I've managed to steal some time away from the food, presents and terrible TV to have a few wandering thoughts on this week's football.
The early game on boxing day sees Stoke take on United at the Britannia as United will look to get back on track in the league after their travels to Asia for the World Club Championships. I've brought Ronaldo back for this one after Gerrard did little in his place last week. Look for a full strength United to excel here and use this as a great week to get your first United player before the double gameweeks in 21 and 25. O'Shea is the best value at the moment in Evra's absence though Evra himself looks to be good value when the suspension is over. Fletcher and Carrick remain decent mid-cheap Midfielders and the likes of Berbatov and Rooney become more attractive premium strikers in the double gameweeks.
The second lob-sided game of the day is at the Bridge where Chelsea take on bottom placed West Brom. Chelsea are missing a number of defensive players in this one though should still manage to hold off anything West Brom can throw at them. Attacking wise, the usual suspects remain good options with Anelka and Lampard leading the line once more.
At Fratton Park, Portsmouth will entertain the Hammers in a battle of two underachieving teams. This one has 1-1 written all over it and is not a great game to pick fantasy players from. Defoe and Crouch remain okay options mind as they look most likley to benefit from any goals Pompey do manage.
Tottenham-Fulham sees a Fulham side who have given up 6 goals on the road play a Spurs side that have scored just 7 at home. The book would say this will be 0-0 or decided by a single goal so feel free to plug in the likes of Schwarzer, Paintsil or Corluka. I don't fancy any of the attacking options available in this one.
In form Bolton travel to Anfield to meet a Liverpool close to welcoming back Torres and Skrtel, though both will likely start on the bench at best for now. Bolton's improving attack will struggle to pierce Liverpool's stingy defense who have conceded just 6 in 9 home games this term. I am forced to play Agger this week though most publications suggest that Hyypia will play this one. Ideally stay away from them both and get Arbeloa then trade him in for Skrtel when fit.
A potential goal-fest at Eastlands sees City entertain Hull so it may best to leave your defenders at home for this one. Robinho, if fit, will be a good (if somewhat obvious here) though better value may be found in Shaun Wright Phillips who could be facing an out of position defenders in Ricketts and Dawson's absence. Hull's budget options are all decent plays again this week, led by Geovanni and King.
Middlesbrough-Everton is another tough game to call that could easily be 0-0 or 2-2. Despite Everton's lack of firepower they are always a threat to score from set plays and I wouldn't therefore bet the house on a Boro clean sheet. Likewise, Boro are a sneaky team that can manufacture goals and could spoil a clean sheet from the Blues. I do think Jagielka might be worth a punt mind, based on his excellent 15 bonus points so far this term.
Sunderland-Blackburn sees Big Sam take over his first road game, an area where his Bolton team's were very organised, compact and stingy. Allardyce may well deploy a 4-5-1 which could make McCarthy, Roberts and Santa Cruz risky starts. Big Sam is no miracle worker and Rovers have shipped 19 goals away from Ewood this season so Cisse and Jones are both good buys this week. The in-form and Malbranque and Richardson also look like decent plays again this week.
Despite Newcastle's improved defense I like Zaki to score this week to get his season back on track after his injuries. Wigan's success is often linked to the form of Valencia, which bodes well for Steve Bruce's side. I like the chance of Valencia continuing this good form with an assist or goal this week. Newcastle defenders are still very cheap (particularly Bassong) and despite my inkling that Wigan will win, the Magpies remain a decent play this week.
The big clash of the weekend is Villa-Arsenal which should have goals and isn't a great source of fantasy value for defenders. I can see at least 3 goals in this one with Young, Agbonlahor and Barry all looking set to prosper. For Arsenal, Denilson could be a cheap option as he gets forward in place of Fabregas as well as Van Persie who has been in great form against the big sides this year.
Apologies for the swiftness of the post today, I am hoping to post a bit of a diary tomorrow if I can negotiate the time away from the festivities.