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AM's Week 22 Fantasy Player Picks

A double week for Chelsea and Southampton means both sides form the focus of my Week 22 Player Picks.

Both these men will be in my Yahoo team this week.
Both these men will be in my Yahoo team this week.
Julian Finney

Week 22 was all set to be a nice simple single week for all 20 Premier League teams, but as you should know by now it has become a "double week for 2 teams". These situations can be frustrating when the double-game teams are dull but this week actually presents us with some decent options from two teams capable of good attacking performances.

Chelsea v Southampton, the match postponed in December due to Chelsea's World Club Cup adventure, has been rescheduled for Wednesday 16th January which means CHELSEA and SOUTHAMPTON play two matches. Chelsea have a tough game at Stoke while Southampton have a decent game at a fragile Aston Villa side, before the teams meet at Stamford Bridge - a game Chelsea should win.

As we get deeper in to the second half of the season these double weeks will become more common as Cup replays (and occasionally the English weather) start having an impact, so you will need to react to them if you want to avoid slipping down the rankings. I will be keeping my best discounts (Hugo Lloris @ 2, Jan Vertonghen @ 5.8 and Santi Cazorla @ 5.6) but aside from them I will be attempting to go all-in on Chelsea and Southampton this week and I'll do the same for Arsenal and West Ham's two games in Week 23. I recommend you do the same. People often disagree with the theory and it's inevitable that rotation can have an impact, but I can only remember one week in my many seasons playing the Yahoo game when I failed to hit 100 points when backing double gamers. I can show you 10 weeks this season alone where I failed to hit 100 with single gamers.

It helps that CHELSEA v Southampton would be one of the stand-out fixtures if this was a single week and I'd also be tipping SOUTHAMPTON to beat Villa, so the fact both teams have a bonus match should make the decision easier than some other double weeks.

If for some reason you really don't like the idea of loading up on Chelsea or Southampton players then the alternatives would be FULHAM at home to Wigan, NORWICH at home to a struggling and Ba-less Newcastle and TOTTENHAM away at Queens Park Rangers. We're all looking forward to Arsenal v Manchester City and Manchester United v Liverpool but you never know which way these big games will go so they are usually best avoiding for fantasy purposes.

To clarify, I recommend keeping the likes of Lloris, Vertonghen, Cazorla and Michu if you have them at big discounts but suggest you should be looking to add a minimum of 6 double gamers.

From the single gamers I'd be looking at the likes of Aaron Lennon, Joe Cole, Anthony Pilkington, Gareth Bale, Jermain Defoe, Christian Benteke, Dimitar Berbatov, Ryan Snodgrass and of course, Robin van Persie.

From Southampton the players I'm considering are the attacking trio of Jason Puncheon, Gaston Ramirez and Ricky Lambert. With no news on Adam Lallana it seems it will be down to these men to keep Southampton out of trouble, so I'm confident all three will play the best part of 90 minutes in both matches. They are all goal threats - Puncheon loves to shoot on goal at every opportunity, Ramirez is almost playing as a support striker and taking some set pieces, while Lambert is having a fine season and is on penalty duty - so I am considering adding them all to my line-up. They will get plenty of chances with a winnable first match at Villa and are capable picking up points at Chelsea, even though they are likely to lose that match.

I'm less keen on Southampton defenders as the options aren't particularly cheap and I'm not confident they'll keep a clean sheet, but if you want one representative then Luke Shaw would be my pick - I really like the look of the young left back dubbed "the next Gareth Bale" (and not because of his diving ability).

Over at Chelsea it appears more tricky to pick certain starters for both games as Rafa Benitez has a history of rotation, but will he have learnt his lesson from the QPR defeat where he rested five of his best players? I think that will be back in his mind as his side cannot afford to drop any more points if he wants them back in the title race, plus Chelsea do have a four day gap between the two league matches. There is also another four day gap ahead of their match against Arsenal in Week 23, so I think we'll see close to a full strength XI for both the Stoke and Southampton games.

If you're looking for a goalkeeper then back-up Ross Turnbull is your man as Petr Cech is out for another 2 weeks so Turnbull will play both matches and is reasonably priced. I fancy at least one clean sheet from the Chelsea defence so it would be wise to pick at least one Chelsea representative. We have the added complication of a returning John Terry, but I don't expect to see more than a substitute appearance from the skipper after such a long time out so Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill are likely to start both matches in the center of defence and both men are a goal threat. In the unlikely event of Terry starting one of the games it may be alongside Cahill which could mean Ivanovic is either benched or moves to right-back (they'll definitely need Ivan's height against Stoke) with César Azpilicueta dropping to the bench. Ashley Cole is the most likely defender to start both games after a rest against QPR so he's tempting and I'd expect David Luiz to also start both matches in his new defensive midfield role with Jon Obi Mikel unlikely to feature as he's off to the African Cup Of Nations. I'm likely to select David Luiz, as the number of fouls Stoke give away will lead to free kick opportunities.

In midfield I don't think Frank Lampard gets two starts so I can't recommend picking him at his current price but Oscar will probably get a minimum of 120 minutes so he's not the worst choice at his current price of 8.9. Ramires will probably only start one game while Marko Marin may need to be content with time as a substitute after some sub-standard performances so far.

Further forward I would expect Eden Hazard and Juan Mata to start both after they were both on the bench for the QPR game, especially with Victor Moses joining Mikel at the ACN. I'd say Mata is the 'must-have' pick of the week given his form this season - he makes Chelsea tick - and although Hazard has been having a quiet spell I still have a good feeling about him and he'll be in my team. I don't expect Benitez to switch to a 4-4-2 so I believe Demba Ba and Fernando Torres will share the lone striker role with one start each in Week 22. For that reason, I don't think it's worth paying 20+ for Ba and I'd prefer both Hazard and Mata over Torres.

Update: After last night I'd suggest neither Ivanovic or Torres did themselves any favours.

So those are my opinions on Chelsea and Southampton. Please keep checking back here as we'll have full team and injury news on Friday which will help us form a more accurate view of the starting line-ups ahead of the deadline.

As for my own team, I had the following line-up (unsaved) on my Yahoo Team Page ...

Lloris, Vertonghen, Ivanovic, A.Cole, David Luiz, Cazorla, J.Cole, Puncheon, Ramirez, Hazard, Mata

... but some random price swings means my balance has gone from +1.86 to -0.41, so I can no longer save it. How very annoying.

Having seen a full-strength Aston Villa capitulate against League Two Bradford last night I probably would've brought Lambert in for a Chelsea defender, so it now looks like I'll go with something like this.

Lloris, Vertonghen, A.Cole, David Luiz, Cazorla, Marin, Puncheon, Ramirez, Lambert, Hazard, Mata

I'll be stuck with Marin unless there's another random price swing in my favour- the rest could stay as it is.

What are your thoughts on the double week? How's your team looking?