The Week Ahead: Fantasy EPL Player Picks for Week 36

If you can't afford Bale... - Michael Regan

There are double matches all over the place - but no triple for Chelsea despite earlier listings on the Yahoo game - as the season winds down. For me, it's all about match-ups and the motivation of each club given the late stage of the season.

How can I tell that the season is drawing to a close? Let me count the ways:

  • Arsenal are on a long unbeaten streak
  • Harry Redknapp is close to bankrupting a team headed for the Championship
  • Spurs are on the verge of giving away a large lead and not having a spot in the Champions League
  • There are rampant rumors that Jose Mourinho will be making a move
  • Liverpool are giving their supporters hope for next season that will ultimately come to nothing
  • There's a lower division forward (in this case Christian Benteke) making a push for a big money transfer where it is very likely he'll end up being a disappointment
  • Wigan look sure to be relegated (will it actually happen this time?)
  • (and I'm sure) Somewhere in a pub league Mark Viduka has scored consecutive hattricks because it's THAT time of year and he still thinks someone might come in with big money for him over the summer.
Just about the only thing that makes me wonder if the season is REALLY winding down is that there's no inevitable process beginning whereby Arsenal's best player is lured away by the combination of more money and the chance to win something. Maybe that particular curse is impossible this season because Arsenal lack the required stud player. Maybe the curse has just moved a bit down the road to the other side of North London. Maybe both.

Regardless, those are the rights of spring that seem common to recent Premier League seasons. Feel free to add your own observations to the list in the comments section.

In the meantime, here are my thoughts on a weekend that sees Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea, Swansea, Wigan, and West Brom all play two matches. Here's a quick breakdown of how the schedule treats each:
  1. Spurs (SOU, @CHE) - Sort of a big week for Spurs, huh? Their need to play their best line-up plus the home match against Southampton is enough to make their players interesting. Whatever points are won in the match at Stamford Bridge will just be a bonus.
  2. Chelsea (@MAN, TOT) - They are desperate for points which means they'll play their best line-up (although I'm not sure Rafa knows what that is). The problem here is that the schedule is brutal so don't over commit to the Blues.
  3. Manchester City (@SWN, WBA) - Oh, if they only had something to play for but they don't. The risk here is rotation ahead of the FA Cup Final which is their only remaining match of any consequence.
  4. West Brom (WIG, @MAC) - They're alone on an island in the table separated from the place above them and below them by six points each so unless something crazy happens they'll be finishing 8th. The match-ups are solid but we're all living in fear of Lukaku being benched in favor of someone more likely to be with the Baggies next season.
  5. Swansea (MAC, @WIG) - The match-ups wouldn't preclude you from investing but the Swans seem to have been on cruise control since they won the League Cup and secured their place in the Prem for next season.
  6. Wigan (@WBA, SWN) - They will need to go crazy to stay up and while that seems improbable they've pulled it off for a few seasons running now so hard to bet against it. As a bonus, the schedule features two teams that really don't care much about what happens between now and the end of the season. It could be the perfect storm for the Latics to survive again.
With those thoughts in mind:

Forwards
  • Demba Ba/Eden Hazard - Juan Mata has been slumping so for my money it is a coin flip between the other two relevant Chelsea forwards.
  • Jermain Defoe - I'm still bitter about having him last weekend but it is hard to argue against picking him this week.
  • Romelu Lukaku - I am mildly concerned that he might be rested but not so much so that I wouldn't pick him. He's the premium-priced player to have this weekend not named Gareth Bale.
  • Callum McMannaman - How nice was that goal last weekend? If you need an enabler his price is creeping up but he's still very affordable.
Midfielders
  • Samir Nasri - I didn't recommend any City forwards because I'm concerned about rotation but I think Nasri will get the chance to continue his string of strong performances. Even Roberto Martinez isn't dumb enough to chance that hot streak going cold on him, is he?
  • Gareth Bale - The only question is whether you can afford it.
  • Frank Lampard - Rafa HAS to start him in both matches, doesn't he? Assuming you're in agreement then he's a great back-up plan if you can't afford Bale.
  • Aaron Lennon - He should be recovered and restored to his starting spot at a reasonable price.
  • Tom Huddlestone - I'm very excited for the day he transfers somewhere that he'll play regularly (rumors are that it will happen this summer) but with Dembele a question, there's a chance THud will play two as an inexpensive enabler with high potential.
  • Graham Dorrans - With Chris Brunt seemingly out, Dorrans is a nice option as an enabler with at least some potential.
Defenders
  • Michael Dawson - Spurs haven't had much luck keeping clean sheets recently and Dawson isn't a points machine outside of that but his price makes him an essential addition this weekend.
  • Kyle Naughton/BAE - The problem is that they've been rotating on the left side of the defense which makes no one happy. Still, the prices are reasonable on both so it wouldn't be the worst idea to take a flier in hopes that he starts one and gets substantial substitute minutes in the other.
  • Vincent Kompany - It seems likely he'll continue to play and (unlike Nastasic) not be subject to rotation.
  • Cesar Azpilicueta - The match-ups make this a tough add to your roster but still worth thinking about.
  • Paul Scharner - The price is reasonable for two Paul Sharner lottery tickets. He hasn't been great in this incarnation but it has worked in the past so...
  • Billy Jones - Do you have the b@lls to gamble on him twice in three weekends?
Goalkeepers
  • Hugo Lloris - I hate this recommendation but it's hard not to make it if you know what I mean.
  • Joe Hart - Don't you wish Pantilimon were getting a late-season run? At least Hart's price has come down to a fairly reasonable (for two-match purposes) 11.78.
  • Joel Robles - An interesting alternative to Lloris at the low end of the price spectrum given his match-ups.

And everyone please make sure to with Nik a happy honeymoon in the comments section. We hope he's enjoying May more than Spurs are :-)

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