The Week Ahead: Fantasy EPL Player Picks for Match Week 8

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A comprehensive look at Match Week 8 in EPL fantasy with a focus on the teams and players with the best match-ups.

Perhaps the hardest thing we do as fantasy managers is separate our overall perception of the teams we're selecting players from (e.g., Manchester City is likely to finish in the Top 3 while West Ham are mid-table at best) with specific things that should guide our fantasy selections (Manchester City and West Ham have conceded the exact same number of goals thus far this season).

The second hardest thing we do is divorce perceptions created in previous seasons like "Liverpool conceded the 3rd fewest goals in the Prem last season" or "Everton has an average offense and an extremely stout/organized defense" from the things that are emerging this season. In fact, Liverpool's defense is below average so far this season. For their part, Everton's defense is solid-but-not-spectacular but their attack is significantly better than average.

It is easy to say that "Manchester City are better than WBA and should be expected to win this weekend". As fantasy managers all that gets us is that we probably shouldn't pick the WBA keeper since to a fantasy manager that says to expect negative points for a loss and at least one goal against. What it doesn't tell us is what we should expect from elsewhere. Is City likely to get a clean sheet and increase the value of their defenders and Joe Hart? How about the WBA attackers? Are they unplayable because their opponent doesn't give up goals?

My point in all of this rambling is that while match-ups are important, it isn't necessarily the overall match-up we should be looking at. We should be looking at things like "West Ham is an average goal-scoring team at home and Southampton ships goals by the boatload on the road" and "Arsenal have given up the second fewest points on their travels so far this season and Norwich are tied for 3rd worst in home scoring". Those statements tell me that I should be interested in West Ham attackers and Arsenal defenders. As a counterpoint, West Ham's defense has been average at home and Southampton's attack has been average on the road doesn't seem quite so inviting.

I am not going to go through all of the permutations here for you but it is worthwhile to check on some of the details before you dive in on a particularly big purchase or go "all in" on a team that seems to have a big advantage. That big advantage in overall perception of quality might differ dramatically from what is likely to happen for your fantasy players.

Forwards

  • Olivier Giroud/Lukas Podolski - This is a pick-your-favorite situation that could even be extended to include Gervinho (finally justified as being listed as a forward in the Yahoo game). There will be points from the Arsenal front line, you just have to guess right. For me, Giroud is the best combination of price and potential.
  • Dimitar Berbatov - Assuming he's healthy, he's a great play at home against Aston Villa.
  • Andy Carroll - Ricardo Vaz Te would have been the better choice here but he's out with an injury so if you want a Hammers forward Carroll is the guy (although Jarvis/Nolan are probably better choices in midfield if you're wary of too much WHU).
  • Nikica Jelavic/Kevin Mirallas - They've both been producing and the match-up at QPR isn't bad at all - witness the Rs 7 goals against at home (and 1 for, just preparing you for later on with that bit).
  • Bryan Ruiz - If Fulham's attack is healthy, this is a great option if you can't afford Berbs.
  • Luis Suarez - You might be able to talk me into this one at home against Reading on the same logic that he killed Norwich but just remember your misery during the last match week before you pull the trigger at his 21+ price point.
Midfielders
  • Santi Cazorla - Continues to be a stud and has a great match-up to boot. Sometimes it's that easy.
  • Shinji Kagawa - The question here is less about whether he'll be United's big scorer and more about where else you can find a decently-priced buy in their line-up and he's one of the few options with Rooney, RvP, Nani, et al under-performing their prices when they all play together. Obviously it is wise to check on his status coming off the international break before you bite. Tom Cleverley is another option here that COULD be worth the money.
  • Steven Pienaar - He's been the consistent performer in Everton's midfield and he should have an even bigger attacking role with Fellaini out.
  • Damien Duff - He's been very effective so far this season - if you can't afford him then Steve Sidwell (sorry Nik) is your cheaper alternative.
  • Kevin Nolan - I like the WHU match-up and Nolan has been Big Sam's most consistent attacking player. Duff? Nolan? What year is this again? Is there a Robert Pires pick coming next?
Defenders
  • Carl Jenkinson - Still reasonably priced and featuring the great match-up discussed in the intro.
  • Other Arsenal Defenders - More attacking upside from Gibbs and Vermaelen but they're also more expensive so I rate them as less attractive choices.
  • Everton Defenders - Remember when I mentioned the 1 goal QPR have scored at home this season? I don't LOVE Everton's defense in general but this might be a time to buy in.
  • Sascha Reither - The best combination of price and potential production in the Fulham defense that features a strong match-up.
  • Rio Ferdinand/Rafael - Like Fulham's defense, I'm not entirely bought in to United's D but with Stoke coming to visit there seems a very solid chance of a clean sheet. Ferdinand is the lowest cost option but Rafael seems like the best bet that comes with upside over and above the CS points.
  • Andre Wisdom - You'll have to monitor the fitness of Liverpool's preferred left backs but if Wisdom is starting, he's a solid bet against Reading at home (and no, I'm not particularly interested in paying top price for Glen Johnson even if Reading is the opponent).
Goalkeepers
  • Vito Mannone - The estimate on Szcz continues to push out (PhysioRoom now has him listed as out until mid-November). This makes Mannone a great choice at 7.33.
  • Jussi Jaaskelainen - He's been having a great run of it and his price is still pretty darn low for the match against Southampton. I know I said I didn't like WHU's defense as much but I like them for the win and Jussi's typical bunch of saves which has been making the CS less necessary.
  • Andres Lindegaard - If there's any tipoff that he'll start, he's a great choice at 8.46.
  • Mark Schwarzer - His price is a little high but you have to like his chances of a CS.
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