New contributor Cameron Hogwood picks out five defenders to sort out your Sky Sports Fantasy Football backline…
As the international break comes to an end, so does an agonising fortnight for Premier League managers fearful of their star men returning with injuries.
A gruelling winter period awaits in which teams will not only be striving to keep up with the leading pack, but also battling for simple mid-table stability.
In a league often short of quality defending, spotting the valuable figures at the back threatens to be the difference.
Joe Gomez (£6.5m)
Courtesy of Liverpool’s familiar defensive frailties, Joe Gomez’s ascent up the points tally continues to go undetected by many- just 4.27% of Sky Sports Fantasy Football managers, in fact.
The Englishman enters Saturday’s home clash with Southampton having accumulated a total of 44 points in the four league games he has played at Anfield this season. Were it not for Jurgen Klopp’s tendency to rotate him with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reds’ leaky away form, it may well have been more.
With Nathaniel Clyne having been ruled out for another three months, Gomez looks set for an extended run in the team at right-back and could prove a bargain at £6.5million.
Having made his England senior debut in Friday’s draw with Germany, the 20-year-old will view Liverpool’s six home league games between now and New Year as an ideal opportunity to maintain Gareth Southgate’s attention.
Charlie Daniels (£7.5m)
After a tough start to the season, Bournemouth have started to tease signs of improvement.
Left-back Charlie Daniels, priced at £7.5million, is one man likely to be at the centre of any revival as an ever-present attacking outlet – starting with Saturday’s visit of Huddersfield.
The Cherries’ next five fixtures fit the bill as games manager Eddie Howe will be realistically seeking points from.
After hosting David Wagner’s men, Bournemouth will face the struggling Swansea away from home before welcoming Burnley and Southampton to Dean Court and then travelling to play Crystal Palace.
Useful clean-sheets beckon for Daniels against notoriously low-scoring teams.
Stephen Ward (£6.2m)
Burnley’s record of fourth fewest goals conceded in the top half of the league should put their defenders into immediate consideration.
After earning seven points in each of his previous two outings, left-back Stephen Ward finds himself with an impressive tally of 58 for the season.
The chance to make it seven more awaits this weekend, with Sean Dyche’s men set to come up against the league’s second lowest-scoring team in Swansea.
Ward marks a cheap acquisition at £6.3million and could also rack up some surprise points when Burnley look to give Arsenal a tough time at Turf Moor the following week.
Sead Kolasinac (£8.3m)
Arsenal powerhouse Sead Kolasinac could prove to be a main implementer of the aggression required in Saturday’s north London derby against Tottenham.
The Bosnian’s sheer physicality and brute strength has been complimented by the surprise attacking impact he has had since signing from Schalke.
Kieran Trippier’s tendency to break forward may add to Kolasinac’s defensive responsibilities this weekend, but it will also grant him the space to return the favour.
The strong likelihood of the Arsenal man adding to his one goal and three assists makes him an intriguing long-term option at £8.3million.
Cesar Azpilicueta (£10.3m)
A confident Chelsea is a dangerous Chelsea.
The recent 1-0 win against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge posed as a warning sign of the rejuvenated champions re-establishing their defensive superiority.
Cesar Azpilicueta was outstanding against Jose Mourinho’s men, earning 12 points to add to his 10 against Bournemouth and his eight against Watford prior to that.
The Spaniard boats a total of five assists so far this season, all of which have been to striker Alvaro Morata.
His hefty £10.3million price is somewhat justified by not only his surprise attacking influence, but also the inevitable increase in more clean sheets following N’Golo Kante’s return to fitness.
With Liverpool posing as Chelsea’s only top half opponent in their next five games, Azpilicueta could be a source of some welcomed easy points.
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