Christian Benteke and Rickie Lambert are amongst the goals as Villa and Southampton grab vital wins to boost their chances of survival. Wayne Rooney is United’s match-winner against Reading, Robin Van Persie, Theo Walcott and Michu continue to struggle, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar are both set to serve two-match suspensions, while Luis Suarez is one booking away from joining the Everton pair on the sidelines.
Midfield Headache for Moyes
Having picked up his ninth caution of the season in last weekend’s FA Cup defeat at the hands of Wigan, Marouane Fellaini was one of five players teetering on the brink of a two-match ban. The Belgian had to navigate four games without a further caution but lasted a mere eight minutes in yesterday’s win over City before incurring the referee’s wrath – although he will now skip the upcoming home clash against Stoke and trip to Tottenham, Fellaini will now be available for the Toffees double Gameweek 33. With David Moyes’ side entertaining QPR before making their way to the Emirates, the Belgian can be expected to receive plenty extra investment once his ban is done, with an assist against Roberto Mancini’s men meaning he has produced returns in three of his last five.
Steven Pienaar also added to the Toffees woes yesterday. A pair of yellows earned the South African his second sending off of the season – as a result, he is also set to sit on the sidelines for the next two matches. The likes of Steven Naismith and Bryan Oviedo seem the likeliest to benefit from the duo’s absence, though Victor Anichebe could move to the role in “the hole”, allowing Nikica Jelavic to return to the lone forward position.
Benteke Produces Once Again
Yet again, Christian Benteke was amongst the goals as Paul Lambert’s side registered a third victory in five to continue their climb up the table. Having notched in crucial wins over West Ham and Reading in recent weeks, the Belgian was at it again yesterday – his 81st minute clincher against QPR saw the midlanders move six points clear of the drop zone and helped him to an eight goal in 10 matches.
With home games against Liverpool and Fulham in the next three, the bandwagon shows no sign of easing up as Benteke goes from strength to strength, highlighting the potential for Fantasy points afforded by clubs in the relegation dog fight. Elsewhere for Lambert’s side, Andreas Weimann is looking a viable option for those Fantasy managers on the hunt for a cut-price forward option. The Austrian grabbed a goal and assist in the 3-2 triumph and continues a recent rise to form which has seen him score or assist in three of the last four – coming in at 5.0 in FPL, he has started each of the last six on the flank and looks a key part of Lambert’s side right now.
Townsend’s Cup-Price Appeal
Moved to the left of a front three as Harry Redknapp made the surprise decision to drop Junior Hoilett, QPR’s on loan winger was amongst the points again in yesterday’s Villa Park defeat. Having produced a goal and pair of assists last time out, Townsend proved his Gameweek 29 exploits weren’t a one-off by notching the visitors’ second in the 3-2 loss and it seems that regardless of Redknapp’s formation, his game time is looking guaranteed. Coming in at just 4.4 in FPL, and with Fulham, Wigan and Reading in the next five, he can be expected to earn plenty new owners over the international break as the R’s look to get back to winning ways.
Lambert Ends Home Drought
Sold by over 83,000 FPL managers heading into the home game with Liverpool, Southampton’s top scorer was back amongst the goals after a brief two-game blank. Surprisingly, most of Lambert’s success has arrived on the road this season, though – indeed, yesterday’s strike was the first time he has found the net at St Mary’s since the Gameweek 14 win over Norwich, with just two assists produced over his previous six home appearances. Looking at Lambert’s schedule, it’s likely many will snap him up over the international fortnight – while a home clash against Chelsea may lessen his appeal, the Blues may well be under-strength for that one if Rafa Benitez chooses to prioritise the FA Cup Sixth Round replay with United, which takes place two days later. After that, the Saints then face Reading, West Ham and Swansea – games which could well help seal their survival and hand the 13-goal frontman further chance to thrive.
Schneiderlin’s Attacking Appeal
Elsewhere in Mauricio Pochettino’s first-team, the omission of Jason Puncheon was notable once again. The winger has started just one of the last four and with Jay Rodriguez producing a goal and assist from the right flank, the security of starts previously offered by Puncheon under Nigel Adkins looks a distant memory. Frustratingly for Fantasy managers, Rodriguez is classified as a forward and is unlikely to shift Lambert in our thoughts, though Morgan Schneiderlin is a definite alternative – priced at 4.6 in FPL, the central midfielder grabbed the hosts’ opener and has now notched in three of his last six. With maximum bonus also picked up in last week’s goalless draw at Norwich, he looks a real contender for our fifth midfielder and has played every minute of all but two league games this season.
Suarez on the Tightrope
The Uruguayan headed to St Mary’s as a real armband contender for the Gameweek, having racked up three successive sets of double figures. In a hugely frustrating afternoon for Suarez’s owners, he suffered a rare off-day, with Daniel Sturridge providing the assist for Philippe Coutinho’s consolation – furthermore, a last-minute booking took Suarez to nine cautions for the campaign and means he must now avoid picking up a yellow over his next three to avoid an automatic two-match ban. The Red’s upcoming matches looks primed for points and a caution against Villa in Gameweek 31 would be disastrous, with Suarez then missing a home game against West Ham and trip to Reading – if he can avoid another card until after the Gameweek 33 Reading match, the number of cautions required to trigger a ban is extended to 15.
Potters Back in the Clean Sheets
It was a long time coming but Stoke registered their first clean sheet in 12 attempts in a goalless home encounter with West Brom. Tony Pulis continued to tinker with the back-four as Robert Huth served the final match of a three-game ban – Geoff Cameron was moved from last week’s right-back berth to the opposite side of defence, with Marc Wilson continuing at centre-half alongside Ryan Shawcross as Andy Wilkinson dropped out. While Huth looks assured of a return to the heart of defence, Pulis clearly has options: Wilson’s owners will be a little concerned after Cameron was utilised on the left, though the US international’s versatility may see him return to the right at the expense of Ryan Shotton. With Villa, QPR and Norwich in their next five, those who kept faith in the Potters defensive assets will feel a little more confident after seeing Stoke keep the rampaging Romelu Lukaku at bay yesterday.
Gunners Defensive Dilemma
With a home game against Reading up next and a pair of home fixtures on their double Gameweek 33 agenda, Arsenal’s assets are set for significant investment. Yesterday’s lineup handed us much to deliberate, though. Arsene Wenger kept faith in the likes of Lukas Fabianksi and Laurent Koscielny after both impressed in the 2-0 midweek win over Bayern Munich, while Nacho Monreal was afforded a return to left-back. With Wojciech Szczesny, Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs all in the mix, and with Bacary Sagna back soon to threaten the game time of Carl Jenkinson, major question marks hang over Arsenal’s defence – all the more frustrating given their increased solidity both in the Allianz Arena and at the Liberty yesterday.
Walcott Blanks Again
Undoubtedly, Theo Walcott will be the top target for many Fantasy managers by the time double Gameweek 33 arrives but the winger is struggling to produce the goods right now. Once again, Walcott failed to find the net – he has now gone five games without scoring in a run that has harvested four wins for Wenger’s side. Indeed, yesterday was the first time Walcott has failed to score or assist when starting a game on the road, having produced returns in each of his previous seven away fixtures when named in the first XI. Intriguingly for Santi Cazorla’s owners, the Spaniard was moved to the role in “the hole” as a result of Jack Wilshere’s injury absence; with Lukas Podolski out with a similar complaint, Wenger handed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a rare start on the left flank.
Michu Drought Continues
With Luke Moore dropping to the bench, the Spaniard was shifted back into the lone forward role for the visit of Arsenal. Once again, though, Michu drew a blank, with his stuttering form showing little sign of improving – having notched in 10 of his opening 18 matches, he has now scored in just one of his last 10 appearances and with a massive 49% ownership, his failure is having a significant effect in many a mini league right now. With a home clash against Spurs and trip to Norwich preceding a blank Gameweek 33, many are now contemplating selling on the 8.5 priced midfielder, with squad restructuring a priority for the upcoming doubles.
United Defensive Rotation Concern
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side moved 15 points clear of City with a 1-0 win over Reading earning them a fifth successive clean sheet. Although investment in United’s backline looks a viable tactic, Ferguson’s decision to rest and rotate his defence poses a real headache over the remaining nine games. David De Gea has now started the last 14 and certainly seems the safest option, though if United clinch the title, Ferguson may decide to hand Anders Lindegaard game time between the posts in order to reward the Dane with a Premier League medal – at present, though, this situation is no more than hypothetical.
Nemanja Vidic was the only defender to retain his place from the back-four that lined up against Norwich in the previous league match and while Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans are also vying for starts at the heart of the back-four, it seems Ferguson is also willing to alternate the full-back slots, with Chris Smalling and Alexander Buttner ousting Rafael and Patrice Evra from the reckoning. With an FA Cup Sixth Round replay against Chelsea arriving just two days after the Gameweek 31 trip to Sunderland, rotation for the league match could be on the cards again as the United boss battles for silverware on two fronts.
Rooney Steps Up
As Robin Van Persie’s toils continued, Wayne Rooney grabbed the goal for United to maintain his recent rise to prominence. While the Dutchman has now notched in just one of his last six, Rooney has netted five in the same period and is proving key to United’s title bid right now – almost 2.0 cheaper than Van Persie in FPL and with a lowly ownership of just 8%, Rooney is finding his form at a time where his strike partner is severely testing the patience of his 38% owners. Having started all but one league fixture since Gameweek 5, Van Persie seems to be running out of steam and his ownership may well continue to decline at pace – if United get the better of Chelsea in the cup replay, their double Gameweek 33 would also be reduced to a single fixture and may persuade Van Persie owners to look elsewhere in the short-term.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas