Two blunders by Branislav Ivanovic allow Swansea to take a two-goal advantage in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final, with Michu and Danny Graham grabbing the goals for Michael Laudrup’s side. Elsewhere, Emmanuel Adebayor is set to appear for Togo in this month’s African Cup of Nations, Sunderland snap up the versatile Alfred N’Diaye, Fabio Borini edges towards a return from injury for Liverpool, while Romelu Lukaku will remain on loan at West Brom for the remainder of the season…
Chelsea 0 Swansea 2
Chelsea’s home cup loss to Swansea last night will hardly fill Fantasy managers with confidence ahead of the Blues’ upcoming double Gameweek. Rafa Benitez made a couple of changes from the side that hammered Southampton, with Oscar and Fernando Torres coming in for Victor Moses and Demba Ba. While the Blues have scored in every away fixture under their new manager, their home form has been hugely erratic – although they have hit Villa for eight and put six past FC Nordsjælland, they have failed to score in their other four home games under Benitez at the Bridge.
Although the weekend trip to Stoke looks tricky, many will still be determined to invest in the Blues in spite of their lack of home consistency – that 5-1 win over the Saints will still inspire confidence. It’s impossible to second-guess Benitez’s rotational whims – his decision to bench Juan Mata and Eden Hazard against QPR attests to that – though his decision to hand Ba just 10 minutes last night is likely to lead to increased interest in the former Newcastle man ahead of Saturday’s trip to the Britannia. At the back, Ivanovic’s pair of mistakes may persuade Benitez to fast-track John Terry back into the first-team if his skipper comes through an U21 match later today. Benitez was quick to defend Ivanovic in his post-match analysis, however…
“I can see any player making mistakes. It’s not a big issue. Ivanovic was trying to do his best and the team was creating chances. It’s something that can happen, and the main thing is we have to carry on and try again.”
For Swansea, Michael Laudrup made five changes from the side that drew with Arsenal last Sunday – a clear sign of his need to rotate right now as the games continue to come at a frantic pace for the Welsh club. Having climbed off the bench to notch against the Gunners, Michu returned to the first XI and his incredible scoring streak showed no sign of abating, with yet another clinical finish capitalising on an Ivanovic error. Graham was also a beneficiary of the Serbian’s sloppy defending late on – his strike was his fourth in as many games, though reports continue to gather over a move away from the Liberty for the former Watford man, with Sunderland the latest club linked with a move for his services.
Sunderland made their first foray into the winter transfer market yesterday by snapping up 22-year-old Alfred N’Diaye from Turkish club Bursaspor for a fee believed to be in the region of €4.7m. Speaking to the club’s official website upon completion of the deal, Martin O’Neill revealed just what type of player he has acquired:
“Alfred is a strong, powerful young player and as such can offer us more strength in depth. He will give us options and I’m delighted that we have been able to bring him to the club.”
The Black Cats are hoping the French youth international can receive international clearance in time for the weekend home clash against West Ham, with his versatility affording them options in both defence and central midfield. N’Diaye has mainly been utilised as a ball-winning central midfielder and could cover for the injured Lee Cattermole, affording O’Neill the option of shifting Seb Larsson to the flank, though he is also capable of filling in at centre-half – equally crucial, given the fact that Carlos Cuellar limped out of the weekend FA Cup draw at Bolton with a hamstring problem and could be a doubt for the weekend.
Spurs confirmed yesterday that Emmanuel Adebayor is set to jet off to this month’s African Cup of Nations with Togo. Uncertainty has surrounded the forward’s availability for a number of weeks – Adebayor quits the national side over security fears but has now decided on a last-minute change of heart. The forward is also quoted as revealing Andre Villas-Boas is somewhat unhappy over his reversal, despite the Spurs boss claiming he was relaxed over any possible departure:
“That is what he said to the press, but not what he said to me. There is a difference between what you say to the press and what you say in private.”
Adebayor has started the last eight league games when available, with only a three-match suspension for violent behaviour at former club Arsenal forcing him onto the sidelines. He was amongst the goals in the Gameweek 21 win over Reading and will also be available for this weekend’s trip to QPR before flying out to South Africa – Clint Dempsey staked a claim for his first-team inclusion last weekend with two goals and an assist in the 3-0 FA Cup win over Coventry and looks the most likely to get the nod as Adebayor’s replacement, with Villas-Boas set to shift tactics to a 4-2-3-1 in light of the forward’s departure.
Brendan Rodgers has revealed Fabio Borini is closing in on a return from injury for Liverpool. The Italian has been sidelined since Gameweek 5 with a foot injury and while his manager was reluctant to pencil in any potential comeback date, he clearly reckons Borini isn’t far away:
“Other clubs have the depth to bring people off the bench and make an impact. We have been unable to do that in the opening months of the season, which gives incredible credit to the players who have kept us going until now. We have Daniel (Sturridge) here now and will have Fabio fit soon and that will give us that spark. Hopefully over the years Fabio can develop into a top performer which I think he can be.”
In a sense, Borini’s return, added to Daniel Sturridge’s arrival, muddies the water slightly. A threadbare squad has afforded a consistency of selection amongst the Reds’ Fantasy assets, with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez offering us guaranteed game time, unlike many other premium priced alternatives. Although neither of the pair are likely to come under the threat of rotation, Rodgers has already revealed he plans to alter Suarez’s role in light of Sturridge’s move to Merseyside, while Raheem Sterling’s game time may come under threat from Borini – Rodgers cited fatigue as a reason for dropping the teenage winger to the bench in a couple of festive fixtures and may utilise a little more rest and rotation as his squad options increase.
West Brom have revealed they will keep Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea for the rest of the season after the Blues failed to activate a recall clause earlier this week. The deadline for a return to the Bridge passed on Monday and is welcome relief for Steve Clarke, who is still reeling from the news that Zoltan Gera has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Despite being handed just seven starts so far, Lukaku is the Baggies top scorer this season with seven goals accrued and has found the net in five of his seven first XI appearances. With three starts in the last four, however, he is starting to edge ahead of Shane Long in the pecking order and with the Republic of Ireland international failing to notch since Gameweek 13 by comparison, Lukaku – at 6.4 in FPL – may well begin to appear on Fantasy radars if he maintains his first-team berth.
Reports have indicated that Southampton’s Jose Fonte is set for a spell on the sidelines ahead of their double Gameweek. The centre-half was stretchered off in last Saturday’s FA Cup defeat against Chelsea with a knee problem and is now expected to be out for around six weeks – a bitter blow for Nigel Adkins’ side, given that the 4.2 priced FPL defender has played every minute of the season so far for the Saints. Today’s news is likely to hand Jos Hooiveld (who comes in at 4.0) a chance to partner Maya Yoshida in the heart of the back-four for the upcoming clashes against Villa and Chelsea as Adkins attempts to steer his side away from the drop zone.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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