Dublin: 1°C Monday 17 January 2022

Fantasy Football: stay away from the big boys

He’s a head case but Mario Balotelli would make a good captain. Our Fantasy Footballs experts look forward to a weekend where’s there’s plenty of points on offer.

WHAT A GREAT weekend we have coming up (assuming you’re willing to include the big Monday Night match-up as part of the weekend).

Manchester United host Arsenal with the top spot in the table on the line and both teams are capable of just about anything.

Arsenal have been great on the road in the league and United certainly aren’t the rock-solid outfit they’ve been in years past.  On the other hand, Arsenal are frail at the back and that may be enough for Nani, Rooney, and Berbs (if SAF lets him on the field after that “performance” in midweek) to win the day.

In the other big match-up we have a fading Chelsea team looking to regain their early-season form while Spurs attempt to solidify their status as a legitimate “big” team.  If anyone claims they can see the outcome of either match coming, they’re a much better person than I am (please keep your jokes on that subject to yourself…thanks).

With so much drama in the real world, we hope you keep a little mental energy set aside to carefully consider your fantasy team.  I generally do my best to stay away from big match-ups including players from big teams that are likely to be expensive.

To be sure, some of them will have great fantasy weekends but unlike the weeks when they play lesser teams you just can’t know which ones will do well and if you’re wrong, the price is high as you have an expensive player dragging down your line-up.

I’m not saying to drop players from these matches who you have at a deep discount but this probably isn’t the weekend to buy players like Drogba, Nasri, Nani, Bale, or Malouda.  For other notes related to the schedule we move on to…

The Schedule

As we do each week, this section breaks down the matches that WILL boost the value of some of the players involved for fantasy managers as compared to the ones that just SEEM like they should (in case you question our ability to distinguish one from the other, we were five out of six last weekend missing only the Sunderland beatdown of West Ham).

Real Value

  • West Ham v Man City - We won’t get fooled again even with WHU at home this week. Citeh should cruise here.  Just too big a talent differential to be overcome for the Hammers.
  • Bolton vs. Blackburn – There isn’t a ton to love as far as match-ups go but this is the second best one with pretty-good-at-home Bolton against only-OK-on-the-road Rovers.  I wouldn’t go overboard on this one but given the lack of great match-ups and the difficult match-ups for so many of the “big” teams and players, the value of this one increases.


  • Wolves v Blackburn – Birmingham have been playing much better but look at the numbers on the road – yup, that’s ZERO wins so far.   f you want to pick up an attacker, OK but doesn’t seem likely that they’re going to pull off the clean sheet win that would make Foster and their defenders valuable.  If they did, it would be a first this season. Oh, and Wolves aren’t half bad at home either (just below middle of the pack in home points).
  • Stoke v Blackpool – We keep expecting Blackpool to falter on the road and, outside of some rough times with the big boys, they just don’t.  Stoke are a strong home team but Blackpool are a very good road team (only Arsenal and Citeh have more – Chelsea and Spurs are even).


Get closer to the stories that matter with exclusive analysis, insight and debate in The42 Membership.

Become a Member

And now on to the specific player recommendations and then your best bets at captain.


  • Balotelli – THE striker to have.  Likely to be inexpensive and leading the line for Citeh in the absence of Tevez who is suspended for accumulation.
  • Rooney – I know I said to stay away from big players this weekend but his price might be lower due to his long layoff/slump and ever since his Premier League debut goal, he LOVES scoring against Arsenal. Just the tonic for someone who needs a big goal to get him going.
  • Davies – He’s not terribly consistent as a goal-scorer but it feels like its about time for him to get back on the scoreboard with Holden likely back to create for Wanderers.
  • Kenwyne Jones – I don’t LOVE the match-up but with a lack of extremely attractive options, he’s at least a good option at a pretty good price.
  • Torres – This is a striker-heavy weekend and Torres is your obvious alternative if you aren’t interested in Rooney vs. Arsenal.


  • Albrighton – Villa are slowly getting their pieces back together and Albrighton is another one that isn’t so expensive that he won’t have a chance to return value even if Villa continue to be mediocre.
  • Silva – We keep waiting for it to happen for him and with Tevez out, he might find some more opportunities and even cash in on one of them.
  • Holden – He should be back and I like his chances to contribute to a Bolton win.
  • Nolan - Another one who should be back after a brief injury layoff and with the match at home, I like his potential to do well for a very reasonable price.
  • Meireles – He’s been gold in Gerrard’s absence.  This is probably his last weekend before Stevie G comes back so enjoy it while you can.
  • Nani and Nasri – In most formats they’re probably pretty expensive so probably not worth buying at retail price but definitely worth keeping if you have them at a reasonable price.


  • Richards – Not likely to be very expensive as he’s been a reserve most of the season and he SHOULD start on the right with Kolarov suspended for this weekend due to his red card last weekend.
  • Coleman – Still waiting for a big breakout match while he’s in my line-up but the odds say he’s a good bet for the money.
  • Bardsley – I remember a time when we really liked Bardsley as a fantasy defender but he’s fallen a long way.  Call this “Back to the Future” weekend with Bardsley getting a shout as a legitimate option – not a great one, but a good one.
  • Kyrgiakos – He just does well when given the starting nod and he should get it again with Carra and Agger still on the shelf.


  • Jussi – By far the best combination of price and match-up.  There are lots of other options for those who have players on discounts that they want to keep – Robbo, Foster, etc. – but if you’re buying at retail, this is your guy.
  • Hart – If you want to pay the price, he’s the way to go this weekend.
  • Carson – If you want to take a risk on a cheapie, then the risk to take is Carson against a struggling Villa team.  They’ve fallen a long way when I make this recommendation even tentatively for a match at Villa Park.
  • NOT T-Ho – Lots of people are clearly still thinking of Everton teams from past seasons because I keep getting comments from people excited for Tim Howard based on his price and the Everton “brand name” that combine to imply top half of the table quality.  The sad fact is that Howard and Everton are in 15th place and they are there deservedly and Howard’s fantasy stats are pretty horrible.  Could this be his rebound match? Sure.  Would I bet on it? Not even for a price under 5.00


  • Balotelli – This feels like his break-out weekend.
  • Torres – I know the endorsement above wasn’t the strongest but it feels like a safer captain pick than Rooney or any of the other strikers.
  • Nolan – There’s probably no logical explanation for this one but for some reason it feels right but please check the injury reports to make sure he’ll be back before you pull the trigger on this one.

Neal Thurman and Jeremy Spitzberg  write what they believe to be the oldest-running blog focused on English Premier League. They also believe they were the first two people ever paid real money to blog exclusively about the same.  They may be entirely wrong on both counts but that doesn’t stop them from writing or telling people that they were first.

About the author:

Neal Thurman and Jeremy Spitzberg

Read next: