The Boxing Day fixtures provided plenty of draws in the Premier League and the matches in Gameweek 19 look tricky to call as well. There also seems to be no shortage of injuries during this period of the season which have a habit of stinging us all (two of our tips for the last gameweek – Theo Walcott and Chris Smalling – missed out through illness!) so be advised the January wildcard is available for Gameweeks 20-23.
Blackburn Rovers earned a valuable point at Anfield on Boxing Day but are set to face a team that has far more experience in scoring goals. Even with eleven players on the treatment table, Manchester United will go into Saturday’s game at Old Trafford as unyielding favourites. Having registered back-to-back 5-0 wins and drawing level on points with the noisy neighbours in the process, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side will be confident of heaping more misery on Steve Kean. Other than the expensive players you obviously want (Wayne Rooney and Luis Nani), Antonio Valencia (£7.9m) has been in fine form since his return to the team. The former Wigan winger remains a threat even when deployed at right back. Patrice Evra meanwhile is United’s best fit defender, and at £7m can be considered a bargain compared to the likes of John Terry or Leighton Baines. It’s also worth keeping an eye on Anders Lindegaard £4.4m). The Danish stopper has played the last two games for United and could prove an absolute steal if he has become Sir Alex’s No.1.
It’s worth remembering that both Tottenham and Everton have two fixtures each in Gameweek 20 after their opening day game was postponed, so there lies a great opportunity to pick up some extra points. Having netted 18 times this season, Everton don’t exactly have a striker who can be relied upon for a glut of goals. But from the midfield, we like the look of Leon Osman (£6.7m). However, the wiser tactic could be to lend more of your backing to Spurs. Brad Friedel has been one of the best goalkeepers this season and looks a very tempting option at £5.5m. Anyone not including Emmanuel Adebayor (£9.1m) for a double gameweek would be taking a big gamble, while anyone without Gareth Bale (£8.9m) at the moment is clearly doing it wrong.
We’d also back Stoke to pick up a few points from their next couple of fixtures against two of the current bottom three. Thomas Sorensen (£4.3m) has been looking a good-value-for money goalkeeping option for a few weeks and looks to have well and truly won his place back from Asmir Begovic. Robert Huth meanwhile, ought to guarantee defensive points for your team. Tony Pulis’s striking options aren’t looking the most prolific at the moment, so it might be wiser to consider midfielders. There is no Stoke player in better form at the moment than Matthew Etherington (£6.4m).
Others worth considering
We recommended him last week and Martin Skrtel (£6m) popped up with a goal. But with Skrtel it’s the defensive points that we’re interested in primarily and Liverpool have conceded just 14 goals in the Premier League all season. Sunderland will have their work cut out against Manchester City on Sunday, but we’d expect them to climb the table in the New Year under the stewardship of Martin O’Neill. The former Villa boss should tighten up the Mackems defence which should make Wes Brown (£4.5m) a player well worth considering. Although they’ve not looked the most consistent side, Chelsea have a fairly favourable run of games during January and Daniel Sturridge (£7.4m) is looking like AVB’s best player at the moment. We’d also back Arsenal to win their next three games and with Robin Van Persie (£13.2m) gunning for Alan Shearer’s goalscoring record, you want him in your side. It’s not like he’s going to go two games without scoring now is it?