I apologize again for the lateness of the post, the last week has been packed to the gills and today was no exception as I woke up at 5:00 AM for a flight to Chicago, spent the majority of a day in the Chicago airport for meetings, and then flew home and am now comfortably sitting back in my living room ready to talk about the mid-week games to come.
The first oddity of the week is Yahoo's apparent refusal to acknowledge that there is a match on Wednesday between Arsenal and West Ham. According to Arsenal.com, Soccernet.com, and BBC.com, this match is happening. I'm guessing that Yahoo will figure this out, but it's been a week and they haven't yet, so you might want to be a bit wary.
Before getting to the commentary, I'd also like to congratulate fellow blogger Jeremy on his elevated status in the ranking - nice work. And this is in no way meant to put a hex on his recent success...
With that said, and (hopefully) done, on to the commentary (I'll try to keep it brief because I'm freakin' wiped out).
Chelsea - So, do they react to their second run of mediocre play of the season (consecutive draws to Charlton and Everton) by breaking out? Or are they so focused on their match-up with Liverpool on Sunday that they fall prey to the trap that David O'Leary is no doubt praying for at Villa Park. I'm not sure exactly what is wrong since Chelsea are trotting out their first team. Maybe they're just bored now that they've built up such a lead in the league. I still refuse to bet against Lampard having a big match because he is almost always productive for fantasy managers but the defense must be questioned after giving up goals to the "other" Bent and James McFadden (who the Blog loves but who isn't exactly Henry either). For the money, Chelsea haven't pulled their collective fantasy weight. If you have someone (Del Horno or Crespo most likely) at a cheap price, it's worth keeping them. If you're shopping from scratch, this is probably not the match to look at. Villa is unlikely to score more than one and Chelsea hasn't shown much more than that. If I were betting, I'd say 1-0 Chelsea, but I wouldn't make the bet because there's too much recent history saying that 1-1 is as likely an outcome.
The Former "Big Two" - There are a number of things that are troubling about the Arsenal match. First, their form has been rotten. Not as much at home as on the road, but even at Highbury they've been less than dominating unless the opposition just rolled over (this means you Boro). Presuming Yahoo gets its act together and counts the points from this match, I'm not sure how excited I'd be about it. Henry is incredibly expensive and the Gunners don't get consistent production from anyone else - either on the field or in terms of fantasy points. Pires, Reyes, and van Persie have had hot stretches and Hleb has started contributing but none have done so week in and week out. Likewise, the Gunners defense has had some nice stretches but they've also had some unexpectedly bad outings as well featuring lots of cards and one or more goals.
On the West Ham side, new signing Dean Ashton has to be considered questionable after his new manager said "I blessed with luxury up there. Dean is definitely fit for Wednesday - so God knows what I'm going to do". Not exactly what fantasy managers want to hear although it doesn't matter much since Yahoo doesn't appear to have posted him yet (not their finest week so far). Ashton's possible inclusion decreases the value of Harewood (who will take penalties?) but increases the value of Etherington who will now have someone on the end of his crosses. It's probably wise to wait a week but if Ashton's impact at Upton Park is similar to the one he made at Carrow Road last year, look for good things all around once he's settled.
Manchester United travel to Ewood Park in an attempt to avenge the loss Blackburn and MGP inflicted on them at OT. Just their luck that MGP is starting to produce again after a rough November and December. Fortunately, the Neviller is back and should help shut down Pedersen on the left. The worry will be Bentley/Emerton vs. Evra on the right side of the Rovers attack. Helping United's cause will be the continued (likely) absence of Bellamy and Dickov up front. Rio should be able to hold Kuqi leaving the other central defender to help Evra with Bentley. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 2-0 away win in this one. On the offensive side of the ball, Ruud and Rooney continue to be points engines while the rest of the squad is sporadic at best and more likely injured. Despite his issues covering Premiership attackers, Evra is still a nice fantasy pick-up because he's still relatively cheap and he does make the occasional cross in. He's no Heinze but he'll do for now.
Against the Relegation Zone - Welcome back Birmingham, Pompey and Sunderland - you can tell it's getting later in the season when there isn't much change in the clubs in this section of the blog. Of the three, Birmingham has showed the most promise recently but they face the harsh reality of a trip to Anfield where I expect their momentum to come to a grinding halt. Go for Gerrard if you can afford him, Kewell, and Kromkamp if you need a cheap defender. Reina is also a great bet but he's pricey. Up front, Crouch seems to have cooled off but is still relatively cheap. On the Birmingham side, Pennant is always a good bet but he's less of a good bet this week than he usually is - keep him if you have him at a bargain but otherwise probably not the week to invest in him.
Sunderland v. Boro has all the makings of a nice background for a nap. I can only think of two people who I have any interest in endorsing in this match and they're Downing (who looked good in his first match back) and Yakubu who is always a threat to score, especially against a crap defense. Not much else here folks.
Pompey have signed yet another player (Routledge on loan) but they don't seem to be getting any better on the field despite the signings. Bolton on the other hand, are coming off where they picked up at least a draw in every match they played. Not a ringing endorsement but I expect them to get (yet another) professional, grind-it-out sort of win. 1-0 or 2-1 sounds about right. Not a lot to give me hope on the fantasy side of things. I was burned on Stelios earlier in the season so while he has been playing well, I'm going to stay away.
Random Notes - Charlton offensive players (both Bents and Murphy) have to be considered attractive again as they have uncharacteristically come back from the dead this January rather than taking the entire month off again, hosting WBA doesn't hurt either...Citeh hosting NUFC means that Joey Barton has to be considered as does Sun Jihai who produces for cheap in a defensive slot...Fulham v. Tottenham will pit a team who can't play defense against a team who can't score - not sure how that's going to work out but until Mido comes back from Africa, I'm staying away from Spurs offensive players - Carrick is always a decent bet but without Mido, you can probably do better...Wigan v. Everton is another hard one to pick - Wigan is playing well but Everton are starting to play clog-it-up defense again and seem likely to limit the production Wigan gets out of its offense this week. Thompson is still relatively cheap and might be worth a risk based on his first match for the Latics...Ditto Mellor...
That's about all from here...happy shopping...