As Fantasy Premier League managers prime their Winter Wildcards, those plying their trade in the Sun Dream Team have another 20 days to wait until Transfer Window 3 swings open. Before that, the New Year’s Day fixtures present the opening to another monthly game with yet another £10,000 on offer.
There’s a £5000 top prize open for January’s top Dream Team and, while all teams are entered automatically, there’s nothing like building a starting XI designed to take on the monthly fixtures. What’s more, the Dream Team Premium-In-Play package allows us to build and enter two teams for just a fiver.
When constructing a monthly squad, you need to study the fixture list and earmark those teams guaranteed extra matches – handing their squad members those further opportunities to gain you points.
With January’s game getting underway in less than 24 hours, we take time out to examine the fixtures for the month ahead and assess those Dream Team assets who come onto the radar as a result.
While there’s no international break to interrupt the Premier League programme and no European fixtures to distract us, the domestic cups play a major part in the monthly make-up with the FA Cup third and fourth round, plus the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup providing plenty for us to consider.
Every side faces four Premier League fixtures in January, plus at least one FA Cup tie – the Capital One Cup makes the difference, however, handing Manchester City, Manchester United, Sunderland and West Ham an extra two fixtures which guarantee them seven in total for the month.
This makes these four teams the obvious sources of January assets, then, although with rotation likely to be a factor within City and United’s squads, assessing the likely targets is far from straightforward.
The intriguing twist on all this is that Transfer Window 3 opens on January 21 – this enables us to make three changes to our teams ahead of the FA Cup fourth round and the second leg of the Capital One Cup. That’s worth bearing in mind when planning our strategy for the month.
The Player Picks
While City are perhaps the most trusted and obvious source of talent amongst the Capital One quartet, it’s worth noting that only two of their seven January fixtures are at the Etihad – the first leg of their semi-final with West Ham and a league encounter with Cardiff. City’s form away from home has been far less consistent and, when you add in the prospect of rotation, suddenly there’s reason to court caution before raiding Manuel Pellegrini’s squad.
With David Silva missing tomorrow’s visit to Swansea, his appeal is somewhat lessened – particularly if you see him being rested for domestic cup duty. The strikers – Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko – are perhaps the stronger options for one of the three slots in a 4-3-3. Dzeko, while perhaps reduced to cameo roles in the league, should get action in all three of City’s Cup ties, including the trip to Championship Blackburn in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Defensively, with rest and rotation a major factor, Vincent Kompany looks the prize asset, with Joe Hart perhaps likely to make way in the cups and the remainder of the back four all far from certain of their starts.
Rivals United are equally unpredictable in terms of personnel but have shown great consistency with their results of late, having notched five successive victories in all competitions. What’s more, unlike City, United have five of their seven assured fixtures at Old Trafford in January. With that in mind, there’s every reason to stock up on David Moyes’ assets – particularly the reliable sources of points.
Phil Jones has been one of the figures that has scored well amongst the United backline, however his recent injury robs us of a potential £4.0m bargain. That leaves us assessing the remainder of Moyes’ defence, with Patrice Evra perhaps the player most assured starts alongside keeper David de Gea. The Spaniard looks to be the stopper of choice for the January game, having claimed four clean sheets in December.
In attacking areas, Wayne Rooney continues to dominate and, despite his recent injury scare, he’ll be expected to top the January points tally for United. Robin van Persie should make his return this coming month but would represent a gamble, while Danny Welbeck is a cheaper alternative but remains inconsistent when it comes to performance and returns. The midfield, as ever, is a minefield of uncertainty, though Adnan Januzaj is a temptation as a potential punt.
That leaves both Sunderland and West Ham – two sides that we’re largely unacquainted with when it comes to Dream Team consideration. Nonetheless, with the Capital One Cup their best opportunity for silverware, it seems likely that both teams will temporarily shelve their relegation concerns and field strong sides in both legs.
Like United, Sunderland already have five home fixtures scheduled for the month, including a potentially profitable FA Cup tie with Carlisle United. Their league schedule is also amongst the most obliging of any team on offer (AVL ful SOT STK).
With five clean sheets in their last ten matches, Gus Poyet’s back four and keeper deserve some attention and Phil Bardsley, at just £1.0m, looks the pick of the bunch. The full-back has already notched three goals so far this term and has a hammer of shot from range which could yet reap further rewards next month. Vito Mannone, at just £1.5m, also has to be considered if you’re unsure of investing in United’s De Gea as the Italian has been in inspired form of late.
I’d be more hesitant when it comes to Poyet’s attacking charges, although Steven Fletcher appears to be edging his way back to fitness and form – at £3.0m, he’s the kind of gamble that could make the difference come the shake-up for prize money.
West Ham have far less appeal than the Black Cats. The January fixtures have them playing in front of their own fans just twice, one occasion being the second leg of the Capital One Cup with City. With defensive injuries biting hard, Sam Allardcye’s backline is best avoided, although that will likely mean that the Hammers will be forced to go on the offensive, bringing Kevin Nolan onto the radar as a midfield option.
Nolan has suffered an indifferent season to this point, with just a couple of goals from 18 appearances. Big Sam’s skipper will be responsible for providing a goal threat in January, however, at least while the manager conducts some business in an effort to bolster the club’s assets up front.
Elsewhere, you have to keep Luis Suarez and a number of Liverpool targets in mind – particularly considering the Anfield FA Cup tie with Oldham. Suarez remains essential for our forward lines given his scoring rate, while Arsenal’s Theo Walcott’s 36 points with four goals in December offers a reminder of the damage he can cause and his 21 Dream Team strikes last term.
The Gunners have no Capital One Cup tie to add to their appeal, while the FA Cup tie at Spurs is tough and offers little assurance of a follow-up fourth round tie in the month. Even so, the Premier League fixture list favours Arsene Wenger’s side (CAR avl FUL sot) and they have assets from back to front that warrant Dream Team attention – certainly Walcott and Per Mertesacker look key targets.
You can enter teams for The Sun Dream Team monthly prize via the Premium-In-Play package which gets you two teams for just £5.
To score maximum points from January’s fixtures, enter your teams by 12.45pm Wednesday January 1.
The Sun Dream Team Scout League
A reminder that we also have our own Fantasy Football Scout League with a £1,000 top prize on offer to the winner.
Simply use the following PIN and password to enter your teams into the running:
League Name: Fantasy Football Scout