Man City v Chelsea Crystal Palace v Southampton Spurs v Swansea Stoke v Burnley Sunderland v Leicester West Brom v Watford West Ham v Arsenal Bournemouth v Liverpool Everton v Man Utd Middlesbrough v Hull
December is upon us. A six week slog culminating in the festive fixtures. You get £60 if you finish as manager of the month. Eyes down.
Whereas Chelsea’s lack of European action seems to be working out just fine – an unchanged first XI for seven consecutive games is a fantasy manager’s dream – the same can’t be said for Liverpool, who despite also being free from foreign travel, are seeing their much vaunted attacking options dropping like flies.
Biggest headache of the week is dealing with the Coutinho injury. The most popular player in the game before last Saturday’s fixture against Sunderland – his value has plummeted by £0.3 million in the space of a few days. Managers were so quick to get rid of him even before the length of the lay-off was announced. Those waiting till the end of the week to make their change might not be able to bring in their desired replacements as a result of the drastic price drop.
As well as the injury to Coutinho, Roberto Firmino also picked up a knock. Daniel Sturridge is out again and there’s no sign of a return for Adam Lallana, although both he and Firmino are tentatively pencilled in for the Bournemouth match. Klopp might have to play some actual defenders and attackers. Divock Origi is in with a shout having scored in both the victory over Sunderland and the League Cup win in midweek. And Emre Can offers a dirt cheap way into the midfield at £4.8 million. He’s started the last six league matches anyway and scored two goals in that period.
Chelsea conceded their first goal in seven against Spurs last weekend and now they come up against a Manchester City side who have only failed to score once this season. Chelsea will undoubtedly name that same trusted starting XI, but Guardiola has been teasing us with some unpredictable line ups of late. Last week Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva started on the bench – Ilkay Gundogan and John Stones didn’t even make it that far. For arguably their toughest game of the season to date, he’s got to name his strongest XI. Shame no-one seems to know what that is.
Away from the top three, who in truth don’t offer much captain material this weekend, Spurs’ home tie against Swansea is definitely worth looking at. There are plenty of armband options and potential Coutinho replacements. With a bit of tinkering, Harry Kane leads the list. His post injury form isn’t bettered by many and Swansea’s defence are the cheapest for a very good reason. If Palace can score four aganst this lot…
We have our first gap opening up at the top of the table. We’ve a two team brekaway. Uriah Rennie 2nd XI and Queen Of The North move past the 700 point mark with healthy weekly scores of 65 and 66. The gap between QOTN and The Craggy Islanders in 3rd is 23 points. Then only 13 points separate the next nine teams. In fact, an inspired captain choice and prevailing wind could see teams as far down as maybe Rip Roaring Reds in 17th climb the league and land somewhere in the top ten and within shooting distance of the prize money.
November manager of the month goes to Greenyteamy who held off challenges from a number of teams to hold on to the lead they’d established after last week’s matches. Only Yeboahs Right Foot and Hedgehog Corpse of those featured in the monthly table appear in the overall top ten. This may explain the tightly packed nature of the mid table. Other than our leading pair and Hedgehogs, the rest of our top ten had a fairly uninspiring week in which they limped to an around-average score. Much the same as last week. And the week before.
Buckets stalwarts, Romeoshondavan, scored the highest weekly score. More than half of their 70 point total came courtesy of old faithfuls Sergio Aguero (as captain) and Alexis Sanchez. Before the week started, Philippe Coutinho was not only the most picked player in the game, but also the most transferred in and most popular captain of the week. He lasted 36 minutes. The rap he took to his ankle looks like it might rule him out until the New Year. There was potential for a Sunderland trouncing at the hands of the Liverpool midfield, but it never transpired, and left a lot of managers cursing their luck.
The nine goal thriller served up by Swansea and Palace provided us with six of the ten players who managed double figure scores this week. They’re not among the most popular teams with fantasy managers. I know a couple of Buckets teams have Christian Benteke clogging up their attack. His ownership across the whole game is only at 6%. More surprisingly perhaps is that Gylfi Sigurdsson appears in only 5.2% of teams in the game as a whole. Maybe his value seems a little high. But, he’s a top ten midfielder, has played virtually every minute of Swansea’s last nine games and has contributed meaningful points in seven of them. Basically if Swansea score, he’s usually somewhere in the mix.
Player of the week – Fernando Llorente – 15 points.Collected in 25 minutes.
Bargain of the week – Leroy Fer – 14 points. His 5th and 6th goals of the season. Only Hazard and Sanchez have more in the midfield.
Donkey of the week – Kyle Naughton – -1 points. A clean sweep. His fourth donkey in three years.
Goal of the week – Pedro.Finally worth considering him for your fantasy team. At 3m25s
Man Utd v Arsenal Crystal Palace v Man City Everton v Swansea Southampton v Liverpool Stoke v Bournemouth Sunderland v Hull Watford v Leicester Spurs v West Ham Middlesbrough v Chelsea West Brom v Burnley
We’ve a mixed bag of casualties and fitness uncertainties courtesy of the international break. Some of the big hitters didn’t even play. The only thing Roberto Firmino and Sergio Aguero need worry about is a touch of jetlag, whereas Mesut Ozil may not have even left the country, having been completely rested for Germany’s two games. The same can’t be said for Philippe Coutinho or Alexis Sanchez. Coutinho, now the game’s most popular player with a 47% ownership, played virtually every minute of both of Brazil’s games, only coming off towards the end of the victory over Peru on Tuesday. Sanchez allegedly suffered an injury in Chile’s first game of the break, only to take the field in heavy strapping for the second game. He scored two and played 86 minutes. They both appear to have returned injury free, but how fresh?
Diego Costa and Eden Hazard’s values could have gone through the roof given their recent performances, but early injuries tempered the transfer scramble and kept them affordable. Costa was another not to play a minute having succumbed to a groin complaint. Eden Hazard got a knock in Belgium’s defeat of Estonia and came off at half time. Both have declared themselves fit. That’s declared THEMSLEVES fit. Their manager might have other ideas. The extra day to recover should work in their favour. If you were going to go Chelsea mad, it looks like that’s still an option.
Friday’s preview highlighted the rising stock of the Chelsea team and I don’t know why I didn’t take my own advice. Their fifth consecutive clean sheet and their fifth consecutive victory. They were the only team to keep a clean sheet this weekend. Only 11 defenders collected anything but their appearance points and four of them play for Chelsea. Eden Hazard scored his fifth goal in four games and registered the highest score of the week. His overall performance merited much more than the 19 points he achieved. He’s an absolutely essential buy at the moment.
So, it’s just typical that a two week international break should come along. Although it does give you plenty of time to figure out exactly how to wedge him into your team. But with each passing day there’s the danger that his value will edge higher and higher. It had already jumped from £9.8 to £10 million over the two gameweeks before the Everton game. There’s every chance it’ll increase by the same amount, or maybe more, come the gameweek 12 deadline. And the same goes for absolutely everybody else in the Chelsea starting XI at the moment from Courtois to Costa.
No less impressive were Liverpool, hammering six past Watford. Their front four all returned double figure scores. It was Philippe Coutinho’s fourth – a feat only matched by Hazard and Alexis Sanchez. Mane, Lallana and Firmino have all managed three each. They occupy four of the top twelve scorers overall – four of the top eight midfielders. If you’ve still got a wildcard, gameweek 12 looks like a perfect opportunity to play it. At whose expense might be better looked at in the preview in a fortnights time. A few injuries to Arsenal, Spurs and City players over the international break will make that decision a bit easier. Here’s hoping.
Racing Club Skegness were far and away our highest scorers of the week with 87 points. There were only two other managers in the 70’s. Greenyteamy opted for Firmino as captain. He contributed 30 of their 77 points. Cooksters 74 points came with a 38 point contribution from Hazard as captain. Skegness also went with Hazard, but also benefited from Coutinho’s contribution, a resurgence from Wayne Rooney on his recall to the Manchester United squad and Sam Vokes’ 11 point return, which puts him at the top of the budget striker picks. His current form is bettered only by that of Costa and Romelu Lukaku.
Player of the week – Eden Hazard – 19 points. Goal of the week too.
Bargain of the week – Robert Snodgrass – 14 points. Back with immediate effect.
Donkey of the week – Jose Holebas – -2 points. A lot of managers won’t be happy with him – a form budget defender in a lot of teams. Picked up a ban too.
Goal of the week – Eden Hazard. His second goal from a slightly odd angle.
Chelsea v Leicester Arsenal v Swansea Bournemouth v Hull Man City v Everton Stoke v Sunderland West Brom v Spurs Crystal Palace v West Ham Middlesbrough v Watford Southampton v Burnley Liverpool v Man Utd
It appears most players have returned with a clean bill of health from their international travails, although there’s always a question mark over those flying further afield. Alexis Sanchez and Philippe Coutinho were rested on their return from South America last time and I guess it could happen again. Some teams can afford the luxury of dropping key players with plenty in reserve. That might be a particular annoyance to Sanchez owners with a home tie against Swansea this weekend and the potential for him to fill his boots. Serio Aguero was mid-suspension during the last international break. It’ll be interesting to see how Guardiola approaches the situation. And he did allegedly pick up an injury in Argentina’s first match against Peru, yet still played in their second against Paraguay. Kelechi Iheanacho looks more than a capable stand in these days, although he has been to Zambia and back himself in the last week.
The more serious injury concerns happened within the England squad. Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana are the in form English players of the moment. Neither played either international. Lallana was injured in Liverpool’s last game and Sterling pulled out of the squad. If you believe internet reports, it doesn’t look promising for either player, although Lallana does have a few extra days to prove his fitness. Tom Heaton was also withdrawn after the first qualifier. The competitions leading keeper picked up a ‘minor’ calf injury and is listed as 75% fit. God knows what that really means.
Stoke’s luck could be about to change. Despite the worst goal difference in the league, having scored the least and with only West Ham conceding more, their run of fixtures into December all look eminently winnable. They play seven consecutive games against teams in the bottom half of the table, starting at home against Sunderland this weekend. They’ve yet to keep a clean sheet, but crucially have stopped shipping threes and fours. Shay Given bore the brunt of their worst performances and was replaced by Lee Grant, who in the last two games has accumulated 7 points. He’s another £4 million reserve keeper with almost guaranteed game time. That is until Jack Butland returns – and that appears to be some time in mid November. He keeps a Premier League clean sheet one in every three games. Stoke could be mid table by Christmas.