After a very difficult Week 29 it's a relief that Week 30 brings us back to a normal, full schedule of ten games. Enjoy the normality while it lasts because Week 31 is going to be mayhem, with no fewer than FIFTEEN matches - Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Swansea, Newcastle, Hull, West Ham and Sunderland all play twice.
Week 29 was disappointing. As discussed in last week's column I took the following approach to the reduced schedule ...
"Aside from placing Luis Suarez (owned at £19million) on the bench, I'm going to be selling Daniel Sturridge, Steven Gerrard and one of my cheap defenders in an attempt to go for maximum points this week. I have never finished outside the overall Top 500 in my 10 season of playing Yahoo Fantasy Premier League, so this is a roll of the dice in an effort to make up some ground on those above. It could quite easily backfire but it's a risk I'm willing to take."
... and the risk did not pay off. Not really. AM FC scored 79 points which was enough to move me up 200 spots in the overall ranking, but it wasn't worth losing so many discounts for. The main culprit was my captain Robin van Persie and his petulant display, which returned a big fat zero. Had I picked Eden Hazard or Wayne Rooney it would've been close to a 100 point week, but I did not, and so the experiment did not work.
Anyway, moving on.
Week 30 Fixtures
Aston Villa v Chelsea
Everton v Cardiff City
Fulham v Newcastle
Hull City v Man City
Man Utd v Liverpool
Southampton v Norwich
Stoke v West Ham
Sunderland v Crystal Palace
Swansea v West Brom
Tottenham v Arsenal
The stand-out fixtures are Everton at home to Cardiff and Southampton at home to Norwich, two games that should end as comfortable home wins with potential clean sheets thrown in to the mix. League leaders Chelsea will be expected to see off Aston Villa at Villa Park, while Manchester City know they need to go win at Hull to keep their hopes of a second Premier League title alive. It will be a tough test, but I expect a reaction after the shock FA Cup defeat to Wigan and defeat to Barcelona. City's game is the early Saturday kick-off so we'll get the starting line-ups before the Yahoo deadline. I'll ensure these are tweeted out as soon as they get released, so follow me if you'll be needing this info.
The biggest games of the weekend are Manchester United v Liverpool and Tottenham v Arsenal. Both match ups should be entertaining and appear to favour the away side - Liverpool's attacking pace is likely to cause United's defence plenty of problems, while Arsenal are coming up against a Spurs team who are not playing well, lacking confidence and who have just been told by their manager that they he doesn't trust them. I fear another defeat for Tim Sherwood, which would probably be the final nail in the coffin for Tottenham's top four aspirations.
Newcastle are definitely worth a look as they travel to rock bottom Fulham, as are Swansea at home to struggling West Brom. Stoke against West Ham and Sunderland hosting Crystal Palace look like low scoring draws so there could be some value in defensive players, but attackers from all four sides are best avoided.
With that in mind, click over to the next page to view the Week 30 player recommendations.
Artur Boruc - Southampton have a winnable home game against Norwich, have a decent chance of a clean sheet, Boruc is in good form and is priced at a reasonable £10million. He's the keeper pick of the week and is currently in my team.
Tim Howard - Next in line (and only because he costs £2.5million more) is Everton's Howard. The Toffees are another side with a fine chance of a win and clean sheet given they face Cardiff at Goodison Park.
Michel Vorm - The alternative to the two men above, Vorm is excellent value priced below £7million for Swansea's home match-up against struggling West Brom. Boruc and Howard are safer options but look to Vorm if you need to save some pennies for your outfield players.
Leighton Baines - Admittedly, Baines is failing to return the fantasy points that would truly justify spending almost £17million, but Everton face Cardiff at home so if you're going to take a leap of faith, this is the week. A goal from a free-kick or a penalty is long overdue.
Aleksandar Kolarov - After Gael Clichy's performance against Wigan I would expect to see Kolarov return to the side for the league game against Hull, and the attacking full-back has been in terrific fantasy form. It was a slight concern to see him play 90 minutes against Barcelona, but remember we'll get Manchester City's line-up before the deadline to allow us to check he's starting. If not, look to the outstanding Vincent Kompany.
Mathieu Debuchy (INJURED)- Newcastle's last away game was the outstanding 4-1 win over Hull, and they'll be feeling confident that they can pick up three points at Craven Cottage. Debuchy has been phenomenally consistent over his 25 games this season, picking up massive defensive points as well as his fair share of attacking points, so expect another big return this weekend, with or without a clean sheet.
Dejan Lovren - When you weigh up point returns vs price, Lovren looks to be the pick of the Southampton defenders if you're looking to cover the potential clean sheet against Norwich. If you have the money, then the more expensive Luke Shaw is also tempting as he goes out all guns blazing in an effort to secure a place on England's plane to the World Cup in the summer.
Branislav Ivanovic - After yet another clean sheet against Spurs the price of the entire Chelsea back-line is extremely high, but if you have the funds then Ivanovic is my pick of the bunch once again. Villa are often poor at home so a clean sheet is possible, as well as a chance to grab a goal or assist from a set piece.
Ryan Shawcross - This one is straightforward; Stoke v West Ham could quite easily end 0-0 so the ever-reliable Shawcross looks like value, priced below £10million.
Jordi Amat - With Chicho Flores is suspended for picking up a red card against Crystal Palace, Amat has a very good chance of starting alongside Ashley Williams for Swansea's winnable match against West Brom. Priced at a fraction over £5million, he's a bargain.
Phil Bardsley - After a stunning start to his season Bardsley's performances have dipped slightly, but there's an opportunity to pick things up against a Palace side who have scored just six away goals all season. Attacking points and a clean sheet are both possibilities.
Younes Kaboul - The FA have quite rightly rescinded Kaboul's red card picked up against Chelsea, so the big defender no longer faces a one match ban and is available for the North London derby against Arsenal this weekend. Don't expect a clean sheet, but he's a handy cheap option if you need to fill a spot on your bench or even your starting XI, priced below £3million. With Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches out, he will start barring injury.
Adam Lallana - Last week's "top pick" recommendation didn't work out as Lallana returned just three points, but Norwich at home gives him a chance to repay my continued faith in him with a double digit display at the very least.
Steven Gerrard - The Liverpool captain is back after a week off and will be fired up to face rivals Manchester United. Gerrard is the top scoring midfielder on the game, takes penalties, shoots from distance, takes set pieces and has started picking up solid defensive points since changing roles this season. I sold him, but if you've hung on to him through the blank week then you can feel very pleased with yourself - I'll need to find a way to get him back in for next week's double.
Yaya Toure - World class players tend to react to disappointment, and Yaya will be hurting after City were knocked out of the Champions League by his former team Barcelona just days after a shock defeat to Wigan. Expect a big performance from the midfielder against Hull City this weekend as his side look to keep up the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the table.
Raheem Sterling - If Gerrard is out of your reach but you want a Liverpool midfielder, then Sterling is the next best bet. I'm looking forward to seeing how he matches up against Patrice Evra and actually expect him to win the battle.
Samir Nasri - It seems David Silva has gone off the boil recently so Nasri is the one to look at if you're after a City wide-man, showing glimpses of his best form recently with goals and slick interplay in and around the box. Again, the risk of him not playing is removed by the fact we'll get the City line-up before the deadline.
Moussa Sissoko - Showing signs of the form that announced his arrival in England back in 2012, Sissoko is slowly taking over the talisman role held by the now departed Yohan Cabaye and he's capable of taking the game to Fulham this weekend playing in a more attacking role.
Jonjo Shelvey - If fit he'll take up his place behind the Wilfried Bony and his tendency to shoot from all angles often brings solid fantasy returns, with or without a goal. There are some doubts remaining over his fitness so Jonathan De Guzman is the other (pricier) option if team news on Friday suggests Shelvey is struggling to make it.
Lewis Holtby - All action displays, defensive and attacking points, taking the occasional set piece and capable of grabbing a goal. Fulham are likely to lose against Newcastle but Holtby is a player why can be productive regardless of his team's result.
Adam Johnson - The purple patch is well and truly over, but AJ is still worth considering at his now reduced price of £12million with a home games against Crystal Palace.
Frank Lampard - Subbed early against Tottenham after a disappointing performance, Lampard's price has dropped down to £13million and that makes him worth considering for Week 30. The experienced midfielder is no longer first choice but he does have an excellent goalscoring record against Aston Villa, so Jose Mourinho could give him another run-out to keep the likes of Ramires and Nemanja Matic fresh for Tuesday's huge Champions League clash with Galatasary. It's risky, so if you go for him ensure you have an active midfield sub on your bench just in case.
Nemanja Matic - Cup tied for the Champions League, so Matic is almost certain to start in a winnable game at an affordable price. Thanks to the comments section for the suggestion!
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - Ox has done enough over the past two matches against Everton and Bayern Munich to suggest he's ready to start Arsenal's biggest games, and they don't come much bigger than the North London derby. With Mesut Ozil out injured and Santi Cazorla a bit too expensive for a tough away match, the young midfielder is the best value option priced below £7million.
Ross Barkley - Like the Ox, the England hopeful has probably done enough to get back in the Everton first team after a much improved display against Arsenal in the FA Cup and he remains extremely well priced.
Romelu Lukaku - The big man came off the bench to score the winner in Everton's last home league game and added another goal in Everton's defeat against Arsenal in the FA Cup. Lukaku looks fresh and trim after his injury break, has a lovely new haircut, and given the opposition he should be in your Week 30 team
Luis Suarez - After a few weeks without a goal Suarez was back on form in Week 28 and made those of us who doubted keeping him as captain look very silly indeed. After a week off he should be feeling fresh, and his pace and trickery running at the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic is going to cause all sorts of problems for Manchester United. Daniel Sturridge is also well worth considering, but if you're only fielding one Liverpool striker, it has to be the Uruguayan.
Eden Hazard - Reports from Belgium this week suggested Hazard is feeling a bit tired due to the amount of the football he's played, but Chelsea have had a six day break between games so there's little risk of the wing-wizard getting a rest. He remains the pick of the Blues' strikers (despite the fact he's not actually a striker), with question-marks over who gets the nod between Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba at Aston Villa.
Alvaro Negredo - Initially it was Sergio Aguero's name on this list, but he limped out of Manchester City's Champions League tie with Barcelona with what appeared to be a reoccurrence of his hamstring injury, so it would appear extremely unlikely that he will be risked at Hull this weekend. That could open the door for Negredo, who has been quiet recently but is far preferable to the erratic Edin Dzeko if you're set on picking a City striker. Again, we'll get the line-up before deadline.
Olivier Giroud - The mini-break afforded to him by Arsene Wenger in February has done Giroud the world of good and he's looking much sharper in front of goal, grabbing two against Sunderland and two against Everton in the FA Cup last weekend. His return to form comes just in time for the match against Tottenham, who he scored the winner against in the reverse fixture back in September.
Ricky Lambert - I tipped Jay Rodriguez to score last weekend and he duly obliged, but it could be Lambert's turn this weekend. Norwich have been comically clumsy in defence this season which has led to a host of chances for the opposition in and around the six yard box, and the striker could prosper. He comes with the added benefit of penalty duty.
Wayne Rooney - There are better options considering Liverpool are the opposition, but Rooney now has two goals and two assists in his last two league games and if there's one thing we know about England's talisman, it's that he scores his goals in bursts.
Loic Remy (INJURED) - It's no coincidence that Newcastle's revival coincided with Remy's return from injury. The striker has been one of the best loan signings the Premier League has ever seen and he should feel confident of continuing his goalscoring form against rock-bottom Fulham.
Wilfried Bony - Having a fine debut season with Swansea, Bony already has 10 league goals to his name and should be able to add to that tally against West Brom. He remains on penalty duty with Michu still side-lined.
So those are the players I'm considering for Week 30. There are lots of doubts at this early stage so please check back here on Friday for Neal's injury and team news post when we'll have a far better idea of the players set to start and those destined for the bench.
The following is currently unsaved on my team page:
Starting XI: Boruc, Bardsley, Amat, Baines, Holtby, Sterling, Y.Toure, Lallana, Hazard, Lukaku, Suarez (C)
Subs: Barkley, Kaboul, Bertrand, K.Davis
It's a work in progress and I have lots of money left over, so there will be changes before the deadline.
How's your team looking?
p.s. The Rotoworld PL Cup 3rd Round Results are up: