So, first it was Lee Hendrie, then James Milner, and now Scott Parker have all come down with "glandular fever." This has very little to do with fantasy epl but having grown up with a physician as a father, I've heard about a lot of illnesses. Never heard of "glandular fever" or at least not by that name - and how is it that I've never heard of this wiping out 4 to 6 week stretches of a player's season like this before? Just thought I'd ask before I got down to the business of the column. If anyone has any thoughts, please share with the group.
The second bit of business that is much more important to fantasy players is the worry that Yahoo hasn't seemed to notice that Bolton and Birmingham are scheduled for two matches this week. This happens from time-to-time but it is a little disconcerting since Bolton's only current match is with ManYoo and given that the Wanderers as a group aren't exactly fantasy studs, we here at Blog Central have been a bit skittish about putting Big Sam's men in our respective line-ups. That said, sources everywhere insist that this match is happening on Tuesday evening at St. Andrews so we're going with it.
In non-two-gamer news, Everton host Sunderland, Fulham host Pompey and Chelsea travel to Birmingham (not good times in the midlands) - seems likely that all three of those teams will do well based on their match-ups. Other notes, Robben is back from suspension while Gerrard checks out due to his. Samaras is back early from injury but Birmingham's entire team seems to be out (again, not good times in the midlands).
Chelsea - It appears that it will be Jermaine Pennant and Maik Taylor against the entire Chelsea squad this weekend - did I mention that times are not good in the midlands? If you could bet on things like Taylor will concede (yet another) own goal - I'd take that action in a second. I'm inclined to recommend Robben because he's well-rested and I'm generally a fan of his but it isn't a strong recommendation - I'd take Kevin Nolan and his two matches first. Huth may well play again and seems reasonably assured of a clean sheet if he does. The rest of the crew at Chelsea are more expensive than they're worth. The big question for the week is whether you go with Pennant or Stelios in the premium midfield category - I'm leaning toward Stelios because I think Bolton will score more goals in their two games than Brum but it's sort of a toss-up.
The Former "Big Two" - Arsenal, flying high after their 7th straight Champions League clean sheet, host an Aston Villa side that are missing their central defense and their only player capable of supplying them with width (Milner). Seems like a good weekend to have Henry and maybe Fabregas who has quietly become a very good fantasy player in the second half of the season. Eboue is another Gunner who is worth inclusion after you figure out which two-gamers you're going to have in your line-up. He's relatively cheap and gets forward a lot on the right side of the field - sooner or later he's going to have a monster game and this may well be it. The biggest dilema related to Arsenal is at striker where fantasy managers must be unsure if the fit-again Robin van Persie will supplant Adebayor in the Starting XI. Stay away from Villa - Baros and Milner are both out and there isn't much else there.
In contrast to Arsenal's seemingly easy weekend of things, ManYoo have the unenviable task of traveling to the Reebok for the first of Bolton's two matches this week. The Neviller is questionable leaving the right side of the United defense a fantasy black hole (Pique is listed as a Midfielder). One would have to assume that Ruud will supplant Saha after his game-winning performance in mid-week and eliminate a great cheap striker from the mix. In fact, the only Devil I'm sticking with is Ronaldo because I've got him exceptionally cheap. The rest I'm discounting due to the difficulty of their match this week...which turns the focus to Bolton. One of those weeks you hate - I want to see them lose (good for Arsenal) but I'll have a lot of their guys in my line-up. Davies and Nolan are relatively cheap so it makes sense to include both of them. Stelios, as mentioned above, is pretty expensive but probably worth stretching for if you can make it happen. Jussi isn't my favorite keeper ever but the promise of a match vs. Birmingham plus whatever he managed from the ManYoo match seems like a good reason to make the investment. In defense, I'm currently going with Ben Haim who seems certain to play and isn't too over-priced. There may be a case for Okocha because he's cheap too but he hasn't done much this year and there may be better one-game options out there. Speaking of which...
Against the Relegation Zone - Everton v. Sunderland is pretty enticing. Despite losing the Liverpool derby last weekend, Everton have been pretty hot over the last few months with Beattie and (blog favorite) McFadden in particularly good form. Cahill always seems to be near the ball and while he's uncertain for this weekend, Arteta is another in-form player (although one I'm staying away from this week due to the injury). Another great name from fantasy seasons past is Gary Naysmith - he's cheap, he gets into the offense, and he's been starting.
We mentioned Birmingham a few times above and the only interesting player there is Pennant - I'm pretty sure Jarosik won't play vs. Chelsea due to his loan terms and he's been one of the few other Brum players who has even created a blip among fantasy managers this year.
That leaves us with Pompey traveling to Craven Cottage to face a Fulham side who seem to have lost some of the offensive momentum that they had going in February. Wayne Bridge is back to present fantasy managers with another cheap, offensive-minded, defender who is a decent bet for a clean sheet. Not too much else exciting about Fulham's offense right now. Jeremy's boy D'Allesandro had a nice weekend two weeks ago but his price went up accordingly so I'm not sure how much of a bargain he should be considered at this point (plus, I'm bitter about the rainout last weekend so I'm sort of down on him).
Random Fantasy EPL Notes - Spurs travel to St. James' Park to face a Newcastle squad that has been up and down in recent weeks - the Toon hot streak seems to be over and Spurs look likely to continue that trend in what promises to be a difficult match to stay awake for...Mido looks likely to displace Defoe, so there's that, but probably not your best option...Liverpool travel to West Brom without Stevie G to trounce Albion...Luis Garcia will be the popular pick here but he generally disappoints at exactly the moment everyone thinks he'll do well...Harry Kewell is a relatively inexpensive one-gamer who is poised to do well while Crouch is the only striker guaranteed to start...Man Citeh looks like they're in a good position to do well at home against Boro...Boro are coming off a long trip to Basle where they were beaten down and lost Pogotetz to injury which leaves them very inexperienced in the back...throw in that Boro aren't very good following European competition and Samaras and Barton are good bets if you're in the market for one-gamers...the Hammers and blog fave Dean Ashton are set to rebound from their disappointing loss to ManYoo in midweek as Charlton comes to Upton Park...Ashton is criminally cheap but he's probably the only one I'd go out of my way to acquire in a week where there are two-gamers to be had...Finally, Rovers host Wigan with blog faves MGP and Bellamy still the only particularly attractive targets (and, again, in a week of two-gamers, they're probably not a great value for the money as both are pretty expensive).
Happy Shopping Kids...