Friday, April 27, 2012
Make mine a double
This week brings a crucial period in the fantasy season with eight teams involved in a double gameweek. Any manager with a high number of transfers left should be looking to utilise these rather than keeping them back for the final two rounds.
Chelsea will be down to the bare bones for the Champions League final with Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles and John Terry all suspended. That means all three are likely to be mainstays of the four remaining Premier League games as Roberto Di Matteo protects his other players for Bayern Munich.
There could be a question mark over John Terry. Carrying a rib injury already, he might be left out of this weekend's game against Queens Park Rangers to avoid controversy over the Anton Ferdinand affair. But injuries to David Luiz and Gary Cahill make that less likely.
Both of Chelsea's matches are at home, with Newcastle visiting Stamford Bridge too. Neither game is straightforward, with both opponents in need of victories for differing reasons. That said, Chelsea cannot rely on the Champions League final to provide a route back into the competition next season, they must make sure they earn it via the Premier League.
Petr Cech is currently the only goalkeeper going up in ownership this week even though the club's defensive record has been suspect and he is ranked in tenth. Terry is up 0.4% as the most popular defender, but is expensive at £7.9 million so Ivanovic (£6.8 million) is a far better option - but he is suspended for the QPR game. Meireles looks a bargain in midfield at just £4.3 million.
The best transfer option could be Fernando Torres, back among the goals at Barcelona and sure to get plenty of game time in the final matches of the season as Didier Drogba is protected. Torres is £6.6 million, which is surprisingly a mere £0.2 million cheaper than the Ivorian. Can you trust Torres now? Probably not, but he is in just 5.3% of teams.
Everton may not have anything left to play for, but that hasn't seen their players head to the beach. After meekly losing their FA Cup semi-final to Liverpool earlier this month, the Toffees claimed a 4-4 draw at Manchester United. And before their Wembley disappointment they had thrashed Sunderland 4-0 at Goodison Park.
David Moyes' side are on a run of five games unbeaten in the Premier League, keeping three clean sheets in this time and this weekend they play host to Fulham. The two sides are among a glut of teams looking to finish seventh. Despite enjoying one of their better seasons away from Craven Cottage, Fulham have still only won the three matches, with Blackburn Rovers and Wolves the teams to have won fewer. Everton's second game is away at Stoke, who have won one of their last eight matches - and that was a narrow victory at home to Wolves.
The stand-out option is Nikica Jelavic, the striker who has scored six Premier League goals in six starts since moving south from Rangers at the end of the January transfer window. Priced at £6.3 million, a value which is sure to rise by £0.4 million this Saturday after his double at Old Trafford, he is in 1.8% of teams - up 0.5% in a week.
Steven Pienaar (£6.9 million) is beginning to look like the club's creative force while Marouane Fellaini (£6.6 million) could provide points if he continues in an advanced role. There are no bargains defensively for Everton, but with Leighton Baines out with a hamstring injury his replacement at left-back, Sylvain Distin, offers the best value at £6.2 million.
With one win, and two clean sheets, in nine games now is not the best time to be looking at Spurs players. Gareth Bale, once clear in front as the top-scoring midfielder, has not scored a goal in 10 matches and recorded one assist in 12.
Luka Modric has similarly woeful stats. After grabbing a goal and an assist against Wigan on January 31 he has contributed no attacking points. And Emmanuel Adebayor has scored twice in nine games and four in over four months going back to December 22. Only Rafael van der Vaart, with two goals and an assist in five games, can claim to have been any value for money.
Ordinarily games against Blackburn and Bolton would be perfect for Spurs and provide candidates for fantasy captaincy. But with the North Londoners in their current form and Blackburn, who visit White Hart Lane, and Bolton, who will entertain Spurs, fighting for their lives there can be no confidence in Harry Redknapp's players.
If Spurs are on the way down, then the opposite is true of Newcastle who moved into the Champions League places with their sixth consecutive victory at the weekend. But the Magpies have two away games coming up which limits the attraction.
As well as the game at Chelsea next week, first up they must make the trip to the DW Stadium to take on Wigan Athletic. It's difficult to predict fixtures against sides fighting for their lives, especially Wigan who have been in superb form over the past couple of months. And the game at Chelsea is almost a Champions League play-off.
That has not stopped fantasy bosses moving for Papiss Demba Cisse, ranked 37th among strikers for the whole season despite playing 754 minutes. He is one of the most popular players in the transfer market this week, up 0.9% in ownership, and his rapidly rising price tag is now up to £8.6 million - only Robin van Persie, Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney are more expensive.
Yohan Cabaye's brace against Stoke makes him the most popular player this week, up 1.2%, while Hatem Ben Arfa (0.6%), Fabricio Coloccini (0.3%) and Danny Simpson (0.2%) are also attracting interest.
Four other teams have a double gameweek. Bolton travel to Sunderland and entertain Tottenham and while both their opponents are out of form there are few Wanderers players who offer consistency. Fulham have two trips to Merseyside to face Everton and Liverpool and their suspect away form has already been touched upon.
Liverpool's form has completely deserted them, and even a home game against the Cottagers looks more likely to be a draw than a victory. They also go to Norwich City. Finally Stoke City have home games against Arsenal and Everton but as previously discussed they, like Liverpool and Spurs, seem to be on their holidays already.
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