Nicky's a Shore thing for Week 16 - Paul Gilham
An early look at who you should be considering for your Week 16 fantasy line-up, as Sunderland and Reading play twice and the 4th Round of The Blog Cup rolls in to town.
As I've mentioned countless times in the past, I really don't like double weeks when only two teams have two games, especially when they are two of the most unrewarding fantasy points producers in the Premier League. Unfortunately Week 16 brings us such a scenario, with Sunderland and Reading playing twice and all other teams playing once. Sunderland have a two home games, Reading face two away games.
Sunderland - Chelsea (home), Reading (home)
Reading - Southampton (away), Sunderland (away)
These aren't particularly exciting fixtures given the form of both teams, but as we've seen many times in the past something strange can (and often does) happen in double weeks, with players who have previously done very little putting up big scores out of nowhere via unexpected goals or surprise clean sheets. Sunderland have the quality to grab 4 vital points from their two home fixtures but whether they can actually raise their performance levels to achieve this is another matter. Reading could easily lose both their matches but they do have some attacking options (and a certain Mr. Shorey) capable of scoring fantasy points in defeat.
There aren't many (any?) stand-out fixtures for the single-game teams, so with this in mind I'd suggest grabbing a fair selection of 'double gamers' but I'd also suggest you keep your key players held at discount. It is worth keeping in mind that Chelsea and Southampton do not play in Week 17, so this could influence your decisions on who to hold and who to get rid of.
And did I mention that Week 16 is the 4th Round of The Blog Cup?
Well, it is, so we'll be reducing the remaining 904 teams down to 600 ready for the 5th Round in Week 20. I'll leave it up to you to decide if you want to adjust your strategy to boost you chances of staying in the competition, but remember it's just a bit of fun and overall rankings / winning your private leagues should be always be your focus.
On the subject of the single game teams, I would expect Southampton to beat Reading (as mentioned above), Swansea to beat Norwich and Wigan to sneak past win-less QPR, but aside from a possible Arsenal revival at home to West Brom there really isn't a lot to get excited about from a fantasy stand-point. However, I am really looking forward to Sunday's fixtures - Spurs travel to Everton and we have a potentially epic Manchester derby to look forward to between the league's top two clubs.
Here are the players worth considering for Week 16 ...
Mignolet - A quality keeper with two home games against an out-of-form and under-pressure Chelsea side followed by Reading. Far more sensible than considering Federici.
Al Habsi - He's dropped a couple of clangers recently but a home fixtures against QPR cannot be ignored.
Lloris - Listed here not for his fixture against Everton, but because the vast majority of our blog readers will be holding Hugo Lloris at 2.09. I wanted to make clear that at that price he's a long term hold now he's cemented his place at AVB's number 1 keeper over Big Brad Friedel.
Shorey - Nicky Shorey must be in your team. I'm not recommending any other Reading defenders as he covers the possible clean sheet/s as well as providing a plethora of attacking points via his excellent crosses and set pieces.
Cuellar - Actually playing very well despite Sunderland's struggles, the big central defender is a threat from set pieces and if you consider his 2 game average is 14.50 points then he's probably worth his high price.
Bardsley - Big Phil is the only other Sunderland defender fit and guaranteed a start, currently in possession of the captain's arm-band.
Kelly - Fulham's reserve right back could replace Riether after the latter was carried off injured inside 30 minutes against Spurs. A potential bargain at 3.56.
Piscu - A bargain option guaranteed a start for Wigan with Figueroa and Caldwell both suspended.
Vertonghen - If you're holding Jan Vertonghen below 6.00 he's probably worth keeping. He's a goal threat and Spurs are finally starting to look more solid in defence, although I don't expect a clean sheet at Everton.
Johnson - AJ is showing signs of the form that made him an England and Manchester City regular back in 2011 and seems to have stolen a fair proportion of Seb Larsson's set pieces so he's my pick of the double-game midfielders.
Sessegnon - Sess badly let me down in Week 14 but he's playing a support-striker role so I still feel he's worth considering for the double week.
Robson-Kanu - I've been impressed by the young Welsh star who is adding a decent number goals to his wing trickery. He's my favourite pick from the Reading midfielder options.
Gardner - With Lee Cattermole out with a knee ligament injury there's an extended opportunity for Craig Gardner to regain a regular starting spot and he's doing okay so far with 2 goals in his last 3 games. He's taking a lot of free kicks in and around the area, further decreasing Larsson's value (hence why he's missing from my picks).
McAnuff - Reading's captain is less likely to score than Robson-Kanu but his chance creation rate is up there with the best and he already has 4 assists to his name this season.
Rose - A midfielder playing in defence, but Danny Rose is picking up enough misc points to make him a viable option. He's the most fouled player in the Premier League don't you know.
Michu - Has a good fixture at home to Norwich and is a no-brainer at any sort of discount; I just wish I'd realised that a month ago.
Cazorla - Continues to return fantastic phantom points despite Arsenal's struggles. But everyone has him.
Lallana - Strong fixture and he's having a fine fantasy season. I'm jealous of all of you holding Adam Lallana below 7.00; it's just a shame you'll need to take a zero for Southampton's blank Week 17 if you see him (as you should) as a season keeper.
Fletcher / Wickham - Sunderland's main goal threat Fletcher is a 'must-have' if he's fit but was substituted early with an ankle injury against Norwich. If he's out then Connor Wickham should replace him with Louis Saha struggling for fitness as usual.
Le Fondre - Seems to have cemented his place as Reading's first choice striker after a run of goals and impressive performances and of course he plays twice.
Giroud - If you've hung on to him until now you may as well give him another the chance at home to West Brom.
Berbatov - He's had a few quiet weeks but his quality cannot be argued and Newcastle are still struggling with injuries to key players.
Lambert - Southampton's talisman is having a terrific first season in the Premier League and will be on penalty duty against a leaky and often clumsy Reading defence.
Kone - The Wigan front-man is still well priced below 10.00 and faces rock bottom QPR.
That's it for the players. Please check back here at NMA on Friday for all the team and injury news as there's bound to be plenty of injury fall-out from the midweek Champions League and Europa League ties.
This is what I currently have on my Yahoo team page...
Lloris, Vertonghen, Cuellar, Shorey, Robson-Kanu, Gardner, Cazorla, Michu, A.Johnson, Le Fondre, Fletcher
3-5-2 formation with 7 double gamers but I have 8 million left in the bank so I expect one of my midfielders to become a striker - possibly Dimitar Berbatov - and we all need to keep an eye on Fletcher's injury.
How's your team shaping up?