I'd love to write in detail about the shock exits of the two Manchester clubs from the Champions League tonight, but I've recently been promoted at work, which (while great news) has meant my workload had increased massively. This means my lunch-breaks are now non-existent and my commute in to London has increased by an hour each way, so less time in the evenings. For that reason I'm cutting my intro and getting straight in to the nitty gritty of the fantasy world.
As always we start with the fixtures. Week 15 is the 15th single week in a row, but fear not, as next week (Week 16, which is the 4th Round of The Blog Cup) will be our first double week of the season, and double weeks can turn your season round in a flash if you get them right. However, for now we're concentrating on this weekend:
MANCHESTER UNITED v Wolves
LIVERPOOL v Queens Park Rangers
ARSENAL v Everton
Three comfortable home wins predicted here with lots of attacking points available. Man United usually react well to disappointments and I expect them to take things out on Wolves, Liverpool will be too good for QPR at Anfield and Arsenal are on a roll.
TOTTENHAM @ Stoke City
WEST BROM v Wigan Athletic
SUNDERLAND v Blackburn Rovers
MANCHESTER CITY @ Chelsea
Spurs' confidence is flying and their pace should be too much for Stoke, West Brom face awful Wigan at home and need the 3 points, Sunderland will be lifted by Martin O'Neil's arrival and should defeat Blackburn, while I see Man City's extra quality being enough to snatch the weekend's big game at Stamford Bridge, which will help them recover from their Champions League disappointment.
Bolton Wanderers v Aston Villa
Norwich City v Newcastle
Swansea City v Fulham
Bolton could edge Villa but I think a score-draw is the most likely result, Newcastle have a defensive crisis so I think Norwich can gain a vital point, while Swansea v Fulham could easily end nil-nil.
As I've said for weeks, it's not worth bringing in David De Gea at almost 12 because of this ongoing risk of rotation with Anders Lindegaard, but @5.5 (as I hope most of you hold him at) he's a season keeper in my opinion. You'll take the occasional zero but he is currently topping the total points for GKs despite playing 2-3 games less than all other regular numbers 1's and has a nice home game against Wolves. Lindegaard will probably take over all Europa League games now anyway, which should mean more league starts for DDG.
There are a couple of decent alternatives this week; the first is Swansea's Michel Vorm, who has dropped below 7.00 after conceding 4 goal at Blackburn and has a home game against Fulham. There is also the option of Sunderland's Keiren Westwood who has impressed since being thrown in and can be picked up at the bargain price of 5.05 at home to Blackburn.
There are some fantastic defensive bargain available this week, but lets start slightly higher up the price scale. Thomas Vermaelen is now very expensive but he has scored in consecutive weeks and continues to look a massive threat every time he goes forward. I am extremely pleased I'm holding him at just 6 and I'm confident of either a clean sheet, or another goal (or both) against Everton.
Liverpool defenders are all costing double figures with the exception of Daniel Agger, so if you want to cover the possible clean sheet at Anfield then I have a hunch he could be worth a punt; he's definitely due a goal too. Wes Brown has gone points crazy in recent weeks making owners of him @3 very happy indeed. He's still worth a look at home to Blackburn seeing as he's blocking shots for fun and popping up with the odd shot on target, and Chris Smalling is also a good option, almost certain to start now Nemanja Vidic is out with a knee injury.
Dedryck Boyata is back and represents fanastic value at 3.15 for Bolton's home game against Aston Villa, Neil Taylor is the best value Swansea defender for their match against Fulham and Nicky Shorey is the cheapest West Brom defender priced below 6 and with a clean sheet very possible at home to Wigan. Finally, James Perch is going to be required to start for Newcastle now Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini are injured, so he's another bargain available at just 3.30.
Young / Valencia
Nani played 90 minutes tonight but remains Man United most dangerous midfielder, and I can't see the big names being rested now - United need to win every game to catch City. Gareth Bale is in "Inter Milan" form and is sure to give Stoke a torrid time, Charlie Adam is on almost all set pieces in Steven Gerrard's absence, and probably penalties too for Liverpool at home to QPR, while Ashley Young or even Antonio Valencia could be superb options, depending on who gets the nod this weekend. I have a feeling it could be the the bargain Valencia as Young's form has definitely dropped in the past month.
Sebastian Larsson is another man on set pieces and penalties for Sunderland, despite his miss at Wolves, and David Silva remains a top pick despite a tough fixture; did you see the touch and volley tonight? World Class. The enigma that is Bolton's Chris Eagles is due a decent score and he'll have a good chance of that at home to Aston Villa, with Aaron Lennon also on my radar, terrorising Stoke on the opposite flank to Bale and looking really sharp at a very reasonable price.
Less obvious picks are Stephane Sessegnon at home to Blackburn and possibly reverted back to his role supporting the striker, Chris Brunt on penalties, set pieces and facing Wigan, Anthony Pilkington pushing forward against a Newcastle side with a defensive crisis, and Barry Bannan, back in Villa's starting line-up and also taking set pieces, priced below 6.00.
Robin van Persie is now too expensive at current cost, but if you're holding him for 26 or below then you should continue to do so with a home game against Everton. Luis Suarez has been charged by the FA but he has until Monday to answer the charge, so he will be available this weekend and he's due a goal or two at home to QPR, while Emmanuel Adebayor's pace is going to cause the lumbering Stoke central defenders all sorts of problems.
Danny Welbeck was on the bench last night but with Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen all injured he should start against Wolves, and he is the bargain of the week at just 7.37. When you can pay that price for a Manchester United striker I simply can't recommended spending big on Wayne Rooney, but I wouldn't shy away from pay 16ish for Demba Ba at Norwich. He was excellent against Chelsea last Saturday and should've scored, so expect another dominating performance.
Like United, Manchester City will now concentrate on the league, which means the big names should start most league games, and Sergio Aguero is looking fitter and sharper as each week passes, so he's still a great option at Stamford Bridge. Gervinho continues to improve and is the top choice if you want an Arsenal attacker but can't afford RvP, Shane Long faces Wigan at home, while Steve Morison is in a scoring run and is up against that broken Newcastle defence.
That's it for the players. We have of course just had two nights of tough Champions League action which may well have led to some injuries that are yet to be reported, so please ensure you check back here on Friday for all the important team, injury and suspension news.
As for my own team, it's currently this:
De Gea, Boyata, Brown, Vermaelen, Bannan, Eagles, Silva, Nani, Adebayor, Gervinho, Aguero
with almost £6m left in the bank.
My keeper and defence will stay as is, but I need a Liverpool presence, so I'll bring in Suarez if he's available, either for Gervinho or Aguero, or perhaps look to get Charlie Adam in somewhere. I'm also considering Sessegnon, Lennon & Brunt instead of Eagles in midfield. Decisions will be made closer to the deadline.
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Please let me know how your team is shaping up for Week 15!
p.s. A reminder that if you're a follower of Never Manage Alone, please feel free to add (@NMA_Blog) to your Yahoo team name so that we'll be able to identify fellow blog readers who make it on to the leaderboard. I've kicked things off by changing my team name to AM FC (@NMA_Blog) - hopefully we can see a few NMA teams in the Top 50 this season!