There's only one Ricky Lambert. And boy, does that man know how to ruin a party.
A quick look back at last week shows that Lambert continued a tradition of making a good call look bad at the end of the day for me at the forward position, as he began the game on the bench only to come on in the second half and grab a goal, an assist, and a heaping helping of points. Still, the call was right. One cannot have more reason to avoid a player in any fantasy game than if the feeling is there that the player will not start. But if Raul Ibanez gets a pinch hit grand slam or a running back is in the doghouse and doesn't start, only to finish the day with 3 carries, 81 yards and a touchdown...it does sting a bit, despite the good call. Fair play to you Ricky. My fortune may feel a bit cursed like a relic in an Indiana Jones movie, but, like Indy, I still come out cracking my whip for the next adventure, face unmelted. Besides, no one came out with a more unfortunate outcome from that game than Dejan Lovren....and it isn't even close. An injury only Tchaikovsky could describe. Otherwise, a nice pickup for Jordi Amat in a fill-in roll, nabbing 10 points despite Swansea conceding twice, and a good call on Phillippe Coutinho, who Brendan Rodgers kept on his bench until a sub appearance that resulted in nothing.
This week is maybe the most crucial one of the season in fantasy PL as 10 clubs have a double gameweek, offering 15 matches in total, and plenty of opportunities for gigantic scores. My best advice is to fill every one of your positions with a double gameweek player. In the cases of the best clubs who only play once, Chelsea will host Arsenal (the Gunners play twice) and Tottenham and Southampton play each other, so there is no reason to hesitate and have eleven players lined up to potentially play in 22 matches. In a typical week, I look to score at least 100 points, and I am averaging 110 points a week. So I am hoping for at least 200 this week, with 220 as an average week. But with the potential of a gigantic score also comes the harsh reality that this week could really hurt if things go wrong. Forgive me for displaying my sharp math skills here but a 12 point game twice is 24 points. A zero point game twice....still zero. There are going to be players that do something in both games, players that do something in one, and nothing in the other. And then there are going to be those who do jack squat with 180 minutes of potential pitch time. Let's do our best to avoid that last example.
I am here and I mean business, so no easy street of recommending avoiding any players who only play once in my column this week - that would be too simple. All single game players are out of play when I look at each position for this special week. Remember the goal of this column is to find that player or two to fill out your squad when the money gets tight, or you want to find a player with high potential and low ownership to try and close the gap on the rivals above you. This time around, the emphasis is more on budget, as again, the best practice is to load up on the double gameweekers, and with half of the player list being ignored, chances are you will need to dig for a player or two to free up some cash. Let' take a look...
David de Gea- (Manchester United) Admittedly, I am throwing myself a bit of a softball right out of the chute, but the point here is: can you trust ANY United players to do what you are hoping they will? Last week's disaster is the latest glaring evidence, and with Nemanja Vidic serving a two match ban because of it, their defense will not be at their strongest for both games of the double, which is sure to impact de Gea's chances at clean sheets. If you are going to spend north of 10m this week at the position, there is actually no double gameweek keeper I like LESS than United's. One year removed from a league title won by 9 points. Good job, Moyes.
The Free Kick
Tim Krul - (Newcastle United) You don't have to go much farther than the man's own name to describe this keeper's season. The Dutchman has had a rough go in general since his 2011/2012 season, when he helped Newcastle to a fifth place finish, with an injury-plagued season last year, and an unremarkable campaign so far this time around, but the talent is there. He has made some mistakes, but I feel confident that with two home matches, one against a weak attacking Crystal Palace side, the other against an Everton crew who have managed just five goals in their past six games, that Krul will keep at least one of these matches clean, with an outside shot at both. Plus, it is probably the only way the Magpies can get a result, as their current attack is in absolute shambles. There are several other keepers to feel more confident about this week, but if you want one playing two matches that costs under 8m, Krul is your best bet.
Per Mertesacker (Arsenal) I am not looking at Arsenal's defense this week, and Mertesacker represents the Gunner's back line here as he is the highest-owned of the lot. First, you have a trip to Stamford Bridge. While I am fully aware that Chelsea were just kept out by Aston Villa of all clubs, that result is exactly why I am sure Mourinho is going to prove Chelsea indeed CAN find the net, and with his incomparable record at the Bridge, it would be hard to back an Arsenal defender there. A much better fixture with a home game against Swansea follows, but the Swans are instantly a more threatening group with the return of Michu to the mix. More on him a bit later.
The Free Kick
James Chester (Hull City) It is tough to find a Free Kick defender this week who is dirt cheap AND is assured of starting both games, with a good shot of a cleanie in at least one of them. Chester for me is as cheap as you can get without risking too much. Though Steve Bruce shifts things around in the back, he has shown that when Chester is fit, he is pretty much locked in with Curtis Davies at center back. Even though West Brom were able to find the net twice and finally win last weekend, I am not convinced of their attack and I think the Tigers have a good shot a cleanie in the opening match of their double. Still, I want to emphasize that this is the position this week to have the money for and spend on top players like Leighton Baines. Speaking of the Toffees, John Stones is one who is cheap, and a great play if he were guaranteed to start both games, but Phil Jagielka is aiming to return this weekend if not for the second match. It is the perfect example of why you don't want to get too cute looking for a super cheap defender this week. Pay the money, and don't go cheaper than Chester.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) If there has been one thing I have been getting right all season, it is Brendan Rodgers' midfield. Sterling has been a Free Kick representative before and has paid off, but I think his price has caught up with him. Not necessarily caught up with his talents mind, I think he has a bright future, but with his potential in the club as Rodgers can afford to move players around. I think there is a strong chance Sterling starts only one of the two games, and for a midfielder that costs northwards of 13m and usually doesn't play a full 90 even when he does start, I find it best to look at one of Liverpool's attacking giants, obviously Gerrard in midfield, and perhaps with the form they have displayed recently, one of their defenders as coverage from the Reds this week.
The Free Kick
Michu (Swansea City) Swansea may have the worst double gameweek opponents to deal with, as both matches are away to Everton and Arsenal, two clubs who don't surprise anyone when they shut down the opposition on their own ground. Michu may just be returning from a long injury that has not given him a chance yet to show some form heading into this weekend after an appearance from the bench last time out, but he is one heck of a wildcard this week anyway. He is a proven scoring machine in the Premier League and though Swansea have had a relatively disappointing season up until now, a steady diet of Michu in their system may be just what is needed to instantly catapult them to the type of club that can battle and score goals against anyone like they showed last term. The only drawback for me is his pitch time, as I can see him being subbed off early on Saturday to keep him fresh for the three day turnaround. Still, his class at that price is worth 120 minutes or more of pitch time. Even if you don't like his chances this week, I urge you to bring him immediately after the deadline passes for his current price, as he plays home to Norwich next week.
Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City) There is plenty of reason to invest in Manchester City this week, but I think it is best to leave things off the table at the forward position, so I advise against Edin Dzeko here as well, though one of the two are likely to do something in a span of two games. The problem is guessing who that might be. I think the likeliest scenario is that Manuel Pellegrini starts Dzeko one game and Negredo the other, and when I know there are midfielders like David Silva and Yaya Toure, who are much more likely to start both and have had either recent success (Silva) or season-long success (Toure), I feel comfortable ignoring City's frontline. Since his last league goal on January 11th, Negredo's minutes on the pitch have been: 61, 0, 56, 76, 55, 0. I feel in a best case scenario, Negredo is looking at 120-130 minutes of pitch time out of a possible 180.
The Free Kick
Andy Carroll (West Ham United) Desperate times call for semi-desperate measures. If you really want to free up cash, there is no better way to do it than at the forward position this week. Even if you didn't think to bring him in immediately after his goal scoring game last week for 5m, an 8m striker, destined to start both matches assuming fitness, playing twice at home, and coming off a goal which he desperately needed to give him some confidence, Carroll has wiggled his way into the Free Kick. Keep in mind the "assuming fitness" angle of this advice. If there is one drawback to this pick, it is the potential outcome that injury could cut Carroll's pitch time significantly, and he has had a rather brittle body this season. Still, he is the kind of striker that won't surprise you with a brace either, and you won't find another striker at his price with that kind of potential.