Your fantasy team should have a blue tint to it this weekend. - Laurence Griffiths
The Assistant to the Assistant Manager is back with the fantasy Premier League players to choose in week 18.
The game weeks come thick and fast now. Everyone is subject to rotation to keep them fresh and healthy. With that in mind, your Assistant Assistant Manager is charged with giving you the player picks this round. So let's get to it.
The standout fixture this weekend is Manchester City hosting Reading. Reading looked absolutely clueless against Arsenal on Monday and fantasy managers will be getting on board with the Citizens in hopes that they can repeat the trick. To that end, we have to recommend Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, David Silva, and Yaya Toure. They came up with the points last weekend against Newcastle United and should be value again. Javi Garcia could keep his place, but with Gareth Barry returning, that's not assured. In defence, Vincent Kompany could return meaning Kolo Toure won't be a value pick. Maicon could be worth it if he is picked ahead of Pablo Zabaleta. If you have any insight into that plan, please let us know.
The final Manchester City pick - before we beat this team into the ground - would be Scott Sinclair. With Samir Nasri and Alexander Kolarov injured, Sinclair could start on the left. Alternatively, Silva starts on the left and Maicon plays out of position on the right. That would be something, but that's a real gamble for fantasy picking.
For Liverpool, Raheem Sterling is in need of break, but probably can't be afforded one. Jonjo Shelvey and Steven Gerrard came up big in a losing effort against Aston Villa, and you wouldn't bet on Luis Suarez staying quiet for too long.
Chelsea get Aston Villa this weekend, off their disappointing trip to Japan for the World Club Championship. Will we see a repeat of the David Luiz in midfield experiment? All of your usual suspects here are good bets, though even Fernando Torres is now expensive. One gamble might be Victor Moses, who is still under 8 and getting plenty of playing time these days.
Southampton need to win against the teams around them at the bottom, and that includes Sunderland. The Black Cats looked good against Reading but shipped three goals to Manchester United. Southampton probably falls someone between those two clubs in the form continuum, and have lost a major piece in Adam Lallana, who is injured. Ricky Lambert, Jason Puncheon, and Gaston Ramirez are your safe bets. Jay Rodriguez is the stretch pick, assuming he comes in for Lallana.
Newcastle are faltering, but host Queens Park Rangers. Demba Ba has been a fantasy stud regardless of other's form or health and he would be a good pick again. In the absence of Hatem ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye, Vurnon Anita has looked good and was taking kicks at the weekend. He's still relatively cheap too. Davide Santon is a good entry into the defence if you think Newcastle can keep a clean sheet.
Most of the other matchups are pretty even. Norwich go on the road to West Brom. Earlier in the season West Brom would have been the clear favorites, but their form has dipped as Norwich's has risen. I'm not sure this is the best match for fantasy investment. Nor are Everton (without Marouanne Fellaini) at West Ham, Arsenal at Wigan (these are two wildly inconsistent teams), or Stoke at Tottenham. I'm past the point where I bet on or against Stoke, period.
Manchester United travel to Swansea and there looks to be goals in this one. Your season keepers are in play here - Robin van Persie and Michu - as well as Wayne Rooney. Tom Cleverley looks to have nailed down a midfield spot, but seemingly Rafael and Phil Jones will be rotating at right back for United.
Right now, I'm thinking of gutting my defence to pick up Manchester City players:
Lloris, Ferguson, Fabio, Shorey, Cazorla, Michu, Y Toure, Silva, Tevez, Aguero, Snodgrass
I have Sterling, Vertonghen, and Ba "behind the scenes" so they are options. Snodgrass could also become Lambert. Surely things will change, and we'll keep you up-to-date.