John Terry could be set for a return to action in time for Chelsea’s double Gameweek. Rafa Benitez discusses his striker options ahead of the Blues’ Capital One Cup clash with Swansea, Newcastle’s injury worries are beginning to ease. Steven Gerrard is determined to produce more attacking displays this term. Ryan Nelsen agrees to leave QPR to manage Canadian outfit FC Toronto, while Zoltan Gera is ruled out for the season with a knee injury…
Fantasy managers were handed further reason to fear the possibility of rest and rotation for Chelsea’s upcoming double Gameweek yesterday after Rafa Benitezrevealed John Terry could be set to return for the weekend trip to Stoke. Talking to the press yesterday, Benitez admitted the Blues skipper has returned to training and is likely to feature for the club’s U21 side on Thursday – when asked if Terry would be in the frame for the Britannia clash, the Spaniard went on to say:
“It depends on his reaction. Obviously Thursday will be a different kind of game but we will see how he feels. If he can feel okay and train the day after, at least we can start considering him as an option.”
Absent since limping off with a knee injury in Gameweek 11, Terry has yet to feature under Benitez thus far, with his injury allowing Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic a chance to strike up a partnership in the heart of the back-four. With David Luiz shifted to central midfield, Cesar Azpilicueta has nailed down the right-back and has started all but one of Chelsea’s league games under the new regime. Azpilicueta, Luiz and Ivanovic have picked up significant numbers of new owners ahead of the double but Terry’s possible return may now place question marks over their potential number of minutes. It may well be that Ashley Cole is the most secure option in the Blues’ backline if Benitez chooses to utilise his squad, in light of a packed January schedule which also includes two Capital One Cup semi-finals – tonight’s first leg of their double-header against Swansea is the first of seven games in 24 days.
Benitez also spoke of the striker situation at the club, following the arrival of Demba Ba from Newcastle. The Senegal striker made an instant impact last weekend by scoring twice on his debut in the 5-1 FA Cup thrashing of Southampton and Benitez – much to the chagrin of Fantasy managers – was typically vague when assessing the game time of Ba and Fernando Torres:
“It’s good for me because before I didn’t have to think about that. It will be difficult, but I’m pleased to be in this position. As a manager, you have to take responsibility and choose a player. Before it was about Fernando and keeping him fit. It’s always important for a top side to have options, especially when you play a game every three days. It depends on them, how they feel and how they perform. There is no rule that you have to play one or the other, you have to manage it depending on the team. I was talking with Fernando and Demba. We have a lot of conversations about what I want to do and what I expect from them. We have two good options, they will compete and everything is positive in terms of the team.”
Steven Gerrard has revealed he is hoping to up his attacking displays as the campaign unfolds. Speaking to Liverpool’s official magazine, the Reds skipper admitted he has reined in his tendency to forage forward due to injuries to others so far:
“I don’t think the manager’s asked me to do anything different in terms of the way he wants to me to perform but because of certain injuries, situations that have happened to the team and formations that we’ve played, I’ve naturally played a little bit deeper…maybe I’ve sacrificed myself in certain games and tried to protect by playing deeper and be a controller with Joe [Allen] but now that Lucas is back, he gives me the licence to get forward a lot more so hopefully I can add some goals to my performances. I think my performances are getting closer to where I want them to be so if I can add goals to those performances then maybe people will start saying the old Steven Gerrard is back.”
While Gerrard has already racked up 10 assists over the first 21 Gameweeks, he has found the net on just five occasions, compared to Luis Suarez’s 15 goals and five assists. Nevertheless, he trails the Uruguayan by just 13 points in FPL and sits third in the midfield standings – a potential pairing of Joe Allen and Lucas in front of the back-four would afford Gerrard the chance to tuck in behind new boy Daniel Sturridge, with Suarez and Raheem Sterling flanking the former Chelsea man in Brendan Rodgers’ 4-3-3. Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures, which hands them trips to United, Arsenal and City in the next four, is likely to temper investment but the Reds’ schedule takes a turn for the better from Gameweek 26, suggesting Gerrard could be propelled onto Fantasy radars if he is handed the opportunity of a more attacking role in the final few months of the season.
Alan Pardew has revealed the injury situation is beginning to ease for Newcastle ahead of their weekend trip to Norwich. The Magpies is optimistic that Papiss Cisse and Fabricio Coloccini will return to training on Thursday after both missed the FA Cup defeat at Brighton with knocks, while Jonas Gutierrez could be set to come back from the knee problem that has kept him sidelined since Gameweek 18. Pardew is uncertain of James Perch’s availability due to a knee complaint, however, while he also admitted that the weekend may come too soon for Yohan Cabaye and Steven Taylor, as both close in on comeback:
“I think it might be, but we will push them as hard as we can. We cannot bring them back, play them for one game and then they are out for five. It is better if they come back and stay fit.”
Cisse’s availability will be crucial for the Magpies as they look to regroup, following the departure of Demba Ba to Chelsea. With Shola Ameobi suspended for the Carrow Road trip after receiving his marching orders at the weekend, Pardew’s forward options are further diminished. The Newcastle boss is keen to utilise the Senegal striker in a central role once again – with Norwich conceding in each of their last nine, Cisse could be set for an prosperous weekend as he looks to regain the form that harvested 13 goals in 14 games upon his January move to Tyneside last season.
Ryan Nelsen’s Fantasy owners are on red alert after the QPR centre-half agreed to take over as manager of MLS side FC Toronto. Despite being regarded as a key member of the R’s first XI by new boss Harry Redknapp, the Kiwi has decided to accept the offer to move on, although at the moment he is currently under contract at Loftus Road until the end of the season. The club confirmed yesterday that Nelsen is available for this weekend’s home clash with Spurs but has asked to speak Harry Redknapp in order to ascertain when he will be allowed to leave, with his departure from these shores now looking imminent. Clint Hill now looks the safest cut-price route into Redknapp’s backline – priced at 4.3 in FPL, he has played very minute since the departure of Mark Hughes and has now taken over the club captaincy from Ji-Sung Park.
West Brom were dealt a bitter blow yesterday after Zoltan Gera was ruled out for the rest of the season with the knee injury sustained in the weekend FA Cup clash against QPR. The Hungarian is the Baggies’ fourth top scoring FPL player this term and second only to James Morrison for West Brom midfielders, having produced four goals and an assist over 16 appearances. Gera seemed to have nailed down a starting berth for Steve Clarke’s side, with eight starts in the last 10 matches, and at 5.1 offered a decent value route into the midlanders’ midfield – his absence may now afford Chris Brunt of a more advanced role, should Claudio Yacob return soon. Brunt has been filling in for the Argentine in a deeper role in the double-pivot but is expected to shift to the attacking midfield three upon his return – bearing in mind Clarke has already told Graham Dorrans he is willing to listen to offers for his services, the Scot’s chances of game time seem unlikely to be boosted by yesterday’s news unless his manager has a chance of heart.
Aston Villa’s chances of progressing to the Capital One Cup Final were dealt a bitter blow last night after the midlands outfit slipped to a 3-1 first-leg defeat at Bradford. Paul Lambert rolled out a strong looking line-up, with Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann both leading the line, while Villa’s regular back-four featured in the first XI. Benteke missed several chances before teeing up Weimann for his side’s consolation, though Lambert once again has worries over Darren Bent. The latter was sent on as a sub but lasted less than half an hour before limping out of the action. n
The latest reports on Adam Lallana’s injury state that the Saints’ skipper could yet face another month on the sidelines. The report states that Lallana has been unable to make progress with the knee injury in light training and, with Southampton remaining tight-lipped on the extent of the injury, the article speculates that he could now be out until next month.