Round 22 of the Irish Times Fantasy Premier League saw no fewer than 10 clean sheets on the card which is unusual to say the least, but fantasy football managers won’t be complaining as they collect the six points that come with it. As far as defenders go for round 23 there are a number of injury concerns already with news that Sunderland’s Carlos Cuellar will be out for a number of weeks after he picked up a hamstring injury in training, Wigan’s Ivan Ramis will be out of action for the rest of the season after he tore his A.C.L last weekend against Fulham. West Ham’s James Collins will also be out for a number of weeks after he came off on 33 minutes against Sunderland with a hamstring injury. While Manchester City have confirmed that they have lodged an appeal against Vincent Kompany’s red card picked up last weekend against Arsenal, which will come as some relief to fantasy managers with a vested interest in the Belgian international.
So with the latest injury news in mind our coaches have scoured the fixtures as they attempt to find you some clean sheets in round 23 of the Irish Times Fantasy Premier League.
Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) £4.7 million Fixtures: Southampton (Home), Arsenal (Home)
The Chelsea full back has been in the headlines for all the wrong reason’s of late after his two unforced errors against Swansea in the Capital One Cup semi final gifted the Welsh side both goals, but since then Ivanovic has made somewhat of amends as he helped Chelsea to their 9th clean sheet of the season against Stoke last time out. Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez has insisted that he doesn’t blame the player for the mistakes and that he has no plans to admonish the Serbian international stating “I’m only worried about a player not trying to do things in the way we want to do things. Branislav is a fantastic player”. Benitez also went onto to say ” I have no hesitation picking him”. So it would seem that Ivanovic’s spot in the side is secure despite the expected return of John Terry to the Blue’s back line.
Ivanovic has mustered up 4 goals and 1 assist to his credit this season and with the pensioners heading into a double fixture week against both Southampton and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge Ivanovic will be looking to atone for his mistakes and keep at least one clean sheet out of the two games. As stated in our Goalkeepers Selections, Chelsea’s first opponents of the week are Southampton on Wednesday, the Saints head into this one on the back of a 1-0 away win over Villa last Saturday, but that victory aside they have struggled on the road this season with Saturday’s victory at Villa Park becoming only their second win on their travels. As for their games against the Gunner’s the clean sheet may not be as straight forward but with Ivanovic’s threat going forward who knows we could see him add to his four goals this season.
Pablo Zabeleta (Man City) £4.7 million Fixture: Fulham (Home)
Manchester City have not quite reached the type of form that saw them claim the Premier League title last season but they are starting to show signs that they are coming close to it. City are unbeaten in five of their last six and more importantly they are starting to lock things down at the back with the City rear guard claiming three clean sheets in their last five, with two of those coming on home soil. Zabelata has been ever present since round 13 and the City full back has gained a reputation for his bursting forward runs, which have seen him earn two goals and an assist in his last seven games, with both goals coming at the Etihad.
The champions welcome Martin Jol’s Fulham to Manchester this weekend in a game that I’m sure the Londoners could do without. Fulham are on a terrible run of late and have only won two games on the road this season and have conceded 23 goals in the process. Where as Man City on the other hand have only been beaten once on home soil, scored 25 goals and kept five clean sheets at home this season. With Vincent Kompany winning his appeal against his red car picked up at the weekend it can only strengthen their chances of the clean sheet.
Ashley Williams (Swansea) £3.4 million Fixture: Stoke (Home)
The Swansea captain has played every minute of every premier league game for the Swans this season and has been a rock at the back for Michael Laudrup’s side. The Welsh club go into this weekend’s game against Stoke unbeaten in their last five and have only been beaten twice at the Stadium of Light all season. Williams is a no nonsense center half and although he doesn’t offer much in the way of an attacking threat without him the Swansea defence would be considerably weakened. In the pairs only meeting at the Liberty Stadium, which was last season the home side ran out 2-0 winners and the Swans will be hoping for more of the same when the sides meet again this weekend.
The Potters make the trip to Wales after their 4-0 demolition at the hands of Chelsea last time out and there is little doubt that these are worrying times for Tony Pulis and his players, Stoke have the second worst goal scoring record on the road this season with only seven goals on their travels and although they have been doing well of late this has been largely due to their defensive performances but they too seem to be on the slide. Stoke have now shipped 10 goals in their last three games as apposed to the grand total of 14 in their previous 19 games. So all in all Stoke have their work cut out if they are to trouble a Swansea side that are on a decent run of form, with Williams looking like he could be good value for the clean sheet this weekend.
John O’ Shea (Sunderland) £3.5 million Fixture: Wigan (Away)
Sunderland have been enjoying somewhat of a mini revival of late which has seen them win three of their last six games in the league and although they are not exactly setting the world on fire they are beginning to pull it together and churn out some steady performances with John O’ Shea playing a part in their renewed defensive resolve. The Irish international has been in and out of the side over the last number of weeks through injury but returned last weekend as the Weirside club saw off West Ham 3-0 at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cat’s have a rather surprising amount of clean sheets this season with eight, far more than I imagine many fantasy football managers would have thought and with a trip to the DW Stadium to face Wigan on the cards this weekend they will surely be after number nine.
The Latic’s have been struggling of late to find results and have only managed one win in their last six. The fact of the matter is simply this Wigan are not scoring enough goals and have one of the worst goal scoring records in the league at home, in fact the only two teams have scored less at home, Aston Villa and QPR, which will come as no great surprise to fantasy managers. There is even more reason for concern for the Latics and that is the absence of their top goal scorer Arouna Kone who is away on international duty with the Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations. All these factors coupled by Sunderland’s recent defensive signings indicate clean sheet number nine could well be on the cards.
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