Welcome to Week 29 of my player picks for the Yahoo Fantasy Premier League game, as we're treated to a full round of ten fixtures across Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Before I begin please note The Rotoworld Cup 4th Round results (from last week) are due and will be published over the weekend. Good luck if you're still involved in the competition.
You find me in a particularly good mood after an excellent Week 28. Not only did Tottenham bounce back from Cup final heartache with two massive wins to stay in the hunt for a Champions League spot, but my Yahoo fantasy team AM FC had its best game-week of the season.
When only two teams are playing two games I always advise readers to invest heavily in "double gamers", and I apologise for not being available to reiterate this last week. By taking this approach you give yourself two shots at success while also playing the averages. If a player averages six fantasy points per game then the chances are you wouldn't be interested in him in a regular week, but if he's playing twice this equates to the possibility of 12 points if he matches his regular contributions, and there's always a chance this is exceeded when a player has two bites at the cherry. This is why Ryan Mason and Matt Phillips should've been high on your list of considerations for Week 28, especially with prices tags below £6million.
AM FC was filled with eight double gamers - Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Yun Suk-young, Mason, Phillips, Christian Eriksen, Charlie Austin and Harry Kane - and was rewarded with a season high 181 points for the week to move up from 2300th to 1003rd overall. We have another double week later in the season (for Chelsea and Leicester) and so I'll hammer home this advice when the time comes. The strategy doesn't guarantee 100% success (see my selection of QPR's Yun Suk-young) but you're giving yourself the best opportunity of a massive weekly total.
Week 29 Fixtures
Arsenal v West Ham
Burnley v Man City
Chelsea v Southampton
Crystal Palace v QPR
Everton v Newcastle
Leicester City v Hull City
Man Utd v Tottenham
Sunderland v Aston Villa
Swansea v Liverpool
West Brom v Stoke
There are some tight match-ups on the cards this week but we’ll try to focus on the teams that appear to have a clear advantage over their opponent. This begins with Arsenal at home to West Ham, Crystal Palace at home to QPR, Manchester City at Burnley and Chelsea at home to Southampton. We're getting down to the business-end of the season now, and while the Saints (down to 7th), Hammers (10th) and Clarets (19th) have put in some excellent performances over the course of a gruelling campaign to exceed expectations, the good form is starting to dip as the legs tire and the more powerful sides (with deeper squads) are starting to take advantage. The one slight fear here is Chelsea's condition after going through extra time and a crushing Champions League exit to PSG, but Jose Mourinho's sides are notoriously resilient and we'll see a massive reaction from the players.
Liverpool are the league's form team and should had enough to emerge from a tough trip to Swansea with three points, while Merseyside neighbours Everton can ease their relegation fears by picking up a much-needed win at home to Newcastle, but the rest of the fixtures are tough to call. Manchester United v Tottenham looks like a potentially exciting draw, West Brom v Stoke looks like a draw, Sunderland v Villa looks like a draw, Leicester v Hull ... you get the idea.
So our focus will be Arsenal, Palace, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton players, with a few alternatives thrown in for good measure. Click over to the next page to view my reduced Week 29 recommendations.
Thibaut Courtois - Chelsea's keeper has traded game time with Petr Cech in recent weeks but with the latter getting the Capital Cup final we expect Courtois to play the majority of games between now and the end of the season. Southampton visit Stamford Bridge this weekend having scored just two goals in their last six matches.
Julian Speroni - The Palace number one is home to QPR, which is why both Steve and myself have him on our lists this week. Read all about Speroni in the Week 29 Bargain Hunter column.
Tim Howard - You will find it hard to believe Howard has found his way in to the column again given his shocking form, but I cannot ignore Everton at home to a Newcastle side missing Papiss Cisse. The American keeper can be picked up for less than £2million and that makes him tempting. Although as I write that I know it might be a huge mistake.
Mark Schwarzer - An alternative cheap option if you don't fancy risking Howard. 42-year old Schwarzer has been in excellent form and Leicester go in to the home match against Hull knowing they must win to start closing that seven point gap to safety.
Leighton Baines - I'm trying to remember the last time Baines was available for as little as £12million in the Yahoo game – maybe never? Although the England left-back has been struggling with injuries over the past six weeks he's tipped to return for the Europa League clash on Thursday and should be fine to start on Sunday. If not then his young understudy Luke Garbutt is the man to get in to your team.
Kurt Zouma - While the big names have stolen the headlines, Zouma has been having a terrific season since breaking in to the Chelsea side at the start of the year. The young defender looks fine values for Week 29, and Steve is on the same page.
Jeff Schlupp - A defender in the Yahoo game but playing in Leicester's midfield for the winnable home fixture against Hull. Schlupp is having a solid fantasy season and could prove a good differential pick for Week 29 with less than 1% ownership.
Dejan Lovren - Lovren was one of the most consistent performers last season and an excellent fantasy points scorer, but after earning a £20million move to Liverpool he experienced a nightmare start to this campaign. The Croatian has since worked his way back in to the side, looking far more dependable and the £7million price tag seems reasonable.
Martin Kelly - When new signing Pape Souare took Kelly's place vs Arsenal a few weeks ago I decided to drop him @1.00 and this now looks like a mistake. Souare proceeded to put in an error-strewn performance and Kelly has been back in the team since. An excellent pick for the home game against QPR.
Matthew Upson - Nigel Pearson took a January punt on Upson and the veteran defender has done a pretty good job thus far, despite Leicester not picking up the results their performances deserve. Guaranteed a start against Hull and priced at £2.2million.
Michael Dawson - There are a few cheap Hull defensive options if you fancy them to keep Leicester out, but for some reason I'm leaning towards the slightly more expensive Dawson over the likes of Paul McShane and Alex Bruce. Call it a hunch.
Vincent Kompany - Manchester City's captain suffered a benching in Week 28 after a few high profile errors and the team kept a clean sheet, but Manuel Pellegrini insists Kompany simply being given a rest. I would expect to see the Belgian restored for the Burnley match and his price is low enough to make him interesting.
Jores Okore - It's difficult to feel fully confident of a start for Okore, but Ron Vlaar is still struggling with injury, Alan Hutton is suspended and Villa have won two in a row with Okore in the team. My gut says he gets the nod for the trip to Sunderland.
Eden Hazard - The most consistent player in the Premier League over the course of the season, Hazard could probably do with a rest after playing almost every minute of every match but there's no way that's going to happen as Chelsea look to close out the title. Creator, goal scorer, penalty taker - he's in my team for this weekend.
Santi Cazorla - I was almost put off by Cazorla's price but in the end it was impossible to leave Arsenal's most influential midfielder off the list considering the winnable home match against West Ham. You're unlikely to be able to fit both he and Hazard in your team, and the Chelsea man is my preference, but I wouldn't argue with anyone siding with Caz.
David Silva - It's officially Silva's best ever goal-scoring season after hitting his tenth against Leicester and with ten games still to go he's likely to add a few more. Burnley are scrapping for their lives but Man City have the quality to pick them off and the Spanish midfielder is sure to have a major influence on proceedings.
Jason Puncheon - A peripheral figure under Neil Warnock but Puncheon is back as an established first team player under Alan Pardew, scoring goals, picking up assists and returning bumper fantasy points. With QPR coming to Selhurst Park this weekend the midfielder should be high on your list of considerations.
Philippe Coutinho - Watching Coutinho at the moment makes you wonder how on earth he wasn't getting in to Liverpool's starting XI at the beginning of the season. The Brazilian has been the catalyst for his side's outstanding run and I'm expecting to see another big performance as the Reds travel to Wales to face Swansea. Set pieces give him the edge over Raheem Sterling
Yaya Toure - Yaya for £8million with a match against Burnley? I'm getting involved.
Mesut Ozil - If you want an Arsenal midfielder in your team against West Ham but can't stretch the budget for Cazorla then Ozil is your next best bet. The German has been very good since returning from injury, averaging 13 fantasy points per game over his last six appearances.
Riyad Mahrez - Ever since Leonardo Ulloa's bright start tailed off it has been down to Mahrez to provide the spark for Leicester and he's done an outstanding job. A constant danger, the Algerian has picked up three assists, scored two goals hit 18 shots on target and created countless chances for his team-mates, averaging 9 fantasy points per match over 20 games. Hull beware.
Matt Phillips - Phillips has started all games since Chris Ramsey took over and has rewarded his manager's faith with some excellent performances, running at defenders, taking shots, swinging in excellent crosses and assisting four of QPR's last five goal. Priced at just £6million he's a genuine option to fill your fourth midfield slot between now and the end of the season.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - Siggy has missed four games over the past month due to suspension and injury but he returned against his ex-club Spurs in Week 28 and looked extremely sharp. The Icelander struck the post with an excellent free-kick before scoring a consolation goal with a well-executed volley and he'll be the attacking threat Liverpool need to keep an eye on.
Nacer Chadli - Chadli has been a key contributor to Tottenham's success this season and the left winger will come up against either an out of form / out of position Antonio Valencia or the inexperienced Paddy McNair. He’s available for less than £8million making him an attractive proposition.
Alexis Sanchez - After a difficult spell Sanchez was back to his best against QPR and ended as the top fantasy scorer of the week from the single gamers. The Chileans price is now back up to high level but you probably need to find a way to fit him in against West Ham or risk falling behind the pack.
Romelu Lukaku - Although Lukaku rarely rewards me when I pick him for my own team I have a really positive feeling about him this week. Everton are surprisingly down in the bottom half and need a few wins soon but they have the quality to stay far enough away from the real trouble. We should see a big performance from the Toffees against Newcastle and a goal or two for the big Belgian wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.
Sergio Aguero - UPDATE: I missed Aguero from my intially submitted column but he was obviously meant to be here for the match at Burnley!
Diego Costa - Since returning from suspension Costa has managed just five fantasy points in two Premier League appearances and was disappointing against PSG last night, but none of us are expecting the poor returns to continue long term. The focal point of Chelsea's attack will get chances at home to Southampton and you'd expect him to convert at least one.
Daniel Sturridge - Provided Sturridge is certain to start at Swansea he remains an excellent option for in form Liverpool, but Brendan Rodgers has been inconsistent in his use of the striker since he returned from injury, so it is a slight worry. We await team news on Friday before completely ruling Sturridge in.
Glenn Murray - A friend of mine described Murray as "an older Charlie Austin" and I must admit I see some similarities. The striker is another who has been rejuvenated under Pardew, bagging three goals in two games including a brace against West Ham before his sending off. Murray has served his one match ban and will return to face QPR in Week 29, is well priced and is sure to give the Rangers' defence a tough game.
Harry Kane - If you're holding Kane at a decent discount you should keep him, but I don't advise paying full price given the tough fixture and the alternatives.
Wayne Rooney - There are better options than Rooney but you can't completely rule him out of your thinking now Louis van Gaal has restored England's captain to his preferred forward role. Priced at £13million, the striker has a terrific goal-scoring record against Spurs.
Andrej Kramaric - Once again Steve and I have a common interest in a player this week, with Leicester's Kramaric facing Hull at home. Extensive analysis of the Croatian striker can be read here.
Dame N'Doye - The final name on the list is a player who has burst on to the Premier League scene, hitting three goals in three starts since joining Hull. Neal has already suggested N'Doye looks like the real deal and the striker can enforce that opinion with another strong showing at Leicester.
So those are the players I'm considering for my Week 29 Yahoo team. Please make sure you check back here on Friday for Ben Dinnery's team and injury update where he'll run through all the important news ahead of Saturday's deadline.
My own team page currently looks like this ...
XI: Courtois, Upson, Lovren, Zouma, Phillips, Puncheon, Yaya, Hazard, Sturridge, Aguero, Sanchez
Subs: Sinclair, Cresswell, Okore, Schwarzer
This is how it was saved right after Week 28's matches so it will change, with at least one Everton player likely to enter the starting XI before the deadline. At the moment the plan is to bring Lukaku in for Sturridge. Follow me on @nikarg and I'll tweet out an updated line-up on Friday evening.
How's your Week 29 team looking?