This week’s look at the upcoming fixture list keeps the Swans firmly in the ascendency, while a certain Belgian times his return to fitness exquisitely to capitalize on favourable fixtures for Paul Lambert’s Villa.
Last time out, Swansea inaugurated their hotly-anticipated run of good fixtures by thumping Sunderland. The next six has home games against West Ham, Stoke and Newcastle, which, along with trips to Cardiff and Fulham, hold promise for goals and clean sheets aplenty. A trip to the Etihad is an irritation but that aside, the Swans look ripe for investment.
Michu’s most astonishing feat of the season – to stay off the scoresheet in a 4-0 rout of the Black Cats – won’t deter many and his underlying numbers still look good. Fit-again Pablo Hernandez stumped up a goal and two assists in the opening three games before his injury and is well priced as a differential, while up top, Wilfried Bony’s appeal was boosted after he was confirmed as penalty taker at the weekend.
At the back, there are a number of options. With doubts remaining over Ashley Williams, Chico and Angel Rangel staked claims for our consideration after both earned assists in the Sunderland hammering, Michel Vorm’s save point potential is always likely to help the Dutchman and Neil Taylor may appeal as a short-term punt after Ben Davies was ruled out for three-to-four-weeks.
A valiant effort against Tottenham wasn’t enough to prevent defeat but with their talisman returning up front, Paul Lambert’s side have reason for optimism. Christian Benteke’s comeback couldn’t be timed better for Fantasy managers as Villa’s fixture schedule takes a turn for the better – home games against Everton, Cardiff and Sunderland, allied with trips to West Ham and West Brom, make for an appealing prospect.
A revelation last season, Benteke didn’t break stride over the summer and returned to score four goals in as many games before injury put his bandwagon on ice. Now down to 8.8, he looks like a real contender, despite the current profusion of in-form striking options – indeed, with an ownership now down to 12%, the Belgian holds significant appeal for those looking to shake up their three-man frontlines.
The rest of Villa’s assets are strictly differentials. At the back, Antonio Luna and Ron Vlaar are the only defenders to have played every game so far, but question marks remain over Villa’s clean sheet potential – Brad Guzan’s save points have earned him a 10-point lead over any defensive team-mate. With little on offer in midfield, Andreas Weimann, at just 6.0 in FPL, has proven a better source of points than Gabby Agbonlahor as part of the front three.
Still on the back foot after a late spoiler from Southampton, David Moyes will be hoping the kind run of fixtures help haul his team back on track. With three profitable looking games in the next four – Stoke, Fulham and Cardiff – United will be hopeful of a return to form before they face up to Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton.
Robin Van Persie gave his patient remaining managers a boost with a well-taken goal to remind us all of his potential while Wayne Rooney’s stock was kept ticking over with an assist. Adnan Januzaj’s bandwagon is still rolling after keeping his manager’s faith but at the back, injury and rotation have blighted entry into what ought to be a lucrative defence. Patrice Evra is now the most secure defender, having played all but one game. Jonny Evans has deputized recently but for now it’s hard to say whether he will nail down a regular place when Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are both fit – with a single clean sheet in six, though, faith in United’s backline is understandably ebbing away.
A draw at Old Trafford continued the Saints’ hugely impressive campaign. Mauricio Pochettino’s side will be full of confidence going into their next three games – home games against Fulham and Hull straddle a trip to Stoke before they steel themselves for back-to-back visits to Arsenal and Chelsea.
Pochettino’s greatest impact on the side he contentiously inherited from Nigel Adkins has been at the back. A stunning five clean sheets and only three goals conceded have made their defence a hot Fantasy property. Dejan Lovren is the luxury option at 5.4, with a goal and seven bonus points, but Nathaniel Clyne, at 4.5, has started each of the last five and offers the cheapest route into the Saints back-four for those looking for an alternative to. Artur Boruc between the sticks.
Further forward, Adam Lallana has proven to be the only reliable option – the Saints skipper has been steadily picking up the points and now has returns in each of his last four games. Rickie Lambert, on the other hand, was dropped for the first time last weekend, while Pablo Osvaldo has yet to adjust to the physical nature of the Premier League.
Humbled by a rampant Arsenal, Norwich will hope to find some relief in the upcoming schedule. Chris Hughton’s side have three home games against Cardiff, West Ham and Crystal Palace in addition to a trip to Newcastle in the next six. Those games bode well for defensive returns from the likes of Michael Turner, though trips to City and Liverpool are likely to see our Canaries defenders warm the bench.
With so many budget midfielders and strikers performing, it’s hard to get excited about Norwich’s attacking options. While Jonny Howson’s penchant for long-range efforts has borne fruit in two of the last three games, Robert Snodgrass has remained Norwich’s greatest threat from midfield – up top, Ricky van Wolfswinkel is expected back imminently from a toe problem but, without a goal since Gameweek 1, the Dutchman is yet to settle since moving to Carrow Road over the summer.
Still very much in the ascendency despite a frustrating failure to grab all three points against 10-man Newcastle, Liverpool’s fixtures are looking good for a while yet. Home games against West Brom, Fulham and Norwich and a trip to Hull in the next six catch the eye, though trips to Everton and Arsenal in the next four slightly dent their appeal. The Daniel Sturridge and/or Luis Suárez continues to rumble on as both players delivered the points yet again last week, while Glen Johnson (now priced very favourably at 5.7) was handed an out of position berth on the right of midfield upon his return from injury last week. Victor Moses hasn’t really delivered on his promise and with Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho set to return in the next few weeks, his game time could soon be diminished.
After clashes with three of the top five in the last four weeks, the Hammers get a brief respite in their schedule, facing only Chelsea from the top half of the table in the next six. Winston Reid appears to be the pick of the defenders here, though pre-season bandwagon Razvan Rat has started the last four games. Ravel Morrison’s performances are keeping him in the first XI and owners will be hopeful of more returns from these fixtures – at 4.4, he offers outstanding value and has produced returns in three of the last four now. Andy Carroll’s return can’t come soon enough for Sam Allardyce but sadly for his Fantasy suitors he is unlikely to feature for the opening of this kind fixture run – a return in time for Gameweek 12 has been recently mooted.
Martin Jol’s men finally found their shooting boots in time to punish Palace but the Cottagers will need to retain that form if they’re to survive the upcoming fixtures. Fulham face United, Liverpool and Tottenham in the next six, as well as a trip to St Mary’s against a Saints side unbeaten in five now. While Patjim Kasami rightly gained enormous plaudits for Monday’s wonder-strike, Fantasy managers may be using this tricky period to assess his long-term appeal. Likewise, the last word in mercurial strikers, Dimitar Berbatov, chose a bad time to announce himself but, having opened his account for the season, will at least be hoping to return to the lone forward role after Darren Bent’s poor showing at Selhurst Park.
The Baggies face a similarly stern test. Trips to Liverpool and Chelsea as well as a home tie with City combine to make Fantasy managers think twice about investing, though home games against Palace and Villa sweeten the medicine somewhat. While this pair of Hawthorns games could be enough to persuade owners of Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon to hold, given their recent form, backline options such as Liam Ridgewell and Gareth McAuley may struggle to replicate the resilience that has seen their side concede just twice in the last four fixtures.
Having bravely rescued a draw against Liverpool with 10 men, Alan Pardew’s side are starting to show green shoots of recovery. Newcastle now find themselves in difficult short-term straits with an always-unpredictable Tyne-Wear derby preceding games against Chelsea and Tottenham – Fabricio Coloccini’s groin injury only compounds these woes. Gameweek 12 heralds the arrival of calmer waters for the Magpies, starting with back-to-back home games against Norwich and West Brom; admirers of Loic Remy, Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy may wish to wait until then to jump on board, while Hatem Ben Arfa’s prospects could be set for an upturn if he continues through the middle up front ahead of Papiss Cisse.
BE WARY OF
After falling to defeat at Goodison, Steve Bruce’s team now have an unpleasant run of fixtures. While home ties with Sunderland and Crystal Palace in the next four look promising of both defensive and attacking points, trips to Tottenham, Southampton and Arsenal as well as hosting Liverpool – all in the next six – most certainly do not. Robbie Brady’s owners may be tempted to hold due to set-piece and spot-kick duties but Hull’s defensive assets are likely to be thought of as no more than bench fodder for that quartet of fixtures.
While a home game against Hull looks enticing this week, three tricky games in the subsequent four (eve, mci, MUN) may convince some Fantasy managers to consider alternatives. Supremely patient owners of Roberto Soldado were finally rewarded last week and are unlikely to give up now, but an unexpected rest for Christian Eriksen may be the final straw for owners of the underwhelming Dane. Such opponents may prove too much for their hitherto resilient defenders Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen and Fantasy managers with transfers to spare may consider other backline options until the schedule clears up. Owners of Michael Dawson may also be viewing the debut of Vlad Chiriches with suspicion as the threat of rotation edges closer.
Despite some solid team performances and steady progress in the Premier League table, The Bluebirds have yet to really set the Fantasy game alight, partly due to the proliferation of more enticing budget options. In the short term, the prospects are bright – Norwich, Swansea and Aston Villa could offer points for Malky Mackay’s plucky Welshmen – but there is a sting in the tail in the form of back-to-back home games against Man United and Arsenal in Gameweeks 12 and 13 respectively. Ben Turner owners will be happy to bench over these matches, while Peter Whittingham may struggle to improve upon a return of just one assist in the last four.