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Week 30 Player Picks: Fallen Heroes, Rising Stock

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It’s been two weeks, but the games are finally back! Time to pit your conscience against fantasy glory...

Crystal Palace v Leicester City - Premier League
Can you return to cheering for Mahrez, Vardy and company?
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

I am an enormous fan of Mark Kozelek. From Red House Painters to Sun Kil Moon along with other solo work and collaborations, the moody troubadour never fails to mesmerize with haunting poetry. Along with plenty of others, “Japanese to English,” “Katy Song,” “Mistress,” “Summer Dress,” “Uncle Joe,” “Song for a Blue Guitar,” and “Gustavo” are all brilliantly epic tomes overflowing with beauty and sadness, while “Carry Me Ohio” simply is among the finest of American creations ever to grace the song books. I personally don’t think it’s an understatement to consider him my generation’s Bob Dylan or Paul Simon, albeit falling far short from a popularity standpoint.

Of course, if you are not familiar with him musically per se, you still might know Kozelek via a holiday Gap ad years ago featuring his refashioning of The Cars’ “All Mixed Up.” Otherwise you may recall his acting stints in Almost Famous (the infamous topsy-turvy plane scene punctuated by the sitcom-esque “I’m gay!” revelation), Vanilla Sky and Shopgirl.

A couple/few years ago the sad revelation came regarding his inane feud with even lesser-known musical group War on Drugs, combined with an utter contempt for his fans. Hey, that includes me! It’s always jarring to find that the celebrity hero you’ve admired as a sensitive underdog actually seems to be a hateful, spiteful bully. I still love his music, but now when I listen to it, there’s an added tinge of regret and shame. Which is quite overwhelming when you pile that on top of the original misery inherent in his music.

This brings us to Leicester City. We all know well the ultimate lovable Cinderella story of last campaign when the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante, Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs catapulted themselves into our hearts as they rose to superstardom from out of nowhere. A slip back to mid-table would have been no surprise, but plummeting into the relegation zone was a real shocker, one which cost Claudio Ranieri his job. Unfortunately, if the “chicken burgers” reports are to be believed, the sacking was less a matter of simple regression as other teams figured them out, but more one of petty sabotage.

Everybody loaded up on Foxes for their fantasy teams last season and rooted them on as they kept storming the field. This campaign, not so much. What about now, though? After winning just five of its first 25 games in compiling a -19 goal differential over that span, Leicester City has been victorious three straight times by a combined score of 9-4 in the post-Ranieri era...which of course would seem to point further toward the sabotage story.

These are the times that try our souls. Do you feel too guilty to contemplate adding Leicester City players back into the fantasy fold? Or are you holding your nose and jumping back in, full throttle? After all, even when they let us down on a personal level, celebrity musicians always have their art, and athletic stars always have their sporting prowess, to redeem themselves.

Keepers

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea v. Crystal Palace) [5.9 Official, 12.75 Fantrax]

The lanky Belgian hasn’t kept a clean sheet over his past half-dozen games, but the Blues have only allowed a single goal in each of those. At home with Crystal Palace visiting, there’s a nice chance of getting back on track with a shutout. Be sure to check his injury status closer to game time, as he’s a slight doubt at the moment.

David De Gea (Manchester United v. West Bromwich Albion) [5.4, 10.01]

The Red Devils’ defense ties for the fourth-fewest goals allowed at home. Albion ties for the sixth-fewest scored away from home. Sound like a good combo to you?

Fraser Forster (Southampton v. Bournemouth) [5.0, 3.19]

The big Saints backstop has been a huge disappointment this season, with only the 10th and 19th most points accrued by any goalkeeper in Official and Fantrax despite not missing any games. However, Southampton has kept four clean sheets in its last seven home tries, while Bournemouth averages only slightly more than a goal per game on average away, so a shutout win would be no shock.

Heurelho Gomes (Watford v. Sunderland) [4.9, 4.78]

In this case, it’s simply a matter of targeting the last place Black Cats, who have failed to score in four straight games and are on the road to boot.

Simon Mignolet (Liverpool v. Everton) [4.7, 5.10]

Yes, the Toffees are coming off a huge 4-goal effort against Hull City, and Romelu Lukaku is officially a beast. However, you should keep in mind that Liverpool ties for the sixth-fewest goals allowed at home, while Everton has scored half as many goals away as it does at Goodison Park. That leaves Mignolet a pretty good option considering his cut rate price.

Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City v. Stoke City) [4.9, 5.42]

Even before the recent Renaissance, the Foxes were relatively stout at home. With the subpar offense of the Potters coming to town, don’t be shy about going with Schmeichel if your conscience can allow it.

Defenders

Ryan Bertrand (Southampton v. Bournemouth) [5.4, 11.34]

Bertrand is averaging 5.5 ppg in Official and 9.8 ppg in Fantrax in his past six games, and it just so happens there’s an appetizing home fixture here.

Mason Holgate (Everton at Liverpool) [4.0, 3.38]

I’m not expecting a clean sheet for the Toffees. But as the likely replacement for injured Seamus Coleman, Holgate is dirt cheap in Official and should pick up plenty of phantoms in Fantrax where he’s outperforming his price with an average of 5.89 ppg.

David Luiz (Chelsea v. Crystal Palace) [6.3, 12.05]

With the league leaders welcoming 16th place Crystal Palace, you will want to have at least one Chelsea defender. Luiz and Gary Cahill are the best bets in Fantrax, while Marcos Alonso, Cesar Azpillicueta, Cahill and Luiz are all fine options in Official.

Antonio Valencia (Manchester United v. West Brom) [5.8, 12.67]

The Ecuadorian wing back has a goal and three assists in his past seven games...not bad for a defender, right? Especially when there’s a nice chance at a clean sheet with Albion in town.

Maya Yoshida (Southampton v. Bournemouth) [4.3, 4.14]

After only appearing thrice in the first 18 fixtures, Yoshida has started the past nine games. As opposed to pricier options in the Saints back line, he offers a nice budget option this week along with Jack Stephens.

Midfielders

Marc Albrighton (Leicester City v. Stoke City) [4.9, 7.58]

With a pair of assists in his past three games, Albrighton has scored double digit points in Fantrax in each of the trio as a big beneficiary of the Foxes’ recent offensive surge.

Andre Ayew (West Ham at Hull City) [7.9, 4.02]

You can’t argue with three goals and one assist in his past four games, as Ayew rounds into form following a lengthy injury layoff.

Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City v. Stoke City) [8.9, 11.79]

With a goal in each of his past two games (and subsequent averages of 9 ppg in Official and 17 ppg in Fantrax), the Foxes’ midfielder is finally starting to show his superstar form from the prior season.

Sadio Mane (Liverpool v. Everton) [9.7, 15.30]

It’s tough to pick between Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana, Mane and Wijnaldum, but Mane’s been the Reds’ standout with 12 goals (plus seven assists in Official and five in Fantrax). In Fantrax, he’s averaging 11.62 ppg at home and just 6.85 ppg away, so don’t hesitate to go with him at Anfield.

Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City v. Stoke City) [4.9, 3.00]

Ndidi has two helpers in the wacky Official scoring system (compared to one in Fantrax) in the past three games, across which he’s averaged 7.3 ppg in Fantrax. Albrighton’s a more reliable choice in Official, but Ndidi’s a much better bargain in Fantrax.

Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City v. Middlesbrough) [7.8, 24.22]

The Icelandic star has notched at least a goal or assist in seven of his past eight games. With Middlesbrough venturing to Wales, look for the fine form to continue.

Strikers

Diego Costa (Chelsea v. Crystal Palace) [10.7, 18.99]

Costa has registered at least one goal or assist in all but one of his home games this season. Be sure to check on his status; as of now he is a doubt from injury.

Troy Deeney (Watford v. Sunderland) [6.9, 8.41]

Deeney has been a bit of an afterthought this season, but he does have five goals in his past seven games and the woeful Black Cats are coming to town.

Manolo Gabbiani (Southampton v. Bournemouth) [6.9, 3.00]

The Italian import has been absolutely on fire, with four goals in his four games. It also just so happens that Bournemouth has surrendered the third-most away goals of any team. Be sure to check his status as he’s an injury doubt.

Fernando Llorente (Swansea v. Middlesbrough) [6.5, 8.80]

The Spanish sniper has three goals in his past four games to go along with a fairly tempting home fixture.

Pedro (Chelsea v. Crystal Palace) [7.2, 10.64]

With two goals and two assists in his past four games, Pedro has asserted himself as a vital part of Chelsea’s attack. If Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and/or Victor Moses miss out through injury, Pedro will be even more indispensable. [NOTE: Pedro is listed as a striker in Fantrax but as a midfielder in Official.]

Jamie Vardy (Leicester City v. Stoke) [9.8, 8.35]

Three goals and two assists in his past three games has brought back memories of the amazing goal-scoring streak last season. The Potters are definitely not looking forward to facing him.

The International week brought plenty of excitement, but unfortunately also loads of injury concerns. How are your squads shaping up? Join in the comments section below!