That was something else, wasn't it? Three game-weeks in ten days. Three deadline days, and matches being played on seven of those ten days! This week, we have a chance to take a deep breath and "enjoy" the full week between matches before we hit the holiday program in the following weeks.
Unfortunately for us, with all that space we're going to be hyper-focused on a very few fixtures. There are two choice match-ups in real life this weekend: Manchester City host Arsenal, and Liverpool travel to Tottenham Hotspur. Elsewhere, much of the league gets matched up against teams around them in the table. So the short list of those matches that will interest fantasy managers is:
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Everton v Fulham
Aston Villa v Manchester United
So, out of that limited set whom to pick? Chelsea players are subject to rotation, and Manchester United's stars are few and pricey. That leaves Everton with the most fantasy-friendly squad, and in-form players from the other matches.
1. Luis Suarez - Set, captain, and forget.
2. Romelu Lukaku - Great team performance against both Manchester United and Arsenal, but not much in the way of fantasy returns for Lukaku. That's okay. I'm willing to forget that, as well as his disappointing performances against some of the league's lower teams earlier in the season and pick the big Belgian for the home match against Fulham. The Whites have looked better under Rene Muelensteen, but a trip to Goodison is probably too much for them at the moment.
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3. Robin van Persie - A blank against Newcastle United has RVP cheaper than Wayne Rooney, and the Dutchman is getting a rest in midweek and not playing in the Champions League. Backing United to score is amazingly a scary proposition, but away to Aston Villa seems like a time for them to go for goals and I'll bet RVP has his hand in one or two.
4. Mesut Ozil - I've stubbornly kept Mesut Ozil on my bench for weeks now. The matchups just haven't been there though, unfortunately for me, the fantasy points have been. So despite my better judgement, I'm promoting him to the starting line-up for the trip to Manchester City. This is the toughest fixture on paper, and I was planning to keep Ozil on the bench. I still might, but the main alternative is looking like Ross Barkely. I'm not sure that's much better, despite the better fixture.
5. Phillipe Coutinho - No Steven Gerrard, so Liverpool's creative burden is going to fall even more heavily on Coutinho. Suarez may get most of the free-kicks, but it's likely that Coutinho gets more corners to take too. Regardless, he returns value most week, and despite the tough match-up at Spurs, I'm likely to roll with Cout again.
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6. Nathan Redmond - Quietly in-form, on kicks with his rivals for the role injured, and at home to a stuttering Swansea side who will have played two matches since Norwich's last one. Hopefully Norwich's home form is better than their abysmal road failings.
7. Frank Lampard - Rotation scares me off most Chelsea players, but I can't ignore the match-up, and Lamps has shown that he's not above punishing the league's minnows. He could be in-line for another 30 point performance against Crystal Palace. We'll be watching to see what role he plays in the Champions League in midweek, and how that might impact his chances for the start here.
8. Mathieu Debuchy - "Match-up proof, and returning value even at his current price. What’s not to love?" Of course I wrote that before selling him in advance of the Manchester United match and his 20 point haul. The lesson here, as always, is that I'm an idiot.
9. Marc Muniesa - Cheap defender, playing because of Robert Huth's injury. Stoke have been a tough team to figure out this season, but at Hull City, it might be worth the gamble if it helps me afford the likes of Lampard and van Persie in attack. I've placed Joel Ward, at Chelsea, on the bench. Let's see if that blows up in my face like Debuchy at Manchester United last week. I may have to eat my discount on Ward and get a Chelsea defender here.
10. Bryan Oviedo - Oviedo for 2 isn't quite Bale for 2, but it's not too far off at the moment.
11. Hugo Lloris - I have Lloris at a discount that I'm loth to lose, but with the Y! game the way it is this year I might have to suck it up and sell. Liverpool coming to White Hart Lane just doesn't look like a good matchup with Luis Suarez in the form that he's in. I have Paolo Gazzaniga on the bench, and I wouldn't be thrilled about putting him in at Newcastle United. I'll probably look to pick up Petr Cech despite his recent wobbles. Chelsea will surely want to shut out Crystal Palace, despite their recent juvenation. Boaz Myhill at Cardiff, and Gerhard Tremmel at Norwich are cheap, if risky, options.