Jeremy Spitzberg

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First XI: Week 33

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Galin has the complete rundown of week 32, but for me the lingering impression is that this is the beginning of the end. Not that things are over. Far from it. But with only six matches remaining for most teams, the table is taking shape and the battles at the top and bottom are well and truly joined. In mid-table, clubs are safe and some are locked in to their positions. Those clubs, like Newcastle United, have nothing to play for, and as Newcastle showed against Southampton, they don't plan on playing too hard.

It's at this point in the season where the clubs still in the Champions League or FA Cup consider resting players too.

So let's set an early First XI, with players who will start, and whose clubs are motivated to keep winning.

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Value: £148.09M
Available: £1.91M
Total Points: 3667

1. Christian Benteke £10.64 - Aston Villa are probably safe. On 34 points, it's unlikely they'll be caught. But it's easy to imagine that all the talk this week is that they need one more win to be sure, and that hosting Fulham is the perfect time to get that win. Benteke hasn't had the season that we were hoping for, and can go missing from matches - at least for fantasy purposes. But the match-up doesn't get better, and against a Fulham team that need to go for all three points themselves, Villa should be able to use their speed and power to hit Fulham on the break and I expect Benteke to score.

2. Wayne Rooney £23.84 - Robin Van Who? It's totally unfair to dismiss the Dutchman after Rooney's performance in his absence. After all, Manchester United, despite all their troubles, have still maintained the ability to beat the clubs that they should beat. And Aston Villa's defence was more than obliging in that regard.

However, without Van Persie, United's attacking line-up makes more sense. Rooney can play as an out-and-out striker. Juan Mata can tuck in as the number ten, and the likes of Ashley Young and, can you believe it after all this time, Shinji Kagawa have the space to pass and move. Without Van Persie, Rooney also takes penalty kicks and set pieces, further increasing his value.

Travelling to Newcastle United, who have their feet up already, suggests goals for the Red Devils. They still have to play Bayern Munich in midweek, but barring injury, I plan on fielding Rooney this week. The issue will be what to do going forward. United have a blank game week in week 34, and then play Everton. After that, the schedule gets REALLY easy. So what to do then? At the moment I'm leaning towards benching and holding Rooney, but that's the subject for a future column

3. Luis Suarez £19.70 - This season in the Yahoo! game, the introduction of a captain who gets double points was the source of much hand-wringing. It was going to disrupt the game, and with the point structure of the game (ie, there are many more of them), captain choices were going to wildly swing weeks one way or another.

In practice, is hasn't mattered all that much, simply because Luis Suarez has been so consistently good. In an ideal world, I would have captained Rooney last weekend. But how can you be unhappy when Suarez continued his goal-scoring ways? Most of us have Suarez at 19, or something close to that, so we don't notice that his current price is 38. That's a valuation reserved for Cristiano Ronaldo, or Robin Van Persie at his absolute pomp. Suarez is having a season to match them, and it's probably flattened out the fantasy game, for better or worse.

All that being said, you know I'm picking Suarez and giving him the captain's armband this week.

4. Jordan Mutch £15.43 - Mutch isn't your typical fantasy darling. His team is struggling mightily, and he isn't on set piece duty. But he plays in an attacking role, and has three goals in his last two matches. Hosting Crystal Palace, it looks good on paper for him to continue his good form. Of course that what we said last week about Palace's playing Chelsea. I'm not entirely sure Mutch is woth it at retail, but for now I have the money, so he's in the team.

5. Michu £6.42 - One reason I have the money is because Michu is dirt cheap. Speaking of attacking midfielder who don't have set pieces in their locker, Michu was able to at least return value against Norwich last week with an assist. Swansea travel to Hull City, who have been shaky at home (albeit aginst tough opposition) and at the price, Michu seems a good bet again.

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6. Graham Dorrans £6.70 - Dorrans has been the beneficiary of Chris Brunt's injury and has returned value for the last three weeks. Now they travel to Norwich, who are difficult to beat (or even score against) at Carrow Road. Like Michu, for the price, Dorrans is still worth it. At retail, there may be better options. However, the money is nice as it lets me get...

7. Christian Eriksen £17.88 - After watching Sunderland play West Ham, I'm looking to get Spurs players on board for next week's home match against the Black Cats. However, there isn't too much value to be found. Eriksen, on set pieces and looking to get into the box and score from the left-wing, is value. On his day, Eriksen can return 30 points, as he showed against Southampton. But for the money you're spending, you getting a player with a reasonably high floor as well. Considering the matchup, I'm happy to pay my money and take my chances.

8. Marcos Alonso £10.81 - On the other side of the coin (and the pitch come the weekend), I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the plus side, Alonso - one red card not-withstanding - has returned value each week that he's played, and Sunderland have double gameweeks upcoming. On the other hand, they're Sunderland and they're playing like... something I can't say on a family website. For now, though, he stays in the side.

9. Kyle Naughton £8.55 - Naughton hasn't distinguished himself in Kyle Walker's absence, but he's a good price playing at home against Sunderland. Hopefully he can get forward and get a few crosses in to Emmanuel Adebayor. Add a potential clean sheet and you've got value.

10. Scott Dann £11.95 - Not a sexy pick, but this year, the Yahoo! game rewards big center backs who do more than their share of mopping up in their own box. See Davies, Curtis. Dann is fresh off Crystal Palace's clean sheet victory at Chelsea and his price has risen. But he hasn't relied exclusively on the clean sheet for points (again see Davies, Curis) and I'm backing him to do well again this week, at Cardiff City.

11. Joe Hart £9.94 - Last week wasn't great for Hart. To my untrained eye, it looked like he was caught cheating to his near post when the cross came in to Mathieu Flamini. Regardless, and this is the beauty of owning Hart, he still returned positive points - albeit only two - on a bad day. I can't ask for more from a goalkeeper - especially one with games in hand over everyone else. Bar Vito Mannone.

On the bench:

Tomas Rosicky MID £3.23 - Bad week against Manchester City, but starting every week for a good team at a great price. Great value for a bench player.

Ryan Bertrand DEF £1.00 - Bertrand is knocking on the door of the First XI with Fulham coming to town. If I need the money, I'm gutting a defender and starting him.

Massiado Haidara DEF £1.00 - Bench fodder.

Kelvin Davis GK £1.00 - More bench fodder.

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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