Robin Van Persie is subbed off with a hip problem as United extend their lead to 15 points at the top of the table. Romelu Lukaku bags a brace as West Brom see off Sunderland, Arouna Kone is at the double in Wigan’s win at Reading, Santi Cazorla also notches twice as Arsenal earn the points at the Emirates, while Dimitar Berbatov helps clinch the points as Fulham squeeze past Stoke.
Van Persie Injury Scare
The Dutchman provided a FPL assist for Rafael’s wonder strike midway through the first-half but sustained a hip injury in a collision with a pitch-side cameraman. Van Persie played on after receiving treatment but was eventually withdrawn six minutes before the break – post-match his manager revealed:
“He collided into a camera which was dug out of a piece of ground, he collided into the base of it and that’s given him a sore hip. I imagine it will be tender and sore for a few days, but hopefully he’ll be alright, particularly for the Real game.”
Ferguson’s words certainly hint at a likely rest for Van Persie for next weekend’s home clash with Norwich. Even if City beat Chelsea later today, United’s lead at the top is still 12 points and with the second leg of the Champions League clash with Real Madrid taking place three days after the Canaries clash, Ferguson is certainly in the position to rest and rotate up top ahead of the visit of Jose Mourinho’s side. Fantasy managers had feared the Dutchman was always likely to miss out against Chris Hughton’s side and yesterday’s events merely lend further weight to that theory – with Wayne Rooney climbing off the bench having recovered from a sinus infection, Ferguson could turn to the former Everton man to lead the line, with Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck also in the mix. Bearing in mind United currently have a blank Gameweek 29, Van Persie’s owners may be scouring the market for short-term alternatives, though their clash with West Ham could yet be rearranged within the same Gameweek.
United Defensive Rotation Issues
Having talked up Jonny Evans as a key member of his first-team only last week, Ferguson chose to keep the Northern Ireland international on the bench, despite naming him as an unused sub in Monday’s FA Cup win over Reading. Nemanja Vidic was the only defender to keep his place from the Royals win, with Rafael, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand all returning to action. The 2-0 win means United have kept a clean sheet in three successive league matches – the first time they have achieved this feat in the current campaign and a clear sign of their increased resilience as the season heats up. Rafael’s superb first-half strike – his first goal since Gameweek 5 – will no doubt hog the headlines but Evra’s consistency has been simply incredible in recent matches; the Frenchman has scored, assisted or returned a clean sheet in nine of his last 10 Gameweeks, scoring less than five points only once across that run of matches.
QPR Attacking Woes Continue
Yet again, Harry Redknapp’s side failed to find their form in front of goal. With Adel Taarabt shifted to the left flank, the R’s started with Jamie Mackie tucked in behind Bobby Zamora but with the latter still edging his way towards full fitness after a lengthy lay-off, he was replaced by Loic Remy midway through the second period. The result means QPR have scored just four goals in the last 10 matches and have failed to find the net more than once since Gameweek 17; post-match, though, Redknapp took solace in Remy’s return from a groin injury and still remains optimistic of an upturn in attacking displays:
“With Bobby Zamora and [Loic] Remy coming back from injury I see two forwards that can start scoring some goals between now and the end of the season for us. That’s been our problem, we don’t score enough goals. Between them I can see them doing some damage to teams.”
Berbatov Back in the Points
The Bulgarian’s prospects had dipped in the previous Gameweek as a result of a move to the role in “the hole” but a shift back to the lone forward berth helped Berbatov produced the goods. With Bryan Ruiz tucking in behind, the former United man grabbed a fourth goal in his last eight appearances – bearing in mind he scored five times in his first 14 for the Cottagers, Berbatov has actually picked up in performance of late, despite a drop in price from 7.4 to 6.8 in FPL. Martin Jol’s side are now up to 32 points but are far from safe just yet – the next six Gameweeks sees them square up to four clubs in the bottom half of the table (sun, QPR, new, avl) and, providing Berbatov is retained up top, he looks likely to have a major say in his side’s fortunes between now and the end of the season.
Wilson Back in the Potters’ Reckoning
Granted, the 1-0 defeat extended Stoke’s recent run to nine games without a clean sheet but the return to fitness of Marc Wilson will have Fantasy managers on alert. The left-back looks an assured pick for Tony Pulis’ team and, priced at 3.9 in comparison to Ryan Shawcross’ 6.0 and Robert Huth’s 5.7, has bargain potential if the Potters can pick up in resilience. With three strong looking home fixtures in the next five (WHM, WBA, AVL) he’ll be making his way onto many a Fantasy radar.
Cazorla Outshines Walcott
It was understandable that Theo Walcott went into the home game with Villa as one of the Captain Poll favourites – with attacking returns in nine of his previous 10, he was second only to Robin Van Persie with 31% of the votes cast. While the winger stuttered to a rare blank, Santi Cazorla stepped up to serve a reminder that he is clearly a strong alternative to Walcott in the Gunners midfield. Once again, Cazorla started in the left ahead of Lukas Podolski, with Jack Wilshere preferred in “the hole” behind Olivier Giroud, and bagged both his side’s goals in a crucial 2-1 win – he has now notched four times in the last five and, perhaps more significantly, has overtaken Walcott in the FPL midfield standings; indeed, the maximum bonus would take him into second spot for midfielders, with only Juan Mata scoring more to this point.
N’Zogbia Continues To Impress
While Villa tasted defeat once again, Charles N’Zogbia came out of the game with his third consecutive assist and has now returned either an assist or goal in four of his last five games for Paul Lambert’s side. Prior to the match, the Villa boss had talked up the form of the Frenchman, underlining his potential in the role playing up just behind the strikers…
“In the offensive role he is there to make things happen. He will go and try things that other people wouldn’t try. That’s the beauty about him. He will try and make things happen which will certainly help.”
With three home fixtures in the next four, all vital to Villa’s cause, Lambert will be looking to N’Zogbia, along with Christian Benteke, to deliver on his current form and further returns could be on the cards.
Kone the Latics Talisman
We handed the Ivorian a place in Friday night’s differentials and he duly delivered with a brace in a vital 3-0 victory at fellow-strugglers Reading. Having arrived back from the African Cup of Nations, he was afforded a sub role in the previous Gameweek but hinted at what was to come in his following game, scoring twice in last weekend’s FA Cup win over Huddersfield. Looking at his league appearances, Kone has now delivered four goals and an assist in his last four starts for Roberto Martinez’s side – with three home games in the next four (LIV, NEW, NOR) he looks a real mid-price prospect at just 6.5, though a blank Gameweek 29 is likely to deter some would-be investors.
Canaries Move to 4-4-2
With a single goal in their previous five, it’s fair to say that Norwich haven’t been particularly impressive in front of goal in recent Gameweeks. Chris Hughton’s preferred 4-4-1-1 formation seemed set up to stop opponents more than create their own opportunities but the Canaries boss altered his approach yesterday, shifted Wes Hoolahan to the left flank and partnering Grant Holt with Luciano Becchio for the visit of Everton. The hosts resultantly grabbed their first win since Gameweek 17, with Holt and Kei Kamara (on as a sub for Becchio) both scoring late on to secure the points – Norwich’s top scoring Fantasy performer Robert Snodgrass was also amongst the points for the first time in seven appearance, with an assist taking his tally to 108 points; more than any midfielder priced under the 6.5 mark.
Another Blank for Fellaini
The Belgian was shifted back to the support role behind a lone striker, with Nikica Jelavic earning a recall in light of Victor Anichebe’s injury. Once again, however, Fellaini failed to find the net – he has now scored in just one of his last nine appearances for the Toffees. While a home clash with Reading looks enticing next weekend, a possible blanks Gameweek 29, in addition to games against City and Spurs in two of the following three, may sway some to sell the misfiring midfielder on – intriguingly, Leighton Baines’ assist for Leon Osman’s opener means he is now just eight points behind Fellaini in the FPL standings.
Lukaku’s Form Continues
We handed the Baggies forward a place in the Scout Picks XI and he vindicated our faith with a double against Sunderland. Having climbed off the bench to score at Liverpool last time out, the Belgian was selected in the starting line-up alongside Shane Long and his brace maintained a super run of form which has seen him produce attacking points in six of his last seven in a run which has harvested six goals and a pair of assists. Considering Long has scored six times all season, Lukaku’s impact is obvious but Steve Clarke will need to make do without the 6.5 priced forward for the trip to Chelsea next weekend – Lukaku is ineligible to face his parent club due to the conditions of his loan deal.
Sunderland Roll Out a 4-4-2
Martin O’Neill had hinted at a change in his attacking options prior to yesterday’s match and the Black Cats boss was true to his word. Danny Graham was afforded his first start since moving to Wearside last month – the former Swansea man starting alongside Steven Fletcher in a 4-4-2, with Stephane Sessegnon fielded on the right flank. While the front two misfired in front of goal, Sessegnon impressed throughout and grabbed his first goal since Gameweek 16 in the 2-1 defeat – post-match, his manager singled the Benin international out for praise::
“We didn’t have a great deal of luck in and around the penalty area ourselves and we should have taken more from what Stephane Sessegnon created. He scored a great goal himself. Stephane was excellent today; top-quality in the second half.”