The Hazard lights are flashing as Fantasy bosses come to terms with the Mata at hand. Chelsea aren’t playing this Gameweek.
Sorry, that was an awful pun-related start to a weekend which looks as though it could offer up quite a lot of points if you stay away from the west Londoners and focus your attention on the red halves of Manchester and Merseyside.
Having come through last Sunday’s fixtures clutching 3-2 away wins and in some cases a few scars, Manchester United and Liverpool return to action in home matches that they should take three points from.
United host Sunderland at Old Trafford, and although the Black Cats saw their form dramatically improve in midweek thanks to a 3-0 win over Reading which mercifully featured goals from Steven Fletcher (£7.2m) and Stephane Sessegnon (£7.6m) for those managers who trusted the Black Cats pair during their double Gameweek, this contest looks like being one that the home side will have the upper hand in.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have hit ominous form and with a relatively kind fixture list over the Christmas period their players could be ones to follow as they seek to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Robin van Persie (£13.8m) grabbed the late glory at the Etihad Stadium last weekend, but it was the two goals from Wayne Rooney (£11.9m) which really attracted the attention and has seen his price begin to slowly rise back towards its original £12m.
Rooney tends to score in bursts, and with braces in his last two games he is certainly experiencing one of those now. He has apparently complained of illness in midweek, but he is unlikely to let a little thing like that affect him as he bids to shoot down the Mackems on a Saturday afternoon when his inclusion in your team could prove crucial.
Not far away on Merseyside, Liverpool will be bidding to build on their run of back-to-back league victories as they welcome Aston Villa to Anfield.
Like United they have a somewhat welcoming set of fixtures to negotiate over the Christmas period – albeit without the certainty that Ferguson’s men bring to the table – and whilst most might be looking at selecting Luis Suarez (£10.3m) now that he has returned from the one-match suspension he served at West Ham last weekend, it might pay to look elsewhere especially if Chelsea’s lack of action has left you short in defence and midfield.
Glen Johnson (£6.3m) was on the mark last weekend and Raheem Sterling (up to £5.7m now) has showed terrific promise all season, but if you need a one-week replacement for a Mata or a Hazard then perhaps a move for Steven Gerrard (£9.3m) could pay off.
Gerrard has scored more goals against Villa than any other team, and although he blotted his copybook with an own goal last weekend he’d already chalked up an assist for Johnson’s strike. He has created more chances than any other player in this season’s Premier League bar Leighton Baines, and he’s likely to have opportunities for more against Villa.
Speaking of Baines, his Everton side go to Stoke in what looks to be an uncompromising encounter which could see defenders on top, whilst the opposite is likely to be true of Tottenham’s clash with Swansea on Sunday. Jermain Defoe (£8.4m), Aaron Lennon (£7.0m) and Michu (£8.0m) could all be in the points in a match which should produce goals.
Norwich are finding goals easy to come by at the moment, with defender Sebastien Bassong (£4.9m) proving a recent hit thanks to his three strikes in four games. As they entertain Wigan he’ll be hoping for defensive points too, with Javier Garrido (£4.8m) and Steven Whittaker (£4.3m) other cheap choices who have impressed.
Manchester City go to struggling Newcastle as they bid to get over last weekend’s derby loss, and with Carlos Tevez (£9.4m) failing to complete 90 minutes since his 19 point haul against Aston Villa in Gameweek 12, Sergio Aguero (£11.0m) again looks likely to lead the line.
The Argentine hasn’t scored in four games, and although Dimitar Berbatov (£7.2m) hasn’t netted in five he looked sharp against Newcastle on Monday night and could be worth backing as Fulham go to bottom club QPR.
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.