Monday Morning Manager Special

Halfway point in the Yahoo! game...

Holiday season...

... that can only mean that it's time for lists and more lists! As that Manager is a sucker for bandwagons and happily follows the herd, he presents his Monday Morning Manager's Midway Mentions of Merit © ® TM.
The Yo-yo
To Michael Owen. Some games it's 3 goals on 7 shots. Other games he literally doesn't touch the ball. It's enough to drive fantasy managers insane. Oh, and honorable mention to Jon Wolfsthal who rises from first place in our private group before dropping to 8th and then climbing his way back to third. Who knew that having a job could be so distracting?

The "My Ankle Bracelet was Attached to the Touch Line, and Now it's Attached to the Bench" Award
To Jermaine Pennant, a spark of attacking creativity in a Birmingham side sorely lacking. Yet for all his work -- winning corners and sending over early crosses -- he finds himself on the bench more often than not these days.

"I can't believe I'm losing to this guy"
To Collins John for his run in weeks 10-15. Taking kicks, scoring goals. Everything you could want from a $6 striker on a crappy team. Meanwhile I had Mido. WTF?

"Dear God no, not THAT midfielder!"
To Arsene Wenger who must have been on a bad mobile phone connection when he agreed to sell Patrick Viera to Juve. He thought he was selling Pires and then was too embarassed to admit that he had made a mistake. It's the only explanation.

Rolling Back the Years
This was going to Manchester United who looked like they were back to their old habit of soundly beating the teams that they had to beat. But since dropping points to Birmingham, we'll just move on...

Manager of the Year (so far)
To Harry Redkapp for showing that a manager with half a clue and a passing understanding of the native tongue of the majority of his team can turn a collection of players into a football side. We're not talking miracle working here, just basic things like settling on a formation and realizing who can play where within that framework.

Player of the Year (so far)
Not even close. Frank Lampard. Otherwise there have been too many injuries and too much inconsistent play.

While we're on the subject of this family...
When was the last time you heard Frank Lampard's son refered to as Jr?

All Alice-Band Team
Aston Villa. With Berger, Baros and Angel on the pitch together it looks like an eighties metal-head reunion.

On the topic of bad hair, kudos to Liverpool for bringing back the "Sho-nuff" look.

Until Monday,
The Manager

EPL on TV this weekend

Soccer on Fox Soccer Channel
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Dec 31EPLAston VillaArsenal7:30 a.m.
Sat.Dec 31EPLTottenhamNewcastle12 p.m.
Sat.Dec 31EPLCharltonWest Ham3 p.m.
Soccer on PPV/CCTV
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Dec 31EPLManchester UnitedBolton10 a.m.

Happy New Year...

Hey guys, I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I would have been bummin' if it weren't for James Milner and his spectacular two-game performance. As with last week, I'll be writing this week's column before the injury reports come out. The format is the same as last time since everyone is playing two games (weather permitting). Have a Happy and Safe New Year's Eve and we hope you keep reading in the New Year.

Chelsea - You have to like the match-ups and the form that Joe Cole is in - the advice may be coming a little late but he seems like he's going to get the PT and continue to produce. You have to assume Lamps will be back so he'll be worth it. Robben should be in your consideration set as well.

Manchester United - Tough matchups against Bolton and Arsenal. Ruud, Rooney and Giggs are probably good bets, but that's probably about it.

Arsenal - A mixed bag of matches with Villa and the Red Devils. If you've got Henry, keep him. If not, probably not a good bet to go with any Gooners.

Liverpool - Stick with the Liverpool guys you already have and think about adding Harry Kewell, he seems ready for a break out match in the next month or so. With Morientes out, Crouch and Cisse seem to be sure bets for a starting spot and both have some momentum coming off goals in their last match. Oh yeah, they're both priced under $9 as well.

Spurs - The match-ups aren't great and last week wasn't kind to Spurs. Mido is still a decent bet as is Carrick but neither are quite as attractive as they were last week. Despite some mediocre performances, Michael Dawson brought in a nice haul of fantasy points last week, in case you were wondering.

Bolton - So, that whole Stelios recommendation didn't work out too well for me or anyone else that followed it, now come matches with Man United and Liverpool - probably best to stay away from the entire group this time.

Wigan - Camara's hot streak continued and Jason Roberts has joined Marlon Harewood as another reasonably reliable striker from a newly promoted team - Roberts is good for a a 10+ point match about every other time out and even after his recent outburst, he's still relatively cheap at $8.50. Pascal Chimbonda is still pricey but worth a look if you have the $$. Throw in a good fixture list - @BRM and BLA - and there's some reason to think about these guys.

Citeh - Can anyone figure this group out? Joey Barton looked in both of Citeh's Christmastime fixtures but the rest of the squad is hard to figure. Sibierski is on a bit of a hot streak but I'd guess that's more a red herring than anything else. Sun is still a good bet as he continues to get time in midfield while Yahoo lists him as a defender (making him eligible for clean sheet points). Matches with Boro and Spurs aren't particularly attractive but neither are they particularly daunting.

West Ham - Tough choice, one match with miserable Charlton and then a match with Chelsea. My inclination is to stay away from the Hammers but Harewood is a decent bet based on the Charlton game alone.

Newcastle - Matches with Spurs and Boro aren't particularly attractive, I'd stay away from this crew. Owen isn't due to go off for another three matches or so and Emre is headed back to Turkey to get his hamstring in order.

Charlton - Murphy suspended for the first match of the double but matches with West Ham and even-more-horrible-than-the-Addicks Everton makes Darren Bent a reasonable bet but I'd be more inclined towards other options at striker (Roberts, Crouch)

Blackburn - Matches with Wigan and Pompey mean there may be some goals forthcoming from Rovers this week but I'll be damned if I know where they're coming from if MGP is still out.

Boro - Matches against Citeh who have been giving up goals and Newcastle who just aren't very good in defense may mean it's time to get back on the Yakubu bandwagon. That's about it for Boro though.

Fulham - Nice to see an American in the Top 15 in fantasy points/match among strikers. Even nicer seeing him score past Peter Cech before we have to face him in the group stage of the World Cup. McBride is hot and Fulham has about as soft a schedule this week as you could ask for with matches with Pompey and Sunderland. You almost have to consider McBride and if you can find any information about Collins John's status in the Starting XI you should go with him if he's going to start.

Villa - Baros and Milner are still good bets against a moderate schedule @WBA and home to Arsenal who aren't very good defensively on their travels.

Pompey - 'arry has already indicated that he, their manager, thinks the players stink - I can't think of one reason to contradict that statement. (yeah, I'm cheatin' by re-using last week's comment but it still applies + Robert is out on red card suspension).

Birmingham - Showed signs of life but now get hot Wigan who crush bottom of the table opponents and Chelsea. Um, stay away.

Sunderland - They stink, take them at your own peril.

Happy holidays

May all your crosses be successful, and all your sheets clean.

Last minute shopping

It's not too late for those rash trades you've always wanted to make.
Week 20
• Filled roster slots will lock down and be uneditable from 26 Dec 4:00AM PST

Holiday Overload

Happy Holidays, whichever ones you may celebrate, to all of our readers from all of us here at the Fantasy EPL blog. I haven't seen the injury reports yet but in defference to what I expect to be a busy day of trying to keep my niece from destroying the house, here is the holiday version of the blog. Take a look at the injury updates available on ESPN Soccernet or for the final word on whether some specific players (Henry) will end up playing.

I will also caveat the next two weeks with the following warning - EPL teams each have four matches in the next 8 or 9 days so managers will likely rest some of their starters without there being any injury notification. This will be especially true of older players with a history of injury (or even younger players with a history of injuries). I'm not sure if there's any way to predict this but as you think about players, there should be a premium placed on the guys who generally don't get injured/rested like Lampard or have a legitimate back-up like Danny Murphy. With that, we're off to the races with the first two matches in each team's holiday program...Due to each team having a double, I'm going to go off format and do a brief review of each team and who you might want to consider from that team based on both matches coming up.

Chelsea - Lampard has been slumping a little bit but if you're looking for a premium priced player, he's probably the best bet. In the mid-range category, get in on Arjen Robben now. He's back (at least until he gets hurt again). If you don't do it, I'm telling you now that you'll regret it - don't come crying to me. John Terry and Peter Cech would be good bets, but are expensive.

Manchester United - Rooney, Ruud, Giggs, Neville and maybe even Park since they seem to be trying their best to find ways to play him with Giggs. If you're buying a keeper from scratch then van der Saar is a good bet as well.

Arsenal - van Persie was a no-brainer until he got hurt in Carling Cup action bringing anguish to fantasy managers everywhere. Henry will do great if he's healthy but given that they're playing an easy schedule he might be rested. Stay tuned and good luck with the decision. I'm staying away from everyone but the eminently affordable Alexander Hleb.

Liverpool - Anyone on the defense is a pretty good bet as are Garcia (affordable), Crouch (ditto), and Gerrard (not so much, but producing). Reina has been awesome behind the Pool back four. If you can afford him, you should do it.

Spurs - Birmingham and West Brom match up with a team that's been scoring lately (but not defending much). Mido is a great bet and Carrick has been extremely solid for the money. YP Lee is always a good bet to get some random points from the wing and Dawson is a relatively inexpensive option on defense as well against poor competition.

Bolton - Generally a lousy fantasy team but Stelios has been excellent since returning from injury. Throw in a match with terrible Sunderland and leaky Boro and you might want to consider it.

Wigan - Camara was awesome against Charlton but Charlton has been pretty terrible - matches against Citeh and West Ham are OK but unless you bought Camara before his price went up, you might want to stay away.

Citeh - An up and down squad to be sure. Joey Barton has been playing well again and Andy Cole and Darius Vassell have been great. Sun has been playing regularly and is a nice, low-priced pick up who is listed as a defender and occasionally takes free kicks and corners. The only negative here is the schedule @Wigan and home to Chelsea. Beware.

West Ham - The schedule is favorable and it may be time to recognize the fact that Marlon Harwood has developed into a consistent threat for the Hammers replacing the hero-by-committee that was evident earier in the season. He isn't exceptionally cheap anymore but against Pompey and Wigan are a reasonably easy schedule. I'm still not sure how Benayoun gets his points but he does and he is still fairly cheap.

Newcastle - Talk about a tough call - one match vs Liverpool's stingy defense and one vs. Charlton's leaky one. Owen just shot his wad for the next month so I expect a stinker vs. Liverpool (to be followed by two goals against Charlton). I'd stay away from the rest of the group given their prices and the fact that they're essentailly playing only one game where they may get points this week.

Charlton - Murphy and Bent are worth a look but neither are exceptionally cheap and vs. Arsenal and @Newcastle isn't a particularly attractive schedule.

Blackburn - Boro and Sunderland makes Rovers players more attractive than usual but their best fantasy player MGP hasn't had a big game in ages and their only other decent player (Bellamy) is hurt too much to assume that he'll do anything.

Boro - I'm still not sure how they're this bad, they seem to have a different problem every week. Regardless, Blackburn and Bolton isn't enough to motivate me to invest in my man Yakubu over some other premium priced strikers. Not much else worth talking about with Rochemback's spot in the line-up in question.

Fulham - Dragging themselves up from the depths and playing better recently despite a bunch of injuries. That one of their two opponents is Chelsea makes choosing anyone from Fulham difficult. I'm off the Collins John bandwagon for at least one week.

Villa - Everton and Fulham - not a bad schedule. Milner and Baros are both good bets if you're looking for bargains from the bottom half of the table.

Everton - Derby week means that there's always the chance of a lot of cards in mid-week in addition to not scoring much against Liverpool's tight defense. We love James McFadden for his contribution to our cause two weeks ago but this isn't the week to go with him.

WBA - Spurs and ManYoo, not good times...

Pompey - 'arry has already indicated that he, their manager, thinks the players stink - I can't think of one reason to contradict that statement.

Birmingham - Still not starting Jermaine Pennant every week despite the fact that he's their only exceptionally good player. Jarosik had a nice run vs. Citeh in a losing cause but given that it's Steve Bruce making the decisions, that'll probably mean he goes back on the bench. You'd think this was the NFL and Brum were trying to ensure the #1 pick in the draft.

Sunderland - I'm not even sure what to say here - five points by Christmas. They should just promote Reading now and put Sunderland out of their misery.

Good luck and we'll see you again in the New Year...

Monday Morning Manager

High office ages its inhabitant. You can compare pictures of Bill Clinton or George Bush from when they entered office and over the course of their presidencies and their hair is grayer, their faces are more drawn and their experssions more weary.

That is what comes to the Manager's mind looking at this photo of David O'Leary. He looks like his tenure at Aston Villa is wearing on him. And while he has had his share of excuses, namely injuries to an already thin squad, his tactics and man-management have increasingly come under scrutiny.

Unfortunately for O'Leary, the Manager is not one to shy away from a bandwagon (see his fielding on 1/2 the ManU squad in his fantasy team over the weekend), so let him add his $0.02. It in unfathomable to the Manager that down 1-0 to ManU at halftime, O'Leary sends on J.P. Angel in place of James Milner. That left him with a midfield of Davis, McCann, Bakke and Barry. Gritty. Workmanlike. Rough and tumble. Perhaps. But not sparkling, creative, dynamic or thratening. Which is what Villa needed more of to get back into the game. How is Eirik Bakke going to help you beat ManUnited? And down 1-0 it was no longer an issue of "contain" ManUnited. At home, they needed a goal, or 2. And while bringing on Angel may seem an attacking move at first, leaving 4 central and defensive-minded midfielders on the field more than negates that move because there is no service for Angel and/or Baros to feed off. Milner would have given Villa balance, width and some attacking impetus. O'Leary deprived his team of that, and they never threatened to beat United.

On the other hand, you have Paul Jewell. Wigan rose as high as second in the table before a run of five defeats saw them fall back down the table. But those defeats were to teams better than them. Arsenal. Chelsea. Tottenham. Manchster United. Liverpool. No shame in losing to that list. But Wigan could absolute not left that affect them. They had to get back to winning not to let the losing become a habit.

They could not have asked for more accomodating opponents than Charlton, who like Wigan made a good start to the season by feasting on weaker opposition. But these days Charlton can only conspire to beat Sunderland and, unlike Wigan, they haven't looked good in defeat.

So behind a Camara hat trick, Wigan crush Charlton and just like that the losing streak is behind them and they can go into the X-mas games withough looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone. Kudos to Jewell for keeping his side up through the down times and for getting them to win the games they need to win.

In fantasy, ManU continues to have an easy schedule, facing Birmingham and West Brom over Christmas week. Rooney and Ruud are scoring for fun and they are getting contributions from all over their midfield - which makes those middies harder to pick (which one gets the points at any given time). Arsenal, West Ham, and Tottenham also seem to have easier games upcoming and are worth a look. Tottenham especially, look a side that are finding their feet. Edgar Davids is giving them an edge in midfield and is bringing the best out of both Carrick and Jenas. Which in turn is helping the forwards get goals (though they could be more ruthless) and the defense keep them out (though they could be more stingy).

Until next week.
The Manager

WTF, Mate? can confirm Fulham are in talks to sign Colombus Crew midfielder Simon Elliott.

Fulham have been chasing the defensive midfielder for some time after he impressed in a pre-season friendly against the West London outfit.
Did they not follow MLS this year (or last)? The Crew are terrible! And while Elliott may be a good player, I think he's past his prime and won't be much competition for the likes of Legwinski, much less Bouba Diop.

I got yer injury reports right here...!

Some sites that may help with your Friday evening jitters...

1. This is the Official Fantasy PL. They have good info on players so if you register you can do research on the players. Pretty accurate if you check it the night before match day.

2. Physio Room - Physio Room will tell you about long term injuries. It's not really good for recent injuries or pending comebacks. Don't trust their expected return dates.

3. Soccernet - Soccernet has team news from around Friday night (GMT). They usually are 90% correct with the ins and outs.

4. This is the Official FA suspension list. 100% correct.

And of course always check the blog here as we occasionally get some inside info... :)

Knockin' on the Door...

...of the Top 100. Nice (but somewhat expected) weeks from Mssrs. Rooney, G. Neville, McFadden, and Giggs and improbably good weekends from Yousi Benayoun and Matthew Etherington who both piled up the fantasy points despite doing very little to actually help West Ham. Somehow I managed to put even more space between myself and Jeremy despite both Mido and Ruud getting two matches worth of points in one. Good times, but don't ask me to explain how it happened. Please note that Liverpool and Sunderland are off this weekend due to Liverpool's World Club Championship commitment - probably worth keeping Reina through the 0-point weekend but he's the only one. With that brief intro out of the way, it's on to the analysis...

Chelsea - Looking ahead at the weekend, the big match on the schedule is Arsenal hosting Chelsea. Well, that's the one that will receive all of the hype but for fantasy managers, it's probably one to avoid. Chelsea have been grinding out wins and Arsenal have just been bad for the last couple weeks. I'd guess this will finish 2-1 (sadly to Chelsea) but I'll add to that by saying that I don't think there will be a ton of fantasy points accumulated in this one. The big question coming out of the day for me will be "Is Henry affordable come Monday?" a third consecutive stinker and he might be down in the low 20s again and priced to move in anticipation of matches with Charlton, Pompey, and Villa in December before the first clash with the Red Devils at the beginning of January. Stay tuned.

If you've got Lampard or Henry at a good price, it's probably worth keeping them and of course fantasy bargain-of-the-year Asier Del Horno fits into this category as well. Otherwise, there probably isn't much for fantasy managers here. Search elsewhere for your points. Think about picking up both Henry and van Persie once the weekend is over - the upcoming schedule will favor them going on hot streaks if they remain healthy.

The Former "Big Two" - It pains me to compliment ManYoo but they (finally) looked like the team SAF promised on Wednesday. Giggs was strong on the left side of midfield. Scholes was useful for a solid 30 minutes. Rooney lived up to his "boy-wonder" billing and Ruud actually executed a nice leg drag/dive to win a penalty and then calmly converted. The defense looked shakey but got the job done. Heck, even Rio scored his first goal in a ManYoo uniform. Definitely what the team needed after being chased out of Europe and a mediocre performance vs. Everton. Now comes a trip to a Villa squad that, as far as I can tell, doesn't really have a central defense. They may not have two matches this week but keeping your ManYoo guys around is probably an excellent bet (unless you have Park or Ronaldo around). Silvestre is probably not going to figure again but otherwise, it's going to be hard to go wrong by loading up. Hopefully, you did so before Rooney, Ruud, and Giggs skyrocketed in price after the Wednesday match. If not, then pick the one or two you can fit - you probably can't go wrong.

The Relegation Zone - As noted above, Sunderland won't be around this weekend to make all of our lives easier by ensuring that at least one team will have a great fantasy day - we will do our best to soldier on without them and wish them a speedy return to the pitch on Boxing Day when they will have the opportunity to show whether it is possible to make Bolton look like a superior offensive side on the road.

Birmingham heads to the City of Manchester Stadium to face a Citeh squad who have been nearly impossible to figure out all year. They beat Charlton within an inch of their lives one week and the next they lose 2-0 to West Brom. With Andy Cole out, Citeh will have to find another source of goals. Trevor Sinclair is a modestly priced option worth considering. Who knows what Mssr. Bruce is thinking in relation to Jermaine Pennant - he's in the line-up, he's out of the line-up, I'm not sure why you WOULDN'T play your best (only?) offensive player but I guess that's why they are where they are. All that was a long way of saying that Pennant is a good bet if you know he's going to play, but that's not as certain a thing as it should be.

That brings us to the South Coast where 'arry will lead his ragtag band of Championship refugees against visiting WBA (who aren't much more than that) in what promises to be an unpleasant match even if there are goals. Here's to Fox Soccer Channel for having the good sense not to show this one. The only important note here is that Dario Silva might be back which might muddy Jeremy's rumination on Pericard who might represent value but only if he plays. Kanu has been playing well but he's always been streaky so I'm not sure how excited I'd be to have my fantasy week rest on his shoulders.

Random Notes - Darren Bent is questionable nulifying one of the few intriguing options in the Wigan/Charlton match. On the other side of the ball, Pascal Chimbonda has dropped back down in value after Wigan's difficult run of matches vs. the Top 5 and he's a good bet to spring back to productivity against the Addicks...Emre is out for Newcastle but it certainly feels like it's about time for Michael Owen to explode for a couple of goals...Mido has a thigh strain and faces a fitness test in advance of the match with Boro - beware...Claus Jensen is still injured for Fulham's match with Blackburn who are missing Bellamy, Todd and Nelsen - time to switch back to Collins John who should do well vs. Rovers' depleated back line...Everton...Bolton...may god have mercy on our souls...

Good luck and happy shopping

EPL on TV this weekend

Can you believe we have to do this all over again? After a big mid-week of games we're right back to another weekend of EPL and Fantasy EPL action. So how does it look?

Balanced: Something about water finding it's own level. Seems that teams are playing similarly situated teams. Arsenal/Chelsea. Portsmouth/West Brom. Boro/Spurs.

Gritty: Some unappealling matchups. Man City/Birmingham. Everton/Bolton. And of course these are 2 of the televised games.

How do you pick when each game could be 4-3 as easily as 0-0 (and I'd bet the under on most of them)? The one good looking match for fantasy is ManU on a roll (is one game a roll?) visiting a wounded Aston Villa. Speaking of betting, what are the odds that Ridgewell gives up a PK? Luckily ManU players were on our teams from their 2-games last week. You did have the complement of ManU, didn't you? So Ruud and Rooney start up top... Giggs and/or Scholes in the midfield and Neville, G a the back. Unless... and this is where it is fun to play manager... does Sir Alex play Giggs (73 years old and just coming back from injury) in a third game in 7 days? Here's hoping!

Soccer on Fox Soccer Channel
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Dec 17EPLAston VillaManchester Utd.7:30 a.m.
Sat.Dec 17EPLManchester CityBirmingham City12 p.m.
Sat.Dec 17EPLEvertonBolton5 p.m.
Sun.Dec 18EPLMiddlesbroughTottenham1:30 p.m.
Soccer on PPV/CCTV
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Dec 17EPLWest HamNewcastle10 a.m.
Sun.Dec 18EPLArsenalChelsea11 a.m.

The New Reality?

A topic for discussion as it could have some interesting fantasy ramifications: the concept of Wigan (or any other '2nd tier' team) resting players at Old Trafford (e.g. Anfield/Arsenal/Chelsea, etc.) which is an unusual one; the idea was road-tested by West Bromwich Albion at Chelsea. They lost 4-0, a precedent Paul Jewell's side emulated last night at OT.

Could this be the new 'in-fashion' thing to do? Roll-over and die when faced with playing a far better team and save your better players for matches with at least a hope of winning? As a fantasy manager, should you rotate your line up more often, and look to these match-ups in order to stock your fantasy team with visions of lots o'goals, shots and potential clean sheets?

Let's just hope the Prem doesn't suffer because of this.


Racing ahead

Ruud. Rooney. McFadden. Neville, G.

Pericard-inal Rule

My number one rule of fantasy soccer is to try to pick players who play a more attacking position than they are listed at on Yahoo!. The latest member of this group is Vincent Pericard, whom I mentioned the other day.

He played as a lone striker against Tottenham and had a few chances. Neither of which he took very well. But this weekend he is at home, facing a WBA side that leaks goals (though to be fair to them, they are starting to score goals too).

And he's cheap. Which is always a bonus.

Worth a gamble?

Keep hope alive, Neal

Ashton keen on Prem return

Expert Analysis: Tottenham v Portsmouth

buttonmoulder: woohoo! miracles 8 points from jenas
buttonmoulder: back to third
JSpitzberg: ;-)
JSpitzberg: good day
JSpitzberg: let's hope it continues tomorrow
buttonmoulder: no kidding
buttonmoulder: and mido got 21
JSpitzberg: told you he had a 20pt game
buttonmoulder: i would be fine if tomorrow gets fogged out
buttonmoulder: indeed
JSpitzberg: undersold carrick though
JSpitzberg: 10.5
JSpitzberg: he's like jenas...
JSpitzberg: only better
buttonmoulder: ha
buttonmoulder: had jenas from the week before
buttonmoulder: carrick probably would have been a good bet what with the corners and all
buttonmoulder: but wasn't convinced it was worth the bother
buttonmoulder: jenas did get a free kick, but put it just wide of the post
buttonmoulder: would have evened them up
buttonmoulder: though, to be honest, i have no idea what jenas got the 8 points for
buttonmoulder: the stats are all there in black and white
buttonmoulder: i just don't recall him doing any of it
JSpitzberg: ha
JSpitzberg: that's why they're called phantom points
buttonmoulder: rednapp is flipping out over the PK
buttonmoulder: i bet it is all for show
buttonmoulder: fire up the team and all
JSpitzberg: he's on their side
buttonmoulder: first of all, you lost 3-1
JSpitzberg: he's quite the showman
buttonmoulder: plus i think it was a valid PK
buttonmoulder: at first glace, i figured it was harsh since it was a shot into the wall
JSpitzberg: in super slo mo it looked like he flung out a wing
buttonmoulder: but the replays showed it as a shot just left of the wall and his arm was raised and then kind of held for an awkward moment
buttonmoulder: not really natural movement
buttonmoulder: he may not have conciously thought about it
buttonmoulder: but it wasn't just his jump
buttonmoulder: definately enough there for a pk if you ask me
JSpitzberg: no, he turned his fore-arm...
JSpitzberg: back...
JSpitzberg: and to the left
buttonmoulder: back, and to the left
buttonmoulder: rednapp says he asked the lad and he says he didn't raise his arm
buttonmoulder: well what do you think he is going to say

Stopping the rot

Next up, Ruud v Wigan and a continuation of Everton's revival against the Hammers.

Monday Morning Manager

Halfway in (this weekend's fixtures are a reverse of the opening day's games, so I'm just assuming we're at the halfway point) to the EPL and Yahoo! Fantasy EPL seasons, and what have we learned as fantasy managers?
  • Don't bet on ManU's defense. Even at home they are not good money for the clean sheet. Even with van der Saar. For all the talk of Roy Keane's "driving the team forward" it is his shielding of the back 4 (and probably their fear of him) that ManU is missing most.

  • Don't bet against Bolton. As a team, they are fantasy black hole. No one does well against them, and you can never predict who will do well for them.

  • Don't bet on Blackburn playing a tight game. They are as likely to score 3 and allow three as they are to win 1-0.

  • Don't bet on Boro playing well two weekends in a row. This year this Jekyll/Hyde team doesn't even confine their poor performances to after European games. You just don't know if they will be any good from one game to the next.

  • Don't bet on Arsenal on the road. They lost to ManU last year in a bruising game and until they learn how to win those, teams will keep trying to bloody them.

  • Don't bet on Birmingham at home.

  • Don't bet on Sunderland -- full stop. But we knew that coming into the season. What we didn't know was that the same sentiment wouldn't apply to Wigan.

  • Owen will either score 30pts or no points in a game. There is no in between.

Shearer brandishing his elbows
An aside on the Newcastle game... though he played well for their goal, creating it for Solano, Alan Shearer has become little more than a goon. He's the soft-spoken Duncan Ferguson. He attacks defenders with his elbows the way he once attacked the ball. And though I'm willing to give it time, and to wait for a midfield for service, his partnership with Owen isn't clicking. One or the other is involved for NUFC, but rarely do both seem to be on the same page (or on the same pitch!).

The Manager welcomes back Ryan Giggs to the league after injury. He showed he's still a top class player but still couldn't bring ManU a victory single-handedly. Perhaps that will change with Ruud's return on Wednesday. Kudos also to Marlon Harewood who is starting to show some consistency. Something that has to this point been lacking from his game (perhaps Boro should pair him with Yakubu and Viduka?).

A lot of week-day action has the Manager's attention as Redknapp tries to keep Portsmouth in the EPL starting today @Tot. The Manager has a rooting interest in the game, so c'mon TOT! But the Manager has also been fascinated by Portsmouth this season. So he's very curious to see how Redknapp sets out the team, and how the players perform for him. Especially since Vincent Pericard is listed as a middie. ;-)

Until next week.
The Manager

Giggsy's Back

Did you have this man in your team? If so, you are a bastard (Neal).

Sorry, I'm bitter. But that's another 25 points deeper in the hole for me. :-(

My Apologies...

...for the late post. Another crazy week in paradise. No travel this time but a full week of work squeezed into three days before two full-day meetings. As a result, this will be brief.

The story of the week is the two gamers. West Ham United, Manchester United, Everton and Wigan get the double this weekend. Now, you have to take Wigan's two-gamer with a grain of salt since they'll be traveling to both Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. Not good times for a team who will end up having the top five consecutively (Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Man United, and Chelsea with the last three in a row all on the road). So, before you decide to pick up Henri Camara, you might want to think again.

Everton doesn't have quite as difficult a schedule for their two matches with West Ham and Manchester United but most of their good fantasy players (Cahill, Arteta, and van der Meyde) are hurt leaving only James McFadden and a lot of huge risks.

West Ham United have a nice schedule for their two matches facing strugglers Everton and Blackburn. Their defense is reasonably affordable (see, Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon) and Yousi Benayoun is a cheap 2-gamer who is worth picking up.

Manchester United must be hoping that it's their Premiership form and not their European form that comes through for their two games. Ruud van Nistelrooy is suspended for the Everton match so his value as a two-gamer is limited - look for Rooney to pick up the slack. Paul Scholes, on the other hand, has been playing better as has Ryan Giggs now that he's recovered from his cheekbone fracture. Their defenders are expensive but this is the week that they're worth buying along with van der Saar as long as you're not giving up Reina at a cheap price.

In the other matches Tottenham, Chelsea, Man Citeh, and Arsenal have good match-ups making Mido, Michael Carrick, Trevor Sinclair, Frank Lampard, and Arjen Robben nice choices for the weekend if you have any roster spots not taken up by two-gamers.

I'll be back next week with a full post again. Good luck to everyone with their shopping.

It's Group E

  1. Italy
  2. Ghana
  3. United States
  4. Czech Republic

full draw here.

Lucky Trophy

The Owen Saga Continues

'He obviously isn't full-match-fit because he's had three weeks of inactivity, but what we feel - and what he feels and what the medical people feel - is that he could get through a game of football without starting it, or for an hour or 45 minutes, without a recurrence of that injury.

'He's named in the squad and he will train with the group and providing there's no reaction, he'll be involved at some stage. He's more than 50-50, unless he gets a reaction, and he's done everything but have a game of football, really.'

Take from that what you can. Not that you were likely to put him in v the Arsenal anyway.

I'm getting ready to free up a slot in my lineup...

From Football365...

...Manchester City are leading a three-way fight with Charlton and West Ham to land Norwich striker Dean Ashton...

Rooney celebrates his goal

Don't quite know what to make of this photo, but it is a striking image. Caption contest anyone?

"Expert" analysis ahead of Liverpool/Chelsea

buttonmoulder: huth finished up top for chelsea in the match last year after mourinho figured out 75 minutes in that his forwards and middies were not getting anywhere near the crosses with the three foot hight difference across the board
JSpitzberg: isn't jose supposed to know all that ahead of time
buttonmoulder: yeah, but he expected to use speed around the sides and carragher did a great job of shutting that down
buttonmoulder: so chealsea resorted to deeper crosses and liverpool was content to keep bopping them back out all afternoon
JSpitzberg: you just used carragher and speed in the same sentence
buttonmoulder: yeah
JSpitzberg: with out the phrase "lack of"
buttonmoulder: he wasn't speedy, but he got in the right places to stop the speedy folk down
buttonmoulder: just timed things right. like a scholes tackle, just three seconds sooner
JSpitzberg: lol
buttonmoulder: so we are back to where we were last year, except that liverpool now averages a foot taller with Crouch in the lineup and a stronger midfield
buttonmoulder: i still think chelsea should be able to run around them, but that didn't stop me from being wrong last year
JSpitzberg: but he's pretty lousy with his head for a tall man
buttonmoulder: agreed

Drogba commits to Ivory Coast bid

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba may miss four weeks of Premiership action after confirming that he will play for the Ivory Coast in the African Nations Cup.
2 questions:
  1. How are Crespo's ribs?, and
  2. How much does Carlton Cole cost?

Thank you, we'll be here all week

buttonmoulder: Smart ball will not be used at World Cup
buttonmoulder: FIFA also discounted rumors that the World Cup would see the unveiling of the new Addidas Square Ball
JSpitzberg: or the beckham branded golden ones
buttonmoulder: still working on the InvisiBall that goes clear when shot on net
JSpitzberg: roy carroll has one

Be sure to tip your waitresses.

Monday Morning Manager

Of the two on the right competing for the ball, which one of these is the next Viera?
The Manager is back, and singing the same old song. Bolton are fantasy killers. How many times do I have to say it? No one, not even the mighty Arsenal, put (fantasy) points on them.

The EPL is reverting to type elsewhere and everywhere. Chelsea snuck past Boro with a 1-0 win, even with the stylings of Duff and Robben on the wings. And as it was several times last year, it was Terry providing the goal from a Duff corner. Fantasy managers have to wonder if Lampards points are going to be shared around now that the full Chelsea squad is healthy again.

Maybe Gerrard is a better option? At least he was this past weekend when he was still valued under $20 (what is he now?) and facing a Wigan side who while good value for their league position, are not able to compete with the top half of the table on a regular basis. Liverpool simply CRUSHED them and Gerrard was the hub of every Liverpool attack and the destruction of every Wigan foray. A great performance from him, and worthy of his 22pts.

"I get to hug me Santa's elf next! It's good luck!"
ManU continue to stroll through this relatively easy part of their schedule. But they look the team of old who won the games they had to win. And won convincingly. And now from a fantasy perspective, they are 2-gamers, home to both Everton and Wigan. Time to figure out whom you can afford and in RvN's case, whether or not it is worth having him on your team (depending on the $) when he is suspended for the Eve match.

As a note, West Ham, Wigan and Everton are the other teams with 2 matches this week. So happy shopping.

Speaking of Everton (and isn't the Manager just the king of seques this morning?) they are on a roll of their own, Saturday beating Blackburn 2-0. Blackburn have to be diappointed not to have taken care of business at home, especially coming off a morale boosting, come-from-behind win at Charlton in the League Cup. Back to square one for a very inconsistent side, and more "upwards and onwards" from an improving Everton.

Enjoy WHU-BRM tonight. As the Manager is without a rooting or fantasy interest in the match, here's hoping for an ugly, nil-nil draw with more cards than shots. Weather permitting.

Til next week.
The Manager

PS. How bad is Charlton these days? They got killed by a Citeh side fielding a midfield quartet of Sun Jihai, Joey Barton, Claudio Reyna, and Trevor Sinclair. Not bad players, but hardly cavalier attackers. Did Charlton miss the suspended Kishishev that much? Does Sunderland fancy a win next weekend? Not to beat Neal's dead horse, but maybe Charlton should buy Dean Ashton.

It gets worse!

1530: GOAL Blackburn 0-1 Everton
Everton go route one and James McFadden latches on to Andy van der Meyde's flick-on to slot the ball beyond Brad Friedel.
I sold van der Meyde at the 11th hour figuring there were no goals for EVE in this game!

TOTally SUNk

1516: GOAL Tottenham 0-1 Sunderland
It's the first goal of the 1500 GMT kick-offs and it comes from the most unexpected of sources - a Sunderland player. Dean Whitehead is that man and his fierce free-kick is an absolute gem into the top corner.
I have Dawson and Lee (not to mention Carrick, Jenas, and Mido) in my team this week!

EPL on TV this weekend

A number of compelling games on FSC this weekend. Liverpool take on Wigan in a match of two teams with similar styles but contrasting form. Liverpool are on the up, cracking the top 4 at the expense of Wigan who have lost their last 2 games to London teams. Both teams play rough defense and look to get out on the break. I wouldn't expect too many goals but I do expect a typically English encounter. No matter how many Spaniards are on the pitch.

ManU continue to ride the emotional wave after the death of George Best (R.I.P.) and now take on a lousy Portsmouth side in disarray and lacking a manager. How will the GNev era at ManU begin? Hard to see past a home win, and a convincing one at that. The only thing that could get in the way would be the team selection. Does SAF rest players in anticipation of a MUST-WIN game at Benfica in mid-week? And with the likes of Saha and Neville coming back from injury, the squad is looking deeper. But in the end I expect ManU to come out full-bore and give Portsmouth a real hiding.

Chelsea face an inconsistent Boro while Newcastle and Villa face off in what has to be described as an old-fashioned WWE "loser leaves town" match for the respective managers.

Soccer on Fox Soccer Channel
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Dec 3EPLLiverpoolWigan7:30 a.m.
Sat.Dec 3EPLManchester UnitedPortsmouth12 p.m.
Sat.Dec 3EPLChelseaMiddlesbrough3 p.m.
Sun.Dec 4EPLNewcastleAston Villa1 p.m.
Soccer on PPV/CCTV
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Dec 3EPLBoltonArsenal10 a.m.
Sun.Dec 4EPLCharltonManchester City11 a.m.

Blearly-eyed and Groggy...

No, this isn't an article about how Jermaine Pennant showed up to training this week, although I can see how you'd make that mistake. No, the title refers to me this morning/afternoon as I write this article. Just for the record, the last eight days has been...Drive from DC to Philly last Thursday; Back to DC on Saturday afternoon; Monday afternoon flight to San Diego; a day and a half there before hopping on a flight to Tulsa, OK via Houston, and finally arriving back in DC (via Dallas) at about 2:00 AM this morning. Not the best circumstances for thinking clearly but despite that, here are some thoughts on the upcoming weekend's action for all of you fantasy managers.

Before we get started, a big shout out to Luis Garcia for saving my fantasy weekend by scoring against Sunderland - after doing squat over the weekend, he came strong with 20 points on Wednesday. That's why we include the 2-gamers. Now, about that Josemi pick :-/

Chelsea - Oh, Crespo - how did you manage to turn a good run of form into a spot in Jose's doghouse? Is it THAT terrible making a ton of money and living in London? Sure, it's not Milan, but it's not Newcastle or Manchester either - get over it. Anyway, Chelsea host a mediocre Boro side in what is shaping up to be a 2-1 or 3-1 win. Drogba and Robben are back in contention with Drogba likely to start given Crespo's "injury". Robben, remarkably, hasn't fallen much in price and therefore isn't a great bet since no one is quite sure how much he'll play. Lampard is, as always, a good bet to score some points. Joe Cole is also a good bet to play a lot of minutes and might be worth a risk if you're looking for an affordable (but not cheap) midfielder.

On the Boro side, Yakubu has had a nice run of form that is likely to hit a bump in the road against Chelsea's defense unless Boro can manage a penalty. I can't think of anyone else from the Boro squad worth considering this weekend.

The Former "Big Two" - United must be licking their chops at a chance to host struggling Pompey as a blast-off point before their big mid-week match with Benfica. Ruud and Rooney are in fine form and, while expensive, are good bets as Pompey is the type of opponent they tend to score spectacular goals against. Ryan Giggs is back to some level of health putting Park's starting spot in doubt. If you're pretty sure he'll figure, Park is an excellent cheap alternative in midfield. The United defense is a pretty good bet against offensively-challenged Pompey with Ferdinand, Neville, Silvestre, and O'Shea likely to get the start in front of EvdS. LuaLua is an interesting bet for Pompey but probably not until December 17th when they play West Brom - United and Spurs (Pompey's opponents this and next week) are too stout in defense to make him a good gamble.

Arsenal face a tougher test than their traditional rivals as they head to face Bolton. Granted, Bolton have slipped a little bit in the last couple weeks and the Gunners have been scoring at a fantastic clip. My guess is that the combination of Bolton's ability to jam up an offense and the fact that it's at the Reebok will make this a 1-0 match (with the 1 85% likely to go to Arsenal). As I've said for the last few weeks - Henry and van Persie are the only two excellent bets for Arsenal right now. Pires has had a few nice matches in a row but his place is in question with Ljungberg and Reyes both healthy. The Arsenal defense is an OK bet but there are no great bargains there and United and Chelsea are both better bets for a clean sheet if you're buying expensive defenders.

Against the Relegation Zone - Welcome to the Zone to Pompey - get comfortable. That said, we've already taken care of their game against ManYoo above. That leaves us with Birmingham's Monday match with West Ham and Sunderland traveling to White Hart Lane.

It's a mystery to me how Birmingham could be featured in Monday Night match - I'm pretty sure the FCC would have something to say about this if the broadcast originated here in the States - obscenity laws and all that - but none-the-less, it represents a chance for WHU to get back on track. Marlin Harewood scored last week so - based on the trend so far this season - he's unlikely to be a good fantasy bet this weekend. Rather, it's time for Benayoun to break out with a goal and an assist and Sheringham to get a goal as well. Jermaine Pennant is back in Birmingham's line-up and is always a great bet in midfield. The West Ham defense is also a good bet - especially Danny Gabbidon and Anton Ferdinand who check in at a (relatively) affordable 7.5ish each.

The visit of Sunderland to Spurs must be a welcome thing for the White Hart Lane faithful. If Sunderland can look bad against Birmingham, imagine how they'll look against an actual Premiership team. The big question for managers is who will pair with Mido up front - Keane (on a hot streak) or Defoe (the more talented, less hungover player)? The answer for fantasy managers might be to not worry about it and go with Mido who's cheap at 7.37. YP Lee and Michael Dawson are great (and relatively inexpensive) bets in defense and Robinson, while expensive, is likely to have a good weekend between the pipes. For Sunderland, there isn't much to consider other than maybe Dean Whitehead but this probably isn't the week to take a risk on him.

Random Notes...Newcastle looking to rebound vs. Villa without Owen or Emre - not good times. Luque and Ameobi are cheap but they're cheap for a reason - there's some potential reward here against a terrible road team but there's plenty of risk to go along with the potential reward...

Rovers face a depleated Everton side missing Cahill for sure (suspension) and likely Arteta as well (injury). My guess is that Rovers win this one 2-0 and that this is the weekend to get back on the MGP bandwagon...

Resurgent (if you can call the 16th spot resurgent) Fulham travel to West Brom for a match that is bound to feature some goals for the Cottagers. My man Collins John is a good bet and still dirt cheap at 7.27 - not a sexy pick but check out the numbers since he's been starting - I know Jeremy has...For those in search of a HUGE bargain in defense, Carlos Bocanegra is priced to move at 3.36. FYI, Claus Jensen is still out...

Charlton and ManCiteh face off on Sunday in a match sure to make everyone watching here in the States wish they'd slept in. Citeh might welcome back Reyna, Barton, and Sinclair but other than Barton, who knows if any of them will start. Unless Danny Murphy re-discovers his early season form, no one on Charlton is really worth spending much mental energy on (sorry Darren)...

Finally, we get to last week's fantasy heroes Liverpool...I hope you all kept Reina - he's been a stud the last month or so...Gerrard is Gerrard - expensive but effective...The rest of the Liverpool offense is difficult to figure as they move people in and out of the line-up so frequently...With Wigan coming to Anfield, it seems likely that there won't be a ton of goals so this may not be the weekend to shift TO any Liverpool or Wigan players you don't already have. Mike Pollitt is one extra cheap option at keeper if you need to spend the money elsewhere. Seems unlikely that he'll get the win vs. Liverpool given their current form but you'll probably get some points from a keeper priced at 8.44.

Looking ahead again

Saha Delighted To Be Back
United face Portsmouth on Saturday at Old Trafford. Whilst Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to opt for his favoured strike-pairing of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne rooney, Saha may be in with a chance of starting against Everton, as van Nistelrooy is suspended.

"Dr. Crespo, I presume?"

Mourinho giving 'Dr' Crespo's sick notes short shrift

The forward was elbowed in the ribs after scoring the opening goal in Saturday’s Barclays Premiership 2-0 win at Fratton Park and immediately hobbled to the sidelines, with sympathy from the bench conspicuous by its absence. With only Carlton Cole to call upon, Mourinho instructed the 30-year-old to pull himself together and carry on, but, after limping around ineffectually for several minutes, he was eventually replaced by the England Under-21 striker. One team-mate observed that he had never seen a player limping after suffering a knock in the ribs.

For the fantasy manager, the article ends with this:
After training on his own for several weeks, [Robben] rejoined the first team yesterday and could be on the bench for Saturday’s game. Didier Drogba has recovered from a knee injury and should be fit to face Middlesbrough. Given Crespo’s histrionics, Drogba’s bulky frame is likely to be leading the line, whether or not the Argentinian has a sick note.

For those of you keeping score at home

B Alnwick, J Hoyte, G Breen, S Caldwell, D Collins, D Whitehead, L Lawrence, C Bassila, T Miller, J Stead, C Brown
Subs: K Davis, A Welsh, N Nosworthy, A Gray, G Leadbitter
J Reina, S Finnan, S Hyypia, J Carragher, J Riise, S Gerrard, M Sissoko, X Alonso, S Luis Garcia, P Crouch, F Morientes
Subs: S Carson, H Kewell, D Traore, F Sinama Pongolle, S Warnock
Neither Cisse nor Josemi make the bench, but Garcia, Alonso and Morientes all start.

Friday's Team News Today

Though we've covered this ad nauseum, The Guardian and other sources are finally giving us the details:
Owen's absence also gives the England striker more time to recuperate from a minor tear in his groin, but a tear none the less. Owen, who sustained the damage after a training session prior to the visit to Chelsea 10 days ago, is also a doubt for Saturday's home game with Aston Villa. The standard recovery period for such an injury is three to six weeks, though Souness said Newcastle never considered surgery.

Yahoo!, you have some 'splaining to do

Seems that no one can see their teams or groups on their home page. But while some managers can get to the teams, others can't. Not good for Yahoo! on game day. Let's hope they sort it out soon.

Google to sponsor ManU?

Manchester United is in talks with a number of global high-tech giants, including Google, about replacing Vodafone as its shirt sponsor, according to reports.


Some of the names reportedly thought to be willing to top that include Google, IBM and Yahoo, according to a report this weekend in British newspaper The Observer.
How would this fit with a company whose informal corporate motto is "Don't be evil."?

The article then drops this little gem:
Two of the nontech brands believed to be in talks with the soccer club are Coca-Cola and Levi Strauss.
Not quite Neal's vision of McDonalds, but good none-the-less.

Liverpool giveth, Liverpool taketh away

As they are two gamers, and playing pitiful Sunderland tomorrow, a lot of us have an excess of Liverpool players in our fantasy teams. Many of us also have Reina cheap (~$9 and ~$4 under current market value). Good deal, right?

For now, yes. But how will you feel come December 18 and Liverpool are in Tokyo for the FIFA Club World Championship? Do you sell now? Sell then? Hold em for the eventual 2-game make up week?

Anyone do some research and figure out who else is not playing that weekend, ie. who Liverpool would have played?

Friday's Team News Today

Owen absent again for Magpies
England striker Michael Owen will not be fit in time to play in Newcastle's Carling Cup fourth-round tie at Wigan on Wednesday.

Owen, who failed a fitness test before Sunday's Premiership defeat by Everton, had been expected to make his return at the JJB Stadium.

But a persistent groin injury has not improved sufficiently for Owen to feature against the Latics.

This is becoming quite the saga. Expect quite a few qualifying words on Friday regarding Owen's chances of playing on Saturday.

Is it too early to worry...

... about losing players to the 2006 African Cup? Quite a few EPL players could be gone for up to 4 EPL games in January and February. The participating nations are Egypt, Togo, Senegal, Zambia, Ghana, DR Congo, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Libya, Angola, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Morocco, Guinea.

That could mean losing strikers like Diouf, Lua Lua, Drogba, Mido, and Yakubu. Other players could be Geremi, Jaihdi, Babayaro, Mbusema, Lauren and Toure (with Arsenal already thin on defensive cover), Essien, Okocha, Diao, etc.

State of Sunderland

Fabulous article from The Guardian. While obstensibly a match report, it gives you the depth of despair evident in Sunderland's play, and evidently in Sunderland proper.
Liverpool come on Wednesday and as one pessimist said: "We'll lose that too and, what's worse, Crouch'll score."
Hope for those of you with Morientes, Garcia, or god-forbid Crouch on your teams this week and who need a pick-me-up after Saturday.

Owen Follow-up

Michael Owen is expected to feature for Newcastle in their Carling Cup clash with Wigan on Wednesday after missing both games since the last international break.


When Will Owen Play?
Enhancing his reputation by not playing was Michael Owen... Perhaps it is just as well; he is now showing symptoms of a curious problem that Paolo di Canio once had, ruling the victim out of away games. Either that, or he really did have a groin injury.

How long will fantasy managers put up with this?

EPL on TV this weekend

Soccer on Fox Soccer Channel
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Oct 29EPLPortsmouthChelsea12 p.m.
Sat.Oct 29EPLSunderlandBirmingham3 p.m.
Sat.Oct 29EPLArsenalBlackburn5 p.m.
Sun.Oct 30EPLFulhamBolton1 p.m.
Soccer on PPV/CCTV
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Oct 29EPLManchester City Liverpool10 a.m.
Sun.Oct 30EPLWest HamManchester United11 a.m.

McDonalds to Sponsor ManYoo?

OK, not really - but the jersey is the right color and it would confirm every horrible thought that the Brits have had about the Glazer era which makes it an even more amusing thing to think about. Keano gone and the golden arches on the front of the jersey - sad days in Manchester indeed...and that midweek Champions League performance couldn't have helped any.

In fantasy news, there are some good match-ups this week (see Newcastle's visit to Everton and Boro hosting WBA) and one (Chelsea visiting the south coast) that might be a bit less appealing than it was before Pompey sacked their manager. Also, everyone should keep in mind that Liverpool and Sunderland have two matches this week so that has to go into everyone' s mental calculus as they prepare their line-up. So, with all that in mind, away we go...

Chelsea - This one can go either way. In one scenario, Pompey's players fear for their jobs as they try to impress a new manager and draw 1-1; In the other, things are completely in disarray and despite the new manager, Chelsea completely destroys Pompey 5-1. The fact that Pompey will score at least one goal in this match is down to the absence of Claude Makelele - probably the one player that Chelsea don't have anyone resembling a replacement for. He's the anchor of their defense which has been sort of sketchy the last month and a half anyway. On offense, Drogba is healthy again but Crespo has scored in two straight matches so who the hell knows what's going on there. Lampard is set for a big match after being quiet last weekend. Duff turned a mediocre weekend into a nice one with a cheap goal at the end of the match but might be a decent (albeit expensive) bet. Robben is still out and as a result, Joe Cole might be a decent pick-up but there are probably other worthwhile things to spend your money on. As for Pompey, I wouldn't waste your time on anyone but Robert and, like Cole, there are better ways to spend your money.

The Former "Big Two" - Steadily gaining momentum in the Premiership, this will be an important weekend for United who have a winnable away match against West Ham. This is the sort of away match against a mid-table opponent that they always found a way to win as recently as two seasons ago. No mystery in the fact that Rooney and Ruud are the two guys that you want in this one. Alan Smith is playing (slightly) better but is listed as a Striker so he isn't a good value. Ronaldo is still too expensive for his (lack of) production this year. Not much excitement to be had on the West Ham side of the ball. After a bright start, the Hammers have failed to produce many excellent fantasy performances. Even more distressing is the lack of consistency from their creators - strikers are always up and down but midfielders SHOULD be easier to predict. If you think that ManYoo are likely to get a clean sheet (about 50/50 in my opinion) then Wes Brown is an inexpensive bet in defense.

At Highbury, up and down Blackburn come to town (DWLWL in their last five). Not only have Rovers been up and down with their results but their offensive and defensive form has varied dramatically from week to week ranging from their 4-1 win over Charlton to a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to the 4-2 loss to Chelsea to the 0-0 outing with Citeh last week. So, who knows what you're going to get from Rovers. The best I can tell is that Rovers matches seem to take on the character of the team that they're playing which is a good sign for Arsenal because they've been exceptional at home. Henry and van Persie have been as good as it gets over the last couple weeks and there's no reason to think that it will stop now. That said, Arsenal seem to give away a soft goal so I wouldn't count on a clean sheet. For some reason, I'd also bet on Pires to pick up another PK in this one but he's relatively expensive for what you're likely to get for your money. On the Blackburn side, the one goal they'll get has Dickov written all over it. He's the type of annoying striker who will give Arsenal's makeshift defense fits. One other source of possible offense for Rovers will be Emerton who will definitely start on the right against Arsenal's depleated left side as Bentley sits out against the club that owns his rights. He may not score but he'll have a lot of "phantom points" (e.g., successful crosses, corners won).

Against the Relegation Zone - Welcome back to this category to the Toffees. This week, they will host Newcastle who are coming close to being at full strength with the returns of Alan Shearer and Michael Owen to the line-up. Look for Newcastle to win and for Owen to have one of THOSE matches where he scores two or three against an extremely poor opponent. Luque is also back for the Magpies but his place in the line-up is in question due to his health and the performance of Charles N'Zogbia. Not too much reason to pick any of the Toffees in this match. Cahill might be back, but I wouldn't think you'd want to take him until you know for a fact that he'll be starting and maybe not even then.

The rest of this category will go by quickly as Birmingham travel to the Stadium of Light to face off in a "six-point" relegation struggle with Sunderland leaving us to wonder "if a match happens and no one watches, do the fantasy stats count?" Given that the answer is probably "yes", you might want to think about Anthony La Tallec if you're looking for a cheap striker so you can afford someone else (or for Sunderland's two game "potential"). Whitehead has been an excellent fantasy point-producer for his price and not too bad at any price and represents something of a no-brainer in this week where he plays twice and one of those two vs. Birmingham. Pennant is about the only guy worth mentioning when the topic is Birmingham. Jarosik started off brightly but hasn't done much in over a month - in other words, he went from being cheap and productive to just being cheap - not good times in the Jarosik household.

Random Notes - First some random buys from the non-two gamers and then we'll get to Liverpool last (I have to make sure everyone reads the whole thing since I spent the time to write it). Wigan hosting Spurs and no one has said anything about Defore starting or not. Look for a 1-1 match. Too many other interesting options out there to buy anyone new in this match. I still have YP "Free" Lee from Spurs defense but that's mostly because I have him cheap and he's done OK. Michael Carrick is a solid seven points every week but seems unlikely to do much more than that. The Addicks travel to Villa Park in a match-up of a bad team (Villa) and a fading team (Charlton). The middle of Villa's midfield and defense isn't very good and this might be the week Murphy and Bent regain some measure of form. I'm not ready to buy back in, but if I were going to, I'd go after Murphy. As Jeremy pointed out, I'm on the Darren Ambrose bandwagon and have been for a while so I'll recommend him if you're looking for something a little different from the pack. Bolton is likely to score more than 1 goal this week as they travel to the Capital to play Fulham who will still be missing Claus Jensen. Nakata might be an interesting pick-up to capitalize on this mismatch. Finally, Boro hosts wretched West Brom and my man Yakubu is on a hot-streak - I shouldn't need to tell you much more than that. Mendieta is still uncertain so you probably want to stay away. In his absence, Rochembeck is likely taking Boro's kicks and might be in for a big week as Boro are likely to repeat last weekend's three-goal outburst.

OK, now to Liverpool. Xabi Alonso is hurt and therefore he shouldn't be considered a two-gamer. Luis Garcia is reported healthy and is worth considering. Ditto Morientes who seems to be a first choice at striker regardless of who else is playing at striker (Cisse/Crouch). Reina is a no-brainer for inclusion and, finally, the only time you'll hear this from me this season - Josemi isn't a bad bet. He's still cheap and he might end up with two clean sheets in under 10 minutes played (which means he isn't likely to get more than one yellow card over the two matches). Not the ideal situation but for the money spent, he's a pretty good value compared to the other affordable defenders (e.g., Jon Spector).

Yahoo! confirms 2 gamers

With Liverpool playing Sunderland in midweek, it makes a lot of sense to get as many Reds in your team as possible this week.
Do you blow up the team for a crack at Sunderland? Do the Black Cats have a shot at a struggling Birmingham or a distracted Liverpool? Do Liverpool rotate their strikers with 3 games in a week, or rest their middies?

We'll see if Neal gets a chance to post his thoughts later today (it's a holiday weekend here in the USA), but for now, what are you going to do?

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

  Fenerbahce  0 - 4  AC Milan
16'   0 - 1 Goal Shevchenko
52'   0 - 2 Goal Shevchenko
70'   0 - 3 Goal Shevchenko
76'   0 - 4 Goal Shevchenko

  Schalke 04  3 - 0  PSV Eindhoven
18' Kobiashvili Goal 1 - 0  
72' Kobiashvili Goal 2 - 0  
79' Kobiashvili Goal 3 - 0  

  Inter Milan  4 - 0  Artmedia Petrzalka
28' Figo Goal 1 - 0  
41' Adriano Goal 2 - 0  
59' Adriano Goal 3 - 0  
74' Adriano Goal 4 - 0  

Vodafone cuts off Manchester United

Vodafone today ended its £36m shirt sponsorship deal with the club two years earlier than planned.

Flickering of the lights in England (or perhaps Europe) was caused by everyone with half a joke launching Photoshop at once.

Anyone seen any good ones yet?

Resident Yank: Premiership First Quarter Grades

Neal, our very own "One-Man Media Empire", takes an alphabetically organzied look at the first quarter performance of all the EPL teams, their needs, and their options.

Birmingham-Bolton game postponed

The Premiership game between Birmingham and Bolton has been postponed due to heavy fog around St Andrews.

Sincere apologies to those who had Pennant on their team.

2 Gamers?

Thanks to an eagle eye in the comments,it's come to our attention that the rescheduled SUN/LIV matchup is next Wednesday.

If Yahoo! gets on the ball and includes this match, do you break the bank for Gerrard? Reach for Morientes? Settle for Crouch? Bet on Whitehead? (I'm assuming that most everyone has Reina already.)

At Manchester City is Liverpool's relatively tough test at the weekend, while Sunderland is home to a struggling Birmingham side who will have two fewer days to rest and prepare for what is sure to be billed as a "relegation 6-pointer".

Answers to Friday's questions

Some good games on the telly this weekend... and then there's West Brom/Everton. Sigh.
Unless you're a WBA fan!

We'll get to see if Wigan are for real as they take on the Arsenal. Can they quiet Herny and van Persie? Can Arsenal's depleted left flank contain Pascal Chimbonda?
Maybe. Nope. Yep.

Charlton/ManU should be an exciting game as both teams are trying to solidify their places this season. ManU need to build on their victory over Chelsea while Charlton need to rediscover their early season form.
And indeed it was. What a goal from Ruud and what an assist from Rooney. We'll see that for years, and we won't tire of it. Charlton feasted on some easy early season opposition and now need to bunker down and get some wins. And has anyone seen Danny Murphy lately?

And Sunday brings a London derby that will hopefully be an open, entertaining game. That is of course, if Tottenham don't string together 4 deep-lying middies and strand Mido and Defoe against a suprisingly effective West Ham rear-guard.
Mido does his bit. Heads in a goal, commits enough fouls to get carded. So day at the office for him. Defoe rested and Keane was lively. But West Ham held on long enough and Ferdinand, part of that "suprisingly effective West Ham rear-guard" heads home the equalizer at the death.


... to Mike. He's going to end up fielding 9 this week, and still he's going to kick our asses. Fielding Henry is nice. But getting big games from Whitehead and Morientes... that's priceless.

End of an Era...

There are a lot of things to say after being pent up for two weeks for the international break but they all seem to be trumped by the news that Roy Keane has left Manchester United. He hasn't been a significant fantasy player, well, ever but the resolution of his free agent status might have a great deal of impact on the value of various fantasy players. Imagine him replacing Kishishev at Charlton - he may not be the Roy Keane of old but I'm guessing that there'd be a lot more clean sheets with him in front of the back four. Ditto Everton - he'd give back the bite missing since Gravesen departed last January. Of course, he could end up at Celtic to fade into obscurity. Nothing particularly relevant for this week but something to ponder in your spare time.

On to this week's action that features a bunch of recently hot teams (Arsenal, ManYoo, Blackburn, Newcastle, and Everton) on the road and a set of home teams that are either uninspiring (Boro, West Brom, Sunderland, Birmingham) or slumping (Chelsea, Citeh, Spurs, and Charlton). After looking at the match program, the only match-ups that seem attractive for fantasy purposes are Liverpool hosting Pompey and Everton traveling to West Brom. Spurs hosting slumping West Ham SHOULD be a nice match-up but I've seen too many of my fellow managers fall prey to picking Spurs players in recent weeks to get too excited about it. With that said, here's how the week breaks down...

Chelsea - Welcome back to the pack. How's that investigation of the "crisis" going? Certainly, losing Drogba to suspension won't help things out any but you have to figure that Lamps is licking his lips at the prospect of facing an already bad Newcastle defense further depleated by the loss of Steven Taylor to a shoulder injury. Crespo's status is uncertain due to a hamstring as is Arjen Robben's status. Between the internal pressure, the loss of their streak, and Newcastle's porous defense, this seems like it would be a good weekend to bet on Chelsea's offense to rebound with at least three goals. On the other side, you have to think that Newcastle's offense will do no better than one goal against Chelsea. Emre and Owen are the most likely to figure in that goal but it probably isn't the weekend to pick either player up if you don't already have them on the cheap. If you do, it's probably worth suffering through a bad weekend with them.

The Former "Big Two" - Man United travel to suddenly struggling Charlton and on top of that, it seems likely that Gary Neville will play some part in the proceedings. Throw in the positive momentum from the win over Chelsea and you have the makings of an away win. Look for Cristiano Ronaldo to figure more prominently now that he's signed his contract extension. Not only are United's offensive players a good bet but for the first time in months, it might be a good idea to pick up van der Saar and/or a United defender. Charlton has struggled to put goals on the board and even though the defense is still somewhat unsettled, they have a reasonably good chance of earning a clean sheet. The biggest question in my fantasy EPL world right not revolves around Darren Bent - is it worth keeping him at 6.03 and hoping this is just a slump or has he burnt out after a fast goals scoring start a la Massimo Maccarone a few years ago or Jose Reyes last year? I'm not sure I know the answer to this one. Danny Murphy is an easier case because I have him for close to market value and this seems like a good week to jump off that particular bandwagon.

On to Wigan where the Gunners are set to travel to visit the second place team in the Premiership - who would have guessed? With all of their left backs injured, the Gunners defense will be makeshift at best with some combination of Toure, Campbell, Senderos, and Cygan filling the two centre back spots and the left back spot. Given Wigan's record, status as home team, and Arsenal's sketchy traveling record, it's probably not the weekend to invest in the Arsenal defense. Might not be a great week for the offense either given Wigan's stingy ways. Henry will get his points and van Persie is on a hot streak but outside of those two, I'd stay away from the Gunner's offensive players this weekend. On the Wigan side of the ball, I have a hard time believing that they'll shut out the Gunners (although I have a hard time believing they're in 2nd place after 11 matches so what do I know?). Furthermore, their most interesting fantasy player Pascal Chimbonda is due for a mediocre fantasy weekend after scoring in two straight and getting a bunch of clean sheets. I'd advise against spending a ton of money on him - if you have him on the cheap, then by all means keep him around.

Against the Relegation Zone - Sunderland, West Brom, and Birmingham have settled nicely into the bottom three spots in the standings but all three are afforded at least a chance to climb up this weekend with home matches against opponents who aren't particularly frightening. Birmingham faces the toughest test in a visit from third place Bolton Wanders. My initial inclination is to run away from this match screaming and I hope to God that it isn't on TV. I guess that's my seconed reaction too - nothing to discuss here from a fantasy standpoint. If forced to throw out two names from this one, I'd put out the always interesting Jermaine Pennant and Stelios whom no one has heard from in a while (meaning, he's probably due to do something worthwhile).

Sunderland welcomes Aston Villa in what promises to be a blah affair. Bouma and Hughes are back in the Villa defense providing some level of hope that Sunderland won't get healthy at the Villians expense. James Milner is always a good prospect and Dean Whitehead is an inexpensive point producer for the Black Cats but, like the Brum/Bolton match, there isn't a ton of fantasy intrigue or opportunity in this one. You might have to pick up a Villian on offense just because of the rate that Sunderland gives up goals (two per match on average).

Finally, we have West Brom hosting back from the dead Everton. WBA gives up goals almost as freely as Sunderland so Everton might actually score one or two. Andy van der Meyde and James Beattie are the most likely to figure in the points if that does happen. And yes, I say "likely" with the full knowledge that Everton has scored four goals so far this season in the Prem.

Random Notes - My favorite match-up of the weekend features Liverpool and Pompey. I'm betting there's a clean sheet in this for Liverpool as well as a goal or two - crazy, I know, but it's going to happen. Lualua seems to have shaken off his malaria but I think I'll wait a week or two before I take any action based on that information. Slumping Spurs host slumping West Ham who are also missing their lynchpin Nigel Reo-Coker. This should lead to some opportunities for Spurs - who knows if they'll do anything with them. Jeremy, how'd that Spurs thing work out for you the last few weeks? If you're looking for a good bet for at least SOME points at a relatively low price, Teddy Sheringham will be starting for the Hammers. Fulham's trip to Boro will be interesting as Fulham are without their creator Claus Jensen as well as Luis Boa Morte. That's a lot of fire power to lose especially with Boro getting both central defenders back this weekend. Yakubu is a great bet at striker given Fulham's mediocre defensive record on the road. Surging Blackburn travel to Manchester City in what promises to be a grinding affair. Only once this season have Citeh failed to limit their opponent to a single goal or less while Blackburn always brings it's goonish reputation and Robbie Savage to their matches. Mort Gamst Pederson is always a good choice and Sun Jihai is being tipped to play central midfield in the absence of the suspended Joey Barton. Andy Cole has quietly had a nice fantasy season and might be a good solution at striker again this weekend.

Good luck and happy shopping...