Tomorrow's headlines today

here's what you will be reading in tomorrow's team news:

After a stunning midweek performance, Rooney will certainly be itching to make his first start with his new club this saturday. Fergie will have to decide whether he wants to risk Rooney again so soon after coming off injury and may instead choose Ruud up top in Sir Alex's preferred lone striker system. Of course, Smith, who has had a spell out of the side in recent weeks, is also fit to step and play alongside - or instead of Ruud - should the back to back matches prove too taxing.

Initial Match-up Thoughts

As our friend Jeremy pointed out, despite all the Roonaldo-mania running wild, the Gunners are still the class of the EPL. The question is, which Arsenal team will show up this weekend. Will it be the lively side that dominated the Charity Shield and the first few weeks of the EPL season? or will it be the just-good-enough 11 that has seemingly been sleep-walking against Bolton, PSV, Man City and Rosenborg? That first group had fantasy points aplenty for everyone in the offensive end of the pitch, the latter group seems to have only enough for Henry and one guest scorer per match. Charlton is a mediocre squad and the game is at Highbury so maybe this is the week that they break out, but then again, maybe not.

ManYoo on the other hand, gets Boro at Old Trafford and has all the hype from their Champion's League fixture on their side. Boro was a defensive powerhouse out of necessity last season but seem a little more vulnerable this year since no one has even confused Viduka and JFH with strikers who work back into to midfield to be disruptive to their opponent's attack. As much as it pains me, there are a few Devils who are solid fantasy bets this weekend including Heinze (my favorite EPL newbie so far this season), Giggs and Rooney (assuming Sir Alex doesn't buck popular opinion and sit the young lad).

Chelsea/Liverpool might provide something not seen frequently at the Bridge this season, goals. Liverpool's recent EPL form has been strong and their defense seems vulnerable enough that even Chelsea might be able to break through.

Newcastle has been strong, but playing away at Birmingham is never a recipe for lots of goals. Tottenham's match at Goodison Park has "low-scoring" written all over it so it is probably best to avoid any offensive players in this one. Villa and ManCiteh both have favorable match-ups this week but both are on the road where neither has been terribly successful. Finally, the Monday game seems on track to be yet another in a long line of terrible games in front of a national audience - how do they pick these games. If one or both of the teams were underperforming or injured I could understand how these things happen, but who saw Palace v. Fulham and thought that would be an entertaining way to cap off a Monday.

See you tomorrow for Match-ups O' The Week...

Roon... eh?

Far too much ManU chatter on this blog. Let's take a moment to reflect on who is atop the table, atop the fantasy production charts, and probably the best footballer in the world today.

Mon dieu!

Nobody's Fault But The Turks

Wooooo, Roonaldo-Mania is runnin' wild. Despite running out three of the worst midfielders ever to wear the ManYoo colors, the Devils rocked the Turk pretenders last night at OT with Rooney scoring a hat trick on his debut with the Reds. Two of the three goals were highlight reel stuff. For fantasy purposes, be sure to buy early and buy often so you're not the only kid on the block who is left out. And to all the little Roonaldo-Maniacs remember to say your prayers, eat your vitamins and, please, oh please, remember to tip your hookers.

Wayne Rooney . . . English Soccer's Larry Bird?

Is Wayne Rooney English Soccer's Larry Bird? "Soccer Jesus" to save english football from the seeming dominance of the superstars of otherwise silly nations . . . Henry, Reyes, Ruud, Cisse, Drogba and so forth?

3 Goals in the 1st 50 minutes of his champions league and man u debut after being out for three month seems somewhat impressive. (That's his total as I write this blog, he could have 8 goals by the time the match is over)

However, since EVERYONE will likely now add Rooney (or Young Slapper) to their EPL Fantasy line-ups, the question is, will he even start this weekend? He is young and Fergie will not want to over use him - will there be a much dreaded striker rotation?

As in NFL Fantasy - running back by commitee or RBC is death to fantasy dreams - its analogy in EPL fantasy is striker by commitee or SBC - Liverpool, Newcastle, Chelsea and Manu (Rooney, Ruud, Smith and also Saha to spice it up) all have numerous options in attack. Will Rooney be an every weekend machine like Henry or a hit and miss bundle of aggravation and frustration for fantasy owners. For now it may be unclear, but as time passes it looks like he will be the real deal for future seasons.

That being said, he has played 75% of one match versus a frickin turkish soccer team - who is probably just happy not to have fans lobbing mortars and nerve gas cocktails at them from the stands . . . how good can a soccer team be with a "Ç" in their name be after all.

Left-sided Frenchmen... Collect them all

Djorkaeff joins Blackburn Rovers on short-term deal

LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - French playmaker Youri Djorkaeff has joined struggling Blackburn Rovers on a short-term deal until January, the English Premier League club said on Tuesday.

(Red) Devil's Advocate - Introduction

Starting today, an american with way too much time on his hands living in Galway, Ireland (Me) will be posting weekly blogs (or more frequently should anything remotely worthwhile cross my mind) providing my take on Fantasy EPL.

More importantly, I will be providing a much needed dose of iconoclastic and contrarian thinking to counter the decidedly arsenal-centric world view of certain bloggers.

However, a few caveats and disclaimers - while I am currently "dominating" my fantasy EPL League, to me, football implies, helmets, shoulder pads, cheerleaders and beer in the stadiums (those pesky soccer hooligans ruin it for the rest of us). Additionally, I have only been following the premiership for less than a full season (having only watched my first start to finish soccer match last year. So I still snicker when people say "brace" or "treble" or "pitch".

So do not be stunned to see a comment such as "the United Nations muted response to the geo-political crisis in the Sudan has clearly broken the concentration of the Nigerian striker Yakubu as the humanitarian tragedy grows so I would not start him this week against that team that sounds like a fast food chain." So heed my advice with appropriate number of grains of salt. Plus, it could all be a sophisticated and sinister campaign of disinformation.

However, my NFL fantasy credentials are impeccable - having won 3 titles in 5 years of play. And perhaps more relevantly, I get all 4 Sky Sports Channels, Premiership Plus, RTE, BBC and Eurosports channels - so I get to see lots of programming.

That being said, let the games begin . . .

A very special "Monday Morning Manager"

Session Start (AIM - JSpitzberg:Neal J Thurman): Mon Sep 27 07:19:53 2004
JSpitzberg: one of these days i'm going to get 11 men on the pitch
JSpitzberg: then watch out!
Neal J Thurman: Yeah, I still haven't had time to figure out what happened to JayJay
JSpitzberg: groin
JSpitzberg: saw that somewhere
Neal J Thurman: No one seemed very surprised at the top of the broadcast
JSpitzberg: bastards
Neal J Thurman: but I didn't see it anywhere pre-match
Neal J Thurman: they do suck
Neal J Thurman: Killed me that it allowed Jon to win the week
Neal J Thurman: Just about anyone would have put me past him (and certainly anyone who played would have gotten you ahead of him)
JSpitzberg: yeah.
JSpitzberg: he's won 2 weeks out of 3 since he's been back in town
Neal J Thurman: Only real outcome of the week was gaining ground on Toby and putting a little more distance between me and Mike
Neal J Thurman: Otherwise, everyone was pretty solidly in the 90s
JSpitzberg: we all have the same core squad
JSpitzberg: how does henry fall $15?
JSpitzberg: he's the best player in the game
Neal J Thurman: Not sure, especially when Reyes only fell a few $$ after his second straight crap performance
JSpitzberg: who else puts up 15 pts without a goal?
Neal J Thurman: Also not sure how Shearer doesn't go up after his goal - (he's still at $5ish)
JSpitzberg: really?
JSpitzberg: so weird
Neal J Thurman: Yup
JSpitzberg: liv@che this weekend
JSpitzberg: could be a good one
JSpitzberg: or could be REALLY boring
Neal J Thurman: I'm guessing the latter
JSpitzberg: ;-)
Neal J Thurman: Chelsea seems incapable of playing attractive football (although Duffman helped some this weekend)
JSpitzberg: duff duff duff
Neal J Thurman: If he and Drogba ever get some mojo together, they'll be tough
JSpitzberg: pal@villa didn't work out according to the script
JSpitzberg: though sorenson did ok
Neal J Thurman: yeah, I was psyched, I thought I was going to get punnished for that decision when he neither won nor got the clean sheet
JSpitzberg: and in what alternate universe is nicky butt a $17 middie?
JSpitzberg: they need the week by week chart for the players
Neal J Thurman: Someone better send him the clipping that lets him know for posterity that he was deemed more valuable than Henry for at least one week
JSpitzberg: even nicky butt jr. doesn' t have him on his team
Neal J Thurman: lol
Neal J Thurman: In my early thinking, I'm liking Anelka vs. S'hampton as my Reyes replacement (unless, of course, Arsenal gets its mojo back vs. Rosenborg tomorrow0
JSpitzberg: stop stealing my moves
Neal J Thurman: lol
JSpitzberg: henry, elk, rvn up top at the moment
Neal J Thurman: I've still got Shearer w/ Henry and Anelka but was thinking about Ruud as well
Neal J Thurman: Put Giggs in for Nobby
Neal J Thurman: And your boy Watson for Mellberg
JSpitzberg: playing by the rules now
Neal J Thurman: Yup
JSpitzberg: i grabbed gravesen and okocha for solano and ...
JSpitzberg: oh, okocha
JSpitzberg: ha!
JSpitzberg: lampard with the henry-like ability to get pts from nothing
JSpitzberg: not convinced about either of those middies though
Neal J Thurman: BTW, think one of those wacko Boro fans are going to kill someone in the league office for scheduling them home to Chelsea and then away to ManYoo in consecutive weeks?
JSpitzberg: star-crossed with me
JSpitzberg: no worse than the promoted teams' schedules
Neal J Thurman: I was very un-inspired by the midfield choices for the week.
JSpitzberg: lampard the only sure thing these days
JSpitzberg: koumas' team stinks
Neal J Thurman: Lampard is a gimme but other than that I'm not wild about the matchups. Newbies are at home to decent, but not great, teams. No idea what to think of Arsenal
JSpitzberg: and too many will they/won't they play like robert and gravesen
Neal J Thurman: Yup (although according to Soccernet, Robert got robbed of an assist by Yahoo)
JSpitzberg: may be a good week for pires if he's healthy

Update: Crisis in Midfield

The Friday word is that both Robert Pires and Gilberto Silva are likely out for tomorrow's clash at City of Manchester Stadium. This will probably mean a starting front 6 of Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Edu, Ljungberg, & Reyes.

Also, ESPN Soccernet is reporting that there is some chance that Harry Kewell will be handed a seat on the bench based on his mediocre real-world performance. Don't these managers pay any attention to fantasy stats?

Please take note and act accordingly - Ljungberg is now a good bet to get those sidefooted goals infront of Calamity James on Saturday.

A Day Early, Its...Match-ups Of The Week

With most of the teams in the league either off entirely or resting their first squads during Carling Cup match-ups with minnows from the lower divisions, we can be reasonably assured that there won't be any mid-week injury issues springing up (and you can almost hear Sir Alex thanking the powers that be from here). Despite everyone's relative good health, there are some match-ups that make us take notice. Specifically, the offensive-minded Villa squad hosting the pourous (especially on the road) Crystal Palace team and the revitalized Newcastle welcoming WBA to St. James' Park. Oh yeah, and Arsenal are traveling to ManCiteh (and no, we don't care how many goals Citeh scored in the Carling Cup or how bad Arsenal has looked the last couple matches). So here we go...

Henry, Arsenal - no comment necessary but what the heck, its the web and I don't have a word limit. If Anelka were consistent, if Ruud were healthy, if Shearer were 8 years younger, they still wouldn't be as good as Henry is right now. Only thing close right now is Adriano scoring for club and country (wow, that dude is good - too bad the rest of Inter sucks).

Shearer, Newcastle - this is a blanket endorsement of all three Toon strikers that will likely start vs. WBA (with Bellamy being inserted in what we'll call the Dyer spot in right midfield). Shearer is the most consistent and the cheapest so unless you have a feeling about Kluivert or Bellamy, Alan is probably your best bet.

Carlton Cole, Villa - With Angel's status uncertain, Cole is likely to be the target in this weekend's match-up with Palace. He's looked good when he's been given a chance and has consistently put the ball on target. Look for him to break through with a goal or two against a weak Palace squad that will have trouble dealing with his pace.

Quandry of the Week - Ruud is 1.00, he's been producing in spurts and ManYoo looks to be turning things around. At the same time, they're headed to Tottenham who has been packing in the defense and putting together a string of clean sheets that any royal maid would be proud of. In general, we think Ruud is a good investment but there doesn't promise to be a ton of offense in this one. Good luck with your decision on this one.

Pires, Arsenal - He's playing poorly but still manages to get a goal AND he's playing ManCiteh who have the look of a team that will crumble if they let in the first goal to Arsenal. Remember that game two years ago where Arsenal had 5 goals vs. Citeh in under 25 minutes. It might not be THAT bad, but I wouldn't bet against it.

Solano/Hitzelsperger, Villa - Going with the "who's playing Palace" theory combined with the general value in guys who take free kicks/corners these guys both seem like good bets to produce this week. We still aren't sure why Hitzelsperger hasn't become a star but if you could buy stock in such things, I'd be buying.

Kewell, Liverpool - An enigma so far this year. Hasn't been a terrible fantasy player (in fact he's among the top 15 midfielders) but certainly not up to his lofty standards. There will be a void in the Liverpool midfield without Steven Gerrard and this might be the opportunity Harry needs to re-establish himself as a force. As a bonus, he's affordable at roughly 7.5. Doesn't hurt that Liverpool is playing home to Norwich.

Gabriel Heinze, ManYoo - I've seen him play on TV a couple times now and this guy is ALWAYS in the play. As an added bonus, the game vs. Tottenham seems like a good bet for a clean sheet because, well, Tottenham always seem to be a good bet for a clean sheet for both sides these days. He's expensive but worth every penny (of course, take this with the grain of salt that I said the same thing about Neil Clement last week right before he punched some dude in the face and got a second yellow for it).

Olaf Melberg, Villa - Another relatively expensive defender who is a) playing against a week opponent; b) productive on offense; and c) got a good chance at a clean sheet due to facing a struggling opponent at home.

Liverpool Defense - Playing at home to Norwich, Steve Finnan and Josemi seem the most likely candidates for good days on both offense and defense.

Tim Howard, ManYoo - Just kidding, we here at the Blog wish Timmy the best in getting back on the first team. After watch O'Shea and Carroll fluff the own goal vs. Liverpool on Monday it is our suspicion that it wasn't T-Ho's fault. His defense has been terrible to the point of actually hurting the cause. Give him Rio, Heinze, Silvestre & Neville (Gary, please) and he'll be back to his old self soon enough.

Our actual selections of the week in net...
Sorenson, Villa - Playing at home to Palace, recipe for a clean sheet and a win (but probably not a ton of saves). Cech is playing away to Boro who have been scoring a lot. Robinson looks destined for a draw or a loss with ManYoo coming to town.

Given, Newcastle - This may be his best chance at a clean sheet for a while. The offense is clicking and there's a weak team in town. Not a great match-up week for the premium keepers so this might be a worthwhile risk to gain some ground on the leaders in your league or put some additional ground between you and them.

For What it's Worth

Robert Pires has 4 goals on 4 shots on target.

Monday Morning Manager

Still the big game of the week to be played, but after the weekend's action, I'm another 20pts in the hole to the group leaders. After over-thinking last week, I tried to be true to my early selections. So Reyes finally makes my team and plays a real stinker. I don't think he had a touch inside the attacking third. Clement retained his place instead of Melberg and that cost me 15 points after Clement went nuts and got tossed after 2 yellow cards. Villa of course blanked Norwich.

At least I resisted the urge to sell Cech for Lehmann. Another 15 point loss on a Friday trade and I would be typing this post with very sore wrists, if you know what I mean.

As for today's game... we're looking for a big Liverpool win coming from Garcia and Finnan. Worst case is a Ruud and Heinze scoring for ManU with Gerrard starring for Liverpool. Real chance to make up some ground... or get left by the wayside.

It's Friday So It Must Be...

Fantasy Picks of the Week
Only in Newcastle would a striker be rewarded for a European brace with a seat on the bench - behold the power (and arrogance) of the local hero Shearer. Liverpool play ManYoo on Monday in what will, without a doubt, be the most interesting match-up of the weekend given the early struggles of both sides. Fulham travel to West Brom giving Albion a reasonable chance to score at least three goals. Arsenal will attempt to prove that not just anyone can hold them to 1 goal at home by packing in 10 and sometimes 11 men behind the ball when Bolton comes to town. And finally, Pompey will see if they can finally manage to take their goal scoring exploits on the road when they travel to see Blackburn and their new manager Mark Hughes. So with that, here are some line-up thoughts for the week:

Henry, Arsenal - Unless he's on his deathbed, he's a must-start.

Van Nistelrooy, ManYoo - At home, starting to round into shape, coming off a brace in the Champions League - oh yeah, and he's priced to move at 1.00. Hard to imagine how this could go wrong, especially if Furgeson plays Christiano Ronaldo from the beginning of the game.

JFH, Boro - Scowlin' Jimmy has been having a nice season now that he doesn't have to fight for playing time at Chelsea. The trip to Everton will probably be more difficult than one might expect, but Boro have to be on a major high after their successful European debut at mid-week. He's expensive, but a good value.

Shearer, Newcastle - Any road game is a tough one, but Southampton probably less so than most this season. Shearer is both a bargain and a good bet to get at least one goal.

(apparently its Old Stand-bys Week for Strikers here at the ol' EPL Blog)

Bargains - See RVN & Shearer above - Imagine getting those two for under 6.00 in the same week - good times.

Robert, Newcastle - Keeping with the "Old Stand-by" theme. He takes free kicks and corners. He crosses the ball a lot. Has a rocket for a shot. And he's playing Southampton. Not a bad deal at 13 and change.

Koumas, WBA - Has been chomping at the bit after missing the first 4 games of the season to suspension. Came out with a strong first game last week. Is playing against Fulham at home this week which can be nothing but a good thing. At 5 and change, both a bargain and a good bet for a lot of points.

Wright-Phillips, ManCiteh - On the theory that they will be up one week and down the next, this should be an up week for Citeh. SWP has been having a nice year and if Citeh score, he'll likely be in the middle of it.

Ljungberg, Arsenal - With Pires looking sluggish the last two weeks or so, look for Wenger to start a healthy Ljungberg on the right and Jose Antonio Reyes on the left with Bergkamp and Henry up front. Assuming this happens, Freddie is a good bet to get his points.

Bargains - See Koumas above, Scholes (he can't stay on this list forever... can he?), Duff (if you have the stomach for it...Jeremy), Izzet (if you're poor, desperate and clinging to the hope that he'll regain his form of last year)

Heinze, ManYoo - One of the few Red Devils playing well and as a bonus, he's relatively cheap at 5.00 and change.

Clement, WBA - Almost as many points as Gerrard so far this season and he's playing home to Fulham. Expensive, but likely a good investment.

The Chelsea Defense - Tottenham has been having a tough time scoring, Chelsea has only conceded one goal. Chelsea is at home. Sounds like a clean sheet waiting to happen for Chelsea. Not a lot of offense from any of them so far but its a good bet for 5+ points.

Bargains - See Heinze above, Samuel (at Norwich), Yobo (1.00 and a good bet for some offense)

Cech, Chelsea - See the review of the Chelsea Defense above. Good bet for the win and a clean sheet. If he throws in a couple of saves, it will be a happy time for those with the money to buy Mr. Cech.

Schwartzer, Boro - Everton haven't been pouring in the goals so if you're looking for a bargain, Schwartzer might be a good bet for some saves and a win, although a clean sheet on the road would be asking a lot.

Friday Morning Team News

Initial Thoughts for the Week

It seems that the majority of clubs in the Prem are currently in flux. ManYoo is slowly getting players back (Ronaldo, Ruud, Heinze, and Rio so far) but the ones that have been playing seem to get worse and worse with each passing week. Liverpool seems to be headed in a better direction but both of their recent wins (WBA and Monoco) have been against questionable competition - so it remains to be seen if their progress is real. Chelsea can't seem to score. Newcastle has been a mess in the wake of their managerial change and showed signs of life against Blackburn - who have managerial disarray of their own which might be as responsible for any Houlieresque "corner turning" as anything happening right at the Toon. And on down the list - Birmingham can't score (again); Charlton, Everton, ManCiteh and Villa are hot one week and fantasy busts the next. So where does that leave us? In my eyes, it leaves us with the following general recommendations...

1) When in doubt, pick someone from Arsenal - at least we know they'll score
2) If not Arsenal, (and I can't believe I'm saying this) go with someone from 'Boro
3) Load up on guys playing against Fulham - especially when they're on the road
4) If Fulham are at home or you don't like anyone on the team playing them...those playing against Blackburn and Crystal Palace are the next best bet.

Look for the Match-ups of the Week tomorrow...

Cole Comfort

Ashley Cole
Referee Halsey took a bit of persuading, but the Arsenal left-back can do no wrong at present. And so a penalty, a dismissal and a two-match suspension reverted to a goal-saving tackle. On such small margins – and this was a marginal decision – are reputations saved.

... not to mention fantasy weeks!

Monday Morning Manager

Don't over think this.

...but West Brom has looked good.

...and with the international break, there's no way that LIV's Spaniard's have gelled with the team.

...and Man Citeh is a pretty porous team, even at home.

... and Gravesen takes the free kicks and penalties while Gerrard leaves that to others.

So that's that. Sell Gerrard, buy Gravesen.


Another 10 pts down the drain in a last minute trade that didn't work out. I should just set my team on Tuesday and not look at it again until the next Tuesday. Friday never works out in my favor as I over think this.

PS. For the sake of background, I'm also the guy who sold Lampard two weeks ago for Scholes. :-(

UPDATE: In my own defense, I knew that Man Citeh would be crap. They never put 2 games together and they were good 2 weeks ago v. Charlton.

Friday Morning Team News

All About the Match-ups

As teams have learned how to "work the system" and increase their overall budget, the notion of "Bargains of the Week" seems a little less important since teams are likely to have a little more flexibility. As a result, for the rest of the season, we'll be tracking what we think are the best match-ups for the week regardless of price. As an aside, if there are some bargains out there, we'll try to let you know about that as well. And with that, we enter the best time of year... EPL in full swing, Champions League about to start up (featuring Arsenal vs. PSV this week no less) and NFL Sundays starting up. Fantasy Sports heaven my friends...

Henry vs. whomever - you can't say no to Henry, who is off to an even better start than last year. The fact that Arsenal are playing the sluggish Fulham squad that got crushed by Pompey last we saw them makes it even more attractive. This is a no-brainer.

Yakubu vs. Palace - Speaking of Pompey, Yakubu broke out vs. Fulham and gets another struggler this weekend. He is streaky, and the bet here is that the streak continues with at least one goal.

Cisse vs. WBA - I'm not convinced that Liverpool is as bad as they've played so far. There has been a lot of criticism in the press that the manager hasn't brought a ton of new players together and produced immediate results. If Chelsea weren't bringing a new squad and manager together more successfully (and with more holdover talent I might add), I don't think anyone would be shocked that a team with 50% turnover and a new manager was struggling. I think the 'pool comes together a bit this weekend and scores 3 goals, of which Cisse will have at least one.

Lots of Bargains as well this week - Shearer for 3.58; Stead for 2.13; Angel for 1.00.

Probably best to avoid - Ruud Van Nistelrooy - wait 'til next week even though he's a bargain at 1.00 and will be on the bench this week.

Pires vs. Fulham - see Henry, Thierry above. Even if Pires doesn't start, it doesn't seem to matter, he'll probably see at least 30 minutes and a goal.
Gerrard vs. WBA - needs to have a good game one of these days, doesn't he? Why not at home vs. WBA?

Not as many Bargains at midfield this week - Scholes for 7.29; Kewell for 11.92; Ljungberg for 10.07

Anyone on the Tottenham defense - the back line has been playing well and they get Norwich on Sunday. None of these guys are a great pick if you're looking for offensive stats out of your defense. Just a good bet for some solid defending points (best probability of a clean sheet in my estimation).
Josemi vs. WBA - another Liverpool pick, he puts up good numbers without the benefit of clean sheets and there is a good chance of a clean sheet to boot this weekend vs. WBA.

Bargains in the back - Terry for 5.15; Samuel for 2.12

Robinson vs. NOR - OK, easy to pick the most expensive guy but he's playing at home against a mediocre Norwich team in addition to coming off a solid performance in his first appearance for the Three Lions. If you've got the money to spend back here, this is the pick over Cech away to a more potent Villa squad.
Lehman vs. FUL - This has the feel of Arsenal letting in a bad goal in a 3-1 or 4-1 game (seems to be a trend so far this year). On the off chance that they maintain concentration in the back and the defense avoids getting caught up in the rush for goals, I like Lehman vs. Fulham as a better bet for a win and a clean sheet than Cech at Villa as well.

Bargains in the Net - Dudek for 6.18; Schwartzer for 4.20


oh... THAT football. Still:

Fantasy football

It may be called fantasy football but the money involved in it is very real. As the NFL season kicks off tonight, Marketplace sports commentator David Carter tells host Matthew Algeo how fantasy football has become big business.

Hienze the Sauce for Sir Alex?

Ferguson already knew John O'Shea was a major doubt for the short trip to the Reebok Stadium after the defender was forced to pull out of Republic of Ireland's 1-1 draw in Switzerland with a knee problem.

But the news just got even worse last night as first Louis Saha limped out of France's victory over the Faroe Islands after just seven minutes, then Gary Neville hobbled off in Katowice during the first half of England's 2-1 win over Poland and both must be regarded as serious doubts for the Bolton trip.

With Wes Brown still sidelined and Rio Ferdinand's eight-month suspension still having another week to run, it leaves Ferguson chronically short of defenders and almost certain to turn to Heinze, who he knows is fully match fit.

Finally, the games are back on...

So, while we've been gone, Graham Souness has replaced Sir Bobby as captain of the sinking ship in Newcastle. Good luck to him - he's got a team that has 10th place written all over it. A good set of strikers, a strong (albeit tempermental) left wing, above average keeper, and, um, well, hopefully that'll be enough to get them to 10th. If you want to give Sir Bobby a hard time on the way out, it should be about his player acquisition acumen, not his managerial ability. I have my doubts about anyone getting anything out of that back line and midfield. The fact that they were choosing between keeping Gary Speed and getting Nicky Butt in the close season is really frightening. Really, any central midfielder that Sir Alex can afford to let go at this point can't be that great. From a fantasy standpoint, Newcastle players might gain slightly in value as they try to impress the new manager but stay away from anyone on defense (no clean sheets for this bunch). Robert is still a stud from the left and always worth the money unless Newcastle are playing an extremely tight defense (i.e., Chelsea). If you can figure out who will be playing between Shearer, Bellamy & Kluivert any of them would be a reasonable starter as well. Otherwise, stay away from the 'Toon unless they have a double game and they're playing two of the newly promoted sides.

Does Nike make a gold Air Jordan?

... because Drogba seems to need the ankle support:

Click me!Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is in a race against time to be fit for Saturday's Barclays Premiership visit to Aston Villa.

The £24million summer signing is back at Stamford Bridge for treatment on a troublesome ankle after playing for the Ivory Coast in a World Cup qualifier against Sudan.

The 26-year-old has played in every Chelsea game this season and survived a similar ankle scare to play against Southampton in his side's last game.