This is what Neal wants to see from his new fantasy crush now that he's not playing against Arsenal. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)
I'm sure you all saw the daunting introduction to Part 1 of The Week Ahead. Hopefully you enjoyed it even if it was slightly off-topic for a fantasy column (since when are my intros NOT off-topic by at least a little bit?). In an effort to give your eyeballs a bit of a rest and make sure I'm not distracting you from your work, friends, family, studies, or whatever else constitutes the things you should be attending to day-to-day before you get to your fantasy team, I'm going to keep the intro to Part 2 brief. So much so that this is it. One paragraph. Good thing I don't get paid by the word.
Without further ado:
- Wayne Rooney - Roonaldo loves tormenting Arsenal and his physical brand of playing forward seems tailor-made to make Per Mertesacker's life miserable. With so many other premium forwards having difficult match-ups and/or being unavailable for other reasons (suspension, ACN, etc.) Rooney seems like the guy to me.
- Craig Bellamy - With Liverpool having had a break in mid-week the Welshman's chances of starting seem likely to have gone up. The dire attacking performance against Stoke last weekend only increases his chances. Certainly not a 100% lock to start but he's been productive when he has and he seems far more likely to reward than disappoint.
- Landon Donovan - Everton have a nice match-up and if you need a cheap option at forward then he's a great bet. As has been pointed out elsewhere on the site, he's NOT likely to get you a brace and 25 points but at a cost of 7+ he's very likely to produce value. Don't go overboard with your love but if you want a premium midfielder (Dempsey? Lampard? Bale? VDV?) at the expense of a premium forward then Donovan is a nice option.
- Jon Walters - He's been up and down which makes him a difficult choice but his price is lower than Crouch and his production has been more consistent. Another nice mid-priced option with a great match-up that may enable other things and still have the opportunity for a great return.
- Fernando Torres - For those who don't by my analysis that Chelsea may struggle at Norwich but choose to focus on the fact that Torres was THIS CLOSE to a breakthrough last weekend you could do worse at his current price. I'm sure we'll hear the "Norwich hasn't kept a clean sheet yet this season" chorus as the primary reason that you should like Torres' chances.
- Seb Larsson - He's expensive but I'd imagine that many of you are looking for expensive midfielders to fill the gaps left by Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart who are tough to keep at Manchester City. Larsson is at home against a Swansea team that has been bad on the road. The Swans seem to be improving all-around so I'm not incredibly bullish on the match-up but Larsson has been pretty consistently in limiting the downside and has had some exceptional matches.
- James McClean - If you don't have the money for Larsson and want a productive option for close to half the price in midfield.
- Steven Gerrard - Great match-up, he's had some rest, and the price isn't too high. Hard not to like him in this situation.
- Frank Lampard - You know, in case he gets hit in the knee with the ball and it bounces into the net again.
- Gylfi Sigurdsson - Now that he's not playing Arsenal I can officially declare him among the new crop of soccer crushes currently playing for Swansea (joining Vorm, Rangel, and Graham) AND we didn't get to see what is rumored to be a rocket of a shot in the second half last weekend. If you haven't already, get on-board
- Stephen Ireland - A solid match-up (albeit away from home) for the reborn attacking midfielder. I'm not sure what has happened over the last month or so but he seems to be a different guy that contributed virtually nothing over his first 18 months at Villa.
- Gary Caldwell - @QPR isn't the worst away match to bet on an enabler even if that enabler plays for Wigan. He returned value at the current price against Chelsea last weekend. Just saying.
- NOT Ayala - I hope you've all learned your lesson.
- Oriel Romeu - I don't believe in the Chelsea clean sheet at Norwich but if you do, he's a cheap way to get in on it.
- Philippe Senderos - Quietly having a good season for Fulham at a very reasonable price. A nil-nil outcome at the Cottage isn't out of the question.
- Davide Santon - He's been coming around as well. Tough to take him on the road but this price isn't bad at all.
- Marc Wilson - My guess is that Stoke have the highest probability of a clean sheet at home against West Brom and Wilson is a reasonable way to get in on that action.
- Shane Duffy - For those wondering about the Everton man (OK, kid), he'd be a great option this week BUT Yahoo doesn't have him in their system despite the fact that he was involved in the match last week. Definitely a bummer as Heitinga isn't exactly cheap anymore. If anyone at Yahoo is reading, get to it.
- Tim Howard - THo's price has crept up a bit but the match-up is a solid one and it makes him worth considering.
- Pepe Reina - For a small bump in price over Howard you could go to another great match-up and the other Merseyside keeper. For all their attacking failures, Liverpool have been good at the back this season.
- Paddy Kenny - Home to Wigan is a solid time to take a risk on someone and when he costs 1.39 that makes it much easier.
- Simon Mignolet - Despite my growing Swansea love I can't deny the recent history that shows their attacking futility on the road. Mignolet is pretty expensive but he might be the beneficiary of said futility.