Midweek fixtures are always a welcomed gift for us Fantasy Managers, but it does bring with it the threat of rotation. Coming into the festive period, our squads will be stretched and now will be a good time to start getting rid of the deadweight on your bench. This week offers even more opportunity for the big hitters upfront and the high scoring game weeks look set to continue.
Crystal Palace v West Ham
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Gabbidon, Delaney, Ward, Moxey, Dikgacoi, Puncheon, Jedinak, Bannan, Chamakh, Jerome
West Ham: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Demel, Collins, Tomkins, Morrison, Nolan, Noble, Maiga, Cole, Downing
Tony Pulis looks set to stick with the 4-4-2 formation rolled out in his first game in charge of Palace. After talking up the prospects of a front pairing of Chamakh and Jerome, it looks likely that Gayle will remain on the bench. With 2 clean sheets in their last 3 and a home game to a West Ham side that has struggled on the road, Gabbidon and Delaney may just be in the points again.
Sam Allardyce did a bit of tinkering over the weekend with his team formation and selection. It paid off handsomely and the Hammers will be looking to take that form on the road. A 4-2-3-1 formation allowed Carlton Cole the opportunity to grab a goal off the bench and Maiga’s place in the starting XI will be under pressure. It’s unclear as to whether Razvan Rat will be fit in time for the trip to Palace, but we’ll most likely see Joey O’Brien in the left-back position. After a rest against Fulham, I reckon we’ll see Morrison given a start, his impact off the bench surely earning him a place in the starting XI. This is a tough one to call. I’m leaning towards a draw because of West Ham’s poor form on the road, but they may just have the confidence now to go out and get a win away from Upton Park.
Arsenal v Hull City
Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Walcott, Ramsey, Flamini, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud
Hull City: McGregor, Figueroa, Faye, Rosenoir, Bruce, Livermore, Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Brady, Koren, Sagbo
Arsene has hinted at rotation for the festive period and we may just see a few changes in this one. Walcott has had a few games to find his match fitness and Flamini showed what he’s capable of after scoring in the matchup against Cardiff. Sagna is a doubt and Jenkinson will fill in should the Frenchman not be available. The backline seems pretty set though and many will be looking to Koscielny and Mertesacker to produce another clean sheet. Giroud loves scoring at home and I reckon he could rival the likes of Suarez and Aguero this weekend.
Chester is fit again and may be needed straight away as Curtis Davies is out serving a one-match suspension after collecting his 5th yellow of the season. It’s tough figuring out how Hull will set up, but I reckon they’d learn from Liverpool’s mistakes on the weekend and field 4 at the back in a 4-4-1-1 or 4-5-1 formation. The Tigers impressed against Liverpool, but a matchup against an in-form Arsenal at the Emirates will be a different story. I’m going with a comfortable Arsenal win and possible clean sheet.
Liverpool v Norwich
Liverpool: Mignolet, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Flanagan, Henderson, Gerrard, Lucas, Couthino, Suarez, Allen
Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, Bennet, Bassong, Olsson, Hoolahan, Elmander, Howson, Fer, Redmond, Hooper
A change of personnel and formation did not work out for the Pool side at The KC. A 3-5-2 formation saw them exposed at the back and I think we’ll see Rogers revert to the 4-4-2 formation with Skrtel and Agger in central defence and Johnson and Flanagan on either side of them. Coutinho is fit and should line up on the flank. Suarez has had his fair share of hat-tricks against the Canaries and looks set to bring home the points once again.
The Canaries do have Seb Bassong back though. His return saw Michael Turner on the bench, with Ryan Bennet taking up the centre-half position. Pilkington and Snodgrass are out, giving Redmond and Hoolahan the chance to continue on the flanks. I’m not sure there’ll be too much in this for the Canaries though. Those without Suarez will be hiding behind the couch hoping that he doesn’t destroy the Norwich backline the same way he did last season. Pool should have enough to put at least 2 or 3 past them.
Man Utd v Everton
Man Utd: De Gea, Evans, Vidic, Rafael, Evra, Valencia, Fellaini, Cleverly, Kagawa, Rooney, Van Persie
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Oviedo, Osman, Barry, McCarthy, Pienaar, Lukaku, Mirallas
United may once again have to do without Van Persie as he struggles with an ongoing groin problem. I think it’ll be in the midfield that this game is won or lost though. United have struggled to boss the midfield this season and without Carrick, will need to rely on Cleverly and Fellaini to control the game. The wide positions are up for grabs as none of Nani, Valencia, Young or Welbeck have really made a position their own. Jones has been brought in to help in Carrick’s absence, but serves a one-match suspension after picking up his 5th yellow of the season against Spurs.
Roberto Martinez has a bit of a selection headache as he looks to come out of an extremely tough week with maximum points. Baines is still out and we’ll see Oviedo continue in the left back role. Gerard Deulofeu had an incredible game against Stoke, but Mirallas is waiting on the bench and there’s 3 games in the space of a week so the Everton manager may choose to protect the young Spaniard. Once again, Osman and Barkley will battle it out for a place in the starting XI. Looking at recent form, most will be expecting a draw. I do think it’ll be tight, but given Man United’s position and the fact that they’re playing at home, they can’t afford anything but a win. 1-0 to the Red Devils.
Southampton v Aston Villa
Southampton: Gazzaniga, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Rodriguez, Ward-Prowse, Wanyama, Lallana, Osvaldo, Cork
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Clark, Vlaar, Luna, Westwood, El Ahmadi, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
Southampton will be without first choice keeper, Artur Boruc, for the matchup against Villa after injuring his hand on the weekend. Paolo Gazzaniga looks set to take his place between the posts as 2nd choice keeper, Kelvin Davis, is also out injured. Upfront, Ricky Lambert will be looking to win his place back from Paulo Osvaldo.
Paul Lambert will be looking to the front 3 of Wiemann, Benteke and Agbonlahor to somehow find a way past a side that has been defensively impressive at home this season. At the back, Nathan Baker has made way for the return of Luna, with Ciaran Clark in the central defensive position. Villa have been very inconsistent this season and will need to employ some of the tactics that saw them put 2 past West Brom a fortnight ago. I think Southampton are solid enough at the back to keep them at bay though, so I’m going for a home win to the Saints.
Stoke City v Cardiff City
Stoke City: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Pieters, Walters, Whelan, N’Zonzi, Assaidi, Adam, Crouch
Cardiff: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor, Cowie, Medel, Mutch, Kim Bo-Kyung, Campbell, Whittingham
There isn’t much to differentiate Stoke and Cardiff when it comes to goals and log position. Both teams were hammered on the weekend and will need to find some consistency if they hope to stay up this season. Mark Hughes used Muniesa alongside Shawcross in the absence of Robert Huth, but may just opt to shift Cameron in the centre and use Wilkinson on the right. Stoke are still without Arnautovic and neither Adam nor Ireland are stamping their authority on the role in “the hole”.
Malky Mackay is expected to roll out the same side that faced Arsenal over the weekend. Odemwingie was forced to warm the bench as Kim Bo–Kyung was given the chance on the left. Cornelius is fit again and will be pressing Frazier Campbell for a place in the starting lineup. We could see a bit of a dull affair here. Neither side look they have many goals in them, but Stoke should have the edge at home. I think the Potters should sneak it.
Sunderland v Chelsea
Sunderland: Mannone, Dossena, O’Shea, Brown, Bardsley, Borini, Ki, Gardner, Giaccherini, Larsson, Fletcher
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Ramires, Lampard, Hazard, Mata, Torres
Sunderland have looked a more positive side under Poyet, but face an uphill battle to get themselves out of the relegation zone. Dossena slotted straight back into the side after serving his 3-match ban and Mannone looks set to continue between the sticks. Borini has been given the chance on the left flank at the expense of Adam Johnson and Seb Larsson will be looking to secure his spot behind Fletcher.
The Chelsea defense has been disappointing and it’s becoming difficult to justify the hefty prices that come with the Stamford Bridge defenders. Terry’s goal scoring efforts have put him head and shoulders above his defensive compatriots. Oscar was forced off early on the weekend and Mourinho may choose to rest him this week with the option of Mata filling n for him. Eto’o remains sidelined so Torres will lead the line once again. December brings with it the threat of rotation, but if the likely players are afforded game time, the Blues could rack up some decent points for us. I’m going with a comprehensive Chelsea win.
Swansea v Newcastle
Swansea: Vorm, Tiendalli, Williams, Chico, Davies, Dyer, De Guzman, Jose Canas, Shelvey, Routledge, Alvaro
Newcastle: Krul, Coloccini, Debuchy, Williamson, Santon, Tiote, Sissoko, Cabaye, Ameobi, Gouffran, Remy
Michu is back in training but doesn’t look like he’ll be fit enough in time for the visit of Newcastle. With Bony still sidelined, Laudrup will look to Alvaro Vazquez to lead the line. At the back, Vorm is expected to return to the starting XI after sitting out on the weekend and Tiendalli will continue to deputise for the injured Angel Rangel.
Hatem Ben Arfa may be in with a chance of a start on Wednesday after the Newcastle boss hinted at rotation for his squad. The Newcastle starting XI has been fairly consistent and their results are showing that the familiarity for the squad is paying off. Ryan Taylor is the only player unavailable for the Magpies. Swansea haven’t been able to capitalize on their kind run of fixtures and it’ll be the Toons that carry the momentum into this one. This may just be enough to get them past the Welsh side. 2-1 Newcastle.
Fulham v Tottenham
Fulham: Stekelenburg, Hughes, Riether, Amorebieta, Richardson, Kasami, Sidwell, Parker, Bent, Ruiz, Berbatov
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Chiriches, Chadli, Sandro, Paulinho, Lennon, Dembele, Soldado
Fulham have now lost 5 on the trot and things are not getting any easier. With a new manager comes the unpredictable squad selection and we may see a few change ups in the middle of the park. Ruiz was dropped for the game against West Ham so it’ll be a battle between himself and Taarabt for a place behind Darren Bent. Berbatov looks to be a doubt through illness and Hangeland is still out with a leg injury. Riether does return though after serving his 3-match ban.
AVB continues to rotate his midfield and I personally think this has lead to Spurs’ downfall. Paulinho, Dembele, Sandro, Lamela and Chadli cannot nail down a regular spot and the side from White Hart Lane looks unsettled. Their defensive efforts have been impressive besides the 6-0 drubbing at the hands of City, but they need to score goals if they are to challenge for a European spot. Lennon is likely to start ahead of Townsend and Paulinho may be given the role behind Soldado. Tottenham have the chance to capitalize on Fulham’s instability and could even put more than 2 in the net for the first time this season. I’m going for a win on the road for Spurs.
West Brom v Man City
West Brom: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Yacob, Morrison, Long, Sessegnon, Amalfitano
Man City: Pantillimon, Zabaleta, Lescott, Demichelis, Clichy, Nasri, Toure, Fernandinho, Milner, Aguero, Negredo
Steve Clark should send out the same XI that faced Newcastle, with the exception of Youssouf Mulumbu who picked up his 5th yellow card of the season. This will give Yacob the chance to return to the starting XI. Myhill looks set to continue in goal and Sinclair is unavailable to face his parent club.
Nastasic, Silva and Jovetic remain sidelined for Man City but they do have their captain back in contention. Kompany was not fit enough to make the squad on the weekend and it remains to be seen whether he will take Lescott’s place in the heart of the Citizen’s defense. The jury is out as to whether Pellegrini with give Joe Hart another chance between the sticks. I think Pantilimon should keep his place though. City haven’t been convincing away from home and will find it tough getting past the West Brom side at the Hawthorns. West Brom will fancy a point here and may very well frustrate the title contenders.
Good luck everyone, let’s hope rotation doesn’t bite us too hard!