The Week Ahead: Fantasy EPL Player Picks - Week 5

OK, who can pick the stud fantasy defender out of this trio? (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

My apologies to the readers out there who enjoy my lengthy introductions and rants but I'm still adjusting to being a new parent and trying to figure out how to juggle parenting duties, visitors wanting to see Charlie, work, the blog, and everything else with a minimum of restful sleep. I'm sure my wife and I will settle into a reasonable rhythm soon enough - especially after the volume of visitors tails off - but for now it means there's a little less time for writing at length.

Here are a few thoughts about three teams that people seem to be interested in for reasons I don't understand:

Fulham - People seem to have VERY short memories. Berbs scores a brace and all of a sudden the assumption is that they're competent on the road. Wigan isn't great but they've proven scrappy at home and there are years of results across players and managers showing us that Fulham will disappoint on the road.

Southampton - Both Nik and Jeremy have indicated some affinity for the Saints going into this weekend and I'm at a bit of a loss as to why. Aston Villa seems to be getting things together and while Southampton played well against both Manchester teams, they've also laid two eggs against Arsenal and, more tellingly, at home against Wigan in Week 2. Unless you're going with "they can't lose them all and I'm betting this is their week" (which is always dangerous) then I'm not sure I see the logic in making an investment here.

Newcastle - It really hasn't clicked for them yet this season. If the officials were doing their jobs then they would have lost by a goal or two to Everton on Monday leaving them 1-1-2 on the season with the one win being against a Spurs team that was equally out of sorts. Norwich certainly hasn't been great either but don't let the stink of their opening day blowout loss to Fulham linger after 3 straight credible performances (all draws). There's a CHANCE Newcastle gets it together and wins this match but it is based more on recollections of Newcastle from last season rather than any evidence that we've seen this year.

OK, on to the player picks...

Forwards

  • Eden Hazard - Presumably Juan Mata will be back to provide a foil for the passing game. The only worry is that Stoke bullies Chelsea the way QPR did last weekend.
  • Jermain Defoe - He's been scoring even when Spurs haven't been playing well and at home against a modest-but-improving QPR side seems likely to keep the momentum going.
  • Romelu Lukaku - Obviously we'd like to see some evidence that he's going to start with Odemwingie out - the safer pick might be Shane Long if there isn't a definitive statement from Steve Clarke on who will start.
  • Nikica Jelavic - Kevin Mirallas was active against Newcastle but Jelly was his typical threatening self and with Swansea likely to continue to struggle at the back, it seems likely there will be goals both ways.
  • Franco di Santo - He's quietly been pretty effective despite not being a big name or playing for a strong attacking team plus I'll refer back to the "Fulham on the road" thing above.
  • Dimitar Berbatov - Long-time readers will remember the Berb-o-meter from a few years back as a tool we used to try to predict when the Bulgarian would score. High scores usually related to being at home against poor opposition. It will be interesting to see how things work at Fulham where there will be fewer match-ups with completely outclassed teams. Just remember that Berbs hates us all. He scores big and then goes dormant just long enough for everyone to be frustrated and ditch him at which point he scores another hattrick.
Midfielders
  • Marouane Fellaini - He should have scored on Monday but for an incorrect offside call and the goal would have seen him continue his strong start to the season. Combine that with the fact that Swansea appear to be susceptible down the middle at least until Chico returns from suspension and you have the cocktail for a player recommendation.
  • Michu/Nathen Dyer - I think there will be goals both ways in this match and these two guys have been at the center of whatever strong attacking Swansea have done.
  • James Morison - I always have a hard time picking him because he's always just looked a little funny out there on the pitch but there's no denying his fantasy performances or the match-up.
  • Santi Cazorla - He just keeps bringing the awesome.
  • Shinji Kagawa - What, you thought I was going to recommend Paul Scholes after his goal last weekend? This is something of a make-or-break weekend for Kagawa as a consistent presence in your line-up but he's looked good when he's had the chance and you feel like he'd have been in the middle of it all if he hadn't been rested last weekend.
  • Moussa Dembele - You have to like the match-up combined with another of the few bright lights for Spurs so far this season.
  • Gaston Ramirez - He put up 5.5 fantasy points in 45 minutes of action so if you have to get on the Southampton bandwagon then he's the value play assuming he starts this week.
Defenders
  • Gareth McAuley - He's having a great season and has a great home match-up - the only question is whether you can afford him.
  • Nemanja Vidic - His price is still reasonable and he's a more certain starter than new boy Alex Buttner despite Buttner's strong debut.
  • Branislav Ivanovic - Another expensive one but the downside for Chelsea in this match seems to be a nil-nil draw which means that Ivanovic should be a good bet for defending and CS points so long as he avoids being carded.
  • Guy Demel/Winston Reid - They've been piling up the fantasy points and are both priced reasonably despite that fact - I don't believe the Hammers will get a 3rd consecutive clean sheet but I didn't believe they would get either of the first two either.
  • Jan Vertonghen - QPR are the lowest scoring team in the Prem thus far with only two goals in four matches so if Spurs are going to get a CS then this would seem to be the time.
Goalkeepers
  • Petr Cech - I've been rotten at picking goalkeepers so far this season so I'm reverting to a "premium" player on a "premium" team and hoping for the best.
  • Ben Foster - He's the right pick from a match-up standpoint but if you're choosing a keeper from a mid-table team (even one playing at home to a newly promoted side in modest form) you'd like to pay less for him than Foster's 11.20 price tag.
  • Brad Friedel - Do you have the b@lls to pick him against QPR? I don't think I do.
  • Ali Al-Habsi - There aren't many inexpensive keepers yet this season but of those priced less than a "new to the league" keeper he's the best bet at 6.58 at home against Fulham.
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