It's not Hearns/Hagler, but...

... would you consider selling Danny Murphy for M.G. Pedersen this week? Head to head with Blackburn the home team.

What do you think?

Monday Morning Manager

Once again, Bolton is a fantasy killer. This weekend the victims were Charlton. Already without Darren Bent with a virus, Charlton were strangled by Bolton and even normally reliable Danny Murphy lost points for the Manager. That's two poor performances in a row for Murphy. Against Portsmouth he was resuced by two sublime passes that led to goals. But Bolton are a much better team than Portsmouth. At resugent Blackburn this weekend... a good test for the Addicks. Are they hitting the late-season skids already?

Another player turning in his second poor match in as many weeks (at least for fantasy managers) is Mido. Good link play from him, as always, against Arsenal. But not enough end product. Tot look a team built to pass the ball around whereas Mido's greatest strength is in the air. He does good work for the team - when he's not throwing his body around looking for and/or committing fouls) but it's time for him to start getting the points!

Odds are we won't see this scene again this season
Of course the Manager could just sell Mido for another striker, you say. Well, the Manager would like to report that he's spent his transfer window money already. Welcome Matt Taylor, and old favorite, back to the team as well as Michael Owen. This will be Owen's third time with the Manager this season. In the previous two spells he's amassed a total of 1.50 points. When not with the team he's put up 4 goals in 3 games. We'll see whose karma wins out at home to Birmingham this weekend.

Until next week,
The Manager

A case of too little, too late

Van der Sar holds his hands up

Maybe he should have tried that on Saturday.

(Thank you, I'll be here all week.)

And then there were three...

...competitions that Chelsea are still alive in. I know it has nothing in particular to do with EPL fantasy, but I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't congratulate Charlton on their penalty shootout win over an increasingly annoying Chelsea side. Of course, the fact that I was on the Addicks bandwagon early in the summer didn't in any way increase my glee at this result...

Anyway, back to this week's action and the issues that fantasy managers care about...

Obviously, the news of the week centers around the injury problems that various squads are having at the striker position. Henry is rated at no more than 30% likely to play which will represent the ultimate risk for fantasy managers - do you sink a quarter of your budget into a striker who probably won't play and only managed 2.00 points last weekend but could at any time go off for 30+ points in a match? The other thing that sticks out about this week's matches are that there are no major mismatches. Teams in the top half are playing each other - Arsenal/Spurs, Charlton/Bolton, and Chelsea/Blackburn. The bottom half teams are playing each other - Brum/Everton, Sunderland/Pompey, WBA/Newcastle. And in most cases where a top half team is playing a bottom half team, the weaker squad is at home - Liverpool/West Ham and Boro/ManYoo. Among top half of the table squads only Wigan, who host Fulham, and Man City, who host Villa, are playing at home against bottom half teams. And, in neither case, is the match-up so bad that it should have fantasy managers salivating. Be that as it may, we still need to construct our line-ups, so here goes...

Chelsea - What's going on here? Have they already become complacent? After pitching seven consecutive shutouts to start the season, Chelsea have let in a goal in five of their last seven matches. Not exactly a sign that the empire is crumbling since they've won four those matches, drawn two and lost only one but compared to the dominance of last season and the beginning of this one, it's definitely a change. What it means for fantasy managers is that Chelsea's defenders aren't as valuable as they once were - especially their central defenders. Don't get me wrong, if you still have Del Horno at a cheap price, keep him. Where you may want to pause is when you're considering investing top dollar in John Terry. Carvalho is relatively cheap for a Chelsea defender (7.45) and might be worth considering. On the offensive end, Frank Lampard has rewarded everyone who put their faith (and a quarter of the budget) into owning him. Otherwise, though, Chelsea's players have been mostly overpriced this season. Essien is still a good deal if you need a cheap midfielder but he is unlikely to get you a huge haul of points - somewhere between 5 and 7 should be a reasonable expectation. For those of you still clinging to fond memories of Shawn Wright-Phillips at Man Citeh, forget them, he's been terrible both for fantasy managers and in real life. He'll probably adapt because he's a good player, but I'd stay away unless/until his price goes way down.

On the other side of the ball, MGP continues to be a stud and there was a Craig Bellamy sighting last weekend but I wouldn't spend a lot of time trying to guess who is going to get the one goal that Chelsea might allow. We should also keep in mind that they might be a little pissy after having lost in midweek - even if it was only the Carling Cup.

The Former "Big Two" - Is anyone going to stay healthy for Arsenal this year? I'd be a lot more inclined to give Wenger a hard time for selling Vieira if I could evaluate the first team when they're actually healthy and playing together. Henry seems unlikely to play. Reyes is coming off a rib injury. Hleb is out. Cole is out. Pires must still be suffering from the massive bruise to his ego. Sol and Freddie are back but can't be expected to be in top form after their injuries. With the Gunners unsettled, Tottenham must be licking it's chops after getting a point last weekend at Old Trafford. Outside of Defoe, I can't say I'm too interested in any Spurs player for my line-up - this has the look of a 2-1 match in which none of the defenders or keepers rack up enough points to justify buying them if you don't already have them on the cheap. Spurs' midfielders aren't exceptional fantasy values and Mido against a fairly good Gunners defense isn't a great bet either although he is cheap and cheap is good.

The other half of the former "big two" travels to Boro this weekend in hopes of bouncing back from their lackluster draw with Spurs. Ruud and Rooney are the obvious choices here if you can afford them. The middle of Boro's defense will suffer from the loss of both Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu and those two are just the guys to exploit that weakness. The downside is that, like Chelsea, ManYoo have been giving up goals in their Premiership matches having conceded at least one in five of their last six matches with the one cleansheet being to the kings of the nil-nil draw Liverpool. That leaves the value of van der Saar and whichever United defenders are healthy in question. Boro is in the unfortunate circumstance of not matching up too well with United. The way to attack United right now is definitely down the flanks and with Downing out and Mendieta probably not at full strength, the flanks are not Boro's strong point right now. That said, you can never rule out a good individual performance from Yakubu that nets a goal or even two for the home side. Feels like a 1-1 draw to me with Ruud finally getting back in the scoring column.

Against the Relegation Zone - This week features the battle of futility as Birmingham host Everton who, despite their moral victory vs. Chelsea last week, managed to crash out of the Carling Cup in midweek and look pretty anemic in doing so. Jarosik seems to be healthy again and is still a very cheap option in midfield. Pennant is coming off a bad match against Blackburn where Pedersen showed him who the better fantasy winger really is. Other than those guys, I'm not sure I'd spend a lot of time thinking about this one - we can thank our lucky stars that this one isn't being served up on FSC - if it had been, you have to hope that some at the FCC would have gotten involved. If you must consider anyone from this match - any of Birmingham's defenders seem likely to get a clean sheet (be it 1-0 or 0-0) - go for the one you think is least likely to pick up a yellow card while doing so.

If Birmingham and Everton weren't squaring off this weekend, then the battle of lost causes would certainly be the one between Sunderland and Pompey who are a mere point above the drop zone. The worst part of it all is that the match features even less attractive fantasy options than the Brum/Everton match. Robert is always a viable option but as we all saw last week, he is just as likely to disappear as he is to dazzle. As for Sunderland's players, let's just move on.

Random Notes - Collins John has found his confidence and to quote Kevin Costner in Bull Durham - you have to respect the streak...aiding and abetting that streak is the always steady Claus Jensen who's a steal at 8.82...Danny Murphy, Danny Murphy, Danny Murphy - if you haven't learned by now, you probably never will...This is the Henri Camara that we were all expecting to see for Southampton last year - too bad he's so expensive now - still not bad at home vs. pourous Fulham if you have the money...Not sure why, but I'm feeling good about Darius Vassell against Villa who are generally terrible on the road, Andy Cole will probably do well too, but he's pretty expensive...I hope everyone got in on Emre before he went up, my guess is that he's the "must have" person in everyone's line-up - even if he doesn't have a great weekend, you won't lose anything because everyone else will have him...If you're looking for a cheap forward, be aware that Yousi Benayoun is doubtful for West Ham...Michael Owen is back in the mix at Newcastle and should be considered given his price and their mediocre competition but Shola Ameobi is out thus ruining the weekend of everyone who had him at 4.00

Good luck with your last minute shopping

EPL on TV this weekend

A good slate of games this weekend, with Chelsea hoping to bounce back from their exhausting 2hr loss to Charlton, and each of Neal's "former 'Big Two'", including the big North London derby between Arsenal and Spurs.

Soccer on Fox Soccer Channel
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Oct 29EPLTottenhamArsenal8 a.m.
Sat.Oct 29EPLMiddlesbroughManchester United12 p.m.
Sat.Oct 29EPLChelseaBlackburn3 p.m.
Sun.Oct 30EPLCharltonBolton1 p.m.
Soccer on PPV/CCTV
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Oct 29EPLLiverpool West Ham 10 a.m.
Sun.Oct 30EPLWest Brom Newcastle11 a.m.

Friday's Team News Today

The Next Roy Keane?

Classy Congolese acclaimed king of Grimsby's midfield

This blog can take fancy to a player from the lower divisions from time to time. Note Mr. Thruman's obsession with moving Dean Ashton from Norwich to Arsenal. And while it is fun to make fun of his name, perhaps there is more to Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala (JPK) than just his moniker.

Strong, hard-running and more than capable of mixing it with the hard men of League Two when required, Kalala's instant control and immediate, accurate distribution - both long and short - has brought a touch of real class to the Mariners midfield and, as Spurs found out, he has an eye for goal and a hard shot which has seen him score five times in 13 games.

Do those sound like the qualities that certain clubs in the EPL could use in their midfield? Certain clubs currently relying on converted strikers or untried youngsters? Certain clubs who couldn't afford to bid against Chelsea for Essien? Sound familar? Anyone?

I'll Try Pen Again - Henry

Henry to take PKs?

"If we get a penalty against Spurs (next Saturday), I won't mess around - I'll smash it into the net," he told The Sun.

All Name Team, Carling Cup Edition, v2

Grimsby v Newcastle

Grimsby Town could be without Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala, who is struggling with a back problem.

I'm upset by this as it means that this may be my last chance to blog Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala, a first-level, pantheon, All-Name Team Hall of Famer.

Friday's Team News Today

Reyna sidelined with double injury

Reyna will definitely miss Monday's visit of Aston Villa, although the City squad could be bolstered by the return of Ben Thatcher, and striking duo Robbie Fowler and Bradley Wright-Phillips, who are both pencilled in for a reserve-team outing against Stockport on Wednesday.

Andy Cole and Nedum Onuoha, who missed the Arsenal defeat with thigh and groin injuries respectively, should also be available to face David O'Leary's inconsistent side but Trevor Sinclair and Richard Dunne both remain sidelined.

But is it a "sports" hernia?

... and how long will Michael Owen be sidelined? Fantasy managers need to know!

from Sky Sports:
Meanwhile, reports emanating from the North East suggest Newcastle skipper Alan Shearer may need a hernia operation.

It has been claimed that Shearer is currently playing through the pain barrier with the hernia problem.

Shearer is thought to be putting off going under the knife and Newcastle boss Graeme Souness is keen to have the former England star available with Michael Owen currently sidelined.


Credit where credit is due... for all the love this blog shows to Thierry Henry, we don't show near enough to Frank Lampard. But over the last 2 years he has become simply the best midfielder in the EPL. And a fantasy stud to boot. So much respect, Frankie. Keep it up.

Monday Morning Manager


Souness knows what it feels like. And so do fantasy manager who gambled on the fitness and finesse of Newcastle's Emre. A match-winning, set-piece goal and an assist (some reports were crediting him with the second assist of the game as well, but that clearly came from Charles N'Zogbia) calmed a lot of nerves on Tyneside and around the fantasy world.

Now if you had the additional fore-sight to include Lampard in your squad then yesterday was a double delight. Lampard continued his amazing run scoring Chelsea's only goal of the game while battering an additional five shots on target!

And if you bought Ameobi and Emre because they were cheap and you needed the money to afford Lampard... well then, you sir are a master.

I'll admit to one of three, with the Emre pick. But a Manager can dream, can't he?

Rather than buy Lampard I put my money on Thierry Henry. Not a bad investment. Hardly ever a complaint. But if there is one weakness in his fantasy profile it is his refusal to regularly take penalties for Arsenal. Were he the regular taker we would be talking about his 2-goal game and Arsenal's comfortable win over a resurgent Manchester City. Instead we get Pires' shennanigans (can someone explain to me the rules in the comments) and a tight one-nil win with Henry coming out with no points. If you wanted Henry to take the penalty... JUST LET HIM TAKE IT!! Don't come up with some soft-shoe routine. Let him place the ball, run up and strike the damn thing! Just brutal for a fantasy manager.

Assorted thoughts:
  • Wigan keeping it real and keeping another clean sheet. Portsmouth coming unglued at the back again. Does Arjan De Zeeuw know how to say "schaudenfruede" in Dutch?
  • Milner -- the quietest fantasy stud on the boards, but not the cheapest anymore
  • Newcastle @WBA next weekend, another in their "must win" stretch. And how have they done so far? Lost to Wigan, tied Pompey and barely snuck by Sunderland. Doesn't bode well for them when they start playing teams from the top half of the table.
  • How many league goals do Everton and Liverpool have between them? And is it more than Chelsea have allowed this year?
  • Giannakopoulos or Khizanishvili?
  • Who is in more trouble - Birmingham or Everton?
Until next week,
The Manager

Clean Livin'...

You have to think that things are going well heading in to the weekend when you get the "hey, a friend of mine just told me that there's an extra spot in the luxury box for the U2 show tonight - do you want it?" call at 5 PM the day of the show when you'd already given up on going. Now I'm hoping the good karma continues through the weekend...

Chelsea - So, imagine you're Everton. You've seen your much-heralded European participation come crashing down. You're off to a terrible start in the league and have only scored one goal so far. To add insult to injury, here comes Chelsea and not only are they winning but they've been in one of their completely dominant runs where they're not only playing shut down defense but scoring in bunches. My advice is to get as many Chelsea guys on your squad for this week as possible. Stretch for Lampard. Think about Essien. Buy up their defenders where you can afford them. I'm not sure it's even worth discussing Everton players anymore. I may think about van der Meyde when he is healthy (vs. Boro?) but given current performance even he would be a big risk.

The Former "Big Two" - Go figure, Arsenal have made a tradition of being excellent in the EPL and struggling, especially on the road, in the Champions League. Now they can't buy a win away from Highbury in the league but they've been winning away in their Champions League group. The big news item for this weekend from the Gunners camp is the return of Thierry Henry. There is no doubting Henry's value as a fantasy player but you'll have to completely re-work your team to get him and who knows how he's feeling after not playing for so long. Outside of Henry, be on alert that Reyes is out along with Campbell, Cole, and Hleb as the body count mounts at Highbury. On the Man City side, Andy Cole re-introduced himself to fantasy owners but given Arsenal's stingy home defensive record he might be too expensive to consider this weekend. Joey Barton might be an interesting pick-up but his price has risen as well.

Manchester United faces a tough match as Spurs visit Old Trafford. It will be an interesting match at the top of the table and will be a great bit of insight as to how much Tottenham has really improved from last season to this one. From a fantasy standpoint, what this means is that you should view this match-up with some skepticism. Mido was a great value last weekend but now he's questionable with a groin injury and facing a good defense and an excellent keeper. Ditto the ManYoo strikeforce vs. what has been an excellent Spurs defense so far. If you have someone in this game for significantly under market value, then consider keeping him - otherwise bail like the boat is sinking.

Against the Relegation Zone - we've already discussed the misery this is this weekend's match-up for Everton. That leaves us with Sunderland hosting Newcastle and Birmingham travelling to face Rovers. What can we say about Sunderland other than that they are an entirely uninspiring side from a fantasy standpoint. Whitehead is adequate and not terribly expensive and that's about it unless you happen to be related to Anthony Le Tallec. You'd think that would mean good things for their opponent but this week - not so much because Newcastle is in terrible shape coming in to this match. I'm not sure anyone on their squad is actually healthy, the ones that are playing are just the least injured of the bunch. Owen is doubtful. Emre is back but last time that happened he lasted all of 15 minutes. I'd recommend Charles N'Zogbia but his game is predicated on crossing the ball in and getting assists and I'm not sure who would be on the other end of that equation. Shearer can't seem to get his head near the ball without giving the defender an elbow to the throat first and the refs finally seem to be catching on. I guess my point is that, other than maybe taking a risk on Given, there isn't much here worth getting excited over.

The Birmingham/Blackburn match-up is another one that seems destined to be a clunker. How this got on the US TV schedule is beyond me. I know it's going to be virtually unwatchable, how is it that no one at Fox has figured that out? Fantasy studs MGP and Pennant are always worth a spot if you can afford them and this weekend should be no exception. Jiri Jarosik is questionable for the match so scratch him off the "I need cheap midfielders to make room for Henry list".

Random Notes - You have to wonder how Bolton will react to last week's thrashing at the hands of Chelsea - they host West Brom who have to be confident after beating Arsenal last weekend. CONCACAF favorite Jared Borgheti seems poised to get a start and might be a good, economical pick if you need money to invest, ahem, elsewhere in your line-up...Charlton travel to toothless Pompey and blog fave Darren Bent will definitely score at least one and, as always, Murphy will have a bunch of "phantom" points from free kicks and the like. This will be an important match for Charlton as they need to re-establish some momentum...Might Liverpool score more than once this weekend? A visit to London to play Fulham always seems to hold that promise. Cisse has been hot in both the league and in Europe so he might be a nice choice in the $10 range...West Ham host Boro in a match-up of teams looking to climb out of the middle of the pack...Jeremy recommends Fabio Rochemback to anyone looking for an inexpensive midfielder who takes a lot of free kicks - Jeremy's intuition on these things is usually pretty strong...For the Hammers, the usual suspects (Etherington, Benayoun, Harewood) represent high risk/high reward purchases - they're inexpensive and occasionally score big fantasy points but when they don't, you really look bad for having chosen them...Finally, we have Wigan travelling to Villa Park - hard to get too excited about this one but Villa are always pretty competent at home - James Milner might be worth sticking in your midfield. He's a little expensive at 10+ and for me, it will come down to a choice between his fairly steady production vs. the risk of Cisse having a big day for Pool.

Good luck to all...

EPL on TV this weekend

DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Soccer on Fox Soccer Channel
Sat.Oct 22EPLBlackburnBirmingham City7:30 a.m.
Sat.Oct 22EPLPortsmouthCharlton12 p.m.
Sat.Oct 22EPLArsenalManchester City3 p.m.
Sun.Oct 23EPLNewcastleSunderland1 p.m.
Soccer on PPV/CCTV
Sat.Oct 22EPLManchester UnitedTottenham10 a.m.
Sun.Oct 23EPLEvertonChelsea11 a.m.

Today is...

...a sad day for Fantasy Managers everywhere. Christian Ziege, one of the all-time fantasy greats in the EPL called it quits today. No, his teams never did that well in the league standings but fantasy managers could almost always count on him to produce points from crosses and free kicks. It was almost like having another French winger on your team, except you could put him in a defensive spot...and as an added bonus, he wasn't French. So please join us in raising a glass to Ziege, may you enjoy your retirement and start coaching soon so that there are more like you to choose from soon.

I hope I don't go to hell for this...


Mid-week Round Table

On Lamps v. Henry:

Neal J Thurman: hmm, now that I've cleared a bunch of money - do I want Lamps vs. Everton or Henry vs. Citeh?
JSpitzberg: that IS the ?
Neal J Thurman: plus, I only need to make one other change (MGP for Jasosik) to get to Lamps for Reyes
JSpitzberg: nice
JSpitzberg: he's what, 50cents cheaper than TH?
Neal J Thurman: if I move up to Henry, then I need to sell off someone else
Neal J Thurman: more than a buck cheaper
JSpitzberg: really?
JSpitzberg: k
Neal J Thurman: 24.52 vs. 25.54
JSpitzberg: reyes and mgp will have to go...
JSpitzberg: thinking essien, park, emre or rochemback
JSpitzberg: 2 from those
Neal J Thurman: have they cleared Essien of last week's tackle?
JSpitzberg: and owen gone
JSpitzberg: yes, they have
Neal J Thurman: amazing
Neal J Thurman: is there a Reyes prognosis yet?
JSpitzberg: haven't seen anything save the initial "back"
Neal J Thurman: yeah - I may wait to pull the trigger on Reyes
Neal J Thurman: Reyes/MGP is definitely better than Lamps/Jarosik
JSpitzberg: no reason to do anything until friday
Neal J Thurman: yup


JSpitzberg: owen a doubt.
JSpitzberg: solano could be back
buttonmoulder: we all know how good NUFC is without owen
buttonmoulder: which is to say, not good
buttonmoulder: no, not good at all
JSpitzberg: weren't pulling up trees with him, either
buttonmoulder: not getting relegated any more though
buttonmoulder: everton would take him
JSpitzberg: still think emre might be worth a gamble this weekend
JSpitzberg: whitehead?
JSpitzberg: nufc/sun got ugly 1-1 written all over it
buttonmoulder: i do think owen would be the tipping point for that one
buttonmoulder: could get nasty for sunderland with him in
buttonmoulder: no owen and I'd agree, 1-1 midfield mess
buttonmoulder: bowyer sent off
buttonmoulder: emre re-injured
buttonmoulder: etc
buttonmoulder: shearer upset because he backed into a defender and got called for it, again
buttonmoulder: and again and again and again
JSpitzberg: ameobi with a chance to win the game, but the ball gets caught under his feet
buttonmoulder: again
buttonmoulder: and again and again and again
JSpitzberg: ;-)
JSpitzberg: taylor plays a good game, but picks up another yellow
JSpitzberg: carr sends a cross over everyone's head
JSpitzberg: again
JSpitzberg: and again...
buttonmoulder: boumsong plays in sunderland with a header back to given that doesn't make it to the 18
JSpitzberg: sounds about right
JSpitzberg: given makes that face...
JSpitzberg: that i can't believe i play for this team face
JSpitzberg: about 17 times
buttonmoulder: they got photos on him
JSpitzberg: the "oh god what did i step in... or is that just my team that stinks" face

He's Back!

Reyes out with a broken rib and Henry plays 70 minutes, scoring two.

As always, the question is not "can you afford to buy him?" but "can you afford not to buy him?"

Work hard for the money

So Yahoo! must have signed some big deal with Addidas and good for them. And the ads running on the page aren't TOO annoying... save for the Beckham talking head. But the banner integrated into the "Fantasy Football" header is pretty slick.

And they've actually taken an interest in the game's home page, putting up little previews, reviews and fabulous links!

That being said, this is the first time this season that Yahoo! has delayed putting up pts from the most recent game (Cha/Ful). I hope it's not a cynical ploy to keep us obssesive-compulsive types coming back to the page and driving up their traffic.

PS. Anyone from Addidas reading this, please contact us at

Let's not kid ourselves

This is going to be the biggest issue of the week.

Monday Morning Manager

So as the seasons roll forward, from summer to fall, it seems as if the EPL is going backwards in time. Teddy Sheringham v Andy Cole as the marquee matchup yesterday. ManU rolling over teams by playing a 4-4-2 formation. Chelsea beating Bolton 5-1 (note: The Manager was at the game in December 2001 when Chelsea last beat Bolton 5-1. Turns out that Lampard scored his first goal for Chelsea that day -- back when he was still an 11 million pound question mark. All I remember was that I had Jimmy Floyd on my fantasy team and thought he should have had more than 1 goal and 1 assist.)

But the most troubling "back to the future" trend around the EPL is Route 1 football. Last year, the 4-5-1 formation was all the rage with Everton riding it to a Champions League spot and Crystal Palace almost managing to avoid relegation. But this year, no matter the formation, too many teams are lumping the ball forward to a target striker and trying to play off the knock downs. Be it Alan Shearer (who must have had some headache after the Wigan gamefor all the balls he won in the air, if not the result) or Peter Crouch, or Duncan Ferguson (in the last ten desperate minutes of every Everton game), Kuqi, Heskey, or Davies. This should be bread and butter defending for any team at this level and looking at the results, it is. Newcastle, Liverpool, Everton... all struggling to score any goals. Meanwhile, the teams that move the ball around like ManU, Chelsea and Charlton are scoring freely and taking up residence at the top of the table.

Even Tottenham, who insist on a little/large partnership for their strikers do so much better when Mido is playing (no offence to Rasiak) because he will control the ball and make a great pass rather than just knocking the ball down into space.

Much more to digest this week... injuries (or returns from), match-ups, strategies... but right now the Manager needs his Coffee©.


We're back. I'm not sure why this particular international break seemed so long, maybe it was because the US has already qualified and their matches were the equivalent of the beginning of World Cup training camp - good for the players and coaches (I guess) but not something you'd want to spend a ton of time watching. Maybe it's because I made up some ground on our group leaders last week and I'm in a hurry to keep the momentum going. Regardless of the reason, I can't wait for the games to get started again tomorrow. With that, away we go...

Chelsea - Chelsea host Bolton this week in a match-up that promises to be hotly contested and closer than expected. Nearly everyone on Chelsea's squad plays for their national team and are likely to be tired coming off of two qualifiers. Conversely, Bolton are healthy and tend to have guys who are good players but not quite national team material so they are likely to be rested and ready to go. Add to that the fact that Bolton generally play to the quality of their opponent (e.g., they play well against good teams and only so-so against mediocre competition) and you have the recipe for a close, low-scoring match or even a 1-0 upset to the visitors. Damien Duff and Jay-Jay Okocha are definitely out for this one. The usual (and expensive) suspects - Cech, Terry, Robben, Del Horno, and Lampard - are good bets if you can afford them but there are probably more cost effective alternatives out there. I've given up at even looking at Chelsea's forwards - too much uncertainty for too little reward. No Bolton players worth considering from a fantasy standpoint.

The Former "Big Two" - Apparently, it's a theme week for both Arsenal and ManYoo and that theme is injury. You could put together a pretty impressive all-star squad from the injury reports generated by these two clubs this week. Both are on the road against unimpressive opponents - ManYoo at Sunderland and Arsenal at West Brom - but it's hard to know what to expect from these depleted sides. Just to get it out of the way, here's the consolidated injury list - Henry, Hleb, A. Cole, Campbell, van Persie, Keane, Neville, Heinze, and Richardson - with Gilberto Silva also doubtful after his trip to Brazil for international duty. Obviously, there are still some attractive attacking options between van Nistelrooy, Rooney, Reyes, and Ljungberg and some oldies but potentially goodies like Pires and Giggs. Of that group, I think I'd focus on Ruud and Reyes. The more interesting question is that of the fill-in defenders for both teams. Bardsley is going to start for ManYoo and Clichy and Senderos are both going to start for the Gunners. If you're looking for a defender on the cheap, those are all good options. West Brom have the more potent home offense (6 goals scored from 4 matches vs. 4 goals scored from 4 matches for Sunderland) but neither is particularly potent. I don't think I'd take more than one of these three guys and it's sort of a coin flip between them in my opinion.

Vs. The Relegation Zone - As you'll recall we "promoted" West Ham from this group last time around and in recognition of that and Wigan's stellar early-season performance, we now have enough data on this year's teams to rename the entire category from "The Newbies" to "Vs. the Relegation Zone" which can just as easily be interpreted as "this is a good match-up".

This week, that means Everton, West Brom (already discussed) and Fulham who are bringing up the rear. Spurs host Everton which might present an opportunity for Spurs to score more than one goal and certainly represents the highest probability of a clean sheet for any set of defenders this week. Despite Jeremy's statistical analysis on Mido, you have to consider him strongly based on his combination of effectiveness, cost and opponent. Likewise, Paul Robinson is an excellent candidate in net and Jermaine Defoe is a great bet as a premium priced striker. Of course, nickname favorite YP (Free) Lee is a great, and inexpensive, bet in defense coming back from his injury. As in weeks past, stay away from Everton until they do something/anything to prove that they might score or stop their opponents from scoring.

Fulham travel across London to face high flying Charlton in what must be considered an extremely attractive match for Charlton supporters and fantasy owners alike. Once again, it's time to load up on Charlton players - Danny Murphy - in, Darren Bent - in, Charlton Defenders - in to the extent they're affordable. The big question in this match is around the goalkeeper position. Keily is back from injury but Andersen has gotten them this far and the manager hasn't tipped his hand that I have seen. Unless something definative is said, you probably want to go with Paul Robinson rather than either of Charlton's keepers.

Random Notes - Birmingham derby = lots of yellow cards and the uncertainty around Baros and Phillips for Villa makes this an even less attractive match for fantasy managers. Jiri Jarosik is back for Brum and still represents a good value but you might want to wait a week until after the derby to pick him up. West Ham travels to the City of Manchester Stadium for a battle of surprise teams thus far. The problem with both teams for fantasy owners so far is that the points seem to come from different people each week. Etherington has a great week followed by crap for two weeks where Benayoun does well once and Harewood does well the other. Great for the fans, bad for setting a fantasy line-up. Joey Barton has done well for Citeh pretty consistently but I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wish him well in showing Wayne Rooney what it means to mature but I'm still not ready to get on the bandwagon as long as there are other attractive midfield options available with equal potential and less potential for a meltdown. In other news, Stevie G is out for Liverpool leaving them without their leader and best fantasy option. The matchup at Anfield with Rovers makes a clean sheet a reasonable possibility but without Gerrard clogging up the middle, Rovers might find some inspiration somewhere. Boro/Pompey and Wigan/Newcastle both feature strikers with some potential (Yakubu and Owen) who have questionable midfields behind them but only adequate defenses between them and the net. I'd expect each of them to net at least once.

Sorry for the late posting, it's been a crazy week around these parts...

Seeds of Doubt

"Lee Young-pyo and Mido are also expected to shake off hamstring complaints to be available for Saturday's game."
"Coach Martin Jol welcomes back Michael Carrick and Lee Young-Pyo from hamstring injuries for the Barclays Premiership clash with Everton.

Egyptian striker Mido is expected to recover from a hamstring injury to resume his partnership with England's Jermain Defoe in attack"

Bardsley set to earn first Premiership start

Bardsley set to earn first Premiership start at Sunderland. And he's the CHEAPEST defender in the game! So if you've got a defender at or near cost, I don't see how you can NOT play him this weekend. Take your savings and there and move to RvN up front if you can. It's a two-fer!

Now I just have to figure out if I consider having Nigel Reo-Coker at $1.06 under market value as "at or near cost".

Woodgate scores another own goal in Real friendly

From bad, to worse:
Jonathan Woodgate's calamitous start to his Real Madrid career continued on Tuesday when he scored his second own goal in three outings for the Primera Liga side.

Pompey Target Nugent

Be careful... Nugent will aim back!

Oh, not that Nugent. This Nugent:

Portsmouth are hoping to sign £2million-rated Preston striker David Nugent.
The England Under-21 forward has scored 12 times in 22 Championship starts since moving from Bury and could be the answer to Pompey's goals crisis.

Alain Perrin recruited three new strikers in the summer, but none have so far found the net.

Real New York

... Indeed, [Steinbrenner's] deluded policy of having galacticos -- supposedly the superstars of superstars -- and an anonymous supporting cast continues to plague the club ...

And I was at the San Diego Zoo yesterday. Creepy. ;-)

History Repeating

If history is any guide, Mido is due for another bad week.

[F]ootball is "bling"

Jay-Z 'a Gooner'

If Jay-Z wants a piece of English football, we're happy to talk about his owning his own Fantasy EPL blog (Can we call it Web 2.0? That seems to be all the rage?). After all if, football is bling, then this must be the Rolls-Royce Phantom of web sites.

I'm just saying...

... Clichy is $6.61

England and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole will be out for up to six weeks with the stress fracture of his foot, says Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

Reuters Breaking News: Lang Hall Divorced!!!!

In a shocking departure from Irish tradition and roman catholic canon law, defending fantasy EPL champion Hall has filed for fantasy divorce from Lang, thus ending their decidely unfruitful fantasy EPL partnership.

Last year's runaway champion stated in offical court papers filed with the Irish court of fantasy sport disputes, " . . . the union of our fantasy management skills did not work, we have irreconcilable differences in midfield and striker . . . what seemed like a great idea (merging the fantasy skills of two of the top epl minds in the galaxy) in reality was a fecking disaster.

Lang was unavailable for comment, but through her publicist she released the following statement, "My silly american husband is using me as a scapegoat for his now readily apparent lack of soccer knowledge (fantasy or otherwise). To be honest, he doesn't even like soccer, to him its just a pale substitute for his lack of access to the NFL, oh, and speaking of which, his fantasy NFL team is doing even worst than his EPL team, and he certainly can't blame me for that now can he."

Monday Morning Manager

What a horrific weekend. I guess I thought I was smart because I write this blog. But no. I'm still an idiot. Let me count the ways:
Michael Owen

Y.P. Lee

Milan Baros

Edwin van der Sar
Allows 2 goals.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Did he touch the ball?

Jihai Sun
Injury time substitute.

Claus Jensen
Sold on Friday due to injury doubt and unfavorable match-up. All he does is float a stupid free kick that everyone on the field watches drift into the net.

Robin van Persie
Considered, but not bought. Scores the game winner versus Birmingham according to Yahoo!. Though the goal is credited as a Stephen Clemence own-goal by everyone else.

It's going to take the entire international break for the Manager to get over this.