Before we get to the fantasy recommendations, here are a few specific things I'll be looking for early in the big matches:
- ManYoo: Rooney LOVES playing and scoring against Arsenal - will he be deployed as a lone striker of the type that has been killing Arsenal in the Champions League (speed plus energy)? It's what I'd do after watching Arsenal's frailty and Berbs stink up the place in midweek.
- Arsenal: How does Wenger come out for this key match? Does he attack with Arsh/Chamakh/Nasri backed up by Song/(RvP or Wilshere)/Rosicky or does he go more conservative with Song/Denilson/Rosicky in an attempt to shield the always-questionable backline? My sense is that Denilson isn't THAT much of a deterrent so why not go for it and continue to play defense by attacking.
- Chelsea: What will Chelsea give up in an effort to slow down Bale and avoid Bosingwa/Ferreira suffering Maicon's fate? Will they pull Kalou off in favor of someone who might play a little defense and attack with Drogba/Elk/FloMal? That's what I'd do since adding Kalou to that mix makes them very top heavy in my opinion with no creative player to orchestrate.
- Spurs: How will they align their attack to counter Chelsea's focus on Bale? Chelsea is going to say "We don't think Defoe/Modric/2nd Striker/Lennon can beat us" - will Spurs overload the right side? Will they get a bit scared and include two players in a holding role because of the (under-performing) big names in Chelsea's attack? If it were me, I'd give Bentley a chance - I think he creates more problems than Lennon and will force Chelsea to balance their defending approach. It's too easy for ACole to keep Lennon pinned to the sideline by himself where Lennon isn't a reliable crosser of the ball. Bentley offers better crossing as well as the ability to cut infield and become a creator.
Again, we'll break down the matches that DO boost the value of some of the players involved for fantasy managers as compared to the ones that just SEEM like they should (in case you question our ability to distinguish one from the other, we were 5 out of 6 last weekend missing only the Sunderland beatdown of West Ham).
- WHU vs. MAC - We won't get fooled again even with WHU at home this week. Citeh should cruise here. Just too big a talent differential to be overcome for the Hammers.
- Bolton vs. Blackburn - There isn't a ton to love as far as match-ups go but this is the second best one with pretty-good-at-home Bolton against only-OK-on-the-road Rovers. I wouldn't go overboard on this one but given the lack of great match-ups and the difficult match-ups for so many of the "big" teams and players, the value of this one increases.
- Wolves vs. BRM - Birmingham have been playing much better but look at the numbers on the road - yup, that's ZERO wins so far. If you want to pick up an attacker, OK but doesn't seem likely that they're going to pull off the clean sheet win that would make Foster and their defenders valuable. If they did, it would be a first this season. Oh, and Wolves aren't half bad at home either (just below middle of the pack in home points).
- Stoke vs. Blackpool - We keep expecting Blackpool to falter on the road and, outside of some rough times with the big boys, they just don't. Stoke are a strong home team but Blackpool are a very good road team (only Arsenal and Citeh have more - Chelsea and Spurs are even).
- Balotelli - The striker to have. Inexpensive and leading the line for Citeh in the absence of Tevez who is suspended for accumulation.
- Rooney - As I mentioned above, ever since his Premier League debut goal, he LOVES scoring against Arsenal. Just the tonic for someone who needs a big goal to get him going.
- Davies - His price has dropped and Bolton's match-up is a good one. About time for him to get back on the scoreboard with Holden likely back.
- KJones - I don't LOVE the match-up but with a lack of extremely attractive options, he's at least a good option at a pretty good price.
- Agbonlahor - Villa can't continue to be this bad forever can they? Gabby is priced right (about 7) and the upside is pretty huge with WBA matches always having a lot of goals in them for both teams.
- Nasri and Nani - They're the two best midfielders going right now but given the match-up and prices they're more keepers at lower prices than buys for this weekend.
- Albrighton - Villa are slowly getting their pieces back together and Albrighton is another one that isn't so expensive that he won't have a chance to return value even if Villa continue to be mediocre.
- Silva - We keep waiting for it to happen for him and with Tevez out, he might find some more opportunities and even cash in on one of them.
- Holden - He should be back and I like his chances to contribute to a Bolton win.
- Nolan - Another one who should be back after a brief injury layoff and with the match at home, I like his potential to do well for a very reasonable price.
- Kolo Toure/Richards - Neither are very expensive and both are likely to start in the best match-up of the weekend. If you only want one, I'd go Richards for the price but you assume the risk that he might not play.
- Coleman - Still waiting for a big breakout match while he's in my line-up but the odds say he's a good bet for the money.
- Bardsley - I remember a time when we really liked Bardsley as a fantasy defender but he's fallen a long way. Call this "Back to the Future" weekend with Bardsley getting a shout as a legitimate option - not a great one, but a good one.
- Elokobi - If you're looking sub-5.00, this is the play to make with Wolves having a better-than-it-looks match-up at home against poor-on-the-road Birmingham.
- Jussi - By far the best combination of price and match-up. There are lots of other options for those who have players on discounts that they want to keep - Robbo, Foster, etc. - but if you're buying at retail, this is your guy.
- Hart - If you want to pay the price, he's the way to go this weekend.
- Carson - If you want to take a risk on a cheapie, then the risk to take is Carson against a struggling Villa team. They've fallen a long way when I make this recommendation even tentatively for a match at Villa Park.
- NOT T-Ho - Lots of people are clearly still thinking of Everton teams from past seasons because I keep getting comments from people excited for Howard based on his price and the Everton "brand name" that combine to imply top half of the table quality. The sad fact is that Howard and Everton are in 15th place and they are there deservedly and Howard's fantasy stats are pretty horrible. Could this be his rebound match? Sure. Would I bet on it? Not even for a price under 5.00