Gameweek 9 is just around the corner and ATFPL ponders Manchester City’s and West Ham’s game plans, the Chelsea striker situation, the return of Michael Carrick at Manchester United, and Brendan Rodger’s choice of Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert up front.
Manchester City played with a lone striker in their disappointing draw against CSKA Moscow, with Sergio Agüero scoring yet again. Manuel Pellegrini could revert back to his fluid 4-4-2 against West Ham with both Edin Džeko and Steven Jovetić fit again. Džeko is likely to get the nod and Jovetić could replace Agüero early if City have a secure lead as the Argentine has played most of the last four league games in addition to the Champions League. Pellegrini is unlikely to shock Fantasy Managers by leaving Agüero on the bench.
The likely scoreline of the game will depend on how Sam Allardyce will approach the City game? Will he revert back to basics, setting up a defensive shell or try to go head-to-head against City with his new found attacking strategy? It’s unlikely as Allardyce is a pragmatist at the core, and now that he has pace in Enner Valencia and Stewart Downing and finishing ability in Diafra Sakho he can set out to frustrate City and try to grab a winner on the counter-attack.
The Chelsea Striker Situation and United’s Midfield
In another Gameweek with doubts surrounding Diego Costa’s fitness, José Mourinho has been cryptic yet again with mixed comments on Costa continuing hamstring problems. To add to the problems, Costa returned from international duty with Spain suffering from a groin strain and was hospitalised with a stomach virus. It’s highly likely that he’ll miss out on the game against Manchester United, which is doubly unfortunate for Mourinho as Loïc Rémy is out for up to two weeks after sustaining an injury in Chelsea’s Champions League win against Maribor.
This leaves the wily Portuguese with few options up front with Didier Drogba, who has admitted to be short of match fitness, the only fit striker. The other option would be to repeat choice of last season’s matchup and play Andre Schürrle upfront. While not an ideal situation, it gives Mourinho a player that can play at a high intensity for 90 minutes that can be shifted around when he wants to introduce players off the bench in the second half.
Whatever the lineup and formation, Chelsea are favourites with Manchester United looking fluid up front but lacking in defensive stability. One player that could help fix that problem is fit again Michael Carrick who could start alongside Daley Blind in a double pivot, helping the defence by adding a player used to sitting deep and intercepting passes and maintaining possession. Louis van Gaal could opt for both sitting deep with a third midfielder allowed freedom to attack. Ander Herrera would be the likely choice if not for his injury doubts, but the United manager could also go for the intelligence of Juan Mata or the strength of Marouane Fellaini. Ángel Di María is expected to start after suffering a knock against West Brom and will likely be the key to unlocking the Chelsea defence while Radamel Falcao will be pushing for a starting spot at the expense of Robin van Persie after the Dutchman’s poor display last Gameweek.
Liverpool’s Striker Situation
Mario Balotelli has failed to adapt at Liverpool and his last two outings, against QPR in the league and Real Madrid in Europe, have been poor. Brendan Rodgers has commented on his striker in the media this week, both on the shirt-swapping incident with Pepe and on his general performance. Rickie Lambert surely deserves a chance to start and Rodgers could choose this Gameweek to send Balotelli a message. Lambert isn’t a valid Fantasy option but with him starting you could expect better link-up play and more likely returns from Liverpool’s midfield. Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson would relish the opportunity to run behind the unselfish Lambert as both were visibly frustrated with Balotelli in the last couple of matches as he time and time again opted to slow play down or shoot with teammates in great positions.
In Other News
- Arsène Wenger has ruled out Laurent Koscielny and cast doubts over Theo Walcott’s involvement this Gameweek with a substitute appearance the best possible outcome. Jack Wilshere is suspended.
- Hull City’s Nikica Jelavic is out for up to six weeks with a knee injury.
- Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge remains sidelined with a calf complaint, likely out for next Gameweek too.
- Stoke’s Glenn Whelan has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a fractured leg but Victor Moses is expected to be fit after suffering from cramp last weekend.
- Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann and James McArthur have been ruled out.
- West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster has returned to training and is likely to start while Silvestre Varela, Jonas Olsson, and Claudio Yacob are all confirmed absentees.