Having analysed those sides with Strong schedules over the next three Gameweeks, we turn our attentions to those who could be set for a festive headache. The league leaders and a raft of mid-table teams find a Christmas present to forget in the form of some unwelcome fixtures:
Defeat to Everton began a prolonged period of daunting ties for Michael Laudrup’s side, from which they will be lucky to emerge clear of relegation danger. A Boxing Day visit to Stamford Bridge is followed by a relative breather at Aston Villa before they’re back into the fray with a home tie with Man City – it arguably gets worse after that, too.
Owners of Chico Flores and the bonus point-hogging Ashley Williams will not be confident of many more points, especially with first choice stopper Michel Vorm now sidelined after surgery. Jonjo Shelvey briefly looked like providing a genuine differential but a formation change, coupled with the fixtures, dampens that hope greatly, whilst the other budget midfielders in the Swans’ outfit haven’t really convinced even against weaker opposition. Ivorian striker Wilfried Bony got his first start after returning from injury but has his work cut out to finally find his feet in the Premier League.
A convincing, if expected, win over Cardiff City to go top of the league will keep the Reds full of the required confidence ahead of what is arguably their most daunting fixture of the season – a trip to the Etihad. That’s followed by a visit to Stamford Bridge before the waters calm with home game against Hull.
Luis Suarez clearly won’t be leaving any Fantasy teams but he may lose a few Captain’s armbands. Investment elsewhere in Brendan Rodgers’ flourishing team may be best postponed, though. Injuries to teammates have handed Jordan Henderson a central role behind Suarez and, whilst Raheem Sterling has also impressed with three goals in five, now does not look like the time to jump on board. A defence that has shipped goals to all but two of their last 14 isn’t winning any Fantasy fans and these fixtures may be the last straw for many still holding the likes of Glen Johnson and Simon Mignolet. John Flanagan’s budget price may see him keep his place in Fantasy teams, providing he shrugs off the hamstring problem that forced him off against Cardiff last time around.
Stoke are now unbeaten in four games and are just three points behind Southampton, for all the latter’s plaudits. However, Mark Hughes has a job on his hands to keep that momentum in the face of a difficult run of fixtures that starts with trips to Newcastle and Tottenham, followed by the visit of Everton. Such fixtures mean that it’s a little late to invest in a defence that has kept three clean sheets in six games and admirers of Marc Wilson and Erik Pieters may wish to wait until the January Wildcard to invest.
BE WARY OF
A toxic blend of injuries and relentlessly diffilcult fixtures have seen the Saints drop from their lofty early-season position down to ninth. Whilst the injuries could be starting to clear, the fixtures remain unkind, with a trip to Everton and a game against Chelsea in the next three. Anyone still holding any defensive assets may be weighing up the options, with Southampton having failed to register a clean sheet in the last eight games. Adam Lallana’s goal and assist were a timely reminder of his capabilities but now may not be the right time to bring him in.
It’s hard to find anyone outside the West Brom boardroom who agrees with the decision to sack Steve Clarke but it’s clear that interim boss Keith Downing has a tough job on his hands after ”stopping the rot” with a draw against Hull. A trip to Tottenham and the visit of in-form Newcastle look fairly unpromising for any Fantasy managers hoping to benefit from a resurgence of form under a new manager. After seven games without a clean sheet, investors in Liam Ridgewell or Gareth McAuley will be looking to move them on, whilst the return of Ben Foster signals the end of Boaz Myhill’s appeal. Stephane Sessegnon has disappointed many Fantasy managers and an upturn in returns looks unlikely in the short-term.
Investors in Steve Bruce’s gritty defence were hoping for another clean sheet last weekend only to be denied by a late goal from the Baggies. The pickings now look slim over the holidays for the Tigers, with games against Man United and Liverpool straddling a home game against Fulham. Owners of Allan McGregor, James Chester and Curtis Davies are likely to hold with the Fulham game in mind, but new investment doesn’t look worth a transfer with just that solitary promising fixture. Robbie Brady’s patchy game time and lack of fitness had already put him at risk and the recent news that he is likely to miss the festive games puts the final nail in the coffin of his Fantasy appeal.