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.