Firstly, thanks to Jeremy & Neal for giving me the opportunity to write The Week Ahead for Week 14. I've followed their blog for 5 years & they were the inspiration for me to start my Yahoo! Assistant Manager Blog this season, so it's a great honour!
I always begin with a look at the fixtures & the immediate stand-out Week 14 fixtures are Arsenal at home to Stoke & Aston Villa at home to Hull.
Stoke are in good form & will undoubtedly cause Arsenal problems from set pieces, but I feel Arsenal's pace & movement will be too much & can see a 4-1 scoreline as the Gunners bounce back from their Chelsea battering. Hull are also playing well since Jimmy Bullard returned, but Villa have the ability to turn it on at home & are another side who will want to please the fans after a disappointing performance vs Spurs. They performed well in the Carling Cup, so it's a home win for me.
Another good looking fixture is Portsmouth at home to Burnley. It may be a surprise that I'd tip the team rock bottom of the league, but anyone who's seen their recent form (and Burnley's away form) will know that Pompey are due a win. Two away teams in good league form, Man Utd at West Ham & Tottenham at Everton cannot be ignored either.
We then come to a bunch of fixtures which could go either way. Fulham v Sunderland, Blackburn v Liverpool, Wolves v Bolton, Wigan v Birmingham. They all sound like they could be 1-1 draws don't they? They might be, but there are still decent options from these teams that'll I'll go in to more detail about below. Any other season I'd have Liverpool in the 'stand-out fixtures' section, but they're so out-of-sorts at the moment that I can't get excited about them. Mind you, Torres would change everything.
Finally, we have Man City v Chelsea. I think Chelsea will win, but I can see it being a heated game as City will be doing everything to try & prove they can challenge the elite, so I’ll be avoiding the majority of players from this fixture apart from a certain striker.
That's my fixture analysis, now on to my player picks... after the jump.
Almunia - Back down to 5.57 after letting in 3 vs Chelsea. He's a bit like Robinson in the sense that he makes very few saves, but it's difficult to ignore him at that price with his home fixture.
Kirkland - Loads of us grabbed Captain Kirk at 1.64 for Week 13 & he did us proud with a 10 point haul. He's still only 4.20, has another home game to Birmingham & he makes more saves than the Leon lookalike above.
Jaaskelainen - If you're not interested in either of the guys mentioned so far, then maybe Jussi could be for you at 5.33. He's another who makes saves & faces Wolves (no wins & only 2 home goals since September)
Begovic - Bit of a risky one, but under 3.00 & as I've mentioned I think Portsmouth will win. Obviously if David James returns (which is possible) then this recommendation can be ignored & James could be considered (5.78)
That completes the keepers - as you can see, I don't feel there's any reason to be spending more than £6m on one for Week 14 given the match-ups.
Vermaelen - The top scoring defender so far this season, but his recent form has been disappointing, not aided by an own goal vs Chelsea or Arsenal's general inability to keep clean sheets. If you are thinking about dropping him then maybe wait until after this weekend.
Cueller - Superb against Spurs at centre back & is decent value at 7.71
Baird - A revelation since filling in for Danny Murphy in centre midfield & many of us have him at under 5.00. Should keep his place & has a chance of a clean sheet at home to Sunderland so even at 6.59 he's worth a look.
Dunne - Only slightly more expensive than Cueller, so if you're looking to spend around £8m on a defender & you fancy Villa to trouble Hull then he could be the better option.
Traore - Arsenal's injury crisis has left them with 2 options at left-back, Silvestre & Traore. Traore got the nod vs Chelsea & wasn't at fault for any of the goals, so I’d expect him to keep his place. The defensive bargain of the week at 5.48.
Hreidarsson - The big Icelander is back to fitness & is always a threat at set pieces. Home fixture, great value
Brown - I think it's sensible to have a Man Utd defender in the list & Wes is a guaranteed starter at a good price. West Ham will be missing Carlton Cole after his bad knee injury suffered vs Burnley, so a clean sheet is very possible.
Bassong - With King & Woodgate still struggling, I expect to see Dawson & Bassong continue vs Everton. There are better options, but few cheaper at 5.15.
Givet - He's been fantastically consistent for Blackburn so far this year & seems to score well with or without clean sheet points
Alexander - Anyone who reads my blog will know I've had Burnley's penalty-taking midfielder for some time & he's rewarded me with 3 goals (including one 30+ point week). However, his star is dimming & he needs to pull something out of the bag soon
Samuel - Similar to Bassong...there are better options but he's guaranteed to start for Bolton & he's even cheaper
So those are the defenders. My ideal "money no object" trio would be Vermaelen, Dunne, Traore.
Fabregas - He's expensive, he's not been in great form in the past few weeks & there are plenty of other good cheaper options about. I remember thinking the exact same thing when Arsenal played Blackburn, so I went with Arshavin instead - Fabregas scored 38.5 points that day. I feel we'll get a reaction from the top scoring midfielder this week & he's very likely to be in my side.
Taylor - Ask any Bolton fan & they'll tell you MTay hasn't been playing well this season, yet he constantly produces the points for fantasy managers. It doesn't get much easier than Wolves at the moment. His 2 home games for the upcoming double week are worth noting.
Duff - I haven't seen him in this sort of form since his first 2 years at Chelsea. Tricky, creating chances, getting chances of his own (and taking them), he's someone I’ll be keeping him at home to a Sunderland side who don't travel well
Dempsey - If you're still holding from his explosive double week then he'll continue to perform, but I prefer Duff.
Milner - Mr Consistent for Villa, I still like him at home to Hull as he'll get set pieces, but with Young AND Downing about you get the feeling the points are going to start spreading about a bit.
Downing - If I was sure he'd start I'd pick him at the bargain price of 8.64, but he could get a rest after 90 minutes in the Carling Cup. Watch out for team news nearer the weekend.
Arshavin - Hasn't quite fired this season & some have suggested he's been sulking since Russia were knocked out of the World Cup. I still love watching him play & he's due a big performance. I wouldn't pick him AND Fabregas but I'd certainly pick one of them for the Stoke game.
Walcott/Nasri/Rosicky - I can't be more specific as I don't know who'll play vs Man City tonight, but out of the 3 I'd be looking at Walcott as a possibility, especially if there's a chance he could be given a run upfront.
Boateng - KPB couldn't do anything right at Spurs but he's really impressed me at Pompey. Penalty taker & loves to shoot in general, so a great option vs Burnley
O'Hara - Slightly cheaper than the man above & taking the majority of set pieces
Giggs - Never seems to age & will be back in the starting line-up at Upton park. Expensive now, but you're almost guaranteed points.
Jarvis - Another affordable set piece taker
Bilyaletdinov - Everyone loves Bily. His 8 points vs Liverpool could've been 18 if he's put away the simplest of chances in the first half. Remains a superb option for home games.
Cohen - His goalscoring run seems to have come to an end but he'll continue to play the "Cahill Role" for Bolton & he'll get chances at Wolves.
Kranjcar - His price is up there at 13+ now but that's because he's in outstanding form. You'd need to be confident to spend the money, but Everton are struggling defensively.
J Cole - Tricky game at Man City but I know a lot of people have him at a cheap price (6ish) so he could be worth holding on to with Chelsea having a great double fixture in Week 15.
My dream midfield for Week 14 would be Fabregas, Giggs, Taylor, Duff. Finally, the strikers...
Drogba - No real need to explain. He's too expensive at full price, which is why I'm relieved I hung on to him through his 1 week injury, & he'll give Lescott & Toure nightmares.
Rooney - The streakiest striker of them all. Once he starts scoring he tends not to stop for 5 or 6 games, so a hattrick last weekend (albeit slightly lucky with 2 pens) should be the catalyst for another burst. West Ham will be without Upson again, so I see a high scoring United win.
Rodallega - Second only to Drogba in the Shots On Target stakes, there's no reason to think Hugo won't score again & return his value at home to Birmingham.
Defoe - No goals in two after five goal in one, but as I've already mentioned I don't think Everton are in the best shape defensively so Defoe will be looking to get back on the goal trail....but again, not at full price.
Eduardo - Hugely disappointing against Chelsea but hardly had the service he thrives on. Wenger will give him another chance vs Stoke & I expect him to bag a goal. Striker bargain alert, only 7.12
Agbonlahor - In the best scoring season of his short career, but not really scoring many fantasy points in the process. He'll probably do well, but if you must have a Villa striker...
Carew - ...then I'd be looking at John Carew. The service he'll receive from Young/Milner/Downing should provide plenty of headed chances
Dindane - He's missed 4 open goals, but also has a hattrick since joining Portsmouth & he'll face Burnley's leaky defence. I'd prefer Eduardo or Carew over him, but if you're in a gambling mood then why not take a punt!
Doyle - The only Wolves player salvaging any pride from the season so far. Always difficult to defend against & Bolton aren't exactly solid. Still difficult to recommended over Eduardo.
Benitez - If Defoe can score 5 vs Wigan, surely Benitez could get 1 to return more than his value?
So those are my strikers (Bent & Klasnic get honourable mentions). Drogba, Rooney, Defoe are probably my dream line-up, although Rodallega comes close to displacing Defoe.
That concludes The Week Ahead. I hope you've enjoyed reading & found it helpful. Thanks to Jeremy & Neal for giving me the opportunity - please stop by to check out my blog if you get a chance!