The hectic holiday schedule continues with a full day’s fixtures on New Year’s Day. These are the return set of fixtures of games played less than a month ago so can anything be read into those results? Or has too much happened since?
New Year’s Day (Thu) 12:45pm:
Stoke City v Manchester United
Stoke have won 2 straight games over the holiday period, keeping 2 clean sheets in the process. However this may have come at a price, with the increasingly important Bojan a major doubt for this match with a hamstring strain. Another player to catch fire has been Mame Diouf with 2 goals against WBA and he may still be good value depending on what site you play, some have him listed as a midfielder.
United’s unbeaten run continued at Spurs and it is fair to say they are in 3rd on merit. This is another tricky fixture for them and it really will be a positive sign if they can leave Stoke with a win. Chelsea did recently but rode their luck at times. One thing that might be in United’s favour, and all the bigger clubs as we enter the third match in a week, is they tend to have higher quality squads and can rotate players more easily with less impact on performance. This has a fantasy cost however as it is more difficult to predict their teams. This is the first fixture so at least you will be able to guarantee your picks play. Rooney and Mata would appear the best options, with Falcao probably rested.
New Year’s Day (Thu) 3pm:
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Expect a lot of managers to load up with Christian Benteke for this match against managerless Palace. Many were on him against Sunderland and he failed to deliver, but it is important to have short memories in daily fantasy football. Similarly Charlie Austin was the most popular forward selection when QPR played Palace on the 28th, he didn’t deliver either. Just something to note whether you believe form or quality dictates performance. Gabby Agbonlahor didn’t play for Villa against Sunderland and it may be that he is the perfect foil for Benteke to operate with. The harsh truth however is that Villa don’t create enough chances to score more goals regularly.
Palace pressed the panic button after the home defeat to Southampton and it remains to be seen who will be the long terms successor to Warnock. They were resilient against QPR and you can expect the same here. The chances are however this will be a low scoring contest so there isn’t much fantasy value with either team, unless you want to take a punt on clean sheets.
Hull City v Everton
An impossible game to predict. Hull win at Sunderland then lose at home to Leicester, Everton are in freefall with questions about Martinez’s future already being asked in the media. As for Hull it is hard to see any fantasy value in any of their players. Gaston Ramirez has the potential, a lot of sites list him as a midfielder though he is playing further forward, however he left the Leicester match early through injury and is not a guaranteed starter.
Whether Lukaku was rested against Newcastle, or Martinez has just lost faith in him, we predicted Kone would eventually get his chance and he delivered. It will be interesting to see who gets the call here but you won’t know in time so probably best to avoid both. More straight forward was the return from injury of Kevin Mirallas who picked up where he left off with a goal and will certainly play if not feeling any effects of injury.
Liverpool v Leicester City
Liverpool are not only getting results now, performance levels have improved to. The move to a more fluid, mobile attack with runners from midfield being difficult to track has benefitted them. It has also meant the likes of Balotelli and Lambert hold no fantasy value at present. Lallana seems to have benefitted most, with recent games seeing him return to the form that convinced Liverpool to pursue him. If you can predict the line-up, most Liverpool players possess excellent fantasy value.
Leicester, whilst improving during the win at Hull, still have some way to go to represent any fantasy value. Mahrez and Ulloa continue to provide the most likely chance of points but still contain too much risk, especially in away games.
Manchester City v Sunderland
The seeming complacency of City cost a lot of fantasy managers dearly against Burnley. However so many games in such a short space of time was always going to test the resolve of a team who haven’t played with a forward for a month now. Add Kompany and Toure to the injury mix and perhaps it was only a matter of time. You would say City players are a nice option here but who will play? Jovetic might get the start and Silva has been brilliant, though his return has affected the production of Nasri.
Sunderland left Villa Park with a point but might have expected more, playing against 10 men. Just when you thought their last gasp derby victory might kick-start their season, they’ve gone backwards. There is no fantasy value in any of their players here, unless playing a site that rewards goalkeeper activity. Pantillimon might stack up on the points per save on his return to his old club, but how many will he let in?
Newcastle v Burnley
Newcastle returned to winning ways against struggling Everton. Cisse got the start and he and Perez knotched goals. You would say this is a good game for both to repeat the performance but will Pardew select the same team? Newcastle defenders might be a nice option if only because Burnley’s heroics at Man City may have come at an emotional price.
(UPDATE: We won’t find out the answers to these questions as Cisse is banned for 3 games following his violent elbow against Everton. And then Pardew is out with rumours he may take over at Palace. Chaos at St. James’.)
So can Burnley repeat the feat in the North East? With so few squad options in terms of rotation, and the amount of effort that went into that performance in Manchester, it is unlikely and their players are probably best avoided in this set of fixtures.
QPR v Swansea City
QPR’s decent home record continues though they will be disappointed to draw a blank against Palace. Charlie Austin was the focal point of many fantasy attacks and managers will be hoping he can make amends here. Certainly if the Swansea defence is as porous as it was against Liverpool, he should. Selecting QPR defenders will be something of a risk as Swansea look to rebound.
Sigurdsson continued his fine fantasy form in Swansea’s defeat at Anfield but more worryingly Bony has now gone a couple of games without a goal. More importantly, with the African Nations Cup looming, he is being subbed or rested more frequently as Garry Monk tries to establish Baftimibi Gomis in the side during Bony’s absence. With Montero also facing a spell on the sidelines with injury, Siggy really is the only realistic Swansea fantasy option at present.
Southampton v Arsenal
Southampton suffered a late winner when these teams met recently at the Emirates and will be keen to avenge that result and build on the point against Chelsea. However they are without Schneiderlin through suspension and have a doubt over Clyne. Whilst they will give Arsenal a good game here, it is hard to see real fantasy value in too many players. Pelle is blowing hot and cold, Tadic just cold and Sadio Mane’s value has risen after his goal against Chelsea (£12.1m on Mondogoal), but if you can get him cheap elsewhere he is probably the best option.
Arsenal will be buoyed by their resilient performance at West Ham and it is around this time of year they begin their pursuit of a top 4 place. This is another tough match for them and they will need their big players like Sanchez to deliver for them and Cazorla to continue his fine form; plus it now looks like he has resumed responsibility for penalties, which is a big fantasy factor. Koscielny was a welcome return to defence but Arsenal defenders probably carry to much risk here, though Szczesny may be selected for similar reasons to Pantillimon above.
(UPDATE: Welbeck misses out with an injury. Alexis and Ox should play furthest forward.)
West Ham v West Brom
West Ham will look to rebound immediately in their own pursuit of a Champions League place and on paper have the perfect opportunity to do so. Their defenders will be sought after as will Downing, Sakho and Carroll. Kouyate scored against Arsenal but he doesn’t tend to have too many shots on target so is probably best left avoided for now.
West Brom’s nosedive in fortunes seems to have corresponded exactly with Berahino’s. He started the season in such lively form but has totally gone off the fantasy radar. However such is the state of WBA’s current situation, his team mates are even less appealing from a fantasy perspective.
New Year’s Day (Thu) 17:30pm:
Tottenham v Chelsea
The final fixture of the day pits old foes Spurs and Chelsea against each other. Tottenham continued their recent run against Man Utd and are actually unbeaten in the league since their annual defeat at Stamford Bridge. They will be hoping to avenge that game here. Kane and Eriksen will be the safer plays but the fact that Chelsea just don’t concede too many chances, let alone goals means they are high risk options.
If Chelsea do have vulnerability, it is away from home. They don’t tend to score too many on the road; only once in the last 4 have they scored more than 1. However Hazard broke his own duck away from home at Southampton and as ever is a brilliant fantasy option if you can afford him. Another nice pick could be Courtois who will likely have a couple of saves to make, with a decent chance of a clean sheet as well, or the 1 goal against bonus.
That completes our New Year’s Day Early Bird Preview. All that remains is to wish you all a Happy New Year with plenty of points and £s from everyone at Fantasy Football Backers!