As readers of this weekly column will know, it’s always difficult to avoid letting both Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson barging their way into my Saturday morning thinking, gatecrashing the party, Ferguson clutching a bottle of supermarket red.
This week is no different, while I was determined to offer the old “scatter gun” template of random team news, the Manchester clubs dominate matters, simply because they are regularly serving up problems and causing both myself and the press to second guess.
Mancini is again the protagonist this week, teeing us up for the first teamsheets of the day with a warning that he’s about to rotate his troops for the visit of Sunderland. He rested players in the midweek Champions League tie with Dortmund, notably Carlos Tevez and he’s insisted that he’ll now be forced to freshen things for the visit of the Black Cats…
“We played on Wednesday night and on Saturday we start at lunchtime – it doesn’t give the players much time to recover which is why I had to rest some players against Dortmund…We need at least five or six of the team to be fresh against Sunderland – every other country has at least three days before their next game – some have four – so this is a problem for us and for the teams in this country.”
Such a revelation has caused havoc with the predicted lineups. Scanning the papers this morning, there seems to be a glorious mix of configurations thrown at the problem.
It comes as some relief that Tevez looks to be assured a start – he’s present and correct in all our six press lineups this morning but is partnered by a cocktail of Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and is even predicted to be foraging alone up front.
The Guardian, The Times and The Independent all stick with the trusted Aguero/Tevez partnership – and past evidence suggests that they could be right; Mancini has often stuck by Aguero after Champions League games.
That doesn’t stop the Mail and the Sun suggesting that Balotelli will get the start with Tevez, while in the Telegraph, we find the Argentine in a 4-2-3-1 system with David Silva presumably charged with supporting the lone striker.
Interestingly we’re seeing three of the papers opting for a start for Scott Sinclair, perhaps hinting that Mancini will look to his workrate to help counter the threat of Adam Johnson for the visitors. We also see some variation in the back four with the Telegraph opting to keep Matija Nastasić in Mancini’s defence with Joleon Lescott missing out; all of our other papers predict a recall for the former Everton man.
Not to be outdone, there are some interesting quotes from Ferguson this morning regarding the rotation of his two keepers. The United boss states that he is looking to continue alternating David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard for the foreseeable future but does at least indicate that, eventually, he’ll settle on one for a sustained period…
“I think everybody wants to play and goalkeepers are no different. But the way I look at it, at the moment, is giving the two of them experience will help them in the long term. Obviously, at some stage, one of them will take over if he shows real consistency, top-level performance and maturity. At the moment, neither has got that big-game experience but they will get that in time. I’m not setting any targets [in terms of a time-frame for that to happen].”
The fact is Alex, while your back four continues to look as stressed and close to collapse as Jamie Redknapp’s trousers, I’m not sure us Fantasy managers are all that fussed what you do with the pair of them. Eventually though, when the nitty meets the gritty and the quest for clean sheets and 1-0 wins comes to the fore, then we’ll be interested.
Ferguson’s lineup for Sunday has fewer question marks dangling over it than his Manchester counterpart. The press has decided en masse that both Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney will start in tandem at Newcastle and it’s hard to argue.
Four of our papers – The Sun, The Guardian, The Independent and The Times, all opt for that strike pairing flanked by Shinji Kagawa and hopelessly random Nani. Only the Telegraph suggest that Kagawa will be disappointed, while the Mail bravely punt that Antonio Valencia is fit to take his place on the right flank. An oversight, surely?
That stab in the dark is close but fails to claim the award for “do they know something we don’t?” The Mail are the front runners, however, suggesting that Eden Hazard will be omitted from Chelsea’s lineup for the home clash with Norwich – again, surely an oversight given that the Belgian was rested to the bench for the midweek European tie. They also feel that Nigel Adkins will have been at the sauce, forget he has Gaston Ramirez in his squad and leave the £12 million man out of his starting XI for the visit of Fulham. Oh dear.
Perhaps the most surprising inclusion this week, however, can be found in the Independent – so often the most reliable of our Saturday morning sources. Somehow they’ve opted to include “Barnett” at left-back for West Brom against QPR. I can only presume they refer to Leon Barnett who left the club last year and who is likely to be lining up for Norwich at Stamford Bridge. Clearly a Time Lord was working on that particular lineup for them. There’s no sign of Cyrille Regis up front, though – much to the relief of Mark Hughes.
Away from the mirth, it’s perhaps worth informing you that Carlos Cuellar is predicted to be on one team sheet this morning – and that’s in The Mail – for what it’s worth. Elsewhere, Andy Carroll is given the nod in every West Ham lineup aside from the Guardian who stick with Carlton Cole, while the Sun have opted to hand César Azpilicueta his Chelsea Premier League debut against Norwich at the expense of Scout Pick Branislav Ivanovic. Not something that we, or any other member of the press expect will happen, but certainly an interesting possibility. That would come as a blow to Ivanovic’s 27% ownership with a potential clean sheet beckoning.
It would certainly make a change for Roberto Di Matteo to draw our wrath when it’s been Mancini and Ferguson jostling for that role each week. I’m sure I speak for us all when I say I’m hoping for a trouble free weekend when it comes to the teamsheets. With another dull international break beckoning like a week spent at the parents who are still on dial-up (another priceless insight into my existence), we all need to go into such a void on a positive note.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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|No Change||Hart||MCI||B, Vs|
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“We have dynamic players with good movement, so if he can link with them fine. He can play a bit higher because his timing getting into the box is very good.”Rafa Benitez talks up the role that Frank Lampard can play in his Chelsea revolution