I can honestly say that I have never been so happy to be so wrong. For the second week in a row, the forward I advised against not only scored, but scored TWICE, and each time I prefaced my decision with the caveat that I was destined to be burned. But unlike the Olivier Giroud call from two weeks back, Christian Benteke's brace could not have given me more joy. I admit it. I jinxed myself on PURPOSE. I wanted nothing more than to see the Belgian giant find his scoring shoes again, and that he did. His first came good with what I am going to term a "motorcycle kick". It may not have had the grace of the conventional bicycle kick...it took a little more strength, a bit more horsepower to back down his defender and score in that fashion. With March Madness around the corner, I cannot help but make the analogy of a power forward collecting the ball in the paint, backing his defender down, and stuffing it in said defender's face. Bentekkers would use his head for the second goal, and while he has had a somewhat quiet season, he is the league leader with five goals from headers. Like half of the clubs this week. he will not be playing in a league match, but he is firmly back on my radar for the weeks to come.
This week's Free Kick is going to be a bit different because of the truncated schedule. So rather than the customary "avoid this guy, get this guy instead" approach, I am going to give you a rare breakdown of the team I am fielding this week, with an explanation behind each choice. The most significant decision to make is what to do with your players that you do not want to sell, because doing so would mean paying a ton more cash to bring them back. I have three essential Liverpool attacking players who were all purchased at perhaps their cheapest buying prices during the season, and the plan was to bench them and wipe everyone else off the squad. Then, while tinkering, I made the unfortunate discovery that you cannot start five defenders and play say a 5-3-2 or a 5-4-1. As much as I would like to get a full XI out, I decided the one week replacement of the following three Reds in all likelihood would not match the value of holding on:
Luis Suarez: Current cost: 34.62m I paid: 19.70m
Daniel Sturridge: Current cost: 24.79m I paid: 15.52m
Steven Gerrard: Current cost: 23.97 I paid 15.44m
Total current price: 83.38m
Total I paid: 50.66
Total lost if sold them: 32.72m
To reiterate, because there is a limit of four defenders you can start in the Yahoo game, one of these prized possessions would have to be chopped in order to accommodate a potential XI. I have made the decision to keep them all, along with Phil Bardsley (who I own at 1.47m) and trot out a squad that will only have ten players featuring in the best case scenario. I am prepared to have one of my lower scores of the year this week, but I am confident, assuming the health of the players I am keeping, that the decision will pay off in the long run.
Another quick point I want to make, in case managers out there were not privy to this - as soon as a deadline passes, get in the habit of getting players in quickly and stashing them. Once the current gameweek plays out, you may not want to keep them, but that is ok. It does make a huge difference though if those players you bring in shoot up in price an hour or two later and your ideal team becomes unaffordable. You don't need to wipe your whole squad clean at the start of every week, but generally there will be a handful of players you know you won't keep, even if they wind up having a good game. For example, you may have brought in Curtis Davies because Hull were home to Fulham, but the next week they travel to the Etihad. Even if Davies gives you a clean sheet and a goal, you probably can find more potential in another playing not traveling to Manchester City.
Right. The goal of this column this week is to focus more on the best of a limited bunch. So in a special circumstance, I reveal to you the Week 29 club for Follow the Jelavic Road, playing a 4-5-1 formation.
****REMEMBER - Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Hull City, Everton, West Ham, Swansea City, Newcastle and Sunderland are all not playing this weekend!!!
Artur Boruc - (Southampton) Boruc is the cheapest way into a Saints clean sheet, and though they are traveling on the road, there is always a chance to shut down Crystal Palace. John Ruddy comes in a close second, but I found cheap defensive coverage for the Canaries elsewhere. The Chelsea v Tottenham match throws me off the scent of Petr Cech or Hugo Lloris, though a 0-0 affair is a possibility, the price to much to risk. The cheaper options are just too susceptible to one of those -10 keeper performances that can ruin an otherwise productive fantasy week.
Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) Because of the unpredictable nature of a fixture like Chelsea v Tottenham, I am going to go with the likeliest of all scenarios - the Blues keeping a clean sheet against a Spurs outfit that could only muster on goal on their own ground against lowly Cardiff City. It helps that I've held Ivanovic for a discount and he also gives that attacking threat to boot.
Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City) Shawcross has always been a dependable center back for the Potters and he was one of those players I bought quickly at 8.57m before he quickly rose to 10.63m. I am usually not one to invest in clean sheets for mid table sides on the road, but coming off a 1-0 blanking of Arsenal, I can feel good about the potential returns as they now travel to a Norwich side who may be missing a banged up Robert Snodgrass and Leroy Fer.
Joseph Yobo (Norwich City) Hoping for a 0-0 affair between the Potters and Canaries here of course. Charlie Adam faces a ban so his lack of creativity in the middle and set piece work may prevent Stoke from breaking through at Carrow Road. I am keeping an eye on Yobo's fitness ahead of the deadline as he did miss out on international duties this week. Pure speculation on my part, but veteran international players who have a meaningless friendly on tap tend to mysteriously be nursing injuries that last just long enough to not play the friendly but are raring to go for the next league game. Should I get cold feet, Scott Dann of Crystal Palace is a potential replacement and super cheap.
Sascha Reither (Fulham) Desperate times call for desperate measures. Reither is another player I brought in super early because he only cost 5.13m at the time, and with Cardiff up next and trying to stretch my funds in order to hold on to my essential Pool players, I figured I could at least feel comfort in knowing that his spot is very safe and he will play. Well wouldn't you know, despite shipping three goals to Chelsea, he put up nine fantasy points and his price shot up to 7.38m! If I get 9 this time around, I will consider it the buy of the century. Or, I could get cold feet before the deadline, realize that I am about to play a Fulham defender, and switch him out for Scott Dann at the last minute.
Adam Lallana (Southampton) If you have been following me at Rotoworld from the beginning here, you will know my love for Lallana has always been there, and with this week's situation, he is downright essential. If it were not for "The Pulis System", I would probably give the man the armband, but I respect the defensive brilliance of Pulis, especially at home. This will make for a great contest. I do think the Saints will beak through with a least a goal though and the money, as usual, is on Lallana to play a part. So that was the easy pick, now on to the brave leaps.
Nemanja Matic (Chelsea) A couple of weeks ago, I had to make a difficult decision as whether to keep Matic or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as my budget 5th midfielder. I opted for the former and I am glad I did. The Ox has seen his playing time reduced, has a blank this week, and a murderous schedule to come. Meanwhile, Matic is nothing terribly exciting, but his is a step up from the holding midfielders of Chelsea's past a la Obi Mikel or Ramires. Purchased at a price of 2.75m, I have seem him sit on my bench for four games until now with returns of 8,9,2, and 5 points. While not exactly awe-inspiring, for the price and for being exempt from Champion's League competition, making him very reliable for starts in league games, he helps make this bizarre week somewhat possible to pull off.
Oscar (Chelsea) Oscar has been pretty quiet lately and I have to admit, every time I search for him in the database, I am always surprised to see him listed so cheaply in price. Usually, with all other factors being equal, players from the more "elite" clubs tend to cost a bit more. It comes down to how goal dependent he is. He tends to rack up those pesky negative categories so when he does not score, he is likely to give you a disappointing score of 3, which is what he did in my XI last week while Matic did nothing! I am sticking with his world class abilities this week, and hoping Mourinho gives him more than 60 minutes.
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) In season's past, with a schedule like this, Manchester United facing West Brom would leave most managers salivating over how to squeeze as many Red Devils as they can into their squads. Well, that was then, wasn't it? Earlier this year, the Baggies were able to go to Old Trafford and beat United outright. There is no reason to think United can turn things around here, defensively anyway, but there is one player who I have backed before and will do so again this week - Antonio Valencia. This is easily the biggest gamble of the players I am selecting this time around, and I will admit, the likes of Yannick Bolasie, Lewis Holtby and Jordon Mutch are all possible replacements for Valencia should I have a change of heart in the next 48 hours or so. It is true Valencia didn't start the last match, but neither did Hotbly or Mutch. But for 6m, I cannot ignore his pedigree. At the time, 6m was all i had to spend, but with a bit of tinkering, I have the ability to change things. Still, i know Valencia has it in him, as long as he gets the start, to rack up multiple assists.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) Remember, he is not playing this week, but he is taking up my 5th mid spot in the starting lineup. Hey, even Tim Howard earned me a point in a week he didn't play. I will take the zero and dream of the Liverpool double gameweek to come.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) With the 4-5-1 formation I have chosen to roll out, the "1" had to be a special one, one that can have a huge day, one that is armband material. There is no disputing that this is nowhere near Rooney's finest season, but he still remains a consistent fantasy scorer whether he bags goals or not. I am giving him the slight edge over Robin van Persie for two reasons: 1.) He is averaging more fantasy points per game than RVP, so while they are similar in price, there is enough of a sample size now to believe in the Rooney advantage. 2.) The latest subjects to come up in the media for both players: Rooney - just got a wage increase and should be happy to be making some insane cash. RVP - apparently wants us to know he would be doing better if is teammates weren't "getting in his way".
Good luck this week managers, and remember to check out Galin Dragiev's take on the Week 29 strategy: