...by my own co-blogger. He does however, raise a good point. The last two weeks haven't so much been about "who's going to score the most points?" but rather "who's actually going to play?" I know I've been disappointed a few weekends in a row by misleading injury reports as well as the (unannounced) decisions of managers to rest players who appeared ready for action (see, Downing, S.). So, as we head into the weekend, our biggest job as fantasy managers is to get inside the heads of actual managers and try to figure out what the heck they're going to do with their line-ups. Will Bolton rest players against Sunderland or will they go all out to push for a spot in Europe now that their FA Cup dreams are dead. We know Boro are all in for the UEFA Cup and that Alan Pardew has indicated that he is going to field a weakened team. Citeh have indicated that they aren't "good enough" to be fielding a weakened team for any competition.
So, with all of those vague pronouncements from various managers during the week, it is left to us to figure it all out...
Chelsea - On the surface, this would seem to be a blowout - the reigning, and soon-to-be-recrowned champions against a team coming off a two-game week where they lost both matches and looked bad doing so. This is where Chelsea has suckered us in all season. We load up on expensive players and then Chelsea grind out a 1-0 win that features 3 SOTs total and a few corners but mostly frustrates the hell out of us. Huth looked pretty good last weekend and I'm leaning toward selecting him - he seems a bargain at 6.00 - even more so since he doesn't seem to be in Jose's doghouse. On the other hand, he could easily be on the bench. On the offensive side of the ball for Chelsea, I've pretty much thrown my hands in the air and admitted that I'm giving up. Lampard is great and expensive. Everyone else is inconsistent. For Fulham, my man Collins John is having another great run of form but it would take some giant balls to pick him against Chelsea.
The Former "Big Two" - So, Robin van Persie is fit again - good for depth at Highbury, bad for fantasy managers. I would imagine that Adebayor still gets the start against Charlton with van Persie coming in late. Since Adebayor can't play Champions League, he will probably get his time in the Premiership. Henry is back to the insane form that has made him the best player/fantasy player in the Premiership for the last few years. Eboue has been excellent and remains cheap. Fabregas is also on the rise and looks to be a good, and still fairly inexpensive choice in midfield. For Charlton, Darren Bent has been in excellent form but is expensive and the same is true of Luke Young. The rest of the team is crap.
Manchester United get West Brom in what has the makings of a massacre. Rooney and Ronaldo are in sparkling form, the big question is "who will partner Rooney?" If we KNEW the answer to be Saha, then he'd be a no-brainer pick because he's cheap and playing against a bad team. However, like so many attractive players this weekend, he could find himself on the bench. The United defense is equally perplexing - Evra would be a great bet if we knew he were going to start but Silvestre doesn't seem to be hurt despite his removal at halftime of United's match last weekend. Wes Brown is out, and Vidic is poised to replace him as well as going straight into my line-up. If you're looking for certain starters, you may want to look at laying out the money for Giggs, G-Nev, and/or O'Shea (it is St. Patrick's Day). Nothing to report on the West Brom side other than a weekend of disappointment.
Against the Relegation Zone - Bolton hosts Sunderland and you have to think it's all ahead for Wanderers in the Premiership now that they're out of the FA Cup. Stelios has killed me in the recent past when I've picked him but I can't resist the notion of picking both he and Kevin Nolan who seem to be the two guys at the heart of what little offense and flair Bolton generates. The caveat here is that these guys played into extra time on Wednesday and there is a chance that they a) will be rested; b) won't have a lot in the tank so take this advice with a grain of salt.
The other team in the epic mid-week FA Cup battle, West Ham, are also hosting a relegation-bound club, Pompey. Alan Pardew has already indicated a "weakened squad" will be fielded which probably means that Harewood and Ashton will be rested in favor of Zamora and Sheringham - nice to have depth like that. In need of a cheap striker to afford other players for my midfield, I'm taking a chance on old Teddy. He's been productive when he's been healthy and had a chance to play this year. Etherington has been excellent when the Hammers have had a target man for him to cross to and he's worth a look - if not now, then definitely next week when the Hammers have two matches. If the Hammers are, indeed, fielding a weaker squad LuaLua is an interesting pick for the daring fantasy manager.
Finally, we come to Spurs who travel to Birmingham City. Blog favorite Mido is a question mark leaving his status along with that of Defoe uncertain (where have we heard that before this week?). Keane is a solid bet given the Blues' injury issues but I have to admit I'm not wild about Spurs current form. Pennant's status for Brum is as uncertain as Mido's is for Spurs which leaves this match without a lot of good storylines for fantasy managers.
Random Fantasy EPL Notes - In form Everton host a Villa squad decimated by injuries both at striker and in defense...Beattie is the luxury choice with McFadden being the value pick here at the blog...Rovers are back home against a Boro squad who have conceded the Premiership in favor of the UEFA Cup and the usual suspects - MGP and Bellamy - are the most appealing, albeit expensive options...Citeh host Wigan in a tie that could go either way in my mind, in form striker Samaras is a doubt as is Joey Barton which leads me to believe that we should all probably stay away from this one entirely - has 0-0 written all over it...Finally we get to Newcastle hosting Liverpool and their re-invigorated strikerforce - I don't think Liverpool will be as good as they were against Fulham but I think they'll win...Fowler isn't a bad bet for a bargain and Gerrard is always good value for the money but no one else is particularly appealing for me here.