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Battle to the end

We're into the business end of the Premier League season. In fantasy terms it can be frustrating and, unless you've been incredibly wise, transfers will have been at a premium for some time.

Changes for form and fitness have generally become something of a luxury. And that's where this ingenious experiment comes in.

The task? To pick the best fantasy team for the remaining eight rounds of the Premier League season, beginning with last weekend's games.

I've been joined by fellow fantasy "experts" Dan Mason, presenter of our fantasy podcast, and Dom Raynor. Plus we've also welcomed in Dr Alan van der Hilst who is a devoted fantasy fanatic and complies, for free I might add, a hoard of fantasy facts and figures for the pod.

An important point to note is that transfers cannot be made during this period. It's based simply on a selection of 15 players and how substitutions are operated over the run-in. It will show which players are the stars of the final weeks of the season and which fantasy manager truly knows where the form lies. And for one of our experts it's been a dream start.

Three players enjoy universal selection from our panel of pundits. The first, Steven Gerrard, is hardly surprising given Liverpool's recent form. The Liverpool skipper is the third highest scoring player in the game and it is expected he will continue to be in the points as the Anfield men push for the title.

Leighton Baines, the Everton defender, is in unanimously. Following the injury to Mikel Arteta, Baines has taken over responsibility for set-pieces and that, coupled with the Toffees' impressive defensive record, makes him attractive despite the fact he currently has less points than any other of David Moyes' first choice defenders.

Also in all four teams is bargain Stoke City striker James Beattie. Still at only £6m, Beattie represents one of the true value buys of the season.

Beattie has notched 47 points in just 10 matches, scoring six goals and getting two assists, at 4.7 points per game. He is 46th in the striker rankings despite playing only a third of the season. By comparison, Nicolas Anelka, top of the striker charts, has 117 points from 27 starts (and three from the bench) which gives him stats of 4.33 points per game. Beattie is almost half a point per game better off.

There's another Stoke player who appears in two teams, goalscoring defender Ryan Shawcross. In great form over the last month, Shawcross was hotly tipped by Dan on the fantasy pod. Of course, he didn't bring the player in himself, missing out on clean sheets and goals; but he has rectified that in this special challenge.

Several players are selected in three of the four teams. Somewhat surprisingly, though, Cristiano Ronaldo - back on top as the game's MVP - is only in two sides. Now he's the joint leading goalscorer in the Premier League that may turn out to be an error.

Given Arsenal's recent improved form, Manuel Almunia and Andrei Arshavin are both selected in three squads. Arsenal have a favourable run-in and have Wigan, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth to come in the next four weeks. Kolo Toure also appears in two sides as his early season poor form brought his price down.

Frank Lampard is the only truly popular Chelsea player. Another goal and a key contribution against Newcastle was enough to push him back above Gerrard to second in the overall scoring charts. There are also selections for Alex, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien.

One of the form players of the moment is Matthew Taylor of Bolton Wanderers. A former fantasy legend from his Portsmouth days, the left-footed midfielder had fallen upon hard times. Now, though, he is very much back on form and is the top scoring player outside of the big four clubs. He's on 115 points, the fourth best midfielder and the sixth best player overall.

Another goal and an assist at the weekend proved to be good business for three of our managers and at £6.4m he really is a steal.

It must come as a surprise that Fernando Torres is only selected in one team. Granted, he's well down the table in terms of points scoring for strikers but that is purely because of fitness and not form. At £8.6m his value has fallen to such an extent he is, in terms of top class strikers, a remarkable price.

Other than Beattie, the most popular striker is Tottenham's Robbie Keane. After his move from Anfield he has rediscovered his scoring touch, as shown from the penalty spot at Blackburn over the weekend.

The opening weekend proved to be a points bonanza for Dr Alan ver der Hilst as he leads the way with 85 points. Ronaldo (14), Lampard (10) and Taylor (10) were his big performers but he enjoyed a spread of points across his squad. Dan Mason (75) and Dale Johnson (70) drop in behind, but it was a poor start for Dom Raynor with just 43 points leaving much work to do.

That huge points haul for the Dr makes him the fourth highest scoring manager of the game week, six points off the top of the pile. What a start!

Dale Johnson
Dan Mason
Dom Raynor
Dr Alan van der Hilst
Manuel Almunia
Manuel Almunia
Manuel Almunia
Thomas Sorensen
Alex
Patrice Evra
Patrice Evra
John Pantsil
Leighton Baines
Leighton Baines
Leighton Baines
Leighton Baines
John O'Shea
Kolo Toure
Kolo Toure
Aaron Hughes
Martin Skrtel
Fabio Aurelio
Fabio Aurelio
Phil Neville
Aaron Lennon
Marouane Fellaini
Stephen Ireland
James Morrison
Cristiano Ronaldo
Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard
Matthew Taylor
Matthew Taylor
Michael Essien
Matthew Taylor
Andrei Arshavin
Andrei Arshavin
Andrei Arshavin
Cristiano Ronaldo
Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane
Craig Bellamy
Robbie Keane
Peter Crouch
Fernando Torres
Peter Crouch
Kevin Davies
Mark Schwarzer
Tim Howard
Chris Kirkland
Tim Howard
Ryan Shawcross
Ryan Shawcross
Ashley Cole
Joleon Lescott
Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard
James Beattie
James Beattie
James Beattie
James Beattie

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