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 BBC.com 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...