Like plenty of Fantasy managers, Queens Park Rangers can only hope that a new year brings a change in fortunes. It doesn’t look like starting off that way.
After three consecutive defeats at the tail end of 2012, QPR begin 2013 with a trip to a resurgent Chelsea on Wednesday night. It may be a short hop across west London, but the gap in quality in huge.
One man who represents that gap is Juan Mata (£9.8m), the Spanish ace who has slowly overtaken Eden Hazard (£9.5m) as Chelsea’s main creative force the longer the season has gone on, scoring seven goals and making eight assists during the campaign to overtake his Belgian teammate following Hazard’s stunning start to life in England.
Against QPR you’ve have to feel that Mata will be able to exploit the shortcomings of Harry Redknapp’s side in much the same way that Luis Suarez did for Liverpool on Sunday, and with Rafael Benitez also surely likely to stick with Frank Lampard (£8.4m) following his brace in the weekend win at Everton, the potential for another big Chelsea home win is there for all to see.
They beat Aston Villa 8-0 in their last game at Stamford Bridge, and if another huge scoreline is to be achieved then Mata is sure to be key to the home side’s efforts. He looks to be a solid captaincy choice.
The festive period was a time to trust ex-Southampton players with your armband, with Gareth Bale (£9.9m) and Theo Walcott (£8.8m) both hitting hat-tricks to thrill the managers who own them.
Bale would have been backed for more points had he not picked up a suspension which keeps him out of Tottenham’s home match with Reading on New Year’s Day, but Arsenal’s Walcott is sure to be raring to go as he heads back to the south coast to take on Southampton fresh from racking up this season’s highest individual points total in one fixture against Newcastle on Saturday.
His three goals and two assists have of course seen plenty of Fantasy bosses draft him into the team in the hope that he can repeat the trick, and whilst he might not manage to pull off that incredible feat again he certainly looks as though he’ll be in the points as he heads back to his old club ― who conceded six to the Gunners, and one to Walcott, back in September.
The Manchester clubs look set to spent 2013 battling with each other in the same way they did in 2012, and both will fancy New Year’s Day wins as champions City host Stoke and leaders United go to Wigan. Sergio Aguero (£11.0m) and Robin van Persie (£14.0m) will again be the main men, whilst City’s Yaya Toure (£8.0) will play his final Premier League match before heading off for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Suarez (£10.2m) and Liverpool will be looking to arrest their schizophrenic form as they welcome Sunderland to Anfield in a match which should see the Uruguayan forward impress, whilst Demba Ba (£8.4m) could be playing his final match for Newcastle as they host Everton. Logic dictates that he’ll be getting less chances to pick up points should he move to Chelsea as expected.
Logic also says that whoever faces Aston Villa should be in the points given recent form, and as Swansea welcome Paul Lambert’s men to South Wales perhaps a move for Nathan Dyer (£5.3m) could pay off.
Michu (£8.2m) is doubtful for the match, and whilst his fitness should be monitored all the way up to the deadline ― not the most exciting way to spend New Year’s Eve admittedly ― the likes of Dyer and Jonathan de Guzman (£5.7m) could be the men to watch.
* Remember, the January Wildcard kicks in after Gameweek 21’s fixtures. The earliest your Wildcard can become active is Gameweek 22.