Reports suggest Chelsea are keen to alternate their forwards due to concerns over Demba Ba’s renowned knee problem. City appeal Vincent Kompany’s dismissal at the Emirates, Luke Shaw is expected to be out of Southampton’s midweek trip to Chelsea, Adam Johnson talks up his recent form, Alan Pardew expects to benefit from Mathieu Debuchy’s attacking game and Angel Rangel explains why he was fielded on the right of Swansea’s midfield three at Goodison on Saturday, …
A report (subscription required) in the Times suggests Rafa Benitez will continue to alternate his forwards due to concerns over the longstanding knee problem that saw Demba Ba fail a medical at Stoke a couple of seasons ago. While the paper offered no official club source on the matter, they suggest that the interim Blues boss has concerns over Ba’s ability to deal with two full 90 minute appearances in quick succession – despite the fact the Senegal forward was utilised on a regular basis by Alan Pardew at Newcastle. Chelsea have vigorously denied suggestions they were unable to insure the £7m man after completing a deal earlier this month but given Benitez’s penchant for rest and rotation, it may well be that Ba and Fernando Torres will take turns in starting a game apiece; indicating Torres is likely to start against Southampton tomorrow evening. Torres came in for criticism after his recent performance in the Capital One Cup against Swansea but it later transpired that he was selected despite suffering from a stomach bug; although Benitez revealed Ba was benched because of a hamstring problem, it’s believed that the former Liverpool manager was also keen to reduce Ba’s workload due to his concerns. Rafa hosts a press conference, prior to tomorrow evening’s clash with Southampton, at lunchtime today.
Man City have confirmed they have appealed the straight red card handed out to Vincent Kompany in Sunday’s game at Arsenal. At present, the Belgian is set to miss the upcoming league games against Fulham and Reading, in addition to the Fourth Round FA Cup game with Crystal Palace, and is pencilled in for a return for the Gameweek 25 home encounter with Liverpool. The FA could, however, decide to slap him with an extra one if they throw the appeal out, potentially keeping Kompany on the sidelined until February 9, when City travel to Southampton. A length of absence could heighten the short-term appeal of Joleon Lescott, though it furthers the appeal of 5.6 Matija Nastasic as a route into the champions’ defence ahead of a potentially profitable run of fixtures.
Southampton boss Nigel Adkins has admitted Luke Shaw is likely to miss Wednesday’s trip to Chelsea after being stretchered off towards the end of the weekend win at Villa:
“He’s got a very badly gashed right knee which is quite swollen. There are also quite a lot of scars on his left knee where the challenge was. We’ve got an excellent medical department and we will see what the diagnosis is. We’d like to think it’s nothing more than a very heavy challenge but we will wait and see. It’s quite a big blow he took to his knee.”
Priced at 4.0 in FPL, Shaw had been drafted in by over 27,000 Fantasy managers ahead of the double Gameweek and immediately returned the investment, with the Saints’ first away clean sheet of the season helping him to a six point haul in the 1-0 win. Any potential length of absence could hasten his departure from squads – with Adkins’ side set to face three of the top five in the following four Gameweeks (EVE, mun, wig, MCY), faith in Southampton’s defensive returns is likely to be limited, in spite of a recent upturn in resilience. Danny Fox is on standby to deputise at the Bridge should Shaw fail to recover in time.
Chris Hughton is hopeful of starting Grant Holt this weekend as Norwich make their way to Anfield. The Canaries forward was eased back into action last Saturday, following a hamstring injury – although he climbed off the bench in the goalless draw with Newcastle, his manager has revealed he will remain cautious with Holt’s condition:
“We’ve had to tread carefully with Grant over the past couple of weeks. There was a fear that if we started him then we would be putting him a little bit at risk. So we have to make these tough decisions. Most would have liked to have seen us start with Grant. We hope now he has a good week’s training and will be available from next week onwards. What’s far more important is that we have Grant available for next week, the week after and the week after.”
Hughton has started Harry Kane and Simeon Jackson as the lone forward in the last two league matches but a poor run of results have seen Norwich slide down to twelfth spot, having taken a single point in their last five matches. Holt’s expected return would certainly boost his side’s chances against a Liverpool side that have registered six clean sheets in their last eight at Anfield – the 5.9 priced forward scored in the 5-2 defeat in the corresponding fixture at Carrow Road earlier in the season.
Adam Johnson has spoken of his rise to form after Sunderland’s emphatic home win over West Ham last weekend. The Black Cats winger has now played more minutes in the league under Martin O’Neill than in any previous Premier League campaign following a summer move from City and has admitted consistency of selection has been crucial to his recent displays:
“‘It is just nice for me to be playing week in week out. I think I’ve started more games for Sunderland probably than I did in the whole of last season. I think that tells you the story and my game is definitely benefiting from that.”
Johnson has now produced attacking returns in four of his last five at the Stadium of Light. A goal and assist against the Hammers comes on the back of strikes against Chelsea and City and has taken Johnson to 85 FPL points – joint-top with Stephane Sessegnon in the Black Cats’ midfield. The 6.7 priced winger has averaged 4.5 points per game this term and with Wigan, Swansea and Reading up next for Martin O’Neill’s in-form side, he could prove a decent differential alternative for those wielding wildcards, with an ownership of under 2%.
The Black Cats’ potential was further boosted by the acquisition of Senegal international Kader Mangane on loan until the end of the season. The six foot five centre-half will add a physical presence to the backline and with Carlos Cuellar currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, he could slot in alongside John O’Shea at the heart of defence, denting the cut-price prospects of Titus Bramble and Matt Kilgallon. With four clean sheets in their last six home games, the Wearsiders have proven particularly resilient in front of their own fans – they have now registered eight clean sheets this term and Mangane could well come into consideration if handed a sub 5.0 price tag in FPL.
Alan Pardew has talked up the attacking potential of new right-back Mathieu Debuchy after the Frenchman made his debut in Saturday’s goalless draw at Norwich. The result was the Magpies’ first away clean sheet away from St James’ Park this season and while Pardew admitted he had to rein in the new boy’s tendency to rampage forward, he expects Debuchy to offer plenty offensive threat as he gradually settles into life on Tyneside.
“In his first 10 minutes he was a little bit starry-eyed, but then he settled down. You are going to see more quality from Debuchy in home games particularly. He is very good offensively. We restricted his movement because it was his first game, but he will grow into that role. He will grow into the jersey.”
While Debuchy disappointed in his final season at former club Lille, with just a single assist in 15 matches before moving to the Magpies, a total of seven goals and four assists over his previous two campaigns with the Ligue 1 club is more indicative of his attacking contribution. With Reading, Southampton and Stoke three of the next four to roll up on Tyneside, he could well be set to prosper if Pardew unleashes his potential.
Angel Rangel praised the tactics of Michael Laudrup after Swansea registered a goalless draw at Everton last weekend. The Spaniard was surprisingly shifted from his usual right-back berth to the right side of the attacking midfield three, with Dwight Tiendalli taking over in the back-four – as Angel explained, it was a game plan designed to counter the Toffees’ attacking threat down the left hand side:
“We had lost three times to them in the league, so we came here with a game plan. I played with Dwight on the right, and we are both full-backs but we could stop them playing down that side and prevent Baines and Pienaar from cross to Jelavic, Fellaini and Anichebe. You have to adapt and help the team. My role was to defend and it was always going to be difficult because Baines is like an extra winger”.
Certainly, the tactic worked a treat – having been beaten 3-0 at home by the Merseysiders, Laudrup’s change was something of a masterstroke. While it undoubtedly dented the Swans’ attacking threat at Goodison, it continued a superb run of form on the road under Laudrup – the Welsh club have conceded only twice in their last five away league matches and have shipped just nine goals on their travels all season; the joint-best away defence along with Arsenal.