Yorke backing Ruud to return

Former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke has voiced his sympathy for Ruud van Nistelrooy, although the Trinidadian international believes that the Carling Cup final snub will have little bearing on the striker's future prospects at Old Trafford.
No reason to post this other than the excuse it gives me to look for photos of Yorke with Jordan.

Reply hazy, try again

Republic of Ireland boss Steve Staunton has confirmed Steve Finnan has returned to Liverpool due to a neck injury.


It remains unclear whether Finnan will be a doubt to face Charlton at Anfield this weekend.
I'm picking up Kromkamp either way.

Injured Gallas set to miss Slovakia friendly

Chelsea defender William Gallas has not recovered from a thigh injury and will miss France's World Cup warm-up friendly against Slovakia on Wednesday.
I wonder how much longer he's out. You have to figure that he's Jose's first choice left back when he returns (whether or not he wants to play the position).

In the mean time, I don't think Damien Duff will fill in again. So will Ferriera switch to the left to allow Johnson or Geremi to play at right back? Geremi certainly isn't a good option for fantasy managers as I think Yahoo! has him listed as a middie (Remember his great season at Boro? He was a fantasy stud!). But I don't think Jose trusts Johnson either. Will Essien cover right back?

Interesting choices for a team claiming to have 2 world-class players at every position.

Update: I failed to mention that this supposes that del Horno is out of favor. If not, he plays and is a great fantasy value at his original $5 value. At least until Gallas returns.

Friday's Team News Today

Downing missed Middlesbrough's 2-0 victory at West Brom with a knee problem and will not be available for the [U-21] friendly at the Madejski Stadium.
I assume this will make him doubtful for the game against Birmingham City.

Cool new Yahoo! feature

A little creepy though. Yahoo! has been tracking you, and now posts your fantasy history and profile.

The Secret of My Success...

... Chelsea edition.
Svetoslav Todorov is in the Pompey squad but manager Redknapp may prefer to match-up Chelsea's 4-4-3 system with two wide players Ognjen Koroman, a Serbian making his Premiership debut, and Wayne Routledge, on loan from Tottenham, with Andres D'Alessandro the midfield playmaker.
So all this time, they've been fielding 11 field players! Kudos to Harry for figuring this out, and if he can get 11 of his players on the pitch (plus Kiely) then more power to him.

No Magic 8-ball

Mourinho must once again choose between the natural quality of Hernan Crespo or the raw power of Didier Drogba to lead the line, whilst Damien Duff, Arjen Robben, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole battle for the two wide positions.
Well, thanks for nothing!

An (almost) Full Schedule to Contemplate...

Not much of a week for the average Fantasy EPL manager last week - fortunately, there was an unexpected Arsenal win, a Chelsea loss, and a chance to see Ronaldinho on TV to keep us excited about the beautiful game over the last week. This week brings a schedule that is nearly full with the exception of ManYoo, Wigan, Spurs, and West Ham who are off due to the Carling Cup final.

Turning our attention to the teams that will be playing we find Boro with a match-up against West Brom that looks attractive as does Chelsea's match-up with Pompey no matter how badly Chelsea has been playing. I'd like to preface the rest of the column with the fact that I'm writing before the injury updates have been released and I have a full slate of meetings tomorrow so please check BBC.com, Soccernet.com or this space if Jeremy is up to posting a few pertinent notes from the injury roles. Away we go...

Chelsea - So, what wins out here? Will Chelsea continue to struggle through 2006 or will Pompey's propensity for terrible performances give Chelsea exactly the boost it needs to get back on track after losses against Barca and Boro and a pathetic showing against Colchester despite a 3-1 win. More importantly, we are back to the question of who plays. Both Drogba and Crespo were terrible against Barca and Drogba's horridness goes back to the Colchester match. Robben went off after playing well so who knows if he'll play. Lampard is, well, Lampard but that hasn't done much good for anyone recently. I honestly think Joe Cole might be the best bet for Chelsea in this match. Who knows if Del Horno has earned a spot in the Mourinho doghouse after his brutally bad performance against Barca - at least he won't be tired. Honestly, not nearly as much to choose from here as you'd expect from a match featuring the run-away champions against a team in the relegation zone. As always, not much worth considering on the Pompey side.

The Former "Big Two" - Well, ManYoo are off this week but I'm keeping Cristiano Ronaldo because I have him for cheap and I'm not inclined to risk trading down to a lesser midfielder. Plus, who knows maybe he'll have another 4 goal game next week :-)

The second biggest question of the week (after the above question about Chelsea/Pompey) is whether Arsenal will use the win against Real Madrid as a springboard to start playing like the Arsenal of two years ago. Arsenal travel to Ewood Park with a miserable away record in the Premiership so far - so who shows up? The Bernabeu conquerors or the guys who lost to Newcastle on the road. Regardless, I think you have to put Eboue into your line-up. Obviously, Henry is a good idea if you have the money. Reyes looked very good against Real and should be considered an excellent bet if it looks like he won't be subbed out for Adebayor or van Persie.

Against the Relegation Zone - We've already covered the Chelsea/Pompey tilt which leaves us with the dreaded "six-pointer" at the bottom of the table between Birmingham and Sunderland. Even if the match actually yielded six points for Sunderland, it wouldn't matter so this match is really about whether Birmingham can make things interesting for the teams just ahead of them in the standings. This seems like a good time to pick up Pennant, Jarosik and perhaps a Brum defender, say Mario Melchiott might not be a bad idea either. Maik Taylor is also one of three keepers worth considering this weekend who isn't insanely expensive (Reina and Niemi being the others - although you should probably wait and pick Niemi up for next week but before his price changes)

Misc. Fantasy EPL Notes - I have to say, I'm starting to warm to Luke Moore and the fact that Villa are playing against Charlton isn't discouraging me from picking him up to go along with Blog favorite James Milner...My second duo comes from the Boro/WBA - I'm a long time fan of The Yak going back to his crazy streak of goals at the end of the season two years ago (sorry to bring that up Kris) and he's going in the squad and unless he gets hurt, I'm sticking with Downing for the rest of the season...I really don't like the fantasy prospects offered by the Bolton/Fulham match-up but I do like Wayne Bridge who has been a point machine since coming over from Chelsea on loan...If you must take someone from Bolton then Nolan, Davies or Stelios are really the only logical choices but I can't see any of the three being spectacular...I have to say that Emre looked like the one bright spot on the field during the Charlton/NUFC game at midweek, assuming that he doesn't hurt himself getting out of bed in the morning, it might be worth getting back on that bandwagon...on the Everton side I can't in good conscience recommend any of the Toffees offensive players but Nuno Valente might be a good option if you're looking for a relatively inexpensive defender...Finally, we have Liverpool and Man City - I'm in on Kewell who's still cheap and Reina who's back after suspension and not terrible expensive...Gerrard is never a bad idea but he didn't play the full match against Benfica and you have to wonder if he's really healthy.

Remember to check tomorrow's injury report and happy shopping...

The great thing about Fantasy EPL...

... especially the Yahoo! game is that no matter how bad you screw up a week - and this week I got everything bass-ackwards (props to Kahzaad who called me on it in the comments) - the next week is right around the corner. With all new chances to get things horribly wrong.

So who's in your lineup? Keeping ManU players you have under value? Keeping the Bents as CHA are better at home and now get a shot to run at Liam Ridgewell? Loading up on Chelsea as they face lowly Portsmouth? Or are you betting against teams with European games in midweek and thinking that Blackburn, Fulham, West Brom and Man City can pull the upsets?

Chelsea v. Barca Review

Since Jeremy gave us his take on Arsenal and Real, I figured I'd give you my take on Chelsea vs. Barca.

The Refs - The red card was questionable but I think ultimately justice was done because the previous challenge by Del Horno on Messi deserved a yellow as did his the challenge that led to the straight red. Now, about the hand balls by Geremi and Terry. I can see missing one but not both.

Messi - Wow, I wrote my first (non-blog) article about soccer primarily about how awesome he was at the U20 tournament last summer. Now that he's got a bigger stage, he just keeps getting better. He was crushing Del Horno before the sending off and he beat up everyone that followed. His chip that hit to far top corner almost became a Champions League goal for the ages. Anyone else excited to see what he does this summer?

Ronaldinho - Clearly, he got most of the attention from the Chelsea defense. While he didn't have his best match ever, he created some excellent chances and opened up the field for Messi and Deco. Just having him on the field makes a difference in the game.

Eto'o - The commentators here in the States mentioned that Eto'o beat out Drogba for African Footballer of the Year by a mere two votes. My question...How's that possible? Eto'o's goal was a textbook example of what a target striker is supposed to do - I'll grant you, Drogba didn't have much service against Barcalona but he stunk against Colchester. Maybe Eto'o will be kind enough to drop a copy of the DVD of tonights game off for Didier to use as a practice tool.

Terry - what an up and down match. He scored his best goal of the year - sadly, it went into the wrong goal. He also managed to avoid being caught for pushing the ball out of the box with both hands. On the plus side, he cleared two balls off the line either of which would have put Chelsea all the way out of contention to move on to the next phase.

Henry - So, you've all heard the rumors - where exactly would Henry play for Barca? When he gets the ball deep in midfield, he tends to run from the center of the field towards the left wing - space that Ronaldinho and Deco tend to run in. I don't see Ronaldinho being relegated to the Pires role in an Arsenal-like offense, he tends to play much more centrally than Robert. Removing Eto'o and replacing him with Henry would remove any ariel threat from the offense and devalue the fantastic crossing ability of Ronaldinho, Messi, Deco and the rest. So, while I don't doubt that Henry is frustrated by his Gunners experience this season, I don't see Barca as a likely destination. Now Real? That's another story entirely.

Cone of Silence

COS on Chelsea/Barca.

One-nil to the Arsenal

Finally watched Real Madrid - Arsenal. Here are my thoughts, with an eye towards the weekend's game @ Blackburn:
  • Neal is right, the Eboue bandwagon is rolling out of the garage. And he's cheap too. Under $5 1/2, I think. Expect a lot of fantasy managers to pick him up. I know I'll be looking to swing the deal.

  • Real's best fullback, on both flanks, was Gravesen. How many times did he fill in those spots in the first half? And to the contrary, how many times did Cichino appear in central midfield? You would have thought that their plan would be to attack Flamini on their right but Cicinho spent so much time infield that there was no danger.

  • How many times are we going to see Senderos lose a physical battle to a smaller player? It's one thing to lose the ball to Ronaldo who, um, has some weight behind him. But Beckham? That's sad. And scary for an Arsenal fan, or someone hoping that they can shut down Blackburn.

  • Hleb has great close control with the ball, but he never seems to have a plan B. Get the ball. Turn. Run. Pass. And it's that last part that seems to give him troubles. He's gotta get his head up, make sure he retains possession first and foremost, and then be willing to run without the ball.

  • And he can learn all that from watching Freddie play. Great game for him moved infield to support Henry. I was surprised that he was moved left when Reyes was taken out of the game as you would figure Pires would go to the flank instead of swapping with Freddie. All that was missing was the goal.

  • Iker Casillas has got to be one of the best keepers in the world. He's never out of position, makes great decisions, and is athletic enough to make any save. And he's probably going to be around for another 10 years. Now if they can just get some protection in front of him.
Blackburn will pose a different sort of threat this weekend. The likely front two of Bellamy and Sinama-Pongolle are quick and will likey try to turn Senderos and get by him. But if Arsenal can put in the sort of committed performance we say yesterday, shut down Rovers' wide-men and get on their center backs on the break then it might not be their sixth road loss of the season. We'll just have to wait and see if yesterday can be a turning point for them. And with Eboue and Adebayor so cheap, we might just have to bet on it too. ;-)

Cone of Silence

COS on the CL games.

Eeney, meeney, miney, moe...

Been a while since we've had to play a game of "who's going to start for Chelsea", but with Drogba back from the ACN, the Champions' League entering the knock-out phase, and lowly Portsmouth visiting the Bridge this weekend...

Is Drogba a sure starter? Is Crespo more valuable in the CL than the EPL? Is Duff healthy again? Dose Jose rest Robben and Cole and play SWP?

As always, so many questions for the Fantasy EPL manager.

Tottenham 2-2 Wigan

Spurs had to come from behind twice after two goals from stand-in striker Andreas Johansson, who gave the Latics an early lead after racing through.

Mido flicked an equaliser from a Paul Stalteri cross before Johansson netted again after a neat move involving fellow striker Henri Camara.

But Spurs replied immediately, with Defoe finishing off a Mido flick-on.

I was hoping, and with my team selection betting on a low-scoring game here. At least I had Scharner with an assist and a SOT to soften the blow.

Of course the other half of this week, I am betting on goals for Charlton and Newcastle. So expect a drab nil-nil draw on Tuesday. Sic semper.

World Cup hopes look to be over

Smith, whose hopes of a place in England's World Cup squad appear to be in jeopardy, needed oxygen as he was carried off on a stretcher, and Ferguson reported it was 'one of the worst' injuries he had witnessed.
Not to kick a man when he's down, but did Smith really hope to go to Germany as anything but a spectator? Did he think it, or is this just the press looking to make an emotional story even more heart-wrenching?

Exactly which position would Smith fill in the squad? Striker, perhaps his natural postion, but one he doesn't play anymore? Or midfield, where he is neither a natural nor a regular starter.

Birmingham v Sunderland

5-3, or 0-0?

Advice from the (Monday Morning) Manager

Fernando Morientes insists Liverpool players would never copy Gary Neville and taunt opposition fans after a goal.
This seems a bit... premature? Cart before the horse? Counting chickens before they are hatched? Something.

Liverpool strikers haven't scored a goal IN THE CALENDAR YEAR! Let's not worry about how we're going to celebrate just yet. But if they are looking for some advice, I believe it was Tom Landry (a pantheon manager, no matter what the sport) who said, "Act like you've been there before."

An Abbreviated Schedule...

Here we are - after a week of rumor an inuendo here's what we know...

1) There doesn't seem to be any truth to the rumor that Yahoo is closing down the game in mid-season;

2) They haven't done anything to correct the double counting that went on for ManYoo and Pompey (and don't you love the fact that no one has mentioned a single Pompey player when they've been complaining about the scoring errors - does this tell you something 'arry); and

3) There are only two games this week and they feature four teams that have only modestly interesting fantasy players.

What does all of this mean? It means that managers are going to have to make some difficult decisions between keeping players they have on the cheap vs. going after players who are going to play this week. Here's how I'm thinking about it...

First and foremost, there are a couple players that I have for a lot less than current market value that I think are going to stay at their elevated price (Ronaldo, Downing, Ashton, and Del Horno). I'm keeping them and would advise any of you to do the same because these are the players that will get you points while allowing you to buy other premium players for the rest of the season. I'd recommend keeping between 4 and 6 of these players on your roster if you're happy with them and are likely to keep them for the rest of the year. Otherwise, time to say good bye to your current roster and hello to...

(Recommendations in order of my preference by position)

Striker - Mido (should play now that he's back from Africa), Darren Bent (should be fun to watch against a sluggish central defense at St. James' Park), Marcus Bent (ditto), Shola Ameobi (Charlton's defense doesn't get too many people excited either).

Midfielder - Carrick (still the engine for Spurs), Camara (assuming there's no news that he's out of favor after his walkabout), N'Zogbia (nothing wrong with a winger playing at home against a mediocre-at-best defense), Murphy (still not sure how he fits with Spurs but if you have a good feeling, he could move up the list)

Defense - Chimbonda (if you can afford him), Dawson (he's been good to me this year), whichever of Charlton's outside defenders looks likely to play (they've all been better than you'd expect)

Keeper - Given (probably no clean sheet, but he should make a lot of saves), Myhre (has been piling up the fantasy points despite mediocre results at the Cottage), Robinson (not having the greatest fantasy year and Wigan don't seem likely to be shut out), Pollitt (I'm worried that Spurs might score a few now that they have their preferred "big-little" grouping up top and Murphy in midfield).

So, there you have it. A bit of an unconventional entry but it's a strange week.

Happy shopping...

We have questions, we get answers

Last week we asked:
Is [Craig Bellamy] ready for two games? Can/Will he have an impact? Is he worth almost $11?
I would say so! Nothing much over the weekend, but today's match with Sunderland was always going to be the payoff. And 2 goals (marred by a stupid yellow) is pretty sweet. And he missed the hat-trick by the width of the post.

Now, do you keep him as his price goes up? Or have you already dumped him for Marcus Bent?

Lost in transition

Pretty brutal article on ESPNsoccernet.com, laying it down on Neal's beloved Gunners. But this quote in particular must sting...
It hurts all the more that Tottenham are showing the sort of ambition that Henry longs for. How the Gunners could do with experience of Edgar Davids, the midfield tenacity of Michael Carrick and the defensive promise of Michael Dawson right now.
... espcially as it has the ring of truth to it.

I'm sure it won't last...

But I'm up 88 places to 57th overall in the standings on the strength of Ashton, Dudek, Dailly, and Cristiano Ronaldo's current 48 point explosion with MGP still to come vs. Sunderland. Good times all around for your favorite blogger. Now if I could just stay ahead of Jeremy... (who will likely pass me after the ManYoo points are corrected and Breen plays tomorrow).

Regardless, my first foray this far up the table so I'm going to enjoy it while it's still there...

Rovers return for Pedersen

Morten Gamst Pedersen is back in contention for Blackburn's clash with Sunderland on Wednesday after missing the weekend game with Everton with a knee problem.

The Norwegian has trained for the last two days and is likely to regain his place in the team with Brett Emerton expected to miss out.

I'm fine. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Just dropped 25pts to Neal through Dean Ashton and Christian "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy" Dailly.

I just feel sick.

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated

Points are coming in.

Seems to be a problem with the ManU scores though as Ruud is being credited with 2 goals and CRonaldo with 4!

Anyone else seeing anything out of whack?

Drogba's knee injury causing Chelsea concern

Update, 5/12/2007: It seems that Drogba's knee injury problems have worsened.

Jose Mourinho's woes may well be worsened if Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba is unable to shake off a worrying knee injury that has troubled him for three months.

C'mon! Is there nothing else to report today? How "worrying" can the injury be if he's been able to play and travel for the last 3 months?

What I would worry about if I were Jose is that in Drogba's absence, Crespo hasn't shown himself to be worthy of an automatic start in the EPL and Carlton Cole has shown how far from the finished article he is. And as a fantasy EPL manager, I worry because I still can't predict who will start for Chelsea week to week.

Maybe Chelsea should have bought Crouch in the summer. You know, as an option -- something different -- off the bench.

Like you were sitting in the worst seat in the stadium

Blurry photos of all the goals from the weekend. Fun, but kinda pointless.

Will he or won't he?

If Gerrard is back for Liverpool, how come he isn't listed in their squad?
Liverpool (from): Dudek, Finnan, Kromkamp, Carragher, Agger, Hyypia, Riise, Warnock, Traore, Luis Garcia, Alonso, Hamann, Sissoko, Kewell, Morientes, Fowler, Cisse, Carson.
Is this list official? Are the teams required to stick to this? Can they add players as needs?

So many questions.... as usual.

Those Three Little Words

"Midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen is facing a late fitness test ahead of the match at Goodison Park after suffering a knee problem in training."

Those three little words that every fantasy manager hates to hear. So... do you gamble on MGP's health or suck up the $ and move back to Gerrard?

Chaos at Anfield Makes for a Complicated Week

This, fellow Fantasy EPL Managers, was not a fun week. Just when you thought your investing and forethought had paid off in having both Reina, Gerrard, and Kewell at reasonable prices for two straight weeks of double matches Reina goes completely insane in the middle of a lost cause of a match and Gerrard follows that up by getting hurt. Not good times. Kewell is still healthy but the question of his effectiveness has to be raised with a) Gerrard out; b) strikers who can't strike; and c) team confidence in the dumps.

All of a sudden, managers are casting their eyes away from Anfield and towards Ewood Park where Blackburn's double with Sunderland and Everton is much more attractive than Liverpool's Wigan/Arsenal double or Arsenal's Bolton/Liverpool two-fer. Throw in Chelsea playing a Boro team in crisis and ManYoo playing an equally shakey Pompey team and there are a lot of difficult choices to be made. The one bright spot is that, minus Gerrard, you probably have some money to spend.

Special Liverpool Section - With the Reds playing two this week and being in such disarray, it made sense to me to give them their own section. Alonso is likely to take free kicks with Gerrard out which improves his value. Fowler looks poised to get a start and at 6.50 for two matches, is in competition with Adebayor for being the most attractive cheap striker this week. Dudek is another attractive option - certainly his midweek performance didn't give owners a warm and fuzzy feeling but it did drop his price to under 9 which is great for any keeper, let alone one on a top 3 team. The Pool defense is the same as it's been all year - priced at a premium but worth it (esp. Finnan) if you can afford them. The match against Wigan (who is missing all their strikers) is particularly attractive for potential CSs.

Chelsea - If Arsenal, Liverpool, and Blackburn weren't playing two, my advice would be to load up on as many Chelsea players as you can find. Frank Lampard has to break out one of these days doesn't he? He hasn't had a dominant fantasy match in weeks. Robben's price has sagged back down a bit so you should consider him for this week if you don't like the 2-game options. Joe Cole and Hernan Crespo are also reasonable bets do make owners happy at fairly reasonable prices. All that said, I'm a big fan of the value of having 2 games worth of opportunity for good players rather than just one, even if it is against Boro. On the Boro side, I'm sticking with Downing because I have him cheap - if I didn't, I can think of no reason to go for one of their players this week.

The Former "Big Two" - It's been a long time since an Arsenal player other than Henry got fantasy managers excited but the play of Adebayor in his debut has most of the managers I know penciling him in to their line-ups for this week's double. He's cheap and he looks like he might provide some valuable balance to the Gunners offense in a way that van Persie and Bergkamp just can't. I'm still wary of the Arsenal midfield, Diaby played well last weekend but I'm not ready to take the risk vs. Bolton and Liverpool. That goes for the back line as well. Seems unlikely that a clean sheet is in the cards with Senderos being the most likely to pass for an "experienced defender". One more note, don't look now but Henry's price has fallen into the low 20s (22+) and with two matches this week, it might be worth moving things around to accommodate (I know I did and I thank Mr. Gerrard's balky knee for making that an easy decision). See below for Liverpool notes...

The Red Devils travel to Fratton Park with an offense that's firing at a high rate and a defense that can't stop anyone. That should make for an interesting clash with a team that can't score and couldn't even stop NUFC from putting two in the net last weekend. You have to think that ManYoo at least will score more than two goals. Ruud, Rooney, and Ronaldo are priced at a premium so it may be tough to justify their inclusion but all three are likely to figure in the scoring. Slightly more affordable is Saha who has been playing well since his return to health. I wonder when SAF will finally figure out that Rooney is best suited for the top of a central midfield diamond with Ruud and Saha up top, Giggs on the left and Ronaldo on the right? This sort of offensive-minded line-up will work best with a better player than Alan Smith/Darren Fletcher at the back of the diamond, but wouldn't so many things at OT be better if that were the case? On the defense, I'd stay away. Pompey may be the gang who can't shoot straight but United has been letting in goals at an alarming rate. No Pompey players worth considering...

Against the Relegation Zone - Rovers not only get a double but a double at the bottom of the table with already relegated Sunderland and promising but still not great Everton on the schedule for this week. MGP replaces Stevie G as this week's must-have player to be supplemented with Bentley and Bellamy if he looks to be healthy (and that seems to be the report out of Ewood). Rovers defenders aren't cheap but with low-scoring Everton and terrible Sunderland (minus Whitehead) on tap, they may be worth it if you have the $$. No Sunderland players worth taking - especially with Whitehead suspended.

Having already discussed Pompey/ManYoo that leaves Birmingham's trip to Upton Park as the final match featuring a relegation struggler. My boy Dean Ashton is still relatively cheap and I predict that the points will keep on coming for Deano. Etherington and Reo-Coker are also good bets for the Monday clash as both were last seen crossing a lot of balls Ashton's way - assists and successful crosses look like they'll be plentiful for both of those guys.

Random Fantasy EPL Notes - Not a ton to report here because the big news comes from the two-gamers but here are a few things to keep track of...Mido may make his return to the Spurs line-up - you may not want to pick him up now but be aware that Spurs are one of only four teams to play next week (Charlton, Newcastle, and Wigan being the others) so picking him up before his price rises might be a good idea - that Spurs play Sunderland makes it easier to pick up some of their other players now if you can't afford the two-gamers you want...For everyone who picked up Luke Moore on the cheap, be aware that Milan Baros is back in contention...Fulham v. West Brom - MEH...Charlton v. Man Citeh - Ditto.

And that's all I've got to say about that...happy shopping.

Friday's Team News Today

Blackburn striker Craig Bellamy is keeping his fingers crossed he will be fit for the weekend's game against Everton.

The 26-year-old has recovered from a hamstring problem and is hoping manager Mark Hughes will include him in his squad.

Is he ready for two games? Can/Will he have an impact? Is he worth almost $11?

Bizarre Gardening Accident

David Moyes' team were not helped by a bizarre ankle injury to Richard Wright in the warm-up, giving the third-choice Iain Turner a difficult debut. Wright was warming up in the goal in front of Everton's fans despite a large wooden sign requesting he use temporary nets close by. He moved the sign into the net and fell on it when he stretched to make a save, turning his ankle. For Wright, who injured himself almost three years ago after tumbling out of a loft, this was a bitter blow at a time when he hoped to re-establish himself. Moyes said an X-ray showed the goalkeeper did not suffer a break.

Substitute Clean Sheet

Here's hoping for Kromkamp's late entry in a Liverpool shutout of Charlton and a quick and easy 4pts. And of course, Ambrose remaining on the bench.

Follow along here - Charlton - Liverpool

UPDATE: Well, so much for that idea.
42'Goal! Charlton Athletic 1, Liverpool 0. Darren Bent (Charlton Athletic) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
42'Jerzy Dudek (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card.
41'Penalty conceded by Jerzy Dudek (Liverpool) after a foul in the penalty area.
41'Penalty Charlton Athletic. Darren Bent draws a foul in the penalty area.

How does this affect Dudek's price for next week, not to mention his chances of starting both matches?

UPDATE 2: And while I was updating this post:
45'+3' Goal! Charlton Athletic 2, Liverpool 0. Luke Young (Charlton Athletic) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Alexei Smertin.

When it rains it pours. Time to figure out whom I need to sell to afford Friedel for the week.

TOT musings

With Mido being sent packing by Egypt, and Rasiak moving to Southampton, who starts for TOT against woeful Sunderland? Does Jol stick by Keane and Defoe who beat Charlton, or does Mido return in Jol's favored little/large pairing? And if so, who drops to the bench?

And will Murphy play? And will he or Carrick or Jenas take kicks?

Such excitement whenever a team plays Sunderland. Even if it is their only game of the week.

LuaLua grieves after death of son

LuaLua grieves after death of son

We've followed Lua(2) from Newcastle to Portsmouth and have always enjoyed watching him play. He has fun and can turn a game in an instant. And he's not a 1/2 bad fantasy player.

All of our best to him and his family in dealing with this loss.

Lomana LuaLua intends to return to help Portsmouth in their battle against relegation from the Premiership despite the tragic death of his baby son.

The striker, who led the Democratic Republic of Congo to the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup, returned from Egypt at the weekend after being told by Congo officials his 18-month-old son had died of an illness on January 20.

But he returned to training with Pompey yesterday and is believed to have asked manager Harry Redknapp to include him in the side for Saturday's daunting fixture at home to Manchester United.

We're going to monetize these

German optician Stephanie Berndt wears a soccer ball contact lens in Munich February 6, 2006. A set of 'Magic Lens' contact lenses with images of one soccer ball and a German flag cost 45 euros (54 U.S. Dollars). REUTERS/Michaela Rehle
Any "eyeball" jokes would just be too cornea, so iris you wouldn't make them.

That's for you, Dad.

Gerrard out of Charlton game

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard has been ruled out of Wednesday's Premiership clash against Charlton.

The Reds captain picked up a knee injury in the 2-0 defeat to champions Chelsea on Sunday, and has not recovered in time to make the trip to The Valley.

The 25-year-old is also a doubt for this weekend's game at Wigan, after precautionary scans revealed the extent of the damage.
Quite a week in Fantasy EPL. Now I remember that Liverpool always screws me. First it was Heskey a few years ago ending the season meekly as Gary Macallister went on a 20pt a game tear for Mike. Then I bet on Kirkland as he tears his wrist in warm ups. Now Reina's meltdown v Chelsea and a Gerrard injury to boot. It's enough to make you pick Richard Wright for your fantasy team this week.

Badboy Barton

Badboy Barton insists he's turned his life around - Yahoo! Sport UK

Where are the rumors of a planned intra-city switch as the "next Roy Keane"? Okay, I'll start it... someone should check SAF's phone records. Perhaps a call to Greater Manchester directory assistance for a Barton, J.

If you are a Citeh fan and you're going to do the two-minute hate on him every time he touches the ball for what was a very strange announcement as the transfer window was closing, don't just call him greedy. Call him a traitor to all you stand for. Believe that he not only wanted out of your team (a la Fatty Fowler) but desperately wanted to join your hated rivals.

No Reina red card appeal from Liverpool

It means Reina will serve an automatic three-match suspension, starting with Wednesday's Premiership encounter with Charlton at The Valley.

The ban will also include Saturday's early afternoon kick-off against Wigan at the JJB Stadium, and the Anfield showdown with Arsenal on February 14.

Well, I hoped they would appeal if it meant he could play on Wednesday. Maybe get back some of those 7.5 points he dropped to Chelsea. But I'm glad he is going to miss those games as I've already sold him for Dudek. Now, to check his price to see if I can buy him back for the following weeks...

High Expectations from Low Positions

Dyer is unlikely to be risked from the start following such a long absence, but his presence on the bench could spark a revival.
Or a riot.

Stop the Presses!


Thanks to an astute comment, it looks like the Bolton/Brm game has been postponed due to Brm's FA Cup replay with Reading.

Turmoil at the Top...

We arrive at what should be an auspicious occasion for Fantasy EPL managers - there are a few teams playing two games this week. A few good picks and you can put some serious distance between your team and the rest of the people in your group or make up some ground in the worldwide rankings. This situation always creates a little anxiety for fantasy managers however, it must be even worse this week as the teams that are usually sure things - Chelsea, ManUnited, and Arsenal - haven't been their usual fantasy selves recently. Arsenal are certainly the worst of the bunch but none of the three have had many players worth the money recently.

As a heads up, the teams with two matches this week are: Charlton (Liv, @Tot); Liverpool (@Che, @Cha); Bolton (Wig, @Brm); and Birmingham (Ars; Bol) - not a ton of excitement out there, and even less on the news that Rafa says that he's going to be "rotating" his line-up a lot.

On to the analysis:

Chelsea - What an opportunity missed by ManYoo and Liverpool. Chelsea haven't been good since Drogba/Essien left the line-up but neither of their "closest" pursuers have been able to capitalize on that fact. With only one match this week and against stingy Liverpool, you have to think that Chelsea's offensive players aren't the greatest bet ever this weekend. You can't ever count Lampard out but this probably isn't the weekend to switch TO him.

The former "Big Two" - At least ManUnited scored a bunch of goals in mid-week despite their overall terrible form. Saha has scored twice in his last two matches but certainly doesn't pick up much else in the way of points so if you buy him, you'd better hope he scores. Ruud is obviously in fine form having racked up 20.00 fantasy points in 30 minutes after putting the fear of God into managers everywhere by starting the game on the bench. Evra, despite his total inability to mark anyone is still a good bet. A match against Fulham should make his life a little easier as well. Ronaldo might be an interesting choice because United's midfield issues might force SAF to play him.

It pains me to write this but Arsenal are in shambles. Henry will probably still get his points but I can't think of a single other Gunner who a) will definitely start; b) definitely contribute. Ordinarily, you'd think a trip to Birmingham would be a nice looking match-up for the Gunners but with no defenders that anyone has ever heard of, and a struggling midfield, I can't see including anyone other than Henry. van Persie is now expensive enough (12+) that he probably isn't worth the risk of a bad offense and an uncertain rotation policy. From the Birmingham side, Pennant - along with Gerrard - is a must start this weekend and Sutton probably isn't a terrible idea either against Arsenal's weak central defense.

Against the Relegation Zone - West Ham host Sunderland in a match-up that might end up looking like a two-gamer all on its own. Blog favorite Dean Ashton is going to score against the Black Cats - take it to the bank. Etherington will also have a strong weekend vs. Mick's boys. The only question is who will partner Ashton - the hot Zamora or Harewood. As you read my opinions on West Ham for the rest of this season, please keep in mind that I have irrational expectations of Ashton based on his performances last year.

We've already discussed Birmingham above which leaves us with Pompey who travel to Newcastle. All I have to say about that is YUCK. Emre is back but he's not really a bargain so I'm not sure why you'd want him over someone like Joey Barton who also takes kicks. I really don't have much positive to say about Pompey or the rest of the Newcastle team so I'm just going to move on.

Random Fantasy EPL Notes - Bolton have two matches this week but lack an outstanding fantasy player that managers should get excitd about. Stelios isn't playing against Arsenal in either match so he's unlikely to be exceptional but might be worth a look - Wigan striker Neil Mellow will definitely start and might be worth picking up... Everton and City have had mixed results but I expect Everton's form (low scoring) to win out over City's occasional tendency to score a lot Nuno Valente isn't a bad call in what has started to be an efficient defense... Boro host Villa and Stewart Downing and James Milner should be at the top of managers minds, you shouldn't go with any of the strikers featured in this match unless you have a gut feeling about one of them and if you need to think about a defender in this match, well, I'm sorry... West Brom hosting Blackburn is an interesting match-up - Blackburn is coming off a big win against ManUnited which is usually when they stumble so I'd stay away, as usual, not much on the WBA side to think about... Finally, Charlton face two excellent defensive teams in Liverpool and Tottenham while their offensive catalyst, Danny Murphy is gone leaving the potency of Charlton's offense in question, Marcus Bent is a good bargain to consider up top...

Due to my schedule, I've had to do this before all of the injury reports are in - please take a look at BBC.com or Soccernet.com before you finalize your rosters.

Happy Shopping

More Friday's Team News Today

Rafa ready to rotate Reds
"I tried to give Carragher a rest. I used Alonso from the bench, but everybody will be used in the next few weeks. We have three away games now in a week and for sure Carragher and Alonso will be key players for us then.

"We have 10 games now in just over a month, that is the reason I decided to use other players against Birmingham.

"We will see now if we can rest more in the coming games, but we must be careful how we do it because all the games are hard.''
Liverpool are 2 gamers, but both on the road and one at Chelsea. Now Rafa says he will rotate his squad. How far out of you way do you go to pick up Crouch or Luis Garcia?

Friday's Team News Today

There was further bad news about Arsenal’s replacement right back against West Ham. Kerrea Gilbert went off after 27 minutes and midfielder Mathieu Flamini filled in for the rest of the game.

“Kerrea had a bad back,” said Wenger. “I think he will be out for the weekend as well.
Look for Arsenal's defensive crisis to dominate the headlines (with ManU's midfield, I'm sure). Does this boost Pennant (playing his old team) and Sutton's chances?

And this surprises no one

Newcastle have announced that Graeme Souness' contract has been terminated with immediate effect following last night's 3-0 defeat at Manchester City. Glenn Roeder will take charge of first team affairs, assisted by Alan Shearer.
Shearer's first assist of the season.

The Pope of Chili Town

One game in midfield and Rio Ferdinand is convinced that he's the next Roy Keane.
88'Second yellow card to Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) for a bad foul.
88'Foul by Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United).
88'Robbie Savage (Blackburn Rovers) wins a free kick.
86'Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card.
85'Foul by Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United).
And give him credit, that's a pretty good imitation.