Welcome home, Neal. What did you miss? Well, read the posts below of course. What about the week ahead? Well, let's see if we can get you up to speed on that too.
First, go and read the Yahoo! Assistant Manager's Week 15 Player Picks. The Y!AM was kind enough to write last week's TWA and he has a really good look at this week's double-game schedule and a nice list of the relevant-for-fantasy players.
Got it? Okay, now on with the show.
Kirkland is an injury doubt and Wigan have two road matches @Stoke and @Liverpool. Even for 1-something he's not likely to return you points - were he to play. Yes, I understand that "he only has to score 1pt per game to return his value" but is that the standard you want from your players this week? His replacement, Pollitt, is terrible so please don't look there even if Wigan were hosting West Ham and Burnley.
Hart and Fulop look the best value this week, but one could also think about Cech this week. Yes, he costs north of 13 but save for his wobble against Manchester City, he's been returning that many points a week for the last six weeks. Chelsea haven't conceeded a goal at Stamford Bridge since Hunt scored in the opening match of the season. So strugglers Everton and Portsmouth aren't too likely to trouble him in net. I'm not sure you would want to put all that money at keeper, but I do think it would be money well spent.
Birmingham's back four of Carr, Johnson, Dann and Ridgewell are good picks this week with Carr being the cheapest at 7.25 and also the player with the lowest points per match. I think Ridgewell is a nice compromise - a bit more expensive than Carr but with a higher upside as well.
I don't know how much mojo Burnley still have at home, but with matches against Fulham and then Arsenal they'll hope they haven't lost it. Jordan is an interesting option by virtue of his price - 5.52 - and that home record. With Rooney taking a big chunk of your money this week, and quality midfielders being hard to find for less than double-digits and economy defender could really come in handy. And that value category - for me, under 6 - is a small pool. Jordan, Samuel and Bassong are the best bets with Stearman and Spector less so with four tough road matches between them. Sylvinho could be a great pick at just above 6, but I do have my doubts that he'll play.
As mentioned above, a good midfielder is going to cost you these days. Bowyer, Reid, Lennon, Krancjar, Giggs, Matty Taylor, Valencia, Arshavin... we're talking 10 to 16, minimum. But they're definitely your premium picks this weekend - though I have reservations about Giggs, who isn't likely to get the majority of both matches and Krancjar who will have Modric and Keane fighting him for that spot.
Under 10, there is defintiley a gulf in class, but some interesting options. Benayoun with two home matches and he scored against Fiorentina, but I wouldn't want to be betting on Rafa's team selection. THud will get two nice games, though he may play a more defensive role with Palacios likely sidelined with broken/bruised ribs. That could open the door for Jenas, but at 7.15 he's a bit of a gamble. Etherington, Cahill, Bily, Hunt and Geovanni (for the Bullard-less Hull City) are all one-gamers, while Prince-Boateng, O'Hara, Jarvis and Milijas all play two on the road, and one of those at Chelsea. Eagles, Malbranque and Deco are maybe the best of this bunch with Stanislas and Elliot interesting, if not stellar, options.
Here's the problem - Rooney is too expensive, but too hard to leave out of your team. ManU host Villa and Wolves this week and then don't face another top side until they meet Arsenal the last match week in January. When he was doubtful for the Villa match it was easy to put together a strong side, but now... there are challenges. I think he'll be worth the investment, but it does make for some tough decisions elsewhere.
Another striker with huge potential this week, but with a price tag that reflects that is Defoe.
Beyond those two no-brainers, you have DBent and KJones, Drogba and Anelka, Robbie Blake with two home matches. Manchester City are on the road twice, but Tevez and Adebayor might be worth your investment. McFadden, Jerome and Benitez have nice fixtures and there is a lot of buzz around the latter as Chucho was only 6.25 on the barn door and scored against Wigan. I admit that I have him in my team, but I don't like it. Yes, he has good match-ups but his tendency to disappear for an entire match - no goals, no shots, maybe a phantom point or two - has me very nervous about him as a viable fantasy player.
Do you want to know which relative cheap forward I do like? Even though he plays on a lousy team and has a lousy schedule.... it's Guillermo Franco for West Ham. He's been doing the business week in and out for the Hammers - okay, not last week against ManU - and he's their only fit striker. Unfortunately for me, he's just out of my price range. I have a bit of money sunk in the keeper spot with Reina, but I don't know if I'm willing to gut him. But that's the grist for a Late Fitness Test post, not a TWA.