The dust has settled from the Champions League which brings to a close a mixed midweek for English sides. Liverpool were undone by a very impressive Fiorentina side while United's win was tainted by an injury to Michael Owen, though if any fantasy manager is sticking by the former England star at 7.9m, they need more help than I can provide in the next few paragraphs. Arsenal looked okay despite leaving it late to see off Olympiakos on Tueday, while Chelsea continued a poor weak with a mundane display against minnows Apoel. With all those distractions behind us its time to focus on the fantasy week ahead, and where better to start than at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea entertain Liverpool in the fixture of the week.
Gameweek 7 Fixtures
Bolton v Tottenham
Burnley v Birmingham
Hull City v Wigan
Wolves v Portsmouth
Man Utd v Sunderland
Arsenal v Blackburn
Everton v Stoke City
West Ham v Fulham
Chelsea v Liverpool
Aston Villa v Man City
The fixture of the week is undoubtedly the game at Stamford Bridge though the real fantasy points could be had at Old Trafford and Arsenal where the two football giants face sides that have struggled somewhat on the road this year. Liverpool looked very poor in Florence midweek and Martin Skrtel has not settled in at the back alongside an underachieving Jamie Carragher which has caused Liverpool to leak goals this year (10 in 7 games so far). I therefore really like Drogba and Anelka (who scored on Wednesday) this week, with Anelka usually good for a goal his former clubs (just ask Arsenal). With Torres in such hot form I am not thrilled about playing Cole or any of his defensive teammates this week, but unless you can transfer them out for United or Arsenal players they are still worth playing unless you have incredible depth. Mascherano should be fit for the game, which could thrust Gerrard into a more advanced position meaning Auerlio will miss out, unless he replaces Insua at left back. The other risk would be the inclusion of Babic or Riera ahead of Benayoun but I am going to stick with the Israeli and hope Benitez does too.
I am a huge fan of Steve Bruce and his Sunderland side but on the road this year they have only picked up 3 points in 3 games despite only face Bolton, Stoke and Burnley. Man United are a different proposition altogether and I love Rooney this week to get his 7th and maybe even his 8th or 9th League goals of the season. Carrick's midweek goal could allow him to keep his place in the team, though I would expect Darren Fletcher back with perhaps Anderson missing out. Fletcher (5.6m) is great value in the middle, while Giggs' (7.1) continuing form means we must give him some attention. I am not convinced the Welshman will start though having played 90 minutes on Wednesday so that is a risky pick for me.
Arsenal look like the other good source of fantasy points this week and I am still firmly behind Van Persie (10.1) after his goals last weekend and on Tuesday night. Fabregas is in excellent form in my eyes (and Wenger's) and I love him to score this week having been unlucky to miss out in midweek. With just one goal on the road this year, Blackburn are struggling for goals and the likes of Vermaelen and Clichy look to be a good play this week. Equally, Song (who is classed as a midfielder) was excellent against Olympiakos and I think he should hold his place in the lineup, providing good value for his owners.
1. Robin Van Persie
2. Wayne Rooney
3. Didier Drogba
4. Cesc Fabregas
5. Aaron Lennon
Arsenal have the best matchup and therefore have two players in the list this week. Van Persie and Fabregas are both in excellent form and I like them both to score or contribute heavily this week. Drogba is rested from midweek and showed against Wigan that he can score when the team is misfiring and I think he gives Liverpool huge matchup problems for the week ahead. As noted above I love Rooney this week and he in only number two because of Sunderland's superior defensive record on the road (1.33 GPG) compared to Blackburn (2.5 GPG). The wildcard pick of the week isn't much of a wildcard with his excellent performances so far this year but at 8.1m Lennon still provides tremendous value for money. Spurs have scored well on the road this year (2.33 GPG) while Bolton have conceded a few (1.66 GPG). J'Lloyd Samuel does not have the quality to contain the tricky winger and with Defoe, Keane and Crouch all firing this season the assists and possibly goals should continue to flow for Lennon.
Clean Sheet Rankings
I love Arsenal this week on both sides of the ball and having conceded just one goal at the Emirates this year I expect a clean sheet against a Blackburn side that has scored just one goal on their travels. Despite his rapid price rise I think Vermaelen (6.8) is still decent value due to his ability to score goals in ways other than traditional centre backs. Clichy (6.3) has been in poor form this year and I like him to bounce back over the coming weeks and I think he is decent value at his current value. As noted above, Song (5.5) is playing in midfield but is classed as a centre back and he could be outstanding value if he keeps his place in Wenger's side.
Stoke have struggled on the road again this year while Everton are improving and I like Moyes' men to win this one fairly comfortably. Baines (6.3) due to his penalty duties and Distin (5.0) are the value picks here and both are great plays this week.
United's defense are looking better of late and should be able to contain Sunderland despite the impressive duo of Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent. Vidic hasn't looked as good as last year but I think they'll get back on track with a comfortable 2 or 3 nil victory here. On a side note, Foster has been confirmed as the starter for that one.
Burnley and Chelsea round out the last and both might be surprise picks. Burnley have only conceded 1 goal at home this year and Birmingham have scored just twice on the road. I expect a very tight game here and would not be surprised by a 0-0. Chelsea meanwhile welcome a Liverpool side featuring the best striker in England, if not the world in Fernando Torres. However, Liverpool are not in the best form and despite scoring 7 on the road I am not convinced by them just yet. Chelsea have been very tight at home (one goal in three games) and I expect a close encounter in this one, with Chelsea able to shade it.
I will follow this up with an injury post but I wanted to get the rankings out there early in case anyone needs help with transfers. Why not post or tweet your lineup/transfer questions and I'll give any advice I can.