Another quick turnaround for fantasy managers as we have a full slate of matches this Tuesday and Wednesday. As we try to absorb the lessons of the weekend just past, which teams and which players look like good bets in game week 26?
Cardiff v Aston Villa
Neither team is playing well, with Cardiff being a little better at home but Aston Villa being a bit better themselves on the road. Cardiff are very much in transition, and while there are some cheap options - Wilfred Zaha and Fabio, for example - it's hard to back them. Aston Villa have some enablers themsevles, like Ryan Bertrand, and Christian Benteke and Leandro Bacuna can be had in the mid-level range.
Hull v Southampton
Not a match I want to pick for fantasy. Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic are back amongst the goals, as is Ricky Lambert for Saints.
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West Ham v Norwich
It's to get one's head around this new West Ham team. For a while they vacilated between scraping out nil-nil draws and getting drubbed 0-3. Now they've started winning matches to nil! Their defenders are going to be worthwile picks this week. George McCartney is the cheapest way in to the Hammers backline. His place is a little threatened by new signing Armero, but most likely Big Sam goes with an unchanged line-up. Old favorite, Matt Taylor is back and earning fantasy points for his defensive work while being listed as, and playing as, a midfielder. Kevin Nolan is going for a hat-trick of braces, but is priced as a premium option after his recent heroics.
For Norwich, Martin Olsson has been their best fantasy performer and could be good value, even at his current price, if you have the money to spare on a defender. If you don't, you could look at Joseph Yobo, who made his debut this weekend, and helped Norwich keep a surprising clean sheet against Manchester City.
West Brom v Chelsea
Chelsea are the form team in the league. They dispatched Newcastle United without trouble. Eden Hazard's hat-trick earned him the points, without leaving too many for others. West Brom are struggling, but they held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw in their last home match. Hazard is again the pick here, with Oscar and Willian being more affordable midfield options. Nemanja Matic is an interesting enabler, but Chelsea are more likely to rotate in center midfield than not and the likes of Mikel could get a run out.
Arsenal v Man Utd
This should be a fascinating match in real life. With both teams coming off disappointing performances, there is a lot riding on this one. While I do not believe in Manchester United, I can't pass up Robin Van Persie. He's scored goals in his last three matches, albeit against weak opposition, while not returning big fantasy points yet. However, I can see an argument that playing at Arsenal will afford Van Persie more space in which to operate. Fulham packed the box and eventually paid the price, but Arsnenal won't play that way. Maybe Van Persie doesn't score but I would expect enough shots on target and phantom points for it to be worth picking him. And if he were to score against his old team, well, it's a cliche for a reason.
Arsenal will expect to score on this United team, who played Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick together in midfield but couldn't keep Fulham out. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is playing very well on his return to the side and is still value for money. I wouldn't mind playing any of my Arsenal players in this fixture, but I'm not sure that I'd be looking to buy them at current prices right now.
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Everton v Crystal Palace
This would seem to be a home-banker, but Crystal Palace are playing much better these days. For the home side, Ross Barkley would be a nice option if we knew he was starting matches. Outside that assurance, Leon Osman is playing well and is priced nicely in the fantasy game. Kevin Mirallas remains a very inconsistent player, but if he continues his one up, one down schedule he'll be due a goal against Palace.
As Galin noted in his weekend wrap up, Palace had debutants Tom Ince and Joe Ledley score really highly. It's a shame that the matchup isn't better because it would be fun to pick them, especially Ince. However, remain strong at home and it's just too soon to know what Ince will give you from week to week in the Premier League. If you like a gamble, though, he's your man.
Man City v Sunderland
Man City at home should be a sure thing. If only it were that simple these days. They haven't been at their swashbucking best since they lost Sergio Aguero to injury. They lost at home to Chelsea, and then couldn't muster a goal at Norwich, although they finally kept a clean sheet. Can they get back on track against a Sunderland team that has been tough to play recently? Jesus Navas, David Silva, and Yaya Toure are your midfield options. Up top, it's unfortunately two from three between Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo, and Stevan Jovetic. Dzeko was only a sub against the Canaries so maybe he's due the start in midweek.
Adam Johnson will line-up against his old team, so again if you believe in that, this is your chance to bet on it.
Newcastle v Tottenham
Newcastle continue to struggle with missing players, and the schedule is doing them no favors. I wish Spurs looked better against Everton, but Emmanuel Adebayor and Christian Eriksen should be backed here. Aaron Lennon has been quiet as of late, but is a well-priced differential pick. Hugo Lloris isn't a terrible pick either. For the Magpies, Luke De Jong has his shooting boots on even if he hasn't scored yet. Davide Santon looked good in a midfield role against Chelsea and he could continue there despite Newcastle being down to the bare bones on defence.
Stoke v Swansea
Stoke remain a good home team, even if the Britannia isn't the fortress it once was. Swansea continue to struggle, despite their rousing derby win this weekend. Charlie Adam is the pick here, playing in an attacking role for Stoke, while Peter Crouch could come good at home. If Marc Wilson remains out with an illness, Marc Muniesa is a cheap option in defence. I don't feel good about any Swansea player, but Ben Davies is taking corner kicks and Pablo Hernandez looked good coming on a subsitute against Cardiff. That match belonged to Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge, but neither have shown enough consistency to be picked on the road.
Fulham v Liverpool
The last match of this round is the one I'm most looking forward to seeing. On current form, it's hard to look past Liverpool and their players should be the base of your fantasy team this weekend. Luis Suarez should be there, and should always be captained. Daniel Sturridge is in great form and for me, is worth his market value this week. Phillipe Coutinho has been very dangerous in attack after being moved deeper in midfield, and he's added some defensive work as well. Raheem Sterling looked like a world-beater against Arsenal, and while he's a must-own at his previous price, I think there are more consistent options for the price now. While Liverpool haven't kept too many clean sheets, Kolo Toure, Jon Flanagan, and Aly Cissokho are well priced and could find themselves joining the attack as much as defending on Wednesday. They're probably better picks than two-goal hero, Martin Skrtel, who's points at the weekend are now priced accordingly.
I don't have much hope for Fulham in this match, but they do provide some interesting enablers in Lewis Holtby and Dan Burn.