With just four rounds of fixtures remaining, we roll out the final pair of Frisking articles of the season. First up, we take a look at those with favourable run-ins – Manchester and north London have reason for optimism, whilst the black cloud hanging over Wearside comes with a possible silver lining:
With five fixtures still to play in the final four Gameweeks, City remain a likely source of Fantasy returns. Manuel Pellegrini’s side play at the Etihad three times, with West Brom, Villa and West Ham still to pay visit, and with a trip to Palace also on the cards, it leaves only a visit to Everton – as part of their double Gameweek 37 – as the one potential stumbling block.
Yaya Toure was ruled out for “at least 10 days or two weeks” by Manuel Pellegrini earlier today – this could see him return from a groin problem in time for double Gameweek 37, with David Silva’s form makes him an obvious replacement in the meantime. Sergio Aguero’s return to action last Sunday offers us a real heavy-hitting captaincy option for the run-in, though Edin Dzeko owners will be hoping he retains his starting berth if Pellegrini looks to go on the offensive to take advantage of such a kind remaining schedule. At the back, Martin Demichelis leads the way for points per game (4.4), yet is owned by just 1% of Fantasy mangers, whilst the uncertainty over the left-back berth ensures Pablo Zabaleta remains a safer solution.
A trip to Goodison looks far from straightforward this weekend as David Moyes returns to face his former club. Following that, though, three home fixtures in two Gameweeks (NOR, SUN & HUL) are sure to convince Fantasy managers to snap up United’s main men before a tricky final day visit to Southampton ends their defence of the trophy.
Up front, the situation remains blighted by injury. Robin Van Persie is on the road to recovery, whilst Wayne Rooney is struggling with a toe problem, having suffered a re-occurrence of the injury in last week’s loss at Bayern. Ideally, we’d want no more than one of them available, allowing Juan Mata to retain the role in “the hole” which has harvested 31 points in his last two appearances – a return to fitness for both forwards could force the Spaniard onto the flank and dent his appeal. Alternatively, an absence for Rooney and Van Persie could perhaps bring Javier Hernandez into the equation – the Mexican racked up 11 points in United’s previous match after being handed a rare start.
Investment at the back could be risky, though. With his side out of the title race, Nemanja Vidic on his way out and the likes of Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand also linked with moves away, there’s a theory that Moyes may select his back-four with one eye already on next term – Chris Smalling, at 4.6, could benefit, though Evra remains the man most likely to produce, with a goal, five assists and 18 bonus points to his name thus far.
The Gunners’ title aspirations may have disappeared but Arsene Wenger’s side still have plenty to play for. With the race for fourth place still on the line, Arsenal will be confident of overtaking Everton – trips to Hull and Norwich, allied with home games against Newcastle and West Brom in between, is one of the most favourable schedules around.
A lack of form is the problem, though, as the weekend struggle to oust Wigan from the FA Cup underlined. If Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey recover from injuries in time for tonight’s home game with West Ham, they’ll surely leap onto radars along with the likes of Per Mertesacker. Ramsey is expected to shake off a slight muscle strain sustained at the weekend and, at 7.0, is certainly a far more budget-friendly option that Santi Cazorla – the Spaniard has done little to justify a 9.3-price tag, with just two assists to his name in the last 10 matches. Mesut Ozil is edging towards fitness again and may play a part in the run-in, whilst Wenger’s decision to opt for Yaya Sanogo over Olivier Giroud against the Latics on Saturday perhaps raises question marks over the latter’s security of starts.
Rumours abound that Tim Sherwood will be out on his ear come the end of the season – the Spurs boss can at least take solace in the remaining schedule as he looks to finish the campaign on a high. Tottenham have now notched three or more times in all but one of their last four games as Sherwood goes all out for goals – Christian Eriksen and Emmanuel Adebayor will surely earn more owners ahead of a run against Fulham, Stoke, West Ham and Villa, whilst Harry Kane – at 4.4 and with a goal in each of his two starts – has thrived alongside the Togo international up top and looks likely to retain his starting berth. A defence without a clean sheet in six matches hardly instils confidence but at 4.1 and 4.6 respectively, Kyle Naughton and Younes Kaboul continue to benefit from injuries to others.
A trip to Chelsea this weekend will ensure any non-owners steer clear but the remaining three Gameweeks may just persuade some to take a punt on the Wearsiders. Gus Poyet’s side have yet to welcome Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea to the Stadium of Light, with the Baggies match part of a double Gameweek 37 which also sees them travel to Old Trafford. That trio of home matches could bring in the points for Vito Mannone, whilst Adam Johnson looks the man most likely to make a difference as the Black Cats attempt to stop what seems an inevitable slide into the Championship.
The Potters may be nestled in mid-table safety but recent results highlight they are not letting up in their first campaign under Mark Hughes. Stoke have trips to struggling Cardiff and West Brom on either side of home games against Spurs and Fulham – with just four points dropped from their last seven matches and one goal conceded in their last four at the Britannia, the likes of Marc Wilson (at 4.3) looks a decent budget option, whilst Marko Arnautovic’s creativity has been key to the Potters’ recent fine form.
Pepe Mel’s side have home fixtures against West Ham and Stoke on either side of a double Gameweek 37 (away to Arsenal and Sunderland) as their fight for survival intensifies. The Baggies will take some solace from the fact they have now scored three times in each of their last two at The Hawthorns, whilst two wins and two draws in the last five are indicative of their resilience. Morgan Amalfitano, at 4.2, has two goals and an assist in the last three and looks a viable budget option as his influence on the right continues to bring home the points.