A dramatic Champions League opening week of the group stages – as Manchester City fall short at the death to Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, Chelsea draw at home to Juventus with new boy Oscar starring before picking up an injury, and Manchester United and Arsenal winning despite sustained pressure from their respective opposition. Let’s get back to our domestic football and fantasy teams, however…
I. Arsenal @ Manchester City: 20 years ago, 10 years ago, even 5 years ago the best match for a neutral would have been Manchester United at Liverpool in a tasty Anfield showdown, but with Liverpool sitting 17th in the table, and Arsenal and Manchester City both playing Champions League football, we have to shift our fantasy focus to the ‘modern’ legends – Aguero, Tevez, and Mancini – despite the obvious historical significance of Liverpool and Manchester United squaring off as rivals. Sorry guys, we have to do it.
Both teams travelled away from home to Spain and France so may suffer a bit of exhaustion in this one but they have good depth in their squads, so I expect an instant classic despite Manchester City’s up and down start to the season.
Arsenal will be riding high after winning in Montpellier, and the main man will be summer signing Santi Cazorla [9.2m] pulling the strings. Interestingly, Gervinho has found his scoring boots and classified as a midfielder in the FPL game and priced at just 7.3m – he could be this year’s bargain midfield selection if he can somehow keep starting despite the obvious competition by Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and others. It’s a big risk, but can Wenger really drop the Ivorian with this form? A goal midweek and 2 against Southampton could earn him another start despite his obvious defensive deficiencies.
I think Vincent Kompany should be able to handle the likes of Podolski and/or Giroud so it will take some brilliance from a Gervinho, Walcott, or Cazorla to unlock the Manchester City back four despite them conceding 3 at Real Madrid.
I love the Yaya Toure [8.2m] / Javi Garcia [5.5m] vs Abou Diaby [6.5m] midfield battle as well – that will be interesting. Can Arsenal keep possession long enough to get creative up front?
More importantly, can Manchester City score?
There have been just six goals scored in the last six meetings between Arsenal and Manchester City with all three encounters last season ending 1-0. Amazingly, Man City have scored just one goal in the last five Premier League games against Arsenal.
I think that streak ends here with Aguero and Tevez combining to grab a late home winner. I can see a 1-1 or 2-2 score draw, but I’ll give the edge to Mancini’s men at home despite the midweek exhaustion [physical and mental] in Madrid.
Prediction: 2-1 Manchester City
II. Stoke @ Chelsea: Tottenham are home to QPR in another fantasy friendly matchup, but despite firing a blank last weekend at Loftus Road, we’ll go with Chelsea at home against Stoke.
Lampard, Mata, Hazard, and Torres will all be licking their lips and Lampard will even remember the 7-0 home win over Stoke back in 2010. Stoke won’t lack confidence after a good performance last weekend in a 1-1 draw at home with Manchester City, but it will take a herculean effort from GK Begovic [4.5m] to keep a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge.
Prediction: 2-0 Chelsea win
III. Studs & Duds: Tottenham attackers are studs at home against QPR, so Bale and Defoe stay strong selections while Dempsey and Dembele are on the fence looking to start contributing regularly after they both moved from Fulham.
Despite the away trip to Liverpool, Robin van Persie should be on penalty kick duty with Wayne Rooney out of action and Nani missing midweek, so the Dutch master is a stud selection. He can score home and away.
Our last two Funny Feeling Friday selections Dimitar Berbatov and Steven Fletcher both scored after we featured them, so despite their relatively low ownership levels compared to other strikers, they continue as studs – though both are on the road [against Wigan and West Ham, respectively.]
Michu and Graham are studs for Swansea at home to Everton. In the same game, Everton’s Kevin Mirallas has yet to score in the Premier League but is leaning to the stud category despite the away trip to Swansea.
Darren Bent is a stud. He’s yet to score this season but Southampton have been conceding regularly, even at home, so I would pick the Aston Villa man to come good this weekend.
Last year’s studs Cisse and Ba look good bets at home to Norwich after a strong second half performance against Everton on Monday night.
Duds this week are usually reliable Top 4 defenses – Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. Gibbs, Vidic, Kompany, etc. could still all be played despite the opposition but if you can rotate some or all of them due to the difficult matchups that would make the most sense.
I don’t think QPR or Stoke will keep clean sheets – so avoid playing those defenders. Duds.
IV. Gameweek 5 Best Eleven:
D: J. Olsson – Vertonghen – S. Taylor
M: Bale – Hazard – Ben Arfa – Michu
F: Defoe – Cisse – Torres
Subs: Foster – Gervinho – Clyne – Lowton