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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 22 September, 2014

Fantasyland: Fitness is king in a hectic fixture list

It’s a delicate balance for managers, rotating a team so they don’t burn out. Here’s who we reckon is primed and ready.

Image: Tom Hevezi/AP/Press Association Images

‘TIS THE SEASON… eh, to get a lot of deep tissue massages and do a limited amount of training?

That’s right. Less than 13 hours after 2013 begins and just over 42 hours after after Gameweek 20 ends, Gameweek 21 will creak and groan on its way to becoming another classic.

41 goals were scored last weekend, but before we start complaining about the substandard state of defences these days: remember that the league will suddenly be whipped away from us for over a week.

That paltry trinket, the FA Cup, will be offering only fleeting excitement in its stead. So enjoy this feast while it lasts.

Two players to pick this week

Theo Walcott: Why not? There’s nothing like a man playing for a move / new contract and Walcott is in full-on ‘look-how-much-I’m-worth’ mode.

He has scored four goals and created three in his last three games and against his former club tomorrow the midfielder will surely get more chances to increase that tally.

Allied to that is his searing pace, which is invaluable at this time of year when tired defenders are easily exposed.

Juan Mata: Fat Frank may have grabbed the headlines with a goal splurge this week, but the Spaniard remains the man who makes Chelsea tick. In an evening derby fixture against a fairly clueless looking QPR, Mata can wreak havoc.

Two players to avoid

Sergio Aguero: The Argentine may seem indispensable to a team chasing the title, and Aguero did seem to signal an end to a fairly barren spell with a goal and assist against Norwich.

However, the striker needs a rest, and a straightforward home tie against a flagging Stoke side is just the game Roberto Mancini would like to do it in. Especially when Edin Dzeko has just proved he can still score goals before the 80th minute.

Phil Jagielka: The defender will play, but he will be part of an Everton defence beginning to tire and up against a Newcastle side who have not only been unfortunate to come away from the Emirates and Old Trafford despite scoring a combined six goals this week, but also have a day extra to prepare for this home game than their visitors.

Predictions:

West Brom 2 – 0 Fulham

Manchester City 3 – 0 Stoke

Swansea 2 – 1 Aston Villa

Tottenham Hotspur 3 – 0 Reading

West Ham 0 – 0 Norwich

Wigan 1 – 2 Manchester United

Southampton 1 – 3 Arsenal

Chelsea 4 – 0 QPR

Liverpool 2 – 0 Sunderland

Newcastle 1 – 0 Everton

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