The Week Ahead: Fantasy EPL Player Picks for Match Week 28

Yeah, I'm a stud, what of it? - Gareth Cattermole

It's North London Derby weekend but the focus of fantasy managers will likely be everywhere BUT North London as Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, and Southampton are far more likely to intrigue.

A few leftover observations from Match Week 27 - specifically about Gareth Bale's incredible Monday performance. So, here's my Bale-centric rundown:

  • On Bale's Second Goal - Wow
  • On Bale's Value - Assuming that Spurs make the Champions League and, in doing so, retain at least SOME chance of keeping Bale this off-season you wonder if his contract offer will approach his value to the team. From what I understand, the Champions League is worth approximately £25 million per year and each place in the Premier League is worth approximately £1 million in prize money. I'll (conservatively) estimate Bale's value to Spurs as 2 to 3 places in the table which is worth £27 to £28 million BEFORE you start factoring in shirt sales, the value of sponsorships (shirt, kit, and others) and the number of times Spurs are on TV. If you were Bale's agent you could easily argue that £20 million/year (that's approximately £400,000/week) is STILL a good deal for Spurs even if it crushes Spurs (and the sport's) wage structure.
  • On Bale's Last Six Weeks - Wow
  • On Bale's Eventual Departure - Regardless of Bale's value to Spurs and their willingness to pay him to that value, it seems likely that he will make his way to a club that has a chance to not only participate in the Champions League but also to win both it and their own domestic competition - something Spurs seem unlikely to achieve regardless of Bale's awesomeness. As a Gooner I should be happy about this but fresh off Arsenal losing RvP under similar circumstances, I do feel for Spurs supporters who are likely to see their best player leave in short order. My hope for them is that he leaves for Spain so that they don't have to see him as regularly lighting up the scoreboard for a disliked rival on a regular basis.
  • On Bale's Improvement Over A Very Good Season Last Year - Wow
  • On Bale's Influence On The Top Four This Season - Given current momentum, you have to like Spurs to finish 3rd. Even when they give a "meh" performance (which they did with a few non-Bale exceptions this past week) Bale has been coming to the rescue. Given that there is a lot of other talent on the Spurs roster you have to expect that there won't be THAT many more calls for Bale to paper over the cracks. You don't get the feeling that either Arsenal or Chelsea have players who are ready to do that on a regular basis for the rest of the season if needed. Juan Mata has been very impressive but I don't get that same killer vibe from him that I get from Bale right now. I KNEW Bale was going to get the winner for Spurs on Monday and while I might have THOUGHT Mata (or Lampard) would do the same for Chelsea if they were in a similar situation neither frightens me in quite the same way right now.
  • On This Weekend's North London Derby - I can't even tell you how frightened I am at the prospect of Bale running at Carl Jenkinson, Bacary Sagna or anyone in Arsenal's central defense. I'm having nightmares and idly wandering whether AVB will let K2 ruin Spurs' chances again by getting another red card early in the match.
Like I said, my thoughts coming off this past weekend were a bit random and a bit focused on one guy. Here are my thoughts on the upcoming week in Premier League Fantasy:

The Schedule
Manchester United at home against Norwich City is the obvious play of the week with the only question/concern being who will be rested for United ahead of the big return match with Real Madrid next Tuesday. To the extent we know who will play for United, we should be loading up.

Elsewhere, Chelsea's match with the Lukaku-less West Brom (he's ineligible to face his parent club) should be at least somewhat interesting as Chelsea will be feeling the pressure to win to create some cushion between themselves and one or both North London teams.

You'd think Manchester City's match at Aston Villa would be tantalizing as well but I worry a bit about City's motivation now that 1) the title seems out of the question; 2) dropping from the Champions League spots would take a massive collapse; 3) no one seems to like Roberto Mancini; and 4) Mancini seems unwilling to play his best forwards when he needs points. Probably me overreacting but this road match feels like a trap.

Everton and Southampton - both at home against Reading and QPR - are also somewhere between moderately and extremely interesting depending on how you're feeling about your handle on the Manchester United starting line-up.

Finally, Liverpool has made a habit of crushing bottom half teams - to the extent that they keep us thinking that they might beat a top half team eventually (I don't count Swansea since they didn't actually play the players who got them into the top half - and Wigan are definitely a bottom half team.

Forwards
  • Luis Suarez - A quick look at Suarez's goal this season in the Premier League reveals that 4 of his 18 goals have been against good teams (again, I'm not counting the one against the Swansea B team last time out). That may sound like an insult but in this case, he's playing a bad team which means he should be ready to get back on track.
  • Jon Walters - He's had a bit of a tragic season but his price is low and he's home to West Ham which seems like a solid time to rebound if you need an enabler. Brek Shea will probably get some play but Walters is the more proven option and before this season that was a good thing.
  • Chicharito - Hard to imagine that he won't get a start, isn't it? His price is reasonable. I'm hurting after taking a chance on Kagawa last weekend when he didn't even see the bench but I'm trying not to overreact.
  • Danny Welbeck - Welbeck is even cheaper and actually has a better record as a starter than Chicharito who tends to crush fantasy managers when he starts (how is a player LESS productive with MORE minutes?). This is a risk but if there is a solid indication that he's going to start in the Friday Team News then you should jump on the opportunity.
  • Sergio Aguero - I'm conflicted here - Kun has been solid this season but he hasn't been up to the standard he set for himself last season. As I said, the fantasy numbers still aren't bad but compared to my expectations, he ends up feeling like a disappointment more often than not. If Tevez were starting, I'd pick him but Aguero seems the more likely to start so he's the safe pick.
  • Juan Mata - Mata has quietly receded a bit as far as fantasy output goes since Frank Lampard has re-emerged as a major factor in Chelsea's attack. Mata only has two double digit fantasy performances since Match Week 20 which isn't the sort of trend you want to see. The trend with Hazard isn't much better (he's had 3 double digit matches since Match Week 12). With Ba and Torres splitting time and what fantasy points there are at the 9 spot, it may be that Chelsea's non-Lampard attackers are just too inconsistent to pay big prices for.
Midfielders
  • Frank Lampard - I didn't count exactly but I'm pretty sure that Lamps has more double digit performances since Match Week 20 (he has 6) than Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Demba Ba, and Fernando Torres combined. Seems like he's the right bet in Chelsea vs. West Brom if you're paying a premium price.
  • Nani - Apparently I'm a week behind the times on this one but Nani's price (12.07) is still reasonable assuming he starts again.
  • Ryan Giggs - He has more than half of his point total for the season over the last two matches - as a decidedly second team option, he seems like a good bet to play again this weekend - the question is whether you think he can extend his renaissance to a third straight match.
  • James Milner - Yaya Toure did no one (other than maybe Roberto Mancini) any favors last weekend by scoring. His price went up and he's not really a consistent scorer. As a result I'm looking for an alternative in City's midfield and Milner is my guy. He played a strong match last weekend but didn't score which means his price is a still very reasonable (9.88).
  • Marouane Fellaini - Last week we gave you Leon Osman over Fellaini because Osman was less expensive - this weekend, after Osman's goal last weekend, the tables are turned and so is our recommendation. Pick Fellaini over Osman against Reading.
  • Adam Lallana - He's back, his price is back to being pretty reasonable, and the opposition is terrible. Seems like a solid combination.
  • Philippe Coutinho - The goal against Swansea was a bummer (because his price went up) but he's still reasonably cheap and a nice enabler if you need one.
Defenders
  • Vincent Kompany / Kolo Toure - Aston Villa don't exactly have a prolific attack so if Kompany is healthy again, he seems like a solid option at 8.75 with Kolo Toure being the alternative at an even lower price if the City captain isn't ready to resume action.
  • Luke Shaw - QPR are a disaster and Shaw is a young player on the rise. At 7.95, Shaw seems like a solid option this weekend.
  • Geoff Cameron - If you're buying at retail you could do worse than a defender who was playing much higher up the formation last weekend. It didn't lead to much of anything but this weekend Stoke are home which should help.
  • Mathieu Debuchy - Last weekend he showed some signs of adjusting a bit with a bunch of phantom points and no yellow cards. He still commits a lot of fouls but the price is reasonable to take that risk.
  • Marc Wilson - If you need an enabler under 4.00 who is likely to start, he's about all that's available.
Goalkeepers
  • Artur Buroc - He's cheap and playing at home to QPR - expectations should still be modest but if you want to spend elsewhere then he can help you with that with only a small chance of disastrous results.
  • Asmir Begovic - A little more expensive but basically the same proposition as Buroc - solid team at home against bad opponent.
  • Juusi Jaaskelainen - He was really good against Spurs (he got 11 points despite conceding 3 goals and getting the loss) and my guess is that Stoke won't be as good.
  • Petr Cech - But only if you have money to burn.
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