Juan Mata helps guide Chelsea into the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup, with Fernando Torres amongst the goals yet again. Gareth Bale returns to training ahead of Tottenham’s game with Stoke, Bobby Zamora’s recovery from a hip operation is ahead of schedule, Fulham’s Boxing Day clash with Southampton will go ahead, Togo are determined to persuade Emmanuel Adebayor to turn out in next month’s African Cup of Nations, while Samir Nasri’s involvement over the festive spell is in doubt…
Leeds 1 Chelsea 5
Eden Hazard was rested to the bench as Rafa Benitez rotated his midfield options for the trip to Elland Road. Marko Marin was afforded a rare start but failed to fire and made way for the Belgian on the hour mark, while Oscar was handed a deeper role, with Marin joining Juan Mata and Victor Moses in lining up behind Fernando Torres. Chelsea went in a goal behind at the break but swept their hosts aside in the second-half, with Mata, Moses and Hazard all producing a goal and assist apiece ahead of Sunday’s home clash with Villa. Fernando Torres also notched again – he has now scored six times in the last five under Benitez. As the Chelsea boss admitted after the game, though, his team have now played eight times in 24 days; Fantasy managers will be apprehensive over his penchant for rotation ahead of the upcoming packed festive schedule.
“We changed some players, we had players playing a lot of games, and I don’t know how many we changed, but we had some senior players and some young players too, as some of our senior players are quite young. We had to change players, Marko Marin hasn’t played too many games and couldn’t do 90 minutes, then we had to manage until we scored. With young players and senior players, I felt it was better to give the senior players more opportunity. The young players will have plenty of opportunities to play.”
Chelsea Starting XI: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Bertrand (Cole 74); Lampard, Oscar; Mata (Ferreira 85), Marin (Hazard 60), Moses; Torres
Gareth Bale’s chances of featuring for Spurs at home to Stoke this weekend have taken a turn for the better after Andre Villas-Boas revealed the winger returned to full training along with Michael Dawson yesterday:
“It’s good news. First, for the player because he wants to be back in the group and he’s made a tremendous recovery. He’s worked extremely hard. Michael was injured in the same game as Gareth and they’ve both returned to training. It’s great to have them back.”
As Fantasy managers scour the market for replacements for Marouane Fellaini and juggle their squads in light of Arsenal’s Boxing Day postponement with West Ham, Bale’s expected comeback will surely sway plenty to get straight back on board. Having risen to 9.9 as recently as Gameweek 15, he’s now down to 9.5 in FPL – his initial price at the start of the season. Before sustaining a hamstring injury in Gameweek 15 at the Cottage, Bale had been in his best form of the season, with goals in each of his three games heading into the showdown with Martin Jol’s men and has already notched six times – just four less than his tally for last season. The downside, of course, is his yellow card count. Bale currently sits on four cautions, meaning a booking in any of his next three would automatically trigger a one-match ban before the limit extends to 10 cautions on New Year’s Day.
Elsewhere at the Lane, Togo boss Didier Six has spoken of his determination to persuade Emmanuel Adebayor to appear in next month’s African Cup of Nations.
“I am doing everything I can to get him to come back to us. He’s a world-class player and the Togo national team captain. He is very important to the group. I will put all my strength to get him to change his mind but he has the last word. This is about more than just him sending a warning to ensure Togolese football moves forward.”
Adebayor put his international career on hold recently after a row over bonuses and was expected to be available domestically – he has only just nailed down a starting role alongside Jermain Defoe after a difficult start to his second spell at the club but with question marks still remaining over his intentions, Defoe’s potential as a Fantasy option goes from strength to strength. The 8.5 priced forward is just a single point behind Bale in the FPL rankings and, unless Villas-Boas decides to splash the cash during the winter window, looks nailed-on for the foreseeable future.
While Arsenal’s decision to postpone their Boxing Day home clash with West Ham threw many a Fantasy plan into the air yesterday, Fulham confirmed that their home game against Southampton, scheduled for the same day, will go ahead as planned. The news is reassuring for Dimitar Berbatov’s Fantasy owners – despite a recent dry spell, the Bulgarian’s upcoming schedule has persuaded many to hold him in their squads, while the 26,000+ who have transferred in Jason Puncheon can breathe a sigh of relief, with the cut-price Saints winger likely to continue to earn new investment in light of a series of displays which have seen him average just short of seven points per game over his last five outings.
Bobby Zamora has handed QPR an injury boost after announcing his comeback from a hip injury was ahead of schedule.
“I’d like to think I’ll be back available in the next four or five weeks. I had an operation three weeks ago and am now working on getting fit. My fingers are crossed for a smooth recover”
While Zamora may be optimistic of a return, it remains to see quite where he stands in the Loftus Road pecking order. He had been Mark Hughes’ favoured frontman and notched three times in eight consecutive starts between Gameweek 2-9 before sustaining the injury – a couple of brief sub appearances followed but the problem failed to shift. With Hughes now gone, Harry Redknapp has trialled both Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie as the lone frontman but with the January transfer window beckoning, the manager’s penchant for a deal or two is likely to see him replenish his up front options in his bid to avoid the drop.
An “exclusive report” in the Daily Mail this morning cast doubt over Samir Nasri’s involvement for City over the Christmas programme. The report states that Nasri’s groin problem, sustained in the win at Newcastle last weekend, will rule him out for at least two weeks – including this weekend’s potential points bonanza against Reading. We can only wait on the latest cryptic update from Roberto Mancini tomorrow but, right now, Nasri is clearly a doubt.
Wigan have officially announced their first signing of the January transfer window with Honduras midfielder Roger Espinoza joining from Major League Soccer outfit, Sporting Kansas City. A standout performer in the Summer Olympics, Roberto Martinez was delighted to get his man, underlining Espinoza’s versatility as key. The Honduran can play in a central midfield role or out on the left and is known for his tireless industry…
“He [Espinoza] is someone who physically is really capable and has a gifted left foot…Having someone with such a good left foot gives a balance to the squad because most players are primarily right-footed. He’s developed his tactical awareness and has learned how to play in different systems. Roger can play in any position in the midfield and can even play out in a wide left position, so we are delighted to capture a player with such versatility and stature.”