Brendan Rodgers may be set to start Daniel Sturridge against Norwich tomorrow. John Terry is unlikely to make Chelsea’s first XI for the visit of Arsenal. Sir Alex Ferguson calls for United to improve their spot-kick conversion rate. Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz return for Fulham after midweek rests, while Andy Wilkinson remains a doubt for Stoke’s trip to Swansea on Saturday afternoon…
Brendan Rodgers revealed Daniel Sturridge is ”very, very close” to starting for the first time in the league for Liverpool tomorrow afternoon. The Reds boss spoke of his new signing’s progress yesterday:
“He is fitting into the group really well. It’s been difficult and perhaps frustrating for him because he hasn’t been at the top level of his fitness yet, which is why we had to put him on the bench and bring him into the game [against United]. But his performance in the second half – and his 55 minutes at Mansfield – showed he can be a very, very good player for us. He’ll be very close for the weekend. It’s just a case of making sure he’s prepared well and right. He’s enjoying every minute of being here and if I feel he’s fit and in good condition for the weekend, then he’ll play.”
Having score on his debut against Mansfield in the FA Cup, Sturridge took just 12 minutes to net at United last Sunday after being sent on as a sub after the break. His introduction saw Luis Suarez drop deeper and allowed the former Chelsea man to catch the eye as the most advanced forward, turning in a display brimming with attacking intent. Having scored twice in 100 minutes for the Merseysiders, he looks a potential bargain at just 7.3 in FPL and has been pencilled in for many a wildcard team as a far more budget friendly Liverpool option than either Suarez and Steven Gerrard. While the latter two have racked up the points this season, Sturridge seems set to be a key first-team player under Rodgers in the second half of the campaign– a start against the Canaries tomorrow will get the bandwagon rapidly underway, although upcoming trips to Arsenal and City may cause many to hold back on his acquisition. The Reds’ schedule from Gameweek 26 onwards, however, will surely earn Sturridge significant investment – in the eight subsequent Gameweeks from that point on, they welcome West Brom, Swansea and West Ham to Anfield and also face trips to four of the current bottom six.
Rafa Benitez has admitted John Terry is unlikely to start for Chelsea in Sunday’s showdown with Arsenal at the Bridge. The Blues skipper returned to the squad for last Saturday’s trip to Stoke and managed just 12 minutes in the 4-0 win, giving away a penalty which Jon Walters subsequently missed. Terry played no part in Wednesday’s draw with Southampton and his manager revealed afterwards:
“Terry has no match fitness. It’s one thing to be match fit to play 90 minutes and another for him to play some minutes. It will be difficult for him to start on Sunday. We will see how he trains with his team-mates, but it’s not easy. For match fitness, you have to play games, but it has to be the right time. The other day, we were winning and I gave him the opportunity to play some minutes and that was fine, but today we had to play high and when he doesn’t have this match fitness, it could have been a risk. I will try not to take any risks with the team selection.”
Wednesday’s game saw Benitez drop Branislav Ivanovic from the starting line-up for the first time since taking charge in Gameweek 13 and with Gary Cahill playing just one of the two matches of the double, it meant only three defenders – Cesar Azpilicueta, Ashley Cole and David Luiz – were named in both fixtures last week. While a weekend omission for Terry would lessen the likelihood of rest and rotation to a certain extent, owners of Luiz and Azpilicueta will be a little concerned if Ivanovic returns to the starting line-up – the Serbian’s versatility means he could cover at right-back or centre-half, offering Benitez an alternative if he decides to utilise his squad once again. With options at his disposal, the interim-manager is quickly becoming a Fantasy manager’s nightmare – it’s little wonder that four Chelsea defenders have already been seen 8,000+ transfers out following their double, with the Spaniard’s tinkering frustrating many best-laid Fantasy plans.
Sir Alex Ferguson is looking to address United’s poor spot-kick record after Wayne Rooney’s miss in Wednesday’s FA Cup win over West Ham took their record to five converted penalties from a possible nine this term. The Red Devils boss spoke to the club’s official tv station yesterday:
“I don’t think it is just one of those things. I think we have to improve at that. If you get a penalty kick, really… there has been talk about (the good penalty record of) Rickie Lambert at Southampton. That is what taking penalty kicks is about. There have been several great examples over the years – Matthew Le Tissier scoring 47 out of 48. A penalty kick is your opportunity to take advantage of a foul or a handball or whatever and score a goal.”
Rooney has been particularly culpable from the spot – he has missed two of his last four and his record in the Premier League stands at seven failures in 21 attempts. While Robin Van Persie has also missed one earlier in the season (in Rooney’s Gameweek 3 absence at Southampton) the Dutchman’s owners will be hoping Ferguson chooses to change the pecking order – at present, he still remains behind Rooney but the latter is certainly affording the United boss plenty reason to shake things up. Given his incredible form since joining in the summer, Van Persie could barely do much more to persuade us to snap up his services – Rooney’s latest miss may well have just boosted his strike partner’s appeal even further.
Tony Pulis rolled out an injury update yesterday ahead of Stoke’s trip to Swansea. The Potters boss is still uncertain whether Andy Wilkinson will take part in the Liberty match after he was forced off in the first-half of Tuesday’s 4-1 FA Cup Third Round replay win over Crystal Palace due to a recurrence of a back problem:
“We won’t know whether Andy is going to be ok or not until tomorrow, so we will wait and then assess things. He felt his back go in the first half of the game in the week, and we aren’t sure what has caused it. It was a concern for us so we took him off as soon as he felt it. We are hoping he will be fit, but if not we have options. Ryan Shotton missed the game against Palace with a hamstring injury, but he comes back into consideration for the game.”
Wilkinson’s 4.4 FPL price tag has afforded Fantasy manager a budget route into the Stoke backline in recent matches, though a lack of defensive resolve has seen Pulis’ side concede 10 times in the last three Gameweeks. With Wigan, Reading and West Ham rolling up to the Britannia in the next six, clean sheets could well be on the horizon once again and with regular left-back Marc Wilson now expected to be out of action until late February, Wilkinson could still be set to prosper.
Martin Jol will welcome back Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz to the Fulham fold after both were omitted from the squad that edged past Blackpool in a Third Round FA Cup replay on Tuesday night. The Bulgarian was rested in midweek due to fatigue, while Jol had revealed Ruiz wasn’t risked after another hamstring twinge but the Costa Rican seems to have recovered in time for tomorrow’s tricky trip to City. Perhaps just as significantly, Jol will also welcome back Steve Sidwell to the squad. Sidwell’s omission from last week’s game against Wigan proved detrimental to both Jol’s star forwards; Ruiz dropped out of “the hole” and into central midfield to cover his absence, while Berbatov slotted into the space vacated by Ruiz as Mladen Petric led the line against the Latics. With the former Chelsea and Reading man now available, both are set to return to their regular berths once again.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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