Due to my birthday, work commitments and the international break it's been almost a month since I wrote my last full Player Picks post. I'm not having the best of times in Yahoo Fantasy Football so far this season, sitting around 5,000th overall, but I'm enjoying blogging about the game more than ever thanks to the SBNation platform, so it feels good to be back.
And so - Week 12 is almost upon us, it's another single week for all teams (I can't believe we've not had a double week yet this season) and it is also the 3rd Round of The Blog Cup, where we'll cut 1002 teams down to 750. If you're not sure if you're still in the competition, please check out the 2nd Round results here.
Now I started looking at the Week 12 fixtures last night and noticed there wasn't really any stand-out fixtures. In fact I found it difficult to pick more than a few winners - which is extremely rare - and on closer inspection I realised why.
Chelsea (4th) v Liverpool (6th)
Manchester City (1st) v Newcastle (3rd)
Norwich City (9th) v Arsenal (7th)
Swansea City (10th) v Manchester United (2nd)
Tottenham Hotspur (5th) v Aston Villa (8th)
... which of course means the Bottom 10 meet ...
Everton (17th) v Wolverhampton (13th)
Stoke City (12th) v Queens Park Rangers (11th)
Sunderland (15th) v Fulham (16th)
West Bromwich Albion (14th) v Bolton Wanderers (18th)
Wigan Athletic (20th) v Blackburn Rovers (19th)
... and if nobody in the Top 10 is playing anyone from the Bottom 10, then naturally this leads to an entire fixture list of reasonably close match-ups (at least on paper).
At the top you'd think that with Manchester City's quality at home, they probably have the most obvious chance of winning this weekend, despite Newcastle's outstanding start. I also fancy in-form Tottenham at home to Aston Villa who tend to go defensive on the road and I reckon Man Utd's extra quality will allow them to sneak the 3 points at Swansea. I expect Arsenal to edge out Norwich in a game that should serve up a fair number of goals and attacking points (with attacking football the priority for both sides), but Chelsea v Liverpool is likely to be a tight affair.
At the bottom it's really tricky to separate the teams, but the most likely victors appear to be Stoke at home to poor travellers QPR, as the Potters look to bounce back from their 5-0 humiliation in Week 11. Aside from that I'd maybe give Everton the slight edge at home to Wolves and Sunderland at home to Fulham, but I wouldn't be surprised if both ended as draws. I see Bolton taking 3 points from the Hawthorns with West Brom set to be without Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie & Paul Scharner and Wigan v Blackburn, could go either way depending on who is the least rubbish on the day.
So with all that in mind, these are the players I'm recommending for Week 12.
Being a David De Gea owner continues to frustrate, as Alex Ferguson continues to rest him randomly and without warning, but if you're still holding him around the 5.5 mark then I would encourage you to continue to do so. Despite missing two games and that nightmare -18 dealt out by Man City, he remains the top scoring keeper in the game, so for me it appears to be the sensible thing to do.
If you don't hold DDG at 5ish then you won't want to spend 12+ on him away to Swansea, so I believe you have two alternative options. Either spend 11.54 on the increasingly impressive Brad Friedel who should now have a fully fit Ledley King and William Gallas protecting him against Aston Villa, or take advantage of Asmir Begovic's disastrous score against Bolton and pick him up for less than 6.00 at home to QPR.
It continues to mystify many of us why Fabio Capello does not pick Micah Richards in his England squads given his outstanding form, but alas, he will be fresh and ready to go for Man City this weekend. Thomas Vermaelen returned with a bang in Week 11 with a goal and 21 points, so I'll be hanging on to him @6 for the long term , and Kyle Walker is a fine option at home to Aston Villa if you have a bit of cash to spend on your defence this weekend.
When David Wheater was at Middlesbrough he was being tipped as a future international centre back and after a tough start to his Bolton career he appears to be getting back to something like his best, so he could represent good value if you share my feelings of a Bolton win at West Brom. Wes Brown at home to Fulham at a cost of just 4 is pretty much a no brainer and Jonathan Woodgate is reasonably priced at 5ish if you fancy having a Stoke representative in your back-line.
Norwich v Arsenal is the 12:45 kick-off on Sunday so we should get the line-ups before kick-off, meaning you'll be able to see if you should hang on to that pre-updated Santos (he's not worth full price) or make the switch to the extremely cheap Kieran Gibbs, who is close to returning from injury. Marc Tierney has been really impressive at left-back for Norwich so he could be a decent pick if you're looking to do something different, and finally Wigan captain Gary Caldwell presents a further filler option if you're looking to spend as little as possible.
Van Der Vaart/Bale
There is a slight concern current player of the year David Silva (yes I'd put him ahead of RvP at the moment) may get a rest after travelling to Costa Rica with Spain this week, but we've had those worries before and he always seems to make it back. I'd expect him to play seeing as Newcastle will be a tough game, but there is a chance that James Milner, Samir Nasri and/or Adam Johnson could benefit. We're also unsure on the status of Rafael Van Der Vaart after he picked up a hamstring injury playing for Holland, but he thinks he has a chance and those 2 extra days rest (Spurs play on Monday night) could be vital. If he's fit he's a fantastic option, and he loves scoring against Villa (4 goals in 2 games last season).
Gareth Bale is in his best form since those performances against Inter Milan over a year ago, so he's a perfect alternative if VDV doesn't look like making it back. Nani is also an interesting option, on all set pieces if Ashley Young remains sidelined, as is Frank Lampard who continues to defy his critics and his age by notching up goal after goal, and he has a history of scoring against Liverpool (although he's too expensive at his current price). Meanwhile, Theo Walcott is my pick of the Arsenal midfielders for their trip to Norwich, with his pace a huge asset on the counter attack in game that is likely to be very open.
Chris Eagles was brilliant against Stoke and if you barndoored him @ 8 I'd certainly consider hanging on to him at West Brom, while David Hoilett and Victor Moses (the only bright spots in Blackburn and Wigan's seasons respectively) will be looking to shine in the bottom of the table clash, and could represent good value. Everton's Royston Drenthe is my hunch for the weekend at home to Wolves, Stephane Sessegnon should be be pushed back upfront as a support striker for Sunderland after Connor Wickham's injury, Jamie O'Hara is likely to be doing the same for Wolves after a great performance against Wigan, while Anthony Pilkington will get chances against Arsenal and has proved he is a decent finisher already this season.
A familiar look to the top of strikers list with Sergio Aguero fully recovered from the injury he picked up while on international duty (he came off the bench to score against Colombia on Monday) and I'd expect him to line-up against Newcastle. Whether that'll be alongside Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli remains to be seen, but whoever it is will have a chance of big points. Robin van Persie will be nicely rested after Holland allowed him to fly back to England early and although I can't afford him, I'll be putting a bet on him scoring 2 or more goals at Norwich this weekend - the guy is on fire and as I've mentioned numerous times, I'm expecting a lot of goals in that game.
Emmanuel Adebayor hasn't scored since his brace against Liverpool but he looks a constant menace and it's only a matter of time before he's back on the score-sheet. Javier Hernandez should start at Swansea after Danny Welbeck picked up a muscle injury, and I'd expect Wayne Rooney to be back upfront alongside to ensure the Mexican poacher isn't left isolated. Both men will have chances to score but I slightly favour Chicharito at the lower price. If like me you can't afford Van Persie then Arsenal's Gervinho continues to offer a viable alternative and I'm considering sticking with him for another week.
If you don't want to go with the usual suspects then perhaps consider Chelsea's Juan Mata at home to Liverpool, Stoke's battering ram (and new penalty taker) Jonathan Walters at home to QPR or Sunderland's Nicklas Bendtner at home to Fulham. All three men are priced at 10 or below and could do really well in Week 12.
That's it for the players.
My own team currently looks like this:
De Gea, Brown, Richards, Vermaelen, Drenthe, Eagles, Silva, Van Der Vaart, Gervinho, Adebayor, Aguero
I have 1.92 left in the bank with the above team and I quite like it. Ideally I'd like my keeper and defence to stay as it is, while Eagles, Silva & Aguero will stay barring negative team news. The rest of the team is dependent on whether Van Der Vaart is fit - I hold him at 18 and if he's fit he stays, but if not then I'll be doing some rerranging that could see Drenthe, Gervinho & Adebayor being switched out for alternatives - no idea who yet.
I'll leave it there for now! Please let me know how you're own team is shaping up. Anyone you feel I've missed from the lists above? Are you in Round 3 of The Blog Cup?