Merry Christmas. We have some football matches to preview, and some fantasy studs & duds to predict. Let’s do it.
I. Chelsea @ Norwich: Rafael Benitez’s ‘defensive’ Chelsea just won 8-0 against Aston Villa. How will they follow it up on the road against a surprisingly good Norwich side?
Norwich lost the reverse fixture 4-1 at Stamford Bridge as Torres, Lampard and Hazard all got in on the goalscoring action, but since then Chris Hughton’s men have made their way up the table – all the way to 10th – level on points with Liverpool and Stoke.
I don’t expect 8 for Chelsea. I don’t even expect the 4 they scored the last time these teams met, but I do expect a comprehensive away win. The gap in quality is too much – and even if one of Juan Mata or Eden Hazard is afforded a Boxing Day rest, the likes of Oscar and others can plug the gaps off the bench. Fernando Torres is back in form and always a threat – I think he continues his scoring spree with another one on the road.
Victor Moses is just 6.2m in the official FPL game – and if he can keep one of Mata or Hazard on the bench in this one he could provide some attacking returns, though he could be rested too of course.
The best fantasy bets for Chelsea come where their is the least competition – Torres up front, and Luiz or Cahill at the back. It goes without saying that Mata and Hazard are explosive – and their ownership percentages reflect that.
Norwich have looked good with fantasy studs Snodgrass and Bassong performing well over the last month or two, but they will lose this one.
Prediction: 3-1 Chelsea away win
II. Newcastle @ Manchester United: Is Demba Ba staying or going? Newcastle will need him for a Top 8 finish. Without him, they’re a mid-table team at best. It will be tough at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, especially as Sir Alex’s men rarely have two poor results in a row. The 1-1 draw at Swansea was mediocre, and Wayne Rooney looked off the pace. Hernandez or Welbeck will be pushing for a start.
In wide areas, the likes of Ashley Young and/or Antonio Valencia will need to provide better service and afforded space at home, they should shine if they can receive 60+ minutes.
RVP, of course, is the main man up front. He’s been injury prone in the past, so Sir Alex may rest him in the coming weeks, but fantasy managers should proceed with confidence. If he plays, he’s likely to score – or assist.
At the back Rafael could recover from a hamstring injury to re-gain his starting role at right back. David de Gea looks like he’s cemented the #1 goalkeeper jersey and at just 5.5m – could be a superb second half fantasy prospect. He’s made 21 saves in his last 3 matches. Manchester United have been extremely poor defensively all season but with Vidic back, they should do much better in 2013.
Prediction: 3-1 Manchester United
III. Studs & Duds: Chelsea’s aforementioned attackers are studs and they are joined by Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe – who travel to Aston Villa. Michu is the league’s leading scorer and a stud he continues – even at 8.2m – 1.7m more than his 6.5m starting cost this season. He’s away to Reading.
Everton’s Jelavic, Baines, Pienaar, and to a lesser extent – Anichebe, are potential studs at home to Wigan. Anichebe comes in priced at 4.3m. 4.3m. It’s doubtful that he’ll keep his place long term in the side, but if for some strange reason Jelavic gets hurt or Moyes decides to stick with him, he could turn into the bargain buy of the season. It’s too early at this point, but he’s worth a speculative mention for the future… Stud/dud fence for now.
Fulham are home to Southampton so those who have suffered through Dimitar Berbatov’s dazzling footwork but lack of end product over the last two months could be rewarded with a goal or assist. Berbatov needs to produce in the coming weeks or fantasy managers will continue to panic. Stud one last time? Yup.
Christian Benteke needs to learn the offside rule but if Aston Villa can bounce back after the humiliating 8-0 loss, it will come through the former Funny Feeling Friday. Stud.
QPR are home to West Brom so the dirt cheap Taarabt is a stud. Stoke and Liverpool is such a tough one to predict- Stoke are in amazing defensive form but Liverpool are hitting their stride. This one surely can’t be a 0-0 can it? Begovic, Cameron, Gerrard, Suarez, Enrique and company are all on the stud-dud fence. Play them but don’t expect much. It’s certainly hard to bench them as they’ve performed well in recent weeks but it’s a tough one to predict.
Duds this week are those star players who will find themselves on the bench due to Boxing Day rest/rotation. Who will it be? Tevez? Aguero? Mata? Hazard? We just don’t know. Nervy times, then, for fantasy managers.
IV. Gameweek 19 Best Eleven:
GK: De Gea
D: Nastasic – Baines – Luiz
M: Michu – Mata – Young – Bale – Taarabt
F: RVP – Berbatov
Subs: Green – Anichebe – Nelsen – Cameron