Oh, for the love of….alright, let’s see what sense we can make of the upcoming games which by my calculations are kicking off before the last week have finished, or that’s how it seems. I know we started the league season a bit later than before, but I didn’t realise we had to make up three months in less than three weeks.
Defender: Luke Shaw, Manchester United
Three clean sheets for Luke Shaw in his last four league starts for Manchester United, and this week he’s coming up against a Southampton side woefully out of form. I mean, really out of form. Their most in-form player is Stuart Armstrong and there are about 55 active FPL players with a higher form rating than him.
The menace has been taken out of the Southampton attack since Ings returned from his bout of COVID. Che Adams was benched at the weekend, and Theodore Walcott has picked up an injury.
This should be a straightforward home win for Manchester United as they try to regain their January title in February.
Midfielder: Jack Grealish, Aston Villa
It’s only when you study things in FPL that you realise that we’re seeing some serious anomalies that are flying under the radar.
Did you know that Aston Villa have played eight of their last eleven league games away from home? No, seriously, that’s 8/11 away from Villa Park. Obviously, that’s caused by postponements of two home games, but it may taint our perception of their form.
I fancy Jack Grealish to relish some home comforts this week as they face West Ham who have been cleaning up a massive nosebleed that they suffered after climbing so high up to last weekend. The interview with David Moyes ahead of their clash with a wobbling Liverpool was telling, as he categorically denied that his bang in-form team could even try and compete with a side shorn of every defender to don the LFC kit since Alan Hansen retired.
Villa don’t strike me as having that kind of inferiority complex, and I reckon they’ll take the fight to the Hammers from the off. Grealish has 24 and 15 points at home already this season.
Forward: Roberto Firmino, Liverpool
Liverpool will pick their side for this game with one eye on the tantalising home game against Manchester City in GW23, so this must be considered this week.
Mo Salah played the full match while destroying West Ham United so could be rested, and while the injury to Sadio Mane is described as ‘minor’, there’s a fair chance that he won’t be risked. Therefore, Bobby Firmino looks the logical choice to spearhead the attack against Brighton this midweek. He’s fresh off a goal in GW20 and assist in GW21 and Liverpool have rediscovered their swagger in recent weeks. If they can secure two home wins this week then we’re going to have a title-race on our hands.
Captain: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
Bruno Fernandes is tempting, for reasons outlined above. If Mo Salah starts, he could do naughty, naughty things. However, I’m plumping for the rested Raheem Sterling as Manchester City travel to Turf Moor on a cold and wet Wednesday night.
The traditionalist in me thinks this is a real ‘put it up ‘em’ test for Pep’s men, but history and form has shown that it’s likely to be nothing of the sort. City’s last two visits to flat-cap land have seen them romp home 4-1 and 3-0 victors, and in the kind of form they are currently showing there’s no reason to see any other kind of result.
Outsider: Antonio Rudiger, Chelsea
Thomas Tuchel has moved into Stamford Bridge and is treating his squad like we treat hotel rooms when we first drop our bags – we switch everything on, open every drawer and door, and peruse what channels are ‘free’. Ahem.
Antonio Rudiger has started the last four league games for Chelsea and has three clean sheets to show for it. 1.1% and £4.5m? It would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?