For a while it looked as though Rafa would be trumped by the weather as this weekend’s villain. Sadly for our Spanish friend, the snow looks to have subsided enough for the Premier League programme to progress unhindered. I can hardly wait to see the variety of gloves and snood-like apparel that’s going to be on offer. What are the odds on Mario Balotelli playing in Ugg boots?
So, with mittened hands wringing in anticipation, our thoughts turn back to Rafa and a supporting cast of Premier League bosses, threatening to tweak our ire for the Gameweek ahead.
It’s likely that every Saturday we’ll be forced to ask ourselves whether Demba Ba will lead Chelsea’s attack. Arguably it’s a compelling reason to forgo the benefits of Ba’s undeniable talent and opt for an easy, stress-free path of Fantasy management. After handing Ba consecutive starts in matches at Stoke and against Southampton on Wednesday evening, we would presume that, if Benitez is to put his theories into practice, we’ll see Fernando Torres start Sunday’s clash with Arsenal.
Ba has played 160 minutes, to Torres’ ten in the last two and has started three of the last four. You’d have to say that, looking at that route into Sunday’s game, should Rafa opt for Ba again, then we would have to presume that Torres is set to suffer a much reduced role over the remainder of the season. Certainly, we’d expect Torres to pick up on that vibe.
So Rafa will have his mettle tested. There’s little doubt that the Stamford Bridge crowd, in the majority, will be calling for Ba to start against the Gunners. He has the form and the physical presence to unsettle Arsene Wenger’s backline, much in the same way that Didier Drogba used to bully the Gunners centre-backs with regularity on each visit to the Bridge.
Give the Chelsea throngs what they want, however, and Rafa will be sending a message to Torres and the Russian gentlemen who invested the millions in capturing the previously renowned goalscorer from Liverpool. With many presuming that Benitez was brought in to get the best from Torres, will he now risk turning his back on the player?
This morning’s press are, predictably, torn on the matter. Both the Mail and the Guardian go with Ba, backed by the Independent. However, the Times and the Sun opt for Torres, with the media clearly as confused as us.
Interestingly, whilst examining the Chelsea lineups on show, John Terry is favoured in all this morning’s press with Rafa seemingly set to recall his skipper, despite concerns over his fitness. Reports suggest that Terry will train again today and, clearly there is confidence that he’ll be in the starting lineup to face the Gunners. For Fantasy managers, this appears to put Cesar Azpilicueta’s starting role at risk. Three of the morning papers leave the Spaniard out of their lineups – only the Times and the Sun consider Gary Cahill as the one to drop to the bench. David Luiz is shifted to midfield in all the press lineups, with Branislav Ivanovic also recalled.
With little conclusion to be drawn on the Chelsea team-sheet, we can turn our attention to Anfield where Daniel Sturridge looks primed for a full debut for Liverpool. Certainly the press seem to think so. Only the Daily Mail leave Sturridge out of their lineup, with our five other sources all backing the former Chelsea man to be given the opportunity to lead the attack against Norwich. That could yet prove significant for Luis Suarez, a player who has netted six goals in two matches against today’s visitors to Anfield.
Suarez could be set to be deployed in a wide role, with Raheem Sterling perhaps the man to drop from the lineup, as a result of the inclusion of Sturridge. Interestingly, this very morning, Liverpool’s official site have published an article with quotes from Suarez on the potential role change.
“Every player needs to play firstly where he feels most at home, but also where the manager tells him to play. If Daniel has a position where he likes to play, I’ll do it without any question at all. All the players here are ready to help the team and play in the position where the manager asks us to play.”
It remains to be seen if this materialises and if Suarez’s role is altered to the extent that his extraordinary output so far this season, is reduced.
Elsewhere on our radar this morning, there is concern about Lukas Podolski’s start at the Bridge following yesterday’s social media update from the Gunners striker. In truth, the press are unlikely to have picked up on Podolski’s Facebook status but, even so, it’s worth noting perhaps that only the Times miss the German out of their lineup, opting to include Olivier Giroud to lead the line, presumably with Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla set for wide roles.
Our Saturday morning stroll wouldn’t be the same without checking on Roberto Mancini and, with doubts over his choice of strikers once again, it’s worth paying some mind to the paper talk this morning.
With Sergio Aguero fit for selection, it’s questionable whether the City boss will remain patient with Carlos Tevez, having witnessed Mancini’s exasperation at missed opportunities in the Emirates victory.
The majority of the press stick with Tevez, however, with Edin Dzeko leading the line. Only the Times and the Guardian recall Aguero, the latter pairing him with Tevez and dropping Dzeko to the bench – an unlikely call given the Bosnian’s four goals in three league matches. With Aguero in our Scout Picks, you already know where we stand on this.
That provides a conclusive end to a precarious Saturday wander. Whilst our footing remained firm, despite the slippery conditions, we can now retire back to the warm and wonder whether the weekend teamsheets are set to pull the rug from under us.
Commenting is now closed for this post.
For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
Next Six Ticker
|No Change||Hart||MCI||B, Vs|
|Up||Robles||WIG||C, Vs, £|
|No Change||Lloris||TOT||C, Vs|
|No Change||Foster||WBA||C, Vs|
|No Change||Vorm||SWA||C, Vs|
|No Change||Mignolet||SUN||B, Vs|
|No Change||De Gea||MUN||A|
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|No Change||Kompany||MCI||B, Vs, Rest|
|No Change||Vertonghen||TOT||A, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Luiz||CHE||A, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Boyce||WIG||C, Vs, OoP|
|No Change||Cuéllar||SUN||B, Vs, £|
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|No Change||Mata||CHE||C, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Hazard||CHE||B, Vs, Rest, Inj|
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|No Change||Y Touré||MCI||B, Vs|
|No Change||Silva||MCI||B, Vs, Inj|
|Up||Tevez||MCI||A, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Koné||WIG||B, Vs, £|
|Down||van Persie||MUN||A, Vs|
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|Down||Aguero||MCI||B, Vs, Inj|
|Up||Rodriguez||SOT||A, Vs, £|
|Up||Defoe||TOT||B, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Ba||CHE||C, Vs, Rest|
|A, B, C||Current Form|
|Inj||Injured/Returning from Injury|
|OoP||Out of Position|
“We have dynamic players with good movement, so if he can link with them fine. He can play a bit higher because his timing getting into the box is very good.”Rafa Benitez talks up the role that Frank Lampard can play in his Chelsea revolution