Week 29 is almost here and it is a week that gives fantasy managers a bit of a headache.
"Why?" I hear you all ask. Well ...
While the Week 29 deadline is Saturday at 12:00 GMT, there are seven Premier League teams who will play in the FA Cup Quarter Finals on either Saturday or Sunday afternoon and these teams then play their league match on either Tuesday or Wednesday. With Wembley within touching distance I can't imagine too many bosses will be resting players, so there is an increased possibility of injuries or suspensions occurring after the week is locked down.
The teams in this situation are:
Personally I'm not going to let it affect my decisions too much - if I really want a player in my team I'm going to pick him - but some fantasy managers may be less comfortable with this idea so it's something you should keep in mind when selecting your XI.
- Manchester United @ Wolves is the clear stand-out fixture and I expect them to win by 4 or 5 clear goals while probably keeping a clean sheet.
- Tottenham, Liverpool and West Brom all have very winnable games against Stoke, QPR & Wigan respectively.
- I feel Newcastle, Fulham and Aston Villa have the slight edge thanks to home advantage over Norwich, Swansea and Bolton respectively.
- It's probably best to avoid Manchester City v Chelsea unless you hold discounts; it could go either way and I can see it being extremely heated.
- Everton v Arsenal and Blackburn v Sunderland both look like draws.
With that in mind, let's move on to the players ...
Brad Friedel's price has been doing some strange things over the past week, starting at around 6.60 it then leapt to 7.50 after last week's deadline and then rose further despite Spurs' 1-0 defeat at Everton. All that being said, his current price of 8.29 is a perfectly reasonable for a stopper of his quality and he has a winnable home game against Stoke, so he's my top keeper pick.
If you have money burning a hole in your fantasy bank account then there's always the alternative option of lumping it on previous favourite David de Gea. His form is well and truly back and I as I've mentioned, I'm expecting a comfortable United win at Wolves with a clean sheet for DDG. If neither of these options do it for you, then Newcastle's Tim Krul is great value at 6.25 for a home game against Norwich.
Thomas Vermaelen has been restored the centre of the Arsenal defence and it's not a surprise this has already led to a (vital) goal- he's back to the top of the defenders list despite a tricky trip to Everton. You may be surprised that Phil Jones is not here but that's because the young England defender has come down with the flu. He's missing from the Manchester United squad tonight and I'd be shocked if he was fit enough to play at Wolves on Sunday, so I think the returning Chris Smalling could be a great option, priced at 6.50.
Full-back Kieran Gibbs is the 2nd Arsenal defender in my top 3 as his cost remains very low, while Jamie Carragher appears for a second time in succession as I feel he's the best value Liverpool defender - he should keep his place at QPR after a fine display against Everton. Vincent Kompany's injury combined with the ineptness of Stefan Savic means Kolo Toure should partner Joleon Lescott for Manchester City against Chelsea, and he's an affordable 6.52.
Tim Ream has made a solid start to his career here in England, grabbing an assist in Bolton's win last weekend and although an away match at Aston Villa isn't a great match-up, he's perfect if you're looking to spend around 5 units on a cheap defender. Wayne Bridge is expected to continue at left back for Sunderland as they travel to Blackburn and rumours suggest Newcastle bargain James Perch will start ahead of Davide Santon, who struggled badly against Theo Walcott on Monday and was replaced by Perch at half time. We await team news on Friday to confirm this.
Van Der Vaart
Dropping Ashley Young @ 12 last week is not my finest decision and I'm regretting it even more now I find myself listing him as the top midfield pick of the week at Wolves - expect bumper points. Steven Gerrard saved many fantasy manager's bacon on Tuesday night and if you're still holding him at 9ish then here no reason to drop him for trip to QPR and I'm also tipping Rafael van der Vaart to lift Spurs out of their slump and inspire them to 3 points against Stoke. He's rarely been cheaper than his current 12 units and he showed signs of full match sharpness against Stevenage and off the bench at Everton.
Antonio Valencia has been back in training for the past week and will hopefully play some part of Man United's European tie tonight, so with Nani not included I'd expect him to have a decent chance of starting at Wolves - once again team news on Friday will be vital so don't sell anyone for him yet. Set piece king Sebastian Larsson is recommended for the first time in a while as his side travel to Blackburn and Junior Hoilett is a man doing his best to save his club with some outstanding individual performances. 13.01 is a lot but if you hold him at 8 from the barndoor it'll be hard to let him go.
Keith Andrews has had a sensational start to his West Brom career playing in an attacking midfield role and that could continue at Wigan, while Stephen Ireland is doing a similar thing for Aston Villa and is slightly cheaper with a home game against Bolton. Wigan's set piece taker Jean Beausejour continues to return crazy phantom points every week and is still priced below 10.00 and Tom Cleverley (3.44) could prove to be a very handy filler for Man United against Wolves.
Wolves are leaking goals alarmingly so you have to imagine Wayne Rooney will be licking his lips, with the Man Utd man in outstanding form at the moment. He's exceptionally expensive now but if you hold any sort of discount then keep him. Luis Suarez is due a goal at QPR after an unselfish performance against Everton and no more needs to be said about the best player in the Premier League, Robin van Persie.
Demba Ba has been a bit quiet recently but that benefits anyone who fancies him to add to the brace he scored at Norwich earlier in the season - his price has dropped in to the 15's for the first time in a long time. Pavel Pogrebnyak had his first poor game at Villa in Week 28 but I'm going to give him another chance at home to Swansea and Gabby Agbonlahor could is worth a look at home to a Bolton side who never keep clean sheet.
Some less obvious picks include Sunderland's Fraizer Campbell against Blackburn who costs less than 5.00 and the unpredictable Djibril Cisse, who faces his old club Liverpool and will have a point to prove.
That's it for the players - please ensure you check back here on Friday for the important team, injury and suspension news, although I reiterate that this won't be that useful if you're picking players from the seven FA Cup participants.
My current team ...
Friedel, Onuoha, Bridge, Carragher, Sigurdsson, Valencia, Van Der Vaart, Gerrard, D.Cisse, Pogrebnyak, Rooney
I really do like it - there are some risks (Valencia / VDV being the main ones) but taking risks has been the reason for my climb up the rankings so unless I read something to suggest either of these men are unfit I'll probably keep my team exactly how it is. I'm still holding Hoilett in Valencia's place just in case.
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Let me know how your team is shaping up for Week 29.
N.B. The Blog Cup Semi Final results will be calculated over the weekend - please keep checking back to see if you made it through to the final in Week 32.