The intro for this week's Rankings column looked to be all but set in stone coming out of Week 12. It seemed pretty simple. I took a shot on giving Dmitiri Payet the armband for my FPL team, after analyzing his involvement and goal threat over the previous four weeks and thinking he would be the hidden gem to prosper from after a blank in Week 11. Then, the inevitable snafu took place - Payet not only came up empty, he got a crunching tackle that ended his day prematurely and is now sidelined for a long stretch of time. The story was in place - "woe is me" was the only direction I could see myself going in for the return from this latest international break.
I managed to still lead with that story to bridge the gap between Week 12 and now, but I would be remiss to neglect the tragic series of events that took place since what now seems to be such an insignificant little piece of bad fantasy news. Atrocities have led the headlines since then. At least eighteen people were killed by bombing in Baghdad, another 44 innocents were murdered by twin suicide bombings in Beirut, 147 left dead by a massacre at a Kenyan college, and of course, the attacks in Paris that left 129 more people dead in various locations.
I am not qualified to dig deep into these horrific acts in a forum such as this. I write about sports, specifically about the beautiful game, and I find the merit of sport to be a healthy distraction to some of the tragic circumstances that happen every day, whether it be in one's own neighborhood or on a global level. However, it is hard to see it as a mere distraction when a bomb is going off adjacent to a football match in France, and causes another one in Germany to be called off because of a major threat. All I will say is that, while these horrific acts will certainly give pause to what we do with our spare time and reflect on a display of darkness sometimes present in humanity, it does not stop us. We witnessed that with fervor in the match at Wembley Stadium the other night, when sport showed how it can symbolize solidarity and respect for one another in even the toughest of times. I think one of the major appealing aspects of sport that draws me in is the ability to create a boundary in which opposing sides can test each other's strength, but at the end of the day, we have a score on a board to designate winners and losers, not a body count. It is within those boundaries that I wish all animosity, all pent up frustration, can begin and end.
So please, if for only this week, forgive the lack of light-hearted fantasy talk in the intro as we look toward renewing our love affair with fantasy Premier League. Consider it a one-off, and let us move ahead with the task at hand.
First, let's take a glimpse at this week's fixture list:
Week 13 Fixtures
Watford v Manchester United
Chelsea v Norwich City
Everton v Aston Villa
Newcastle United v Leicester City
Southampton v Stoke City
Swansea City v AFC Bournemouth
West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal
Manchester City v Liverpool
Tottenham v West Ham United
Crystal Palace v Sunderland
This week is going to be all about the effects of another international break. We should expect to see some changes in PL managers' XI's this weekend, including some big names that would otherwise be first names on the team sheet. What worries me most, as with most breaks, is the effect on South American players as travel can really give a manager pause on pushing a players' limits. You might normally have seen the names Marcos Rojo and Nicholas Otamendi this week, but when both Manchester clubs have viable replacement options, one has to sense the risk. I have somewhat reluctantly named Alexis Sanchez in the ranks, but he will be a major scare when it comes time for Arsene Wenger's team news on Saturday. Be sure to check as much news here at Rotoworld between now and deadline time for any further insight on players that could miss out.
What follows are my top picks at each position. It doesn't matter what format you play, these rankings will help you figure out how players at each position compare with one another, and can help you on transfer decisions in the FPL.com game, who to start or bench in draft leagues, and who is worth putting up the cash for in salary-based leagues. You will also see how I have begun to highlight prospects that are especially valuable in formats like Playtogga, Fantrax and DFS, so that they are given the credit they deserve. At the end of the day though, nothing gets the points flowing more than goals, assists and clean sheets. So without further ado, let's get cracking...
Hugo Lloris - We are going to see a very different threat level of the West Ham attack with the loss of Payet. Spurs should bend enough to give Hugo a few saves, but not break and reward him a clean sheet.
Lukasz Fabianski - A top fantasy keeper last season, Fabianski, along with the rest of the Swans have been in a rut. There may be no better recipe than a home game against AFC Bournemouth, who made Rob Elliot look like James Bond with Mickey Mouse gloves on.
David de Gea - Were this at Old Trafford, DDG probably tops the list this week. It's that uncanny ability for Watford to find a goal from somewhere every week that knocks him down a bit. Still, a very solid bet.
Petr Cech - The return of Bellerin will help squash Berahino. Maybe the Gunners attack will not be at full strength, but the defense should get the job done at The Hawthorns.
Tim Howard - Everton have everything going for them right now, including the perfect fixture, at home to last place Villa.
Seamus Coleman - Maybe I am being stubborn giving Coleman the top spot this week. While plenty of Toffee attacking players are in fine form, the Irishman hasn't seen much in returns lately. I just think he is due to explode with a double-digit score, and this fixture is saying the time for it is now.
Hector Bellerin - Bellerin returns to the Gunners this weekend, having been sorely missed in the North London derby. Expect him to burn the Baggies with ease on the ball as well as high probability of a clean sheet here.
Scott Dann - Dann is the center back in form de jour, and FPL managers looking at Palace's schedule should view him as a hot commodity. Home to Sunderland gives real hope of returns at one or both ends.
Chris Smalling - The story continues for the Red Devils - suspect attack, tough to crack defense. That should continue away to Watford where Smalling has good bonus point potential if United can keep the opponent out.
Eric Dier - Another good looking buy for the short term, fantasy managers need to start taking advantage of Dier's out-of-position appeal, though to be fair, it is a clean sheet that looks more promising than attacking returns.
Alexsander Kolarov - Could be a bit tricky for Manchester City versus the Red Klopp, even at home, but Kolarov is a constant threat with his crossing and set piece magic.
Ryan Bertrand - Assists in his last two starts, Bertrand is the Saint defender to own right now, though Virgil van Dijk continues to dominate scoring formats with Fantrax and Playtogga leagues. Home to a Stoke side that is still near the bottom in goals scored should offer returns.
Cesar Azpilicueta - What's this? A Chelsea prospect? I've been right to ignore the Blues as their season of misery rolls on, but Azpilicueta continues to be a lone bright spot. At home to Norwich, surely Chelsea can come away with a positive result, a clean sheet or assist seems reasonable.
Kyle Naughton - Just going off the premise that AFC Bournemouth's attack is a barren wasteland these days while the Swans are simply due to keep a clean sheet in a match at Liberty Stadium. A tiny chance of attacking returns and/or bonus points could really boost Naughton's day.
Riyad Mahrez - It's been nearly two weeks, enough time to forget that Mahrez had a quiet fantasy day in the FPL format in Week 12. He is still killing it though and a match away to Newcastle United, while not as simple a task as one might think, is still enticing for this powder keg midfield star.
Mesut Ozil - Consistency, consistency, consistency. One really has to wonder where the Gunners would be without Ozil. Perhaps the ceiling is limited in a match at The Hawthorns, but, at risk of sounding like a broken record every week, chances are Ozil will be involved.
Yohan Cabaye - Not the best option to buy this week in FPL as he sits on four yellow cards, but for those that own Cabaye, plenty of optimism in a home game against the Black Cats. I see a strike from distance coming. If looking for Palace coverage without the suspension worry, look at Yannick Bolasie.
Gerard Deulofeu - This kid is on FIRE. We saw Deulofeu slice open Sunderland a few weeks back and follow it up with another pretty assist to Romelu Lukaku in the Toffees lone Week 12 goal, but how does FIVE goals in two international appearances over the break sound to you? Oh yeah, and at home to the bottom feeders of the league. He's looking the best FPL buy of the week.
Christian Eriksen - There was a recent story about how more goals are coming from open play than ever before, so consider Eriksen a throw back era footballer. He can get it done in open play but his set piece skills are perhaps tops in the league right now.
Georginio Wijnaldum - As we watch the form of Wijnaldum dip since his four goal barrage last month, let us not forget that Newcastle are playing a Leicester side as a good a bet as any to concede one, probably two, goals. An assist in Week 12 shows he is still relevant.
Dusan Tadic - While Sadio Mane is a noticeable absentee in this week's ranks as he begins a new reputation for being a card magnet, Tadic is the Saint midfielder of choice in a home game against Stoke. Still kills it in non-FPL formats every week. (Playtogga special)
Andre Ayew - I am not saying Garry Monk's job is on the line with this fixture, but if Swansea cannot figure out how to get things going in a home game against the Cherries, then when will they? Ayew stands the player of choice to back, though I am backing more than him from their attack this week on a true gut call.
Kevin de Bruyne - How will Manchester City line up this week? If David Silva returns, who will play centrally? Will Aguero be in the mix, raising all the Sky Blue prospects? After getting shut down by Villa in Week 12, its time to temper expectations with KdB and the rest. But the class keeps him in the conversation.
Alexis Sanchez - Despite a calf complaint, the Chilean played all 180 minutes of international duty and then has to take the long flight back to England and then have an away match to West Brom. If you have Alexis, you gotta roll with him. Still, a dangerous option to own this week for all the wrong reasons.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - Forgive my picking on the Cherries, pun not intended. As mentioned before, the Swans have to start flapping their wings again at some point and this seems the right moment for it to come off. A goal or assist from Sigurdsson is a decent shout.
Santi Cazorla - In non-FPL formats, Cazorla is still a consistent points-getter. Continue to trust in him in these formats despite a tough matchup. (Playtogga Special)
Yann M'Vila - Capable of helping in any format, he has been especially trustworthy in the Fantrax game and playing a fixture where he can potentially contribute the FPL points. (Fantrax & Playtogga special)
Philippe Coutinho - The fixture is tough, but how does one omit the most in-form midfielder in FPL right now from the ranks? You don't. You simply mention him last.
Romelu Lukaku - When in form, it is extremely difficult to not back Lukaku. He has a reputation for scoring in tough fixtures, but now he is doing what every fantasy manager wants to see - scoring in easy ones. A goal would seem almost a given here and a brace, not the least surprising.
Harry Kane - Isn't it nice when a consistent striker starts being consistent again? A goal in the North London derby should be the final warning to non-owners - Kane is back and when he is finding the net, he does it as consistently as anyone. The Hammer defense scares me little.
Graziano Pelle - I feel like sometimes I give Pelle more credit than the average pundit in that I keep the faith with him in weeks after he comes up empty. Now call me a lunatic for ranking him above the name below. Southampton are going to score and Pelle can also chip in with assists better than the typical striker.
Jamie Vardy - Well, it's time to challenge Ruud van Nistelrooy for Premier League history this weekend. That is, assuming Vardy will earn a start despite a hip issue. He has to deal with some immense mental and physical pressure to pull this goal record off then. I am not saying he won't, but that record may be forcing his inclusion when that hip should otherwise give pause.
Sergio Aguero - Guess who's baaaaack? There is no guarantee that Aguero will be named the starter for City in their clash with Liverpool, but he has been passed fit while Wilfried Bony has been ruled out, so you do the math. FPL managers may want to wait one week to see the goods before investing 13m in him, when there are so many dependable options for several million less. Still, he's Aguero, and this is as low as you'll see him ranked when fit.
Ayoze Perez - Three goals in his last six for Perez, not too shabby for a budget striker that was still unowned in many a draft league format. The word is out by now though, and Perez should threaten to produce something good out of a home match with Leicester City.
Olivier Giroud - Not the preferred matchup from a fantasy perspective, but Giroud leads a line that can score anywhere. He should get a couple of chances to grab a goal on Saturday.
Arouna Kone - Kone probably had his best fantasy output of his career already but Everton's fixture is too tasty to ignore the budget option this week.
Bafetimbi Gomis - I hesitate to even rank Gomis because his form has been appalling during Swansea's struggles. Garry Monk may very well turn to Eder for a start just to see if a significant change can cause a positive reaction. Still, you gotta back Gomis one last time in this encouraging matchup.
Steven Fletcher - Somewhat queitly, Fletcher has been consistent in all formats of late. Though he came up empty in Week 12, he has three goals and an assist over his last five, and if the Eagles are to concede, Fletch stands the odds-on favorite to be the one that delivers. (Fantrax special)
Christian Benteke - Like Coutinho rounding out the midfield choices, Benteke needs a place in the striker section with his class and ability to find magic in one moment of a tough fixture.
So there you have it. The best of the best to consider for Week 13. It is going to be an interesting Saturday as I try to flip between Jamie Vardy's record-breaking attempt at Newcastle and Jose Mourinho's return to the Chelsea sideline at home in what will be yet again another seemingly impossible to lose fixture. There promises to be plenty of drama around the league. The kind of drama this fan has been missing for the past two weeks.
Good luck fellow managers, and may your arrows be green.