Norwich City must hate it that Luis Suarez (£10.4m) is never out of the headlines. It only brings back bad memories.
Liverpool’s Uruguayan forward may have found himself back in the news yet again, but he is unlikely to let that distract him from his goal this weekend, which is namely to improve upon the six goals he’s scored against Norwich the last two times he’s faced them.
Back-to-back hat-tricks at Carrow Road at the back end of last season and the beginning of this one make Suarez a player to watch when the Reds meet the Canaries at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, and with Liverpool coming into the match off the back of scoring 12 goals in their last five home games then they are sure to be confident.
Daniel Sturridge (£7.3m) is certain to make a first Premier League start for the Reds as he bids to follow up on last weekend’s goal in the defeat at Old Trafford, but it is Suarez’s form in this fixture that simply can’t be ignored, and the Uruguayan looks to be a man to follow following six goals in his last six Anfield appearances.
Elsewhere it is Arsenal who are attracting all of the attention ahead of their Double Gameweek, and rightly so.
Jack Wilshere (£6.4m) impressed in the FA Cup in midweek and could be a decent squad addition for those who have the cash, but the attention simply has to be drawn to Theo Walcott (£9.1m) once again.
One of the big hits of the Christmas period, Walcott should start in his preferred striking role as Arsenal go to Chelsea and then host West Ham in back-to-back matches which look to be vital for their hopes of a top four place.
The away game at Chelsea is of course the more difficult of the two, but Rafael Benitez’s team have struggled at home recently, and Walcott will back himself to impress against a defence who don’t look the quickest. They could become even slower should John Terry (£6.5m) return to the team at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Other Arsenal players to keep an eye on ahead of the Double Gameweek include Kieran Gibbs (£5.6m), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£7.2m) and Lukas Podolski (£8.2m), whilst the Gunners’ capability to concede a goal or two should also draw the eye to West Ham’s players this week, particularly given that the first leg of their double comes at home to bottom club Queens Park Rangers.
Kevin Nolan (£6.5m) features in 12.8% of teams already and that number only looks like going up ahead of those two tests, whilst the return from injury of Mohamed Diame (£4.7m) is also a boost to Sam Allardyce and his squad.
Elsewhere, the Manchester City defence looks likely to keep a clean sheet at home to a powderpuff Fulham attack, and with Vincent Kompany (£7.1m) now available after his red card at Arsenal was overturned he’s likely to take his place at the back alongside the likes of Matija Nastasic (£5.6m) and Gael Clichy (£5.6m).
Tottenham’s clash with Manchester United on Sunday looks to be one in which attacking players will shine in, and with Wayne Rooney (£11.8m) now back to fitness he’ll offer an interesting alternative for managers who can’t quite afford Robin van Persie (£14.1m).
Twenty-four hours earlier, Michu (£8.3m) will go in search of a first Premier League goal since before Christmas – a drought by his standards – as Swansea host Stoke in a clash of styles, whilst Southampton’s recent improvement will be tested by Everton when the two sides meet at St Mary’s on Monday night. Saints defender Luke Shaw (£4.0m) is proving to be a valuable wildcard addition to several teams.
Romelu Lukaku (£6.5m) could be one too, and on Saturday night the West Brom forward lines up against an Aston Villa outfit who have shipped goals recently.
Like Norwich, Villa might want to avoid the headlines on Sunday morning.
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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.
Just where he’ll be spending the majority of his 2013 remains to be seen – although counting the extra money that Arsenal will be paying him seems to be a decent bet – but Theo Walcott (£8.5m) will end 2012 facing Newcastle at the Emirates Stadium.
He’s likely to be facing them in his favoured forward position too, as Arsene Wenger continues to bow to the demands of the England man, whose period playing as a forward is seen as crucial to his decision over whether or not he’ll sign a new contract with the Gunners.
Walcott’s relocation upfront in recent matches has seen the likes of Olivier Giroud (£7.9m) and Gervinho (£6.8m) shunted to the sidelines, and with Walcott looking to link up with Lukas Podolski (£8.2m), Santi Cazorla (£9.6m) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£7.2m) against a Newcastle side who have lost their last four away games and are without a win on the road all season, the Gunners could well be set for a successful ending to their year, with Walcott contributing to that more than most.
Newcastle’s last defeat saw them concede four goals at Old Trafford, where Javier Hernandez (£6.9m) scored a last gasp winner the likes of which Manchester United have made their trademark over the Premier League era.
With Wayne Rooney (£12.0m) reportedly missing for the next two to three weeks with a knee problem, Hernandez is likely to be given another start upfront alongside Robin van Persie (£13.9m) when West Brom come to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
This is of course another match that Sir Alex Ferguson will expect his side to win as they continue another march towards the Premier League title, and with the Scot demanding the best of his players going into the New Year then a win is surely what he’ll get – with Hernandez ready to contribute towards that.
The game of the weekend is surely Everton’s meeting with Rafael Benitez and Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, when fifth faces third at Goodison Park.
Benitez had a decent record against the Blues of Merseyside in derby games when manager of Liverpool, but this Everton side is much stronger now and will fancy their chances of upsetting the European champions and a manager who they would love to get one over.
David Moyes is still missing Marouane Fellaini (£7.5m) though, and Benitez and his side will be looking to take advantage of that, with Juan Mata (£9.6m) again ready to impress after becoming Boxing Day’s matchwinner at Norwich and Fernando Torres (£9.8m) no doubt wanting to impress against his old neighbours.
Sunday also sees a schizophrenic Liverpool go to bottom club QPR where Steven Gerrard (£9.3m) will be looking to score for the fourth successive game, whilst Gareth Bale (£9.7m) will be hoping to make it four goals in two games as he goes to Sunderland on the back of his hat-trick against Aston Villa – those of us who had him as captain are still wearing our smug smiles.
Villa haven’t been smiling following that 4-0 loss to Tottenham and the 8-0 defeat at Chelsea either side of Christmas, and if they are to bounce back at home to Wigan then Christian Benteke (£6.7m) is sure to be vital.
Stoke will be more confident going into their meeting of the red and white stripes at home to Southampton, and after his double strike helped see off Liverpool on Boxing Day Jonathan Walters (£6.4m) is sure to be a popular choice amongst Tony Pulis’s men.
Kenwyne Jones (£5.0m) could well be an astute cheap choice if you are in need of a forward, but if you’ve got much more to spend then it might be worth casting an eye towards Carrow Road as Manchester City look to bounce back from their loss to Sunderland as they go to Norwich.
Carlos Tevez (£9.5m) scored a hat-trick in this fixture last season, and he’ll be looking for a repeat performance for the champions just as their crown begins to slip.
Theo Walcott still hasn’t signed a new Arsenal contract.
He hasn’t signed it at the time of writing, he’s not likely to have signed it by the time you’re reading this, and he probably still won’t have signed it when you come back to these pages ahead of Gameweek 12.
If Walcott (£8.7m) wasn’t so bland as to make a legion of football fans yearn for the post-match interviews of Michael Owen then his dispute with Arsenal could almost be portrayed as a dramatic stand-off, with the nippy winger-but-wants-to-be-thought-of-as-a-forward and Arsene Wenger drawing pistols at dawn and seeing which one backs down first.
In reality it’s just a stare-off, which will only end one day when one of the parties gets bored and decides that their time will be spent better elsewhere, be it Walcott wandering off to pastures new or Wenger realising that one of the most dynamic players in the Premier League really is worth hanging on to after all.
What it has created is a situation in which Walcott is determined to perform well to simultaneously try and prove that he’s worth keeping hold of and to impress potential future employers at the same time.
Recent goals in the Capital One Cup and the Champions League have staked Walcott’s claim for a starting berth in Wenger’s league team, and with Gervinho injured and Jack Wilshere suspended for Saturday’s home game against Fulham, the Frenchman could do worse than to hand a starting place to a player who will be desperate to impress.
Of course it would be a gamble to transfer Walcott into your team given the uncertainty over his position at Arsenal, but ahead of a Gameweek which could go one of several different ways given the fixtures it might just be a gamble worth taking, especially when you consider his differential potential (he’s owned by 1.3% of teams), the possibility that he could be played upfront and the idea that he’ll be playing for another team in January. Liverpool have been linked, and he’d start every week there.
For now he’s still at Arsenal though, where Olivier Giroud (£8.4m) and Santi Cazorla (£9.4m) will be other players worth considering if you think that the Gunners can beat Fulham at home on Saturday. Bacary Sagna (£5.4m) is a defender worth keeping an eye on now that he’s returned to the team and dislodged previous Fantasy favourite Carl Jenkinson (£5.0m).
Elsewhere, this intriguing Gameweek offers up very few strong defensive options given the close nature on paper of many of the matches, but one of the strongest surely comes at Goodison Park where Everton take on a Sunderland side who have scored just once in their last five in league and cup – and that goal came from Newcastle’s Demba Ba.
Leighton Baines (£7.6m) could be a wise move as Everton bid to end a run of four straight draws, with Nikica Jelavic (£8.5m) and last weekend’s top points scorer Marouane Fellaini (£7.2m) sure to be popular picks.
Manchester City haven’t convinced recently and their match with Tottenham on Sunday looks to be one which will include goals, whilst Chelsea will be backed to beat Liverpool especially given that Juan Mata (£9.4m) will return after missing the Swansea game and Oscar (£7.8m) will look to repeat the goal he scored in the Champions League in midweek.
Cheap striking options over the weekend can be found in Reading’s Jason Roberts (£4.5m) and Arouna Kone (£6.5m) of Wigan but for our final forward we look towards Manchester United, and not towards the player you think.
Whilst Robin van Persie (£13.5m) now features in over a third of teams, Wayne Rooney (£11.8m) can only be found in 8%, and as United click ominously into gear you have to assume that that number will only go up.
He may have missed a penalty against Arsenal last weekend but Rooney made up for that with an assist, and as @shots_on_target suggested last weekend he could be the way to go ahead of a welcoming set of fixtures for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, starting with Aston Villa on Saturday.