A protracted break from Premier League action has seen a deliberate Capital One Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Chelsea, followed by a culling of Premier League clubs from the #FACup. If you missed the action – and there was action – we head to replays for Manchester United and Liverpool, while Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton all crashed out. Those are, of course, the three clubs at the top of the Premier League table and their exit will benefit FPL managers moving forward.
With one less competition to divert their energies, all three of these clubs will be focused on getting the best XI on the pitch as frequently as possible during the run-in. Chelsea and City both have Champions League obligations which will mandate full attention and their schedules provide little respite or opportunity for squad rotation. Certainly, it is City who have the more difficult road as a two-leg clash with Barcelona looms as the Citizens try to overcome a seven-point gap at the top of the domestic table. Since their Boxing Day victory over West Bromwich, City have won only twice, both narrow victories over markedly inferior competition (3-2 over Sunderland and 2-1 over Sheff Wed in the FA Cup) and both coming at home. While it is difficult to ascribe too much value to a single player, the absence of Yaya Tourse (ACoN) and Samir Nasri (hamstring injury) have left Manuel Pellegrini’s side unable to impose their will on the opposition – even as they impose their tactics.
A slow starter for fantasy premier league managers to start the season, Toure recorded 8pts or better in five of his last eight League outings and sits on 91pts for the season in the Official League. The four-time African Footballer of the Year has been equally impressive in other formats where his overall contributions are more heavily valued in scoring. Already having surpasses a double-century in Togga points this term, Yaya went for 27pts in his final match before departing for ACoN and his ability to create chances, beat his man on the dribble and win back the ball with both tackles and interceptions mean he is one to target in a trade.
While the match with Chelsea will draw all the media attention this week, it is the softer underbelly of the Citizens’ fixture list which beckons fantasy managers. Hull, away to Stoke and Newcastle will be matches City must win, regardless of the outcome on Saturday.
For Chelsea, expect a full-strength squad. Not only have Jose Mourinho’s side experienced very few injuries, their style of play means that they deliver the crunching tackles more frequently than they receive them. Unless, of course, you’re talking about Eden Hazard’s ankles.
The Belgian playmaker has gone through a seasons worth of socks already and he continues to receive the roughest treatment of anyone in the Premier League. Not even a good kicking will slow the Blues counter attack and Hazard, Oscar and Fabregas remain top options in the midfield. Despite playing at least 45′ in 13 of the last 14 League matches, Willian has earned only 33 FPL points in that stretch. He simply does not get involved enough in the attack and his cost of acquisition is too high in salary-cap formats. However, Willian remains a viable starter in FPL draft formats.
The Brazilian has performed better than Adam Lallana, Victor Wanyama and Victor Moses in Togga this season. With the ability to post a massive outing – he went for 38pts GW6 when he scored, assisted and created five chances – the 26-year-old is better deployed with lower expectations. He can go for high-single digits week in and week out and should be claimed off waivers by many teams, even if he only occupies the fifth or sixth bench spot for your side.
Other notable clubs, from a fantasy premier league manager’s perspective, to see the back of the Cup are Tottenham and Swansea City. Spurs sit three points behind Man United and five adrift of Southampton and will want to earn Champions League qualification after coming close in the past few seasons. Mauricio Pochettino may be willing to sacrifice a shot at the Europa League to secure a top four finish. Spurs took a second-string side to many of their group matches and finished second in their group behind Beşiktaş JK and the boss may believe his squad is deep enough to see off Fiorentina and then the winner of Inter/Celtic without risking his best XI. Pochettino’s squad will be the envy of Garry Monk as the Swansea City gaffer faces the next few matches without Gylfi Sigurdsson (three-match ban), Wilfried Bony (transferred to Man City), Wayne Routledge (injury) and could be without Ki Sung-yueng for at least one more as the midfielder continues to play in the Asia Cup with Korea.