I had hoped that the first pre-amble of the season would find me in fine fettle. Sadly, the pre-season appears to have taken so much out of me, I’m practically limping over the line to kick-off. The relief and joy when a ball is finally kicked at 3pm, so we can begin another season proper, will be pretty momentous. Right now, I’m just counting the hours and fighting off the sleep.
Apologies then, if this first pre-amble falls short. If perhaps I’m unable to muster a degree of humour and precision that will, hopefully, find its way into this set of words as the season progresses.
There’s a lot of talk surrounding Juan Mata and the possibility that he’ll be rested in the coming weeks. For Fantasy managers, the concern is of course, that he’ll sit out one of their three league matches in six days, including perhaps the second match in Gaameweek 1 against Reading. We put him in the Scout Picks and he’s in my team, not surprisingly then, I’m backing him to appear in both games. My logic is based on Di Matteo’s words in yesterday’s press conference.
My take on Roberto Di Matteo’s stance yesterday was that he was clearly sending further messages to the Spanish FA – a plea to allow Mata a leave of absence from their forthcoming friendly with Saudi Arabia on September 7.
This article confirms that talks are ongoing and, looking at Chelsea’s leagues fixtures, should Mata earn a reprieve from that friendly, he could be granted a three-week break from football after the home game with Newcastle next weekend. Di Matteo would need to pull him out of the Super Cup tie with Athletico but, presumably, that would be a step worth taking.
The Chelsea boss had this to say yesterday, offering further assurance that Mata’s rest period will have minimal impact on his league apperances…
“He needs a break. It’s important – as much as training is important – to have a rest, recharge the batteries and come back fresh. We’ll plan it intelligently so he won’t be missing too much of our season. He’s OK, but agrees he needs a break.
Robin Van Persie’s chances of starting Monday night’s clash with Everton seem to well backed, with the press this morning in no doubt we’ll see him in the starting lineup. Only the Independent appears to back our view that Van Persie could well be preserved in this first encounter. Having played just 21 minutes in pre-season and, having just been introduced to the United camp, in my view there’s every possibility that Sir Alex Ferguson could line up without him and deploy a five-man midfield, with Shinji Kagawa supporting Wayne Rooney. The weight of opinion go with 4-4-2 but I wonder if United will be more cautious and keep their star turn in reserve for an impact should Everton play up.
This morning’s lineups are, as always on opening day, very interesting. The aforementioned Independent tends to be one of the strongest when it comes to predictions (and I’m not just saying that because they agree on Van Persie). Certainly they’ve made some brave decisions, including the West Ham lineup that shows James Tomkins in midfield. This could be a good call – we had our lineup set up the same until we go an inkling that Kevin Nolan could return from a toe injury. Should he fail to make it, we’d also expect to see Tomkins in the holding role, with Winston Reid paired with James Collins at the back.
Interestingly, the Independent also go with Johan Djourou rather than Per Mertesacker in the Arsenal defence against Sunderland, the only source to do so. The Gunners’ lineup is varied throughout this morning’s press, with Olivier Giroud largely backed for his debut, although the prospects of a start for Gervinho with Lukas Podolski leading the line are intriguing: The Independent and The Times go with this setup.
There are some oddities, not least Oscar’s predicted debut in The Sun’s lineup for Chelsea’s trip to Wigan. A clear winner in the “Do they know something we don’t?” award this morning. The Sun also have Abou Diaby in the Arsenal lineup, with no Alex Song – presumably due to the ongoing speculation surrounding his future. No other sources go with this – a brave move and one that could well materialise come 3pm. Although, it has to be said, the fact they also have Leon Barnett playing on the left-wing for Norwich reduces the credibility of their Song prediction somewhat. Perhaps they were also feeling the pre-season pinch.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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|No Change||Hart||MCI||B, Vs|
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|No Change||Lloris||TOT||C, Vs|
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|No Change||Mignolet||SUN||B, Vs|
|No Change||De Gea||MUN||A|
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|No Change||Mata||CHE||C, Vs, Rest|
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“I am happy with the way I’ve started, but on the other hand, I should have scored four or five more, so that’s something for me to work on.”Robin Van Persie talks about his early form at United ahead of his first Manchester derby