Sorry for the lateness of our post, so let's jump straight away into the player picks for Week 32.
Thibaut Courtois - Chelsea have had a tumultuous season, that is for sure. However Aston Villa have surely had the roughest ride rooted to the bottom of the table, relegation all but assured. Factor in they have now lost their manager through "mutual consent" and have scored the leagues lowest goal tally at just 22 and you have a perfect set up for a Blues victory. Chelsea have not been their usual defensive selves this season, however given this fixture you have to think they have a very good chance of walking away from Villa Park with a clean sheet.
Adrian - Speaking of London based clubs, West Ham have been revamped under Slavan Bilic, raising up the table to a lofty 5th place just 1pt off Champions League qualification. The Hammer's face a juicy home tie against Crystal Palace, who haven't won a match in 2016. Yes you heard that right, all of 2016. Worse yet is that the Eagles have failed to get their offense running while seemingly inviting pressure on their defense. I can't say when Alan Pardew will turn this around for his side, but going on current form Adrian looks a great differential pick this week.
Willy Caballero - News reports indicate Joe Hart is a major doubt for the match against Bournemouth with a calf injury. This means Caballero is waiting in the wings to deputize should Hart fail to recovery (which looks unlikely at this stage). City have gone off the boil as of late and have allowed West Ham and rivals United within reach of their current 4th placed position. Talk of the title should be over within the squad and focusing on retaining CL football should be top priority. What better way to get back to winning than against the Cherries?
Cesar Azpilicueta - With Chelsea looking to have the pick of the fixtures from a clean sheet perspective, Azpiliqueta looks to be your best route fantasy selection wise due to his consistent performances. Sure he hasn't hit the heights of Branislav Ivanovic when the Serb was actually good (scoring goals like a machine and getting heavily involved in the attack), but Spanish fullback has also contributed his share to the attack, with 2 goals and 3 assists this term. Villa should offer Chelsea plenty of room to bomb the flanks and likely plenty of opportunities.
Patrick van Aanholt - Sunderland look the likeliest to escape from relegation and van Aanholt has been crucial to the minor success the club has had this season. It wasn't too far back that the Dutchman scored a seemingly improbable 4 matches in succession to push his tally to 5 goals and 3 assists on the season. That is important production from your fullbacks when the rest of your squad has been so inconsistent further up the pitch. With a home match against a weary West Bromwich Albion, a good fantasy return isn't out of the question this week.
Hector Bellerin - While reports indicate Gabriel should get the nod at the center of Arsenal's defense and represents a far cheaper option, Bellerin has been consistent all season and has virtually no rotation risk. With 5 assists and 13 clean sheets to his name this season, you couldn't find a better option for the Gunner's defense given the Spaniards attacking minded approach. Watford may have upset Arsenal in the Cup, but with a top 4 position on the line, I expect Wenger's men to pull this one out comfortably in the end. Arsenal have the best chance of a clean sheet behind Chelsea this week and I suggest we all take advantage of that possibility.
The Leicester Defense - The unimaginable train that is the Foxes title challenge keeps steaming along and have amassed 12 clean sheets so far. They just keep doing it, both offensively and defensively. Claudio Raineri has instilled a mental toughness in his side that not many teams possess. Whether that is the consistency of Wes Morgan, the ability for Robert Huth to come up spades against Man City, or the tireless efforts of both Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson - Leicester City just keep doing it. Southampton may travel to the King Power stadium coming off an inspired 3-2 comeback win against Liverpool last game week, but Leicester are just operating on another level. Having any 1 of the for-mentioned defenders would do your fantasy squad well (especially given their prices in the Official format). As a reference I like Fuchs > Huth > Morgan > Simpson in that order.
Dimitri Payet - Probably the first player on anyone's fantasy squad this week and the Frenchman needs no explanation. He has even fought his way back into the French National squad where he was impressive during the International Break. Expensive but taking free kicks and generally acting as a thorn in any team's side this season. For those who cannot find a way to afford Payet, West Ham's other revelation this season, Michail Antonio should be returned to his favored position to the right of the midfield with James Tompkins reported to be fit for the right back berth. Antonio has scored 6 goals and has 5 assists on the season, one if not both of these players should be in your fantasy thinking for Week 32.
Alexis Sanchez - The Arsenal forward hasn't hit the heights of previous campaigns but he remains a vastly important player for the Gunners. Reports indicate he has recovered from his long travel after playing with Chile during the break. While Mesut Ozil certainly offers a nailed on starting berth, the German's form has dipped in recent matches. This leaves Sanchez as a much more attractive attacking option when Watford visit the Emirates stadium. The old Sanchez will back in form at some point, especially with Arsenal's double week looming on the horizon.
Marko Arnautovic - The Austrian has been Stoke's main man all season long with 10 goals and 4 assists. Facing a home match up to wobbling Swansea City looks tasty for fantasy returns. With a moderate price and decent match up, Arnie looks a smart pick. Where you might not be so satisfied is with his consistency, in which the Austrian can go anonymous one week and then score against a tough side the next. The cards are in place for this match up, Arnie just needs to play them correctly.
Coutinho - The match up isn't favorable but the young Brazilian maestro has all the ability to come up big when it counts. With fellow compatriot Firmino likely to be sidelined through injury, the attacking spark must be generated by Coutinho if Liverpool hope to pull one over on a surging Spurs side. The Brazilian scored in last match week's disappointing 3-2 loss to Southampton and will be looking to keep that momentum going into Anfield this week.
The Chelsea Midfield - The likeliest starters given available team information point to Cesc Fabregas and Willian, the latter being the one consistent beacon of light in Chelsea's troubled season. However Fab4 has been able to rediscover a bit of his former self in recent weeks and will be facing an utterly woeful Villa side now missing its manager. That being said, I know there has been a lot of discussion over the starting status of Bertrand Traore. While the youngster is listed as a midfielder but has played up top sounds like a dream selection, there are doubts about his starting status as Loic Remy is also fit and the more experienced Premier League striker. I haven't seen any indication of which Gus Hiddink will decide upon, but I feel he will side with experience over youth against Villa. Chelsea are still vulnerable but a mis-step against Villa would be highly embarrassing in what has already been an embarrassing season.
Sergio Aguero - Not much to say here, he is expensive but that's a great indicator of his value in fantasy terms. Bournemouth are virtually safe and have allowed 50 goals this season, so it doesn't seem like the Cherries have anything else going for them than pride at this point. Eddie Howe will surely know that the Argentine can be unleashed in any match, and following blanks in his last two, I back Aguero to get back amongst the goals.
Marcus Rashford - Coming off the back of a crucial derby goal and subsequent victory over rivals Manchester City, Rashford looks set to continue as the focal point of United's attack. Wayne Rooney is still a bit off from a return so this makes the youngsters chances of continuing his amazing rise all the better. While Everton can be a tricky opponent on their day, their impotent performance against Arsenal won't be doing them any favors. If Rashford can score on Manchester City why not Everton, especially given the match will be in front of the home town faithful at Old Trafford.
Jermain Defoe - Along with van Aanholt, Defoe has been one of a few examples of success in a club that has fallen far under its potential this season. Sunderland have struggled, that is for sure, but Defoe has still maintained his ruthlessness in front of the net with 12 goals and 1 assist this season. Welcoming West Brom to the Stadium of Light will provide Defoe with more opportunities to add to that tally. This is a must win for Sunderland if they hope to avoid relegation and the experience and ability of Defoe will be needed more than ever.
Loic Remy - Not much talk of the Frenchman making the rounds, which is precisely why Remy is the perfect dark horse pick. Let's look at this situation critically: a.) Chelsea play basement dwelling side Villa who have conceded the most goals of any team this season b.) Diego Costa is still serving his suspension c.) Remy has proven Premier League experience and goal scoring ability more so than youngster Bertrand Traore. Unless there is something going on behind the scenes I can't imagine Remy doesn't get the nod in these circumstances. Don't get me wrong, this is a risky pick as Hiddink may well in fact go against my thinking here and start Traore. But the possible benefits from even a short cameo could mean a goal or two in this fixture. Chelsea would be wise to start a player that has a proven PL goal scoring history and put Villa to bed early.
The Arsenal Forwards - The match up against Watford at home has the all the indications of a fine fantasy scoring week. Picking the right starting forward is an entirely different situation. A lot of flack has been directed at Olivier Giroud, mostly taking the form of criticism that he cannot lead a title winning side. But I find this pretty wrong on many accounts and will point to the fact Giroud is the 3rd fastest Gunner to score 50 or more goals for the club not to mention his exploits for France during the International Break. However, Danny Welbeck has seemingly slipped back into starting contention as of late and has rewarded Arsne Wenger's selection with 3 goals and 1 assist since his return from injury. This leaves quite the selection headache as either striker could feature against Watford on Saturday. Also consider the fact Theo Walcott is fit and can also play centrally and you have a tricky fantasy dilemma. I will point out the info I have read indicates Welbeck is likeliest to start, so take your pick and hope for the best.
My team has yet to take full shape but I am certainly looking at a number of players listed above. How has your team selection gone through the long break? What players have you decided upon that I didn't cover here?