Yesterday we highlighted the teams with Strong fixtures over the remaining five Gameweeks. Today it’s the turn of the less fortunate sides – both halves of Merseyside have a tough task to maintain their extraordinary seasons, while a couple of sources of cheap clean sheets look set to imminently lose their sheen:
Chris Hughton failed to use Norwich’s recent good fixture run to ease the Canaries’ relegation fears and paid the ultimate price last weekend. The media have been quick to point out the scale of the task facing new manager Neil Adams as his team square up to Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal following this weekend’s must-win visit to Fulham.
While many Fantasy managers placed their faith in Norwich’s splendid fixtures over the previous six weeks, the end looks nigh for the prospects of further Fantasy profit. Owners of Martin Olsson, the most popular of Norwich’s defensive assets, will be looking for an exit route and, while Robert Snodgrass could yet add to his tally against these opponents, few – if any – managers will be willing to acquire the playmaker at this point.
With hope filling their sails, the Reds are bold enough to dream of a title. Brendan Rodgers’ side welcome both their rivals for the crown to Anfield in the next three Gameweeks – affording them the toughest run of the three main contenders. Their other fixtures – trips to Norwich and Crystal Palace plus the Gameweek 38 visit of Newcastle – look decent enough but the defences of Man City and Chelsea are tough nuts to crack and Brendan Rodgers’ hitherto prolific attack may struggle to keep up their recent scoring rate.
These fixtures present a dilemma for Fantasy managers; whilst the Reds will be fully fired up for the challenge and are unlikely to be shut out entirely, owners of two or even three of the Liverpool attack may be looking to trim back their commitment in favour of options with easier paths to tread and double Gameweeks on the horizon. Daniel Sturridge – with just two goals from his last six games – is accordingly one of the most transferred-out players this week, and while few will be cancelling their subscriptions to Luis Suarez’s regular goal service, Steven Gerrard may be considered by some to be an expensive luxury in the face of these fixtures; a booking against City this Sunday would earn him a two-match ban and make the decision an easy one.
The other half of Merseyside aren’t doing too badly for themselves either. The Toffees stand a chance of pipping Arsenal to the last Champions League spot after giving the Gunners a hiding at Goodison last weekend. They have their work cut out though, as their schedule is far from straightforward, with the visits of both Manchester teams and a trip to Southampton to contend with. All that, of course, after this week’s profitable-looking double Gameweek and Fantasy managers will need to juggle the fertile ground of this week with the barren patch it precedes.
Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines find themselves in more demand than ever with the upcoming matches against Sunderland and Palace looking profitable but their owners will probably need an exit strategy. John Stones has impressed in the absence of Phil Jagielka, but with the latter likely to return from injury very soon, the youngster could prove to be Fantasy Fool’s Gold for the double Gameweek and beyond.
Kevin Mirallas has proven himself more than capable of climbing off the bench to pick up the points as he makes light of Roberto Martinez’s penchant for attacking rotation and both he and Ross Barkley have earned many new owners for the double Gameweek – after this week, the combination of tough fixtures and limited game time isn’t appealing. Romelu Lukaku is a different prospect; seemingly immune to Martinez’s rotational whims, he has, over the last two seasons, delighted in thwarting fixture watchers by scoring more against tough opposition than against weak, his hat-trick against Man United on the final day of last season being the most memorable example.
BE WARY OF
The Hammers fell narrowly to defeat against Liverpool last weekend and now face three more of the top six in the remaining five Gameweeks. Sam Allardyce’s side still have to square up to Arsenal, Tottenham and Man City, though with a home game against Palace and trip to West Brom in the next three, owners of Adrian or Guy Demel may be minded to keep for now. Of the attacking options, Kevin Nolan has blanked in each of the last six, while Andy Carroll is starting to hit form at just the wrong time; with so many striking options to fill our precious three slots, that schedule suggests he’ll struggle to earn many new investors.
It scarcely needs to be said that West Brom are not a good source of Fantasy profit. Almost irrelevant to the Fantasy landscape for the entire season, Pepe Mel’s side now have tough trips to Man City and Arsenal and a game against Tottenham as they battle to beat the drop. One could make a case that home games against West Ham and Stoke could be good for clean sheets but last season’s defensive over-performance have priced the Baggies out of reach of such gambles. Morgan Amalfitano has scored in two consecutive games now and, at 4.2, may have blinked onto a few radars – it’s worth noting that those goals came against Cardiff and Norwich, though, and the Frenchman may toil to replicate his recent endeavours in light of the remaining schedule.
Much like Everton, Tony Pulis’ side have a reasonable-looking double Gameweek up next, followed by some tougher fixtures that make “loading up” a fraught tactic. After this week, their final two home games are against Man City and Liverpool and they will need to overcome their patchy away form to take points from West Ham and Fulham. Crystal Palace have been most useful this season as a source of budget clean sheets and Joel Ward, Scott Dann and Adrian Mariappa are popular options for this week, as is goalkeeper Julian Speroni – clean sheets don’t look likely from these fixtures, though; only Southampton have shut Fulham out at the Cottage this season. Jason Puncheon rocketed onto radars with his brace last week, but whilst attacking points may be more likely than clean sheets, these fixtures still sound a note of caution.