Greetings and salutations fantasy managers. I have the daunting task of filling in for Nik this week, but first let me remind all of you participating in the 2014 Rotoworld PL Cup - Gameweek 25 is the next round, so even more pressure to handle when settling on the selections for your team.
My Yahoo team, Follow the Jelavic Road, thrived in the first round of competition, so much so that I wouldn't mind having some of those points roll over to this week. In week 24, I captained Suarez and got several disappointing returns that lowered my confidence as I ended on a total of 90 for the week, my first sub-100 total in quite some time. (Baines 4, Debuchy 2, Gerrard 5, Ozil 4, RVP 7 to name a few). For Week 25, I see a seismic shift in the landscape of successful XI's. It can be tough to buy a player cheap, then sell him when he costs twice as much, but this week I finally cut bait on Ozil. Thankfully, the decision wasn't too difficult - along with poor form, Arsenal have Liverpool and Man United in their next two, and most importantly, the emergence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who I bought at 2.26m, and can be the perfect 5th mid and Arsenal coverage in weeks like this one where you don't feel compelled to own 3, 4 or more Gunners. The Ox is going nowhere. If he stays healthy, he's the fifth midfielder to own for the run in.
Week 25 Fixtures
Liverpool v Arsenal
Aston Villa v West Ham United
Chelsea v Newcastle
Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion
Norwich City v Manchester City
Southampton v Stoke City
Sunderland v Hull City
Swansea City v Cardiff City
Tottenham v Everton
Manchester United v Fulham
With two of the top four clubs in the table squaring off against one another, Liverpool v Arsenal is certainly the crown jewel of this weeks' fixtures, and while investment in the big clubs when they go head-to-head can be tempered due to a less predictable outcome, I think it is safe to hold on to your Gunners at least, if dropping them means losing a ton of money, because Liverpool's defense, even at home, is nothing to be scared of as long as the opponent has any kind of attack with a heartbeat.
On Sunday, we have what would be, if the season ended today, a Europa League matchup as Tottenham host Everton. Both of these clubs still have aspirations on a Champion's League spot, so I think both clubs will be playing all out, wanting three points out of the result. The loser would probably have to then buckle down and see out the season with a Europa spot secured. The Toffees will have to rely on Steven Naismith or Kevin Mirallas to lead the line with Romelu Lukaku still unavailable.
My personal pick for match of the week is Swansea v Cardiff. Swansea is turning to player/manager Garry Monk to replace Michael Laudrup after the Dane was sacked earlier in the week. The Swans have been hampered by Europa League commitments and a rash of injuries to key players, and Laudrup paid the price. Meanwhile, Cardiff are feeling more optimistic coming off a win against Norwich City and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has so many new toys to see in action and develop together. Should Cardiff win, they would be level on points with the Swans. Shocking.
Finally, on Sunday, Manchester United host Fulham. Say what you want about United this season, it surely has made for entertainment. In their previous six league games they have gone: W-L-W-L-W-L. I don't mean to brag about my mathematical skills, but there seems to be a pattern here, and the pattern says they will win...and they should. They are hosting rock bottom Fulham, who give goals away on the regular. There are two outcomes from this match: either United players will have plenty of fantasy hauls amongst them, or Monday morning we begin working on an article regarding the firing of David Moyes. Again, either way you slice it, United are entertaining.
OK, here we go......My top plays for Week 25
Petr Cech - Chelsea just came off another clean sheet....shutting down Man City at the Etihad. If you don't go Cech, you better have a Blue somewhere in defense. Meanwhile, Newcastle are without Loic Remy, Papiss Cisse and of course Yohan Cabaye. This is an almost guaranteed clean sheet.
Artur Boruc - Southampton are back home after a road cleanie last week, and their defense without Dejan Lovren is looking well organized again. The best bet in the midrange price bracket.
Gerhard Tremmel - Hopefully you stashed Tremmel a few weeks back at his 1m price tag, but even at his current price, he looks a sound budget option this week, as Garry Monk will want to emphasize defense, being a defender himself, and they host a relegation zone club.
Julian Speroni - Palace at home. The Pulis system will be in full effect as he goes for another 1-0 victory.
Vito Mannone - His current price tag is outrageously high, but with a home game against Hull City, if you have the cash, it is a solid, albeit expensive, investment. The Tigers sport the weakest attack in the league, even with Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long now in the mix.
Branislav Ivanovic - Ivanovic is Chelsea's most attacking defender, and he showed why last week, scoring the only goal of the match...and he did it with his weak foot. With Newcastle not providing much in attack right now, it should provide plenty of opportunities for Ivanovic to get forward.
Phil Bardsley - Bardsley was my highest scoring player last week. Not sure that speaks to the brilliance of Bardsley, or I just had a poor week. Regardless, he is a fine play, even if you didn't buy him cheap, with Hull City coming to the Stadium of Light. Attacking and defensive points are highly possible.
Nathaniel Clyne - Clyne has been a bit of an enigma this season. Touted as the RB of the future, there have been occasions this year where he did not start and it wasn't due to injury. Callum Chambers has filled in in those situations, but he is looking a doubt for the weekend, making Clyne a safe pick. He is the cheapest of the Saints defenders, and offers potential in attack with his pace - he assisted last week.
Nemanja Vidic - Vidic is back from serving his suspension, and while United have hardly been giants in defense this season, the veteran center back is still one of the best in the world at his position. He's cheaper than about six other options in defense fr United, so scoop him up.
Ryan Bertrand - Bertrand has been nailed on since arriving from Chelsea and has plenty of attacking ability to contribute to Villa. Though Villa are not defensive juggernauts by any stretch, a home match against West Ham combined with Bertrand's low cost provides enough to at least make him a 4th defender on your bench.
Ben Davies - Davies is another attacking fullback with a kind fixture. There is no reason to pay 5.5m more for Chico when Davies is just as good if not better at getting involved in the attack. He may not be in form leading up to this game, but performances in the past, and a new manager to impress is a good environment in which to back him now.
Adam Johnson - You know how some players will be quiet for a long time, then pop up for a big game? Usually, I say to myself "I'd like to see that again before considering". Well, how much more do you need than a guy who has scored six goals, at least once in the past four contests, and now plays at home to Hull? Swallow your pride, pay the premium, and get AJ in pronto.
Oscar - Oscar was a bit of a surprise benching by Mourinho last week, but watching their defeat of Man City, it made all the sense in the world. Oscar will slot right back into his normal position this week, and a price under 11m is lovely for a player with his potential. Willian is also in the conversation, a bit cheaper, is taking plenty of corners, but not the goal threat Oscar is.
Yaya Toure - Though Man City were shut down last week, it was Yaya Toure who again was at the center of most of their chances. Many managers thought his goal scoring earlier in the season was a bit of a fluke, but he has proven them wrong and cultivated himself into one of the most, if not THE most, consistent midfielders in fantasy. Expect plenty of chances in their tie with Norwich.
Adam Lallana - Lallana has been money all season as well, and is so vital to just about every goal the Saints score. He added another goal last week and now back at home, looks a great prospect to find his way to the points against Stoke City.
Jason Puncheon - Palace have played three of their previous five games at home, and Puncheon scored in all three of them. Now they are home again to WBA. If Palace take this 1-0, he is the best bet for that lone goal.
Antonio Valencia- You could do much worse than an 8m nailed-on midfielder who once led the league in assists playing the worst defensive club in the league in a home game, with Rooney, RVP and Mata all back on the pitch, and all at the forward position. Sneaky pick here.
Nathan Dyer - Swansea's man on the right wing is back healthy and at home to Cardiff. His injury plagued season has kept him out of conversation, but he has a good scoring record at home. In Yahoo, most wingers are classified as forwards so Dyer is a bit of an out-of-position special.
Luis Suarez - Yes, it was a down week for him last time out, and yes, top of the league Arsenal is this week's opponent. That being said, he is locked in as one of your three forwards.
Eden Hazard - Hazard is Chelsea's most dependable attacking option. Though the focus seems to be more on defense lately, a home game with Newcastle looks good for at least two goals, and Hazard is the best bet to be involved.
Daniel Sturridge - Since returning, Sturridge has been just as prolific as his Uruguayan teammate. Again, the fixture is not ideal, but as long as Suarez is there, a fit Sturridge is fixture-proof.
Christian Benteke - Benteke is fantasy relevant again after a long dry spell, but what is really exciting is that he is not anywhere near as lethal as he can be. West Ham can be a tricky defense, they blanked Chelsea last time they traveled, but Bentekkers is a force.
Juan Mata - He hasn't found the net yet, but he has been in the middle of it all and supplying assists on the regular. I think this is the week he finally finds the net himself, and once he does, expect inflation to kick in heavy on hi current price tag.
Robin van Persie - With a goal last time out, RVP somehow only ended up with a paltry 7 points. His track record is still a solid one though, and Fulham are absolute pushovers. For those looking at an armband option outside of Suarez, RVP is capable of a monster day.
Edin Dzeko - before being blanked by Chelsea last week, Dzeko had scored in three straight and with Sergio Aguero sidelined and Alvaro Negredo banged up, he appears to be as nailed on for now as he will ever be. He looks to be shaking that super-sub status, and showing he can relied upon when handed a start.
So those are the players I'm considering for my Week 25 Yahoo team. For now I have the following on my own team page:
First XI: Tremmel, Bardsley, Ivanovic, Baines, Lallana, Silva, Gerrard, A Johnson, Suarez, Sturridge, van Persie
and a bench of Betrand, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kelly, Harper
Be aware that some of my starters are not reflected in the picks because i bought them cheap and I'd rather keep the value to put out a strong side than sell. Such is the case for Silva over Yaya.
Check back here early next week for the results of the second round of the 2014 Rotoworld PL Cup and be sure to comment below on who you like for this week.