity: Welbeck, either in support or shifted wide with Shinji Kagawa starting, is the preferred solution to Rooney’s absence. Four of our papers suggest that Nani will be handed a start: we’re also backing that concept by promoting the unpredictable Portuguese with our differential pick this week.
The City lineup also causes conjecture and, again, the press are torn on Roberto Mancini’s forward line. Having shed Edin Dzeko from my squad, this is the first Saturday in months where I haven’t lay at the mercy of Mancini’s whims and, typically, it’s another difficult call going into Sunday’s clash with Chelsea. Both the Telegraph and the Independent start with Dzeko up with Sergio Aguero – the rest all keep Carlos Tevez in the role, with the Bosnian left to warm the timber once more.
Marc Wilson’s fitness has been a hot topic over the past week and, with the left-back safely in our predicted lineup for the trip to Fulham, you know where we stand on his availability today. Three of the morning papers also agree with us – the Telegraph, The Sun and The Mail all have Wilson back in the Stoke lineup for the early kick-off at the Cottage.
Elsewhere, there are few surprises on show – personally, I don’t share the confidence that seems to be held by the entire press regarding Sunderland’s 4-4-2 at West Brom: every paper this morning has Danny Graham up alongside Steven Fletcher for the Hawthorns encounter.
The only really bugbear spotted comes amongst the pages of the Telegraph who, for one reason or another, have chosen to omit Juan Mata from their Chelsea lineup for Sunday’s Etihad test. Of course, every other source names the Spaniard in their side, with no evidence to suggest otherwise. The Telegraph’s decision is clearly an oversight, perhaps prompted by similar symptoms to my own. Sitting here typing through a blur of Paracetamol, I can certainly let that one pass.