Merry Christmas! Welcome to Week 18 of my player picks for the Yahoo Fantasy Premier League game, which is the first of three game-weeks in the space of seven days over the festive period. A reminder of those deadlines ...
Week 18 - Friday 26th December @ 11:45am GMT
Week 19 - Sunday 28th December @ 11:00am GMT
Week 20 - Thursday 1st January @ 11:45am GMT
Hectic to say the least, but if you can keep track of team / injury / suspension news and keep your fantasy team up to date for these three deadlines then you stand a decent chance of pulling away or gaining ground on your fellow fantasy managers as we enter 2015.
A quick word on Week 17, which was a good one for AM FC as I ended it on 113 points. It could've been so, so much better had I gone with Charlie Austin over Diafra Sakho, but Courtois, Cresswell, Bertrand, Toure, Downing and Fabregas all returned double figures to ensure a solid start to the Christmas mayhem. I would expect it to be enough to progress to the second round of The 2015 Rotoworld PL Cup - results to be calculated and published within the next few days.
Week 18 Fixtures
Arsenal v QPR
Burnley v Liverpool
Chelsea v West Ham
Crystal Palace v Southampton
Everton v Stoke
Leicester City v Tottenham
Man Utd v Newcastle
Sunderland v Hull City
Swansea v Aston Villa
West Brom v Man City
The pick of the Week 18 fixtures appear to be Arsenal at home to bad-travellers QPR, title-chasers Manchester City away at struggling West Brom and - dare I say it? - Tottenham travelling to rock-bottom Leicester. Manchester United will be big favourites to beat Newcastle at Old Trafford, Chelsea are likely to be strong enough to defeat in-form West Ham at Stamford Bridge and Swansea can defeat Villa at the Liberty.
Those look to be the six teams to focus on, with Burnley v Liverpool, Crystal Palace v Southampton, Everton v Stoke and Sunderland v Hull all looking like tighter match-ups. An argument could and will be made to include some Liverpool and Saints players, but we won't be going crazy.
With that in mind please click over to the next page to view my Week 18 player recommendations.
Thibaut Courtois - The current leaders face a tough London derby against West Ham but look scarily solid at Stamford Bridge and Courtois' leads from the back by exuding authority and confidence in his own ability. It's difficult to believe the Belgian is only 22.
Lukasz Fabianski - Swansea host Villa in a match which will provide them another opportunity of a win and a clean sheet at the Liberty stadium.
Costel Pantilimon - You're unlikely to make the move for Pantilimon unless you're rolling in money but the keeper has the best fantasy points per match average in the Yahoo game and visitors Hull are a mess right now.
Brad Jones - Only because he costs £1million. Jones will start over Simon Mignolet again as Liverpool travel to Burnley, but it's a big risk given the state of the Red's defence.
Kyle Walker - Those of you who have played the Yahoo game for the past few years will know that Walker usually ends the season as one of the top scoring / expensive defenders thanks to his attacking exploits, so you should be jumping on him at £6million now he's back from injury.
Phil Jones - Like last week, Jones is the best selection from the Manchester United defenders if you fancy them to keep a clean sheet against Newcastle. He's pricey but often returns his value through a variety of defensive contributions.
Ryan Bertrand - The top scoring defender in the Yahoo game this season, Bertrand is a still very reasonably priced considering his average and the Southampton man has proved he can return points without a clean sheet.
Calum Chambers - I'm not a particularly big fan of Chambers as a right-back, but he's the cheapest way to get involved in the Arsenal defence as they host QPR.
Mamadou Sakho - Brendan Rodgers has changed systems in recent weeks and it's opened the door for Sakho to return to the first team. The defender is available for less than £5million for Liverpool's trip to Burnley.
Sebastian Coates - Another Liverpool defender, but this guy is on loan at Sunderland, who have a pretty good fixture at home to struggling Hull City. Coates put in a fine display in the Tyne-Wear derby and should start again alongside Wes Brown, with John O'Shea covering at left-back.
Neil Taylor - Always the go-to man if you're looking for a Swansea defender, Taylor has been superbly consistent at left-back, ensuring the Welsh club haven't really missed Ben Davies at all.
Angel Di Maria - ADM's 30 minute cameo against Aston Villa brought 12 points, suggesting the midfielder is going to get back up to speed quickly now he's over his hamstring injury. Having sold Di Maria as soon as he was injured, I'm bringing him straight back in to my team for the Newcastle match.
Raheem Sterling - Playing as a striker in Rodger's new system and looking a genuine goal threat again after a difficult spell, Sterling is extremely tempting as Liverpool face Burnley.
Yaya Toure - I had a back-and-forth with Kellz from NeverManageAlone this week regarding David Silva vs Yaya Toure, with him siding with Silva. For me, the fact Yaya gets free-kicks and penalties in Aguero's absence still gives him the slight edge, but both players are good options as City travel to West Brom.
Christian Eriksen - To repeat the points I made last week "Tottenham's star man right now, repeatedly coming up with moments of quality that have been the difference in tight matches. Eriksen is the top goal-scoring midfield player in 2014" Leicester beware.
Cesc Fabregas - Monday night saw Fabregas provide an astonishing 12th assist of the season while scoring the goal that sealed the three points to keep Chelsea top of the table. With Eden Hazard a doubt, I feel the Spaniard is the only Chelsea midfield option worth considering.
Santi Cazorla - A quiet game against Liverpool that included a yellow card led to a slight drop in Cazorla's price but he's still expensive, so you'd need to feel confident of a goal to invest. The fact he's now taking penalties certainly increases the chances of that happening against QPR.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - We need to await the news from this afternoon's press conferences after Siggy missed Week 17 through injury, but if the Icelandic star is fit then he'll provide his usual threat against Villa.
Ross Barkley - Everton suffered a hammering at the hands of Southampton in Week 17 so Roberto Martinez will be looking for a reaction as Stoke visit Goodison and Barkley will be charged with providing the energy from midfield. Driving runs, clever passing a shots from distance will be on the menu.
Jordi Gomez - As mentioned earlier in this column, Sunderland face a winnable home game with Hull at the Stadium of Light and so an attacker may be of interest to the gamblers among you. A column-favourite back in his Wigan days, Gomez is playing an attacking midfield role and is taking penalties, so he's my tip if you're looking to do something a bit different.
Alexis Sanchez - Slightly disappointing at Anfield, but an improved performance should be expected at the Emirates on Boxing Day. Richard Dunne is unlikely to be able to deal with the pace and trickery of Sanchez so I'm confident we should see a goal and a bunch of attacking points.
Radamel Falcao - It was a close call between Robin van Persie and Falcao, but in the end Falcao's price is too good to turn down with the Colombian striker tipped to start against Newcastle.
Harry Kane - Yet another goal against Burnley puts Kane on 12 for the season in all competitions and he's now undoubtedly the main striker at the club. Expect him to add to his tally against bottom side Leicester.
Olivier Giroud - Since returning from injury Giroud has been excellent, showing his very best finishing ability and generally making life difficult for opposition defences. Sanchez is my first pick but I wouldn't blame you for doubling up for the QPR match.
Wilfried Bony - Swansea boss Garry Monk sprung a surprise against Hull by giving Bony a rest, but that just means the Ivorian will be fresh and ready to go against Villa as he looks to continue his terrific goal-scoring form.
Diego Costa - Now, Costa makes the list again this week as Chelsea are at home and he'll lead the line, but I'll admit that if I didn't own him for a big discount I'd be considering other options. It's not that the Spaniard isn't a quality striker - but he picks up a lot of fouls and yellow cards which means he can often fail to hit double fantasy figures even with a goal. Let's see if he can allay my fears in Week 18.
Charlie Austin - It's not worth bringing him at full price but if you grabbed Austin before his hat-trick then he's worth holding against Arsenal before QPR's two home games in a row against Crystal Palace and Swansea.
So those are the players I'm considering for my Week 18 Yahoo team. Ben Dinnery's team and injury news will be up later today.
My own team page currently looks like this ...
XI: Courtois, Cresswell, Bertrand, Walker, Fabregas, Toure, Di Maria, Sterling, Bony, Sanchez, Costa
Subs: Okore, Kelly, Phillips, Jones
I'm happy with it, although Eriksen, Cazorla, Kane, Falcao and Giroud are still on the radar.
Good luck for Week 18 and have a great Christmas!