The FA Cup round 3 is out the way and its back to the Premier League for couple weeks. Time to take a quick look at who is in and who is out from contention this week
Out: Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta
Doubt: Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott both just back from injury
In: Aaron Ramsey
Win: The Arsenal attack but specifically Olivier Giroud.
To be fair the Stoke defence has upped its game in the last three weeks with clean sheets against Everton, West Brom and conceded the single goal v Man Utd. Prior though they had conceded in 11 straight league games. When you consider two of those three were at home and two of the three were against sides in a bad run of form then the returns are less surprising.
Arsenal will have first choice centre forward Giroud back and the player owes his teammates and fans a performance after is crazy headbutt incident cost him a two league game ban. The rule of thumb had been that Giroud eats into Alexis Sanchez points when he starts so in a game where he will be fully fit and requires payback, he is my pick in this one
Out: Nathan Baker, Fabian Delph,
Doubt: Joe Cole, Ronald Vlaar
Win: Christian Benteke
Under Paul Lambert Villa has always been a more effective side on the road. Facing a Leicester side who has strung three great result together in row, it won't be easy. I see at least one strike from the big fella and as he is on penalty duties he always has the chance to go better.
Out: Matthew Taylor, Michael Duff, Stephen Ward
Doubt: Jason Shackell,
In: Michael Keane
Win: George Boyd
Boyd is an example of picking up a player on a great run of form regardless of fixtures. His last 4 games brought 9, 8 14 and 18 pts and when you consider he is still just £10.78m you realise you could have had a bargain over the festive fixtures. A home tie against a QPR side that has been terrible away from home has to tempt.
Win: Diego Costa with alternative pick Branislav Ivanovic
Chelsea's title bid has gone great guns through their ability to select the same players. Costa is a boring no brainer. After the mauling at Spurs I expect a rock solid return to their defence. Add to that the very overdue Ivanovic goal and he is my pick.
Out: Marouane Chamakh, Paddy McCarthy, Miles Jedinak, Yannick Bolasie
In: Glenn Murray
Win: Jason Puncheon or Barry Bannan
Puncheon very nearly got punched at the World Championship Darts this past weekend after a drink too many. Normally that would be enough to be dropped the following game but Palace are short on options. Pardew has "had a word" as well so expect to see the player start. He was a huge reason behind Palaces survival last season and can get himself back on track this week. Expect a cup tie atmosphere and I'm guessing double figure fantasy return.
Option two is a real pick. Bannan was MOM in the cup tie at Dover and is priced under 3m. Once again with numbers short in the Palace squad, he likely starts this one and may take some set pieces. Bannan is a very good fantasy player and talk from the Palace fans is that he may even get the no10 role in this one.
Out: Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert, Tim Howard, Sylvain Distin
Doubt: James McCarthy, Leighton Baines
In: John Stones
Win: Romelu Lukaku
King Troll was back in the goals against West Ham in the cup and forwards play on confidence. Talking of which if Vincent Kompany doesn't start I have no confidence in the city centre back pair and you know he scores when we don't have him.
Out: Mohamed Diame, Robert Snodgrass, Andrew Robertson, Michael Dawson, Liam Rosenior
Doubt: James Chester
In: Stephen Quinn
Win: Robbie Brady
With injury to Robertson and Rosenior he will start in the wing back role. He's looked lively in recent weeks and will be a handful for the WBA right back.
Out: Kasper Schmeichel, Matthew Upson, Riyad Mahrez, Esteban Cambiasso,
Doubt: Danny Drinkwater
In: David Nugent
Win: David Nugent
Nugent was a big part of the squad that won promotion to the Premier League and considering Leicester have propped up the division he must consider himself a little unlikely to find himself benched.
The bad run of team form prompted the Manager to give him a chance again and he has returned some excellent performances since doing so. The fantasy point shave started coming as well with 11 and 19pts in his last two. A home tie against Villa offers you a real value pick at £6.96 if you are brave enough.
Out: Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson, Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allan, Adam Lallana
Doubt: Brad Jones
In: Dejan Lovren,
Win: Raheem Sterling
Sterling is the pick as he is well rested and pool are short on options. His pace will give him a chance against the slow Sunderland back line.
Out: Yaya Toure
Doubt: Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko,
In: Stefan Jovetic,
Win: Samir Nasri
Ok I won't pick him but as the only City midfield player not returning goals in recent weeks it must be his turn.
Out: Ashley Young
Doubt: Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Fellaini
Win: Di Maria
With LVG stating only Young is out this week, it is hard to know who will start for the Red Devils. RVP and Rooney seem certs but United's best player is Di Maria and I imagine he returns for this one.
Out: Rolando Aarons, Gabriel Obertan, Ryan Taylor, Chiote Tiote, Papiss Cisse
Doubt: Jack Colback,
In: Tim Krul
Win: ummmmmmm Colback
Really can rate any of the side this week. No manager and heading to Chelsea after failing to score against Leicester. Should he start Colback will at least win a few tackles.
Out: Alejandro Faurlin, Adel Taarabt
In: Mauro Zarate
Win: Joey Barton
Not much to be brave about in this one. Had they been home then Charlie Austin was the pick but as away lets go with Bartons all round phantom point game. A goal is overdue as well.
Out: Jay Rodriguez, Jack Cork, Yoshida, Sadio Mane
Doubt: Nathaniel Clyne.
Win: Fraser Forster
The saints has shown themselves to be a well organised and stubborn side in without the ball. Any game at OT will need plenty of saves for the away keeper but maybe the Saints can restrict many of them to long range. If so a multi save game comes his way.
Out: Peter Odemwingie, Andy Wilkinson, Mame Biram Diouf
Doubt: Steven Ireland, Bojan Krkic, Victor Moses,
In: Marko Arnautovic, Philipp Wollscheid
Win: Ryan Shawcross
Unlikely to get a clean sheet but very likely to win plenty of BS, PI and TW. Also based on Arsenal's terrible set piece zonal marking, a chance for a goal in this one exists.
Out: Jack Rodwell
In: Patrick Van Aanholt
Win: Connor Wickham
Liverpools defence has been getting worse rather than better in recent games. Any ball over the top or cross into the box caused chaos in the Wimbledon game. These are bread and butter tactics for Sunderland who lack the players to play any other way. We are also due some strong winds and that will just add to the effect. Wickham has been a player who is showing the signs of development and I can see him rewarding any brave soul who picks him this week.
Out: Wilfried Bony, Ki , Jefferson Montero
Doubt: Leon Britton,
In: Bafetimbi Gomis
Gomis is a forward with a strong all round game and goals record. He now knows he is first choice until the seasons end and is already linked to other Premier League sides. He will get very good supply from the Swans pass and move play and I see a goal or better for him in this one.
Out: Erik Lamela
Doubt: Ryan Mason,
In: Andros Townsend
Win: Harry Kane or Andros Townsend
Kane was absolutely fantastic against Chelsea. His workrate is always there but there was some great first touches, vision and the first goal he scored was a sign he could become a much better player than many have thought. Only the best players have that ability to take that extra second to analysis their options before taking the correct one. I can see him heavily marked in this one but his form is such you have to say he is the pick.
I also want to give a shout to Townsend. He was a great fantasy player a short time ago and had forced himself into the England set up. Amazingly when he got there he was playing as well for his country as his club. An injury put an end to his World Cup hopes but thanks to Lamela's injury Townsend is back in the fold. I really like him in this tie where I can see a cup type game taking place. That will mean plenty of attacking footy and too much space for those with pace. Note, he was penalty taker over Kane last week.
Out: Jonas Olsson
Doubt: Victor Anichebe, Graham Dorrans
In: Chris Brunt
Win: Saido Berahino
His recent attitude concerns me and you have to hope talks with Tony P went well in the week or he could find himself on the bench. Assuming they did he and Pulis praised the player today he has a plumb fixture and is back in form himself.
Out: Modibo Maiga, Mark Noble, Diafra Sahko, Cheikhou Kouyate.
Doubt: Andy Carroll
In: Alex Song,
Win: Enner Valencia
With Carroll a doubt and Sahko out, Valencia is the fit West Ham forward of choice. I suspect he will suit playing on the break as the Hammers surely will have to in this one.
So there you have it.
My side looks as follows
Foster, Okore, Ivanovic, Debuchy, Sterling, Puncheon, Townsend, Di Maria, Giroud, Costa and Berahino
I'm ok with it. Likely one of Puncheon or Townsend may go and I'm feeling maybe I should have more Chelsea in attack. Despite the pick making sense my gut says stay away from Berahino but I don't know why. Di Maria seems ready to start but this is a tough game so I wonder if its a week too early. Plus with Welbeck out and Ramsey only just ready, Could Oxlade-Chamberlain start in midfield and Theo in attack?
Lots to think about.