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The Week Ahead - Chelsea Comeback Edition

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Not a good fantasy choice this week but definitely the most interesting story.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Not a good fantasy choice this week but definitely the most interesting story. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Quite an interesting couple of matches for the Blues. Sure, I was thrilled to see Arsenal win it late against Newcastle for their 5th straight win. It was also instructive for fantasy managers to be reminded of why the double week has value - as angry as Liverpool "investors" were after their terrible weekend match with Sunderland the magic of having two goes at it came through for Gerrard, Suarez, and others after the big 3-0 win in the Merseyside Derby. Despite all of these interesting story lines, the major story of the week has been Chelsea's two matches in the post-AVB era.

The weekend match against Stoke was uninspired at best but they got the necessary 3 points from it. Today's Champions League win was far more impressive and brought with it a big boost of momentum as it recommended a big comeback from one of the two ditches carved out in the latter stages of the AVB regime. The big question will be whether they can keep the momentum going next match week when they head to the Etihad Stadium to take on Roberto Mancini's newly-second place City team. I'm not particularly interested in investing in that match from either side but it will certainly make for incredibly interesting viewing next Wednesday.

As far as investment-worthy matches this coming Match Week there are a few obvious answers:

Manchester United @ Wolves - Wolves are struggling mightily and United are both getting healthier and gaining momentum. If that doesn't scream "all in" to you, then I'm not sure what would.

Spurs vs. Stoke - This is a tough call. Stoke have beaten only Wolves and Rovers on the road since December 4th. Spurs. Given Spurs place in the table, you'd think that would make this a no-brainer investment in Spurs but I'm a little hesitant because Spurs have only the one big win against Newcastle since the calendar exited January. Hard to know how excited to get about this one.

Liverpool @ QPR - The big win over Everton makes Liverpool players a bit pricey if you're buying at retail. For those who are still carrying some of the Reds, the prospect of playing the floundering Rs, even on the road, has to be at least somewhat enticing. I'm still not over some of Liverpool's pre-Everton results which means I'll at least be somewhat restrained here.

West Brom @ Wigan - Tough to go with three away teams as my favorites this week but West Brom, despite the loss to Manchester United, have been playing well and Wigan, to be charitable, have not. The clean sheet for the Baggies seems like a tough ask but 3 or 4 goals don't seem out of reach if their attacking mojo carries over from two weeks ago.

As we look out a little farther beyond this week, it is worth noting the following:

  • United Cake Walk - It doesn't get much easier than Manchester United's next 5 matches - @Wolves, Fulham, @Blackburn, QPR, @Wigan, and Aston Villa. That's 5 of the bottom 6 and the team (Fulham) tied for the worst away points haul in the league. Hopefully you got some United players on the Barn Door.
  • Spurs (Mostly) Cake Walk - Other than @CHE in the next match week, Spurs close out the schedule with an incredibly soft schedule. There is some mid-table opposition but outside of the Blues, Swansea and Sunderland are as tough as it gets for Spurs over the last ten matches of the season. If you're investing with a longer timeframe than one week then this is a solid investment.
  • Liverpool Cake Walk - @QPR, Wigan, @Newcastle, Aston Villa, @Blackburn, Fulham is yet another very soft next month and a half for the Reds. The match at St. James Park is looking less ominous as Newcastle's form fades and the rest should present at least a chance at a strong streak of positive results.
As you think about both the short and long term value of players from these three teams, we'll move on to the player picks for the upcoming week:

Forwards

  • Wayne Rooney - The slump is coming at some point but you wouldn't bet on it over the upcoming run of poor opponents. His price is high but it's hard to argue with the upcoming potential.
  • Javier Hernandez - Chicharito hasn't been in fantastic form but Welbeck has been pretty bad for an extended spell which makes Hernandez less likely of the two to be rotated if SAF decides to put Rooney in a more traditional forward position.
  • Luis Suarez - If you can't afford Rooney then Suarez is probably the best alternative despite the fact that he can't seem to score goals these days. The phantom points have been sufficient to make him remain a solid investment. The upcoming run of modest opposition could position him for some actual goals too.
  • Peter Odemwingie - If goals are more your thing then Odemwingie is probably your choice over Suarez. Suarez is more steady owing to his propensity for phantom points - Odemwingie is more prone to multi-goal matches and huge outbursts. On the downside, he is also prone to almost non-existent production if he doesn't score. Given the opposition, you might guess there's a good chance for a big outburst.
  • Frazier Campbell - With Bendtner listed as "doubtful" for the next match, Campbell's price very low (4.25), and @Rovers the opposition you have to like the potential as an enabler.
  • Gabby Agbonlahor - Weimann got the points last weekend but he did so as a substitute so if you're looking for a bet in the Villa vs. Bolton match then Gabby is the best potential value play for my money.
Midfielders
  • Ashley Young - The premium guy, he didn't get a goal last weekend but he was United's main instigator. Rooney got the goals but BFAY drew the penalty and was peppering the goal and the penalty area for the entire match.
  • Keith Andrews - James Morison seems to be more popular (but also more expensive) and Chris Brunt has the better long term reputation (but hasn't done squat all season) but for me, Andrews is the value play in the West Brom midfield this weekend.
  • Seb Larsson - I'm putting Larsson in the same boat as Junior Hoilett last weekend - he's a good player but he's been in a bit of a fantasy drought recently. With Sessegnon still out on suspension I'm backing Larsson to return to the points. The fact that his price has dropped to around 11 makes it an easier risk to take.
  • Stuart Downing - If you have Gerrard on the BD then, by all means, keep him through the Liverpool Cake Walk. If you're looking to invest at retail, then I'd take a shot at Downing and his sub-9 price. If Liverpool catch some fire then he might be one of the beneficiaries. Not a guarantee but a nice value play in a week with plenty of expensive options.
  • Gareth Bale - Speaking of expensive options, Bale is a great one as his speed has great potential to cause havoc among Stoke's imposing but not-exactly-fleet-of-foot defenders.
Defenders
  • James Perch - Norwich isn't exceptional opposition although they do tend to get goals. Newcastle is fading a bit but playing at home against mid-table opposition at Perch's price makes for an interesting investment.
  • Gabriel Tamas - Tamas isn't a great bet most weeks but with this week's match-up and his price, you have to like the potential for a value play.
  • Wayne Bridge - A better bet at his Barn Door price last weekend. Still, with Keiron Richardson not a lock to return you should keep tabs on the man who got 9 fantasy points last weekend.
  • Keiron Gibbs - Inexpensive and starting for a team on a hot streak.
  • Johnny Evans - An inexpensive way to get in on the Manchester United Cake Walk.
Goalkeepers
  • Brad Friedel - His price has inexplicably risen after his massive 3 point effort in the loss to Everton over the weekend. Still, given this weekend's match-up and Spurs run-in, he's a strong investment over the remainder of the season if you get in soon.
  • Pepe Reina - His price didn't go up too high after the derby win which means he's relatively affordable for this match week at 11. He's only modest value there but definitely solid.
  • David De Gea - He's very expensive but he is a solid investment over multiple weeks looking at the schedule. The other reason to consider this is that the match-up plays from teams like Aston Villa and West Brom are just as expensive as Pepe Reina and more expensive than Friedel.