You can only play what’s in front of you and, with that in mind, our updated Watchlist rankings consider only the next four Gameweeks with a couple of double fixtures confirmed in Gameweek 33. Arsenal’s assets are promoted with two fixtures looming and, while Robin Van Persie comes back into the frame ahead of a home clash with Reading, even the heralded Dutchman struggles to displace Golden Boot rival, Luis Suarez.
Once again the goalkeeper situation is a cause for consternation. Recent injuries to Pepe Reina, Julio Cesar and Tim Krul continue to produce uncertainty in this position, while John Ruddy’s injury progress now threatens Mark Bunn’s security of starts – or at least we’re led to believe it will in a fortnight’s time.
Such events cut our options and, with both Petr Cech and David De Gea offering seemingly secure routes into heavy-hitting defences, it’s those two which currently look the best options as new acquisitions between the sticks.
Home matches with West Ham and Sunderland, plus a trip to Southampton, offers some promise of returns for Cech, while De Gea’s form seems to have assured him starts in a United defence that has impressed with a recent run of clean sheets. There is just the suggestion that Anders Lindegaard could be given an opportunity to earn the two league appearances required for a title winners medal but, presumably, this will not be a factor until the closing few Gameweeks if/when that prize is secured.
Below these two, Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny has decent fixtures, including the confirmed Gameweek 33 double, although his prospects are somewhat dented by Arsene Wenger’s decision to rest the Pole for tonight’s visit to Bayern for the second leg of the Champions League tie. Compatriot Lukas Fabianski will get the opportunity to impress, although it’s expected that Szczesny will be restored at the Liberty Stadium at the weekend.
QPR’s Julio Cesar is still a doubt for the trip to Villa but, presuming he’s available, the Brazilian remains a worthy consideration as cover of a Rangers defence with strong fixtures and the motivation to earn results. Mark Bunn’s stock takes a hit with Ruddy now close to contesting a start in the Norwich goal, although in the short-term, Bunn should be clear for selection at Sunderland and Wigan of the back of a run of three clean sheets in five.
Villa’s Brad Guzan and Wigan’s Ali Al-Habsi have the fixtures to warrant some attention, although their potential points are perhaps based on saves rather than assured clean sheet returns.
In defence, we keep Glen Johnson on top of our rankings, despite Jose Enrique’s latest assist in the win over Spurs. While the Spaniard is clearly a very strong alternative, we’re going to go on backing Johnson’s superior goal threat in the hope that he can yet justify the extra outlay.
Chelsea’s David Luiz has a slight lack of security balanced out by his potential to be shifted to a midfield role, plus his threat at direct free-kicks which could well see him profit before the season climax. Like Johnson, he has strong fixtures in his favour over the next four, although his nine bookings is a concern: one more yellow and Luiz will face a two-match ban. Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole are the safest, secure alternatives for those who don’t wish to run the Luiz gauntlet.
With Kieran Gibbs now fit to contest the left-back role, Nacho Monreal is no longer a secure option, while at right-back, Bacary Sagna is still thought to be at least a week from a return. That leaves Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker as the two Fantasy options to consider, along with Szczesny in goal. Mertesacker gets the nod from us, with Reading at the Emirates and a double in Gameweek 33 his forthcoming highlights. Sagna would seem likely to earn the mantle as the preferred option when fit.
Chris Samba and Emmerson Boyce provide some attacking potential in the mid-price for those seeking a differential and that’s enough to see them hold off the claims of Rafael for a top five spot in our rankings – for now. Mathieu Debuchy is still our route into the Newcastle rearguard, having begun to show some profit from his strong attacking intent.
Both Leighton Baines and Pablo Zabaleta have obvious appeal, for very different reasons, with the City man returning six clean sheets in the last eight league outings. The duo have testing fixtures over the next four Gameweeks, however – Zabaleta also has a blank in Gameweek 33 to dent his short-term stock.
The likes of Southampton’s Jose Fonte, Villa’s Ciaran Clark and Stoke’s Marc Wilson compete for our attentions in the budget bracket lower down the rankings.
Despite testing fixtures, Gareth Bale’s form has him hold in top spot, with Theo Walcott his nearest rival. The Arsenal man cannot get close to Bale’s recent scoring spurt but has the fixtures to revive his fortunes over the next four. Santi Cazorla also climbs into our top five, with some Fantasy managers considering doubling on Arsenal’s two prime attacking prospects for their forthcoming run.
Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko continues to deliver and is pushing Juan Mata for third spot. The Chelsea man has shown disappointing form of late and his security of start is always a concern – particularly with Chelsea’s FA Cup replay with United looming. Nevertheless, Mata’s fixtures are strong and he just about holds off the claims of Eden Hazard and Oscar as our recommended weapon in Rafa Benitez’s midfield. That pair remain great alternatives, however.
Swansea’s Michu takes a tumble in our rankings following a big decline in strike-rate but remains simmering just outside the top five with two home games to come. Wigan’s Shaun Maloney and Liverpool’s Stewart Downing are your options for those seeking a real differential for the fifth midfield slot. Both have the fixtures and form to deliver profit over the next four. Lower down, there’s also a tentative nod to QPR’s in-form Andros Townsend – the on-loan winger looks to have cemented a spot on the right flank and goes head-to-head with the Villa, Fulham and Wigan defences over the next three Gameweeks.
It’s impossible to deny the form of Luis Suarez right now and, with Liverpool’s 4-2-3-1 system keeping the Uruguayan in a central attacking role, there appears to be little sign of his recent consistency dropping off. Suarez retains the top spot, with team-mate Daniel Sturridge slipping slightly down our rankings as a result.
This opens the way for Robin Van Persie to make his claim for a spot back in our top two – the Dutchman will be expected to start against Reading having been rested for the FA Cup tie last weekend and, against the weakest defence in the league, Van Persie will be heavily backed to close the gap on Suarez in the race for the Golden Boot.
Villa’s Christian Benteke continues to show strong consistency at the foot of the table and with three crucial home games in the next four, looks primed to go on delivering for Paul Lambert and his Fantasy owners alike.
Tough fixtures deny Romelu Lukaku’s claims for a higher ranking, despite continuing strong form, while QPR’s Loic Remy and Wigan’s Arouna Kone present clear options for the third striker differential – their respective schedules suggest returns over the short-term and, in both cases, the confidence is there to suggest profits will arrive for those willing to invest.