The Week Ahead - Boxing Day Edition

Newcastle might be dropping like a stone but this guy isn't. Where would they be without him? (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

The matches just keep on coming don't they? As quickly as we wrap up one match week, we're right on to the next one. As we did this past week, we're going to consolidate three posts (First XI and the two parts of TWA) into one post in an effort to get you the information you're looking for as quickly as possible.

Match Week 17 Wrap-up

  • It feels like the first month of the season again doesn't it? City and United are slicing and dicing opponents and Kun and Rooney are leading the way for their respective teams. The big difference is that United continue to pile up injuries while City seem to have nearly endless depth. The other big difference, and we do mean big, is the absence of Edin Dzeko from the score sheet.
  • Of the next group, you really have to wonder who wants to finish in the Top 4. Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Newcastle are all showing major cracks in their claims for a Champions League spot.
      • Spurs are still leading the way but would have liked to put Chelsea away with a win yesterday that they couldn't quite manage, they're also starting to see the injury list mount.
      • Chelsea looked to have some momentum back after moving on in the Champions League and beating City but consecutive draws with Spurs (not bad for a road match) and Wigan (bad under any circumstances) have put them right back in the mire.
      • Arsenal, as usual, have an injury crisis. It hasn't cost them yet (they were always going to lose @City) but you could see it happening over the next few weeks.
      • Liverpool are a bit of a disaster between the Suarez situation, their reaction to same with the t-shirts and all, and the draw with Wigan. Not a very happy holiday at all on Merseyside.
      • Newcastle make all of the above look in great shape as they start to fall back to earth after their amazing start to the season. Injuries, a thin squad, and an inevitable turnaround in luck have them sucking wind and should have all of us reconsidering how we value their players (except Demba Ba who has continued to be awesome).
  • I think we can officially replace "vs. Wigan" with "vs. Blackburn" in our fantasy thinking. If you make Bolton look good then just about anything is fair game. I wonder if a Best XI from Bolton and Blackburn would be any better than 14th or 15th place in the table. I'm already looking at a long post so if anyone else wants to break it down in a FanPost, I'll be happy to promote it to the main page if it is good.
  • Sunderland also seem to be back to mid-table form. If they can get contributions from Bendtner and Sessegnon until they can try to acquire a solid forward in January, they'll be in good shape and should be considered good fantasy value against bottom half teams going forward.
  • YAHOO HAVE OFFICIALLY REMOVED LIV vs. NUFC FROM THE UPCOMING MATCH WEEK. I'm as disappointed about this as you are. I made specific moves for Match Week 17 (keeping Bellamy) because I thought he'd have a double week coming up and I know that others manipulated their teams looking ahead to this situation. All I can tell you is that the change has officially happened and all you can do is move on the best you can with your team. Direct any comments to the comments section on Yahoo's fantasy blog or to the "Help" section of the game.
OK, enough of the wrap-up and on to the Week Ahead:

The Schedule

  • Liverpool vs. Blackburn - It feels like things are falling apart at Anfield right now but as of this moment, Suarez is still eligible to play and Rovers still stink. Please act accordingly.
  • Man United vs. Wigan - Playing Wigan isn't the pushover it was a month ago but United are just crushing mediocre teams right now so I wouldn't get TOO excited about Wigan's form and it's impact on the Champions.
  • Arsenal vs. Wolves - My big worry here is whether this is the match during the holiday schedule Wenger chooses to rotate some players in an effort for the team not to fall apart further. Arsenal will still likely win but there seems to be some fantasy selection danger possible here.
  • City @ West Brom - Like Wigan, we shouldn't get too excited about the form of a middling team when looking at them in comparison to the Manchester buzz saw. Like the Arsenal match, the question is more about rotation than whether City is likely to win.
  • Chelsea vs. Fulham - Chelsea need a bounce-back and Fulham are rotten on the road, even if the road is a very short one to visit their neighbors.
Forwards
  • Suarez - I'm looking for a big response from the embattled Liverpool hit man and home to Rovers seems a solid place for it.
  • Rooney - He's been in fantastic form and the Boxing Day match-up shouldn't put a barrier in his way.
  • Welbeck - If you can't afford Rooney, he had a nice match against Fulham at a much more affordable price.
  • Bellamy - Liverpool didn't look quite the same with him on the bench for most of the match, you have to figure he'll get a recall for the Rovers match.
  • Gervinho - I'm concerned about RvP getting a rest so I'm recommending the Ivorian who Wenger will try to get the most from before the African Cup of Nations. If anyone knows why Oxlade-Chamberlain isn't getting minutes now in advance of that tournament, please enlighten us because he's certainly better than Arshavin.
  • Sinclair - A strong go-to when Swansea are at home against modest opposition. The way QPR are playing, modest seems about right.
Midfielders
  • Nani/Valencia - With Ashley Young out for a few weeks you have to expect Nani and Valencia will get a chance to continue their respective hot streaks in fantasy. The prices seem to rise with each passing week but the match-up this weekend makes both seem pretty reasonable.
  • Adam - He scored a strong 9.5 despite having a PK saved in mid-week. The only downside to that strong showing is that his price didn't drop much/any as a result. Still, if you have the money to spend and can't get to Nani then Adam is a nice alternative.
  • Drenthe - He's reminding us why Real Madrid went after him in the first place. Everton need any strong attackers they can find so he seems likely to continue starting until he cools or they find other attacking options.
  • Kuyt - If you can't afford Adam/Suarez and are too wary of Bellamy (which is understandable) then Kuyt might be a reasonable option. He's also as likely as anyone to take PKs as just about everyone in a red jersey has missed one for Liverpool this season.
  • Gardner - Shhh, with the change in management he seems to be getting a chance again. Home to QPR seems like a reasonable time for him to get back on the score sheet as well.
  • Milijas - He'll likely see time in the starting line-up until O'Hara returns from injury and with Arsenal playing CBs across the back, he may be a solid bet for a bunch of phantom points at a reasonable price.
  • Spearing - I don't know if he'll start but at 1.01 there's a chance he'll start and be a great enabler now that he's back from suspension.
Defenders
  • Swansea Defenders - They're playing at home which is always a good sign for their value. Rangel is a nice bargain coming off of injury at 7.17. Monk is even cheaper but he hasn't been as effective either.
  • Enrique - If you have money to burn then he's a good bet playing for the best defense in the Premier League at home against it's worst team.
  • Smalling - He isn't TOO expensive and will likely be starting for United against modest opposition at Old Trafford - good combo if you have the money.
  • Verm/Brown/Romeu - I'm most likely keeping all three at discounts and would recommend you do the same for any/all that you have. The first two have been producing great returns and the third certainly has great promise and a solid match-up.
Goalkeepers
  • Reina - Hopefully you have him at a discount but if not, he may be worth spending the big bucks on this time around. He's certainly worth more than any of the high-priced alternatives
  • Vorm - He's at home and tends to rack up big points there. He'll cost you 4+ less than Reina which makes him a strong value in comparison.
  • Szczesny - If you're not willing to spend over 10 on a keeper then Szcz is a nice value play at 9.31. You do have to wonder what Arsenal's chances of keeping a clean sheet are with such a make-shift defense though.
  • Krul - Hard to know what to make of Newcastle after such an ugly run. They're playing away but Bolton is the opposition so getting such a high quality keeper against poor opposition for 4.42 seems like the right way to go if you're trying not to spend big.
I'll do my best to post injury news as it comes in and I see it. If you don't happen to catch that post then I hope all of you have a great holiday no matter what you celebrate and we'll look forward to seeing you back here at the blog for the Boxing Day (and Day-After-Boxing Day) matches.

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