John Ruddy (£4.5m) This is a goalkeeping recommendation based on the opposition that Ruddy will come up against this weekend, as much as it has anything to do with the Norwich stopper’s form.
Southampton are enduring a tough start to their campaign, reflected in the south coast club’s struggles at either end of the pitch. A week after their 2-2 draw at Newcastle on the opening day, the Saints couldn’t breach an Everton backline that had already shipped two against Watford, and has since gone on to concede three against League One outfit Barnsley in the League Cup.
Things have got no better in front of goal for Ronald Koeman’s men in the last six days: the St Mary’s team firstly drawing a blank on the road at Watford, and then slumping to a single goal defeat at Danish champions FC Midtjylland, on their way to a hasty Europa League exit.
The Canaries, meanwhile, were hit for three by Crystal Palace on their return to the big-time, but have tightened up in subsequent contests with Sunderland and Stoke City. Ruddy has this week revealed his determination to add to the single England cap he won in 2012. The former Everton number one couldn’t pick more pliable opponents, on current form, if he is after a clean sheet with which to impress Roy Hodgson.
Joe Gomez (£4.7m) A glance through this weekend’s fixture-list reveals a collection of encounters with the potential to be goal-laden affairs. That being the case, identifying the men who might keep their opponents at bay in this final group of matches before the season’s first international break is not a straightforward task.
The best place to start, then, is to cast our minds back to what has gone before – and a trawl through events of the campaign’s first few weeks offers up a reminder that Liverpool ‘keeper Simon Mignolet hasn’t yet been required to retrieve the ball from the back of his net. Granted, the Reds have ridden their luck, and profited from some benevolent – or rank bad, take your pick – refereeing in order to record a trio of shut-outs. Nevertheless, to achieve three clean-sheets on-the-bounce takes some doing, regardless.
The 18-year-old Gomez has been pivotal to his team’s promising start; a revelation following his summer move from Charlton Athletic. Priced more generously than his defensive colleagues, Gomez won’t be daunted by the spectre of a visiting West Ham on the horizon. For good measure, the young Londoner hasn’t been shy of crossing the half-way line in his embryonic Liverpool career; a side of his game he might be free to indulge against a Hammers team travelling north, to a ground where they haven’t won for 52 years, and which looked decidedly wobbly at the back when leaking four goals to Bournemouth in their last Premier League outing.
Geoff Cameron (£4.5m) A notoriously tough nut to crack – especially on home soil – Stoke are currently having to make do without their stricken captain and defensive lynchpin, Ryan Shawcross. It has, therefore, fallen on men such as Cameron to fill the considerable void left in his team’s ranks by the ex-Manchester United man’s absence.
In their lone previous home game this term, the Potters were only denied a first-day clean sheet by a Philippe Coutinho wonder-strike. Mercifully for Mark Hughes’ side, West Brom, Saturday’s visitors to the Brit, don’t boast a game changer in their number to rival Liverpool’s mercurial Brazilian.
Moreover, the Baggies are misfiring. Tony Pulis’s men finally got off the mark for the campaign when scoring twice in a slightly bizarre meeting with Chelsea last week. It was normal service resumed in Tuesday’s League Cup tie with Port Vale, though, West Brom following up their inability to break through Manchester City and Watford’s defences, by failing to find a way past their League One opponents in 120 minutes of action.
Stoke’s USA international must harbour a fair deal of confidence, then, that he and his fellow Potters’ defenders can keep Pulis’s obdurate unit at bay, Shawcross or no Shawcross.
David Silva (£10.5m) OK, he doesn’t come cheap, but the magical Silva has been the star of the Premier League’s opening fortnight. The Spaniard was outstanding as Manchester City secured a stellar win at Everton last Sunday, just as he was imperious against Chelsea seven days earlier, and majestic a week before that, when City dismantled West Brom.
On-song, and given licence following Raheem Sterling’s arrival to roam in behind Sergio Aguero, Silva will be salivating at the prospect of newly promoted Watford’s visit to The Etihad tomorrow. Eighteen top-flight managers will be breathing a sigh of relief that it is Quique Sanchez Flores, and not they, who is the man charged with plotting to thwart the rampaging Silva, this week.
Bakary Sako (5.5m) Crystal Palace score a lot of goals, particularly away from home. The present-day, curiously malfunctioning Chelsea, are letting them in at a rate of more than two a game.
This is likely to be a short-term issue for the champions: an impending international break, and a few more weeks of football in the legs of Jose Mourinho’s players, should enable the Blues to return refreshed in September; finally in peak condition, following their belated start to pre-season training.
None of which will bother Palace, who take their intrepid counter-attacking game to Stamford Bridge tomorrow. Alan Pardew’s striking selection resembles something of a moveable feast, meaning it would be a risk to pick any of the Eagles’ front-runners in your side.
Surely, though, Bakary Sako’s goal-scoring debut against Aston Villa a week ago will guarantee the Mali winger one of the three attacking berths, behind Palace’s lone-forward in west London. Fearless and not short on self-belief, Sako took no fewer than six shots on goal (five of them on target) on his first Palace start.
Despite their patchy form, Chelsea have to be favourites to eventually emerge victorious from this particular war. Palace won’t go down to Mourinho’s team without a real battle, though – and Sako will be at the forefront of his side’s forays into enemy territory.
Jamie Vardy (£6m) Leicester are fast becoming appointment viewing. Sunderland and West Ham have already felt the full-force of the attacking prowess that bursts from the seams of Claudio Ranieri’s expressive outfit – and an adventurous Bournemouth could just be ripe for The Foxes’ picking this Saturday.
Eddie Howe’s men needed to hit the net four times to come away from West Ham with three points last Saturday, indicating that there might be a few holes in the Cherries’ rearguard for Vardy to pick his way through at Dean Court tomorrow.
Expect the home team to have plenty of possession, – and quite possibly make some capital on their dominance of the ball – but with the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Marc Albrighton and Shinji Okazaki prepared to fight fire with fire, Vardy shouldn’t be light on opportunities to add to his single Premier League goal this term. And, the more chances he buries the greater Vardy’s prospects of making the cut when Hodgson announces his latest England squad on Sunday.
Sergio Aguero (£13.2m) Another Manchester City titan, and another man whose wares come at considerable cost. But, if it’s fantasy football points you’re after this weekend then Aguero personifies as close to an open-goal as you could wish for.
We’ve already discussed the havoc that David Silva could wreak on Watford at The Etihad. If the former Valencia playmaker is going to be the creative force on Saturday, though, Aguero is in pole position to reap the benefits of his team-mate’s craft and vision.
The Argentine has made his own lightning start to the campaign, especially when putting Chelsea on the back-foot a fortnight ago. Last season, Aguero was prevented by a succession of niggly injuries from reaching the standards he had previously set for himself in a City shirt. With his body seemingly now in full-working order, however, this world-class hitman is apparently on the same page as the rest of his Etihad colleagues, a bunch that look bent on blowing away the other contenders in this year’s title race.
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