Fantasy Football Scout: Gameweek 21

Shaun Botterill

After a hectic month of conspicuous consumption of food, alcohol and of course football, our fantasy football feature is back for 2014...

It's been a rather hectic time over the festive period for Sunderland, with the games coming thick and fast. For Sunderland, it's been a bit of a mixed bag with great results in the cups as well as a fantastic away win at Everton, but also some disappointing results like the draw at home with Norwich and the defeat there by Aston Villa. The period noticeably saw some great performances from the Sunderland defence, with Vito Mannone, John O'Shea and Phil Bardsley all picking up good points hauls for clean sheets against Norwich and Everton. From the more attacking players, Ki Sung Yeung managed to pick himself up 11 points against Everton as he first earned and then converted the winning penalty.

Away from Sunderland, there have been some fantastic performances by individual players over Christmas. Luis Suarez turned in an excellent performance as Liverpool beat Cardiff 3-1, picking up 16 points. Summer Sunderland target Tom Huddlestone finally earned his haircut as Hull smashed 6 second half goals past Fulham, with the hirsute midfielder pulling the strings for the Tigers. Theo Walcott, now unfortunately out for the season and the World Cup, turned in two excellent performances over the festive period, picking up 15 points against West Ham, and 11 for his performance against Cardiff. As well as this, he also picked up a respectable 6 points for the sandwiched fixture against Newcastle.

Onto this week's fixtures, Sunderland face yet another crucial "six pointer" against relegation rivals Fulham as we head down to Craven Cottage. Elsewhere, Manchester United seek to avoid a fourth loss on the bounce as Swansea head back up to Old Trafford hoping to win there twice in a week.

Sunderland Player To Watch: Marcos Alonso

Sunderland's new Spanish left-back looked excellent against Manchester United as Sunderland won at home in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final. Several times, especially in the first half, he managed to bomb forward and swing in several dangerous balls into the box. Against Fulham Sunderland could be expected to sit a little bit deeper against Fulham and seek to counter-attack against a home team who will be equally desperate to grab a win. This could suit Alonso; if he manages to spring forward and launch in a good delivery or two we could find ourselves with a crucial away win.

General Player To Watch: Alvaro Negredo

Anyone who saw Negredo and his team-mates utterly dismantle a completely dismal West Ham side in the other League Cup semi-final cannot fail to have been impressed by the Spaniard. The Beast of Vallecas managed to grab himself a hat-trick, and will be looking to continue his excellent form as City travel away to Newcastle. Their away form has picked up of late, and they will be hoping to give a better show of themselves than they did on their last visit to the North-East where, you may have heard, they lost 1-0 at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland Player To Avoid: Emanuele Giaccherini

The diminutive Italian has put in a few decent performances since his summer arrival from Juventus, but in truth he has overall been somewhat disappointing. His performance against Manchester United was a case in point, with the game turning on the moment when Gus Poyet replaced him with Adam Johnson. It seems quite likely that he will find that Johnson has taken his starting spot come 3pm on Saturday.

General Player To Avoid: Roger Johnson

THE CRAB SCUTTLE

The Roker Report League

Despite the four games over Christmas, there hasn't been a huge amount of change at the top of the league. John Downing leads the way with 1,283 points; he has a healthy lead over second-placed Ian Randle on 1,266. There's then a large gap down to third, Paul Morrison on 1,233 and Callum Davidson on 1,230.

Luke Bowley is now heading up the Roker Report writers in 62nd place on 1,134, Craig is just behind him in 75th on 1,122. I'm back in 105th on 1,091, with Dave in 169th on 1,032, Simon on 889 in 280th and Stephen on 704 in 358th.

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