Thanks again to Das_Boot for the great Looking Ahead intro and to Mo for getting the much anticipated Blog Cup 4th Round results up and posted! I hope the majority of you made it through! This week, as highlighted by Das, will be a repeat of the opening fixtures, but the teams I am focusing on will be Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton, with both Manchester teams an honorable mention. There will be some other interesting match ups to consider with Cardiff City and Fulham both looking strong in home match ups but certainly not a source of major investment. Okay, let's jump into the picks!
Hugo Lloris - The Spurs shot stopper was in superb form for most of the season. But since his concussion and the subsequent dip in Spur's form, he hasn't been as reliable. This week, however, the French international looks a solid bet. Crystal Palace have certainly stepped their game up, but still struggle to score goals on the road. I expect a tighter match than most might, but the clean sheet is a big possibility. He will only set you back 10.14mil.
Tim Howard - The Everton #1 had a shocker getting sent off with a straight red card conceding a penalty in the process against Sunderland a few games back. But his price has settled down a bit to a very affordable 10.72mil. With Norwich City's problems scoring, especially on the road, expect a decent chance of the clean sheet coupled with a win.
Marshall - I wouldn't normally recommend Cardiff City's keeper, but given the price, just 6.7mil, and the home match up under a new manager make for an interesting budget option. Cardiff City have proven to be quite defensively formidable at home and West Ham have been pretty horrid scoring on the road this season. If you need the extra budget, then Marshall man be your guy.
Petr Cech - Although not at home and not exactly the same force between the posts he has been seasons past, Chelsea's shot stopper looks a good alternative pick. He is pricey at 13.72mil, but should at least get you the win with a few saves.
Leighton Baines - Back for Everton's home clash with Norwich City after a few weeks out with injury. He is still getting back to full fitness but should be raring to go at the weekend. Baines has the added bonus of the majority of free kicks including penalties. His price is through the roof at 20.55mil, so better fi you picked him up around 16ish, but not a bad buy regardless. This week could be his return to the phantom point king summit.
Stones/Alcaraz - The two budget Everton defenders at 4.01mil and 7.92mil respectively. This is an option for those who may want to curtail an expensive buy(s) with a cheap playing defender. I wouldn't expect too much from either, but Alcaraz did pop up with the odd goal for Wigan under Martinez. Just some food for thought.
Kyle Walker - The Spurs wing back has been a consistent fantasy producer all season and sports a very fashionable home game against Palace. Walker is also taking a fair share of set pieces along with Erikson, but his marauding runs down the flank are what really garner his attacking returns. A bit pricey at 14.92mil, but worth the investment if you want Spurs defensive cover.
Steven Caulker - Another Cardiff player to make the list. Caulker has already proven to be a week in week out defensive fantasy menace with 163pts already this term. With the threat of goals from the odd set piece, Caulker represents an expensive, 13.29mil, but worthwhile fantasy pick this week.
Aly Cissokho - Should retain his starting spot after Jose Enrique and Flanagan have been ruled out. You may also want to consider Kolo Toure, but at a modest 6.82mil (even better at his BD price of 4.7mil), Cissokho represents a cheap way into a possible Liverpool clean sheet. Although Cissokho hasn't lit the fantasy world alight, his attacking runs down the left have the potential to garner attacking returns where Kolo must rely on mostly defensive ones.
John Arne Riise - It just feels like one of those games Riise is going to produce big. He is a certain dark horse pick, but a reasonable one at 10.47mil and facing a home match against Sunderland. If he does manage to keep a clean sheet and knock an odd free kick, we may see the former Liverpool man be the differential defender of the week.
Vidic - Scored midweek and seems likely to retain his spot for the visit of Swansea City at Old Trafford. His price is a very affordable 9.94mil and he showed why he is so dangerous despite his side's loss to Sunderland in the League Cup. While I don't trust United's defense, I feel the Red Devils will bounce back and win this tie. Vidic could be in for a decent return.
Adam Lallana - The young Saints captain is my premium Midfield pick of the week at 16.04mil. He will be instrumental in orchestrating Southampton's attack especially with Osvaldo out and Lambert still a slight doubt. With his large portion of set pieces, Lallana should be worth the investment.
Steven Gerrard - The Liverpool captain is back from injury and will slot straight back into the starting 11 for the trip to Stoke. At 15.63mil and on penalties with a fair share of free kicks, Gerrard looks a strong pick this week. I am strongly considering him in my line up with the news Walcott will be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Christian Erikson - Another midfielder to add to the premium category, especially given his price of 15.66mil, but his home match up warrents investment. Erikson has been the form Spurs midfielder as of late with Townsend out of the first team, Paulinho injured and Siggy a doubt. If you got him on the barn door then certainly keep, but with his current price I almost like switching to a slightly cheaper Spurs midfielder this week. The decision is yours however!
Oscar - He's been one of Chelsea's most consistent midfielders and should represent good value away to Hull City. At 12.27mil he remains the best option for price on Chelsea's roster given the fact Mata and Hazard are frustratingly mis-labeled as Forwards in the yahoo system. Hull City have been strong at home, but if any one is ready to break them down in midfield, it will be the young Brazilian.
Januzaj - With key injuries to many of United's attack, the young Belgian will certainly start on the flank against Swansea City. United will be hoping to turn around a depressing set of losses already suffered at Old Trafford this season, Januzaj's ingenuity and skill will be needed to do that. At only 8.1mil, he represents a cheap way into United's depleted attack.
Mesut Ozil - Many have dropped the prolific German international due to dipping returns and injury, but this week is the perfect week to get back on the bandwagon (good on those who stayed true at 6mil). With the news Walcott is out the rest of the season coupled with the loss of Ramsey, Arsenal will need Ozil more than ever to step up and take over the mastery in attack. At 12.48mil, Ozil isn't too expensive if you decided to drop and is likely to remain on the majority of direct free kicks/corners.
Adel Taraabt - He has been frustratingly inconsistent this season partly due to his inability to nail down a regular starting role at Fulham. I can hardly think the very talented, although petulant, Moroccan would be left on the bench given the relegation fight on the cards for Fulham. Having started the previous game, 13.45mil seems a slightly risky but possibly high reward pick. Fulham will need to utilize all their best talents to pull themselves to safety, we all hope Adel will be part of that.
Romelu Lukaku - He has been increasingly frustrating, scoring against the difficult teams and drawing blanks against the home bankers. Despite this, I am willing to shell out the 14.93mil required to secure the Belgian's services this week. There should be no reason he cannot score against Norwich City, but knowing my luck, he will find a way. Buyer beware!
Olivier Giroud - Arsenal's only form striker across a very solid campaign, the French International will have to be on his game to warrent a 14.55mil investment in an away match. Podolski offers a differential, but with questions over his starting status and position, Giroud seems the best bet from Arsenal's forward line. Surely Aston Villa can't repeat the 3-1 win they had in the season opener can they?
Adebayor - With doubts about Soldado's starting status due to a knock, the former Blog Favorite fantasy asset remains the only safe option for Spurs attack. Although his price is well above Soldado, 12.46mil seems reasonable given his certain starter status. If Soldado is passed fit, I'd probably switch however with the Spaniard on penalties.
Welbeck - With the doubts surrounding Rooney and RvP showing his normal injured form, Welbeck represents the safest option into United's attack at 15.65mil. I don't trust this fixture will be more than a one goal margin, but if anyone will score it will likely be the young England striker.
Suarez - He's in your team and he's your captain. Game, Set, Match.
Campbell - My bargain forward pick of the week, Campbell will only set you back 6.58mil. West Ham have been dire for much of this season and Big Sam is coming under increasing pressure. With the home fans at his back, Campbell offers not only a bargain but a great differential pick this week. For those who want a big midfield and defense, Campbell offers the perfect option.
Well that is it for me with my first player picks post of 2014! My team is currently in disarray as I am back at work for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle, Washington. We have had 4 days of intensive briefing over all the changes to regulations since I've been gone. It is likely I will be heading to Alaska in the next week and unable to post much during my next 3 month deployment. All in the name of saving our fish species and oceans!
How is your team shaping up? Who are you looking to change?