Our last post of 2012 is here. So let’s preview our New Year’s Day fixture list. We have some significant injury news to report – with Petr Cech doubtful for Chelsea due to a groin problem and Jose Enrique out for Liverpool with a hamstring complaint, and news about Michu’s ankle still unclear, fantasy managers are in quite the predicament. Let’s sort it out.
I. QPR @ Chelsea: A London derby with high-flying Chelsea welcoming relegation threatened and bottom of the league QPR to Stamford Bridge. Doesn’t get much more exciting than this. If Chelsea claim their fifth straight league win it will be their best run since April 2011. Harry Redknapp. Rafa Benitez. Should be superb.
Petr Cech suffered a groin injury against Everton so deputy Ross Turnbull – who comes in valued at just 4.3m in the official FPL game – will earn the start. Cech’s loss is a huge blow to Chelsea – and to owners of Luiz/Ivanovic and other Chelsea defensive assets – as Turnbull is an obvious downgrade. That said, if Cech can return in just 1-2 weeks, then the damage will not be be as severe. If Cech is out much longer than that, Turnbull becomes an extremely attractive FPL option, at 4.3m – you can’t beat the price for a starting goalkeeper in a Top 3 side.
Juan Mata and Fernando Torres have played so many games in quick succession that perhaps one or the other will be afforded a rest against QPR, while Eden Hazard should earn the start after a mid second half substitution at Everton afforded him some rest. Lampard, Ramires and Moses are also pushing for a start.
For QPR it’s Taarabt who could create something out of nothing, and with Turnbull in goal, you have to think a clean sheet may not be as nailed on as if Cech were in between the sticks, but despite some expected Rafa-rotation, Chelsea should win.
Prediction: 3-1 Chelsea
II. Reading @ Tottenham: How will Tottenham cope without Gareth Bale in the lineup at home against a resurgent Reading who have now kept 2 straight clean sheets and have picked up 4 points from their last 2 games? I think they’ll be just fine.
Sandro and Dembele will be too much in the middle of the park, while Defoe, Adebayor, Lennon and Dempsey have more than enough firepower between them to notch a combined 2-3 goals.
In two games without Gareth Bale in early December, Tottenham managed only 1 goal per contest (against Swansea and Everton), and though Reading are playing extremely well at the moment – especially GK Adam Federici – I think Adebayor, Defoe and Dempsey will have too much class in the final third to only manage 1 goal. Adebayor, in particular, looked superb against Sunderland. His movement was good – he was denied a goal within inches off the crossbar and he picked up 2 bonus points. He only has 1 goal the entire season and is only owned by 0.7% of fantasy managers but he is one player who could put up a big score this week.
Prediction: 3-1 Tottenham
III. Studs & Duds: Manchester United travel to Wigan so the likes of Ashley Young and Robin van Persie are obvious stud selections. The returning Shinji Kagawa (7.9m) could be rested after a 60 minute shift against West Brom, but if he starts, he will pull all the strings. A potential stud. Rafael should return to start at right back and he’s a stud if he does.
Liverpool are home to Sunderland so Luis Suarez continues as a stud. He’s in form and has returned 3 goals and 5 bonus points in his last 3 games.
Arsenal, of course, are the team to watch – on the road at Southampton after a 7 goal return against Newcastle just a few days ago. The last time Arsenal routed an opponent – scoring 5 against Reading – they followed it up with just a 1-goal return (a Mikel Arteta penalty) against Wigan. Don’t expect 7 goals, or even 5, at Southampton – but do expect Walcott and Cazorla to produce. Giroud could earn a start as well after his superb cameo appearance against Newcastle. All studs.
Michu is the big question mark – at home to Aston Villa – a team that has conceded 15 goals in their past 3 games – if he starts he will surely be licking his lips at Lambert’s side’s defensive ineptitude – but he could miss out once again so Hernandez and De Guzman would be the studs.
Fellaini is back after a 3 match suspension and instantly inserted onto our stud-dud fence as Everton travel to leaky Newcastle. Jelavic, Pienaar and Baines are Moyes’ other potential stud options in that one.
Dzeko continues as a stud at home to Stoke – he should maintain his start after his starring performance against Norwich – so one of Tevez or Aguero will be benched. Nasri is a dud with a 3 game suspension so Milner or Silva should continue as the strongest midfield options in Mancini’s side.
Duds are the aforementioned injured Cech and Enrique, suspended Bale, and of course the still injured Wayne Rooney. Usually reliable Stoke defenders are duds at Manchester City.
IV. Gameweek 21 Best Eleven:
D: Walker – Nastasic – Glen Johnson
M: Walcott – Mata – Dempsey – Michu*
F: RVP – Adebayor – Suarez
Subs: Vorm – Fellaini – Chico Flores – Wisdom