DEFENDER: Ron Vlaar – £4.4m (Home v Crystal Palace)
‘Concrete Ron’ has returned to the Aston Villa side for the last three matches, and Paul Lambert’s men have only conceded twice in those games as a result.
The Dutchman picked up the full three bonus points in the Sunderland game last time out, and at home to a struggling Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day he could well do the same again.
MIDFIELDER: Adam Lallana – £8.3m (Home v Leicester)
We highlighted Adam Lallana’s growing influence on this Liverpool team last week, and he underlined that with two goals and a fantastic performance in Monday night’s win over Swansea.
Leicester are the next visitors to Anfield and on the form they’ve shown recently then you’d expect the hosts to have more chances to try and climb the table, and their summer signing will be central to everything they do.
FORWARD: Danny Welbeck – £7.1m (Away v Southampton)
Update 30/12 – Ed… Welbeck is now an injury risk for the New Year’s Day fixture
An away game against Southampton isn’t the easiest fixture for any side in the Premier League, but the loss of the suspended Morgan Schneiderlin might just play into Arsenal’s hands ahead of their trip to St Mary’s.
Another suspension – that of Olivier Giroud – means that Danny Welbeck will play in a central role for the Gunners, and as he showed in the defeat of West Ham he can be pretty effective from there.
THE OUTSIDER: Stevan Jovetic – £7.8m (Home v Sunderland)
With Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko still out and the James Milner false 9 experiment not exactly working against Burnley, Manuel Pellegrini must be tempted to start with Stevan Jovetic at home to Sunderland.
The Montenegrin got half an hour in the Burnley game and scored in the win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light earlier this month. City need a result after their disastrous draw on Sunday, and he can provide it for them.
THE CAPTAIN: Charlie Austin – £6.3m (Home v Swansea)
In the mood for a bit of a gamble?
Injuries and difficult fixtures for the usual suspects mean that it could be time to roll the dice, and after failing to fire against Crystal Palace then a home game against Swansea could be the perfect chance for Charlie Austin to bounce back.
It would be a brave choice, but it might well be a weekend when brave choices are needed.
There aren’t any monsters living under your bed, Friday the 13th is just a date like any other and The Exorcist was just a movie. Heads don’t really spin around like that.
In short, you don’t have to be scared. What initially seems unfamiliar and daunting can be overcome and eventually enjoyed if you just allow yourself to be a little braver and take control of the situation.
Southampton are proving that at the moment.
Following early run-ins with the big beasts of the Premier League, the Saints have slowly begun to acclimatise to their surroundings and are now even starting to look comfortable.
Brave losses to both Manchester clubs and a 6-1 hammering at Arsenal was a tough beginning to life at the top level for boss Nigel Adkins, but he and his side have recovered and come up with some eye-catching football in recent weeks. They’ve only lost one of their last six games.
That defeat came at Anfield at the beginning of the month when some Saints followers felt that their Merseysider boss Adkins showed Liverpool a little too much respect on the way to a 1-0 reverse. And so just when they were in danger of looking intimated by the division again they came up with last weekend’s 1-0 home victory over Reading, possibly their most important result of the season.
It was a win which lifted Saints out of the bottom three and into 15th, a highest position of the season so far.
Of course it is far too early to suggest that this is form that will see them pull away from the relegation zone and enjoy safety in their first top flight season since relegation from the Premier League in 2005 – they subsequently had a spell in the third tier of course – but what it does show is that Adkins and his side aren’t in danger of being completely overwhelmed by the top division, and nor should they be.
There were a few weeks back in August and September when that looked to be the case though, but crucially Southampton have been beating the teams around them this season.
Aston Villa, QPR, Newcastle and Reading are the four sides who Adkins’s men have seen off to pick up 12 points which were as crucial for Saints to claim for themselves as it was to prevent their opponents from taking them.
Given that their weekend fixture with Chelsea has had to be moved into the New Year due to the Blues’ Club World Cup involvement this seems like the perfect time for Southampton to take stock of their campaign and look to move forward again.
A home fixture against Sunderland when they return to action on December 22nd is another opportunity to beat one of those other teams around them, and Adkins will doubtless be looking to prolong the good feeling amongst his players during this gap without a match, a gap which he says will help them given that it provides the chance for captain Adam Lallana to recover from a knee injury without missing a match.
Others such as Rickie Lambert, Jason Puncheon and Nathaniel Clyne – all impressive in recent weeks – won’t be given time off during Southampton’s break but will instead be encouraged to keep working hard and keep proving that they, Adkins and the club have nothing to be scared of as they continue to go through life in the Premier League.
They are still likely to be involved near the foot of the table come May – even the most optimistic of Saints fans would probably agree to that – but any extra confidence they pick up along the way is sure to stand them in good stead when the wins suddenly get more vital and three points can feel like six.
That’s not a situation to be scared of though, and luckily Southampton know that now.