Welcome to Week 21 of my player picks for the Yahoo Fantasy Premier League game. Firstly, you need to check The Rotoworld Cup 2nd Round results published here earlier this week to see if you progressed to round three in Week 24. Sadly I've fallen at the second hurdle, but there are still over 1000 teams in with a chance of Cup glory come the end of the season. It could be you!
While the festive period was a superb one for my beloved Tottenham, it was rotten for AM FC with weekly totals of 43 and 66 points causing me to lose ground on the teams above me. As a result I'm now looking over my shoulder as a number of rivals have closed the gap in my main private league, so I need to get back in to gear quickly to ensure I can at least hold bragging right over them this summer.
Week 21 Fixtures
Arsenal v Stoke
Burnley v QPR
Chelsea v Newcastle
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Everton v Man City
Leicester City v Aston Villa
Man Utd v Southampton
Sunderland v Liverpool
Swansea v West Ham
West Brom v Hull City
Chelsea have the stand-out fixture of the weekend, hosting manager-less, injury-hit Newcastle, and I won't be alone in expecting - scrap that - demanding a better performance from Thibaut Courtois after his score of -11 in Week 20. The Blues lost to this Newcastle side before Christmas which triggered a slump for Jose Mourinho's men, so they'll be desperate to gain revenge as they look to squeeze out another (non-alphabetical) lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Aside from Chelsea there honestly isn't a whole lot to get excited about. Their title rivals Manchester City will be favourites to beat out-of-form Everton, but we've seen the Toffees pull out plenty of big performances at Goodison Park over the years, so it may not be a straight-forward match for Manuel Pellegrini and his team. Liverpool are the only other side "odds on" with the bookies here in the UK, but I won't be betting on them to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light given their general inconsistency / struggle to defeat League Two's AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup on Monday.
So what does that leave us with? Well, Arsenal (with a focus on their attackers) are tempting as they host Stoke City, and Tottenham have shown enough quality (and for once, a strong mentality) in recent weeks to suggest they can defeat Alan Pardew's Crystal Palace missing Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak. Improving Burnley are rightly favourites to beat a QPR side who have lost all of their away games this season, and I expect the Tony Pulis effect to push West Brom on to a vital victory over Hull at the Hawthorns.
Leicester v Aston Villa looks like a low scoring draw, possibly 0-0, so defensive players may be of interest, and attacking players from Manchester United v Southampton and Swansea v West Ham could be worth considering, with both potentially entertaining matches.
With that in mind please click over to the next page to view my Week 21 player recommendations.
Thibaut Courtois - The -11 points referred to earlier was a freak occurrence with Chelsea unlikely to concede five goals ever again under Mourinho, and we can expect a clean sheet against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge where the Blues are always solid. For those of you who missed Courtois on the cheap back in August, now is your chance to get involved as the keeper's price has dropped to £6million plus change after his Tottenham nightmare.
Ben Foster - The first thing Tony Pulis will do is ensure the Baggies become difficult to beat, which is good news for Foster who has been struggling behind a leaky defence all season. For less than £4million you can field the keeper for his winnable home game against Hull.
Ben Hamer / Mark Schwarzer - One of these men will be between the stick for the home match against Aston Villa, with Schwarzer signed from Chelsea on Tuesday. Both are priced around the £5million mark, which seems a fair price given the fixture. We await team news.
David Ospina - There have been all sorts of reports about the antics of Wojciech Szczesny following his disastrous performance at Southampton, and the door may be open for Ospina to step in against Stoke. At £4million he could prove a bargain, but again we'll need to wait for team news on Friday.
Branislav Ivanovic - It's been John Terry grabbing the headlines with a run of goals over the past few weeks, but it feels like Ivanovic is "due one". Newcastle are struggling, so at the very least it should be clean sheet with some miscellaneous attacking points thrown in for good measure.
Kieran Trippier - Burnley's star performer over the course of the season so far with consistent showings defensively and attacking down the right flank. This has led to Tripper becoming a fine fantasy option in the Yahoo game and QPR at home should allow this form to continue.
Kyle Walker - This is the second time I've recommended Walker since he returned from injury but we're still waiting for the big fantasy returns that we know the England man is capable of. Still very well priced and with a game at Palace, this could be the week to get involved.
Jores Okore - Aston Villa don't score many goals, but they aren't conceding many either and Okore is a big reason for that since breaking into the team in late November last year. An affordable option for the potential stalemate against Leicester.
Ryan Bertrand - Still the top scoring defender in the Yahoo game, Bertrand's last four Premier League performances have brought 11, 12, 16 and 13 points, proving he really can be counted on no matter the fixture.
Aaron Cresswell - Another reliable performer since joining West Ham last summer, Cresswell's crossing has been superb, finding a team-mate on 15 occasions, with three assists chalked up as a result. With Diafra Sakho at the ACN the Hammers may be forced to return to a more direct "hoof it to Andy Carroll" style, and Cresswell will benefit from such an approach.
Andre Wisdom - The West Brom full-back is recommended by both myself and Steve Rothgeb this week, so you can head over to The Bargain Hunter to read the reasons why.
Mamadou Sakho - The Liverpool man hasn't been grabbing a whole heap of fantasy points but he remains the cheapest way in to the Reds defence if you fancy a shut-out against Sunderland.
Danny Simpson - I had to provide an option if you wanted a Leicester defender for their home game with Villa, and Simpson seems like your best bet. The ex-Newcastle man used to return handy points in the Yahoo game back in the day and he's been showing signs of life in recent weeks with scores of 7, 8 and 7 again.
Eden Hazard - For the past two weeks I've told you that Hazard was too expensive at £18million for an away match, and he's shown exactly how little I know by scoring at both Southampton and Spurs for a total of 32 fantasy points. The winger is in scintillating form and I'm not sure you can afford to be without him with Chelsea ready to unleash a frustrated backlash on Newcastle.
Cesc Fabregas - Yes, two Chelsea players sit atop the midfielders list, and you should be trying to find a space for both of them in your Week 21 team. It's 14 assists and counting for Fabregas, although it would help if he would stop picking up yellow cards.
Santi Cazorla - The most productive Arsenal player over the past month now that he's taken over penalty duty full-time, Cazorla is having his best spell since his debut season at the Emirates and Stoke will find it difficult to track the Spaniard as he schemes between their midfield and defence.
Christian Eriksen - A lot has been made of Eriksen's involvement against Chelsea, mainly that his running and movement pulled Nemanja Matic out of position to create the space for Kane and Chadli to work in, which is all true and good, but it doesn't translate in to fantasy points. A match-up against Palace, with the Eagles missing their two best players (Jedinak and Bolasie), should allow the Danish midfielder more time on the ball and more chances for those trademark long range strikes at goal.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - With Wilfried Bony away at the African Cup of Nations (and possibly off to Manchester City permanently), Swansea will need Siggy to step up and provide an even bigger goal threat than usual and I'd take a punt that the Icelander will be handed penalty duty to go alongside all other set pieces. West Ham are missing key players too so the Swans will have opportunities to get back to winning ways this weekend.
David Silva - Like Swansea, Manchester City have lost a key man in Yaya Toure, and like Sigurdsson it will add further responsibility on to Silva to continue his recent goal-scoring run. City have been superb despite losing Aguero to injury and the little man has been key to ensuring his side are still well in the title race when the Argentinian returns to action later this month.
Angel Di Maria - Manchester United's British-record signing returned from another injury lay-off against Yeovil in the FA Cup and with a week of training under his belt I would expect ADM to start against Southampton as 3rd face off against 4th.
Raheem Sterling - Continuing in his role as a striker, Sterling had an up-and-down festive period, so the rest against Wimbledon in the FA Cup would have done him the world of good. Expect to see him lead the line at Sunderland, where his pace has the potential to cause havoc.
Nacer Chadli - Overshadowed only by Harry Kane in that win over Chelsea, Chadli has been rejuvenated this season after a difficulty debut campaign. It's now nine goals and four assist and the Belgian's strength and drive down the left flank can hurt Palace.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - Another player that myself and Steve agree on, so rather than duplicate the reasons you can click here to read all about the Ox's plus points.
Dusan Tadic - After a bright beginning Tadic had looked burnt out in early December, but a couple of weeks off due to minor injuries (caused by fatigue) has the Serbian looking like his old self again. A trip to Old Trafford is tricky but it should be an open game with chance for attackers on both sides to score well.
Stephane Sessegnon - On his day Sessegnon is unplayable but he's been used out of position by previous West Brom managers and it's been a while since we've seen the best of the Frenchman. Pulis could be the man to resurrect the player we remember, and so Sess is my wildcard option for the home game against Hull.
Diego Costa - The Chelsea striker has been starting to pick up goals on a regular basis again, and although the fantasy points aren't exactly flowing (again like Cesc, because of too many fouls and yellow cards), Costa has the quality to fill his boots against a fragile Newcastle side this weekend.
Alexis Sanchez - The seven day break between the FA Cup tie with Hull and this weekend's game with Stoke was much needed as it allowed Sanchez to finally get a bit of a rest after starring in pretty much every one of the Gunners matches so far. Currently my pick for player of the season, the Chilean’s pace, power and finishing ability can be the difference once again.
Harry Kane - Myself and Neal have been discussing Kane over email recently and Neal still isn't entirely convinced that the young striker will end up anything better than a "Dirk Kuyt" type player - hard working and extremely important for the team, but ultimately lacking in real quality. This assessment was prior to the Chelsea match and I'm hoping Kane can continue to prove he's a much better player than we all realised for the rest of this season and beyond, starting at Selhurst Park in Week 21.
Saido Berahino - Reports in the UK are consistently linking Berahino with a move away from the Hawthorns and his body language suggests this is what he wants too, but his four goals in the FA Cup shows he's not willing to let this affect his form. A home match against Hull will give the 21 year old another chance to raise his profile.
Radamel Falcao - As expected the goals are starting to come now Falcao has managed to stay fit for a prolonged period of time and he represents the best value out of the Manchester United strikers given his price, with an open game and plenty of chances expected at Old Trafford this weekend.
Danny Ings - Another player linked with a move away in January with his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ings has simply got on with his job and added another fine goal against Newcastle in Week 20. Burnley know the home match against QPR is a "must win" as they continue to battle for survival, so they should attack from the start.
Stevan Jovetic - With Aguero still working his way back to fitness and Dzeko only just back in training we should see Jovetic lead the line again at Everton, and he would deserve the chance after a fine goal and assist in City's last league game.
Bafétimbi Gomis - The Swansea forward will be looking to fill the boots of Bony, something myself and Steve both agree he can do against West Ham.
So those are the players I'm considering for my Week 21 Yahoo team. Please make sure you check back here on Friday for Ben Dinnery's glorious team and injury news column, where he'll run through the fall-out from the busy festive period and the FA Cup 3rd Round matches.
My own team page currently looks like this ...
XI: Courtois, Okore, Cresswell, Bertrand, Fabregas, Silva, Cazorla, Hazard, Berahino, Sanchez, Costa
Subs: Dembele, Kelly, Blackett, Alnwick
It's a nice team but there are still plenty of players in with a chance of making the final cut, including Trippier, Eriksen, the Ox, Sterling and Kane. Follow me on @nikarg and I'll make sure I tweet my updated line-up once we have all the news on Friday evening.
How's your Week 21 team looking?