We are headed straight for a major stretch of game weeks in fantasy, as we saw with the first cluster this season. For those who have played the game for a while, the old YFF would have made that a double week. But since it was split, it seems the same would apply to us this go round. I like this change because you are better able to adjust for rest/rotation, but it does take some of the fun and excitement out of playing through the frustration of the old double weeks! Anyway, let's take a look at the fixtures:
West Bromwich Albion v Hull City
Manchester United v West Ham
Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal v Chelsea
As you can see, I have highlighted my favored match ups in bold and will thus focus on Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Everton players. But no one can argue the addition of a few from the harder to call fixtures, but i'd probably avoid Spurs at this point given the instability at the club, but we all know Arsenal and Chelsea could have a high scoring match. Let's break down the fixtures one by one and assess which might be of value for Week 17!
Liverpool v Cardiff City
Liverpool are coming off the back of a huge upset over Spurs at White Hart Lane, leading to the eventual sacking of AVB. Liverpool ran riot, with Suarez of course stealing the show (should we ever NOT captain this guy?). But Jordan Henderson slotted into the more advanced midfield role usually occupied by Steven Gerrard and had one of his best Liverpool performances to date. His runs were well timed and his placement was superb. Coutinho and Sterling were as equally impressive. So what does this boil down to? I can't see Cardiff City being able to handle Liverpool in this form especially at Anfield. Cardiff have only scored 4 goals away from home this season and previous to that 1-0 win over WBA, they had gone scoreless in the last 3. If Liverpool can keep it mentally together for the full 90, then Cardiff City are going to have a tough ask for getting a result.
VERDICT: Invest in Liverpool defense and attack, a player from each position wouldn't be out of the question but don't go over board. Keep a player like Caulker if you have at discount as he may pick up his fair share of PI/BS.
Stoke City v Aston Villa
A tough fixture to call as both sides have shown quality and fractures this season. Stoke City will be coming off another bore scoreless draw while Aston Villa really need to get Christian Benteke firing again to lift them out of their current slump. Given as the match is at the Britannia Stadium, I'd say the edge goes to Stoke City, but this game could easily be another 0-0 or 1-1 drab affair. Keep a player like Muniesa if you need to free up funds. But in a week where you can afford quality players in better match ups, you should probably look elsewhere, especially until we see Benteke produce something.
VERDICT: Stoke's defense is usually better at home, so pick Muniesa if you need funds for a premium pick or Begovic if you have a good feeling. Otherwise I'd avoid all others.
West Bromwich Albion v Hull City
Both sides will have been disappointed with their respective performances last match week. West Brom have a side capable of creating a result, but Hull City have been a surprising defensive force in the league this season. However, West Brom are back at the Hawthorns and ready to go even without a manager. I think this will actually give them an edge in the game. Hull City haven't been the same attacking force without a fully fit Robbie Brady, so I expect a low scoring match.
VERDICT: Invest in West Brom's attack as a differential, Amalfitano or Chris Brunt are two options, but I'd probably avoid the defense from both sides.
Crystal Palace v Newcastle United
I must admit, Crystal Palace really gave Chelsea a game and were probably a bit aggrieved not to have a taken a point at the Bridge. Newcastle, meanwhile, has seemingly fallen back down to earth after a stellar run of matches with a draw against SOT last week. My only guess is that this match will be much more hotly contested than if it were the beginning of the season. With Newcastle somewhat cooled off, this would be the perfect opportunity for Crystal Palace to grind out a positive 3 points. I don't think you need to invest much of anything into the match than what you might already have (Debuchy, Cabaye, etc), but there is some strong differential to be had.
VERDICT: Keep players like Ward, Debuchy or Cabaye if you have at discount, but a dark horse play could be the Moroccan, Marouane Chamakh.
Manchester United v West Ham United
Manchester United was back to winning ways after a solid, if not spectacular 3-0 rout of Aston Villa at Villa Park. The main issue for United at the moment will be to assess their injured forward line. Robin van Persie has already been ruled out for a minimum 4 weeks and now it is revealed Wayne Rooney might be suffering some form of injury which kept him out of the Capitol One cup tie. It seems that Welbeck is first choice as replacement, seeing as Hernandez only came on midway thorugh the second half. Regardless, with West Ham still not finding any sort of consistent for in the league, coming to Old Trafford for a result may be too far out of reach. United should be able to dispatch West Ham with a decent chance of keeping the clean sheet and Moyes could sure use a positive string of results!
VERDICT: Invest in United's defense and attack, but wait for team news regarding Rooney's injury status.
Fulham v Manchester City
Manchester City are certainly the most dominant force in the Premier League at the Etihad, producing 6 fine finishes to halt Arsenal's title push. However, much has been said about their woeful away form, in which they are unable to break the shackles and tear loose. Fulham have been under new management with Meulensteen and have begun to mold into a more organized side. If this game had been at the Etihad it would be a no brainer, but some reservation must be made that City just haven't proven they can get it done on the road. I feel this will result in a Manchester City win, but probably no more than a 2-0, or a 2-1.
VERDICT: Invest in City attack, Negredo could make a perfect stop gap between now and Aguero's return.
Sunderland v Norwich City
Really not much to get excited about here, unless you have Bardsley under 2mil. Sunderland will be bouyed by their recent Captiol One Cup victory over Chelsea but not enough to make me interested. Both team will be fighting hard for those valuable 3 points, but this is another that is too close to call. If there were one player that particularly stood out that would be different, but I don't think you want to throw away a forward slot on Gary Hooper now do you? Better to leave this one to play it self out.
VERDICT: Keep your discounted players, but avoid all others as there are better match ups.
Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur
This will be a very interesting match and the outcome could be the kick start needed to push through the holiday fixture pile up. Southampton have been impressive all season, but have found results hard to come by in recent weeks seeing them slide from the top 4 to 9th in the table. A win would be vital towards vaulting back to the reaches of a European place. Tottenham, on the other hand, have been dire in recent weeks, even while able to grind out results. They weren't in a particularly bad league position, but it has been the manner of their losses and wins that has been worrying. I won't go much further, but Tottenham know they need a wake up call and they have some quality players to do that. Whether or not this will be that match, I think not as AVB's shadow will still linger, keep the Spurs on your radar. Both sides will score, but the Saints might just edge this match given the opponents current struggles.
VERDICT: Invest somewhat in either attack, I feel both sides will be in it for goals, but the home team will probably take this win. I'd avoid defense from both sides.
Swansea City v Everton
Lots of talk has been made about Roberto Martinez's transformation of Everton into a slick passing, well organized and exciting side. The bad news is their on loan starlet Deulofeu may be out until past the New Year, meaning Mirallas will certainly nail down the left wing berth. Everton still look very dangerous, and on loan striker Lukaku looks primed to get back on the score sheet after missing out on the Fulham rout. Swansea City however, just haven't performed like they did last season which brought them to the Captiol One Cup trophy. Michu is fit again but finding it hard to impose himself on the game as he once did (much in the same vain as Benteke). Even with Everton on the road, given their fire power and Swansea's problems at the back, i'd give the edge to the blue half of Merseyside.
VERDICT: Invest in Everton attack, even without Deulofeu, Everton will still be more than capable of scoring. I'd be wary of the defense, but with Swansea's attack not clicking it may be worth a shout.
Arsenal v Chelsea
The most anticipated match of the weekend, pitting first against third. This match will have a major impact on the table seeing Chelsea leap frog into first with a win. As the Liverpool faithful watch on, we will be hoping for a draw coupled with a Liverpool win to move to the top ourselves! But back to the discussion point - both teams will be going for this one. I know most of you probably took Theo Walcott on the barn door (as did I), and I think he actually makes a good play this week. Arsenal will surely be relying on his pace against the unconvincing Azpilicueta and with Wilshire expected to be banned, opens the way for Walcott to start. It will be difficult to call who Chelsea will play up front and in midfield though, as Mourinho threatened changes after his sides loss in the league cup. All this boils down to is a hotly contested match up where I see it only as attack first and defend later.
VERDICT: Invest in Arsenal attack, but not too much. It will be tough to decide whom of your Arsenal midfield to bench, I'd say it's a risk as any of Ozil, Ramsey, or Walcott could have a huge game, but 2/3 should be there if you have them at discount. Chelsea's attack can be considered based off Friday team news.
Okay that's it for another Looking Ahead! I currently sit on: Mignolet, Flannagan, Kompany, P. Jones, Walcott, Ramsey, Henderson, Silva, Lukaku, Hernandez, Suarez (capt) w/ Ozil, Cech + Fillers on my bench. Certainly players will change but I'll probably look to bring in a Manchester City forward. Who have you brought in on the BD? How are your teams shaping up for Week 17?