As the wekend’s fantasy premier league action draws closer our thoughts here in the managers office turn to midfielders for round 23 of the Irish Times Fantasy Premier League. With both Chelsea and Southampton facing two games during the fixture week fantasy football managers will have more decisions to make than normal with the option to stock up and both sets of players in the hope of a double return. As for the latest injury concerns Mikel Arteta looks set to be out for up to three weeks according to Arsene Wenger while Manchester United’s Ashley Young also looks set to be sidelined for a similar period of time after he picked up a knee injury against Liverpool last time out. Southampton boss Nigel Adkins has told the clubs website that Adam Lallana is back in training but will not be fit in time to face Chelsea, but could make a return against Everton on Monday night.
There is of course the small matter of F.A Cup third round replays to contend with and we will keep a close eye on these over the next 24 hours should any more injuries raise their head that you should be aware of, but for now it’s business as usual as we take a look at some midfield options for you to consider ahead of round 23.
Michu (Swansea) £3.9 million Fixture: Stoke (Home)
The bargain buy of the season so far has been a little quiet as of late and has not registered a goal in his last three games which is not surprising given the fact that the Swans have only managed one win in their last six, however they are unbeaten in their last five so all is not lost for the Welsh club heading into this weekend’s encounter with Stoke at the Liberty Stadium. Michu is still very much on the radar as far as fantasy premier league managers are concerned as his ownership figures show little sign of dropping even if his points return has with over 31% of fantasy managers drafting in the Spanish midfielder.
A trip to Swansea is certainly not a trip that Tony Pulis and Stoke will be relishing given their recent form and as stated in our defenders section Stoke’s ever reliant defence seem to be falling apart at the seams over recent week’s. The Potters have now conceded 10 goals in their last three games as apposed to the grand total of 14 in their previous 19 games which tells it’s own story and with Michu having already notched up 13 goals so far this season it would seem that number 14 won’t be too long in coming this weekend.
Juan Mata (Chelsea) £5.3 million Fixtures: Southampton (Home), Arsenal (Home)
Another Spanish midfielder in blistering form this season, Juan Mata has been at the heart of the Chelsea “Rafa-lution” with 7 goals and 11 assist this season and with three of those coming last time out against Stoke he is bang on form heading into the Blue’s double fixture week. There has been some trepidation among fantasy managers due Rafa Benitez’s penchant for rest and rotation but with the little Spaniard in such fine fettle it would seem that it is highly unlikely that he will be forced to sit out either of these games.
First up for the Pensioners is the visit of the Saints to Stamford Bridge and with Nigel Adkin’s side seemingly unable to plug the gaps at the back that have lead them to conceding 24 goals in the ten away games they have played this season it could well be open season for a side that put four past one of the toughest defences in the league last weekend. The second game of the week see’s Arsenal make the short trip across London for what will surely be a game both sides will be well and truely up for and despite the fact that Chelsea will certainly not have things all their own way but the absence of Mikel Arteta and Laurent Koscielny will surely have a big impact on the Gunners ability to keep Mata at bay.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) £5.8 million Fixture: Norwich (Home)
Not for the first time in recent weeks the Liverpool captain finds himself firmly embedded in our thoughts and for good reason, the England international is enjoying some of his best football in a few seasons at Anfield which is evident by his recent attacking contributions. Gerrard has now returned attacking points in all of his last six games with three goals and six assists coming in that time, many will argue that that is not surprising given his recent good run of fixtures but regardless of the fixtures Gerrard continues to produce the goods which is all that will concern fantasy managers.
Chris Hughton’s Norwich make the trip to Merseyside this weekend which will not please the Canaries one bit given their recent poor run of results that has seen them muster up just one win in their last six games. It has been a season of two tales so far Norwich, with their home form seeing them pick up some good results and five clean sheets, where as their away form has been poor seeing them only manage one clean sheet to date which will undoubtedly worry both fans and players alike as they head to Anfield.
Adam Johnson (Sunderland) £4.4 million Fixture: Wigan (Away)
Adam Johnson has been slowly creeping onto many managers watch list in recent weeks and after a fantastic performance last time out against West Ham that saw him register a goal and an assit I imagine he has caught the eye of quite a few heading into round 23. The former City man has now played more minutes this season than he has done in any other season and it would seem that regular football has had a profound effect on the England international. Johnson has four goals and five assists this season with his last three goals and two assists coming at the Stadium of Light.
The signs are certainly good for Sunderland and Johnson heading into this weekend’s meeting with Wigan, the Latics have the worst defensive record at home in the league this season with Roberto Martinez’s side conceding an unimpressive 22 times in 11 games at the DW Stadium. There is further bad news for the troubled club with news that defender Ivan Ramis will be out for the rest of the season after he damaged his A.C.L during Wigan’s 1-1 draw to Fulham last weekend. So it would seem that odds are firmly stacked in favour of a Black Cat’s victory and given his recent form their is no reason why Johnson won’t return some attacking points this Saturday.
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