Hello again fantasy friends. After last week's results, yours truly was expected to be greeted at his door by an angry mob, wielding pitchforks and torches, considering the turnout for picks in The Free Kick. Antolin Alcaraz picked up a knock that was not made public until the start of Everton's game, while Patrice Evra did the business with a clean sheet and an assist. United made me look foolish again with Danny Welbeck finding the net, whilst Emmanuel Adebayor could only manage an assist. I make no excuses, OK I'm going to make two. 1.) No one will get it right every time at four positions over the course of 38 weeks, I can only shoot for a good success rate and 2.) With players like Rooney, van Persie, Aguero, and Walcott all on the shelf, there was plenty of money to spend, making budget options not as crucial as the average week. For this weekend, I think plenty of money can be saved again, as currently only Aguero looks fit from that list and with Manchester United and Chelsea squaring off, most managers might want to avoid investing in the two, so even more cash should be at your disposal. This week there are three big clubs with plenty of options to fill up your XI: Arsenal (FUL), Liverpool (AVL) and Manchester City (CAR). I recommend loading up here, and when you find yourself looking at a spot or two for a cheap option or low ownership, hopefully my recommendations here will help.
Right. Let's take a look at this weeks' standard and Free Kick representatives.
Tim Howard - (Everton) Some might look at a trip to The Hawthorns as a clean sheet opportunity for the Toffees, so why not back the American, who is currently ranked the #2 scoring keeper in the game? Well, last week was their first cleanie in the previous six, and to keep the Canaries out on your own ground is hardly a tall task. Meanwhile, West Brom have not been kept out at home since September 1, so while they are nowhere near a prolific attacking force, they can usually pop up with a goal. Look at Leighton Baines for that Everton coverage, that way if West Brom score, you still have a commodity that can rack up points without the clean sheet.
The Free Kick
John Ruddy - (Norwich City) Ruddy comes into the mix as this week's budget keeper, though currently at 7.62m, he is not one to save you a ton of cash like the 1m options that have cropped up over the past few months. This pick is also about ownership as well, with Ruddy having the lowest of any viable keeper - a paltry 0.58%. Hull City makes the trip to Carrow Road, averaging under a goal per game in their travels. Norwich have conceded in their past four games, the longest streak of the season for them, so I think they are due to keep things clean and with their attacking form, a clean sheet may be the only possible way to come out with points in this one.
Dejan Lovren (Southampton) Lovren was the figurehead of a stout Saints defense that whipped off six cleanies in their first nine matches, catapulting him among the fantasy elite and skyrocketing his ownership. Well, plenty have kept the faith since, despite a run of 11 games where they let the opponents past them. While first choice players like Artur Boruc and Nathaniel Clyne have returned and the Saints finally snapped their 11 game streak last week, I do not like their chances of heading way up north to Sunderland and shutting them down. The Black Cats may still be wallowing in the relegation zone, but they are hitting a sharp run of attacking form now, and Southampton may be lucky to come away with anything in this one.
The Free Kick
Aly Cissokho (Liverpool) With injuries for Brendan Rodgers at the fullback position, Cissokho has been given his chance for a run in the team, and because the Reds have not managed to secure a clean sheet, Cissokho's price is still extremely kind at 5.3m. Liverpool opened the season with three cleanies in a row, but have only managed another three since, so investment there is not exactly tantalizing but for the price and the opponent, a home encounter with Aston Villa, he is the budget defender of the week. Christian Benteke finally ended a goal scoring drought last weekend, but overall he still does not have that "force to be reckoned with" stigma about him yet.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) Head on over to the "form" column in the fantasy game and you will see Eriksen only outdone by Adam Johnson on that list, so his stock is as high as it has been all season, and Spurs are about to face off with a Swansea side riddled with injuries, and of course they are without their prized keeper Michel Vorm, who since his absence has seen the Swans struggle. Gerhard Tremmel has not played a part in a clean sheet in the six matches he has started. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Eriksen came away with something, but when one takes into consideration all of the strong options in midfield from Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool this week, I simply cannot justify a spot for Eriksen. The Liberty Stadium hasn't been a fortress this season, but it can still be a tricky place to produce.
The Free Kick
Ki Sung-Yueng (Sunderland) The only Black Cat recommendation this year in The Free Kick so far, other than perhaps Phil Bardsley one week I think, Ki is the perfect under the radar pick to give a go in your midfield. As mentioned above, Sunderland are finding the net with regularity recently, and while Adam Johnson is stealing the headlines, it has been Ki who has been just as instrumental. (There is a pun there, but it's too obvious, don't you think?) A goal and an assist last week was the result of a buildup of confidence in recent weeks, and he and Johnson look to have formed a solid partnership, as they continually linked up against Fulham. Yes, true, it was Fulham. But sometimes a bad defense is more about providing confidence going forward than it is simply the result of the match. It's a long trip up north for Southampton, I think Ki can unlock.........Sigh, I really didn't intend for that.
Romelu Lukaku (Everton) Lukaku is a dangerous striker in any fixture when the form is present, but even with the assist he provided in Everton's defeat of Norwich, he still looks off as a goal scorer to me right now. Several of his shots are not hitting the target and without the presence of Ross Barkley as a potential linkup, it takes even more of a hit to his stock. He is now over 720 minutes of pitch time without a goal. With so many essential strikers this week to choose three from, it is time to lay off of Lukaku until his form returns.
The Free Kick
Wilfried Bony (Swansea City) Swansea need Bony desperately to carry them during their current injury crisis, and so far he looks up to the task, provided that he gets the necessary service from his teammates. This goes back to that tricky fixture I see for Spurs this week which was mentioned in the Eriksen write up. If the final of this game is anything other than 0-0, I feel confident Bony will have done something on the score sheet. As an aside, the Swans have a great run of fixtures after Spurs, so if you believe in Bony, you may want to buy him up next week if not this one.
Finally, as a reminder, don't forget to check out the tournament setup and prizes available for the 2014 Rotoworld PL Cup. Click on the link for details - http://www.nbcsports.com/edge/articles/bpl/45988/391/the-2014-rotoworld-pl-cup