GW 15 – Ones to Watch

Matt: GW 15 has got the makings of a very intriguing weekend indeed, for a whole host of reasons. Chief among them are the fact that the two most popular picks this season, Liverpool and Manchester City, are facing one another and so far less likely to be chosen by the masses! Then throw the FA Cup First Round into the mix, which has conjured up some fixtures that are both real ‘tempters’ and potential upsets in equal measures, and we have a thoroughly absorbing gameweek on our hands.

I’ll move into more unfamiliar territory shortly, but my first tip will be a team who have been among the most reliable out there so far this season; Cove Rangers. The Wee Rangers have scored in every league game since their promotion to Scotland’s League Two and are well on course to sensationally make it back-to-back promotions. One of the main reasons for that is their potency in front of goal and the visit of 8th placed Stirling Albion will come with the expectation of more of the same! That said, Albion’s league position does look slightly false being as they are unbeaten in seven and have only conceded a measly 9 goals all season – the lowest in the whole division! The Binos had a horrendous start to the campaign with heavy League Cup defeats against the likes of  Arbroath and Elgin, but since mid-September their fortunes have really begun to change. However, with 34 goals to their name in league matches alone, i’m backing Cove to continue their fine scoring form and send the visitors back to Stirling with a somewhat worse goal difference than when they arrived!

As someone who enjoys delving into different leagues and competitions wherever and whenever possible, the FA Cup First round is simply too appealing to turn down! You could quite comfortably pick your seven selections from this competition alone in fact, such are the bumper fixtures on offer, but i can only choose one team for this particular section. That team is Leyton Orient, who face the delightfully named Maldon and Tiptree on Sunday afternoon.  Orient have made a reasonably solid start to life in League Two following their promotion from the National League in May, but head into the fixture in a slightly dodgy run of form – prior to their midweek win over Brighton U21s in the EFL Trophy, the East London based side were without a win since their 4-0 thumping of Grimsby back in mid-October. That’s exactly the sort of result many players of this game will be expecting against the Essex based side who play their football in the Isthmian North League. Don’t be entirely fooled though, this fixture also has some potential to cause a real upset as The Jammers from Maldon are unbeaten in all competitions this season, including eight wins from eight in the league. They’ve already played four qualifying rounds to reach the First Round proper and disposed of higher ranked opposition along the way, with the most recent of those victories an impressive 3-1 victory away at Royston Town. Manager Wayne Brown will undoubtedly be plotting a giant-killing, but if Orient’s front-line can locate their shooting boots then surely there will goals in the offing for the O’s. Good luck to you all.

Ally: My first tip of the weekend sees me in the Premier League, for the lunchtime clash which pits high flying Chelsea against Crystal Palace. Frank Lampard’s first season at the helm couldn’t have gone much better so far, as the expected downturn resulting from the loss of talisman Eden Hazard in the summer coupled with the club’s transfer ban has failed to materialise. Lampard has assembled an exciting blend of experience and youth, putting his faith in the young talent produced by the Blues’ much vaunted youth system, which has seen the likes of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham come to the fore and flourish. Since losing 4-0 at Manchester United on the opening weekend, Chelsea have scored in every domestic fixture, and were involved in a memorable Chapions League tie in midweek coming back from 4-1 down at Stamford Bridge to draw 4-4 with Dutch giants Ajax. Visitors Palace make the short journey across London having conceded in every away game so far this season, despite winning at Manchester United and West Ham, and I’m backing the hosts to avoid the dreaded curse of the early kick off (aka COTEKO) and get among the goals.

I’m going to chance my arm in the FA Cup for my next tip, as I’m drawn to the tie between League Two strugglers Stevenage and League One promotion contenders Peterborough United. The latter are no strangers to these pages, and for good reason as they are comfortably League One’s leading scorers with 39 goals to their name in just 17 league games. They may trail the top two sides in the league by 5 points, but they boast three of the top four scorers in the league in the shape of Mo Eisa, Ivan Toney and Marcus Maddison, and providing manager Darren Ferguson doesn’t make too many changes you have to fancy The Posh to have the firepower to propel them to the next round. Hosts Stevenage are currently propping up the Football League, with only goal difference keeping Morecambe below them. The Boro have won their last 2 matches at Broadhall Way to climb off the foot of the table, but these games were against fellow strugglers Grimsby and the aforementioned Morecambe, and so I expect the visitors’ superior quality to propel them into the draw for the Second Round. Good luck!