As six teams brace themselves for a pair of fixtures, the Fantasy transfer market is picking up pace as we look to the doubles for one last throw of the dice. In the first of two articles, we run the rule over the men most likely to deliver:
Brad Guzan’s performances in goal look vital for struggling Villa as Paul Lambert attempts to stave off the threat of relegation. Having conceded 15 times and picked up a single clean sheet in the last six fixtures, faith in the Midlands outfit is understandably minimal ahead of a home game with Hull and trip to the Etihad – whilst the City clash offers little to no appeal, the Tigers have failed to score in two of their last four. Priced at 5.1, Guzan’s average of 3.5 points per game is – Christian Benteke aside – greater than any team-mate.
Curtis Davies’ eye for goal has seen the centre-half score four times in all competitions this term for Hull. Granted, at 4.8, he’s the most expensive option at the back for Steve Bruce’s side, but he’s justified that price-tag by picking up more points than any team-mate this season. Hull’s trip to Villa looks the best bet for defensive returns, with the Midlands outfit scoring just twice in the last four, though their midweek trip to Old Trafford looks unlikely to bring home the clean-sheet points.
For City, Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany are nailed-on in the back-four. Despite a 2-0 win at Palace on Sunday, it’s fair to say Manuel Pellegrini’s side have failed to convince defensively in recent matches and had conceded in each of their five fixtures prior to their trip to Selhurst Park. Demichelis’ average of 4.5 ppg is easily the best of any City backline option, though, and if you are looking to invest in this area, a mere 1% ownership highlights his differential appeal – two goals in his last eight also illustrates his attacking intent.
The only team to play twice at home, United will be buoyed by their 4-0 win over Norwich last weekend – a first Old Trafford shut-out since Gameweek 23. Games against Sunderland and Hull bode well for their prospects, though the Black Cats’ recent exploits against the likes of City and Chelsea on the road have shown they are more than capable of notching one or more goals. The security of starts offered by David de Gea in goal may persuade some to invest in the 5.8-priced Spaniard, whilst Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic look the likeliest defenders to start each of the two matches, with the likes of Chris Smalling and, potentially, Rafael, vying for Phil Jones’ game time on the right. At 6.5, Evra is the priciest option in Ryan Giggs’ backline, though his attacking intent and suitability to the bonus points system could reap reward, whilst outgoing skipper Vidic has the chance to say his farewells to the home faithful before moving to Inter in the summer.
In spite of the fact that Saturday’s clean sheet against Cardiff was his first in eight attempts, Vito Mannone has still averaged 4.6 ppg thus far. The Italian’s save points have proven crucial to his appeal and helped him to six 10+ hauls already this season, with 18 bonus points also accrued – at 4.6, he remains outstanding value as Gus Poyet’s side roll up to Old Trafford before hosting West Brom in midweek.
Back-to-back trips to Arsenal and Sunderland are hardly straightforward for West Brom’s Ben Foster, given both sides’ recent attacking form. Nonetheless, the Baggies stopper is the league’s form keeper right now, with two clean sheets, a couple of penalty saves and eight bonus points in his last six appearances – priced at 4.7, Foster has averaged 4.1 ppg this season; putting that into perspective, Gareth McAuley’s 2.7 ppg is the closest of any defensive team-mate.
Having scored two or more goals in all but one of their last nine, City’s offensive players will be heavily backed to earn the Fantasy points. Yaya Toure’s return from a brief groin problem served up a 14-point haul last weekend and the Ivorian’s bandwagon is at full pace once again, though his manager has admitted he will continue to be cautious with his game time, having subbed him off on 60 minutes at the weekend. With David Silva still injured, Samir Nasri’s contribution looks increasingly crucial – the Frenchman has two goals and an assist in his last five, and with a 9% ownership and 8.7 price tag, looks a strong City double-up option in midfield for those Toure owners who don’t fancy the defence and are keen on Rooney, Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero up front.
Five goals and two assists in his last four appearances underline Juan Mata’s form. The Spaniard has registered 46 points over that run, and despite being introduced from the bench last weekend, has already risen 0.2 in price as Fantasy managers scramble for his signature. Certainly, his two-goal display as a substitute strengthens his chances of replacing Danny Welbeck in the pecking order, though Robin van Persie’s potential return may force the Spaniard out wide and surely diminish his appeal – given that the Dutchman has been out of action for so long and has a World Cup on the horizon, though, Giggs may well decide to tentatively ease him back into the action and hand Mata the central role that has served him so well of late.
Whilst Emmanuel Giaccherini is in better form for Sunderland, the Italian seems likely to settle for a bench role behind Adam Johnson. Granted, the 6.4-priced former City player has struggled in recent matches and has now failed to produce any returns in his last five, but prior to that run, Johnson was in outstanding form, with seven goals and a trio of assists in the previous 10 fixtures. The Black Cats’ recent displays against City and Chelsea have shown they have no reason to fear a trip to Old Trafford, and with midweek visitors West Brom conceding three times in three of their last five, Gus Poyet’s side will be looking to go on the attack to secure their safety and Johnson could still yet play a major part in the closing fixtures.
With two goals and a pair of assists in his last five, Morgan Amalfitano has been vital to West Brom’s run of form. Crucially, those returns have been spread out over four matches and highlight the consistency of the 4.3-priced Frenchman – with the onus on securing survival, Pepe Mel’s men will be looking to attack and should take encouragement from the fact that weekend opponents Arsenal have one shut-out in the last five at the Emirates, whilst, as mentioned above, Sunderland have conceded in seven of their last eight league fixtures.
Gabby Agbonlahor has played a part in each of Villa’s last two goals when he’s been on the pitch, finding the net once and providing an assist. The 6.7-priced striker scored his side’s only goal at Swansea last weekend and looks the one player guaranteed to start up front, regardless of whether Paul Lambert rolls out a 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 formation.
Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long are both ineligible for Hull’s upcoming FA Cup final against Arsenal and are therefore guaranteed starters over the two league fixtures. At 6.5 to 5.5, the Croatian is the costlier of the pair but has spot-kicks to boost his appeal – he’s delivered five goals, an assist and eight bonus points since arriving from Everton in the winter transfer window. Long has four goals, an assist and seven bonus points since moving to Humberside from West Brom in January though, like his strike partner, travels to Villa in decent form, having headed the leveller at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Sergio Aguero is the one City forward who looks certain to start both matches. The Argentine may have drawn a blank away to Palace last weekend but a 12-point return in just 63 minutes in his last home appearance is indicative of the damage he can deal, with only Luis Suarez managing to eclipse the Argentine’s 7.1 ppg this term. A distant second in this week’s Captain Poll, he’s already served up seven double-figure hauls this term and could prove a real differential armband option as Pellegrini’s side attempt to fire their way to the top.
Wayne Rooney’s brace against Norwich last weekend took his tally to eight strikes in as many matches. With Robin van Persie still uncertain to feature and Danny Welbeck liable to take time away from Mata’s role in the centre, Rooney’s security of game time is key to his appeal. Sunderland have shown they are not prepared to sit back and will come out fighting, which will suit Giggs’ side, whilst the midweek match with Hull is the last Old Trafford fixture of a hugely disappointing season and one which United will be desperate to turn on the style for. Those who overlook Rooney altogether risk a real tumble down the rankings if he picks up from where he left off against the Canaries.
Five goals, an assist and eight bonus points in his last three appearances has afforded Connor Wickham a significant bandwagon this week. Still priced at a mere 4.7 and owned by 1% of Fantasy Premier League managers, the Sunderland youngster approaches the double in irresistible form, and with Gus Poyet’s side determined to seal their great escape, he looks likely to get amongst the goals once again, with the home clash against West Brom particularly enticing. Fellow Black Cats’ frontman Fabio Borini has benefitted from spot-kick duties in two of the last five Gameweeks – his underlying stats are superior to Wickham’s, which may just give him the edge over the two matches.