This is, without a doubt, a tricky week. Not only are there Champions League matches that involve Premier League teams, but Game Week 14 follows just a few days later on Tuesday, December 2 and Wednesday, December 3, respectively. As a result, there will likely be rotations. The key to these upcoming game weeks is to have strong bench cover to avoid being stuck with a zero. Let us first take a look at the upcoming fixtures:
Week 13 Fixtures:
This is the early game of the weekend. Arsenal is amidst a few feeble performances against Swansea City and Manchester United. Billionaire majority shareholder Alisher Usmanov expressed doubt over Arsene Wenger's management to further cast doubt whether the gaffer remains the right man for the job. Depending on the outcome of today's Champions League match vs. Borussia Dortmund, this could be a "make it or break it" week for the Gunners and they will need a result in the West Midlands. West Bromwich put up a good fight but was left hapless after Claudio Yacob's reckless red card challenge on Diego Costa. What gives? I still think that Arsenal should have too much finesse for a scrappy West Bromwich team.
I can dedicate a whole post as to what went wrong with Liverpool this season. The loss of one key player to La Liga, another one to injury, poor defense and weak summer signings have created a team that is entirely out of sync. Considerable fantasy laurels were laid upon the young Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho after an impressive pre-season, but both players failed to consistently impress when it counted. Stoke City, on the other hand, has played well until last week's shocker vs. Burnley. With Victor Moses ruled out for up to eight weeks, this will be a scrappy game with both teams coming off embarrassing losses to Crystal Palace and Burnley, respectively, looking to claim 3 points. I give Liverpool a slight edge here since it is playing at home.
This game is a telltale of one team that cannot defend (QPR) and another that, since its astounding win versus Manchester United, cannot score. Since September 21, 2014, Leicester City has scored only 2 goals in 7 matches, both of them coming against the other Premier League debutant, Burnley. QPR, on the other hand, have looked like a decent mid-table team since the home tie against Stoke City. This could be the week where QPR gets a convincing home win while Leicester City further plunges into relegation deep-end.
Burnley vs. Aston Villa
This game has 0-0 written all over it. Neither team creates many chances. Both teams are sound defensively. Cristian Benteke serves the final match of his three match suspension. Having defensive players, including goalkeepers, from each side may be a sound idea.
Swansea City vs. Crystal Palace
Chances are we will see some goals in this game. Swansea City has been extremely consistent at home beating lower ranked opponents like Burnley, West Bromwich, and Leicester City. Crystal Palace has been very inconsistent on the road only snatching a surprise win at Everton. Gary Monk has his team playing confident, tactical football and his team was unlucky to lose points to Manchester City. I see the Swans grabbing 3 points from this one.
Manchester United vs. Hull City
Manchester United is slowly picking up steam and will go into the Hull City game very confident after beating Arsenal and looking to firmly cement their place in the top 4 after a disastrous start. I am still not entirely convinced that United is "in form" and prepared to dominate the weaker opponents, especially with all the defensive injuries, but I do not think that Hull will be able to hang with Di Maria, Rooney and Van Persie away from home.
West Ham has not lost two games in a row this season and I foresee them rebounding at home. With Sakho, Kouyate, Downing, Song and Valencia all nearing a return, a home win against a surprising Newcastle team that was near the bottom a few weeks back is not out of the question. This one could also end 0-0. Holding on to your discounted defenders (Cresswell and Janmaat) is a good idea.
Chelsea has been practically unstoppable this season and I fully expect them to win at Sunderland. The main risk to consider is rotation with the likes of Cech, Schürrle, Ramires, Drogba and Remy looking to take valuable minutes from the starters as the winter schedule intensifies. My guess is that no major changes will take place this weekend as Costa, Oscar and Fabregas were withdrawn relatively early, although Hazard and the defenders played the full 90.
Southampton vs. Manchester City
Ronald Koeman's team suffered their first unexpected setback away to a struggling Aston Villa. Will they rebound home or succumb to the defending Champions? This game has all the potential to be a goal fest and the most exciting game of the season. I am unable to give a prediction but this one won't be boring, that’s for sure!
Tottenham vs. Everton
The late Sunday morning game completes Game Week 13. Featuring two teams separated only by goal difference, it is safe to say that looking at their respective positions both teams have underachieved so far this season in domestic competitions largely due to the ineffectiveness of their strikers. Each team is earned quality, hard wins this past game week and I would expect a hard fought game with a slight edge given to the home side.
Let us take a look at which players to consider for Week 13:
T. Courtois – the Belgian got his third Premier League CS of the season against West Bromwich and will be looking to add to that tally. With games rapidly coming one after another, however, there is a decent chance that Peter Cech will get some playing time. As a result, bench cover is the key should you decide to stay with the Chelsea keeper this weekend or in upcoming weeks.
L. Fabianski – one of the reasons for Swansea's success has been the stability of their goalkeeper. Finally able to get out of the compatriot's shadow, the Pole has done extremely well for his new team. Priced at affordable £7.62 and home to Crystal Palace, Fabianski should be in your thoughts this weekend.
R. Green – the former England keeper was extremely unlucky to concede on the 78th minute to Moussa Sissoko but still ended up with 6 points after a loss. Priced at £5 and home to the Leicester City team unable to score goals, Green could be a good differential pick for those looking to gain ground in the standings.
T. Heaton – another differential pick is the Burnley keeper. Home to Aston Villa and priced at £5.13, Heaton has potential to reward courageous managers with a good score. My concern, however, is with the "one shot - one goal" Villa side that we saw against Southampton he may not have the opportunity to make many saves.
D. Martinez – Just in case we get the news that Wojciech Szczęsny will not be fit in time to face West Bromwich, the 22 year old Argentinian could be handed his first BPL start. Priced at £1.53, he should at least earn a spot on your bench if it is confirmed that Szczęsny fails to make the Saturday's game.
S. Caulker – no clue what happened to one of our favorite defenders this season, as Mr. Caulker has been a pale shadow of his former self. Something tells me, however, that he will have a monster game and priced at £9.48 is an affordable player with potential for a CS and a set piece goal.
K. Trippier – lad had a nightmare game against Stoke with only 1 point from winning a tackle. This game should avail Trippier to plenty of chances for tackles won, passes intercepted and a potential CS. Could this also be the game where he gets himself on the score sheet?
P. McNair/T. Blackett – both are guaranteed starters, playing home to Hull City, both are priced cheap (£3.35 and £2.97 respectively), both should return value, and one of them should be in your squad or on your bench. I prefer McNair as he tends to go forward a bit more.
A. Rangel – slightly expensive at £11.29, but he has been the forgotten man this season after being almost a "household name" from a few season's past. Loves going forward, always capable of an assist, good defensive capability, he is my "premier" defender pick for this week.
A. Cresswell – the best budget defender option in the Yahoo Fantasy Football game if you have him at £1. This week is no different, even at full price. He will start, will make forward runs and has a decent chance of a CS.
R. Bertrand – if you hold him at a substantial discount, there is no reason to drop him just because the defending Champions are coming to town. City has had its share of problems both domestically and internationally, and Bertrand has been scoring well even without keeping a clean sheet.
G. Sigurdsson – a "prominent member of the Icelandic fishing industry," as erroneously reported on his Wikipedia page, Gylfi continues to play well and when Swansea meets Crystal Palace at home he should be in your team. He is on all set pieces and will have plenty of points to show for his efforts.
A. Di Maria – his fantasy returns have exponentially diminished since those 20+ and a 31 point game against Everton but this is a perfect week for the Argentinian to make good for those of us investing in him at full price of £15.13. If you hold him cheap, you should be laughing all the way to the point bank; this will be another big week for him. And while he may no longer be on all the set pieces with Rooney's return, Hull City defenders will not be able to contain him running amok.
E. Hazard – played full 90 minutes vs. Schalke and assisted on Willian's goal. His price at retail of £18.15 is too expensive for a player who is either "too hot" or "too cold", but if you hold him at a discount, then continue to hold and hope for positive returns.
C. Fabregas – holding on to Fabregas at £5.39 is more of a tactical decision rather than sound advice. Do I want to drop him? You bet. His fantasy performance has declined in the past few weeks and there are better scoring midfielders to slot right in. Putting him on the bench is also ill-conceived, in my opinion; you either play him or get rid of him altogether. My concern is that Yahoo's pricing system has been perplexing this season and one good fantasy week may make the Spaniard difficult to afford in the future.
D. Tadic – a point machine and a no brainer if you hold him around £7. At retail, could also do a lot worse. I really enjoy watching him play and think he will do well home against City.
A. Ramsey / S. Cazorla – most of us have Alexis Sanchez who has been fantasy gold this season but depending on today's game vs. Borussia Dortmund, Aaron Ramsey or Santi Cazorla (who will slot straight in for the injured Jack Wilshere) are both good options away to West Bromwich. I slightly prefer Cazorla even at a higher price; Wilshere wasted two golden opportunities last weekend and I think Santi will capitalize on any mistakes by the Baggies' defense.
J. Barton – since coming back from injury, Barton scored 11 and 12 points in two consecutive games. Priced at £9 and home to Leicester City, he will be on most set pieces and could reward those managers who put faith in him to continue scoring well.
K. Mirallas – back from injury and may be the bargain of the week, priced at £7.66. Was praised by Roberto Martinez after the West Ham game, should get another start and will surely cause a lot of problems to Tottenham's defense.
D. Costa – played 66 minutes against Schalke. Saving all his goals for Saturday afternoon. He should be in your starting 11.
A. Sanchez – the second highest point scorer this season, Sanchez scored 14 points against United without a goal. Most of us hold him at a large discount, so continue to hold. I would think twice, however, before bringing him at retail as I think there are better, although slightly riskier options available this game week.
S. Aguero – a hat-trick even against a ten men Bayern Munich side is still very impressive, but boy is he expensive at retail. If you have the funds and are willing to gamble, or hold him at a discount, he could handsomely reward you with a multiple goal performance.
C. Austin – probably my favorite pick of the bunch. He is playing really well and should get plenty of opportunities to score against Leicester City. His points from the past five weeks prove that he is a good fantasy performer with 13, 22, 11, 25, and 13 points scored. Owned by a measly 2.21%, he is a great differential pick.
W. Rooney / R. Van Persie – is either one in great form or on a goal scoring tear? Not really, but it is tough to overlook the Manchester United duo home to struggling Hull City. Rooney at retail is very expensive but Van Persie is priced just right at £11.21 to take a punt and not feel terrible about it should he strike out.
H. Kane – do you still need convincing that young Harry is the real deal?! He has a great poaching instinct and loves to shoot from all distances. The dilemma is how to fit him in.
Bojan – in great form and faces Liverpool defense that is leaking goals. Another good differential pick.
A. Carroll – If either Sakho or Valencia is not fit to start then Andy Carroll will continue as the main striker. Priced at £5.54 with 0.24% ownership, you can safely bet that you will be the only one in your league to have him.
I am currently on: Courtois, Caulker, Cresswell, Trippier, Tadic, Mirallas, Sigurdsson, Di Maria, Costa, Austin, Sanchez w/ McNair (£1.21) Kelly (£1), Birdcutt (£1.01), Martinez (£1.53) on my bench. I have not saved it yet as it would mean dropping Fabregas at £5.39 – something I am still reluctant to do.
How are your early teams shaping up? Have any of you dropped Fabregas? Are you concerned about the possible rotations?
P.S. Wishing all of you celebrating a Happy Thanksgiving! May the good things of life be yours in abundance not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the coming year!