Jose Mourinho has not yet received a long-overdue P45 in the wake of his team’s latest league capitulation – a humiliating 3-1 home defeat to Liverpool. Perhaps the midweek win against Dynamo Kiev granted him a wafer thin stay of execution. The reigning champions are now just four points away from the relegation zone, and it only gets harder with a trip to Stoke City looming large on the horizon.
In the latter two-thirds of the pitch, fantasy teams almost pick themselves this week, and maxing out on players from Manchester clubs is advisable for GW12. So too is the inclusion of Jamie Vardy along with (at least) one Leicester winger.
1. Kasper Schmeichel
A keeper for one of the Manchester clubs is the most obvious pick. However, if funds are an issue, Schmeichel is an equally-viable alternative, provided that only one of Albrighton and Mahrez has been selected in addition to Vardy.
There can be no doubt that Watford will arrive at the King Power Stadium in high spirits after ending West Ham’s unbeaten away run. The manner of the Hornets’ 2-0 win was indicative of a team that is adapting well to the Premier League – and they lie in the top half on merit – but Leicester are undoubtedly the firm favourites ahead of this clash.
Though target man Odion Ighalo has flourished in his revamped role alongside Troy Deeney, stopping Ighalo remains a key aspect of blunting Watford as an attacking force. On current form, the Leicester defence is certainly capable of producing a clean sheet at home to newly promoted opposition.
2. Bacary Sagna
Sagna continues to be a mainstay in the City squad, but his value has not risen very much over the course of the season’s first quarter. Once again he will be a useful inclusion, against a Villa side set to continue their losing ways.
3. Cedric Soares
Assuming your defence isn’t already dominated by pricier players from the two Manchester clubs, Soares is a safe option yet again. Southampton’s defence has improved greatly in the past two games, since capitulating at home to Vardy-fuelled Leicester, and face a Sunderland side with smashed egos.
The Black Cats produced all-too-brief moments of industrious play in a 6-2 defeat at Goodison Park on Sunday, but (as that scoreline suggests) their staying power remains sadly lacking. Pace also remains a huge issue for Sunderland, but Southampton have that crucial trait in abundance, making this one of the Premier League’s ‘away bankers’.
4. Jason Puncheon
Puncheon is one of this Game Week’s divergent picks, but nobody can forget the devastating performance he produced back in May. Crystal Palace won 3-1 at Anfield with consummate ease on that occasion, and though the reds have improved under Jurgen Klopp, they remain vulnerable to the counter attack and the set piece.
Puncheon is likely to be the main component of any counter attacks from Palace, making him a potentially useful inclusion this week. His battling mentality also gives him a competitive edge in set piece situations.
5. Ander Herrera
Statistically, Herrera is the second best Manchester United midfielder behind Mata, albeit by a considerable distance. He is an excellent alternative to Mata if funds are short, given that this week’s visitors to Old Trafford, West Brom, appear to be nothing more than goal fodder.
6. Bafbatemi Gomis
A front trio of Jamie Vardy, Anthony Martial and Christian Benteke is set to be the most assured source of points in GW12, but there are cheaper alternatives to the latter two if a strong midfield is an equally-high priority.
Swansea City visit Carrow Road desperate to return to winning ways after a 3-0 home defeat to Arsenal, and they have the necessary pedigree to take the points west. For all their effort, Norwich’s staying power is currently of Championship standard, and the visit of Swansea is likely to do little to help the Canaries’ present plight.
Gomis’ value has suffered a slight drop in recent weeks, but his talent is self-evident. A defensively naive Norwich should provide Gomis with a golden opportunity to regain form and value.