This week’s regular look at the upcoming fixtures begins, as ever, with those sides whose appeal is increased by kind schedules over the next four to six Gameweeks. Three of the top five are handed an opportunity to boost their aspirations, while a bevy of lower placed outfits provide some intriguing differentials to help Fantasy managers break the template and climb the ranks.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men are now undisputed home turf heavyweights, having scored an astounding 22 goals over the last four home games to renew their title bid. City’s away form is famously less stellar but they now have an appealing stretch of fixtures to turn that around. The next six Gameweeks provide home fixtures against Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Cardiff whilst trips to Fulham, Swansea and Newcastle could help them banish their travel demons.
Nowhere near as prolific for clean sheets as last term, City defenders aren’t top of many Christmas lists but it’s worth noting that Pablo Zabaleta has three assists in the last four games and the return of Vincent Kompany can only increase his appeal. In midfield, an array of options presents itself, with Yaya Toure continuing to defy the doubters, and looking to have penalty duties in Sergio Aguero’s absence, while David Silva’s return to fitness makes him the statisticians’ choice. It’s the injury to Aguero that occupies the minds of most managers, though. Alvaro Negredo comes with a formidable history from La Liga and has made himself a favourite with the fans, but just one double-figure haul so far hints at a possible lack of explosive potential from the Spaniard.
The 4-1 scoreline against Fulham flattered Everton a little but there’s no denying that the Toffees are on song. A wonderful accompaniment to their strong form is the best set of festive fixtures in the league, a mouth-watering combination for Fantasy managers. The next six for Roberto Martinez’s team comprise home games against Sunderland, Southampton and Norwich along with trips to Swansea, Stoke and West Brom, all of which look profitable at both ends of the pitch.
Seamus Coleman’s third goal of the season confirmed his position as a budget-friendly usurper to Leighton Baines’ throne, though Phil Jagielka provides the promise of bonus points, while Sylvain Distin has price on his side. In the middle of the field, the injury to Gerard Deufoleu increases Kevin Mirallas’ appeal, while Steven Pienaar hinted at a return to Fantasy form of old with a pair of assists against the Cottagers. Romelu Lukaku’s stock has been kept ticking over lately with a couple of dubious assists, but his underlying goal threat is still very much present.
A draw at home against Swansea wasn’t the worst result in the world but the Canaries could do with grabbing a few more points to lift themselves clear of danger. Thankfully for Chris Hughton, his team have the fixtures on their side to do so. With Sunderland, Fulham, Crystal Palace and Hull in the next six, investors need only be wary of games against United and Everton sandwiched in between.
Martin Olsson looks to be the defender of choice, whilst John Ruddy could be worth considering between the sticks if you’re prepared to pay a little more. In midfield, Nathan Redmond and Leroy Fer offer budget appeal, though the former could be at risk when all first team regulars are fit. The headline act right now, however, is Gary Hooper. The former Celtic man – who averaged over 20 goals per season in his time north of the border – has now scored four goals in six games to present differential-hunting Fantasy managers with a budget-priced star performer.
A lamentable performance at the weekend that barely troubled United is a serious concern for Paul Lambert, but he does have four consecutive kind fixtures to help him resurrect the glimpses of form we’ve seen on occasion. Trips to Stoke and Sunderland bookend back-to-back home games against Palace and Swansea, a set of fixtures that could well deliver Fantasy points.
Ron Vlaar’s continued absence through injury has robbed us of the most sure starters in defence but Antonio Luna is fit again and carries someattacking threat from left-back, while Brad Guzan rarely fails to deliver save points. The Villains’ midfield hasn’t shown much sustained promise this season but the towering form of Christian Benteke is a slumbering giant that Lambert will be hoping to rouse – the Belgian’s toils in front of goal are hard to reconcile with the irresistible displays we saw at the beginning of the season. If he can be sparked back into life, his pedigree suggests points galore.
Tony Pulis continues his impressive turnaround of the team that not long ago were simply armband fodder for Fantasy managers. With a spirited fight against Chelsea dispensed with, the Eagles have three home games in the next six (NEW, NOR, STO) as well as a trip to Aston Villa to tempt investment. Such fixtures make the defensive services of Danny Gabbidon or Joel Ward worth considering. Barry Bannan is still the most attractive proposition amongst the Eagles’ midfield, whilst the award for the wildest differential striker must surely go to Marouane Chamakh, who has now scored in each of the last three.
A goalless draw against Stoke will be frustrating for Gus Poyet but does at least show defensive resilience. He’ll be hopeful that the upcoming fixtures can help him to ignite the Wearsiders’ attack, though – in the next six games, Norwich, Aston Villa and injury ravaged Southampton visit the Stadium of Light whilst trips to Fulham and Cardiff combine to make a case for investment. Phil Bardsley and Wes Brown look like the defenders of choice, especially in the absence of certainty between the sticks. Further up the field is very much differential territory but Emanuele Giaccherini has the potential for goals and assists, though Poyet’s decision to bench Steven Fletcher last week and revert to a lone striker system places question marks over the forward options.
Arsene Wenger’s side stagger back to the Emirates with their tails between their legs after a hiding at the hands of Man City, but they’re still top of the table and remain a great source of Fantasy profit. After a home game with Chelsea, the fixture list turns in Arsenal’s favour, with trips to West Ham, Newcastle and Aston Villa as well as the visits of Cardiff and Fulham. The Gunners’ defence looks set to be devoid of Laurent Koscielny, which may temporarily lessen the appeal of Per Mertesacker and Wojciech Szczesny. In midfield, the embarrassment of riches just increased with the emphatic return of Theo Walcott, while Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey still retain their appeal. However, with goals in just two of the last twelve Gameweeks, the sun may have now set on Olivier Giroud’s appeal.