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...