Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale both deliver the Fantasy points in a 3-2 thriller at Anfield as Tottenham’s unbeaten record comes to an end. Newcastle come from behind to see off Stoke and register a third straight win at St James’ Park, while United and Chelsea require an FA Cup Sixth Round replay, after a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford:
Suarez Produces One Again
Drafted in by over 125,00 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers ahead of the weekend deadline, the Uruguayan vindicated their decision by registering his third consecutive double figure points haul. A goal, assist and maximum bonus points helped end Tottenham’s 12 match unbeaten run and saw Suarez climb to 190 points – just two behind Robin Van Persie at the top of the FPL standings. Despite a move to a more withdrawn role as a result of Daniel Sturridge’s return yesterday, there’s clearly no stopping Suarez right now and with trips to three of the bottom five in the next four (sou, avl, rea) supplemented by a home clash with West Ham, he continues to grow in popularity and has already climbed 0.1 in price this weekend; with five goals, three assists and eight bonus points in his last three, it’s little wonder the bandwagon continues to pick up pace.
Post-match, his manager was unsurprisingly full of praise for his display:
“You saw today, it doesn’t matter where he plays, at times he was in the No.10 role, and then when I made the change to get the three midfielders on, he came in off the side and caused havoc. He’s an outstanding talent, a pleasure to work with, and he knows the trust I have in him, and that gives him the platform to go play and perform.”
Downing Stepping Up
While the recent displays of Philippe Coutinho had persuaded almost 53,000 FPL managers to snap him up last week, the former Middlesbrough man remained firmly under the radar – despite a cheaper price tag and security of game time that has seen him start every league match since Gameweek 16. As the season progresses, Downing is starting to pick up in performance, though; yesterday’s goal means he has now scored or assisted in each of his last three and priced at just 5.7, he could be a definite Liverpool midfield alternative to Coutinho and the costlier Steven Gerrard ahead of those aforementioned fixtures. Gerrard proved his worth once again yesterday – the late spot-kick winner took his tally to 158 points and moved the Reds skipper to fourth in the midfield rankings, just a point behind Michu.
Although the Reds conceded twice, the raiding left-back was in the points once again. Enrique grabbed an assist, taking his tally to six for the season and, with a couple of goals also accrued, he continues to keep fellow full-back Glen Johnson in the shade. While the latter has a goal and five assists, he has played almost 1000 minutes more this season than the Spaniard and has offered far less consistency – indeed, Enrique has only produced blanks in five of his 16 starts this term; he has either scored, assisted, produced a clean sheet or bonus points in 11 of those matches.
Rodgers had to make do without Pepe Reina yesterday after the keeper was forced out with a calf problem. The Liverpool boss is optimistic the Spaniard will be able to return for next weekend’s trip to Southampton, though, with the problem deemed a minor one. The Reds’ boss also revealed Joe Allen requires surgery on a shoulder complaint that has plagued him since October. The former Swansea man climbed off the bench with half an hour left as the hosts moved back to 4-3-3 and, while it’s expected the operation may be held off until the summer, his game time is likely to be managed more efficiently by Rodgers. This means a 4-2-3-1 is perhaps set to continue as Rodgers’ starting formation, affording Steven Gerrard and Lucas the central midfield berths, with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez up top.
Bale Creativity Comes to the Fore
His five-game scoring streak may have come to an end but the Welshman was amongst the points once more at Anfield. Bale has offered a consistent source of creativity this season but prior to yesterday’s match had picked up just four assists in FPL, with just one assist from Gameweek 7 onwards. Yesterday, he laid on both goals for Jan Vertonghen to return an eight point haul and justify the decision of over 131,000 managers to snap him up prior to Saturday’s deadline. Now up to 185 points in FPL, Bale is 22 points ahead of Juan Mata, the second placed midfielder, and has boosted his average to 7.4 points per game – better than any other player, with Van Persie and Suarez on 6.9 and 6.8 respectively.
Magpies Midfield Options
Alan Pardew’s side bounced back from last week’s loss at Swansea to produce a third straight home win against out of sorts Stoke – with the Magpies now nine points clear of the drop zone, it’s clear just how crucial both Moussa Sissoko and Yohan Cabaye are to their prospects. The former shook off the disappointment of his first blank Gameweek since joining the club last time round to provide an assist and keep his points ticking over; with attacking returns in five of his six appearances for the Tyneside team, his price has rocketed by 0.7 already. By comparison, Cabaye has failed to receive much interest despite a series of consistent displays. Although he sits in a more withdrawn role than his compatriot, Cabaye’s set-piece and spot-kick duties have considerably boosted his scores in recent matches –yesterday’s free-kick was the fourth time in the last seven he has found the net. With a superb run of fixtures to follow, he looks a decent differential alternative to Sissoko in the Newcastle midfield, with an ownership just over the 4% mark.
Cisse Also to Magpies
Recovered from the illness that sidelined him from Thursday’s goalless Europa League draw with Anzhi, Papiss Cisse proved instrumental in edging his side up the table. The Senegal striker grabbed a last-gasp winner to take his tally to four strikes in nine without Demba Ba – granted, it’s far from the rate he registered upon his arrival on Tyneside last winter but bearing in mind he had previously notched three in 18, he is clearly benefitting from his compatriot’s departure. While Sissoko and Cabaye’s cheaper prices are likely to deter many from investing, Cisse still has the fixtures to thrive; with a trip to Wigan and home games against Fulham and Sunderland in the following four, his owners will be happy to hold in the meantime.
Post-match, he admitted he was still a little sluggish after suffering from a virus for most of the week:
“The gaffer told me I was rubbish today. Yes, I was rubbish but we won so that is the most important thing! In the last week I have been ill and even today I didn’t feel too strong, but hopefully by next week I will be back to normal.”
FA Cup Sixth Round
Man United 2 Chelsea 2
Sir Alex Ferguson made four changes from the side that lost to Real Madrid. At the back, Jonny Evans replaced Nemanja Vidic, while further up the pitch, Robin Van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Ryan Giggs were replaced by Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Shinji Kagawa. Hernandez and Rooney had United two up with just 10 minutes gone – courtesy of Michael Carrick and Nani assists – though the Portuguese winger was replaced by Antonio Valencia at half-time after picking up a minor hamstring problem. . Van Persie’s owners will be pleased he was afforded just under half an hour ahead of next weekend’s home game with Reading, though Ferguson admitted he is a little concerned that fatigue is starting to affect his defence; perhaps a hint that rotation could be on the cards:
“We’re lucky to still be in the cup. We just ran out of legs and Chelsea were far the better team in the second half. But I can’t be critical of my side because the running they had to do on Tuesday night, against a really top side in Real Madrid, had its bearing on today’s result, no doubt about that. The two full-backs, Rafael and Patrice [Evra], are knackered and the two central midfielders tired badly. We kept giving the ball away and it made it a long day for us, going from one penalty box and back to our own.”
With both sides still waiting for their Gameweek 29 matches to be rescheduled, the fixture backlog is starting to build – frustrating for Fantasy managers looking to plan in advance. The FA is likely to wait on Chelsea’s Europa League result against Steaua Bucharest before making any decision on the date, with Ferguson going on to say:
“The replay is not a problem for us. We’ve got plenty of time for it as we have no European games. I don’t know when it’s going to be played mind you, probably May because we’ve got the international break coming up! But the only thing we can say is we’re still in the cup.”
Rafa Benitez made seven alterations from the side that lost to Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League. Only David Luiz and Petr Cech kept their places at the back, with Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta coming in for Ryan Bertrand, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic. Ramires replaced John Obi Mikel in the double-pivot alongside Frank Lampard but the latter was afforded just 52 minutes before being hauled off for the Nigerian. Up top, only Oscar retained his place, with Juan Mata, Victor Moses and Demba Ba replacing Eden Hazard, Yossi Benayoun and Fernando Torres. Hazard’s introduction for Moses just after half-time proved crucial – the Belgian grabbed a goal after being set up by Mata, before Ramires notched the equaliser thanks to an Oscar assist.
After the game, Benitez was more than a little sceptical with regards to Ferguson’s fatigue comments and also elaborated on the decision-making behind his substitutions:
“‘They were playing at home and played on Tuesday. We played in Romania on Thursday. They had everything in their favour. We travelled from Romania, did a great game and I was pleased with my players…We had to pick a starting 11 with fresh legs but knew we would have to make substitutions and we did it. Obi had fresh legs. Frank gave 100 per cent, and you have to manage the squad. Obviously Hazard is a player with talent, he can make a difference any time. In the middle with Lampard and Rami, Rami has to stay, and in the second half with Mikel it was the opposite, and Ramires had to go and was good going forward.”