Robert Huth is a doubt for Stoke’s season opener with Reading after being hospitalised with a mystery virus prior to last night’s 1-1 draw at Torquay. Phil Jones is sent home from United’s training camp with illness, Santi Cazorla moves a step closer to becoming an Arsenal player after passing a medical, while Chelsea’s bid for a new right-back leads to a bid for Marseille’s Cesar Azpilicueta:
Torquay 1 Stoke 1
Tony Pulis handed triallist Sebastian Boenisch a start at left-back for last night’s trip to Torquay. Marc Wilson moved over to the other side of defence, while Ryan Shotton started on the right flank for the Potters and Thomas Sorensen got the nod ahead of Asmir Begovic between the sticks – again, this confirms the doubt surrounding the Stoke goalkeeper situation. Shotton’s throw-ins and goal threat caused problems for the hosts in the first 45 and he also played a part in his side’s goal after providing the pass which resulted in a Matthew Etherington effort being deflected into his own net by Torquay’s Aaron Downes. With fitness his main priority, Pulis made 10 changes in the second-half, though the main point of note last night was the omission of Robert Huth. The Stoke boss revealed post-match that the German has been hospitalised with a virus and is a real worry ahead of their opener at Reading in11 days’ time:
It’s a major concern so close to the start of the new season because Huthy is such an important figure for us. It takes a lot to knock Huthy back, but he was clearly not well, so we have sent him to hospital and will hopefully have the results of the tests on him tomorrow. We’re just hoping he will be okay and it’s not too serious.
Stoke Starting XI: Sorensen (Nash 67); Wilson, Shawcross (c) (Wilkinson 67), Upson (Higginbotham 67), Boenisch (Tonge 67); Shotton (Sidibe 67), Palacios (Arismendi 67), Whelan (Whitehead 55), Etherington (Ness 55); Walters (Jerome 46), Crouch (Jones 46).
In Other News…
Just as Man United’s defensive problems looked like lessening with the recent return of Nemanja Vidic, the club have now sent home Phil Jones from their pre-season tour of Scandinavia due to illness ahead of their games against Barcelona and Hannover. Only last week Sir Alex Ferguson indicated that, with Rafael still on Olympic duty with Brazil, Jones was likely to start the upcoming campaign at right-back – the former Blackburn man’s omission against Valarenga on Sunday saw Antonio Valencia shifted into the back-four, allowing Nani a role on the right and Ashley Young to start on the left. From a Fantasy perspective, Jones’ possible absence will clearly have a significant knock-on effect due to his side’s current lack of options, with Valencia’s owners particularly concerned over a possible defensive role going into their season opener at Everton on Monday August 20.
The BBC report that Santi Cazorla has moved a step closer to joining Arsenal. The Spaniard is said to have passed a medical and has joined up with the Gunners’ training camp in Germany ahead of a transfer from Spanish outfit Malaga. With the future of Robin Van Persie still undecided, the Fantasy potential of new boys Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud still hangs in the balance right now but Cazorla’s arrival – which could even be confirmed by the club as early as today – is surely set to afford Fantasy managers a tempting alternative amongst Arsene Wenger’s midfield for the season ahead. Van Persie’s possible departure would certainly boost Cazorla’s appeal further – his corners and, in particular, direct free-kicks are a strong factor when assessing the Gunners attacking assets. We’ll have more on him in a Scout Report soon after confirmation of the deal.
Marseille president Vincent Labrune has admitted Chelsea have tabled a ”very serious” bid for Cesar Azpilicueta as the Blues look to bolster their troublesome right-back area. With Jose Bosingwa leaving the club this summer, Roberto Di Matteo is clearly not convinced with Branislav Ivanovic or Paulo Ferreira in the role – while Ivanovic seemed in the driving seat and has been earmarked by many Fantasy managers ahead of the double Gameweek 1, Azpilicueta’s potential arrival may cause them to think again. Ferreira may well be no more than a bit-part player but Di Matteo’s move has made it clear than there are no longer guarantees with Ivanovic and, while the Serbian’s versatility at full-back and in the centre may appeal more than David Luiz or Gary Cahill in terms of overall game time, it could well be that Ashley Cole looks the safest of the Blues’ 6.5 priced players in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) now, with John Terry the most secure of all at 7.0.
The reports linking Dan Agger to a potential move to Man City continue to flow. Roberto Mancini is said to be admirer of the combative Dane but, according to the latest, Liverpool are holding out for a fee in the region of £20 million in order to fund a replacement and further deals for Brendan Rodgers. For Fantasy managers, this potential move would pose a major problem. Should Agger be added to Mancini’s squad, there would have to be question marks over Joleon Lescott’s starting role – unless of course, we see Mancini adopt the 3-5-2 system long term: that seems unlikely. In truth, should Agger arrive in Manchester, we’d be facing the prospect of just Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany offering assured starts in the City defensive unit – both players who demand the highest fees in their respective positions. Any move could, however, unlock a new options in that Swansea’s Ashley Williams and Tottenham’s Steven Caulker are likely to be high on Rodgers’ list as replacements at Anfield.
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For Gameweek 38
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