Well I can say with much certainty that this has been quite an exciting season in the Premier League! With 5 games left for most teams, we will surely have a thunderous finish at both ends of the table come May. I have had to grit my teeth through painfully slow internet connections (most of which were far and few between) just to get scraps of information on how the league was progressing. I must say that it is incredibly exciting to be back and see Liverpool topping the league and going into Week 34 on title winning form. Week 34 sees us faced with double matches for four teams: Manchester City, Everton, Crystal Palace and Sunderland with Manchester United and Hull City taking a breather.
Since most of us are going to want the best return possible for this round of fixtures, I am going to focus on the double matches and sprinkle in a few single match prospects. But as we all know, double weeks and make or break a season, so with so few game weeks left, your team should be virtually full of double gamer's to maximize your potential points.
I'd like to start briefly with a thought that I have been pondering for much of the last week as I patiently waited to get off my vessel and onto dry land where a decent internet connection awaited me: What is to be done with Luis Suarez? Obviously most of us have had the leagues top scorer ever present in our line ups holding the captains armband, but with so few matches left and points up for grabs I have been toying with a few options. Most of us will keep Suarez in the line up and who could argue giving the deadly striker the armband given his ludacris point returns with the x2 bonus. But that may not be the best option this week, especially if you are trying to catch a rival in your private leagues, certainly a shake up could benefit your squad vastly. I see two viable options this week:
1.) Keep Suarez in your line up at his discount but give the armband to another player, preferably an Everton or City striker. Luis has been devastating throughout this season, but he has come up short in the bigger matches. This of course leads me to think the x2 captain bonus will better be served to a player with the potential of 2 games instead of one. Of course, keeping Suarez in your line up assures you that any goals scored in the City game will still positively impact your point total for the week.
2.) Drop Suarez to the bench and opt for a two striker formation. This is the riskier option, but may actually work out better to maximizing your teams potential points this week. Assuming Suarez keeps to his set pattern of not going Goalazo crazy in the big matches, you might actually be better off taking an extra midfielder in your team this week. If Suarez ends up with only a goal or an assist, having an extra double playing midfielder may actually pay out dividends.
I am not totally convinced on which option I am going to decide on, but since I couldn't barndoor while on contract, my options are much more limited given Everton player's price increase from last weekend. I am currently keeping Suarez in my line up since I could only afford a midfielder in the 5mil range if I decided to bench him.
Okay let's jump into the player picks!
Tim Howard - The obvious barndoor keeper of last week. The American number 1 will surely give you the best potential for clean sheets and points given Everton's relatively easier home and away match against Crystal Palace and Sunderland respectively. Even at his current price, I just can't see any reason why he shouldn't be in everyone's team this week.
Joe Hart - Less expensive than Howard, but facing a very tricky trip to Anfield to face an on fire Liverpool squad full of belief that an end to their title drought is on hand. If anything, Hart will have a very winnable matchup against Sunderland at home to fall back on if the away trip to Liverpool ends poorly. But one thing you can bank on, Liverpool are going to bombard the City shot stopper, making the potential for saves high, although you risk the wrath of SAS and Co sneaking a few in.
R. Elliot/Tim Krul - If you need more of your budget to afford some of the more expensive big guns in midfield and striker slots, then the Newcastle stand-in keeper looks set to be your guy. Newcastle have been awful of late, but an away trip to Stoke doesn't seem that daunting to me. For only 1mil, it seems a small risk to take for a match that very well may see Elliot stay positive with a few saves as Stoke doesn't seem a potential offensive powerhouse. Krul is still rated as a doubt for the trip to Stoke, so check team news on Friday.
Leighton Baines - The Everton left back is going to cost you a large portion of your budget, but is a must have for the juicy double. His share of set pieces and PK's make his high price seem more reasonable, even if he hasn't lived up to past season expectations.
J. Stones - The young Everton center back cemented his place under Martinez while Jagielka remains sidelined through injury. The only benefit of not being able to barndoor or change my team was that I still retain the younster's service for just +5mil. But even at his current price, Stones has proven to be a worth while option at the heart of the Everton defense and will be looking to rack up more blocked shot points in the double to come.
V. Kompany - The most affordable of the City defenders and usually a reliable source of defensive points, the Belgian looks set to complete many fantasy managers back lines. Kompany should have a very possible clean sheet chance against Sunderland and will certainly need to be on his game to block any and all shots thrown his way by the SAS. A must have option for around 10mil.
Pablo Zabaleta - I can't see two starts for either Clichy or Kolarov, so the Argentine right back looks the far better, albiet expensive, option for City defensive cover. His bombarding runs down the flank and quick crossing could see him reap attacking returns.
Joel Ward/Scott Dann - Crystal Palace have been revitalized under the guidence of Tony Pulis and look real contenders to stay up. With a very winnable home match against a stuttering Aston Villa missing their star player Benteke, point returns look on the cards for the defensive pair. I don't think they will be able to hold out Everton who will be looking to leap frog Arsenal to 4th place, but certainly any points from that match will just be a bonus if they successfully keep the clean sheet against Villa.
Vergini - The budget Sunderland defensive option that should get two matches. I wouldn't advise putting him in your starting 11 unless you need more funds for the bigger players, but he is certainly a solid bench option.
Yaya Toure - Most of us have kept him at a strong discount and should be in your team regardless of price even with doubts over a minor knock. Should Aguero fail to make it, Yaya will continue with penalty duty and is always a threat from a set piece.
Samir Nasri/Navas - The Frenchman has been hitting some form as of late and has been getting plenty of playing time. However Nasri is notorious for frustrating fantasy managers when selected and given his elevated price from last weeks goal, might be a bit of a gamble. However City will need all of their assets running at full cylinder if they wish to retake the summit of the Premier League. Jesus Navas hasn't had the season we expected him to have since his move, but he has popped up with the odd spectacular match. I see both these players as relatively similar in risk/reward, so who you chose will be up to your preference.
David Silva - The little Spanish play-maker is a must and will surely be dictating the flow and tempo of the attack. I don't think I need to say much more, these will be two important matches for City and Silva will be crucial to their success.
Ross Barkley - There are some doubts about whether he will start the next couple of matches but the youngsters skills are undoubted. He will be pushing hard to regain a midfield berth especially with the World Cup looming just on the horizon. Even off the bench, Barkley offers decent potential for just over 11mil.
McGeady - The budget Everton midfield option at just under 4mil. The chances of a start will be low, but the funds you'll save by acquiring his services will allow for bigger players upfront. He should get at least a shout over 2 matches and could possibly bang in a goal - strange things tend to happen in double weeks!
Coleman - The utter frustration that comes with this pick is that Coleman is listed as a midfielder but playing wonderfully at right back. He has had some astounding games this season and even without the CS, looks a great option for phantom points or the odd goal. His late runs into the opponents box have proved fruitful to say the least, with the youngster netting 6 times already this season.
James Puncheon - Unless you took him on the barndoor, 20mil seems a bit too steep to shell out even in a double week. However, Puncheon is on form and is surely central to Crystal Palace's amazing run that has seen them climb from bottom of the table and looking real contender's for safety.
Ledley - Less expensive than Puncheon and playing in the "hole" behind the striker makes Ledley a decent option this week should you desire some Palace attacking cover.
Mile Jedinak - He's not a goal threat but Jedinak has had a solid fantasy season. At 13mil he seems a solid option to produce a decent fantasy return even without SOT, goals, or assists. Just take his current total of 209pts with 116 of those coming from passes intercepted alone! He is probably the "safe" option of the Crystal Palace midfielders if you are looking to get at least some point returns.
Adam Johnson - He has been disappointing since his brief run of goal scoring form, but players tend to relish the chance to score on their old teams. Sunderland have arguably the hardest run in with Everton and City, but Johnson represents the perfect dark horse pick for those willing to gamble.
Romelu Lukaku - Must have Everton striker in my opinion. Not much more to say but the on-loan Belgian striker is a real armband candidate.
Deulofeu/Mirallas - For those seeking some differential then the Spanish youngster or Lukaku's fellow Belgian Mirallas could fit the bill. Although I see them fairly similar in risk/return, Mirallas has the better chance to start both matches and has been taking corners.
Aguero - The news seems to be that Sergio Aguero is fit and ready to get back into first team action. Although he has been out for a long time, would it really be wise to put him into the firing line at Anfield? I'd almost think he might be eased back in, making a return from the bench against Liverpool and a start against Sunderland. The fact remains that City might ill afford to leave him on the bench for either. Wait for team news tomorrow.
Dzeko/Negredo - Dzeko seems the most likely City striker to play 120+ minutes given his recent form and continued starting status. However, Negredo is another viable option and much cheaper. This is just the headache we are going to face now that Pellegrini has all 4 of his expensive strikers at his disposal.
Suarez - As noted above, the question is whether to keep him in the starting 11 or drop him to the bench. I would certainly look elsewhere for an armband candidate simply given Suarez only plays once. Either way, I'll be extremely happy with a Suarez hattrick against City, captain or not.
There you have it! Another successful Kellz Player Picks in the books! Given my inability to barndoor or change my team I have had to settle for buying players at full price so my team currently looks like: Howard, Baines, Stones, Kompany, McGeady, Silva, Yaya, Barkley, Suarez, Negredo, Lukaku (capt). I will most likely keep Lukaku as captain but may switch out Negredo to Dzeko or Aguero by selling Howard who I have at 19mil, even though I really think he will have a huge week. Still lots to decide!
How are your teams coming along? Who do you feel will produce big in this double week?