Everton register their second successive clean sheet, while Southampton maintain their recent defensive form as Monday night serves up a goalless draw at St Mary’s. Elsewhere, Pablo Zabaleta expects to be back this weekend for City’s FA Cup game with Stoke, Tony Pulis is uncertain when Marc Wilson will return, Harry Redknapp ponders a change in formation, while Joe Cole is confident more goals will follow his strike against QPR last Saturday.
Everton Defensive Improvement
A goalless draw with Swansea last weekend ended a dire run of defensive displays which had seen Everton fail to register a single clean sheet since Gameweek 5. Faith in Leighton Baines’ potential for returns at the back was understandably dented but last night’s result saw the Toffees register another clean sheet, taking their tally to four for the season. Now up to 98 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) points, Baines is starting to reward the patience of his Fantasy owners – he has now returned 22 points in the last three weeks, compared to 20 points in the previous nine.
The upturn in defensive resolve has come at a cost, however. Everton had scored in all but one of their first 21 fixtures, with their only previous blank arriving as far back as Gameweek 3. Marouane Fellaini has now gone five appearances without a goal and, while he still managed to pick up a couple of bonus points, his owners will be concerned by a move to a deeper central midfield berth – forced by a tactical reshuffle as a result of an injury to Seamus Coleman. While the Belgian’s starting berth is surely not in question, those who have taken a punt on Nikica Jelavic may be a little worried after he was hauled off following another wretched display in front of goal. The Croatian had played all but 18 minutes of the previous 16 matches but was replaced with 25 minutes left on the clock – with Kevin Mirallas and Victor Anichebe offering alternatives for the lone frontman role, Moyes has options available ahead of two home games against West Brom and Villa.
Saints Remain Unbeaten
On another day, Rickie Lambert could have bagged a brace. His failure to produce, however, meant that last night’s result was the first goalless draw Southampton have been involved in all season – hardly the inspirational start their new manager Mauricio Pochettino was after. Those who drafted in Nathaniel Clyne for the recent double have now earned 17 points from the last three Gameweeks and while the draw takes Southampton’s unbeaten run to six, they now face United and City in the next three – the new man in charge looks set for a testing time at Old Trafford a week tomorrow.
In Other News
Pablo Zabaleta handed his Fantasy owners some good news after revealing he expects to be fit for City’s weekend FA Cup clash with Stoke. The right-back was subbed off just after the hour mark in Saturday’s win over Fulham but moved to allay any injury fears yesterday:
“I took a kick on the top of my foot which caused me a lot of pain afterwards and that’s the reason it was better that I came off. Thankfully, the scan showed there was no serious damage. I should be fine for Saturday but it will be a couple of days before it is 100% again. I did some bike work on Monday morning and on Tuesday I will try some running so I’m sure I will be available for the game against Stoke.”
With City’s next league game a week away, he’ll have plenty time to get back to full fitness ahead of the trip to Loftus Road on January 29. Having started each of his side’s last 11 Gameweeks, the Argentine’s security of starts have earned him a Fantasy Premier League (FPL) ownership of just under 9% so far. Zabaleta’s average 4.5 points per game is superior to any other City defensive regular, with a couple of goals, an assist and nine bonus points in addition to seven clean sheets so far – having now kept three back-to-back clean sheets, the 6.0 priced defender is likely to pick up further investment if passed fit prior to next Tuesday evening’s deadline.
Tony Pulis has admitted the recent adverse weather conditions have hampered Marc Wilson’s injury comeback. Speaking to the club’s official website yesterday, the Stoke boss was somewhat reluctant to put a timescale on the left-back’s return:
“The cold weather is not helping Marc. We have to be very careful in these conditions when he is coming back from an injury of this nature, so that is taking its toll at the moment. Marc has been a massive miss for us over the past three months and we want him back as soon as possible, but we have to get it right. He has been coming along nicely in training over the past few days, but it’s difficult to say at the moment when he’ll start playing.”
Sidelined since Gameweek 9 with a broken ankle, Wilson was initially expected back this month but reports last week had suggested late February would be more realistic. From a Fantasy perspective, it’s a frustrating situation – with home games against Wigan, Reading and West Ham in the next five, the potential for clean sheets is enticing, though Stoke have, admittedly, been poor at the back, conceding 13 times in the last four. Priced at a mere 4.0, Wilson is already on many a radar but plans are likely to be put on hold in light of Pulis’ admission – with cut-price replacement Andy Wilkinson missing out last week due to a back injury, Pulis was forced to field midfielder Dean Whitehead at right-back, with Geoff Cameron shifting over to the opposite side of the back-four. At present, then, Cameron – at 4.9 in FPL – is the cheapest available route into the Stoke defence ahead of those fixtures.
Harry Redknapp has admitted Bobby Zamora’s imminent return from injury could be key to a switch in formation for QPR. Sidelined since mid-November with a hip problem, Zamora has yet to feature since Redknapp’s arrival but is edging closer to a return, with reports even suggesting he may be in the frame for this weekend’s FA Cup clash against MK Dons.
“Remy’s movement is good, he’s quick and he’ll score goals for us I’m sure. He’ll give us something different. I fancy him and Zamora together. I’ve got to find a way of playing them two, and then Taarabt, to get the best out of them. It will give us a bit of attacking threat. Taarabt could play in a diamond, in behind. If Bobby is fit it will make a big difference to us.”
Redknapp watched on as Adel Taarabt and Loic Remy struck up an instant understanding in the weekend draw at West Ham, with the Moroccan teeing up Remy for a debut strike at Upton Park. Having scored just three times in their last six, though, it’s clear the R’s need something extra up front – it’s an encouraging sign for Taarabt’s owners that his manager intends to keep him in “the hole”, shaping the midfield around his playmaker’s talents. While games against City and United dent their appeal in the next four, the Loftus Road outfit have a strong run of fixtures from Gameweek 28 onwards which could well make or break their survival bid – with Redknapp clearly intent on going for goals, the attacking trio could soon be blinking brighter on Fantasy radars.
Joe Cole spoke of his flourishing form at West Ham since returning to the club earlier this month. Having provided a pair of assists in his second home debut against United in the FA Cup, Cole’s next Upton Park match saw him notch the equaliser against QPR last Saturday – an impact that has delighted the midfielder:
“It was nice to score. I know we’re going to put a lot of crosses in and it’s up to me to try to get on the end of things. It was good and, of course, the main thing was to get a point and keep us moving forward and getting points on the board. It’s always nice to score any goal. When you have days like that in football, you just have to try and enjoy them. I’m happy and playing with a smile on my face. Playing in that position a bit further forward out wide, you have got to score goals. Myself and Matt Jarvis are working on getting in the box and scoring more goals.”
Cole’s attacking display brought the maximum FPL bonus points in the first match of West Ham’s double Gameweek and helped him to a 10 point return prior to the Hammers’ midweek trip to Arsenal. With Kevin Nolan now on a 10-match barren run, Cole’s added threat already looks crucial to Sam Allardyce’s side ahead of a schedule which pits them against Fulham, Swansea and Villa in the next three Gameweeks – despite being drafted in by almost 40,000 FPL managers in the past fortnight, he remains a real differential, with just 1.4% currently owning the 5.6 priced midfielder.
With Jamie Carragher starting Saturday’s 5-0 victory over Norwich, there are quotes today from both the player and his manager Brendan Rodgers, alluding to his future at the club. The weekend was only Carragher’s second start of the league campaign, having previously been given the nod in the 1-1 draw at Chelsea. Articles today stress that the Liverpool stalwart is looking to reinstate himself in the starting XI…
“I’ve played a lot in Europe, the FA Cup and League Cup, but the Premier League is the most important thing for the club and the players. We all want to play in that, and I’m no different. The manager has always kept me involved by having me on the bench or bringing me on in different situations. But listen, I want to start. I’m no different to any other player.”
Rodgers has, in turn, spoken out in praise of Carragher’s showing against the Canaries, underlining his importance to the side as a leader at the back and backing his decision to oust Martin Skrtel to the bench to make way…
“We’ve done terrific this year against the teams at Anfield who can make it difficult, but obviously we want to go into the big games where you need leadership, experience, organisation – just fine lines that can make the difference for you – and that’s what Jamie’s got. There’s no doubt that’s why I put him in. When he played at Chelsea he was outstanding. So it’s food for thought…I just thought him coming in alongside Daniel Agger, who has been brilliant, would give us that extra bit of leadership. We saw that from him today, he was fantastic.”
Priced at 5.0 in the Fantasy Premier League game, while Carragher offers little or no attacking threat, he would provide a cheaper route into a Liverpool back four that has kept four clean sheets in their last six league outings. While Andre Wisdom, at just 4.3, is the cheapest available option right now, it seems unlikely that he’ll retain his start once Jose Enrique has recovered from a hamstring injury that has seen him miss the last three league outings. If he can cement a start alongside Agger, Carragher could well offer a good option for the remainder of the season for those looking to farm Liverpool’s defensive returns on a tight budget. As for Skrtel, clearly his security of start is now in question – the 6.0 defender is owned by over 8% of FPL managers.
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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|
|Up||Boruc||SOT||B, Vs, £|
|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, £|
|No Change||Rangel||SWA||C, Vs|
|Up||Clyne||SOT||B, Vs, £|
|No Change||Mata||CHE||C, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Hazard||CHE||B, Vs, Rest, Inj|
|Up||Maloney||WIG||B, Vs, £|
|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|
|Up||Lukaku||WBA||B, Vs, Rest|
|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|
“I am happy with the way I’ve started, but on the other hand, I should have scored four or five more, so that’s something for me to work on.”Robin Van Persie talks about his early form at United ahead of his first Manchester derby