Welcome to Week 2 of my player picks for the Yahoo Fantasy Premier League game. The opening week of the season was a decent one for my fantasy team AM FC, picking up 98 points thanks to the ever reliable Aaron Ramsey, Raheem Sterling, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge. However, plenty of mistakes were made too, such as picking Robert Snodgrass over Gylfi Sigurdsson and trusting David De Gea behind a make-shift Manchester United defence. We're currently unable to see our overall rank in the standings, but this feature is coming soon, as well as the ability to view your opponent's teams after each deadline, as the Yahoo team continue to work hard to implement a whole bunch of enhancements.
One thing I forgot to mention to new readers in last week's column is my approach to the Yahoo game. I'm a firm believe that if you can hit an average of between 90 and 100 fantasy points per game-week then you'll have a pretty good chance of finishing towards the top 1000 of the overall standings come the end of the season. You have £100million to spend and most people will spend the majority (say £90m-£95m) on their first XI, with the rest spent on their bench players. When selecting my team I look at a player's price and decide if I think that player will "return his value'. By this, I mean a player who will cost me £6million should really earn me 6 fantasy points for the week. If all my players can return their value I'm looking at a weekly total close to 100 points. It's not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination, but I've found it an effective way to approach each week. I'll often refer to a player "returning his value" in my weekly picks, so I felt it was important to clarify what I'm talking about.
Anyway, on to the fixtures ...
Week 2 Fixtures
Aston Villa v Newcastle
Chelsea v Leicester City
Crystal Palace v West Ham
Everton v Arsenal
Hull City v Stoke
Man City v Liverpool
Southampton v West Brom
Sunderland v Man Utd
Swansea v Burnley
Tottenham v QPR
The stand-out fixture for fantasy purposes by a million miles is Chelsea's home match against Leicester. None of the big sides were particularly impressive last weekend, until Chelsea's fixture at Burnley on Monday night. After going behind, some of the football played by Jose Mourinho's men in that first half was as-good-as-it-gets, with Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings, and one would expect a comfortable home victory over the Foxes at Stamford Bridge in Week 2. I would recommend you look to grab a minimum of three Chelsea players for your fantasy team if you can find a way to afford them.
Aside from that, Swansea's impressive performance and victory at Old Trafford bodes well for the season ahead and they should be seen as big favourites to grab back-to-back wins by beating Burnley at the Liberty Stadium. Tottenham showed plenty of grit to grind out a tough 1-0 win over West Ham on the opening weekend despite playing for 60 minutes with 10 men and should find things a little bit easier at home to Queens Park Rangers, so their players should be on your radar. Southampton are also an interesting proposition given their showing at Anfield, and with West Brom visiting the south coast this weekend.
The biggest game of the weekend is between last season's top two Premier League sides, Manchester City v Liverpool. Calling the result in this one is difficult - it truly could go either way - but my gut is telling me it will be a high scoring draw. For that reason there will be attacking players from both teams worth looking at, but defensive options may be best avoided. Everton v Arsenal is another game with cracking potential, with the Toffees notoriously tough to beat at Goodison Park, so my prediction for that one is another exciting score draw. Both of these matches are to be shown on TV here in the UK and I've already made it clear to my wife that I must watch them both, despite the fact it's our wedding anniversary this weekend. Isn't she a lucky lady?
Aside from those matches there's nothing to get too excited about. Manchester United are favourites to beat Sunderland, but aside from Wayne Rooney it's difficult to recommend big investment based on last weekend's performance against Swansea. Crystal Palace are more than capable of grabbing a win and keeping a clean sheet at home to West Ham, so their defensive players could be worth a look, while some of Newcastle's new signings looked impressive against Manchester City so you'd imagine they could prosper further for the trip to Aston Villa. That leaves Hull City v Stoke, which looks like a nailed on 1-1 draw, and is probably best avoided for fantasy purposes unless you're confident you can pick a goal-scorer.
With all that in mind, click over to the next page to view the Week 2 player recommendations.
Thibaut Courtois - As you may or may not be aware, an issue in the Yahoo database on Saturday led to Courtois, Diego Costa and Alexis Sanchez dropping in price to just to £5.01million for a brief period (read about it HERE). To ensure fairness for all fantasy managers, the price of these players have been dropped down to below £6million ahead of the Week 2 deadline. Provided you're confident he'll remain Chelsea's number one goalkeeper then it's wise to grab him at that price while you can.
Hugo Lloris - You don't really need to look beyond Courtois due to his price and with Chelsea facing Leicester this weekend, but if you are desperate for an alternative then Lloris at home to QPR is your next best bet. The France captain looked in his very best form against West Ham in Week 1.
Lukasz Fabianski - You'll only be looking at Fabianski if you're the kind of person determined to do something different, but the ex-Arsenal man is priced the same as Courtois and Swansea have a decent fixture at home to Burnley.
Fraser Forster - Signed from Celtic just two weeks ago, Forster was in net for Southampton's game against Liverpool and could do very little about the defeat and a negative fantasy score. The good news is that performance dropped his price below £4million for the match against West Brom, offering you yet another bargain goalkeeping option.
John Terry - He wasn't on the score-sheet at Burnley - that was left to Branislav Ivanovic - but Terry is my preference from the Chelsea defence for the Leicester match. Picking him up won't come cheap, but it could prove a worthwhile acquisition when you consider the high probability of a clean sheet, and the chance of a goal from a set piece.
Ryan Bertrand - A promising debut from Bertrand for Southampton at Anfield suggests the left-back is ready to come out of the shadows and nail down a permanent first-team spot for the first time in his career. The Saints have a cracking fixture, so Bertrand is an absolute steal priced below £5million.
Martin Kelly - The full-back was recently signed from Liverpool, is set to start on the right of the defence, has a good chance of helping Crystal Palace keep a clean sheet and costs just £1million in the Yahoo game. What more do you need to know? Well, you can read some more in-depth thoughts about Kelly and some of the other bargain options in Steve Rothgeb's Bargain Hunter column.
Patrick van Aanholt - Slotted straight in to the left-back position for Sunderland's opening game against West Brom and instantly looks like he could be a fantasy hit in the Yahoo game. The defender intercepted a phenomenal eight passes and also picked up an assist for Seb Larsson's late equaliser after great work down the flank. Expect him to cause Manchester United some problems.
Neil Taylor - Swansea manager Garry Monk was forced to substitute Taylor early at Old Trafford after he picked up a yellow card and was being tested by Adnan Januzaj, but the full-back had played well up to then and should start the home game against Burnley. If any doubt arises then the slightly more expensive Jordi Amat would be the Swansea alternative defensive pick.
Eric Dier - Last-minute-winning goal aside, Dier was already putting in a terrific debut performance for Tottenham, initially at centre-back before moving to right-back after Kyle Naughton was harshly sent off. The 20-year-old has done enough to stake a claim for a starting spot again this weekend, probably at right-back with Naughton now suspended and Kyle Walker still struggling for fitness.
Calum Chambers - To steal from this very site "still a few months short of his 20th birthday, Chambers has looked every bit the rising star that Arsenal paid Southampton for. So far the evidence is strong that this is a good buy even if he gets fewer minutes as the season goes on." For now, the youngster should continue to start in the heart of defence against Everton and he is still well priced.
Aaron Cresswell - An impressive debut was spoilt by Tottenham's late winner, but Cresswell remains one of the most affordable options in the Yahoo game at a price below £1.5million, meaning he needs just one positive fantasy contributions to "return his value".
Cesc Fabregas - Seriously, how good was he Monday night? As a Tottenham fan it's impossible to like an ex-Arsenal AND current Chelsea player, but I can certainly appreciate what a superb footballer Fabregas is. The midfielder looks like he'll be at the heart of everything for Mourinho and was whipping in some quality corners, so you must find a way to get him in your side ahead of the Leicester game.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - It was a 50-50 choice last week to pick between Robert Snodgrass and Sigurdsson, and I picked wrong. The Swansea man was given the freedom to roam just behind Wilfried Bony and this led to an assist, a match-winning goal and a whole load of points. That was at Old Trafford, so you wonder what could he do at home to Burnley.
Andre Schurrle - While Fabregas is the pick of the Chelsea midfielders I wouldn't argue with anyone who wanted to add a second option, and my choice would be Schurrle. The winger looks to have nailed down the right-wing spot for now and has that knack of being in the right place at the right time with his runs in to the box.
Christian Eriksen - Tottenham's main set piece taker had a difficult game at West Ham, struggling to put his stamp on that game once his side were down to 10 men, but his set pieces were always a threat. Eriksen should enjoy more of the ball from open play against QPR and will surely be the most productive midfielder on show at White Hart Lane.
Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal's main man continued his excellent fantasy form against Crystal Palace and is guaranteed the full 90 minutes this weekend after a red card ruled him out of next week's Champions League qualifier second leg. Everton will prove tough opponents, but Ramsey has proved over the past 12-months that he can perform against any side.
Raheem Sterling - The one bright spot from England's World Cup campaign continued to light up Anfield last weekend, playing in an especially advanced role almost up alongside Daniel Sturridge. Sterling scored the opening goal and claimed a rare headed assist to end Week 1 as the second highest midfield points scorer (behind Sigurdsson) and his electric pace is likely to cause Manchester City problems in Week 2.
Thomas Ince - The only recommendation from Hull v Stoke. Hull suffered a massive blow with the news that Snodgrass will miss up to 6 months of the season due to a dislocated knee-cap (ouch) picked up in Week 1, but this may give another of their new signings the chance to step-up right away. Ince has a disappointing loan spell with Palace earlier this year but Steve Bruce is ready to trust the young man from the start, he loves to take a shot at goal and should get some of the set pieces left behind by Snodgrass.
James Ward-Prowse - The sale of Adam Lallana could be the making of Ward-Prowse if last weekend was anything to go. I could go on and on about exactly how good the young midfielder was for Southampton against Liverpool, and what fine value he is for the home game against West Brom, but I don't have to because Steve's got it covered HERE.
Mile Jedinak - Perhaps a slightly surprising name in the list for anyone new to the Yahoo game, but Jedinak is a beast in this format. The midfielder picks up very few points for attacking contributions, but it doesn't matter when you're as productive on the defensive side, with multiple tackles won, pass interceptions and blocks. He picked up 14 fantasy points last weekend against Arsenal and I wouldn't put it past him to match that against West Ham.
Erik Lamela - The Argentinean picked up six fantasy points without doing much against West Ham, as he was forced to play a more disciplined role on the right wing after the early Spurs red card. Like Eriksen, Lamela will get more freedom at home to QPR and remains a bargain price.
Aiden McGeady - Scored a peach of a goal against Leicester and his overall performance should ensure another start on the left wing for Everton in Week 2. Priced at around the £5million-mark he's another cheap option for your midfield.
Diego Costa - The striker would've been the top striker pick of the week at £12million. At £5million in the Yahoo game you should buy him, place him in your starting XI, forget about that slot until May 2015 and watch the fantasy points roll in. The very definition of a season-keeper.
Wayne Rooney - Manchester United's new captain was the top pick in this column last week, repaid the faith with 20 points and is a tempting selection once again for his side's trip to Sunderland. However, we must monitor the news on Robin van Persie, because the return of the Dutchman would have a big impact on the fantasy production of Rooney, and not necessarily positive as he loses his "focal point" status. And loses penalty duty.
Wilfried Bony - Swansea have done well to hold on to Bony over the summer and assuming they can keep him past 31st August (transfer deadline day) the striker will be key to ensuring Garry Monk's side avoid any sort of relegation battle. He put in a slightly disappointing display against Manchester United but I'm tipping him to have a bigger impact at home to Burnley.
Emmanuel Adebayor - The Togo striker didn't have his best game against West Ham but his close control and bursting run past James Collins led to the defender's sending off and it showed the pace and sharpness is still there. Adebayor will lead the attack once again against QPR and he's on penalty duty, so he's worth considering.
Sergio Aguero - It took Aguero just 10 minutes to show his quality against Newcastle after coming off the bench and another week of training should mean the Argentinian striker is ready to start this weekend's massive game against Liverpool. You'll have to pay big money to fit him in your team but this is a man who lives for the big games.
Daniel Sturridge - One chance, one goal against Southampton. The striker was quiet on the whole, but showed his finishing prowess when it mattered and he'll be keen to show he's ready to step in to the shoes of Luis Suarez on the biggest stage, away at the Premier League champions. There are better choices than Sturridge, but if you're still holding him in your team from Week 1 then I wouldn't blame you for giving him another game.
Romelu Lukaku - The Belgian powerhouse will be keen to repay the faith shown (and money spent) by Everton over the summer, and he has a good goal-scoring record against Arsenal.
Alexis Sanchez - Another player to receive a price reduction ahead of Week 2. Had Sanchez still been priced at £13million he wouldn't have made the list this week given his tough away fixture at Everton, but at £5million you have to consider him, even if you stick him on your bench for now.
Graziano Pellè - In all honesty Southampton's new front-man (along with Shane Long) had a bit of a stinker against Liverpool, but this has left his price extremely cheap and we can expect Pelle to fair better in an easier match at home against West Brom.
So those are the players I'm considering for my Week 2 Yahoo team. Here's what I currently have saved on my team page:
XI: Courtois, N.Taylor, Bertrand, Terry, Ward-Prowse, Lamela, Sigurdsson, Ramsey, Fabregas, Rooney, Costa
Bench: Sanchez, M.Kelly, Cresswell, Gazziniga
I'll be honest and admit I accidentally sold Sterling at £9million while swapping players in and out of my team and now can't afford to buy him back at £13million, so I've adjusted accordingly. It's currently a 3-5-2 formation, with four Chelsea players, two Swansea, two Southampton and a strong bench in case of any surprise absentees, but as always things are likely to change between now and the deadline.
How's your Week 2 team looking?