Now that we have our final international break out the way for 2014 it's none stop Premier League until the start of January. On the back of the internationals and heading into the closing rounds of the Champions League group stage, the dreaded rotation policies will come into effect ever more.
Lets look ahead with this weeks seven questions
Question 1 - Can I tempt you with a well rested player?
Modern day players tend to prefer to playing once a week and most managers at the big clubs agree. To cope they have super size, super deep squads. So after the international game would it tempt you to consider some well rested players the weekend?
Steven Gerrard will set you back a 15.37m despite averaging just 8pts this season (now just how is that price possible). Without the movement and quality of last seasons Daniel Sturridge/Luis Suarez front line he has been less effective in the deeper role. His through balls have not be rewarded with assists/goals, while space created by the front two has disappeared with Brendan Rodgers amending his formations to suit his new players available. As a result, there has been no space for Gerrard to drive through or quality hold up play for him to play off to achieve SOT's or many goal attempts from open play. True, the drives from deep are declining as he comes to his mid 30's but I can't help thinking Rodgers giving Rickie Lambert a shout may improve these chances.
Liverpool themselves are in the middle of a terrible run of form. I wonder if the struggles of start front man Mario Balotelli has/had started to rub off on his teammates. At these times clubs look to their star player and example setter to dig the team through. With a two week rest Gerrards energy levels should be high and knowing his character he will have the bit between his teeth this week. Raheem Sterling continues to look like he could do with a few games on the bench for mental rather than physical reasons and if he does Gerrard could find himself playing slightly further forward. A role in support of the front line increases his value. With Mario carrying injuries and a tough away game at Crystal Palace, Rodgers has all the excuses he needs to select Lambert this week and a certain Mr Sturridge is back in contention.
Gerrard will be in few teams then, especially at the price. But if you are like me, deep in the chasing pack or feel like a little fun then maybe the old great could roll back the years for you.
Alternatively and much better priced we have a second Premier League great with a two week break and a plum fixture to go with, Frank Lampard. At 8.58M you get yourself a much better deal than the aforementioned Gerrard but you have the gamblers risk with this pick. Never a sure starter and at this stage of his career a little injury prone. He came off the bench last week at QPR so back in the choice of City options. City themselves are in must win territory as the gap keeps increasing to league leaders Chelsea. For that reason you have to think they go with two forwards meaning Lamp's is competing for one of two midfield roles.
A real gamble then. He will play a part and will always be a goal danger and I thought he even looked quite sharp in his brief cameo at QPR. Yaya Toure is playing in a World Cup qualification game on Wednesday and with the Bayern tie midweek could he get a weekend rest, after all he keeps talking about needing one?
Still not tempted? Ok, one more then. How about a player with a plum home tie, guaranteed to start, in his prime, on set pieces and what If I told you he was under 7m? Now that has to tempt you and that man is Samir Nasri. Due to his attitude problem or is that the attitude problems of the management, Samir still plays no part in the French set up making him a cert to start this weekend. With David Silva and Kolarov out he albeit unsuccessfully, took corners in the away day at QPR last time out. Nasri always has been a little bit of a hot and cold supplier of fantasy points. Growing in match sharpness after coming back from injury we should see him involved in the city attacks in a must win game. At his price if you have the space in a packed midfield he could be a nice option for the week ahead.
Question 2 - How many players are you holding on a discount you do not want to lose?
With 100m to spend on 15 players it was always going to be a more difficult task this season. The 1m starters have disappeared and the form horses of the opening weeks has meant you successful souls are holding a number of player at medium to large discounts.
Many of you will hold some if not all of the following. Aguero, Di Maria, Tadic, Fabregas, Courtois, Forster, Bertrand, Kelly, Creswell, Chambers, Sanchez and Costa.
I would certainly bet many teams posted this week contain all three forwards listed and 3 of the 4 midfield options.
Are you sticking with them until the Christmas chaos? How do you intend to catch those above you above you holding the same players?
Question 3 - Will Chelsea finally keep a clean sheet this week or is their record not as it seems?
Bar the mighty Saints, one of the problems of the season so far has been predicting clean sheets within the Premier League. The league accepted top defence is held by league leaders Chelsea and yet they don't lead the league in clean sheets or goals conceded with a number of fantasy managers starting to lose faith. Once again, we have a fixture that appears a strong chance of the clean sheet and a very strong chance of a home win making Thibaut Courtois, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta all great options for the coming week.
To some statistics to help then. Chelsea have kept 3 clean sheets in 11 Premier League games which isn't too helpful. However, those 3 clean sheets all came in home games with Arsenal, Aston Villa and Leicester shut out. Chelsea have only twice conceded more than more goal and that was in the 4-2 home win over Swansea (in which I dropped Diego Costa falling for Jose's mind games grrrrrrr) and 3 in the amazing 6-3 win at Everton (where once again I didn't have Costa).
WBA away form reads 2 wins, 1 draw and 2 defeats. They have failed to score more than 1 goal in any game and failed to score at all in 2 of those games, at Southampton and Swansea. 1 goal has been scored at Leicester, Liverpool and Tottenham all poor defensive sides this season.
Logic and stats then suggest a Chelsea clean sheet is the most likely result and yet I suspect many go with the man mountain in the Saints goal, Fraser Forster once more?
Question 4 - Who starts in the Everton midfield?
With injury to Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Kevin Mirallas the Everton midfield is unpredictable but full of options against a West Ham team giving up goals on the their travels. Leon Osman 7.62m, Ross Barkley 7.21m, Steven Pienaar 5.79m, Mohamed Besic 3m and a comebacking Darron Gibson 4.84m all great prices.
Barkley is the obvious pick as he offers you goal threat, phantom points and the ability to go big. Coming back from injury Roberto Martinez has been cautious with his introduction back in the first team but you have to like him to start if not selected for England midweek.
Osman is one I have a soft fantasy spot for. The all action style and knack for pinching a goal when the bigger names are not about made him a pick I always liked. He often went 20pt+ when scoring and once again if there is news that he starts he offers you a real alternative pick.
Question 5 - Is there value in the form horse Newcastle side?
Newcastle ended one of the longest cold streaks in the Premier League with a real hot streak. The side are full of confidence and face a Queens Park Rangers side who have conceded 22 goals in 11 games and 14 in 5 away games. Those stats will of course tempt you with Ayoze Perez at 8.52m but as many of you have the front three locked with Kun, Sanchez and Costa you need a different way into the attacking Newcastle points.
Remy Cabella thrilled on début against Man City but has found the physical side of the league tough. Twinkling feet is the phrase that sums him up and he appears to have found his way back into the starting line-up. He seems a pure fantasy player long term to me. One of those non stop shooting, crossing, winning corners and fouls. At 12.93m he may be a little rich for your budget but a big points game is coming and the opposition whilst improved are very willing away from home.
At this stage I was going to hit you with my dark horse for this week Mehdi Abeid. At 6.55 he is now first choice and has scored 7 and 10pts in the last two weeks. He also had a couple of shots off target/blocked in both of the last two games suggesting we have a potential 20pt game in him. Of course off he then went to international duty and returned with a broken toe. Oh well, keep an eye on him for later in the season then.
The Newcastle improvement has been largely in part to improved defensive performances. In Steven Taylor 5.66m we have a nice potential pick up. Despite the feeling Newcastle will come back down to earth soon the home tie with QPR does offer a chance of a clean sheet. Rangers are very much a better side at home. Taylor was left out against WBA with a minor calf injury but is expected to train this week. Manager Alan Pardew advised "I think Steven should be back for QPR". Nothing to put your house on I know but still a possible pick up this week.
Finally despite scoring 16, 1, 16 and 14 in his last four Tim Krul is still only 7.75m. The form suggests a Newcastle win is the result despite me feeling uncomfortable. Certainly we all know Tim is capable of those multi save days and a upturn in QPR's form may mean he has to make a few saves this week.
Question 6 - Will the break have done Leicester good?
Leicester City may have not seen bad form coming after their historic 5-3 win over Manchester United. But bad form has come with no wins in the 6 games since. Of the 6 they have lost 5 scored 2 goals and failed to score in 5 of the 6 games. Incredible isn't it.
The Premier League is tough but when things are going wrong sometinmes you just need a break from the norm to recharge, clear your mind and go again. It also helps when you get to do that in front of your own fans and Sunderland with no clean sheets in 5 seem an opponent to suit.
There are bargains to be found should you like the turnaround. Kasper Schmeichel will set you back just 2.96m. While early week favourite Leonardo Ulloa down to a tempting 6.35m.
Finally if Matty James can hold onto his starting place at 5.38m you have one more to make you think. He has played the last two and while returning 3pts at the awesome Saints last time out does not impress, it is the previous home tie the pricks my interest. Home to West Brom he scored 14pts with 7 SC and a bunch of phantoms.
Question 7 - When do city rest Kun?
A consistent ever since Aguero joined Manchester City has been his goals to minutes ratio. Kun has the best ever rate and seems unstoppable regardless of fixture surpassing even Suarez and Ronaldo standards. The other consistent has been city playing him until he seemingly gets injured.
It is clear just how important he is to City's success but I do not remember him getting break too often. This may just be my impression and perhaps a city fan can expand on this for me. With injuries to Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic in recent weeks, plus the must win games in league and Champions League, Kun has played twice a week too often.
The CL knockout phase looks unlikely from this point but Pellegrini will face the wrath of the media/fans should he not try and for that reason Kun probably will start midweek following this weekends games. He played 60 minutes for Argentina against Croatia last Wednesday and faces Portugal tonight.
With Dzeko out for a few weeks Kun will have to carry the load and faces playing twice a week again. City fans will be hoping he starts on the bench against Portugal and watch the game behind their hands if he starts. Should he start in the friendly there is a small consideration that Pellegrini could even start him on the bench against Swansea with the must win game glamour tie home to Bayern Munich the following Tuesday. At some point those fragile hamstrings/groins need a rest but when will it be?