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Oct 28, 2011

Torres back in action

Fernando Torres returns from suspension this Saturday as Chelsea play host to Arsenal in the Premier League, and fantasy managers are sure to be weighing up the pros and cons of picking up the Spanish striker.

Torres has made two Champions League appearances since his red card against Swansea just over a month ago, and also played 60 minutes for Spain in the Euro 2012 qualifying victory in the Czech Republic. But Ross Turnbull's dismissal in the Carling Cup tie at home to Everton effectively meant he was forced to remain on the bench for that game with Romelu Lukaku handed his second start.

With Didier Drogba one game into a three-match suspension for his own red card against Queens Park Rangers and Nicolas Anelka still woefully short on goals - his Premier League goal against West Bromwich Albion in August is his only one since February 1 - Torres seems likely to regain his place for the London derby.

Torres' ownership has already risen by 0.2% ahead of Saturday's gamelock, and that rise would surely have been sharper had the Blues been facing an easier fixture this weekend.

There's no doubt that Torres is slowly rediscovering his form, scoring twice against an admittedly poor Racing Genk side and also netting in his last two Premier League appearances. He may still be missing some chances that at the top of his game he would have put away, but you don't lose points for missed chances in fantasy.

Torres' return so far of 18 points, which ranks him 35th among strikers, from his six appearances gives him a points per game ratio of 3.0 - the same as Manchester United striker Michael Owen from his one appearance.

That is reflected in his 7% ownership level, and a player of his standing would usually be much more popular. Compare that with the big three, in terms of ownership, of Wayne Rooney (54.8%), Luis Suarez (36.2%) and Sergio Aguero (36%). Suarez has suffered an ownership drop of 0.6%, having scored only twice since the second gameweek of the season to see him drop to 14th in the striker points ranking.

Bringing Torres in at the correct time could make a crucial difference against your rivals, most of whom will have invested in at least one of Rooney, Suarez and Aguero.

After the game at home to the Gunners, Chelsea have three home fixtures from the next five (making it four from six). Those matches are against Liverpool - a game Torres would surely love to find the net in - Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City. Granted, other than the Wolves game they have three of their toughest home matches of the campaign, but they are on their own turf. Chelsea also travel to Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United in this time.

Drogba will be available again once the Liverpool game comes around, and there is also the question of how Andres Villas-Boas chooses to use Daniel Sturridge, but if Torres rediscovers his scoring touch regularly his ownership percentage will rocket.

Long lay-off, Pottering about

Shane Long's excellent goalscoring start to the campaign, coupled with his cheap price tag, made him a popular early-season signing. With just one solitary goal since gameweek two his fantasy worth has come into question even if his value and ownership level has held.

That is all going to have to change now, with the West Bromwich Albion striker ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury.

None of the other West Brom strikers offer a suitable fantasy replacement but, of those in the £6.0m-£6.5m price range, Jonathan Walters has been one of the surprises of the season to sneak under the radar. Priced at just £6.3m (from £5.9m last week) as the eighth-highest scoring striker on 38 points, Stoke also have a great fixture list coming up that includes three home games from the next four.

An ever-present for the Potters, Walters is in just 0.9% of teams and is still not attracting a positive ownership change.

Walters is not the only Stoke player who you should be considering, and most at threat within your squad should be Newcastle United defenders.

The sides coincidentally meet at the Britannia Stadium on Monday night, with Stoke letting in just one goal at home in four matches, before the Potters entertain QPR and Blackburn Rovers with an away game at Bolton Wanderers sandwiched in between. Right now it's a set of fixtures you would struggle to better.

Compare that to Newcastle: after their visit to Stoke, they have a home match versus Everton, but that is followed by the horror of back-to-back trips to both Manchester clubs and a home game against Chelsea - three matches in which you would not want to play a Magpies defender.

A key Stoke defender could be Andy Wilkinson, who has ousted Robert Huth from the right-back berth in recent weeks. Although Huth has suffered an ownership slump of 0.7% this week - only Jose Bosingwa has suffered more sales even though he is not suspended for any Premier League games - that money has not been reinvested in other Stoke defenders.

Wilkinson has started the last four games, so ignore his current ranking of 78th and points total of 13. That could see a considerable improvement with the upcoming fixtures. He is priced at just £4.7m (up from £4.3m last week) and is owned by just 0.2% of managers.

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