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...

EPL on TV this weekend

Some good games on the telly this weekend... and then there's West Brom/Everton. Sigh.

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?

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 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.

Soccer on Fox Soccer Channel
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Oct 29EPLWigan AthleticArsenal7:30 a.m.
Sat.Oct 29EPLWest BromEverton12 p.m.
Sat.Oct 29EPLCharltonMan United3 p.m.
Sun.Oct 30EPLTottenhamWest Ham1 p.m.
Soccer on PPV/CCTV
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Oct 29EPLChelsea Newcastle10 a.m.
Sun.Oct 30EPLMiddlesbroughFulham11 a.m.

For anyone with S. Taylor or N. Reo-Coker still in their team

Sun Jihai looks set to be handed a central midfield berth. With Joey Barton suspended and Claudio Reyna (ankle) almost certainly out, City boss Stuart Pearce seems likely to hand the Chinese utility man only his second senior start since he ruptured knee ligaments against Chelsea 13 months ago."

Keane leaves Man United

Captain Roy Keane has sensationally left Manchester United by mutual consent, the club has announced. Keane himself said: 'Whilst it is a sad day for me to leave such a great club and manager I believe that the time has now come for me to move on.' Portsmouth have already shown an interest in the 34-year-old midfielder.

Though the Portsmouth link is a bit sad.

Australia - "Stayin' Alive"...

"Congratulations Australia, You Have Now Just Qualified for the World Cup - What Could Be Better Than That?"
From Soccernet --> After a wait of 32 years since their only appearance at football's biggest tournament, Australia will be in Germany after holding on in front of 82,698 fans and taking the game to penalties.

Among the crowd was Hollywood actor John Travolta, who celebrated with the Socceroos in the changing room after the dramatic finale.

'Not only have we made the nation proud, we had John Travolta in the changing room,' Blackburn full-back Lucas Neill added. 'It's an amazing night and that capped it off.'
Me'thinks Lucas needs to get out more often...

Not to step on Yanks Abroad's toes, but...

Everton are believed to be interested in signing Josh Wolff when the transfer window reopens in January.
Anyone else doubt that Wolff has what it takes to make the step up? No offense, becuase when healthy, he's been a great player for MLS and for the USA. But I'm not sure I can see him in the EPL.

Then again, you could argue that he's a striker in the Owen mold. He'll play on the line and get behind the defense.

What do you think?

Friday's Team News Today

Newcastle boss Graeme Souness has been rocked by the news that teenager defender Steven Taylor could be sidelined for another eight weeks with a shoulder injury.
Even if you have him at $4, 8 weeks is long time.

But it's gonna seem like 6 months to Shay Given!

Neal's Wet Dream - Intl Week version

For Neal, this is almost as good as two Carolina Panther cheerleaders locked in a bathroom together:

Darren Ambrose also had a goalbound header hacked away late on - but he had the last laugh two minutes from time when he turned home sub Dean Ashton's left-footed shot from close range to keep England's hopes alive and kicking.

International Week

Equal Time

... or, "Credit where credit is due."

Robert in more hot water

Good news for those with Matthew Taylor in their lineup?
Winger Laurent Robert could be heading for more disciplinary action at Portsmouth after his latest outspoken comments about the club.

The Frenchman was last week fined after refusing to be a substitute at Sunderland, although the matter was later put down to there being confusion over his injury situation.

He played the last half-hour of the defeat to Wigan on Saturday but went public on Tuesday with his complaints about his team-mates, Portsmouth's style of play, the fact nobody passes to him and that even the best players in Europe would struggle in the side.

Of course, there is a down side:
Portsmouth have just 10 points from 12 matches this season and their next four fixtures are Liverpool (away), Chelsea (home), Manchester United (away) and Tottenham (away).

Monday Morning Manager

The Manager is going to bite his lip until the weekend settles itself later today.

But hey, it's an international week, so they'll be nothing but time for aimless speculation and pointless commentary!

By knockout!

... or more accurately, one goal to nil!

Liverpool warned to beware Baros

Milan Baros has admitted he is desperate to score against old club Liverpool when they visit Aston Villa for Saturday's lunchtime Premiership clash.

The Czech forward, fit again following recent injury problems, insists he has nothing to prove although there is little doubt he is still smarting about the way he was treated at Liverpool.
In other ridiculous headlines -- "Mother's Backs Threatened by Crack-Steppping", and "Bones Wary of Sticks and Stones".

EPL on TV this weekend

Yes, Virginia, there are other games on this weekend besides ManU/Chelsea. They're just not as interesting. ManU will be sure to fight tooth and nail for this win... but after they were supposed to do that in midweek against Lille how much can you expect from them? Look for Lampard and Drogba to give Smith and Ferdinand fits.

Otherwise, a very fragile Villa side face a Liverpool side trying to re-establish their form in the EPL. Look for Gerrard and Cisse to overshadow Baros' return against his former club. (Note to Snr Benitez: play Riise in front of Warnock on the left to shut down Milner and disrupt Villa's route into the attack.)

For the umpteenth week in a row, FSC is showing Portsmouth. I'm actually looking forward to the game this time as I picked up Matt Taylor (after his exploits of last weekend, unfortunately) and am expecting him to get the start again on the left side of midfield. I'm interested to see if with his moving left and Vukic back to health if Portsmouth have anything like a recognizable formation. Of course playing Wigan almost guaruntees a dour 1-0 game (0-0 until about 85mins) which dims my enthusiasm a bit.

Speaking of dull, scoreless games, Everton/Boro should be a real treat on Sunday! So hurry back from church in time for your nap. Or will a revitalized Boro meeting a revamped Everton (Arteta on the right, Van der Meyde on the left) make for good viewing?

And don't forget Owen, excuse me, Newcastle v. Birmingham City. Is NUFC for real yet? They'll need 3 points from this game to avoid taking a huge step backwards.

Soccer on Fox Soccer Channel
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Oct 29EPLAston VillaLiverpool7:30 a.m.
Sat.Oct 29EPLPortsmouthWigan Athletic12 p.m.
Sat.Oct 29EPLNewcastleBirmingham City3 p.m.
Sun.Oct 30EPLEvertonMiddlesbrough1 p.m.
Soccer on PPV/CCTV
DayDateCompetitionHomeVisitorKickoff (ET)
Sat.Oct 29EPLArsenal Sunderland10 a.m.
Sun.Oct 30EPLManchester UnitedChelsea11 a.m.

Henry to face Black Cats

Thierry Henry will play against Sunderland on Saturday despite being substituted during the second half of the Champions League win over Sparta Prague as a precaution against complications to his groin problem.

Arsene Wenger said: "He will play tomorrow. I was very impressed by him on Wednesday. He looks sharp and fit."

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Sadly, my day job has gotten in the way of putting together a full preview for the week so this will have to do...

Chelsea - in a lot of turmoil but nothing compared to ManYoo - stay away from the defenders and keepers in this match. Lampard is a no-brainer if you have the $$. Ruud and Rooney are slightly less valuable this week because of the match-up. Drogba might be a good bet because of the issues on the ManYoo backline.

Former "Big Two" - See above for ManYoo...Arsenal host Sunderland...Henry questionable...Ljungberg out...van Persie flying high...Reyes a good bet if Henry is out but not so much if he's in...Clichy cheap...Lehmann back in the line-up but expensive

Against the Relegation Zone - see above for Sunderland vs. Arsenal...Boro vs. Everton - Mendieta hot but historically sporadic...Yakubu on another streak?...Andy van der Meyde should start on the left and is really cheap...Newcastle vs. Brum - Newcastle hot...Emre and Owen relatively inexpensive and building up the fantasy points...N'Zogbia is a quietly effective fantasy player...Pennant keeping his place in the lineup (desperation anyone?)...Jarosik still cheap...

Random Notes - West Ham likely to break out on the offensive end vs. WBA so Benayoun, Etherington, and Harewood might be decent cheap bets...Villa vs. Liverpool has all the makings of a 1-0 match - I'd stay away...Bolton vs. Spurs also seems like an unappealing match although Mido is exceptionally cheap after a bad week vs. Arsenal...Charlton and Blackburn is a match-up of teams heading in opposite directions - MGP is always a good bet...Pompey's offensive outburst seems unlikely to continue against Wigan but betting on Wigan for a clean sheet seems like a hard thing to expect vs. Pompey at home...Fulham vs. Citeh should showcase some offensive fireworks on both sides of the field...both Jensens, Barton, Andy Cole and Boa Morte should all be considered.

Keano Calls For A Clear-Out

"There is talk about putting this right in January and bringing players in," Keane told MUTV according to the Daily Mirror.

"We should be doing the opposite - we should be getting rid of people in January."

So who should go, and where? Some possiblities include:
Alan Smith
He's not going to cut it as a middie. So send him to Aston Villa who desperately need the kind of aggression energy that Smith brings to the table. This would reunite him with DO'L who is "getting the band back together" anyway (Milner, Bakke). And we can end the JPAngel era... not a moment too soon.

Darren Fletcher
Can we convince one of the Old Firm to take him? If he moves back to Scotland we'll never have to hear from him again.

Tim Howard
"Welcome back, Timmy. We at the NY/NJ MetroStars have missed you since you've been gone. Tony Meola? What were we thinking?"

Kieran Richardson
It's better than East Brom!

John O'Shea
Liverpool. They're in desperate need of another crap fullback who can do equally little from the wide midfield role.

Paul Scholes
It's simply time for him to take a Fredo boat ride.

Liam Miller
Whomever buys him will have to do it on faith. I don't think there is any evidence of his actually having played for ManU.

Roy Keane
Sam Allardyce lies in bed at night thinking of this transfer!

Louis Saha
Birmingham City are struggling and could really use a prolific striker. And their trainers are very experienced dealing with a wide range of injuires.

Rio Ferdinand
Has to be Real Madrid, doesn't it? They've already shown their willingness to overpay for former Leeds center backs with questionable disciplinary histories.

Who else?