DEFENCE: Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) – Away v Sunderland
We’ve highlighted him before, but Cesar Azpilicueta really is one of the most consistent defenders in the game even if he doesn’t get the headlines – or the FPL ownership – to show for it.
Lacking the goal threat of the rest of his teammates he does at least make up for that with raiding runs from left-back, and more assists do seem to be on the way.
MIDFIELD: Angel Di Maria (£10.0m) – Home v Hull
That noise you can hear is Manchester United slowly clicking into gear, and although things might remain at mess at the back for them they have at least got outright quality going forward in Angel Di Maria.
Assists in his last two games take his tally to six for the season, and he’ll be looking to add to his three goals when Hull come calling to Old Trafford.
FORWARD: Harry Kane (£4.9m) – Home v Everton
He could be making appearance in ‘The Outsider’ section, but at his price you really can’t ignore Tottenham’s Harry Kane ahead of a home meeting with Everton.
The forward has forced his way to the front and centre of Mauricio Pochettino’s plans, perhaps despite the manager’s best wishes, and after goals against Aston Villa and Hull he could be worth a gamble for one week only.
THE OUTSIDER: Jefferson Montero (£5.7m) – Home v Crystal Palace
Speaking of gambles… It’s a curveball, I’ll admit, but that is what the outsider pick is all about.
Swansea’s Jefferson Montero has looked lively as he started all of his side’s last four games, during which he’s provided two assists. He’s got Palace and QPR at home in his next two fixtures, and with just 0.3% ownership he could cause quite a bit of damage in your mini-leagues.
THE CAPTAIN: Diego Costa (£11.1m) – Away v Sunderland
You know the drill by now.
This week we’ve once again decided to shun the glory seeking midfielders and forwards and give you a preview focused entirely on improving your team’s defence (Andre Villas-Boas, take note).
Clean sheets and bonus points are up for grabs over a Fantasy weekend which features winnable games for plenty of the division’s elite, and although Arsenal might find it tough as they go to a Cardiff side who’ve beaten Manchester City and drawn with Manchester United at home this season, with a defender such as Per Mertesacker (£5.6m) in their team they’ll head to South Wales with confidence.
The big German registered a huge 11 points in the victory over Southampton last weekend thanks to being fouled for a penalty and keeping a clean sheet, feats which made him eligible for two bonus points from the Fantasy gods.
Mertesacker took a while to settle into the English game after he joined the Gunners from Werder Bremen in 2011, but he is now seen as his side’s main man at the back, and will be crucial to his team’s hopes of registering more points as they seek to prolong their time at the top of the table.
Cardiff may have scored twice in their draw with Manchester United, but prior to that they’d registered only one goal in their previous three games, and the likes of Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny (£5.3m) and Kieran Gibbs (£5.4m) will be targeting another clean sheet.
Elsewhere, Manchester City’s stellar home form has made their defence feel extremely comfortable when they play at the Etihad Stadium, where they’ve kept four clean sheets in six home Premier League games this season.
Pablo Zabaleta (£6.0m) played a part in all of those shutouts, whilst the signs are that Costel Pantilimon (£4.9m) will continue in goal for City in their domestic matches at least.
The latest one of those sees them host Swansea on Sunday, a match that is likely to see many Fantasy bosses lose faith in full-backs Angel Rangel (£5.4m) and Ben Davies (£5.0m), with the pair set for a torrid afternoon.
Better full-back choices are likely to come from Liverpool, who go to a goal-shy Hull City side who’ve scored just once in their last three home games this season.
An injury to Reds left-back Jose Enrique (£5.8m) has opened the door for the interesting (and cheap) youngster Jon Flanagan (£4.5m), but it might pay to go with the more established Glen Johnson (£5.7m) for this contest in which the England man is going to be looking to get forward at every opportunity.
Manchester United’s trip to Spurs has the potential to be a goalfest and so we’re going to overlook that particular fixture this week, and instead look at Chelsea’s home test against a Southampton side who are suddenly running into some tricky fixtures.
The Saints’ previously sturdy defence is going to come under pressure at Stamford Bridge, when Chelsea’s John Terry (£6.4m) and Branislav Ivanovic (£6.4m) will fancy keeping a clean sheet against an attack that, for all Southampton’s success, have still only scored four goals on the road all season.
At the other end of the country, a resurgent Newcastle go in search of a fourth straight victory when West Brom come to St James’s Park, and they’ll be helped in that quest by the return of full-back Mathieu Debuchy (£4.9m) from suspension.
The Baggies could only draw 2-2 with Aston Villa last time out despite leading 2-0, and Paul Lambert’s side will hope to build on that comeback as they host struggling Sunderland on Saturday afternoon.
Despite a couple of notable home wins during his time in charge, Gus Poyet hasn’t yet seen his team pick up a point or even score a goal away from the Stadium of Light, a run that Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar (£4.5m) will be determined to see continue.
Running into an ex is never the most comfortable of experiences, but it usually makes you want to prove that you’re doing well for yourself.
Take Jermain Defoe (£7.8m) this weekend, as the Spurs forward faces up to a West Ham outfit he once represented.
The faces, names and replica shirts will have changed, but the frosty reception that Defoe will get from the away fans at White Hart Lane will make him determined to get one over on his former employers, and provided that he comes through Thursday evening’s Europa League tie with Lazio in one piece then he is certain to start on Sunday afternoon and beyond given that Emmanuel Adebayor’s brain explosion at the Emirates Stadium last Saturday leaves Tottenham a little thin up top for their next three fixtures (West Ham H, Liverpool H, Fulham A).
Whilst ‘biting the hand that used to feed you’ is an expression that Defoe may have taken a little too literally when he has faced up to West Ham in the past, with the help of the likes of Gareth Bale (£9.7m) and Aaron Lennon (£7.0m) around him this time he could cause some damage to a West Ham side who admittedly start the weekend ahead of Spurs in the table.
A home win at White Hart Lane would change all that though, and Defoe looks to be central to Tottenham’s hopes of achieving that as the England forward hopes to leave his former love pining for him.
Mark Hughes is another who’ll be taking on a former club this weekend, although the QPR boss will probably wish that he was anywhere other than Old Trafford.
With pressure mounting on the Welshman following the dismal 3-1 loss at home to Southampton last weekend, Hughes heads to Manchester still in the hottest of Rangers hotseats despite a week which brought about rumours of his demise.
Having not won in 12 league matches this season then Old Trafford would be a fine place for QPR to strike a lucky thirteenth, but that is incredibly unlikely and the home side should be backed to leave their ex-forward with more than a few regrets.
That should of course mean more points for Robin van Persie (£13.7m), but if you can’t afford the Dutchman then it is well worth keeping an eye on the fitness of Wayne Rooney (£11.7m), who should return to the Manchester United starting XI against opponents that he scored home and away against last season.
Others bumping into old friends include Brendan Rodgers, who takes Liverpool to Swansea in a match which could prove to be a shootout between Luis Suarez (£10.3m) and Michu (£7.3m), and Rafael Benitez, who returns to the Premier League and is reunited with Fernando Torres (£9.6m) at Chelsea.
There will be those who feel that Benitez will instantly restore Torres to the player of old, but putting him back in your team does come with the warning that Chelsea will miss out on Gameweek 17 due to World Club Championship commitments, whilst they also face the tough test posed by champions Manchester City this weekend.
Elsewhere, there will be those wondering what to do with the absence of Marouane Fellaini through suspension for Everton’s game with Norwich – not least David Moyes – and whilst Steven Naismith (£5.9m) might be worth a gamble were he listed as a midfielder, perhaps the absence of the big Belgian will see former Everton goalkeeper John Ruddy (£4.7m) – another visiting old friends – keep a fourth straight clean sheet and a fifth in six games.
Further forward, Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla (£9.4m) might not have any connection to Aston Villa, but after three goals and two assists in the Gunners’ six away games this season then he’ll be worth keeping an eye on at Villa Park, whilst Stoke’s Jonathan Walters (£6.3m) and Charlie Adam (£6.6m) could exploit Fulham’s frequent away struggles at the Britannia Stadium, and having broken his goalscoring duck last weekend then Stephane Sessegnon (£7.3m) will look to shine as Sunderland host West Brom.
It’s time to jump on the bandwagon, throw away the magic 8 ball, stop asking Siri and join the consistency train.
In other words it’s time to settle down make the safe transfers, especially with the Fantasy Cup and the FY Shield only a few weeks away. It’s time to build a team to allow you break the magical 50 points barrier each Gameweek. No longer do you need that one off great Gameweek, but it is all about being consistent.
So it’s time to jump on that bandwagon, for some of you that that may mean swallowing your pride by picking a player who you have avoided because he was wearing your team’s shirt last year. Or that player, where you pick up the paper and think “He’s a D***”, or that young kid who you still don’t want to believe the hype over. It’s time to be smart.
So, with that in mind, here are the three players who your team can’t afford to be without in weeks and months to come (Remember these are my own views and generally* not shared with the rest of the Admin team.) *never.
Robin van Persie – Yes his price tag is high, I hear some of you cry, but he is averaging 6.5 points a game, and as a special treat for stat fans that works out to a stunning one point every 11.8 minutes that he has been on the turf. Despite Carlos Tevez being cheaper and scoring more points, come January and with Mario Balotelli’s bags pretty much packed for the EuroStar, someone else will almost certainly be posing with the number 45 City shirt and Roberto Mancini – giving Tevez more competition. Even with Tom Glick as their COO – his tight ways may have worked out at Derby but he’s in a different league now – the Al Mubarak family will certainly look to allow Mancini to go on January spending spree, meaning that Tevez could suffer as Van Persie racks up the points.
Marouane Fellaini – The man with the crazy hair has been the heart of anything pretty good that Everton have done this season, and although that hair could be worse it’s not on scale of Tom Huddlestone’s as the ex-Derby man continues to try and score a goal before he can shave it off. Keep with Fellaini while Everton’s great run continues. EDIT: (Fellaini is suspended this weekend)
Jose Enrique – My third is pick is a player that all old school fantasy football players have been waiting for since a young Gareth Bale burst onto the scene and was listed as a defender, however spent the season out on the wing. Once again there is a player that ticks all of those boxes.
Jose Enrique last year was a great buy, he was cheap at less than 5 million and playing in the back line of one of the tightest defenses in the league, but the arrival of Brendan Rogers from across the Brecon Beacons National Park along with his Barcelona-esque free flowing football has unleashed some of Liverpool’s brightest Academy stars such as Andre Wisdom, who has slotted into the defence nicely, meaning Enrique’s pitch time was limited to coming off the bench or covering for injures.
Some even started to think that maybe Jose was one of the chosen three in Brendan’s now infamous envelopes, however against Wigan he was let loose on the wing and with his pace along with Raheem Sterling and the brilliance of Luis Suarez, Liverpool may be starting find an answer to the lack of goals that have caused their fans so much heartache over the past 18 months.
If your money – like the current economy – is tight then I suggest buying Sterling as the front three for Liverpool are going be in the points every week, but for the sake of 0.6 million I would swing in favour of the Spaniard Enrique, as those clean sheet bonuses could be the difference between you and your mate come May.