What a fickle mistress FPL can be. A week after notching my highest score of the year with 100, and making no trades- I returned a measly 41 points. Let’s hope this week can be better! With the January transfer window having shut after a predominantly boring month, it will be very, very tricky to pick who starts and who doesn’t. I’ll give it a crack though!
QPR v Norwich
Cesar; Onuoha, Samba, Hill, Fabio; Wright-Phillips, Mbia, Derry, Granero; Taarabt; Remy.
Bunn; Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Pilkington; Holt.
A few new boys are pushing for inclusion for QPR, with Samba a straight swap for Nelsen. Yun might feature at LB, but introducing two new faces into a backline is risky. Jenas and Townsend are also chances to debut, meaning Wright-Phillips/Granero and Derry are under threat.
Norwich’s only dilemma comes from Becchio, after signing from Leeds, but to accommodate him they would have to drop either Hoolahan or Pilkington (who have been fantastic this year), or club captain Holt- which I can’t see them doing straight away.
QPR have scored a total of 1 home goal in the past 4 games. That should tell you something right there- this game will be tight. Norwich haven’t scored more than 1 goal on the road since they beat Swansea on the 8th of December. Again- all signs point to a tight game- but if QPR want to stay up they need to start taking all three points from games like this. I think without Nelsen in the team they might be ok- not because he’s a bad player, but with both he and Hill as CB’s their lack of pace was a real problem. This lead to Mbia and Derry being a shield for the back four, and meant QPR were absolutely toothless in attack. If Jenas comes on as a more attacking option, QPR could change their fortunes. For this week however, I think we’re doomed to an early fixture of mediocrity.
Arsenal v Stoke City
Szczesny; Sagna, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Monreal; Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla; Walcott, Giroud, Podolski.
Stoke City (4-5-1)
Begovic; Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson; Whelan, N’Zonzi, Adam, Walters, Whitehead; Crouch.
Arsenal have Arteta pushing for inclusion- his failure to start would mean Ramsey or Diaby would feature. Monreal should be a straight swap for the injured Gibbs– surely Wenger can’t play Santos…
For Stoke, how they change their defence is anybody’s guess…but something needs to change. By now, the only Stoke assets we should possess are defenders, and owners of Cameron, Shawcross and Huth should rest assured they’ll start.
Stoke have conceded 18 goals in their last 6 games, and are spiralling downhill at a rate of knots. They have been known for tackling harder than Raheem Sterling hits a woman, but in recent weeks people have worked out that if you move the ball quickly they are slow down the flanks. Enter Walcott and Podolski. If Wenger is smart, he’ll realise that Stoke aren’t terribly good at defending carpet football, but they are good at defending in the air- meaning Giroud will be hard pressed to find the back of the net. The team that plays the closest brand of football to Stoke in the league, West Ham, were thrashed 5-1 at home to the Gunners. I’m tipping Arsenal to win, but to also concede (their defence was woeful last week to say the least.) Walcott and Pod will prove too much of a handful for a Stoke defence playing without confidence or purpose.
Everton v Aston Villa
Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Mirallas, Fellaini, Gibson, Osman; Pienaar; Anichebe.
Aston Villa (3-5-2)
Guzan; Baker, Clark, Vlaar; Lowton, Westwood, N’Zogbia, Sylla, Agbonlahor; Benteke, Weimann.
For Everton, the Fellaini merry-go-round continues. Last week he was thrust into a DM role, and while the optimist in me hopes he will move back to the hole, I doubt it will. Neville should play at RB, as Gibson returns to the midfield, which will either mean Osman shifts into the middle or Fellaini continues there. Considering they concede a lot less goal with him in the DM slot I reckon he’ll stay unfortunately… Jelavic was ditched in favour of Anichebe last week, so who starts this week is anybody’s guess.
For Villa, who cares really. They’re diabolical, and the only balls they can get near are their own. Benteke will start, and he’s just about the only relevant option there. Sylla will start as Villa need some form of experience in the midfield.
Villa, villa, villa. Let’s make it easy for everybody. Everton have only lost one game at home this whole year. Villa have only won 2 games away from home all year. If that’s not enough, Villa have won only 1 game in the past ten weeks (LFC 3-1). I can’t see that changing here, and they should be far, far too easy for a Champions League bound Everton to overcome. The place where Villa are weakest is their midfield- which is where Everton are arguably the strongest. Pienaar, Mirallas, Fellaini and Anichebe/Jelavic is too much for the young Villa outfit to deal with.
Newcastle v Chelsea
Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, S Taylor, Santon; Gouffran, Cabaye, Perch, Gutierrez; Sissoko; Cisse.
Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Cole; Lampard, Ramires; Oscar, Mata, Bertrand; Ba.
Newcastle have a lot of new faces to deal with, as Yanga-Mbiwa is vying for Taylor‘s CB slot, while Haidara will be competing with Santon for the LB slot. Marveaux will battle it out with Gutierrez for the LW spot, while Sissoko has been moved into the fantasy utopia- the hole- rather than Gouffran who was used out right.
For Chelsea, Luiz is still out, while Terry is back and should slip straight into the side that conceded 2 goals in 5 minutes to drop points at the Madejski. Bertrand should start again, although rumours on twitter say Malouda is in for a game… I’ll believe it when I see it. Ba has been tipped to face his old side over Torres also.
Chelsea have conceded only 1 goal in the past 5 games at St James Park. Pretty impressive huh? Even though the spawn of Satan is at the helm now, I still think they’ll be too good for Newcastle, who to their credit played better last week. (Albeit against Villa). Chelsea’s away record is the second best in the league though, with only United’s being better, and with Ba in the frame for a start they should have too much firepower.
Hazard isn’t playing, meaning Bertrand starts on the left. All the attacking will therefore be done down the right, where Mr Calamity Davide Santon is playing. The guy is good going forward, but is a shocking defender. If Chelsea can exploit his weakness, they will win, but who knows what Benitez will decide to do.
West Ham v Swansea
West Ham (4-2-3-1)
Jaaskelainen; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, O’Brien; Noble, Diame; Cole, Nolan, Jarvis; Chamakh.
Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Britton, Ki, De Guzman; Routledge, Michu, Hernandez.
West Ham have no new injury worries, although Carroll is nearing a return. Allardyce said he wasn’t fit to play a full game yet though. McCartney is fit but O’Brien will probably be preferred, while Collins remains sidelined.
Swansea have a full strength side, with Michu the most obvious to fill in as striker in Graham‘s absence.
I mentioned last week Swansea’s amazing away record in the league, conceding just 9 goals all year. They managed to quell a rampaging Sunderland last week, and with an out of sorts West Ham up next they should have too much pace. Their threat down the wings will be highlighted here, as well as their one touch football. When Arsenal’s wingers got forward they smacked the Hammers 5-1, and with Routledge and Hernandez on board, I can see it happening again- Demel especially is criminally slow. West Ham hardly score many goals as it is, but the fact they’re up against the travelling barricade that is Swansea, there future looks increasingly bleak this week.
Reading v Sunderland
Federici; Kelly, Mariappa, Pearce, Harte; Kebe, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff; Guthrie; Pogrebnyak.
Mignolet; Gardner, O’Shea, Cuellar, Colback; McClean, Larsson, N’Diaye, Johnson; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Reading are virtually full strength, with only Akpan and Carrico pushing for CM berths- given their impressive form however McDermott will be likely to field the same team that has been travelling so well.
Not sure where Graham is going to fit into this side to be honest, with Fletcher playing so well. McClean has been in and out but I’m tipping O’Neill will fancy him against a Reading side that has let easy goals in previously.Cuellar is back so Bramble‘s stint in at CB is ended.
This has all the trademarks of a surprise thriller. Reading have made a habit of scoring loads of goals at home this year, with their home goal tally of 20 higher than Tottenham and Everton. Sunderland don’t score much away from home either, having only scored 13 goals on the road all year. Reading have lost 1 of the past 7 and at home I honestly think they have more of a shot than people are giving them credit for.
Sunderland will be boosted by the news Cuellar will return, but on paper their defence is surprisingly fragile- Colback and Gardner are not natural full-backs and prefer playing in the midfield. In their last six road trips, Sunderland have scored over 1 goal once, meaning that this will be a test for the Black Cats. I think Reading are in with a real shot of leaving with 3 points and taking themselves clear of the relegation zone.
Wigan v Southampton
Al Habsi; Caldwell, Scharner, Figueroa; Boyce, McArthur, McCarthy, Beausejour; Espinoza, Di Santo, Maloney.
Boruc; Clyne, Forren, Yoshida, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Cork; Puncheon, Ramirez, Rodriguez; Lambert.
Wigan will see Scharner debut for them, while Espinoza should continue in the front three in place of Gomez.
Southampton has Lallana fit again, but where/when he will fit in is beyond me. Rodgriguez looked the likeliest to make way, but after notching against United midweek, Ramirez will be in the firing line should Pochettino choose to start the club captain. Forren is also in line for a CB call up, ousting Hooiveld.
Wigan have just not found ways to win games of football in the recent past. Their last win came against a shambolic Aston Villa in 2012, and have since lost 5 PL games in a row. Southampton, have started to play attractive football on the other hand. 5 draws in their last 7 matches, which included Chelsea and Arsenal, have led to them picking up valuable points and climbing up the table.
For me, this game is hard to predict. We all know how Wigan play their best football at around this time each year, while Southampton have only lost 1 game in the past 6 (away to United). It’s a tricky one, but Southampton are looking the stronger of the two.
Fulham v Man United
Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Duff, Karagounis, Frimpong, Emanuelson; Ruiz; Rodallega.
Man United (4-4-2)
De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa; Rooney, RVP.
For Fulham, loanees Frimpong and Emanuelson are poised to start, with Sidwell in doubt and the LW spot being a problem for Fulham over the year. Berbatov is also out, so Rodallega is in line for a call up- while Petric is also an option.
United are expected to ring a few changes, as SAF has quoted, which mean I think Rafael and Ferdinand will return in place of Jones and Smalling. Valencia is fit and could replace Welbeck on the right, while Nani is also available.
Fulham’s away troubles have been well documented, but having won only 5 of 12 games at home this year, the signs are worrying. Before last weeks win against the struggling West Ham, their previous three Cottage results were draws against both Southampton and Wigan, and a loss to Swansea. A visit from Man United couldn’t have come at a worse time really, who are flying 7 points clear at the top of the table. Bend over and lube up Fulham, this is going to be painful.
West Brom v Tottenham
West Brom (4-2-3-1)
Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Brunt; Fortune, Morrison, Dorrans; Lukaku.
Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Parker, Dembele; Lennon, Dempsey, Bale; Defoe.
Odemwingie is not in the frame for selection following his drive to QPR (Honestly, who would actually want to go there) where he was locked out of the front office and had to knock on the window to get in (not kidding, I saw it on SSN). Dorrans and Fortune should continue in the wide berths, while Long will be a chance of coming in after scoring from the bench against Everton. Thorne will miss after being stretchered off midweek.
Holtby is a huge chance for a start, but I can’t see Dempsey, who has been pretty handy the last few weeks, being chucked out straight away in favour of him.
West Brom are in a bit of a rut at the moment. Their initial European dreams have been smashed recently, and have slid down to 9th place. The good news? They’re still in the top half of the table. The bad news? They’ve picked up 1 point in the last 5 games, and are hosting Tottenham who are on an 8 game unbeaten streak.
Personally, I can’t see that changing. Without Odemwingie the attack lacks pace, and won’t trouble a Tottenham outfit who have been defensively impressive. Going forward, Tottenham have been wasteful, but considering the Baggies have conceded 10 in their last 5, Surely they’ll walk away with the 3 points, if not 1.
Man City v Liverpool
Man City (4-4-2)
Hart; Zabaleta, Garcia, Nastasic, Clichy; Nasri, Milner, Barry, Silva; Tevez, Aguero.
Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard; Suarez, Sturridge, Downing.
Kompany remains out, which means Mancini can either start Garcia as a CB, or as a DM. He used him as a CB v QPR and he did quite well, so I reckon he’ll stay there, partnering Nastasic IF he’s fit. Milner would then slot into the CM spot which he vacated, meaning Nasri has a role on the right. Mancini seems desperate to make this Tevez and Aguero partnership work, meaning Dzeko is unfortunately left on the bench.
For Liverpool, they should go in as expected, as I can’t see Coutinho ousting Henderson just yet. Skrtel is horribly out of form, while Enrique will push Wisdom to the bench.
And so the cracker is saved for last. City have conceded a mere 19 goals all season- making them the best defensive unit in the PL. They have also failed to score only 4 times this year. Liverpool have kept 9 clean sheet though, making them the equal second best defensive team surprisingly enough! They also have failed to score only 4 times this year, meaning that this game, for me, is going to be a low scoring draw.
City have been toothless in attack- often choosing to meander forward rather than surge down the flanks, and while their defence has been sturdy, Liverpool possess a pretty good two pronged attack in Suarez and Sturridge, with Gerrard popping balls to them all day. It’ll be a hard game for LFC, but I think they can give it a good shake.
Here are our writers tips this week (with @grinpowderdiah and Matty) providing me with some opposition. The way it works is it’s 1 point for correct result, and 3 points for a correct score. Hopefully they don’t knock me off my perch!
Writer’s Tips Seags Andrew Matt
QPR v Norwich 0-1 1-1 2-1
Arsenal v Stoke 3-1 3-1 3-0
Everton v Villa 2-0 2-0 2-0
Newcastle v Chelsea 0-3 1-2 1-3
Reading v Sunderland 2-1 2-2 1-2
West Ham v Swansea 0-1 1-2 1-1
Wigan v Soton 0-2 1-1 2-1
Fuham v Man U 1-4 1-3 0-4
West Brom v Tottenham 1-2 1-2 1-1
City v Liverpool 1-1 1-0 2-0
That’s just about it for this week, make sure you stick around the site for plenty of discussion during the GameWeek today. Cheers guys