Welcome to Week 6 of my player picks for the Yahoo Fantasy Premier League game. Firstly, thanks to Neal for covering this column last week while I celebrated my wedding anniversary in Santorini. We had a romantic break, but I'm not going to lie - and luckily my wife doesn't read this column - I badly missed the Premier League.
Having retrospectively caught up on all the action from the past fortnight over the past few days I feel confident that I'm up to date on the form of all the teams and players, although this doesn't help my poor Yahoo fantasy team. After a decent 118 in Week 4, AM FC managed just 86 points in an unpredictable Week 5, having been let down by underperforming Tottenham and Everton players. I sit on an overall total of just 475 points, a long way down the rankings in all of my private leagues. The only way is up, right?
On to the fixtures ...
Week 6 Fixtures
Arsenal v Tottenham
Chelsea v Aston Villa
Crystal Palace v Leicester City
Hull City v Man City
Liverpool v Everton
Man Utd v West Ham
Southampton v QPR
Stoke v Newcastle
Sunderland v Swansea
West Brom v Burnley
Your eyes will immediately be drawn to the North London and Merseyside derbies - Arsenal v Tottenham and Liverpool v Everton respectively. As a Spurs fan it hurts to admit that the Gunners have to be favourites, but I wouldn't be doing my job to suggest otherwise. After a bright start to the season Mauricio Pochettino's men are looking short of ideas, and with Arsene Wenger resting most of his stars in the Capital One Cup I fear Arsenal are in a position to win this one by a couple of goals, earning their fans bragging rights for the next few months.
Both Liverpool and Everton are having difficult starts to the season so it's tough to call this one either way. The main problem comes down to the fact that the Merseyside clubs are simply conceding too many goals, so attacking players from both teams are worth considering in what could end as a high scoring draw.
Chelsea are continuing to look strong at the top of the table and will be expected to beat Aston Villa comfortably at Stamford Bridge, while Ronald Koeman's impressive Southampton should overcome a Queens Park Rangers side who have lost their last two away games by an aggregate score of 8-0.
Manchester United fooled people in to believing they were on the road to recovery in Week 4 before Leicester re-exposed those gaping defensive deficiencies at the weekend, and Louis van Gaal now has a host of injuries and a suspension to deal with as improving West Ham come to Old Trafford. The smart money should still be on a home victory due to the attacking quality available to the Dutch manager, but it's unlikely to be simple or involve a clean sheet, so there could be some value in West Ham's attackers too.
Stoke City are actually playing pretty well without always getting the result their performances deserve, but they should have too much for Newcastle in the Monday night match at the Britannia to put further pressure on Alan Pardew. Before the midweek cup thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester City had not won a match in any competition since 25th August and I'm finding it hard to back them too heavily for the trip to Hull in Week 5. Manuel Pellegrini's side should win, but Steve Bruce has built a very decent squad at Hull and I feel there are better teams to focus you fantasy efforts on this week.
Elsewhere I'm tipping Crystal Palace and Leicester to play out an entertaining draw, and a draw seems the likely result at the Hawthorns as West Brom host Burnley in what could prove a low scoring affair. Finally, Swansea have suffered back to back defeats in league and face a trip to Sunderland - another match that will be tight - but I have a hunch that the boost from the Capital Cup win over Everton will help push Garry Monk’s men on to a narrow victory.
With all that in mind, click over to the next page to view my Week 6 player recommendations.
Thibaut Courtois - There will be weeks when it's the right time to bench Courtois, but this isn't one of them. While Aston Villa haven't conceded too many goals this season (aside from against Arsenal when a number of their player were struck down with a virus) they also don't score many, so the Chelsea man will be in with a strong chance of a clean sheet.
Fraser Forster - Southampton were tipped to struggle by many after selling five of their best players, but Ronald Koeman has made some excellent signings and the team look well organised from front to back. Forster has been leading by example with a number of flawless performances in net and he can continue that fine start to his Saints career by keeping out QPR.
Ben Foster - The two men above appear to be the leading options for the Week 5 goalkeeping position, but if you're looking to do something a bit different then you could give West Brom's Foster a run-out for the home game against goal-shy Burnley.
Branislav Ivanovic - A couple of quiet performances from Ivanovic have brought his price down to an affordable level, he remains a huge goal threat in the opposition's box and with a clean sheet against Villa a strong possibility it promotes the Serbian to the top of the defensive picks for the second time this season.
Patrick van Aanholt - The Sunderland left-back is becoming a regular in this column and for good reason. Signed from Chelsea in the summer, van Aanholt has been picking up fantasy points for a variety of defensive contributions, as well as striking a couple of shots on target and picking up an assist. The Black Cats may not beat Swansea but 24-year-old could still prove a fine selection with another all-action display.
Ryan Bertrand - Another Southampton success story since signing on loan from Chelsea in summer, Bertrand has shown he's a far better defender than many people had given him credit for, and he's also been contributing to the Saints' attacking efforts. A home game against QPR should have you tempted.
Kieran Trippier - The Burnley man was tipped heavily at the start of the season to have a strong campaign having been a top performer in the Championship last year, and after a quiet start he is picking up the pace. Similar to van Aanholt and Bertrand, Trippier has been solid in defence while adding extra points in the opposition's half of the pitch.
Phil Bardsley - I toyed with the idea of including Ryan Shawcross, but Bardsley just gets the nod due to his ability to overlap down the right flank, with Stoke having a decent chance of a clean sheet at home to Newcastle on Monday night.
Eliaquim Mangala - Manuel Pellegrini's new £32million defender had an impressive full debut against Chelsea and looks like he'll form a formidable partnership alongside captain Vincent Kompany. Currently the cheapest Manchester City defender, picking Mangala up now is your chance to get in on the ground floor.
Calum Chambers - He has a slightly worrying tendency for picking up yellow cards (four already since signing for Arsenal), but Chambers' price is affordable and he's guaranteed a start at right-back in the absence of Mathieu Debuchy.
Martin Kelly - Benched for Crystal Palace's home draw with Burnley, Kelly was back in the side for the impressive win at Everton and put in a terrific display, winning tackles, intercepting passes and picking up an assist. Still an absolute bargain, the ex-Liverpool man should be on your bench at the very least.
Angel Di Maria - Despite Manchester United picking up just one win in Di Maria's first three Premier League appearances, the club will be delighted with the start the British record signing has made to his Old Trafford career. The goal against QPR was slightly lucky, but his finish against Leicester was world class and he is consistently creating opportunities for his team-mates with some glorious vision and passing. Expect another productive fantasy week as the Hammers come to town.
Cesc Fabregas - Six assists in the Premier League already and an excellent opportunity to improve on that against Villa as Fabregas continues his fruitful partnership with Diego Costa.
Raheem Sterling - Having played 120 minutes on Tuesday night you may fear that Sterling could be a bit tired for the weekend, but there is no way Brendan Rodgers rests the young man for the Merseyside derby. Many people thought it would be down to Daniel Sturridge to fill the gap left by Luis Suarez, but it's Sterling who has been the star performer so far, with the winger currently the highest scoring midfielder in the Yahoo game.
Dusan Tadic - While Morgan Schneiderlin was close to making the list, you don't need two Southampton midfielders, and Tadic is far cheaper while producing similar fantasy points. An added bonus is that he appears to be the club's new penalty taker now that Ricky Lambert has departed, so there are a lot of things to like about his selection against QPR.
Victor Moses - Has Moses finally found a home? After three seasons of struggling to settle at Chelsea and then on-loan at Liverpool the winger is finally getting a run of games under Mark Hughes at Stoke, and his fantasy production has been a surprise to everyone. 43 points in three games so far, and you'd back him to break past the 50 barrier at a bare minimum in the home games against Newcastle.
Aaron Ramsey - Of all the Arsenal players facing Spurs this weekend, Ramsey is the man I fear the most. As Spurs try to adapt to Pochettino's pressing style they are struggling to pick up midfield runners and the Welsh-man is one of the very best at getting beyond the defence, offers an abundance of creativity and a huge goal threat.
Mile Jedinak - Once again proving a terrific performer in the Yahoo fantasy game, the Palace captain is sitting in the top five of point scoring midfielders so far. Last weekend saw the Jedinak pick up a further 19 points, due to a penalty (yep, he's on penalty duty now) combined with two blocks, five interceptions and three tackles won. As I've repeatedly mentioned, the Australian is essentially fixture proof, putting up points home and away, no matter the opponent.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - After starting the season like a house on fire, Sigurdsson had gone a bit quiet before getting himself on the score-sheet in midweek in the Capital One Cup. A trip to Sunderland will give the midfielder an opportunity to add to his one goal and four assists in the Premier League, playing just behind the main striker.
Stewart Downing - The 'AM's Player Picks' weekly column has been around for five seasons now, but this may be the first time Downing has ever featured. Sam Allardyce has handed the winger a change of role for the new campaign, allowing him to drift in to the middle behind the strikers, and so far it is working unbelievable well. Two assists, five shots on target and a whole host of successful crosses already, Downing could be the man to heap more problems on Louis van Gaal.
Wilfried Zaha - The returning loanee found himself on the bench for the trip to Everton as Neil Warnock tightened up his tactics, but Zaha should get the start for a home game against Leicester and will be looking to put in a performance that would make him undroppable for Week 7.
Dave Jones - No Danny Ings means Jones is getting pushed a bit further forward for Burnley, and the midfielder loves a shot from distance. A wildcard pick for the risk-taking manager.
Diego Costa - Seven goals in five Premier League matches and unlucky not to have eight after hitting the post from his only real chance against Manchester City, Costa has been everything Chelsea fans have been asking for since Didier Drogba passed his peak. The most selected player in the Yahoo fantasy game at over 60% ownership, the Spaniard must be in your team for the match against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge, else you run the risk of falling way behind your fellow fantasy managers.
Radamel Falcao - For the first time, Falcao makes the player picks list. The Colombian forward showed glimpses of his quality against Leicester and remains extremely cheap for Manchester United's home game against West Ham, where I expect him to open his Old Trafford goal account.
Graziano Pellè - The giant Southampton striker is starting to look the part with some strong performances leading the line, and the goals have started to flow, with three in his last three Premier League games. QPR beware.
Danny Welbeck - While Alexis Sanchez is tempting at his price, Welbeck playing as an out-and-out centre forward with the likes of Sanchez, Ramsey and Mesut Ozil feeding him chances gives him edge. New Tottenham captain Younes Kaboul will be dreading the thought of trying to keep up with the ex-Manchester United man.
Mame Biram Diouf - Two goals in his first four starts for Stoke including that amazing solo effort at Manchester City, Diouf will be licking his lips at facing Newcastle's porous defence in Week 6.
Leonardo Ulloa - It's rare for a player to make such an instant impact after coming in to the Premier League from the Championship, but Ulloa is looking every bit the top-tier player since his £7million move from Brighton. Five goals in five games, great movement and even better finishing, the striker will be looking to add to his tally at Selhurst Park.
Sergio Aguero - There are better options than Aguero this week as Manchester City face a tricky trip to Hull, but the Argentine forward remains one of the best strikers in Europe and must be approaching peak fitness after completing his first 90 minutes of the season against Chelsea.
Steven Naismith - There was only space for one striker from the Merseyside derby, and it may surprise readers to see an Everton player here. With Sturridge 50-50 to be back from injury and Mario Balotelli a red card risk in a heated derby it doesn't leave much to choose from, and Naismith's scheming movement can cause the Liverpool defence problems.
Saido Berahino - I've predicted a low scoring match at the Hawthorns, but if anybody is going to score a goal it's likely to be West Brom striker (and penalty taker) Berahino.
So those are the players I'm considering for my Week 6 Yahoo team. Here's what I currently have on my team page ...
XI: Courtois, Bertrand, van Aanholt, Ivanovic, Fabregas, Tadic, Sterling, Di Maria, Welbeck, Falcao, Costa
Subs: Lamela, Kelly, Cresswell, Gazzaniga
It's a standard team to be honest, with perhaps one too many Chelsea players. Right now Sterling isn't actually saved - I have Sigurdsson held behind the scenes, but a lack of Raheem has proved costly for AM FC twice already this season. It's tempting to throw in the likes of Moses, Downing, Jedinak, Pelle or Ulloa to mix things up in attempt to gain ground on the fantasy managers above me, but whether I'll have the guts to drop any of the big guns will depend on how many beers I have on Friday night.
How's your Week 6 team looking?