Although not a ton of matches in terms of quantity, it’s tough to ask for much more in terms of quality from the Sunday/Monday slate. Four of the top five squads from last season are in action; headlined by a marquee matchup at the Etihad where City will play host to Chelsea. Although this will be the game of the weekend for sure, there will be headlines a plenty in the other matchups. In which, Palace play host to Arsenal who will be desperate for a win against an extremely tough opponent and Liverpool try to develop some continuity vs. an inferior Bournemouth side.
If you want to get your lineup right, I’d recommend going with the surest bet you can find and that’s Liverpool at home vs. Bournemouth. I know that when the safe money backfires it really hurts, but the other two contests have a lot of variables in my opinion that will make it very tough to select the right guys. Not to mention, of all three matchups the Liverpool one is really the only one I can’t see ending 0-0. Remember when building a fantasy team it’s important to not just look at what you think the average or the expectation will be, but the full scope of the range. Some guys are safe for 4-6 points almost every week, but provide double digits rarely, while other guys might throw up a bunch of 0’s along with a few 15’s and 20’s. This is why understanding the entire player and his abilities are so important when selecting him for your squad.
Lock of the Day
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool) Goalkeeper – Salary: $5,500
I know choosing a goalie for the Lock of the Day isn’t that exciting, but I really do love Liverpool in this one and there are no easier points to grab than the 10 you get as a goalie for a shutout win. I know $5,500 is a lot for a goalie, but I tend to avoid goalies in marquee matchups, so really you’re only other options are Cech for the same price, McCarthy vs. a hungry Arsenal for cheap, or Boruc against Liverpool in a horrific road matchup. For me this is a simple choice, don’t over think it too much, just pick Mignolet and if it backfires than you’ll know Bournemouth have the capability of mixing it up moving forward. The logic and rationale 100% favor this selection, so if you take anyone else and they don’t provide Mignolet’s production you’ll regret your decision for sure.
Second Choice: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) Forward – Salary: $10,200
I know I put my faith in Arsenal last week and they flopped, but I’d be shocked if they lay an egg at least on the score sheet two weeks in a row. Look for Arsenal to finish at least one on Sunday, if not more. I expect Alexis to be starting and providing the spark needed to get the cogs churning properly.
Worth Your Buck
Christian Benteke (Liverpool) Forward – Salary: $9,200
The worst thing for a fantasy player about a marquee matchup is that when two top teams face off, it leaves a greater probability of uncertainty over which team will score goals. This is why I personally will avoid backs and strikers participating in the Manchester contest and elect a different route. After Alexis, Benteke is the clear cut option in my mind to give you some production on Sunday. He’s in a favorable matchup against a make shift EPL roster hoping they can survive. Even with Liverpool not completely in form, I think Rodgers will elect to start in the 4-3-3 this week, after that proved more successful in the second half vs. Stoke. I think this will provide Liverpool with a more free flowing attack to allow them more attempts at finding the big man in the box. He’s a matchup problem for any defense, but honestly I think Liverpool will hold enough of the ball on Monday for any striker to be a good pick.
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Midfielder – Salary: $8,700
He’s one of my least favorite players for his demeanor and approach at times, but I’ll never argue that he’s full of class. Almost all of Arsenal’s goals come from Sanchez, Ozil or Cazorla in some fashion so if you believe they will score at least once on Sunday than it seems logical to think these will be the guys you should look to play. If you are having a money crisis, Cazorla is a solid cheaper option and of course Ramsey even more so (although I thought he was dreadful last weekend). However, if you can find room in the budget for Ozil I’m expecting a big game. He takes set pieces so points will be available from that end, but he’s also got the qualities to both play make and finish in the run of play. No matter what the moment calls for Ozil is capable of producing the magic; whether that means an exploratory long ball over the top, an exquisite whipped in cross, delicate quick combination or threaded witchcraft of a pass any situation can call Ozil to rise to the occasion.
Joe Gomez (Liverpool) Defender – Salary: $3,300
The 18 year old put in a lovely performance last week and I believe he’s got another outing in him this week as well. Although young and inexperienced, Gomez maintained a high level of composure throughout while staying organized in a shutout victory. He managed to add a few extra points to his day thanks to Coutinho’s brilliance giving him an unlikely assist, but it was his defending for me that really surprised me. It’s so rare for a kid his age to step in at the back and succeed almost instantly, but I like him to continue that against Bournemouth in week two. The contrast between cross town rival Everton’s teenage left back (Brendan Galloway) and Gomez was immense. Anyone who watched poor Galloway could see how difficult it is for a kid to survive at the back against the speed and size of the players in the EPL. I like Liverpool to control the game though and that means more attacking moments for Gomez and fewer opportunities to screw up defensively. His price tag is perfect for a defender that will have a great chance of getting the shut out.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) Midfielder – Salary: $5,300
Is this the year? Zaha has been a sensation since his teenage years when he was tearing up the Championship with some unbelievably flashy play. Although adjusting to the EPL was a challenge at first, Zaha has grown enormously; he’s adapting and simplifying his play to become more effective and that’s exactly what we like when drafting a fantasy player. At $5,300 you get a relatively cheap midfielder with the upside of both goals and assists. His pace and array of moves would be problematic for any back line, but especially against Arsenal who are known to allow the occasional dumb goal. Zaha looked fantastic in his first match and I’m hoping that wasn’t an anomaly and we can start to rely on this guy every week for some big play potential. He’s a sure thing to get you crossing points and the occasional foul drawn as well. The most exciting thing is that a big game vs. a top side like Arsenal and we might actually be talking about his arrival on the big stage after so many years of waiting patiently for him to pan out.
Traps to Avoid
Diego Costa (Chelsea) Forward – Salary: $9,200
Welcome to the first installment of, “Diego Costa is a Bum”. I won’t lie to you, I’m the biggest Diego Costa hater out there and I will pounce on any opportunity I can to tell you not to play him. In truth, I will likely get very few of these opportunities given the status of Chelsea and the perfect fit between Mourinho’s style and Costa’s abilities. However, I’ve been following his career since he backed up Falcao at Atletico Madrid and can honestly tell you he is the most overrated striker in the world. Given the talent around him, he will likely have another successful campaign, but I think Sunday he’ll be contained. Man City have a solid back four and I can see him having a frustrating day battling for everything with Kompany. In games like these goals usually come from a moment of brilliance or set pieces, neither of which are really pieces to Costa’s game. While formidable in the air it’s rare to see him score a set piece given the other options Chelsea aims for in such moments. While it’s nearly impossible to recall the last time he scored a brilliant goal. I have nothing against a good poacher; I just don’t want anyone to be confused that he’s anything more than that. If you’re looking for World Class on Sunday it’s not going to come from the feet of the Spaniard, trust me its not.
Oscar (Chelsea) Midfielder – Salary: $7,300
If you took my advice and choose the Brazilian last week he treated you to a wonderful effort. This week I’m expecting a quieter performance. I think the center of the park is going to be a tough place to trust anyone in this contest, as both sides have enormous midfielders (especially City). To ask Oscar to be effective while sitting between Kompany, Mangala, Fernandinho and Yaya is just unfair and I’m avoiding him because of this. For me he will have done his job if he can maintain possession and be a useful decoy, in helping create more space for his wingers to exploit. If he finds a bit of space or an enticing free kick than he might squeak out a moment I’ll regret. While that might be enough for you to take the gamble, for me it’s not and I’d elect other options such as any of the 10 names valued just below him on the midfielders list. Take a peak…there are some awesome options in that group.