Welcome to Week 16 of my player picks for the Yahoo Fantasy Premier League game. Firstly, thanks to Steve for filling in for me by writing this column last week - he did an excellent job. Unfortunately the same can't be said of my own team's performance in Week 15 as AM FC faltered to a lowly 66 points.
Sergio Aguero's injury related goose-egg, Thibaut Courtois' negative score and a bunch of yellow cards were massive contributing factors to this pathetic total, but in truth none of the players I selected performed to a high enough standard. In fact only Cesc Fabregas (12 points) and Alexis Sanchez (11) hit double figures, with Jores Okore the next best (9). It's time to show some bouncebackability. Look it up, it's a real word.
Week 16 Fixtures
Arsenal v Newcastle
Burnley v Southampton
Chelsea v Hull City
Crystal Palace v Stoke
Everton v QPR
Leicester City v Man City
Man Utd v Liverpool
Sunderland v West Ham
Swansea v Tottenham
West Brom v Aston Villa
We've got a bunch of closely matched fixtures this week which makes it a bit trickier to pick out the teams who have a clear advantage over their opponent, but there are a few to work with. Chelsea at home to Hull City is the stand-out fixture by a distance as the Blues look to take out their Newcastle-related frustrations on Steve Bruce's men, followed by Manchester City's trip to Leicester and Southampton visiting Burnley. City aren't the same side without Aguero but they should still be too strong for the Foxes, while the Saints were unlucky to lose to Manchester United on Monday and can end their run of three Premier League defeats with a win at Turf Moor.
I like Everton at home to Charlie Austin-less QPR (who have lost all six of their away games this season) and would expect a reaction from Arsenal against Newcastle, while Swansea's attackers are worth a look as fragile Tottenham visit Wales. West Ham players are an interesting proposition for the trip to Sunderland and Manchester United look to have the edge over Liverpool, but these Manchester / Merseyside matches are famously unpredictable and often heated affairs with lots of tackles and cards flying about, so don't get too heavily involved. That leaves Crystal Palace v Stoke and West Brom v Aston Villa, with both looking like 1-1 draws on paper, so they are probably best avoided unless you feel confident in predicting a goal scorer (* Cough * BOJAN * Cough *).
With that in mind please click over to the next page to view my Week 16 player recommendations.
Thibaut Courtois - The shock defeat to Newcastle led to the dreaded negative score for Courtois but I feel confident in recommending him as the top keeper choice for the match against Hull, as Chelsea restore order to the Premier League.
Tim Howard - It's been a difficult season for Howard and the Everton defence, but QPR have lost all their away games this season and will lack a cutting edge without the suspended Charlie Austin.
Fraser Forster - Southampton were always going to find this run of fixtures tough, but they were unlucky to lose to Manchester United and I expect them to bounce back in Week 16. Forster’s price has dropped signifcantly and Burnley don't offer much of a goal threat.
Gerhard Tremmel – The German keeper will replace the suspended Fabianski, costs just £1million and faces Tottenham at home.
Branislav Ivanovic - Always my go-to option when recommending a Chelsea defender, Ivanovic will provide the usual solid defensive contributions along with a goal threat from set pieces as Hull visit Stamford Bridge.
Leighton Baines - Those of us selling Aguero will have plenty of money to spend this week and investing it in Baines might not be a bad thing. A clean sheet opportunity, free-kick and penalty duty add up to a tempting proposition.
Eliaquim Mangala - It's possible that Manchester City vastly over-paid for Mangala, with the defender showing a worrying lack of defensive ability and discipline so far, but at his fantasy price of £6million (perhaps closer to his true value) he could prove a shrewd investment for the trip to Leicester.
Ryan Bertrand - It's telling that Bertrand has continued to average six points per game throughout the Saints three defeats to top opposition as the full-back continued to win tackles, intercept passes and whip in successful crosses. Expect a score closer to his season average of ten points against Burnley.
Aaron Cresswell –It’s been a couple of quiet fantasy weeks as his colleague Carl Jenkinson has done more of the attacking and crossing for big Andy Carroll, but Cresswell is cheaper and so he's still the preferred choice if you want a West Ham defender.
Kieran Trippier - On the three occasions I've picked Trippier for my own team this season he has scored four points, six points and three points. I'm not picking him this week, so jump aboard as the attacking Burnley full-back frustrates me again with another double digit return.
Jores Okore - Villa were tipped to continue to struggle with captain Ron Vlaar out injured, but Okore has slotted in alongside Ciaran Clark and Villa are now unbeaten in five games including back-to-back wins. Worth considering if Vlaar remains out.
Martin Kelly - Still cheap, still guaranteed a start and playing at home, Crystal Palace's Kelly can fill a spot in your defence for a shade over £5million.
Yaya Toure - Last season saw Yaya at his most productive when Aguero was out, mainly because he got to take penalties and was afforded more chances to shoot. We're back in that situation again and there are clear signs the midfielder is getting back to his best, so he's top of the list this week for the trip to Leicester.
Eden Hazard - With Fabregas suspended there really is the only one Chelsea choice for your midfield for the home match against Hull, and that man is the wing wizard and penalty taker that is Hazard. Pricey, but likely to be worth it if (as expected) he’s rested in midweek.
Aaron Ramsey - An assist and three goals (including a peach of a volley) in three matches suggests Ramsey is approaching his peak after an injury ravaged season, and we all remember what his peak form can bring fantasy managers. I fancy Arsenal to beat Newcastle on Saturday and the Welshman is capable of making it four goals in four.
Mile Jedinak - When you combine penalties and free-kicks with Jedinak's already-excellent fantasy productivity from defensive contributions, the Crystal Palace captain really has become one of the most effective midfielders in the Yahoo fantasy game, regardless of the opponent.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - As a Tottenham fan I desperately wanted Siggy to fit in at White Hart Lane but it just never worked as the midfielder was limited to sporadic starts, often out of position. The Icelander faces his former club on Sunday and will be keen to remind them that they made a mistake.
Stewart Downing – West Ham are flying up in fourth place and Downing has played a big part in that with a bunch of exciting displays on the wing and from behind the strikers. The England man is capable of hurting Sunderland this weekend.
Kevin Mirallas - With Ross Barkley currently going through a bad patch in terms of fantasy points it would be unwise to select him as your Everton midfielder against QPR, with Mirallas the preferred option playing as an attacking winger and taking a few set pieces.
Willian - So I was lying when I said there was only one choice if you wanted a Chelsea midfielder. Many managers won't be able to stretch their budget for Hazard so your alternative is Willian, playing well and available at half the price.
Samir Nasri - Manchester City's resurgent form has had a lot to do with Aguero and Toure, but Nasri has also been quietly impressive in the absence of David Silva. Scheming between the midfield and attack, the Frenchman can cause Leicester problems.
Dusan Tadic - A long-term hold for many of us at a price around the £7million mark, Tadic has gone completely off the boil in recent weeks as the Saints have been brought crashing down to earth. A match against Burnley should offer respite, and we need to see a performance from the Serbian soon or I'll be considering selling him.
Yannick Bolasie - Currently loving life under Neil Warnock, Bolasie offers pace, trickery, crosses and shots, which all roll-up in to a nice warm ball of fantasy points. An interesting alternative to the usual suspects above.
Diego Costa - If you dumped Costa during his time out with injury or when he picked up his suspension I would suggest this is the week to buy him back. There will be goals on offer at home to Hull and the Spaniard is likely to be among them.
Eden Dzeko - I'm not sure Stevan Jovetic is capable of playing as an out-and-out striker, so expect to see Dzeko get a lot of match time over the next six weeks. The Bosnian is back to fitness and is a bargain at less than £9million, with the Champions travelling to struggling Leicester.
Romelu Lukaku - The big Belgian has had an up and down season so far but remains Everton's biggest goal threat, and the Toffees have one of the best fixtures of the weekend as QPR visit Goodison Park.
Alexis Sanchez - Arsene Wenger will be delighted that he was finally able to give Sanchez a rest on Tuesday night so the forward will be fresh and raring to go for the Newcastle match. As mentioned I'm expecting a Gunners win and the Chilean can add to his impressive nine goal haul.
Graziano Pelle - Finally broke his five-match goal drought against Manchester United, Pelle has the quality to go on a bit of a run now Southampton are clear of their difficult run of fixtures.
Robin van Persie - They say 'Form is temporary. Class is permanent', and van Persie is the living proof of the statement with his recent resurgence. Manchester United are on a run of five wins and can make it six against Liverpool with RvP on the scoresheet.
Wilfried Bony - The Swansea man is on a phenomenal scoring run with seven goals in his last nine Premier League games and is also the top of the charts for 2014 with 18. Tottenham beware.
Diafra Sakho - People will be rushing to Andy Carroll after his performance in Week 15, but it was Sakho who really impressed me after coming off the bench. It's no exaggeration that he could've had a hat-trick in that cameo and he's the danger man as the Hammers visit Sunderland.
Bojan - A joy to watch at the moment, Bojan - along with Victor Moses prior to injury - have given Stoke that nimble, creative spark to perfectly compliment the powerful style we've grown accustomed to watching. Palace will need to find a way of dealing with the ex-Barcelona star.
So those are the players I'm considering for my Week 16 Yahoo team. Please make sure you check back here on Friday for Ben Dinnery's outstanding team and injury news column, where he'll run through the fall-out from the midweek European matches. This is more than important than ever this week as this column was completed on Wednesday before the Champions League and Europa League games, so there could be some updates to Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton players in particular.
My own team page currently looks like this ...
XI: Courtois, Kelly, Cresswell, Bertrand, Tadic, Mirallas, Toure, Hazard, Sanchez, Dzeko, Costa
Subs: Okore, McNair, Fabregas, Tremmel
I quite like it and the keeper / defence will remain as is, but there are plenty of other midfield and striking options on my radar such as Downing, Sigurdsson, Ramsey, Pelle, Lukaku and Sakho.
How's your Week 16 team looking?