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AM's Week 22 Player Picks

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"He's Got Less Hair, But We Don't Care"
"He's Got Less Hair, But We Don't Care"

I've been mighty busy posting about Week 21 and my barndoor team on Tuesday and calculating The Blog Cup 5th Round results on Wednesday, so I'm going to skip the intro and get straight in to the Week 22 fixtures.

Now I genuinely don't see a stand-out match-up this week as many of the top teams are facing off against each other, while the others are away from home. Despite this there are some games that generate interest.

ALMOST STAND-OUT
CHELSEA @ Norwich
STOKE v West Brom
LIVERPOOL @ Bolton
MAN CITY v Tottenham


Norwich are a great side to watch but they also concede a lot of goals, so in an open game I think Chelsea will have just about enough quality through their attacking players to take 3 points. Stoke have made the Britannia a fortress again this season so I expect them to beat struggling West Brom (probably to nil), while Liverpool have been better away from Anfield so should get back to winning ways at relegation candidates Bolton. Finally, it pains me to say it but I see a Man City win in the battle between 1st and 3rd, with a lack of Adebayor's hold-up play a real dent in Spurs' hopes of pulling off a result.

SHOULD SCRAPE IT

MAN UTD @ Arsenal
SUNDERLAND v Swansea
EVERTON v Blackburn

The Gunners' confidence will not be in a good way after back-to-back league defeats to Fulham & Swansea and their defence is a mess, so I feel Man Utd will nick this one, although I can see goals and therefore good attacking points for both teams. Sunderland were very unlucky at Chelsea and are riding the crest of a Martin O'Neil shaped wave, so their home advantage could be enough to sneak past a Swansea side who aren't the same outside Wales. Blackburn did Steve Kean proud last weekend but Everton tend to grind out results when they need to, so I'm tipping a narrow Toffee win.

TOO CLOSE TO CALL
Fulham v Newcastle
QPR v Wigan
Wolves v Aston Villa


It's hard to predict whether these matches will end in home wins, draws or away wins - I'll probably go for 3 draws in my accumulator and I don't see too many goals, so it could be worth looking at defensive players rather than attackers.

So I'm liking Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City & Stoke followed by Man Utd, Sunderland & Everton, so as I'm sure you've guessed these team's players dominate my Week 22 player recommendations:

KEEPERS
Krul
Kenny

There's a real lack of keeper options this week, which is a pain as fantasy managers search for their DDG replacement. Tim Krul treated his backers with a delightful 22 points last weekend and if you're holding him below 6 then I believe you should keep him for Newcastle's game at Fulham. I have him at 3.85 and he's definitely going to be in net for my Week 22 team.

If you're looking for an alternative then the only real option I can see is QPR's Paddy Kenny. He costs less than 2.00 for a reason (just look at Kenny's / QPR's recent stats / form) but he faces Wigan at home which is hardly the most frightening of propositions.

DEFENDERS
Savic
Kelly
Woodgate
Romeu
Santon
Clark
Wheater
Foley

Stefan Savic should keep his place in the Manchester City defence with Vincent Kompany serving his suspension and is my top defensive pick despite the tough fixture, priced below 6.00. Stephen Kelly appears to have taken the right-back slot at Fulham so he's a fantastic option priced just above 6.00, while Jonathan Woodgate is my pick of the Stoke defenders, who have a great clean sheet chance against West Brom and Oriol Romeu the best value Chelsea defender (player in central midfield of course) for their trip to Norwich.

Davide Santon was compared to Paolo Maldini by Jose Mourinho when at Inter and while he's some way away from that level, he is certainly starting to impress at Newcastle. I have him at 4.66 and suggest you hang on to him if you have him at a similar price, but I'm not sure I'd pay 7.57+ this week. Ciaran Clark is another value pick at just 5.36, playing Wolves and playing in midfield, while David Wheater has a tough game but is another decent pick around 5.50 who scores well without clean sheets (shown by his average of 5 points per game). Finally, Wolves' Kevin Foley has a chance of continuing at full-back and is just 3.44

MIDFIELDERS
Lampard
Dempsey
Larsson
Silva
Gerrard
Etherington
Valencia
Wright-Phillips
Sessegnon
Ramires

Frank Lampard was incredibly lucky to score last weekend and hasn't been at his best this season, but he's still the top goalscoring midfielder in the league, plus these open games suit him perfectly so I reckon he'll grab a goal against Norwich. I also really like Clint Dempsey despite that fact he's facing off against my keeper. He's been Mr Consistent for the past couple of seasons and has the most shots on target of any midfielder, so I'm considering him, as well as Sunderland's set piece expert Sebastian Larsson at home to Swansea.

David Silva will be a threat to Spurs so if you're holding on to him at a big discount you should continue to do so - he remains the 5th highest point scoring midfielder in YFF. Steven Gerrard had a very quiet game against Stoke but he'll be getting fitter every week and I'm expecting a vastly improved return at Bolton, while Matthew Etherington is the clear pick of the Stoke midfielders at home to West Brom. Nani is too expensive so Antonio Valencia remains the best value Man United middie at Arsenal.

Towards the bottom of the list it's our first sighter of Shaun Wright-Phillips for a while after a bright performance at Newcastle last weekend. He was a Mark Hughes signing at Man City and I expect him to flourish under his new QPR boss. Stephane Sessegnon has been exceptional since O'Neil took over at Sunderland so he's a good alternative if you don't fancy / can't afford Larsson, and Ramires will be looking to impress at Norwich now Michael Essien is back and breathing down his neck for a starting spot.

STRIKERS
Donovan
Rooney
Aguero
Van Persie
Sturridge
Bellamy
Crouch
Torres
Helguson

It's not often you'll see an Everton player at the top of the strikers list, but step forward Landon Donovan. He has looked incredibly sharp since returning to Everton, getting forward to support Louis Saha / Victor Anichibe, taking a fair proportion of set pieces ahead of Leighton Baines, plus he faces Blackburn at home and is priced below 8.00 - ruddy marvellous. Had it not been for an outstanding penalty save from Adam Bogdan, Wayne Rooney would've ended up with 20+ points last week and this week he's up against Arsenal's porous defence. He's pricey, but I still regard him as great option.

Sergio Aguero is likely to cause the Spurs defence plenty of trouble and I don't need to go in to detail on Robin van Persie, if you have him at discount then you keep him, even against United. I brought Daniel Sturridge in to my FPL Team last weekend only for him to sit on the bench, but he's fit for the trip to Norwich and is really tempting if you want a Chelsea attacker in your YFF line-up. Another man who sat on the bench in Week 21 is Craig Bellamy, but Liverpool need the 3 points after the dismal showing against Stoke so I think Kenny Dalglish will call on the Welshman to fire them past Bolton.

On the subject of Liverpool's previous opponents, has there ever been a better match-made-in-heaven than Peter Crouch and Stoke? The big man certainly seems to be flourishing since moving in August and he makes the player picks this week with a very winnable home game v West Brom. Fernando Torres makes the list again (just to piss Renegade off) as he appears to be edging back full sharpness and will lead the line against Norwich, and finally (if you're feeling even more risky) this season's surprise package Heidar Helguson is at home to Wigan.

That's it for the players!

We had some midweek FA Cup replays which may 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 which should help clarify any doubts you may be having. Remember that Norwich v Chelsea is the early kick-off on Saturday, so we should get confirmation of the teams before the deadline via Twitter.

As for my own team, it currently looks like this:

Krul, Ayala, Santon, Savic, Larsson, Silva, Van Der Vaart, Gerrard, Dempsey, Donovan, Aguero

I'm fairly pleased with it at the moment but there will be some changes. I'm undecided on Larsson or Etherington and it's very possible that I'll switch Van Der Vaart to Sturridge to get a Chelsea representative in there. That would leave me with around 3.50 to spend on upgrading my defence (ideally to get rid of Ayala). To be honest, I haven't totally given up on the idea of bringing Rooney back in, but that could take some rearranging. No matter what, Krul, Savic, Santon, Gerrard, Silva, Dempsey, Donovan and Aguero will all certainly stay.

That's prety much it. Please visit the NMA Facebook Page HERE and please follow NMA / us on Twitter:

@NMA_Blog

@nikarg

@nealjthurman

@jspitzberg

Let me know how your team is shaping up for Week 22. How did Week 21 go? Are you through to the next round of The Blog Cup?

Cheers, Nik