Luis Suarez is amongst the goals once again as Liverpool grab a draw at the Bridge. Juan Mata provides an assist for his Fantasy owners, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero fetch the goals as a David Silva-inspired City overcome Spurs, while Kevin Nolan is the match-winner upon his return to St James’ Park…
Suarez in the Goals Again
A close-range equaliser continued the Uruguayan’s outstanding Fantasy season as Liverpool stretched their unbeaten run to six. Suarez’s strike at the Bridge takes his tally to eight goals – joint-top with Robin Van Persie – and is only three less than last season’s tally of 11. With a trio of assists also accrued, he has played a part in 11 of his side’s 14 goals so far and has scored or assisted all but one of the Reds’ goals since the end of Gameweek 5. A look at our season ticker shows the strength of Liverpool’s upcoming schedule – they are rated top for fixtures all the way up to Gameweek 21 now and with Suarez in irresistible form, plenty investment looks set to come his way despite the threat of a one-match ban: Suarez just one yellow card away from a suspension.
Rodgers Trials a 3-5-2
Many had assumed the return of Glen Johnson would see Andre Wisdom drop to the bench but the youngster was handed his seventh consecutive start as Brendan Rodgers began the game with a switch to 3-5-2. With Martin Skrtel missing out due to illness, Wisdom was part of a back-three, allowing Johnson and Jose Enrique to take the wide roles in a five-man midfield before a half-time return to their customary 4-3-3. Frustratingly for Fantasy managers, we are still no closer to knowing quite where the 4.5 FPL priced Wisdom stands in the first-team pecking order – next week’s home clash with Wigan may shed a little more light on the situation.
The initial tactical move, whilst failing, saw Raheem Sterling partner Luis Suarez up front, further encouragement for Sterling’s owners. Rodgers brought us this on the formation change post-match…
“We were a bit tentative first half, my fault. Normally we play with three front players and it allows us to press more high up the field, but I wanted to give more support to Luis Suarez but we couldn’t quite press it. With the two front players we couldn’t quite get our distances right. I changed it and we got more on to the front foot and we started to play more like we have this season and won a good point. I know more than anyone how difficult it can be to play here.”
Rodgers came out of the game with one possibly significant injury, with Steven Gerrard suffering a knee problem late on. The Liverpool boss brought us this post-match…
“I think Steven will be alright. He has just opened up his medial ligament a bit. He has got some ice on his knee and we’ll find out the full extent later on.”
Mata’s Form Continues
John Terry’s header from the Spaniard’s corner maintained Mata’s remarkable run of consistency since returning from a brief rest in Gameweek 4. Having started the season with three blanks, he has now produced attacking returns in each of his last six appearances and edged ever-closer to team mate Eden Hazard at the top of the FPL midfielder standings – he currently stands on 66 points, just two off the Belgian. While Mata has gone from strength to strength as the season unfolds, Hazard has somewhat stuttered by comparison – he has produced 32 points in the last six to Mata’s 59, despite the Spaniard missing last weekend’s trip to Swansea.
Chelsea’s Defensive Concerns
Four clean sheets in the first five Gameweeks earned the Blues huge Fantasy interest at the back but it’s been downhill ever since. Roberto Di Matteo’s side have now conceded in each of their last six and with John Terry stretchered off yesterday, their worries show little sign of abating. Di Matteo’s decision to field Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back and move Branislav Ivanovic into the centre suggested he is likely to continue to rest and rotate his backline options, though with Terry set for a scan first thing this morning, Di Matteo’s tinkering may depend on any potential absence for his skipper.
Silva Provides the Spark
A superb pass for Edin Dzeko’s last winner against Spurs demonstrated just how much the champions have missed their Spanish schemer. Returning from a hamstring injury, Silva pulled the strings and ultimately made the difference between the sides, with the game heading for a draw. The stats saw it all – City have won five of the six games Silva has started, scoring 14 times, compared to two wins and six goals in the five games he failed to feature in the first XI. If Roberto Mancini can keep him fit, Silva’s return will offer Fantasy managers a thoroughbred differential to consider for our midfields – he has now produced crucial assists in three of his last four starts. City assistant boss, David Platt, brought us this on Silva’s impact…
“We didn’t expect David to get through a full 90 minutes but he did and it’s good that he’s got that amount of match time under his belt. It’s great to have him back and he showed his quality with that terrific through ball for Edin to score near the end.”
Attacking Dilemma for Mancini
With 10 starts in the first 11 Gameweeks, the consistency of selection afforded by Carlos Tevez has afforded the Argentine a spot in over 41% of FPL side – more than any other forward in the game. Tevez has chipped in with four goals and six assists and sits fourth in the overall rankings but yesterday’s blank continued a run of games which has seen him score just once since the end of Gameweek 3; in comparison Sergio Aguero has notched three times and Edin Dzeko has scored four goals over the same period, despite far less game time.
Aguero has just two starts in the last five and Dzeko two in the last seven but with City winning only two of their games by more than one goal all season, the champions have been far from convincing in front of goal. With Aguero and Dzeko grabbing the goals yesterday, Roberto Mancini clearly has two forwards in strong form right now – with both set to turn out for their international sides in midweek, though, and Tevez once again omitted from the Argentina squad, the rest and rotation policy may come to Tevez’s rescue once again. His owners must be a little concerned now with a continued lack of real returns; he has scored six or more points just twice in the last eight Gameweeks, despite Mancini’s continued faith.
The City boss gave us this on Dzeko’s situation post-match…
“He is not happy [with the role as a substitute]. A player who is happy on the bench does not exist. We had three important strikers today – last year we won the championship because of goals from our strikers, today we missed some goals from them but hopefully they can score again soon.”
As for Dzeko, he left Mancini with this ominous response…
“The goals are my message, that’s the only thing.”
While the return of Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Sam Allardyce to St James’ Park provided an intriguing sub-plot to yesterday’s Newcastle-West Ham match, the visitors’ win and clean sheet were all that mattered to Fantasy managers. Prior to last weekend’s goalless draw with City, the Hammers had conceded in all of their previous five and with a brutal upcoming schedule on their hands, faith in their Fantasy assets was understandably subdued.
Despite being the only side to deny City a goal this term, Allardyce’s side looked an unlikely source of defensive returns yesterday after James Collins was only declared fit enough for the bench – Newcastle had failed to score at home only once, against United, but thanks to the heroics of Jussi Jaaskelainen, the Magpies were denied. The former Bolton stopper returned to the top of the FPL keeper standings and currently sits on 51 points, while Winston Reid has moved up to 45 points. Guy Demel’s owners were left frustrated with a single point after he was handed a second-half sub role but with George McCartney picking up a knock, the Ivorian could be back in the first XI next week for the home clash against Stoke. Matt Jarvis and Yossi Benayoun also picked up knocks in yesterday’s game.
No Stopping Nolan
Having produced just one assist on his travels so far, the 6.7 priced midfielder picked the perfect game to score his first away goal of the season by bagging the match-winner against his former club. Nolan was also unlucky to have a goal ruled out last weekend at home to City and his role in “the hole” behind Andy Carroll continues to prove crucial to the Hammers’ offensive output – he has now produced five goals and a pair of assists, which means he has had a hand in 50% of his side’s 14 strikes, and is up to 63 points in FPL , more than the likes of Santi Cazorla and Gareth Bale. Sam Allardyce had this to say following his skipper’s latest strike…
“His instincts in the box are there for all to see. It’s five goals he has got in 11 games now in the Premier League – it should be six because he had one chalked off this week (against Manchester City) that he shouldn’t have done – and for a midfield player to be totalling up that sort of goal tally is fantastic from our point of view.”
Although the upcoming schedule continues to look unkind for Allardyce’s side, their current displays are serving a clear reminder that they have the form to overcome even the most awkward of fixtures right now.
Ben Arfa’s Worrying Form
The upcoming schedule continues to favour Newcastle but the Frenchman’s owners are gradually parting company with the mercurial winger. A blank in yesterday’s home defeat maintained a woeful run of Fantasy returns – Ben Arfa has now produced just two assists in the last eight Gameweeks and despite games against Swansea, Southampton and Wigan in the next four, his current form makes it difficult to maintain faith in his ability to produce the Fantasy returns, with this season’s 4-4-2 clearly limiting his ability to pick up the points.