Christmas may be a time to relax for most folk but for Fantasy managers it’s the most frantic period of the season. Four sets of fixtures within the space of a fortnight, with rail strikes now adding to our rest and rotation Boxing Day concerns – the dust has barely settled on Gameweek 18 as we return with another set of Scout Picks for your consideration:
Asmir Begovic gets the nod between the sticks ahead of Stoke’s home game against Liverpool. While the Reds have picked up in performance of late, the Potters stopper has conceded just four goals in his last 10 matches; Tony Pulis’ side have already kept out their opponents at Anfield and will be confident of picking up a tenth clean sheet of the campaign.
Leighton Baines makes a return to the Scout Picks as Everton prepare to host Wigan. Roberto Martinez’s side have scored just five times on the road this season and with three goals in their last seven away fixtures, Baines’ chances of a first clean sheet since Gameweek 5 look enticing. Factor in his set-piece and spot-kick duties and the left-back’s owners will be hoping for a decent haul against a Latics side that has picked up just a single point in the previous five.
We’re opting for the cut-price Ryan Nelsen as QPR look to bounce back from their first defeat under Harry Redknapp on Wednesday afternoon. The R’s welcome West Brom to Loftus Road and will be optimistic of keeping out a Baggies side that have found the net just three times in their last five matches.
Having started nine of the last 10 Gameweeks, Matija Nastasic continues to offer a secure route into City’s backline. With just one goal conceded in their last four on the road, the champions look a good bet to register another clean sheet on their travels as they head to Sunderland – the Black Cats have scored more than a single goal just once in their last six and head into Wednesday’s match with doubts hanging over Seb Larsson and Adam Johnson.
An upturn in attacking displays brings Steven Pienaar back into our thoughts ahead of Everton’s home showdown with Wigan. The South African has played a part in four of Everton’s last five goals and has produced double figure returns in two of the last three Gameweeks – the Latics injury-hit backline has conceded twice in seven of their last eight and looks incapable of a clean sheet right now.
Gareth Bale heads to beleaguered Villa on Wednesday as Spurs look to atone for a goalless home draw with Stoke last weekend. With three lots of double figures in seven away matches, the Welshman’s could well prosper against a side that may will be licking their wounds after Chelsea hit them for eight yesterday.
Chelsea’s trip to Norwich earns Juan Mata a call-up ahead of tomorrow’s deadline. The Canaries have conceded in each of their last six and have already been beaten 4-1 by the Blues –a game which saw the Spaniard return eight FPL points. Mata’s away record is particularly enticing – he has started five games on the road this term and has returned 49 points over those games, failing to score or assist just once, back in Gameweek 1.
A trip to basement-dwellers Reading offers Michu the chance to add to his 13 goal haul. Having scored six in his last five matches, the Spaniard’s form shows little sign of letting up and he’ll fancy his chances against a Royals backline that have shipped nine goals in their last two at the Madejski.
Villa’s chances of bouncing back from their mauling at the Bridge are likely to rely on the broad shoulders of Christian Benteke. Having had a hand in eight of the midlanders’ 13 goals since making his debut in Gameweek 4, the Belgian’s contribution will be crucial as Spurs make their way to Villa Park.
Given his consistency, it’s almost an irrelevance what fixture is in front of Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman will be looking to maintain a record of eight FPL points per home start as Newcastle make their way to Old Trafford – despite his manager’s recent hint at squad rotation over the festive period, Van Persie is surely too crucial to be left out as United look to bounce back from Sunday’s draw at Swansea.
Today’s news of a possible return for Bryan Ruiz has Dimitar Berbatov firmly back on the radar. Without a goal or assist in his last seven, the Bulgarian’s prospects of picking up the points is also boosted by a home clash against travel-sick Southampton – Nigel Adkins’ side have conceded 20 times and picked up three points away from St Mary’s so far.
John Arne Riise warms the subs bench as Fulham welcome Southampton to the Cottage. There’s no denying Martin Jol’s side have been poor at the back in recent matches but their visitors have netted just twice in the last four – with a share of corners also in his locker, the left-back offers a chance of points at both ends of the pitch.
A brace in his last home game is enough to earn Adel Taarabt a spot in the squad. West Brom arrive at Loftus Road without a single away clean sheet and have conceded at least twice in each of their last three road trips – encouraging signs for Harry Redknapp as he looks to the Moroccan to engineer a second successive home.
Edin Dzeko keeps his place on the bench as City travel to Sunderland. Once again, Roberto Mancini’s recent comments regarding rotation play a major part – both Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez started against Reading on Saturday and with Mario Balotelli uncertain to feature after last week’s illness, the Bosnian could well grab a spot in the first XI at the Stadium of Light.