After back-to-back wins against Villa and Chelsea, Alan Pardew’s side will be keen to pick themselves up in light of last Saturday’s narrow defeat at Tottenham. The Magpies are now afforded a superb run of fixtures to reignite their charge up the table, with Southampton, Stoke and Fulham all set to make their way to St James’ Park in the next six, while trips to Swansea and Wigan also hold plenty of appeal.
Yesterday’s news that Hatem Ben Arfa could be back in time for the Gameweek 27 clash against Southampton will boost the Tyneside team’s chances further, while Yoan Gouffran may also make it, after scans confirmed the injury which forced his withdrawal at the Lane is not as bad as first feared. Moussa Sissoko’s bandwagon will continue to speed up in light of such a schedule – attacking returns in all three of his appearances highlight his potential in the support role behind Papiss Cisse – while Yohan Cabaye’s set-pieces and lethal long-range shooting also make him a viable midfield contender. At the back, Davide Santon’s pair of assists propelled him onto radars, though Steve Taylor’s cheap price tag may appeal if Pardew’s side start picking up the clean sheets.
A trip to City is hardly straightforward but after that Chelsea look primed for Fantasy investment. Rafa Benitez’s side then welcome West Brom, West Ham and Sunderland to the Bridge in the following five, and also make their way to Fulham and Southampton – offering the potential for attacking points. With Benitez in charge, rest and rotation is always going to play a factor, though Juan Mata’s owners will be confident of a run of starts after he was handed a late sub role against Wigan. The same applies to Eden Hazard, after his recent three-game suspension, though Frank Lampard could be due a rest now that John Obi Mikel is back from the African Cup of Nations. Nevertheless, the midfield trio have all offered persuasive cases in recent matches, with Hazard and Lampard providing less expensive alternatives to Mata.
Elsewhere, while Ashley Cole looks the only player immune from tinkering in defence, Cesar Azpilicueta is delivering the returns which suggest his acquisition may be more enticing, despite the chance of an occasional rest. The Spaniard has started 12 out of 14 under Benitez and has six assists for the season, while David Luiz’s versatility and share of set-pieces is also likely to boost his attacking potential. Up top, however, Benitez’s use of Demba Ba is always liable to frustrate – the Senegalese striker has started one of the last four but despite the fact he is ineligible for the upcoming Europa League ties, few are likely to acquire him, given his manager’s obsession with rotation.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are offered further chance to continue their relentless surge clear of the chasing pack over the next few matches. United entertain Norwich and Reading and travel to QPR, West Ham and Sunderland in the next five before City roll up to Old Trafford in Gameweek 32 – although Ferguson admitted on Sunday that he could rest and rotate later in the season, it’s likely he will continue to roll out his strongest available side in order to accumulate the points as quickly as possible now.
Wayne Rooney’s owners will be worried by his move to the left against Everton on Sunday, with Robin Van Persie again taking centre stage. Jonny Evans’ installation at the heart of defence has made a definite impact – United have registered a clean sheet in each of his last four appearances now. Patrice Evra continues to justify his lofty defence price tag, though Rafael is offering strong alternative value, with perhaps slightly less potential for attacking returns or starts, however.
Back to winning ways after a narrow home triumph over Reading last weekend, the Potters have three strong looking matches at the Britannia to bolster their appeal. West Ham, West Brom and Villa all roll up to the Britannia in the next six, while a trip to Fulham is unlikely to deter Fantasy managers eyeing up Stoke’s main men.
Without a clean sheet in eight, Tony Pulis’ side have been far from persuasive of late, though Marc Wilson’s potential return could help shore up that leaky backline. Peter Crouch remains in the driving seat ahead of Kenwyne Jones for the lone striker spot, though Jon Walters’ potential was boosted last weekend after he was shifted back to the support role behind Crouch, having previously featured on the right flank.
Sunderland – Martin O’Neill’s men are handed the chance to bounce back from their home defeat by Arsenal with a run of four promising fixtures up next. The Black Cats travel to West Brom and QPR and also play host to Fulham and Norwich, with Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson owners hopeful of further points hauls. Stephane Sessegnon was shifted out to the flank against the Gunners and with O’Neill pondering a start for new boy Danny Graham, the former’s owners may be concerned, despite the upcoming schedule. Simon Mignolet continues to look the most secure route into Sunderland’s defence, though Carlos Cuellar returned to the bench last weekend after a recent hamstring injury.
Wigan – it’s getting to that time of year where the Latics start to scramble up the table and the upcoming schedule certainly affords them a platform to do so. Roberto Martinez’s side travel to fellow-strugglers Reading and QPR in the next six and entertain Liverpool, Newcastle and Norwich at the DW – offering Shaun Maloney the opportunity to continue his recent impressive returns, while Arouna Kone should return to the first XI after recent African Cup of Nations exertions.
QPR – a home clash with United is far from enticing but Harry Redknapp’s side are then faced with a kind run of fixtures which still affords optimism in their bid for survival. Trips to Southampton, Villa and Fulham, in addition to home showdowns with Sunderland and Wigan, may well be the difference between a climb out the drop zone and a fall into the Championship. Adel Taarabt’s owners will be confident of Fantasy returns, while the likes of Julio Cesar and Chris Samba could well be earmarked for investment in light of that upcoming schedule.
Still licking their wounds after Sunday’s loss at Villa, it doesn’t get any easier for Sam Allardyce’s side from now on. The Hammers brace themselves for the visit of Spurs and United, while trips to Stoke, Chelsea and Liverpool in the next six hardly inspire confidence in their key Fantasy assets. With a single clean sheet in nine and Joey O’Brien limping off with a dead leg early at the weekend, their defensive troubles continue to snowball. Further up the pitch, Kevin Nolan, Joe Cole and Andy Carroll could be set to toil for points – just seven points ahead of the drop zone, the Hammers could yet be dragged into a relegation dog fight if they fail to flourish over the next few.
Having failed to score in three of their last four, Martin Jol will be more than a little concerned with his side’s schedule over the next four Gameweeks. Fulham now go head-to-head with Stoke, Sunderland, Chelsea and Tottenham, with a single clean sheet in 12 also indicative of their woes at both ends of the pitch. Faith in their backline will surely be dented before this point, while Dimitar Berbatov’s move to “the hole” again, with Hugo Rodallega leading the line and Bryan Ruiz wide right, is a real concern for the Bulgarian’s owners.
Trips to Chelsea, Stoke and West Ham in the next six are hardly ideal for Steve Clarke’s side, though Monday’s win at Anfield certainly bodes well for their chances. The Baggies home schedule is far from straightforward, either, as Sunderland, Swansea and Arsenal all make their way to the Hawthorns – prior to Monday’s win over Liverpool, Steve Clarke’s side had a single clean sheet since Gameweek 10. Although Shane Long’s return to fitness has diminished Romelu Lukaku’s game time once again, the Belgian’s owners will remain optimistic after he climbed off the bench to grab his side’s second – his fifth set of returns in six.
Also be wary of…
Reading – Brian McDermott will be desperate to bounce back from the weekend defeat at Stoke and while a couple of home games with Wigan and Villa could be key, the Royals have three punishing away trips in the next five that have the potential to dent morale. Reading travel to Everton, United and Arsenal and could struggle to pick up the points, with Ian Harte, Jimmy Kebe and Pavel Pogrebnyak owners less than enthusiastic over their prospects across that trio of road trips. Adam Federici’s save points could well be advantageous, though.
Everton – the Toffees face a tricky trip to Norwich, following last Sunday’s defeat at United. While a home clash with Reading will definitely inspire new investment, David Moyes’ side then square up to Arsenal, City and Spurs in the following four, with the visit of Stoke sandwiched in between those last two matches. Leighton Baines’ owners may have to rely solely on attacking returns once again, Marouane Fellaini will need to display “fixture proof” qualities, while Nikica Jelavic will be looking to address a scoring record that has now seen him score in just one of his last eight appearances.
Tottenham – while there will be few concerns about Gareth Bale’s ability to trouble any defence that comes his way, Tottenham’s potential in defensive terms doesn’t look as prosperous. Following the Gameweek 27 trip to Upton Park, Andre Villas-Boas’ side will face the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Swansea and Everton – all fixtures that seem likely to stretch the recent trend that has seen their back-four concede just five goals in the last 10 league outings. Michael Dawson has emerged as an interesting prospect of late, with a price of just 4.5 in the FPL, but investors will perhaps need to be wary of the forthcoming schedule.
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