After an incredible round of FA cup games and a fun League cup semi final or two we move back to the Premier League. There is a massive lack of new signings to freshen the league up in one of the most quiet transfer windows in sometime. Nevertheless lets look at the games ahead and the picks that require discussion.
Chelsea v Manchester City
This is the big one, the top two face off with Chelsea holding a 5 point lead. Going further Chelsea have home field advantage and momentum after winning their place into the League Cup final on Tuesday evening. City strangely have been in a bad run, winless in three. The game seems likely to be a tense affair where City cannot afford to lose and Chelsea content to pick their moments. With Cesc Fabregas hobbling off Chelsea's main creator looks like being absent. Kompany and co have been letting in the goals none stop in recent games but will have had a full week to work on their defensive shape. They will likely line up with their double pivot of defensive midfield option Fernando and Fernandinho who along with Zabaleta and Kompany like a battle. Add in Nemanja Matic, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Costa's enjoyment of a physical battle and there could be plenty of start stop play and a few cards.
Crystal Palace v Everton
One side in form and one side very much not. Alan Pardew has clearly united a dressing room while concerning stories of a split dressing room at Everton keep popping up.
I see this as a game where any result is possible. Betting against Hull had worked recently but Newcastle haven't been any better since Alan Pardew left. As they say, anything could happen.
Tough game and Champions League ambitions on the line. Liverpool played really well in the cup ties against Chelsea, while West Ham really look tough to beat. The Hammers do not seem the ideal opponent after the blow of a cup semi defeat so any investment may need to be small.
Utd continue to fail to convince. LVG constant change of tactics still has yet to find a balance and you don't feel even at home its going to be easy. Leicester come here on a high and while on paper they don't have the players to win, what's on paper doesn't get results. A 2-2 comeback draw at Anfield is a warning.
Sunderland just don't create chances while Burnleys defence has gone missing. Add to that this is game Sunderland will think they need to win and the pressure rests on the home side.
An away side that has lost every game against a side that has lost their star player. QPR's run has to end at some point but Stoke will want to get their home form together.
Two Premier League games under Tony P and two clean sheets with one goal scored, Spurs has this incredible run of the number of goals in their games being over 2.5. That run could end here after a cup semi final in midweek takes something out of them.
This looks a banker home win. Having said that so did the opening game of last season and Villa as we always remind you are a road team.
No Bony, no Siggy, no Montero and no Routledge. Even Gomis may want out so the Swans are up against it. The saints are back in form and I see a comfortable home win.
On to the Player Picks
If you have him at 5m you have to stick with him. If you are looking to pay full price I suggest keeping away with better options this week for the cost than the Postman, who may not even be available as he's been charged with violent conduct by the FA following his stamp on Emre Can in the Capital One Cup match against Liverpool midweek.
Hazard has been fantastic all season. A constant work rate and consistent moments of driving play he often find himself up against two markers creating space for others. Without his buddy Cesc though he may be even tighter marked this week, if city are doing their jobs then he should be. On pens but again at almost 17m in cost, to buy you would need to consider him a differential pick this week.
Kun is one of those players who comes back from injury and their performance is as good as before the injury. A game and a half on his comeback and he has been a little quiet. He still remains the league's best player for me and a proven big game man to boot. As with the other two big guns in the fixture, Costa and Hazard, he is too expensive for me, until my Saturday morning comes. He is however a BD must.
The captain will do very well to get the clean sheet in this one. But at 5.81m to buy he is a nice pick to rack up the phantom points. To achieve any result the BS, TW and PI will be needed and he is always a danger from corners. If you don't like him this week then like Kun he is a must BD.
Before you discount the pick completly take a look at his last four scores. 9, 9, 10 and 17 suggest the old Baines is starting to return. Add a goal/clean sheet or both and we are in business. He will cost you just under 16m and you are buying potential rather than expectation. What he will be is Everton's penalty taker from now on. He is a bit of a luxury pick for this week but if you are holding Costa/Sanchez at 5m each you may have the money left over.
Punch is back in business since the arrival of Pardew with double digit scores back to back. Priced at around 11m and facing an Everton side that give too much time and space he a great pick for his price.
Any forward playing Everton will get chances and for just 1m you have the perfect no risk pick. Unless of course you think he gets benched.
Many peoples bargain pick of the week at under 2m. I see the thought process but for my keeper I want a certain win or at least one I feel confident about. I have him at the moment but I'm not sure I trust him for the clean sheet or the win. With Carver confirmed manager until the end of season does that improve his chances? One to discuss.
So if you don't like the Krul pick you may prefer the home keeper in the fixture. Hull are stronger at home and probably have a more settled dressing room than Newcastle. He is cheap as well.
I took a stab at Cabella last time out and he rewarded me with 11 phantoms without a SOT or assist. The week prior he racked up 15pts at Stamford Bridge. I seem to have benefited with one of those Yahoo bugs because I hold him at 7m despite paying 11m for him. He seems to have Carvers faith and the fixture is nice.
I have seen Sterling in members early teams. As he plays in such a forward position but counts as a midfield option he will always tempt. I wonder though if the hammers sit deep will there be enough space to prosper? That brings me to;
Brendan Rodgers talked about building a team around this young man and I can see why. He does still run out of steam in games but I thought he was excellent against a tight Chelsea defence. He is on corners as well and if Gerrard is rested after the midweek could he take pens? I like him more than Sterling in this fixture, do you?
One thing that remained true in the Chelsea games is that Liverpool for all their improvements still cannot defend balls into the box. If you could have one player in the box to expose this advantage it could be Andy Carroll. Add to that Andy is in form and the ex often comes back to make you pay don't they (Ken any comments on that one).
Rooney may be a forward playing in midfield but despite that Utd missed him against Cambridge (can't believe I had to say that). Even in his midfield role Rooney performs better at home and after a two week rest I expect a Rooney like performance. Not many will go with him this week so he offers a real alternative pick.
Angel Di Maria
Can't see many being brave enough not to go with him but he is in a mid season slump. Perhaps its the cold weather, perhaps being played in multi positions, I'm not sure. But I do have to pick him this week.
Robin Van Persie
Back to fit and in the last year of his contract. He needs to impress in the final third of the season for a new deal or move so you can't expect a little more selfishness in his efforts on goal. On pens as well. Who would have thought you would have doubts about RVP, certain to start and home to Leicester?
With the injury to Bojan Moses becomes the top pick in this fixture. He may not play the full 90 but at 7m and the perfect opponent he ticks all the fantasy boxes this week.
Even at 32 Defoe will take the chances given to him so the question is can the tame Sunderland creative department make them. The price is so low and fixture so tempting this has to be the third part of your front three.
He has been linked with a move to spurs and often when that happens the deal get secured by your target ripping you to pieces. Could happen here and if you don't like Defoe or want someone different then the super confident Saido could be worth a gamble.
Many of you have Kane at decent discount and after all Tony P or not, it is still WBA. If you hold him deep at say 9m I will agree with the hold plan but I will not recommend at retail price.
Rambo is back in the first team and is always capable of a 20+ point game. Once again I'd imagine not many go with him this week so for people playing catch up once for consideration.
He makes link the Arsenal attack tick and after failing to score v Stoke in his last home I expect him to return to the home goals this week.
Will he start or won't he? If he does start is he must have or are we just carried away with the price. If he does start you will only get 60-70mins out of him. If he doesn't you will only get 20-30 minutes. Gamble?
If you have him at 5m or any discount a no brainer. Even if you don't he is worth it a full price. As a non owner I have to gamble against him each week and its not working out too well.
Cheap as chips and has had the most shots at goal in home games. Due and this may be the week to brave him once more.
I like the chances of the win/clean sheet double. At just under 9m it is an expense pick with other options out there. Those of you who held at the 4/5m mark must go with him this week.
An outside pick. If i'm right about the result the awesome named young midfield option is price perfect. A dead ball and crossing specialist he has a great chance for assist potential. I need confirmation from 1998 he will definitely start, will he mate?
There you have my thought process looking ahead to this week games and picks. As it has been for a while, I'm in the chasing pack so have the freedom to gamble. While my picks haven't always worked out, not being trapped by discounts every week has been fun.
I've yet to look at my side this week but most of the above will be in my thoughts. Who am I missing? Who are the must have picks for you and how does your early team look?