After a disastrous start to Game Week 18 with no Courtois, Costa, Silva, Sigurdsson, and with Jones lasting just 16 minutes against Burnley, I managed a very respectable 92 points thanks largely to the great individual efforts by Sterling, Johnson, Eriksen, Sanchez and Austin coming off the bench, to replace the injured Di Maria. I am certainly chuffed and look to continue the decent form. There are some very good match-ups to consider this Game Week, and I may even make a few exceptions, like doubling up on offensive players from the same team – something I seldom do. As mentioned in my prior post, having a "playing" bench is the key to this game week, as Charlie Austin subbed in nicely for Angel Di Maria and provided 11 points. Furthermore, this was the first week where the bargain defenders failed to perform as Okore/Cresswell/Kelly ended up with a combined -5. On top of that, Martin Kelly was benched for Adrian Mariappa, so his starting status must be monitored. Speaking of Crystal Palace, we have our first sacking of the season, as Neil Warnock has been sacked as their Manager. Could Tony Pulis be back with the team?
Let’s first take a look at the team news to see who is an "Out/Doubt/In" while the "Win" category will follow and contain selective player picks for this Game Week.
Out: Olivier Giroud (suspension), Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshire, Mikel Arteta
Doubt: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Laurent Koscielny
In: Santi Cazorla, Yaya Sanogo/Lukas Podolski (maybe)
Out: Nathan Baker, Kieran Richardson (suspension), Gabriel Agbonlahor (suspension)
Doubt: Joe Cole
In: Carlos Sánchez, Andreas Weimann
Out: Matthew Taylor, Michael Duff, Stephen Ward
In: Jason Shackell, Michael Keane
In: Didier Drogba/Loic Remy (maybe)
Out: Marouane Chamakh, Paddy McCarthy, Glenn Murray
In: Adrian Mariappa
Out: Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert
Doubt: Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, James McCarthy, Kevin Mirallas
In: Joel Robles, Antolin Alcaraz
Out: Mohamed Diame, Robert Snodgrass, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone (suspension), James Chester (suspension)
Doubt: Andrew Robertson
In: Stephen Quinn
Out: Kasper Schmeichel, Matthew Upson, Jamie Vardy (suspension)
In: Ben Hamer, David Nugent
Out: Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson, Daniel Sturridge
Doubt: Dejan Lovren, Brad Jones
In: Simon Mignolet, Kolo Toure
Out: Vincent Kompany, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero
Doubt: Stefan Jovetic
In: Frank Lampard (rotation), Aleksandar Kolarov (rotation)
Out: Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo
Doubt: Chris Smalling, Angel Di Maria
In: Juan Mata, Radomel Falcao
Out: Rolando Aarons, Tim Krul, Gabriel Obertan, Ryan Taylor
Out: Alejandro Faurlin, Adel Taarabt
Doubt: Joey Barton
Out: Jay Rodriguez, Jack Cork, Ryan Bertrand (ineligible to face parent club)
In: Matt Targett, Dusan Tadic
Out: Peter Odemwingie, Andy Wilkinson, Victor Moses
Doubt: Steven Ireland
In: Marko Arnautovic
Out: Patrick Van Aanholt
In: Wes Brown, Billy Jones, Connor Wickham (back from 1 game suspension)
Doubt: Leon Britton, Jefferson Montero
In: Wayne Routledge
In: Ryan Mason, Federico Fazio
Out: Jonas Olsson
Doubt: Victor Anichibe, Graham Dorrans
In: Chris Brunt
Out: Modibo Maiga, Mark Noble, Carl Jenkinson (ineligible to face parent club)
In: Alex Song, Joey O'Brien
"Win" / Player Picks
Thibaut Courtois – Chelsea defense is just too dominant. They made West Ham United look like a Championship team with no shots on target and very little possession. If Manchester City was able to travel to St. Mary's and get a Clean Sheet, the team from London should able to replicate the result.
Robert Green – at home to a manager-less Crystal Palace team that has not won in 6 games and only managed to score 3 goals in those games and priced at £5.30, he is worth your consideration.
Costel Pantilimon – not a good showing by the Sunderland team against Hull City, but if you hold the Romanian at a substantial discount, give him another shot away to Villa.
Asmir Begovic - I picked him against Chelsea and he returned 0 points. I am also tempted to pick him again, home to West Bromwich, at a brandoor price of £5.03. Can he keep two clean sheets in a row?
Ben Hamer – I have not gone mad, but I think Leicester will get a result on Sunday. Hamer is priced at £1, a sure starter and will tickle your nerves for the entire 90 minutes. What else could you ask for as a fantasy manager?
Aleksandar Kolarov - the Serbian is not amused by wacky animal videos but he is almost certain to start against Burnley and will get plenty of opportunities for successful crosses, shots on target and a Clean Sheet. He is in my team.
Seamus Coleman – I am recommending him two weeks in a row because Coleman is due a big game and I have a hunch he will do well against Newcastle.
Steven Caulker – scored 8 points without a Clean Sheet and home to a struggling Crystal Palace team, he should warrant your consideration.
Branislav Ivanovic – he is a premium priced defender who is due a goal. If you have some cash lying around, go ahead and splurge.
Ryan Shawcross – the captain is due a goal. He is also reasonably priced at £8.40, home against West Browmich.
Billy Jones – priced at £2.75, the timing is right to bring the right back into your squad for Sunderland's visit to Aston Villa. I played him often with West Bromwich and I quite like him as a cheap differential defender option for this Game Week.
Matt Targett – priced at £2.14 and will come in for Ryan Bertrand who is ineligible to face his parent club. I have not seen much of the youngster, but he will have his hands full against Chelsea.
David Silva/Yaya Toure - both players have scored for two consecutive games and both are at home to Burnley. Manuel Pellegrini further confirmed that they were taken out early due to the proximity of the Sunday’s game. This could be a very good week to bring both into your starting 11 and hope for big returns.
Raheem Sterling - Sterling provided the winner against Burnley which was his third consecutive game in double digits. Playing as a striker and home against Swansea on a three day rest, he should continue his fine form.
Adam Johnson - 2 games, 2 goals. He likes to score in spurts and away to Aston Villa should present an opportunity to add to the goal tally.
Mile Jedinak – I am not certain about this pick but away to Queens Park Rangers team that is just 2 points ahead in the standings, this game is another one of those early relegation match-ups, and could be a 0-0 or high scoring affair.
Kevin Mirallas - Everton is very thin in the midfield, as McGeady and Pienaar have not shown that they are ready to start on a consistent basis. Back from injury, but looking dangerous against Stoke, Mirallas took a slight knock against Stoke but should assume his role on the flank against Newcastle.
Riyad Mahrez - Riyad Mahrez rewarded those managers who had confidence in him with an assist and a 13 point performance. He is a skilled player and Nigel Pearson will be looking to get as much playing time out of him before the Iranian international departs for the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
Stewart Downing – West Ham United has not lost two games in a row this season. Home to Arsenal, however, is not the best game to hope for a result, but with Alex Song back in the lineup, Downing should revert to playing behind the strikers which is the position that saw him blossom as a fantasy performer. He is expensive and a very high risk pick, especially with Silva and Toure similarly priced but could prove to be a good differential for those looking to gain ground.
Stéphane Sessegnon – I had a bit of downtime last night and watched the West Bromwich vs. City game. I could not help but admire just how active Sessegnon was in absolutely miserable weather conditions. He was the only Baggies player constantly in motion and his scoring for the past three weeks has justified his hard work with 14, 17 and 12 points respectively. He is a great differential pick at Stoke.
Charlie Austin - we all know about Austin’s heroics against West Bromwich Albion, but his performance against Arsenal cannot be overlooked, as he was very active and confidently put away a penalty kick. This will be a scrappy affair but at £11.22, Austin will stay for the foreseeable future.
Alexis Sanchez - with Olivier Giroud suspended for the next 3 games, Alexis Sanchez again becomes the main man on offense, and while the next two fixtures are not the easiest (West Ham and Southampton away) the Chilean has regained his confidence by scoring and assisting, and will be a threat to every defense he faces.
Christian Benteke - I hate to sound like a broken record by recommending the same player from the Villa team, but Benteke had two glorious chances to score against Swansea City. Home to a Sunderland team that lost to Hull, the Belgian will surely put one away on Saturday.
Nikica Jelavic - home to the worst team in a league, Hull is coming off a huge away win against Sunderland and will want to replicate the result in front of its home fans. Rested for the bulk of the Sunderland game, the Croatian came on as a substitute and scored. He should earn his starting spot back and will be looking to score against Leicester.
Wayne Rooney - while the extent of Angel Di Maria's training ground injury is still unknown, Wayne Rooney stepped up offensively and had a monster week. He is expensive, but as previously mentioned, he is the only United player I would consider having in my line-up.
Bojan Krkić – if you brought him in before his priced jumped to over £10, consider playing him but his performances have been unpredictable as he can give you a 4 or a 16 point performance.
My team at the moment is: Hamer, Kolarov, Coleman, Cresswell, Silva, Sterling, Johnson, Fabregas, Toure, Sanchez, Austin, w/ Zamora, Kelly, Okore and Jones on my bench. I know it is risky to start Hamer, but it could add to some Sunday fun. I am still holding Begovic at his barndoor price and will make the final decision tonight.
Best of luck tomorrow!