Having analysed those teams with Strong upcoming schedules yesterday, the second part of this week’s look at the upcoming fixtures focuses on those sides with less fortunate run-ins. Newcastle face a tough task to turnaround their poor form, Liverpool are set for a couple of tests against their title rivals, whilst those eyeing up Man United could decide to hold fire for now:
Alan Pardew’s side had struggled enough from Yohan Cabaye’s departure to PSG but the recent loss of Loic Remy to suspension and injury has simply proven too much for the Magpies. Newcastle have scored just one goal in their last seven games without the Frenchman, though his manager is optimistic he could come into contention this weekend.
Whilst a potential return for their top scorer is good news, the remaining schedule doesn’t give Pardew too much to smile about. Games against Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool, in addition to a trip to the Britannia, where Stoke have lost twice under Mark Hughes, indicates the tough task ahead for the Tyneside team. With Tim Krul and Mathieu Debuchy still injured, the Magpies’ defence looks very shaky and not an advisable investment. Moussa Sissoko blinked onto Fantasy radars for a while but has since gone back undercover. If Remy does indeed return for the weekend, he will need to hit the ground running at full tilt to justify any investment – in all likelihood, most managers will be eyeing up strikers with a double Gameweek in preference to the Frenchman.
The fragrance of optimism currently infusing the Merseyside air right is very understandable but the Reds have the toughest task of any of the title claimants. Brendan Rodgers’ side face Man City and Chelsea in the next four, and whilst you couldn’t rule them out of those games, the goal-fests we’ve come to expect of Liverpool may not be in evidence against either of their main rivals.
Fantasy managers sitting on two or even three of the Reds main attackers have a tricky decision on their hands as they ponder whether to swap for players with kinder schedules over the next four Gameweeks. Luis Suarez looks unlikely to leave any sides but Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge could find themselves expendable in their owners’ eyes and Raheem Sterling’s game time has been so patchy of late that holding onto the winger looks unwise regardless of fixtures. The defence has toughened up lately, with three clean sheets in the last five, but Simon Mignolet may be relying more on save points and Martin Skrtel’s goal threat will be needed to boost his production. Budget defender Jon Flanagan has made the left-back spot his own but owners will be benching him for the visits of the title rivals – few will be looking to purchase at this point.
A 2-1 win over Sunderland on Monday all but assured the Hammers’ Premier League safety – and a good job too. Sam Allardyce’s side face four of the top six in the last six Gameweeks, with only a home game with Crystal Palace and trip to West Brom offering the Upton Park outfit some respite. The widely-owned Kevin Nolan will be hard pushed to reward his backers, while Andy Carroll couldn’t have picked a tougher time to come into form. Clean sheets are also likely to be thin on the ground and the time looks to be up on budget sensation Adrian, while Guy Demel and Winston Reid look unlikely to deliver many more shut-outs over the run-in.
BE WARY OF
A loss to Swansea was the last thing the Canaries needed as their supply of remaining ‘winnable’ games dwindles. Any remaining owners of Martin Olsson, John Ruddy or Robert Snodgrass may be minded to hold for the next two against West Brom and Fulham, especially with the latter’s goalscoring form, but with games against Liverpool, United, Chelsea and Arsenal to end the season, Chris Hughton’s side won’t find many Fantasy backers for the run-in.
Mark Hughes has defied his detractors and made a good fist of turning Stoke into a different team than the one he inherited. The Potters have now lost just one of their last nine games (against Man City) and have three wins on the bounce, but a weekend trip to Stamford Bridge and game against Spurs in the next four somewhat lessen the immediate appeal of Sparky’s brave new world. The fixtures around those games (against Newcastle and Cardiff) could still prove profitable and Fantasy managers may opt to rotate the likes of Marc Wilson at the back. Further up the field, the situation is uncertain. Charlie Adam was benched upon his return from a three-match ban last week, Jon Walters returns from suspension this weekend to add to Hughes’ options, while the in-form Peter Odemwingie is frustratingly classified as a forward across the Fantasy games. Marko Arnautovic could be a real punt, though, with a goal and two assists in his last three outings.
Pulling a rabbit out of the hat to stifle Bayern Munich last night, David Moyes’ team will be rightly full of confidence going into this weekend’s game at St James’ Park. But a blank Gameweek afterwards followed by a difficult trip to Everton means that buying into the rising stock of Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata might be best postponed until Gameweek 36, when the schedule turns very much in their favour. The United defence could come into consideration at that point, too, though if the likes of Rafael, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans recover from injury anytime soon, Moyes’ defence may be tricky to second-guess.