We’re bracing ourselves for a flurry of fixtures over the next few days as the festive schedule serves up as many as four Gameweeks. With home ties on their respective agendas, City, Liverpool and Spurs provide our Scout Picks XI with two players apiece this weekend – here’s who we have for your consideration:
Jussi Jaaskelainen gets the nod between the sticks as West Ham prepare to welcome Everton to Upton Park. With the visitors devoid of the suspended Marouane Fellaini, Sam Allardyce’s side will be a little more confident of registering their second successive clean sheet after defying West Brom last time round. Jaaskelainen has already kept out his opponents on six occasions this term and is likely to have the comfort of save points to fall back on if he does concede.
Glen Johnson retains his spot in the Scout Picks on the back of his strong attacking displays. The Liverpool right-back has provided attacking returns in each of his last three and with visitors Fulham scoring once in their previous three on the road, the potential for points at both ends of the pitch looks prosperous as the Reds look to bounce back from last week’s home defeat against Villa.
A home clash with Reading earns City’s Matija Nastasic a call-up. Roberto Mancini’s side look strong candidates for a clean sheet – the Royals have failed to score in each of their last three road trips and, having started eight of the hosts’ last nine, Nastasic has offered a secure mid-price option at the back for the champions of late, as Joleon Lescott continues to look a peripheral figure.
Jan Vertonghen welcomes Stoke to the Lane on the back of his highest points return of the season. The Belgian supplemented his second clean sheet in the last three with a goal and maximum bonus last time round and with the Potters scoring twice in their previous four on the road, he could be set to continue his upturn in form.
With Roberto Mancini confirming his intentions to rotate over the festive period earlier today, our faith in City’s strike force has dampened further. Instead, we turn to David Silva as the champions prepare to wreak havoc on basement-dwellers Reading tomorrow. There’s no doubt the frontmen could rack up the points against a side that have conceded 13 times in their last four but Silva’s security of starts is a safer option – his recent 16 point home return against Villa highlights his offensive potential.
Theo Walcott’s move to the lone forward role against Reading last Monday earns him a Scout Picks place as Arsenal travel to Wigan. The Latics continue to struggle with injuries at the back and have shipped at least two goals in each of their last seven – with no Boxing Day fixture for Arsene Wenger’s side, rest and rotation is surely not a factor here.
Jason Puncheon is an enticing cut-price prospect as Southampton prepare for the visit of Sunderland. With Adam Lallana out injured, Puncheon’s contribution will be more vital than ever – he has two lots of double figure returns in his last five and is up against a side with one away clean sheet since the opening day of the season.
Fit and available after a brief hamstring absence, we welcome Gareth Bale back to the fold. There’s no doubt a home clash with Stoke is far from straightforward but prior to limping off against Fulham in Gameweek 15, Bale had notched in three back-to-back matches and seems to have picked up in goal threat this term under Andre Villas-Boas – he is just four goals short of equalling his tally for the entirety of last season.
With goals in each of his last four appearances, Robin Van Persie is an obvious choice. United travel to Swansea having scored at least three times in all but one of their last six on the road and with Michael Laudrup’s side conceding four to Norwich in their last home match, Van Persie looks to have the perfect chance to maintain his scoring form.
Demba Ba gets the nod as Newcastle prepare for the visit of QPR. While the visitors remain unbeaten under Harry Redknapp, they have, nevertheless, conceded in all but one of his four games in charge –Ba has scored in four of his last five at St James’ Park, in indication of his deadly form in front of the home faithful.
Our final forward is Luis Suarez. Granted, the Liverpool forward hasn’t been in the best of form in recent matches but is set to face a Fulham side that have shipped 18 goals in their travels already – the second worst away defence in the top-flight. With 10 goals and three assists to his name so far, Suarez’s owners will be anticipating returns tomorrow evening.
Nathaniel Clyne warms the bench ahead of Southampton’s home showdown with Sunderland. The raiding right-back has a couple of assists and two clean sheets in his last five and with doubts remaining over the availability of Steven Fletcher, Clyne’s owners will be confident of another strong showing this weekend.
A move to the role in “the hole” last week saw Adel Taarabt register his most impressive Fantasy returns of the season. Unbeaten in four under Harry Redknapp, QPR will be reliant on their Moroccan magician if they are to extend that record as they travel to Newcastle – priced at 5.6 in FPL, he’s a strong cut-price option heading into the weekend and is up against a backline with two clean sheets to their name all season.
Edin Dzeko gets the nod as City prepare to welcome Reading to the Etihad. As mentioned above, rest and rotation will be on the cards for Roberto Mancini’s side but with Mario Balotelli sidelined through illness, the Bosnian’s chances of game time are that little bit more enticing against the porous Royals backline – costing just 7.3 in FPL, his potential outweighs most other mid-price forwards this weekend. Even if he is handed a sub role, Dzeko has proven he needs little time to make an impact.