With a busy Christmas schedule ahead, this is likely to be the last opportunity of 2011 for us to rinse through the fixture list here at Fantasy Towers.
It’s ironic that, with City offering United a chink of light and with fixtures falling nicely for Alex Ferguson’s side, they currently have their defensive rock and penalty box predator sidelined with injuries. While United will clearly miss the services of Nemanja Vidic and Javier Hernandez, Fantasy managers will still be purring over the assets that remain.
The weekend’s 4-1 dismantling of Wolves at Old Trafford showed the intent – with Vidic out, Ferguson may well be opting to go for the jugular. Goals could well be on the agenda and there’s little doubt that the Christmas programme of fixtures offers Untied every assistance possible.
Trips to QPR and Fulham up next, may slow them slightly, but home encounters with Wigan and Blackburn point to heavy profit for the likes of Wayne Rooney (ABCDE FC Beerbelly) and Nani (The Rock Ridge Raiders). Defensively meanwhile, Phil Jones (Pear Tree Productions) could continue to recoup on his investment. Jonny Evans (The Rock Ridge Raiders) and Chris Smalling (Skem Chavs) are both recent acquisitions and could be shrewd investments.
The Magpies look good in the short-term. The next three fixtures have them host Swansea and West Brom, while a trip to Bolton beckons on Boxing Day. With Alan Pardew patching up his defence, investment in that area will rightly slow somewhat. Although Ryan Taylor, with a major goal threat from set-plays, always offers potential.
It’s in attacking terms that Newcastle will be expected to prosper. Demba Ba (Gordon’s Alive!) has delivered consistently all season, while Yohan Cabaye (Escape from Victory) has shown flashes – Hatem Ben Arfa (Skem Chavs) also has the talent; his manager must hoping for a good haul of points.
Newcastle’s kind run of opponents ends in gameweeks 19 and 20 with Liverpool and United en route, but we should see profits up until Boxing Day at least.
With a double fixture to come in gameweek 20 (the rearranged game with Tottenham), Everton are already in the minds of watchful Fantasy managers. There’s also the opportunity for early investment. Everton’s run of opponents over Christmas gives them a nice run-up to their double fixture, starting with back-to-back home games with Norwich and Swansea. Trips to West Brom and Sunderland then follow – all opponents which should afford David Moyes’ side an opportunity to earn goals and league points.
Selecting Fantasy assets remains a problem however. No doubt we’ll see a scramble for mid-price prospects like Tony Hibbert, Seamus Coleman and Jack Rodwell come gameweek 20 – probably the only time this year that trio will be treated to such attention.
Phil Jagielka (The Wait is Over) remains a point prospect at the back, but there’s no doubt that Leighton Baines (The Rock Ridge Raiders) is the crown jewel. So integral to Everton’s attacking play, Baines was a big expense but also, potentially, a huge differential over the next month.
Like Everton, Spurs will enjoy huge investment prior to gameweek 20’s double fixture. Unlike the Toffees, they already have a rich array of talent to warrant such attention.
We’ve talked at length about the profits on offer from Harry Redknapp’s vibrant attack – Sunday’s defeat at Stoke was a setback but, once again, Tottenham’s goal threat was on show.
Prior to the gameweek 20 double, Spurs host both Sunderland and Chelsea over the next two gameweeks. The latter promises to be a battle royale, with both London sides in the mix for the title race. Trips to Norwich and Swansea then follow, leading into the double with West Brom and Everton.
It’s hard to see Spurs failing to notch one or more goals in any of those games – Stoke needed arms, legs and dubious decisions to keep them out on Sunday. Those holding Spurs assets, or contemplating new acquisitions, will surely earn profits going well into the New Year.
Andre Villas-Boas has restored belief down at Stamford Bridge and the victory over City has pushed them back into contention. The timing is perfect. Chelsea’s fixture list seems set to offer them the platform to exert further pressure on the top two, with an away trip to Spurs in gameweek 17 their only real test in the next seven gameweeks.
Fantasy managers should be on alert. Trips to Wigan and White Hart Lane come next but, following that, three home games in four, with Fulham, Villa and Sunderland at the Bridge, offers Chelsea the opportunity to boost the goal difference column.
Daniel Sturridge (The Wait is Over) is sparkling in his wide right role, providing consistent returns to warrant his price tag. Similarly, Juan Mata (Skem Chavs) has shown consistency on the opposite flank . There’s even a pull towards the Chelsea defence – previously so unreliable, there are now real shoots of progress, with three clean sheets in the last five. This is all the more interesting as two defenders Alex and Jose Bosingwa are currently available as is Oriel Romeu who has been preferred to John Obi-Mikel.
Liverpool – epitomised by the stuttering returns of Luis Suarez (Beercelona), Kenny Dalglish’s side have failed to deliver profits on a regular basis. Kind away trips to Villa and Wigan, with a home clash with Blackburn, hints that it may be worth keeping the faith.
Stoke – two testing away days beckon for Tony Pulis’ men but, following that, they are treated to Villa and Wigan at the Britannia in gameweeks 18 and 19. With tails up after the Spurs win, Stoke’s squad could yet deliver going into 2012.
Wolves – Mick McCarthy’s side have the fixtures over the next four gameweeks to dig themselves a foothold in mid-table. Home games with Stoke and Norwich over the next two could define their season, with the likes of Jamie O’Hara (The Rock Ridge Raiders) and Steven Fletcher warranting a passing glance as a result.
Two consecutive away wins have eased the pressure on the Latics and Roberto Martinez, with Victor Moses at last delivering returns that his performances this season have promised. Fantasy managers will remain cautious however, as Wigan embark on a run of games that will threaten to root them in the bottom three.
Chelsea visit the DW Stadium this weekend, off the back of their win over City, with Liverpool next to park up. The Latics then take the trip to Old Trafford, before making their way to the Britannia. An intimidating run, that promises little Fantasy profit and Premier League points.
The win at the Reebok was a vital result for Alex McLeish. He will have been all too aware of the consequences of another setback given the fixtures in front of his side over Christmas.
Villa will go into the home clash with Liverpool this weekend without the threat of Gabby Agbonlahor (Team Skin).
Martin Jol’s side continue to frustrate. Three points against Liverpool hinted at a revival; only for them to waste an opportunity at Swansea with Clint Dempsey (Escape from Victory) seeing his spot-kick saved. Defeat on Saturday left the Cottagers dangerously near the relegation dogfight, with a fixture list that threatens to drag them into the mire.
The home clash with Bolton this weekend will be vital – with United and Chelsea providing their next opponents. An away trip to Norwich welcomes in the New Year, completing a quartet of matches that will likely see Fulham struggle for clean sheets.
ALSO BE WARY OF…
West Brom – two tricky away trips to Blackburn and Newcastle, ease the Baggies into a home clash with City on Boxing Day – a spell which promises little defensively, with pressure on Shane Long (Skem Chavs) and Peter Odemwingie (Team Skin) to produce up front.
QPR – Neil Warnock’s side will face a confident United this weekend with Sunderland, buoyed by the arrival of Martin O’Neill, next at Loftus Road. Away trips to Swansea and Arsenal then follow in what looks to be a decidedly tricky Christmas party.