While the upcoming double Gameweek earns a trio of Chelsea players a spot in our Scout Picks XI, we’re a little reluctant to place our faith in Southampton, with our single Saints pick only managing a place on the bench. As winter wildcards continue to be wielded at a frantic pace prior to tomorrow morning’s deadline, here’s who we have for you:
Simon Mignolet gets the nod between the sticks as Sunderland welcome West Ham to the Stadium of Light. Sam Allardyce’s side have scored a mere five times on their travels – the worst away record of any side so far – and with three clean sheets and 27 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) points in his last five home games, the Belgian offers the potential of save points should the Black Cats concede.
Leighton Baines makes a Scout Picks return for Everton’s home clash with Swansea. David Moyes revealed earlier today he expects the left-back to shrug off an ankle knock to take his place in the starting line-up and with goals in each of his last two in all competitions, Baines’ attacking potential has risen up late. Michael Laudrup’s side have failed to score in two of their last three on the road, boosting the prospects of a first clean sheet since Gameweek 5 for the third top scoring FPL defender.
Let’s face it, there’s always going to be a risk of rest and rotation as long as Rafa Benitez is in charge at the Bridge but we’re willing to take a punt on a Blues defender ahead of the double Gameweek. An out of position central midfield role, in addition to a share of set-pieces and spot-kicks, brings David Luiz to the fore against Stoke and Southampton. From a clean sheet perspective, the Potters have scored no more than a single goal in six of their 10 home games, while one goal conceded in four home league games under Benitez boosts Luiz’s appeal going into tomorrow’s deadline.
We’re opting for Seb Bassong as Norwich welcome Newcastle to Carrow Road. Four of the Canaries five clean sheets have come at home this season and with their visitors registering a mere four points on their travels all season, Chris Hughton’s side will be looking to recover from a poor run of festive displays. With three goals to his name already, Bassong’s attacking sensibilities have helped him register 74 FPL points, 14 more than any other Norwich defender.
A trip to basement-dwellers QPR affords Gareth Bale the chance of a profitable weekend. The Welshman has produced seven of his nine goals this season on the road and has returned double figures in four of his nine away appearances so far – the R’s have conceded in every home game under Harry Redknapp, with their recent Gameweek 20 Loftus Road battering at the hands of Liverpool bolstering Bale’s chances of another substantial haul.
Similar to Bale, Marouane Fellaini has produced five sets of double figure returns this term. Two of those have come in his last three home appearances, which bodes well as Everton prepare to welcome Swansea to Goodison tomorrow afternoon. Averaging 6.2 points per game so far, Fellaini will fancy his chances against a Swans side with one clean sheet in the last six Gameweeks.
Leader in the Captain Poll by some distance, Juan Mata is a nailed-on option for us this week ahead of Chelsea’s double. The Spaniard has produced attacking returns in 11 of his last 12 starts, highlighting his superb Fantasy consistency – having benched Mata against QPR and watched his side lose, Rafa Benitez surely won’t make the same mistake again as he attempts to recover from the midweek cup loss to Swansea.
Our faith in Theo Walcott remains resolute in spite of a tricky home clash with City. With Olivier Giroud struggling to overcome a knee problem, Walcott is expected to lead the line for the Gunners on Sunday – bearing in mind City conceded three at Norwich in their previous away match, Walcott could well maintain a consistency that has seen him score or assist in seven of his last eight appearances.
Given his incredible level of consistency, it’s almost an irrelevance as to who Robin Van Persie is up against in any given Gameweek but for the record, he welcomes Liverpool to Old Trafford this time round. The Dutchman will be looking to maintain a recent run that has seen him score or assist in every match since Gameweek 13 – with United averaging 2.8 goals per home match and Liverpool conceding at least twice in three of their last four on the road, there’d be no surprise if he produces the goods yet again.
Demba Ba is our Chelsea forward of choice for the Blues’ double Gameweek. Climbing off the bench in the midweek cup defeat at the hands of Swansea, the former Newcastle man showed enough to suggest he could well get the nod ahead of Fernando Torres for this weekend’s trip to Stoke. Over the two games, we anticipate around 120 minutes for the Senegal striker – plenty time to wreak havoc as he looks to add to his 13 goals and three assists so far.
Dimitar Berbatov is our final forward as Fulham get set for the visit of Wigan. The Bulgarian is back amongst the points again, following his move to a more advanced role in light of Bryan Ruiz’s recent return from a hamstring injury – with the Latics shipping at least two goals in four of their last five on the road, Berbatov’s owners will be confident of another haul at the Cottage tomorrow.
Ian Harte warms the bench as Reading prepare for the visit of West Brom. A recent move to 4-4-1-1 has helped the Royals register back-to-back home clean sheets and with a share of set-pieces also in his locker, the left-back’s attacking potential – as demonstrated by an assist in the previous Gameweek against Spurs – earns him a place above any of the Southampton double Gameweek options. While it may be a little risky, with Nicky Shorey back from illness, the latter was handed a 90 minute run-out for the reserves in midweek, suggesting that Harte should be in line for another start tomorrow afternoon.
A home clash with Newcastle affords Norwich the chance to bounce back from four successive defeats. We turn to the Canaries main Fantasy protagonist, then, with Robert Snodgrass warming the Scout Picks bench – three set of double figures in his last eight is indicative of the winger’s form and with the Magpies failing to register a single clean sheet on the road thus far, his mid-price potential has already persuaded over 31,000 Fantasy managers to snap him up ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.
The best value forward in the FPL game so far, Rickie Lambert’s double Gameweek earns him a spot on the bench. Ahead of his trips to Villa Park and Stamford Bridge, Lambert has scored in three of his last four away games and with spot-kicks also to fall back on, a cost of just 6.3 looks enticing – in comparison to the Chelsea forwards, Lambert’s game time is guaranteed; he’s started every match from Gameweek 9 onwards.