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Fantasy Premier League Week 12

Is everyone ready for more Premier League? The international break is over, and it’s time for more domestic footy. I’m testing out a new format, because with the old one, I’m going to just name the same players over and over again. Here we go, with my guide for week 12 of the Fantasy Premier League:

Injury News!

Everton’s Leighton Baines was declared out for 2 weeks a couple days ago with a hamstring injury. After further evaluation, the left-back is listed at 75% to play vs. the surprisingly good West Ham. When healthy, he’s a great fantasy player (that’s why he’s on around a quarter of all teams, including mine).

Manchester United revelation Angel Di Maria has become a focal point for many teams (owned by around 36%), especially those of United fans who are still in the “denial” stage of grief. His ankle injury for Argentina is a worry, but he’s listed at 75% to make the trip down to London to face Arsenal in their big clash.

Di Maria’s teammate David De Gea, the Spanish goalkeeper, is listed at 75% as he dislocated his finger. The 13.6% of owners who have him are hoping he locates it again.

Elsewhere in the Northwest of England, Daniel Sturridge is out for at least 6 weeks, meaning that Liverpool won’t get back their star forward until at least next year. He hasn’t played since August, so you can assume that the 8.1% of the people who still have the player, valued at £11.1, have either quit, or are just really, really bad at fantasy sports.

Chelsea is No Joke

Okay, they’re #1 in the league, 4 points ahead of 2nd-placed Southampton, and 8 points ahead of presumed title-rivals Manchester City. It doesn’t take an expert to realize that they’re doing good. But it does take a self-assigned expert (yours truly) to recklessly state that you need to build your team around them. And yes, that’s what I’m doing. Diego Costa, Cesc Fábregas, Eden Hazard, Branislav Ivanovic, and more are all very good fantasy players for right now.

Why, exactly? Look at their upcoming schedule: West Brom, Sunderland, Tottenham, Newcastle, Hull, and Stoke. All 6 of those teams have a negative goal differential, and are among the bottom half of teams as far as goal-scoring is concerned. Jose Mourinho’s team will eat up that schedule like they missed breakfast.

And the defense: yeah, they haven’t done the whole clean-sheet-every-other-week thing, with 11 goals conceded, but, you know? For anyone else other than Mourinho, they’ve been elite on defense. They haven’t conceded multiple goals since September, and with the iffy attacks they’re going to face, I expect that to continue.

Take the per-club limit of three for Chelsea. I am, with Costa, Hazard, and Terry. Heck, I even named the team after Hazard! (Dukes of Hazard, for those out of the loop.)

Can Liverpool Make a Comeback?

Look at their next 4 games: Crystal Palace, Stoke City, Leicester City, and Sunderland. With the exception of mid-table Stoke, that’s a lineup entirely drawn from the bottom of the table: all 3 of them within 3 points of the relegation zone.

That’s 4 great chances for big wins, and thus big fantasy points. A Liverpool player could run up the numbers for your team. But then again, they may not. Who has the chance?

Well, not a striker, I’d assume. Outside of the injured Sturridge’s goal in week 1, none of their 4 listed strikers has a goal this year. Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, and Fabio Borini, players who have had lots of success for other teams in the past year or two, have scored as many goals, combined, as I have this year. Being strikers, that’s their job. Balotelli leads them with 20 points, which is highly unimpressive considering that 17 of those points come from simply being on the field.

With the defense, it’s quite similar. For the three defenders that have played in most of their games (Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, and Martin Skrtel), all of them have a statistical mode of 1. In English: their most common fantasy score is 1. Just a single, measly point is what you can expect from these guys. Obviously that statistic is slightly tailored to prove a point, and against the weaker teams I expect even the Reds defense to get at least one clean sheet, but really, none of these guys are worth trusting over players such as Baines, anyone from Southampton, or anyone from Chelsea.

Now, for the players who can bring the magic out of the hat and get you points, while doing the same for their boss Brendan Rodgers: the midfielders. Jordan Henderson is 75% with a hamstring injury, and not really a player to get big fantasy points, but at his price of £6.0 he could be good compared to these next players. Steven Gerrard hasn’t dropped below 2 points this whole year (45 in total), and given that they play Crystal Palace, the team who damaged Liverpool’s title chances last year with a come-from-behind draw, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the legendary captain come up big. Overall he’s not spectacular, fantasy-wise, at least, but Stevie G isn’t a bad player to pick up right about now.

But the real star? Raheem Sterling. He’s one of the highest-selected players in the game, at almost 40%, but there’s a reason why: the exciting young Englishman has been Liverpool’s best creative player this year, with 3 goals and 4 assists already. He’s fallen slightly off the radar compared to the season’s start, but if you expect Liverpool to come up big in these next 4 games, Sterling is a must for your team.

Some more quick notes:

I’ve advocated the Southampton defense a lot. They’ve conceded only 5 goals, and have 7 clean sheets. That’s crazy! If you are good at this, I’m sure you have at least one Saint on your team. Heed this warning: after their matchup with Aston Villa this weekend, they play Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United. That won’t be easy. I think they’ll pull through, but I’d advise not adding any more players from the southern club.

Lots of you, and me, have Icelandic Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Sigi’s been great this year, getting 2 goals, 7 assists, and a point total of 63 that matches that of Fábregas and Costa. Keep him on your team, but consider benching him this week if you have a viable replacement, as he’s paying a visit to Manchester City, the reigning champions. The Citizens aren’t invincible, but more than likely he’s not going to boss the game against Pelligrini’s men. Whatever you do, hand the captain’s armband to someone else.

Alexis Sanchez has scored goals in 4 straight games. This is good for those of us who have him on our team, but not good for those with Manchester United defenders. Don’t be afraid to captain Sanchez, either. Sir Alex left the building a while ago, so the Red Devils are easily foiled. Call Sanchez Mr. Aluminum (get it? Aluminum foil? Ah, whatever…).

West Brom are about to play a schedule consisting of Chelsea, Arsenal, and West Ham. They’re the only team outside the top-6 that begins a streak of games all against top-6 opposition this weekend. Stay away.

Most important of all: you make the call. This is your team, not mine. It’s the job of myself and a few others to give you advice and analysis, and it’s the job of many more to give useful news updates. It’s your job to make the transfers and pick the team.

Well, we have reached the conclusion of my fantasy guide. Direct comments, questions, and threats to the comments section. For coverage of the MLS playoffs, head over to Another MLS Blog. And for those of you with Stockholm Syndrome Twitter accounts, @DH3soccer is also a place to go.