To the die-hard Fantasy manager, the FA Cup is nothing but an inconvenience.
It is simply an unwanted chance for your players to get injured, to suddenly rediscover some flickering form or to play themselves out of contention for the next league game. What use were last weekend’s goals from Robin van Persie, Michu and Luis Suarez to anyone but Uruguayan Beach Volleyball Team selectors anyway?
Fear not though, for the Premier League returns this weekend, and it does so with a bang for the European champions (yes, believe it or not they still are).
Branislav Ivanovic (£7.1m) may have exhibited a worrying fondness for providing assists for the opposition during the midweek Capital One Cup defeat to Swansea, but if we’re going to stay strong and keep our disdain for the cup competitions alive then we are going to have to ignore that and instead look forward to him taking his place in a Chelsea defence which is about to embark on a Double Gameweek. Or will he?
The gradual return to fitness for John Terry (£6.5m) and the constant relocation of David Luiz (£6.6m) – sometimes inadvertently – means that the only member of Chelsea’s back four surely certain to line up against both Stoke and Southampton is Ashley Cole (£6.5m), who looks to be a fine investment for Fantasy bosses who may have activated their January wildcard ahead of this weekend, and who scored the winner and kept a clean sheet which Stoke visited Stamford Bridge in September.
Further forward, the signing of Demba Ba (£8.6m) has put the once secure place for Fernando Torres (£9.8m) under threat, whilst Rafael Benitez will surely avoid angering Fantasy bosses for a second Gameweek running and restore Juan Mata (£9.9m) to his Premier League line-up after resting him for the shock loss at home to QPR.
Harry Redknapp’s side entertain the manager’s former club Tottenham at Loftus Road in Saturday’s early match, with Gareth Bale (£9.8m) primed to score big on a weekend when many of his highly priced rivals are facing tougher fixtures. A wildcard move for the Welshman could have benefits well beyond this Gameweek.
Before the FA Cup so rudely interrupted us the name on everyone’s lips was that of Theo Walcott (£9.0m) but he and Arsenal face a tough test at home to Manchester City this weekend, with City likely to be missing the hamstrung Sergio Aguero (£11.0m) and Carlos Tevez (£8.9m) looking to start.
Suarez (£10.4m) won’t have many friends at Old Trafford and is unlikely to find many points either, with Robin van Persie (£14.0m) certain to lead the line for Manchester United against Liverpool. Those who back the Reds defence – which could include the cheap Andre Wisdom (£4.3m) after Jose Enrique (£5.9m) was ruled out for six weeks – to keep out the Dutchman aren’t short of options to replace him, with one of those options coming at Sunderland.
The Mackems have a relatively friendly set of four fixtures coming up, and so Fantasy bosses who had lost faith in Steven Fletcher (£7.0m) could be tempted to turn back to the Scotsman ahead of his side’s home match against West Ham, whilst the departure of Ba is sure to see Papiss Cisse (£8.8m) given a central striking role for Newcastle’s visit to Norwich if he can overcome a knock.
Another battling injury is Southampton’s Gaston Ramirez (£5.6m), but the Uruguyan is certainly worth keeping an eye on ahead of the Saints’ Double Gameweek trips to Aston Villa and Chelsea, whilst teenage full-back Luke Shaw (£4.0m) could find himself becoming an inexpensive addition to plenty of teams once that wildcard kicks in.
Whilst his price hasn’t yet risen, Marouane Fellaini’s (£7.4m) has been falling ever since his three-match ban, but with the Belgian back and ready to play a part in what look to be a winnable next four games for Everton, starting with this weekend against Swansea, then his addition could be crucial.
Reykjavik on a Friday night.
It’s not the most obvious of places to cast an eye over, but there will be more than a few of you keeping up with events in the Icelandic capital at the end of your working week.
At the time of writing, Fulham’s Brede Hangeland features in 13.9% of Fantasy Premier League teams, with John Arne Riise – his fellow defender for both Fulham and Norway – popping up in 8.3% of them.
Given that the amount of Fantasy bosses has now exceeded 2.3million, then that makes for a fair chunk of you who’ll be anxious to hear of the fate of Hangeland and Riise on international duty in Reykjavik, where an injury could wreck your week.
Norway play Slovenia at home next Tuesday too. A pull here or a strain there and suddenly the duo are out of their club sides, and more importantly they throw your plans into disarray as well.
International breaks have long been the scourge of club managers, but what about the problems they cause Fantasy ones?
Without the power of Sir Alex Ferguson you can’t tell the Holland boss Louis van Gaal to leave Robin van Persie out of the World Cup qualifier in Budapest next Tuesday because you’re thinking of making him your captain when Manchester United face Wigan at Old Trafford the following Saturday and you want him to be fresh.
Similarly, Eden Hazard might not have far to travel for Friday’s qualifier in Cardiff, but the Belgian has got another game at home to Croatia on the Tuesday and you want that little assist-making machine in top condition for Chelsea’s highly-charged trip to QPR.
And what’s that Roy? Ashley Cole has got an ankle problem that’s keeping him out of the Moldova game? Good. Now send him back to Chelsea, get them to find all the cotton wool they can get their hands on and don’t you dare think about picking him when England play Ukraine.
Fantasy bosses have to be selfish when watching their players in club action in cup competitions too of course – although you might have a team in one of those leagues on the side – yet somehow it is easier to take when a blow affects one of your boys when in their club colours as opposed to their national shirt. Club 1 Country 0.
For the clubs who lose those players for a week to 10 days, it almost becomes a case of the bigger they are the harder they fall.
Manchester United have published a list of 24 of their players who are on international duty over the next week or so on their website, as have Liverpool for their 19 – which is probably the size of their entire squad as a whole after recent dealings – whilst Chelsea have six in the England squad alone.
It’ll be next Wednesday at the earliest before their managers see all of them again, as air miles are clocked up and tired limbs are transported across all four corners of the globe.
Will they be back in top shape? Has the jet lag affected them? Is it possible for Luis Suarez to get from Montevideo to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in less than four days? Do they do direct flights?
All are questions that many will consider in the days to come, as eyes dart furiously from Argentina to Amsterdam and virtually everywhere in between.
Is it Reykjavik or bust for your Fantasy team?
It could be both.
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Following on from Robin van Persie’s completed move from Arsenal to Manchester United, here’s a look at 15 more transfers which shocked English football.
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Written by @Lewbob91 for @Footysays