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Fantasy Football Scout: Gameweek 25

This week Steve Bruce returns to the Stadium of Light, whilst Manchesters City & United have a chance to bounce back from defeats last weekend with ties against Norwich & Fulham...

Steve Bardens

The Sunderland player I tipped to watch against Stoke was Adam Johnson. Once more the winger came good on his promise, turning home a spilled Borini shot in the first half to score the only goal of the game - earning himself eight points. My second pick, this time for the crucial away derby, was Ki Sung-Yueng. Although the Korean midfielder had a very good game, he didn't manage to score or assist and so picked up just three points. The stars of the show for Sunderland, in fantasy football terms, were Adam Johnson, who again picked up eight points for pouncing upon yet another parried shot, and Jack Colback. The midfielder came back with an impressive twelve points for a performance that saw him both score and assist (his shot that was pushed into Johnson's path by Krul counts as an assist). Considering that Colback is priced at just £4.2m, he could be an excellent signing if he plays in a similar vein against Hull.

The other players I advised keeping an eye on were Juan Mata and Oscar. Although he wasn't at his usual best, Mata did pick up an assist against Cardiff City in his Manchester United debut and brought home six points. Oscar was surprisingly left out of the Chelsea line-up against Manchester City, and received just one point as he came on as a late sub. However I'd like to point out that I actually predicted that Chelsea would go to the Etihad and win 1-0! I didn't, however, put any money on this hunch. This regrettably means I have to go to work tomorrow rather than hosting a party on a new floating gin palace.

I was pretty successful also in who I tipped for off-weeks. Emanuele Giaccherini once again failed to even get off the bench against Stoke, whilst Lee Cattermole also missed out on the derby through injury (and the aftermath of considerable deadline speculation) with Liam Bridcutt deputising for, or usurping, him impressively. Everton were resoundingly thumped 4-0 in their Merseyside derby, with Romelu Lukaku having to be carried off injured early on and so gaining only one point. I also commanded that everyone ditch any Newcastle players that they were harbouring in their midst, and that turned out to be wise advice as the Mags were (in case you hadn't heard) thumped 3-0 and played, to a man, terribly.

This week Sunderland get a great chance to make it three wins on the bounce (everything great comes in threes of late, it seems) as Steve "10th Place" Bruce brings his Hull side up to the Stadium. Meanwhile both Manchester clubs have relatively easy ties as they seek to bring back the good times following losses at the weekend.

Sunderland Player To Watch: Jack Colback

In Tom Huddlestone, Hull have a midfielder who many were tipping earlier in the season as a possible surprise contender for a spot on the brief England jaunt to Brazil this summer. Whilst it is crazy early to be discussing Jack Colback in the same terms off the back of one (albeit amazing) performance, the game does give him a chance to shine for a second week running. He seemed to thrive playing further forward as Liam Bridcutt swept in front of the back four, and with Hull City in rotten form it would be great for him to show that the derby was not just a one-off performance. Plus, as I mentioned above, priced at just £4.2m Colback is an extremely cheap addition for any side.

General Player To Watch: Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard is certainly someone who believes his own hype, but luckily for him the Belgian more than deserves the acclaim he receives. Against Manchester City on Monday night he was simply superb, offering the speed, skill and fantastic work-rate that make him a dream player for Jose Mourinho. For Chelsea's goal he tussled under a high ball up field against the taller and (supposedly) stronger natural defender Martin Demichelis, then won the ball as it dropped, before laying it off and busting a gut to get to the other side of the penalty area to deliver the cross that was deflected back to Branislav Ivanovic for the game's only goal.

This week he comes up against...ooh, a Newcastle side coming off the back of yet another derby humiliation. When we beat them earlier in the season their response was to string an impressive run together, but now they lack their three best players in Cabaye (sold), Remy (suspended) and Coloccini (injured/playing golf back home). When Chelsea traveled to St James' Park earlier this season they were very poor and ended up deserved losers; Mourinho will be hoping his now fine-tuned machine will be able to steamroller the Magpies back at Stamford Bridge - with Hazard a key cog in that machine.

Sunderland Player To Avoid: Craig Gardner

Although his proposed move to West Brom failed to materialise on deadline day, you can't really see the midfielder playing much of a role in the rest of Sunderland's season. In all likelihood, there are now five central midfielders ahead of him in the queue for a starting role and when all are fit Gardner quite possibly won't even make the bench. It is hard to see what he could possibly bring to the side, as he offers none of the drive, tidiness or control that Colback, Ki and Bridcutt displayed against Newcastle. Whilst he has scored some cracking goals in his time at the club, I'm sure those that sit in the ends behind the goals will be glad to see him leave as for every shot that found the top corner, there were another twenty howitzers fired straight into their faces.

General Player To Avoid: Chico Flores

I'm far from an Andy Carroll fan, but his sending off against Swansea was ludicrously harsh and that it hasn't be over-turned is ridiculous. As Sam Allardyce so witheringly said, centre-halves aren't supposed to squeal, and Chico should (but won't) be ashamed of himself for his witless theatrics to trick the ever easily-conned Howard Webb into sending the big Geordie horse off. So, in a spirit of generosity in part inspired by that of the Mags in recent fixtures, I shall stand by Andy Carroll and implore you all to BOYCOUTT CHICO.

The Roker Report League

John Downing currently holds the top spot in our league, with 1541 points, in second and a fair way behind Ian Randle has 1509, Paul Morrison in third is then another little way behind on 1485 with Rosli Mohamed close behind in fourth on 1481. Amongst our writers, Luke and Craig are neck and neck with the former in 75th with 1346 and the latter just one point behind on 1345 in 77th. I'm dropping a little bit behind that in 120th with 1301 whilst Dave has 1265 points in 157th, Simon 1087 in 275th and Stephen 871 in 354th.