After a brief FA Cup interlude we’re back… and raring for action. New signings are thrown into the mix this week, as well as disgruntled regulars and of course FA Cup rotation likely to sting FPL managers. How do you best prepare yourself then? Glad you asked. Ready… GO!
Aston Villa v Newcastle
Aston Villa (3-5-2)
Guzan; Baker, Vlaar, Clark; Lowton, Westwood, N’Zogbia, Bannan, Bennett; Benteke, Agbonlahor.
Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon; Cabaye, Sissoko, Anita, Gutierrez; Gouffran; Cissè.
Lambert’s formation has reverted back to a 3-5-2 with N’Zogbia preferred in the hole to Holman recently, while Agbonlahor seems to be in favour in place of Weimann.
For Newcastle, a plethora of new signings have been introduced- but how many start is anybody’s guess. Pardew has confirmed Sissoko will start, while Gouffran would fit perfectly in the hole in front of Cisse. Haidara will provide competition for Santon at LB, but this weekend Santon should get one last game to prove his worth to the Toon. Cabaye is also a doubt, following leaving the field early with a suspected groin problem v Reading- but he should be right to start.
This is a massive, massive game for both clubs. Villa are in a relegation scrap and Newcastle are only 2 points from it. Both teams have been cataclysmically bad in recent times, with Villa shipping goals at will and Newcastle handing Reading their first away win of the season. I think this game plays into the away team’s hands. Both teams would have been facing a relatively hostile atmosphere at home- the chance to play with less expectation will do Newcastle a world of good.
Comparing Newcastle’s previous form until now I feel will be unhelpful, given the potential 4 new players and new formation they look likely to adopt… Villa however have continued to be woeful, beating league 2 side Bradford at home 2-1, before losing to championship team Milwall away. Newcastle SHOULD have too much firepower, and with a bucketload of new players whom I really rate (especially Sissoko), they should romp home. I’ll tip a big one first off this week. 0 – 3 Newcastle.
QPR v Manchester City
Cesar; Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Fabio; Granero, Derry, Mbia, Wright-Phillips; Taarabt; Remy.
Man City (4-2-3-1)
Hart; Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott, Clichy; Garcia, Barry; Nasri, Aguero, Silva; Dzeko.
No new injury concerns for QPR, with Mackie the only person likely to make way for Granero after constantly being linked with a move away from the club.
For City, Kompany is expected to miss with a calf twinge in the FA cup vs Stoke, while Aguero is set to return to the team. This would see either Tevez or Dzeko miss out, with Dzeko the man in form and probably keeping his place.
Let’s look back to QPR’s game vs MK Dons on the weekend. They fielded a relatively strong team and still conceded 4 goals at home to a League 1 side. People would be quick to think that Man City are due for a field day on the back of that result, and really, who can blame them.
The difference between this game and the upcoming City game though is the mentality. Against the Dons, QPR ventured forward in attack more freely and expecting to score- not worrying about being hit on the break. Against City however, they will be more cautious and defensively minded- for them to get a point out of this game would be a massive result. Couple this with the fact that against the other 3 top 4 teams, QPR have conceded 2 goals to United, 0 to Chelsea and 0 to Tottenham- showing that they can graft out a result when they need it.
Man City have been solid defensively, and offensively sound- but not setting the world on fire. Without Toure in their midfield they can lack thrust from the double pivot of Barry and Garcia, and as such I’m going to tip a 0 – 1 City win.
Stoke City v Wigan
Stoke City (4-5-1)
Begovic; Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson; Walters, N’Zonzi, Whelan, Adam, Etherington; Jones.
Al Habsi; Boyce, Caldwell, Figueroa; Stam, McArthur, McCarthy, Beausejour; Maloney, Di Santo, Gomez.
Cameron is a slight doubt for the Potters- his failured to come up would see Shotton deputise. Elsewhere the only battleground is between Jones and Crouch for the strikers position, as the latter got the nod last GW.
Wigan are still without Alcaraz, so Stam continues to push up the field allowing Boyce to offer defensive stability. Kone‘s unavailability still means the front three remains unchanged.
This game as all the makings of a “meh” encounter. Wigan have been dire at times, but tend to pull out results when they need it- and boy do they need it now. Stoke however, who were previously defensively impenetrable, have started leaking more than a prostitute after work (great mental image).
Here though I think Stoke will return to their defensively stoic ways, especially with Wigan’s main attacking threat (Kone) away at CON. I’ll go for a Stoke 1-0 scrap, with Jones getting on the scoresheet the only way Stoke know how- from a set piece.
Sunderland v Swansea
Mignolet; Gardner, O’Shea, Mangane, Colback; Johnson, Larsson, N’Diaye, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Britton, De Guzman, Ki; Routledge, Michu, Hernandez.
Mangane is in line to debut for Sunderland, which means Bramble will drop to the bench. Colback continues to deputise at LB as Rose is a slight doubt.
Swansea are almost at full-strength, with Michu set to continue as a striker for the remainder of the year as Graham has requested a transfer elsewhere.
This game screams low scoring at home. Sunderland’s home record reads as 14 goals for, 12 against, while Swansea have the best defensive away record in the league, scoring just 12 goals but conceding merely 9. It’s very, very hard to split the teams at the moment, especially seeing as both are unbeaten in their last two games… so I’m going to sit on the fence and tip a 1-1 draw!
Arsenal v Liverpool
Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Diaby, Wilshere, Cazorla; Walcott, Giroud, Podolski.
Reina; Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson; Downing, Sturridge, Suarez.
Arsenal are virtually full strength (minus Arteta), while Sturridge will continue up front in his new bromance with Suarez.
A high scoring affair is in order here. Arsenal have been leaky at the Emirates- conceding as many goals at home as Newcastle and Aston Villa have! Liverpool however are even leakier away, with the same amount of goals conceded as the bottom two teams in Wigan and QPR. Couple this in mind with Arsenal have the equal best home goal-scoring record in the PL, and you’ve got yourself a good old fashioned shootout. Liverpool’s back four have been good of late, but with Enrique returning from injury and Skrtel out of sorts, do they really have enough to keep Walcott and Podolski from feeding balls into Giroud? I don’t think so. It’s hard to see LFC not scoring though, with Suarez surely worrying Mertesacker even before the game starts. I’ll go a big one: 3-2 Arsenal.
Everton v West Brom
Howard; Jagielka, Heitinga, Distin; Baines; Anichebe; Osman, Neville, Pienaar; Fellaini; Jelavic.
West Brom (4-4-1-1)
Foster; Jones, Olsson, McAuley, Ridgewell; Fortune, Yacob, Brunt, Dorrans; Morrison; Lukaku.
Everton still face the dilemma of having Coleman unavailable, meaning either Jagielka or Neville will drop back. My lineup is optimistic for Fellaini owners, because if Jagielka plays RB then Neville can play CM and Fellaini will drop in the hole. If not, Heitinga may miss out and Fellaini play slightly deeper.
West Brom face a CM dilemma with Mulumbu still unavailable and Yacob in doubt. If the midfield enforcer fails to make the game then Thorne will start, but neither are fantasy relevant so I’ll leave you to ponder that one. Gera‘s season ending injury is fantastic for Morrison owners, meaning he will start in the hole most weeks unopposed. Odemwingie‘s comments about the club and their administration are surely landing him a spot out of the matchday squad.
West Brom are in a torrid slump where they seem to lose games at will at the moment, while Everton are coming off two games in a row that ended in 0-0 defeats. The reason? Fellaini. In the past two games he has dropped slightly deeper, and while he has still had a few attacking chances, his game has been far more accountable. He really is a phenomenal player, and is extremely versatile, so if Everton play him deep (especially with Jagielka, Heitinga, and Distin behind him), they are going to be extremely hard to score against- especially at home. My feeling is this week that he will drop forward to exploit the wayward West Brom double pivot. Brunt plays far better on the left, and is a fairly weak aerial opponent- meaning someone of Fellaini‘s stead will surely exploit him. For this reason I expect Everton to be potent going forward. Consider this though- every game (apart from 3) Fellaini has started in the hole, Everton have failed to keep a clean sheet… On that note, I’ll go a Everton 2-1 win.
Norwich v Tottenham
Bunn; Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; Pilkington, Hoolahan, Snodgrass; Holt.
Lloris; Walker, Vertonghen, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Parker, Dembele, Bale; Dempsey; Defoe.
Norwich have no injuries, with the only battleground between Whittaker and Martin for the RB slot… hardly are fantasy relevant so I’ll move on.
Tottenham will line up as expected, with Parker covering for Sandro for the rest of the season and Adebayor away for at least another week on CON duty.
Let’s put this in perspective. Tottenham have been wasteful so far in front of goal, but Norwich have also been leaky at the back. Couple this with the fact they’ve gained just 1 point from their last 6 PL matches (as well as a 1-0 loss to LUTON) and we have a tricky one to call. Based on class- Tottenham should win-but we all can remember the Canaries’ 10 game unbeaten streak which was spurred on by an amazing run of home form.
Tottenham have lost mid-week and should be hungry for a result. Dempsey will be spurred on by the news Holtby will soon be breathing down his neck and should thrust the Spurs into a 2-1 win.
Fulham v West Ham
Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Richardson; Duff, Sidwell, Karagounis, Kacaniklic; Ruiz; Berbatov.
West Ham (4-3-3)
Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Tomkins, O’Brien; Diame, Noble, Nolan; Cole, Chamakh, Jarvis.
Fulham’s only battlegrounds remain at LB with Jol reluctant to use Riise recently, while Karagounis has held down the CM slot ahead of Baird. Kacaniklic might be preferred over Dejagah, but who knows about Fulham- they have been so unpredictable all year.
West Ham however go in with a near full strength side- apart from Collins who misses- and Tomkins will deputise.
Picking this game is comparable to picking the last two retarded kids in a schoolyard pick game of dodgeball. On one hand, you’ve got Fulham, who are the equivalent of the bipolar ex girlfriend who cuts your brakes just to screw you over. On the other you have West Ham, a once solid player who has had his talent sapped by an inherent addiction to Cocaine. Which one would you rather have? Neither for me. Fulham’s home form has historically been good, but West Ham have also adopted a defensive “bomb it long” approach. This game is a no bet game, and frankly, nobody wants to win it. I’ll go a 1-1 Draw.
Man United v Southampton
Man United (4-4-2)
De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa; Rooney, Van Persie.
Boruc; Clyne, Forren, Yoshida, Shaw; Cork, Schneiderlin, Ramirez; Puncheon, Lambert, Rodriguez.
Man United will welcome back Valencia who should be fit to start- but Welbeck has been rumoured to have been taking his flanking role. Young remains out, so Kagawa will take his left flank spot, while the terrible two will start up front together for the first time in a PL game this year.
The Saints were crippled by the news that Do Prado will be out for a number of weeks- but good news for FPL managers- Puncheon is now definitely nailed on for a start for the next month. This means one of Rodgriguez or Lee are likely to start- with Jay getting the nod purely on experience. Forren is a new signing at CB who is likely to push Hooiveld out of the team.
All signs point to a United victory. They have the most impressive home scoring record in the league (with Arsenal), and given they have Rooney and Van Persie up front this should be a blowout. Oh yeah, Southampton also concede the most goals on the road in the league. Need any more assurance? Didn’t think so. Put a million dollars on United to score more than 2 goals, then buy me a drink with the dividends.
Reading v Chelsea
Federici; Kelly, Mariappa, Pearce, Harte; Kebe, Karacan, Guthrie, McAnuff, McCleary; Pogrebnyak.
Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry, Ivanovic, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, Mata, Bertrand; Ba.
Not much movement in the Reading camp, who have Kebe available to play despite claiming midweek he was moving to Newcastle (he trolled me and a lot of others).
Chelsea will welcome back Cech, while Terry is also available following his layoff with a knee complaint. Luiz will miss probably, meaning Iva, Cahill and Terry will fight it out for the CB slot. In my opinion Azpilicueta is their first choice RB and will start 90% of games (I locked him in this week), meaning that Ivanovic and Cahill will probably slog it out for the last CB slot. Lampard will start because, well, there is no other available CM’s on the list, while Bertrand will probably be preferred to Marin who was woeful v Brentford. Hazard misses through suspension, while Ba and Torres will likely rotate again. Shit there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Chelsea. EDIT: Cech is out- Turnbull will start in goal!
Chelsea have lost just 2 of their away PL games, while Reading have lost 8/11 away games all year. As far as I’m concerned, as long as Mata and Ba are on the field Chelsea will win- and that’s all you need to know! Chelsea to win 4-0 sounds about right- I’m tipping a big one!
So that just about does it for this week… who are you hoping for a big week from? Let me know in the comments. People will also be ruled out in the next 12 hours so I’ll do my best to update the changes here first. Happy managing!