Juan Mata provides a trio of assists as Chelsea get their double Gameweek up and running by ending Stoke’s unbeaten run at the Britannia in scintillating style. Rickie Lambert notches on the road yet again for Southampton, Adam Johnson stars as Sunderland sweep aside West Ham, Romelu Lukaku and Pavel Pogrebnyak are amongst the goals again in a five-goal thriller at the Madejski, while Tottenham register another clean sheet in a disappointing draw at QPR…
Chelsea Midfield Produce the Goods
While Demba Ba received the most Fantasy interest heading into the double, with almost 230,000 FPL managers snapping up the former Newcastle man, it was a trio of Blues midfielders who racked up the points in the 4-0 win at Stoke, as Ba drew a blank at the Britannia. Juan Mata’s three assists continued his outstanding consistency – he has produced attacking returns in 12 of his last 13 starts and is now level with Michu at the top of the midfielder standings, pre-bonus, while Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard produced a goal apiece as Rafa Benitez’s side prepared for Wednesday’s home clash against Southampton with an emphatic victory. Surprisingly, Hazard had dropped in price prior to the weekend; the 56,000+ Fantasy managers who bizarrely shipped out the Belgian were made to regret their decision as he lashed home the Blues’ fourth – Hazard has scored or assisted in three of his last four starts under Benitez now. Ba’s owners will still be confident of picking up the points against the Saints, though with Fernando Torres handed just 20 minutes in yesterday’s match, there’s a worry the Spaniard could start the midweek match at Ba’s expense – with Benitez’s obsession for rotation, though, we’re almost always second-guessing his intentions.
Blues Defensive Options
David Luiz picked up plenty interest prior to yesterday’s deadline thanks to a recent move into central midfield but the Brazilian returned to the back-four yesterday, filling in for the absent Gary Cahill, who was omitted as his partner went into labour. With Cahill having been rested and John Terry returning to the fold for a brief 11 minute sub appearance late on, Benitez could very well decide to rest and rotate for the midweek match. Indeed, yesterday’s match saw Chelsea utilise as many as seven defenders – Ryan Bertrand was fielded in the attacking midfield three, while Paulo Ferreira replaced Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back with nine minutes remaining – the former’s first appearance in the league this term. With a clean sheet already accrued, the Blues could be set for further defensive returns as Southampton roll up to the Bridge – they’ve conceded just one goal in four home games under Benitez, though with so many alternatives available, it’s far from certain who will start against Nigel Adkins’ side.
Potters Defensive Worries
Yesterday’s thrashing at the Britannia saw the last unbeaten home record in the Premier League fall and continued an alarming run of defensive form for Tony Pulis’ side. Stoke have now shipped 10 goals in their last three matches – bearing in mind they have conceded 14 times in the previous 19 Gameweeks, the turnaround is remarkable and a real concern for those Fantasy managers who had opted for the tactic of doubling or even trebling up on the Potters’ backline. Asmir Begovic and co have now mustered just a single clean sheet in their last six and with cheaper options elsewhere, an exodus could be on the cards if the situation continues. With Marc Wilson possibly returning from injury as an option in the Stoke defence at just 4.0, those who look to back them for a revival may well have a far cheaper route open to them in a matter of weeks.
Lambert Proves the Difference
The Saints lone striker vindicated the show of Fantasy faith that had earned him over 114,000 new owners heading into the double by grabbing the only goal of the game in a crucial win at Villa. Lambert’s spot-kick duties came to the fore, with a converted penalty maintaining a superb run of form on the road which has now seen him score in four of his last five away games. Granted, the upcoming trip to Chelsea looks tricky but with a strong chance of maximum bonus to come, any returns from the Bridge will be regarded an unexpected extra. Lambert has now overtaken Jermain Defoe and has moved up to sixth in the FPL forward rankings – a price tag of 6.3 continues to look incredible value.
The Saints Stand Firm
Nigel Adkins side battled for their second clean sheet in the last six league outings – their first away from home this season. Significantly, while the Saints have kept just three shut-outs in the last eleven league matches, they have conceded just a single goal in seven of those games – indication that Adkins has instilled new belief in defensive areas and suggesting that his budget defenders may yet be able to deliver Fantasy value. With Chelsea, Everton, United and City in the next five, however, few will be looking to invest in the short-term, whilst perhaps planning an exit route for the defensive acquisitions made for this double Gameweek. Luke Shaw is one such player, he picked up an injury in yesterday’s game, Adkins offered us this on his talented full-back, post-match…
“He is a massive talent for us and you could see that today on a number of occasions – what an exciting talent we have got here at Southampton. It’s a nasty gashed knee that he has got at this moment in time, so he will be assessed because he has got scars all over his legs and a particularly nasty one on his knee.”
Shaw is now a doubt for Southampton’s second fixture of the Gameweek at Stamford Bridge.
Magpies Stop the Rot
The 0-0 stalemate at Carrow Road gave Newcastle a valuable point as Alan Pardew’s side halted a run of three straight defeats to battle for a draw. The Newcastle boss was able to recall the likes of Jonas Gutierrez and Yohan Cabaye, with the latter emerging as a second-half sub. It was Fabricio Coloccini who drew the plaudits, however, putting in a solid shift in the centre of the Newcastle back four.
“He was excellent today. Of the four centre-halves on the pitch he was the most assured. He gave us that calmness in the heat of battle and you need that.”
Coloccini’s future is currently in doubt following his request to return to Argentina for personal reasons. Losing the significant influence of their skipper, at a time when Pardew is looking to strengthen, would be a bitter blow. The Mapgies boss remains confident that the defender could remain at the club, however…
“We will speak to him this week and we will resolve that situation.”
Black Cats Flourishing Home Form
Highlighted in our recent Wildcard Midfielders piece, Adam Johnson moved clear of Stephane Sessegnon at the top of the Sunderland midfield rankings with an 11 point, pre-bonus haul. The former City winger’s form at the Stadium of Light has been particularly crucial for the Black Cats as Martin O’Neill’s side start to pull away from the drop zone – he has scored or assisted in four or his last five in front of his own fans and, at just 6.7 in FPL, is looking a real differential ahead of a superb run of fixtures, with an ownership of just over 1%. Steven Fletcher currently has a pair of assists from yesterday’s match although one looks almost certain to be removed and handed to Stephane Sessegnon, while the first for Johnson’s goal, is also somewhat dubious. At the back, O’Neill’s side delivered their eighth clean sheet of the season; just one less than Stoke, for example, despite losing Carlos Cuellar and Danny Rose to hamstring injuries. The Black Cats have kept out their opponents in four of their last six home fixtures and could well be set for further defensive returns, with clashes against Wigan, Swansea and Reading in the following three Gameweeks.
Lukaku in the Goals Again
While his brace at the Madejski ultimately proved fruitless as Reading stormed back to take the points, Romelu Lukaku’s Fantasy potential continues to rapidly climb. With Shane Long missing out due to a leg problem sustained in training, the giant Belgian was handed his fourth start in the last five and vindicated Steve Clarke’s faith with another barnstorming display for the Baggies. The 6.4 priced forward has now scored in six of his eight first XI appearances and has moved to nine goals for the season, despite being handed just 949 minutes since moving on loan from Chelsea. Steve Clarke’s side continue to slide down the table – this was their third straight defeat and they now have just a single clean sheet in their last 12 league outings. If they are to arrest their current form, Lukaku’s contribution looks crucial: it’s a local derby with Villa at the Hawthorns next for the Baggies and the confident Belgian.
Pogrebnyak’s Cut-Price Appeal
The Russian grabbed a late winner against the Baggies to maintain a run of form which has seen him score in each of his last three for Reading. Having slipped out the picture earlier in the season, Pogrebnyak has now started the last six as the lone forward in a 4-4-1-1 and at 4.3, looks a real bargain and an obvious choice for those Fantasy managers intent on rolling out a 3-5-2. Indeed, the only issue is that Pogrebnyak’s price makes him almost too easy to utilise as a sub in place of costlier Fantasy options – he’ll likely be warming many a Fantasy bench as a result but his form suggests he could be worth a starting slot if he continues to produce the goods. A grinning Brian McDermott had this to say on his Russian striker, post-match…
“Pavel worked his socks off today. He never stopped trying and it was a great finish for the third goal. I’ve just seen it back and he got himself in the pocket between the centre half and the goalkeeper. If you give him chances, Pavel scores. His goals to shots ratio is first class.”
Tottenham’s Continued Resilience
While Gareth Bale’s Fantasy owners were left with no more than a three point return from yesterday’s goalless draw at Loftus Road, Tottenham’s backline once again impressed. Andre Villas-Boas’ side have now racked up four clean sheets and conceded just two goals in the last six Gameweeks – considering they kept out their opponents just twice in the opening 16 league fixtures, it’s an eye-catching turnaround for the north London outfit. Intriguingly, Kyle Naughton is beginning to suggest he could well be worth our consideration as a real cut-price option. Coming in at a mere 4.2 in FPL, Naughton was given the nod ahead of fit-again Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back and has now started five of the last six – he has also picked up bonus in three of those matches and provided an assist. Like Michael Dawson, who has started four of the last six, Naughton’s situation requires monitoring. Spurs have United at the Lane next, before a run of three away games in four Gameweeks.