There was plenty of drama over the international break as the European World Cup Qualifying groups reached a conclusion. Despite a nervy second half against Poland I was pleased with both England performances and enjoyed watching them qualify for Brazil 2014 (without losing a group match), but let's not kid ourselves; it's great to have the Premier League and Yahoo Fantasy Football back in our lives.
AM FC had an "ok" Week 7 thanks mainly to my Liverpool attackers and Luis Suarez as captain, but there were also some negatives such as Wayne Rooney's zero and the lack of a clean sheet for any of my backline. Alas, 98 points was enough to push my team ever nearer to the Top 2000 and I'm hoping to break in to it this weekend. Let's look at the match-ups ...
Week 8 Fixtures
Arsenal v Norwich
Aston Villa v Tottenham
Chelsea v Cardiff City
Crystal Palace v Fulham
Everton v Hull City
Man Utd v Southampton
Newcastle v Liverpool
Stoke v West Brom
Swansea v Sunderland
West Ham v Man City
Right at the top of the list we see the pick of the weekend's fixtures, Arsenal hosting Norwich. Chris Hughton's Canaries are no pushovers and the Gunners dropped their first points since the opening day in Week 7, but with the attacking talent at Arsene Wenger's disposal you have to feel the signs point to another home maximum to remain top of the table.
I fancy Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge to do the damage again for Liverpool's trip to Newcastle, which is the 12:45 GMT kick-off, so we'll get the all-important starting line-ups via Twitter before Yahoo's deadline. I'm also interested in Swansea players at home to rock bottom Sunderland, despite Gus Poyet's appointment. The Black Cats will surely improve under the new boss (well, they can't get any worse than bottom of the table with 1 point), but I can't see them getting anything at the Liberty Stadium.
Everton should be good for a fairly comfortable 3 points against potentially Robbie Brady-less Hull City in front of the Goodison Park faithful (although early team news suggests Brady has a chance of a surprise return less than 3 weeks after hernia surgery), while Jose Mourinho's Chelsea will be expected to defeat Cardiff at Stamford Bridge. I can also see in-form West Brom getting an away win at Stoke, with the Potters struggling under Mark Hughes since their initial impressive start to the campaign.
I'm less excited about Manchester United and Tottenham, who both have potential banana-skin match-ups against Southampton and Aston Villa respectively, but Manchester City should have too much for West Ham. The Hammers will be full of confidence after their magnificent away win at White Hart Lane, but City looked very strong against Everton in Week 7 and will be wise to Sam Allardyce's new striker-less system.
That leaves us with the weekend's concluding game on Monday night, Crystal Palace v Fulham, which is probably best avoided from a fantasy stand-point as neither side is in any sort of form. And unless you're a fan of either side, I wouldn't recommend watching it either.
Based on my predictions on the Week 8 match-ups, here are my player recommendations:
Michel Vorm - Swansea are excellent at home, Sunderland are bottom of the league, awful on the road and it looks like they could still be without their best striker Steven Fletcher, so this has "home win to nil" written all over it. With Vorm priced at less than £8million he's the top keeper pick and will be in my team.
Wojciech Szczesny - With the exception of the opening day, Arsenal's defence has been solid as a rock at the Emirates and Szczesny is playing very well, so another clean sheet would surprise nobody. It's worth noting Petr Cech and Tim Howard are also perfectly acceptable alternatives, but personally I prefer Vorm and Szczesny.
Boaz Myhill - At the riskier end of the scale, but West Brom are vastly improved from the side that failed to win any of their first 4 matches and are facing a Stoke side finding it very difficult to score goals. Myhill is cheap at £6.6million, in fine form and as detailed above I'm confident this one will end in an away win for the Baggies, so he could be an option if you're looking to do something different.
Leighton Baines - Everton's left-back has had a couple of quiet games in the league but he was simply outstanding for England in both qualifiers and should be full of confidence for the visit of Hull. As usual you'll have to pay a hefty wedge to get Baines in your team, but the oversized budget in the game means that's not really an issue and he's due to reward loyal fantasy managers.
Aleksandar Kolarov - Excellent for the first 50 minutes against Everton delivering numerous undefendable crosses which nobody got on the end of, Kolarov had to be subbed after a nasty head-wound, but will be fit to return for a trip to Upton Park and remains one of the most consistent defenders in the league this season.
Carl Jenkinson - With Bacary Sagna on the treatment table we should see Jenkinson get an extended run in the team at right-back and he looks terrific value if you want to cover the potential Arsenal clean sheet, costing barely £6million.
Chelsea's left-back - Who takes up this position if Ashley Cole fails to recover from his hip injury (which seems likely)? Ryan Bertrand seems the natural choice but the lad has barely made the bench this season, so could César Azpilicueta play there? Either way, both players are well priced and could be considered options if we get solid team news. Or you could just plump the ever-reliable Branislav Ivanovic if you have the money; he's due a goal.
Billy Jones - West Brom's attacking right-back has been playing very well this season and I have a bit of a hunch he could have a big game at Stoke. Like Myhill, he's an alternative if you want to include a pick that will separate you from the crowd.
Mamadou Sakho - It's certainly not nailed on that Liverpool will keep a clean given the form of Loic Remy, but Sakho has been quietly impressive and looks like he'll be a better fantasy points gatherer than Kolo Toure. A relative bargain too, at a shade below £8million.
Mathieu Debuchy - Is the Debuchy bubble on the verge of bursting? The fullback's incredible early season returns have noticeably dipped in the past few weeks and there's little chance of a clean sheet against Liverpool. To be fair to Debuchy, the majority of his points came from interceptions and tackles anyway, and there should be plenty of opportunities for those this week, so he's probably earned another chance in my team.
Ben Davies - At the bottom of this list because of the doubts over his fitness, but if Davies does recover he would be positioned second in this list, behind only Baines. Swansea's left-back has been in phenomenal form and could have a field day against Sunderland.
Michu - The Swansea forward should be on a huge high after deservedly earning his first Spain cap in the week, and comes up against the league's bottom side just as his partnership with Bony is starting to click. I expect at least one goal from Michu, who is my top pick for Week 8; he should be in your team.
Mesut Ozil - As I always write, "barring injury he must be in your team every week". Unfortunately for Ozil and Arsenal the midfielder had to be substituted due to a knee injury during Germany's game against Sweden on Tuesday night and limped from the pitch, so we'll need to monitor team news as the weekend approaches. Most reports suggest he'll be fine, but it is a slight concern.
Aaron Ramsey - We know he's been in unbelievable form this season scoring for Wales in Belgium, but does his value diminish slightly if Ozil is injured? We'll have to wait and see but I do want an Arsenal attacker in my team, so Ramsey is under consideration.
Oscar - Three goals in six starts so far this season, Oscar has come of age and has made the "in the hole" role at Chelsea his own. There's no reason to think his form won't continue at home to Cardiff.
Ross Barkley - The young Everton midfielder understandably struggled a bit against Yaya Toure and Fernandino in Week 7 but will get far more chances to link up with Romelu Lukaku at home to Hull and remains incredibly cheap given his performances so far this season. Ozil owners may find it useful to bring Barkley in as your first substitute just in case.
Andros Townsend - He has arrived. Two strong performances and a goal for England has brought Townsend to the public's attention, with his pace, direct running, crossing and accurate shooting causing both Montenegro and Poland plenty of problems. Except him to start ahead of Erik Lamela again at Aston Villa and provide a decent fantasy return, with or without a goal or assist (he has none of either in the league this season).
Morgan Amalfitano - The winger has been a revelation in the past four West Brom games with two goals, two assists and a staggering 16 successful crosses against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal. Amalfitano comes up against a less formidable opponent in Stoke this week and I'm considering throwing him in to my side.
Adnan Januzaj - Let's be clear, the chances of Januzaj scoring twice in a game again this season are slim to none, but the young man showed more quality in 90 minutes than Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani have shown for the past season and a half. He's not a must have by any means, but it's been a while since I've been remotely excited about any Manchester United midfielder.
Yaya Toure - Another double digit haul from the big midfielder in Week 7, Yaya's not a top pick this week but he can never be ignored completely, especially now he's taking direct free-kicks within shooting range. West Ham have a tendency to concede silly fouls around the box and are often punished (see Baines, Leighton - 21st September 2013).
Adam Lallana - Making the Saints tick from the his tucked in wing position, Lallana has a tough match up at Old Trafford but we've seen plenty of midfielders running from deep and opening up the Manchester United defence this season.
Romelu Lukaku - Four goals in three games for Everton, two goals for Belgium during the international break, Lukaku is bang in form and the Hull City defence will be having nightmares about facing him this weekend. He is currently my captain.
Olivier Giroud - The Arsenal striker hasn't scored a league since Week 4 but is playing an important role for the team and should get a fair few chances to break his dry spell against Norwich.
Luis Suarez & Daniel Sturridge - Do you need both? It's an away game so picking two Liverpool strikers certainly gives me that "eggs in one basket" feeling, but we saw what the SAS (yes, people call them that now apparently) are capable of at Sunderland and versus Crystal Palace. If you're going for one of the two I'd be edging slightly towards Suarez personally, but I have no justification for that preference.
Wilfried Bony - It took him a few games to break in to the Swansea side but Bony is starting to look the part and has matched Michu goal for goal so far this season. He's tempting at home to Sunderland.
Sergio Aguero - Going with any Manchester City is risky seeing as they travel to Moscow for a Champions League tie next week, but Manuel Pellegrini will also be aware that his side can't slip up as they did at Cardiff and Villa, so Aguero still appears to be the favourite to start at West Ham.
Samuel Eto'o - Mourinho surprised us all by picking Demba Ba at Norwich and he did ok, but I'm confident Eto'o gets the start at home to Cardiff and he's an interesting option if we get solid team news.
Wayne Rooney - I'm trying not to let the zero in Week 7 cloud my judgement, so Rooney gets a place in the list after two good performances and two goals for England. slightly preferable to Robin van Persie at £4million cheaper, although I wouldn't judge anyone for picking the Dutchman after his hat-trick for Holland.
Loic Remy - The last place in my Week 8 picks almost went to Nicolas Anelka, then Darren Bent, before I realised I'd forgotten about the outstanding Remy. Tough match-up for sure, but he's capable of adding to his remarkable 5 goals in 5 games record, even though the game is likely to end in defeat for Newcastle.
So those are the players I'm considering for my Week 8 Yahoo team. For now I have the following saved on my own team page:
Starting XI: Vorm, Debuchy, Kolarov, Baines, Yaya Toure, Oscar, Ozil, Michu, Lukaku (C), Sturridge, Suarez
Subs: Livermore, Oviedo, Spence, Elliot
I like it, but fretting a bit about the lack of Giroud, and as mentioned I feel a little uneasy having both Sturridge and Suarez just in case Newcastle v Liverpool doesn't go as expected. Yaya Toure could lose his place to Ramsey, Townsend or Amalfitano and Ozil needs be monitored, but I expect the rest of my midfield, defence and keeper to stay as is. Ideally I'd like to add Barkley to my bench, but I'm short of funds at this time.
Check back here on Rotoworld on Friday for all the team and injury news coming out of the manager's press conferences to assist you with your final decisions. There's likely to be a fair amount of information to process as dozens of Premier League stars played 90 minutes for their countries this week, some faced long flights back to England and it's the Champions League next week, so all of these factors could affect starting line-ups.
How's your Week 8 team looking? Who's your captain choice?