Jeremy Spitzberg

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First XI: Early Week 31 Picks

Monday, March 17, 2014


An early look at week 31, with double games for Arsenal, Everton, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, Swansea, Sunderland, and West Ham. So naturally, players from those teams will dominate the First XI.

Value - £147.49M
Available - £2.51M
Total Points - 3272

1. Andy Carroll - £4.97M - The big man is back! Carroll scored early in the match, and added another shot on target later. Otherwise, it was his scary mix of fouls won, but more committed. He's not the ideal fantasy player, but for under 5 (his barn door price), and with home matches against Manchester United and Hull City, it's worth it. He will return value, and he enables other, more exspensive two-gamers elswwhere in the squad. Including...

2. Daniel Sturridge - £21.43M - Sturridge has been very disappointing for his fantasy managers recently. After scoring nine goals in the seven matches since he returned from injury, he's not scored in his last two. And in fact, he's only returned three fantasy points over that time with an assist and a yellow card against Manchester United. That being said, he was getting into good positions and shooting, but missing. With matches against Sunderland and Cardiff City in week 31, I, like a lot of fantasy managers, will be doubling up on Liverpool's strikeforce and hoping that Sturridge comes good.

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3. Luis Suarez - £19.70M - Left it late against Manchester United, but with two good match-ups this week. He's in the XI, and he's captain. Not much more can be said at this point in the season.

4. David Silva - £12.64M - I went with Samir Nasri last weekend, so it was especially galling to see Silva match his best fantasy returns since week 1. It was a masterclass, and one we haven't seen too much of from Silva in what has been a stop/start year for him. Heading into the double game-week, he's nailed on at his barn door price, and should be consider at retail as well.

5. Samir Nasri - £8.94M - As mentioned above, Nasri didn't have a great day. The upshot of this is that he's still well-priced going into the double game-week. He, like Silva, hasn't had a great fantasy season - and maybe he's only been a great fantasy player for one month of his entire Premier League career, and that was with Arsenal - but I'm tempted to go back to the well in week 31.

6. Raheem Sterling - £13.09M - Liverpool have two winnable matches, and are in irrepresible form. So many fantasy teams are going to go deep on their players. I can't afford Steven Gerrard, the pick of the Liverpool midfield, but I can bring in Raheem Sterling. He has locked down a place either in the attacking three, or just behind, as he played against Manchester United. He is capable of a huge match, and has two reasonable shouts for another one this week.

As I'm writing this, I'm wondering if I have the correct XI. Especially Liverpool... Should I be picking Gerrard over even Sturride? An interesting wrinkle might be to choose Nicika Jelavic (West Brom, at West Ham) and Gerrard instead of Sturridge and Sterling? I also have a lot of money tied up in the defence - as we'll see - so maybe I dip into the funds there. For now though, on with the show.

7. Tomas Rosicky - £3.23M - What a goal! Sitting on my bench, Rosicky out-scored my four starting midfielders combined. And not by a little. I worry about his ability to start consecutive matches, however. At the price, he'll stay on the bench at worst. But if Arsenal continue to be stretched thin at attacking midfield, I may well leave him in the first XI.

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8. Leighton Baines - £17.09M - So here we have our first heavy investment in the defence. Everton have two nice matchups, and Baines is always a good bet on set piece and penalty kick duty. However, on current form, he's only worth the money with two matches. I would have done just as well with Distin last week, as I orginally had planned, and maybe that value is the smart play again this week.

9. Curtis Davies - £15.95M - Another store of value at the back. Davies has two nice matches, and has been a fantasy point machine all season long. Between him and Baines, I'm more likely to pick Davies. Which I can't believe I just wrote. But this season's Yahoo! game seems to reward central defenders much more than it ever has. The extra half-point they give for passes intercepted and tackles won really has changed the calculations.

10. Jon Flanagan - £10.57M - I picked up Flangan on the barn door before watching Manchester United-Liverpool. Liverpool earned a clean sheet, and he won an incredible seven tackles. But on the other hand, he committed four fouls and was booked. In fact, it could have gotten a lot worse as it was a very chippy performacne from the young fullback. That being said, for the price, he's good value with Liverpool's double-game. Daniel Agger may be a tiny bit cheaper at retail, but with Mamadou Sakho available again after injury, it seems possible that Agger gets rested.

11. Joe Hart - £9.94M - Welcome back, Joe Hart! It was a nervy 80 minutes after Vincent Kompany was sent off, but in the end Hart was able to get the win and the clean sheet. This is why I held him through Manchester City's consecutive blank weeks, and hopefully it will pay off again in the double week.

Bench

The bench is mostly enablers, with one midfield spot available for backup. However with two matches for everyone to play in, I doubt that any player won't play some part in some match and thus make the bench irrelevant. Currently, that midfielder is Michu, back from injury but with a tough schedule and few returns all season. Swansea's run-in is pretty nice, so it might be worth getting him in now. Between him and Rosicky, it will be an interesting decision as to who plays more and who might return more fantasy points.

Otherwise, it's the cheap trio of Ryan Bertrand (£1.00M), Martin Kelly (£1.20M), and Ben Foster (£1.38M).



Jeremy Spitzberg writes about fantasy soccer (football) and is a Rotoworld contributor. You can find him on Twitter @JSpitzberg.
Email :Jeremy Spitzberg





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