Real and Arsenal agree loan swap

Real and Arsenal agree loan swap - Yahoo! Sport UK
Real Madrid have agreed a deal with Arsenal to take Spain forward Jose Antonio Reyes on loan for one season in exchange for Brazil's Julio Baptista, the Primera Liga club said on Thursday.
The "transfers" continue, with Kevin Kilbane moving from Everton to Wigan who then let Graham Kavanaugh join Keane at Sunderland.

Looks like Chimbonda to Spurs is the last piece of the transfer puzzle.

West Ham sign Argentina stars

West Ham sign Argentina stars - Yahoo! Sport UK
West Ham United have signed Argentina's World Cup stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano from Brazilian club Corinthians on permanent deals.
Because we had to see it again to believe it.

Cole and Kranjcar set for Portsmouth

Cole and Kranjcar set for Portsmouth - Yahoo! Sport UK
Portsmouth are expected to complete the signings of Manchester City striker Andy Cole and Hajduk Split defender Niko Kranjcar on Thursday.Croatian star Kranjcar is having a medical in Zagreb with a view to a £3.5million move.
Yahoo! seems to think Kranjcar is a defender. If that persists into the game, you will be able to field 1/2 of Pompey's midfield in your fantasy defense!

Oh, yeah... and Andy Cole is retiring to the south coast.

Addicks complete Pouso deal

Addicks complete Pouso deal - Yahoo! Sport UK
Dowie said: "I'm delighted to have secured Omar. He's a very combative player, he gets goals and his delivery from set pieces is good.
Don't know Pouso, but if he takes kicks (and takes them from Reid) he's worth a look.

All name team, on the move

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Manuel 'Junior' AgogoBristol RoversNottingham ForestUndisclosed

Magpies pounce for United ace Rossi

Magpies pounce for United ace Rossi - Yahoo! Sport UK
Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder has signed Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi on loan until January as he looks to bolster his strikeforce.Rossi, 19, will compete with Obafemi Martins and Shola Ameobi for a place in Roeder's starting line-up following Michael Owen's long-term knee injury suffered at the World Cup.
Good move for both teams and player. And with Milner possibly moving to Villa (keep watching this space), Newcastle are starting to balance their squad. Still need a bit more on defense.

Hammers Land Argentine Duo

Hammers Land Argentine Duo - Yahoo! Sport UK
Argentina striker Carlos Tevez claims on his personal website he will join West Ham along with international team-mate Javier Mascherano.
Okay, you knew today was going to be CRAZY... but this? WOW! Talk about starting the day with a bang! How can you top this?

Steed to Tottenham and Routledge to Fulham is a good trade. But this is a blockbuster!

Living in a Fantasy World - E-Ticket: Living in a Fantasy World
"This is about the ubiquity and consumption of sports and how they facilitate men's relationships"
Different sport, same world.

Woodgate & £6m Huth sign for Boro

Woodgate & £6m Huth sign for Boro

Just what Boro need... another injury prone center back, and one emergency center forward.

UPDATE, from Yahoo! Sport:
Middlesbrough also confirmed the signing of Charlton Athletic midfielder Jason Euell.
Euell will give Boro another option at striker or attacking middie.

If this had been done last week, after the Chelsea match, we'd be talking about how Boro were on the up and these moves would bolster their squad for a push up the table. But after the humiliating loss to Portsmouth it all seems underwhelming. Boro have good players, but have had good players for several years now. And over that period they have been wildly inconsistent. And nothing in the history of the players they have signed really looks to have addressed that.

Petrov becomes big-money Villan

Petrov becomes big-money Villan - Yahoo! Sport UK
Petrov should be in line to make his Villa debut against West Ham at Upton Park on September 10.

His arrival will provide competition in midfield for Gavin McCann and Steven Davis who have impressed during Villa's fine start to the Premiership campaign.
Finally, a decent signing in the midfield. No offense to Ballack or Rosicky, but after Martins, Anelka, etc, I was beginning to wonder.

Not sure how he'll fit in as McCann and Davis are pretty established in that midfield. McCann as the workhorse, and Davis as the up-and-coming box to box star.

Perhaps Petrov is able to play on the right-side of midfield? That would make the most sense, and give them balance with Barry on the left.

Mido secures £4m move to Tottenham

Mido secures £4m move to Tottenham - Yahoo! Sport UK
Tottenham have confirmed they have re-signed Roma striker Mido, subject to a work permit, for a fee believed to be in the region of £4million.The 23-year-old Egyptian striker spent 18 months on loan at White Hart Lane before going back to Italian club Roma in the summer, after 11 goals in 27 appearances.
He's baaaack...

I would assume that Berbatov is still first choice. But now he has competition, and could come out of games if Jol is looking to make a change. And you won't even get me to say the word... rotation. Won't do it. Nope.

PotW - Kanu-mania is Running Wild!!! Ooooohhhh Yeaaahhhh!!!

I was about to jump the gun and award the Fantasy Player of the Week (PotW) to emerging blog favorite Jimmy Bullard of Fulham. As I was typing a beautiful recounting of his sublime combination of scoring, crossing, and winning of corners I happened to check in on the Pompey/Boro match and what did I find - Kanu-mania running wild...AGAIN. From nowhere longtime blog favorite Kanu has been reborn and has scored two goals in a match for the second time in three matches. I'm not sure if his performance will end up yielding more than Bullard's 30.50 but I'm pretty sure he'll end up as the buy of the week and well-deserving of the coveted PotY...

Honorable Mention - Joining Bullard in the runners up circle are the following...

Scott Carson and Darren Bent for scoring big despite being on Charlton...

Henry and Lampard for scoring modestly big despite really crap performances in reality...

Ryan Giggs for defying his age...

Joey Barton for defying his character...

Silvestre for defying his apparent lack of talent...

Agger for scoring his first professional goal (and what a goal it was)...

Zamora for continuing his streak in the face of my prediction to the contrary...

And finally Titus Bramble for being among the points leaders on defense, who'd 've thunk it?

What a week...

Johnson Injury Weakens Pompey

Johnson Injury Weakens Pompey - Yahoo! Sport UK
The club's medical staff are waiting for the swelling on Johnson's ankle to go down before they send him for scans and assessment but there are fears he could join striker Lomana LuaLua as a long-term absentee with the same kind of injury.
Bad news for a lot of fantasy managers today as Johnson was on a lot of teams (9.28% to be exact).

I expect we'll see Andy Griffin on the right. If he does well and Pompey continue their good run, he may be a cheap option for fantasy managers looking to put money elsewhere. But maybe Andy O'Brien comes in to the center and Primus moves to the right. However, I doubt that 'arry is looking to break up the Primus/Campbell partnership that has served Portsmouth so well so far. Either way, it's an ex-Newcastle Andy in defence. And that's not good for anyone but Boro.

UPDATE: Shows you what I know. It's Paramot at right back.

PS. Follow the game here.

Big Sam Wants Steed At The Reebok

Big Sam Wants Steed At The Reebok - Yahoo! Sport UK

Bolton boss Sam Allardyce hopes a growing "French influence" at the Reebok Stadium can help persuade Steed Malbranque to move north.


"I would dearly love to bring Malbranque to the Reebok," said Allardyce.

The Trotters boss bought Nicolas Anelka from Fenerbahce for £8million last week, and also has several French-speaking African players in his squad.

Big Sam's Home for the French and Surly

Monday Morning Manager

Who wrote this match report?
It is that momentum and motion that Arsenal lack now. At [City], they pressured the home side, but everything stalled at the [City] 18-yard box. Hleb, [Rosicky], [van Persie], and [Henry] would all line up or clump together trying to pass the ball through the massed [City] defense.
Of course it was the Manager, one year ago. While some of the names have changed (as did the location), Arsenal's performance didn't. In fact it has gotten worse. Last year, "Often it was left to the fullback, Cole or Lauren, to try and get behind the defense without the ball." This year, Eboue and Hoyte's inexperience robbed them of even that threat. They had no width, and no depth. Citeh were lucky to have gotten the goal, and lucky to keep the lead when van Persie struck the post. But Arsenal need a plan B for league matches. Especially road matches. The Manager doesn't trust Arsenal on the road. Not yet. That being said, Thierry Henry is never a bad pick - 14pts from 3 shots on goal plus assorted points.

Across North London, Spurs early season struggles (against teams of Premiership quality) continue. Another 2-nil loss. Another below par performance, especially after Kilbane had been dismissed. They should be fantasy gold, but they can't put it together. Lennon is so fast, and so skillful on the ball. But he'll run into the defender nine times out of ten. Berbatov looks a good buy as he stays involved in the game, dropping into midfield and holding up possesion. Keane drops FURTHER into midfield and that seems to be taking him away from possible points, even though he is taking kicks.

And speaking of kicks, let's hope Reading are on the traning pitch right now practicing their set pieces. hopefully they've realized that SHORT CORNERS NEVER WORK! Get Shorey some of them "successful cross" points!

While none of the promoted teams are being over-run this season (see, Sunderland 2005-2006), none of them seem to have enough to win yet. Opening day results not-withstanding. Maybe it will come in time, but it would better come sooner rather than later. The "established" Premiership teams that were expected to struggle like Portsmouth, Charlton, and Fulham have shown enough to win. Unless the new teams come up with the same character soon, they may be cut adrift at the foot of the table.

Speaking of clubs on the up, are Juan Pablo Angel and Bobby Zamora your must have strikers for this season? Both are cheap and are producing. More than can be said for the likes of Shevchenko, et al. A lot of big name strikers transfered to the Premiership this season, and so far, it's Zamora, Bent, Angel, Rooney, and hell, Francis... the familiar faces doing the damage.

Perhaps Kuyt can change that. He looked good on his debut and seemed to click well with Bellamy. But with all this players on Liverpool's squad this season, will anyone, save perhaps Stevie G, get a regular game? Fantasy manager's beware.

The best part of Ryan Giggs' goal? The Manager would have to say it was Watford's outfield player (sorry, didn't catch who it was) just LEVELING their keeper as he chased the play.

And now , just as we're getting into the groove of a new season... the international break. Well, before the Manager ducks out, one more game as Portsmouth look to continue their good start to the season at Boro. The Manager will be hoping for Matt Taylor to continue his run in midfield and will be looking for points from him.

Good luck to all. May all your qualifiers be friendly, and all your friendlies qualify.

The Manager

Martins woe as Toon crash at Villa

Martins woe as Toon crash at Villa - Yahoo! Sport UK

Obafemi Martins was carried off on a stretcher after the interval with what looked like a knee injury.
More woe.

Update, from SportingLife:
Newcastle new boy Obafemi Martins should be fit to face Fulham on Saturday week despite suffering a knee injury during his Premiership debut on Sunday.
It looked like the injury might be serious, but boss Glenn Roeder allayed those fears afterwards.

He told Newcastle World TV: "He has been in some discomfort but we think it is just a nasty dead leg where he will have had a bleed in the muscle.

"He will be sore for a few days, but we don't think there will be any problems with regards to the next game against Fulham."
Whoah, that was close. Good news for Obafemi (isn't that fun to say?), Newcastle, and fantasy managers.

Friday's Team News

Blues hope to recall star pair - Yahoo! Sport UK
Chelsea hope to have Arjen Robben and Michael Ballack available for the trip to Blackburn in the Premiership on Sunday. Robben injured himself in the warm-up prior to Chelsea's defeat to Middlesbrough on Wednesday night but should be fit and Ballack has almost fully recovered from a hip injury.
Team news is full of the usual "should be fit" and "expected to be fit", though "almost fully recovered" is a new one.

So no good answer for Neal, or, I assume, a lot of fantasy manager itching to buy Ballack. Ditto for Rosicky.

The West Ham/Liverpool match is turning into a medical crisis with both teams (potentially) missing quite a few players. Liverpool have enough depth to bring in Pennant and Gonzalez on the flanks, but if West Ham can't call on Bowyer or Benayoun, they will have to move strikers back or push their full-backs into midfield. The latter would make Paintsil or Konchesky good fantasy options, even if @LIV isn't an ideal matchup.

For Spurs, Berbatov seems the more likely of their injury doubts to make the game as he's just "nursing" his ankle while Jenas missed training. Also, Spurs have more depth at midfield than forward as Zokora could come back into the XI.

Gary Neville is out, but this may not help fantasy managers as his replacement, Wes Brown, costs over 9 "units". If you can afford him, he's a good buy for the week.

In other ManU news, don't forget that Ben Foster can't face his parent club, so Watford will have to field their reserve keeper.

Are you following any matchups, or sweating on any particular player's availability this weekend?

New boy set for watching brief

New boy set for watching brief - Yahoo! Sport UK
Nicolas Anelka will watch his new team-mates in action at Charlton on Saturday after completing an £8million move to Bolton from Fenerbahce.The former Arsenal and Manchester City striker is expected to make his debut after the forthcoming international break when Wanderers take on Watford in early September.
Welcome back, the Incredible Sulk! Another qualilty striker fighting for one of three spots.

Are You Feeling Lucky?

So, I know I suffered for having taken the risk that Michael Ballack would suck it up and play at least one of the first two matches of the season. So, now - whether you took the risk the first time or not - you have to ask yourself if this is the weekend he's going to make his debut. Confusing the situation is the fact that Chelsea looked like crap losing to a Boro side that conceded 3 goals to Reading last weekend. For myself, I haven't decided this yet but it seemed worth mentioning right off the bat.

Congratulations private group participant to James Jong (aka golden.boot) for having an exceptional first week of the fantasy season. We'd like to think we played a small part in his initial positioning at #2 in the overall standings. James, make sure you get a screen shot of that in case it doesn't last.

Moving on to this week, we're back to normal mode where everyone has one match. The teams to watch are Manchester United who get Premiership newbies Watford and Newcastle who get Villa who I'm not ready to believe in with their mediocre-at-best talent level. Arsenal travel to Man Citeh but the Gunners have been a bit lackluster so I'm not sure I'm ready to jump in blindly on them. Those are the only really attractive match-ups out there - when it comes to match-ups to stay away from, I'm going to avoid Liverpool/West Ham to the extent possible - the FA Cup Final replay could go in almost any direction.

Chelsea - Sheva redeemed himself somewhat after a stinker of an opener and you have to think he'll have more positive matches than 0.00s so in my mind, he's still a must-have. Lampard will always get his and with Liverpool having a tough match-up, you should probably prefer him to Gerrard if you're looking to buy one of the "big two" midfielders. I'm going to defer the decision on Ballack until late Friday/early Saturday. Bridge is looking like he's going to be an assist machine for as long as he stays in the starting line-up but you can never tell with the guys Jose has given the vote of no-confidence. Finally, Cudicini rewarded those who chose him with a stinker of a week (how's that T-Ho vs. Cudicini decision working out for you Jer?). In my mind, Sheva, Lamps, Terry, and Bridge are the only guys I'm really going to consider unless Ballack has a very clear bill of health.

The Race for the Champions League - Well, you have to think that ManYoo stamped themselves as the early class of this race. Spurs have had one up and one down match and Arsenal and Liverpool were underwhelming in their one match each. With ManYoo getting Watford, you have to expect that even on the road, they'll continue to perform for those that choose them. With Rooney and Scholes still out Saha and Cristiano Ronaldo are pretty close to must-haves with the added bonus that neither is terribly expensive and Saha is downright affordable given his production so far. Elsewhere at United, you have to think that van der Saar will yield some good points if you're willing to spend the money and that Giggs is likely to do some good things. In defense, the Heinze situation must be monitored - if he comes back he needs to be considered seriously (I can't in good conscience recommend Evra until I actually get to watch United and see some evidence that he's improved over his miserable form of last season). On the Watford side, Ashley Young has justified the confidence that the blog put in him and had a spectacular opening two matches. You have to wonder if he'll continue that form vs. United but in my mind, it's worth the risk at that price.

To buy Henry or not to buy Henry? That is the question. Given what the man himself has said, I think I'm going to defer. Yes, yes I know I'm a Gooner and should be blindly loyal and all that but if he says he's got a few more weeks until he's at 100% I'm going to put my money in other things. My target is bringing him into the line-up after the Man United match in a few weeks. In my opinion, the best bet for the Gooners is Eboue. Hoyte is available for cheap and is an interesting option for the budget conscious. Finally, if you look at Cesc's fantasy production since roughly last Christmas, you have to start putting him into serious consideration in the "mid-tier" priced midfielder level. He'll probably get you 8 - 10 points for a reasonable price - not sexy but effective. On the Man Citeh side, I'd just stay away after they failed to score in their first two matches.

Spurs vs. Everton has 1-0 home team written all over it with Spurs getting a number of SOTs but only converting one and Everton getting very few shots on target. In my mind, Berbatov, Ekotto, and Howard are the obvious choices and Arteta would be a bold gamble based on his early form.

Liverpool vs. the Hammers is another difficult match. Gerrard is always a nice pick but he's expensive and there are better uses for your budget. Aurelio is a nice pick given that Riise is out and he's guaranteed a start. If you're looking for a cheap midfielder Mark Gonzalez is a great option for the money. For the Hammers, I'd suggest that Zamora is probably not going to tally again and while I think he'll keep going this week is not favorable for him. I have the same worry with Konchesky who is more likely to see yellow than a number of successful crosses.

The Relegation Zone - Surprise, surprise, surprise - Reading aren't going to roll over and they are going to score some goals. Getting a mediocre Wigan side leads me to believe that this will continue whether Reading wins, loses, or draws the match. Doyle, Lita, Soel, and Shorey are all viable (and relatively cheap) alternatives for your fantasy line-up. On the Wigan side, you have to think that Reading's less than air-tight defense will have trouble containing Camara.

We've already discussed Watford and I have to say that other than Bullard being off to a great start I have NO IDEA what to make of Fulham vs. Sheffield United - Fulham has been terrible to mediocre and Sheffield United has been up and down in their two matches. For some reason, this has the feel of an out of nowhere Luis Boa Morte brace sort of weekend.

And The Rest - Newcastle started well and faces a talent-deficient Villa squad - with the news that All-Name Team Member Obefemi Martins will be joining the depleated strikeforce the squad is likely to be bouyed. Expect Ameobi, Solano, and N'Zogbia to have nice weeks for the Magpies. You have to think that Bolton will have a reasonable run of things against Charlton with Nolan breaking out of his fantasy doldrums with a 10+ match. I'm generally not high on Bolton so I don't think I'm going to recommend anyone else but this is a nice matchup for the Wanderers so if you're so inclined, this might be a good week. Finally, a Boro team that has lost to a newly promoted team and beaten the two time champions in the first week face suddenly adequate Pompey. Given Pompey's modest defensive talent, I'd recommend Downing as the guy most likley to excel.

We'll be back tomorrow with some updates based on injury reports and any other random news items that might make an impact on fantasy managers.

Inter striker Martins joins Newcastle

Inter striker Martins joins Newcastle - Yahoo! Sport UK
Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins left Inter Milan for Newcastle United on Thursday for a fee of 15 million euros (10 million pounds).
As soon as he gets posted to Yahoo! Fantasy Football, managers are going to have quite the decision to make. Martins is strong, fast and has a good scoring record in Serie A. Sound like any other recent Premiership signings?

With the likes of Emre, Duff and Solano (or N'Zogbia and Milner) creating chances for him, Martins certainly moves near the top of my "must-haves" list. It is just a question of whether or not he can displace the likes of Shevchenko and Berbatov to make the XI.

Friday's Team News Today

Jol Eager To Avoid Downing Talk - Yahoo! Sport UK

Jol, meanwhile, is sweating on the fitness of midfielder Jermaine Jenas and striker Dimitar Berbatov ahead of their clash with Everton.

Jenas failed to train today after collecting a knock on his toe while Berbatov is nursing an ankle injury.

Both players were on the scoresheet in their 2-0 win over Sheffield United and Jol remains hopeful they will recover in time.

Jol added: "Berbatov got a knock on his ankle but hopefully he will be okay.

"JJ did not train because he had a problem with his toe. We will have to wait and see but hopefully he will be available."

Hat tip to JonW.

Also, FWIW:
Dutch winger Arjen Robben - injured in the warm-up before the Middlesbrough game - and Michael Ballack should both be in contention for a place in the side on Sunday.

Team of the Week

We'll try to do this on a semi-regular basis. Team of the week, as chosen by me (or perhaps us), in a fit of pique or on a caffeine and sugar bender. Fantasy productivity will play a large part in the decisions, but it wouldn't be much fun to just take the top point getters at each position, now would it? Besides, you can get all that here. I will try to take into account the games I have seen or followed -- who influenced the game in real life as well as in fantasy. So without any more ado, here is your inaugural Blog Team of the Week, brought to you by the numbers 4-3-3:

F: Saha, Zamora, Rooney
M: Ronaldo, Bullard, Francis
D: Assou-Ekotto, Meite, Campbell, Eboue
GK: Howard

ManU were on fire this week, so it is no surprise to find their attackers well represented here. Saha and Rooney each scored two and created one. Rooney doing it in just the one game against Fulham. And while Ronaldo didn't put up the fantasy points versus Charlton (grr....) he really seems to be the one putting the spark in ManU's attack with his drive, if not his accuracy.

Zamora joins the ManU 3 with his 3 goals in two games. He's stepped up in Ashton's absence and is delivering the goods for WHU.

Jimmy Bullard has picked up for Fulham right where he left off for Wigan last season. He's taking kicks, getting shots on goal and getting in good crosses for his forwards. And now he's added PK taker to his resume.

Also ex of Wigan is Damien Francis, who perhaps never saw time because of Bullard's play last season. But he has settled in well at Watford, and struck up a good partnership with Gavin Mahon in their engine room. He scored against Everton and looked dangerous at times against West Ham. Not the prototypical fantasy producer, but a solid, all-around Premiership midfielder.

In defense, Sol Campbell has solidified a Pompey defense and become the rock they needed ever since losing De Zeeuw... to Wigan. (Damn, is there an echo in here?) Two clean sheets speaks to the power of a move abroad. Sort of. Meite joins him in the center for his performance in marshalling the defense that shut down Tottenham. At fullback, Eboue was perhaps Arsenal's most dangerous attacker against Villa. On the left, Assou-Ekotto is making a comfortable transition to the rough-and-tumble of the Premiership.

In net, it has to be Tim Howard. Given the chance to be a number 1 at Everton (for the year at least) he was a stud, allowing just 1 goal while making 11 saves over 2 games.

Agree? Disagree (more likely)? Post a comment and give us your starting XI.

Wednesday team news

BBC SPORT | Football | Live: Football
Chelsea field Claude Makelele for Shaun Wright-Phillips in the only change to the side which beat Manchester City on Sunday.
Still no Ballack, but Terry is fit to play.

£18m signing Michael Carrick makes the bench at Charlton after recovering from injury.
A late team change for Chelsea at the Riverside as Salomon Kalou replaces Arjen Robben, who was injured in the warm-up.

SAF Lurking...

With Manchester United's move for Hargreaves seemingly dead, it was curious to see a shot of Sir Alex in the audience at the West Ham/Watford match. Could be that he's scouting ahead of United's trip to Vicarage Road on the weekend but might he running the ruler over Nigel Reo-Coker as an answer to the Red Devil's problems in central midfield. If he isn't, he should be...

Maybe he's looking at rising star Ashley Young (do you hear the bandwagon starting up?)

Just something to think about while you watch this evening's action.

Yahoo! MatchCast

Follow the games here, but don't let your boss see!

Watford - West Ham

Tottenham Hotspur - Sheffield United

Middlesbrough v Chelsea

Middlesbrough v Chelsea
John Terry should be fit despite aggravating a groin problem in Sunday's win at home to Manchester City.

Claude Makelele and Michael Ballack, both ruled out of the City game with injuries, are back in training and could be involved.
If Terry and Ballack are out, how large of a spanner would that throw into many, many fantasy teams? I think it's a pretty safe bet that both will play, but still...

Rosicky hopeful of Euro return

Rosicky hopeful of Euro return
However if he fails to prove his fitness for the Dinamo game as well as Saturday's league clash with Manchester City then the Czech schemer is confident he will return in time for his country's upcoming games against Wales on September 2 and Slovakia on September 6.
Rosicky is a bit of the forgotten man so far this season (ha! 1 game in.) as Arsenal only had one game. But don't sleep on him when he returns to action. Though it is worrying to read that Thierry Henry is,

"...not even at 60 percent, no way near," Henry said in The Sun.
"Fitness-wise, I need another month. Certainly four or five games.

Tainio returns for Blades clash

Tainio returns for Blades clash - Yahoo! Sport UK
Jermain Defoe is a doubt for the clash [against Sheffield United today]. England striker Defoe collected a bruised foot in Tottenham's opening-day defeat at Bolton and will undergo a late fitness test.
The dreaded "late fitness test"!

Cech ahead of schedule

Cech ahead of schedule
Carlo Cudicini has kept goal in Cech's absence, but Jose Mourinho's first choice could now be back by the middle of September should the final stage of his rehabilitation go according to plan.

Early days

When you're wondering what the hell happened this weekend, take a look at this and take heart.

C. Ronaldo (MAN - M)@WAT 14.862.45110002154021.0021.00
S. Parker (NUF - M)@AST[ BUY ]8.710.12110002022021.0021.00
Ivan Campo (BOL - M)@CHA[ BUY ]8.220.09110001240016.5016.50
F. Lampard (CHE - M)@BLA 19.651.78110001123016.5016.50
L. McCulloch (WIG - M)RED[ BUY ]8.100.09110002041016.5016.50
M. Arteta (EVE - M)@TOT[ BUY ]11.960.04110101020014.5014.50
S. Downing (MID - M)POR[ BUY ]12.660.01110002010013.0013.00
Gilberto Silva (ARS - M)@MAC[ BUY ]6.300.06110001011012.5012.50

I would hazard a guess that Parker, Silva, Campo, and McCullough won't be at the top of the scoring charts for long. Lot's of soccer football yet to be played.

Early Returns...

I don't want to steal the Monday Morning Manager's thunder but I had to at least throw out a little bit of post-weekend analysis based on the matches I saw Starting XI style...

1. Ballack - grr. Partially my fault for having scheduled a weekend of introducing my girlfriend to the family (and therefore NOT being on top of the news when he was downgraded) so I got screwed there. Hopefully, he salvages one game out of the week but I'm not holding my breath.

2. Sheva - wow, did he even play. I'm pretty sure 0.00 is not what fantasy managers were looking for.

3. Chelsea in General - with a makeshift (for them) line-up they comfortably picked apart a decent Citeh squad. Lamps looks to be back to his standard Premiership form. Drogba showed that he will benefit from the attention paid to Sheva and Lamps - look for a big season. Nice to see Robben get a run out. Hopefully, it will continue after Ballack, Makelele, and Cole have returned.

4. Arsenal - K2 should have had a hat trick (you know, the one the original nearly got for Pompey). Eboue looks like he's going to be the real deal - Lauren, enjoy the bench. Hoyte isn't quite ready. Whatever the question is, Hleb is not the answer.

5. ManYoo - Wow, talk about answering some questions. Now lets see if they can do it without Rooney for 3 matches.

6. Pompey - I'm still not convinced but at least I'm paying attention.

7. Reading - these guys are going to score, and they're going to stay up. They have too many options for most Premiership teams to contend with. In addition to the guys you probably knew about from last season's run (Kitson, Doyle, Lita, and Sidwell) Convey, Seol, and Shorey are going to make a fantasy impact. Sadly, Seol is listed as a striker. If he were a midfielder, he'd be in the mix immediately.

8. West Ham - If Zamora and Cole are going to provide additional striking options, these guys are going to be tough to beat.

9. Everton - Even minus the clean sheet, Tim Howard showed why he's the keeper to have this season. He's going to have lots of saves and get his share of wins.

10. Henry - Is he going to be ready by next Saturday? He certainly wasn't ready for Villa.

11. Anelka - If he shows up at the Reebok (which sounds likely) I'm going to have to change my opinion of that team. They will immediately be an interesting team to watch (which is something I'm not sure has ever been said about a Sam Allardyce-managed team). Now we can only dream that Mido will follow L'enfant Terrible to Wanderers and form the craziest strikeforce in the history of the Premiership.

Monday Morning Manager

Welcome back.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... won't get fooled again.

The Manager isn't sure where his head is at this morning. But it is certainly swimming under a flood of soccer football. (You'll have to excuse the Manager, but he's a colonist). The game is back and we can only catch our breath today before being thrown back into the deep end with games tomorrow and Wednesday.

Perhaps it's time to drown this metaphor before it pulls us out to sea.

These midweek games are frustrating because as much as you've learned from the weekend's games (who plays, who plays well) you're stuck with your team. But in the interest of hitting the transfer market quickly, let's try to organize our thoughts from the weekend and see if we've learned anything.
  • The promoted teams will be competitive. Reading played attractive soccer, and more importantly showed some, ahem, guts in coming back from a 2 goal deficit to beat Boro. Watford never game up on their game with Everton, despite going behind early. And Sheffield United fought Liverpool to a stand-still. These performances, though early days yet, will have Charlton, Fulham, Manchester City, et al feeling a bit of pressure to right the ship quickly (damn, back to the water metaphor!) before getting sucked into a relegation fight.
  • A spate of dodgy penalties and some quick red cards tells us that the officials are picking up right where they left off after this summer's World Cup. Confusing Chris Powell's head with his forearm, or the space around Steven Gerrard with Steven Gerrard were just poor calls.
  • Manchester United are desperate not the let Chelsea get out of sight this season, and they were obliged by an out-of-sorts Fulham defence. Chris Coleman probably wanted to suit kit up (again, pardons) and put himself on the pitch (got it that time!) even more than did Gareth Southgate.
  • On a technical note, it looks like Yahoo! is locking the game on Saturdays so there's no advantage to be had by picking up players (at least those who played that day) before their prices adjust. Shame that.
  • David Unsworth is back! Thought he was out injured, but he made Sheffield United's game with Liverpool and got the assist on Hulse's goal. Unsworth is probably 75 years old and looks no younger than 80. But he'll take free kicks as he has for the last 134 years and is certainly one to consider for your fantasy team.
  • As mentioned previously, Riise and Carragher are out for Liverpool for a few weeks. Aurelio and Agger certainly become attractive picks now. In Aurelio's case it might be a mixed blessing if he's given a regular run at left-back it only means that he won't be starting as an attacking left midfielder! And speaking of attacking left midfielders,
  • M. Taylor (POR - D)
  • The Manager would like to thank Damien Francis and the Everton player his shot looped off and into the net for costing Tim Howard 8pts by ruining his clean sheet (-5) and allowing a goal (-3). This is of course only because the Manager didn't pick Tim Howard.
  • Blackburn Rovers -- don't believe the hype.
  • Bolton Wanderers -- never pick against them.
  • Wayne Rooney -- you'll be missed.
  • Djimi Traore -- what can you say? He's a frickin' train wreck. I thought he was a good signing for Charlton as he gave them defensive cover. However, I didn't think he would be a starter, and he made the Manager's point quite emphatically this weekend.
  • Assou-Ekotto -- looked very good for Tottenham, but dangerously close to getting booked all game. Not sure how much of that was playing against Diouf, a wind-up merchant par excellence, but something of which to be wary. And speaking of wind-up merchants,
  • R. Savage (BLA - M), who baited M. Taylor (POR - D) into a booking.
Hmmm, so after all that, I'm not sure we've learned much at all. What have you learned this weekend?

The Manager

Anelka ready to sign for Bolton Wanderers

Anelka ready to sign for Bolton Wanderers
'I have an agreement with Bolton on the basis of a four-year contract,' he added. 'I hope everything will be finalised early next week.'
Stay tuned.

Reds lose Riise to ankle injury

Reds lose Riise to ankle injury

Looks like Aurelio just moved into "must-have" status.

Tough day for Liverpool, losing not only Riise, but having Carragher limp off and dropping 2 points to Sheffield United. How much of this "loss", if you can call a tie a loss, can be attributed to their imminent trip to Kiev to play Maccabbi Haifa?

UPDATE, from Clubcall:
Reds boss Rafa Benitez confirmed that Carragher will definitely not face the Israelis but Riise, who suffered a sprain, has a small chance of being available.

LATER UPDATE, from Yahoo! Sport:
Scans today have shown that England defender Carragher has sprained a medial ligament while Norway international Riise has torn lateral ligaments.
A Liverpool spokesman said: "We expect both players to be unable to train for the next two to three weeks."

SO Close...

You can almost feel the tension as the start of the Premiership season draws close. We can start counting down in terms of hours instead of days or months. The close season has been chocked full of intrigue (both the interesting - Ruud/Ronaldo - kind and the tiresome - Ashley Cole and Jose Reyes - kind). We have three new teams to consider in Reading, Sheffield United, and Watford which means a bunch of new names. As always, there are a couple new glamorous names at Chelsea. Liverpool has been extremely aggressive in building a squad they think can compete with the champions. Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham have each had some change but it is unclear whether that change has been positive or negative on balance. West Ham has fortified their squad for a run at a European place as has Everton while Rovers, Wanderers and Citeh have all lost some ground in the transfer market.

What does all this mean? Oh, happy day - the games will count again starting tomorrow. The only change to last year's format will be that I'm going to include Liverpool and Spurs in what used to be "The Former Big Two" category and call it "The Race for the Champions League". Otherwise, most weeks I'll break down my thinking on who to include in my squad in the following categories:

1. Chelsea
2. The Race for the Champions League
3. The Relegation Zone
4. And The Rest

And with that, we're off...

Chelsea - Well, lets start with the obvious - Ballack and Sheva will be as close to locks in everyone's line-up. Aside from those two, the day Yahoo released the new game, I actually had an extremely Chelsea-heavy line-up purchased. This was grounded in the notion that Wayne Bridge was an obvious choice to start at left back (which is now questionable). What SHOULD be the best value of the Chelsea veterans (Geremi) turns out not to be one because he's listed as a midfielder. Bridge is now a gamble as Ferriera may be tabbed for the left side. In midfield, Lampard seems to have refound the touch and is as valuable as always and just as expensive - same with Terry. Drogba is relatively inexpensive and seems likely to start the majority of Chelsea's matches. Robben, Cole, SWP, and Essien have to be considered question marks given the uncertainty of their roles. Cudicini is another interesting choice - he is a bargain for the first few weeks but including him could cause you to miss the boat on a less expensive keeper (Howard/Niemi) who will start over the course of the season. As a bonus, Chelsea's first week schedule is favorable.

Players Worth Serious Consideration: Ballack, Sheva, Drogba, Lampard, Terry, and Cudicini.

For the Budget Conscious: Ballack, Sheva, Cudicini

The Race for the Champions League - For this week, Arsenal and Liverpool are dead to me. Even Henry and Gerrard would be hard pressed to be SO good in their one match to justify not only a spot in your line-up but also the heavy budget expenditure. Next week will be a different story.

Things have been tumultuous (yes, I used tumultuous correctly in a sentence AND spelled it right on the first try) at Old Trafford. Ruud is gone (may he fare well in Spain) and so are the guaranteed 12-14 points/appearance. In his place is the inexpensive Louis Saha who all fantasy managers should consider. He is the most attractive Red Devil early on in the season. The rest of the attractive fantasy options are priced accordingly - Rooney, Giggs, Ronaldo, van der Saar, Ferdinand, and Gary Neville are all pretty expensive but are likely to do well given United's soft first week schedule. Heinze is an excellent option once he is healthy but he's out for at least the first match. Two of Evra, Brown, and Silvestre will likely start with Rio and GNev and might be worth consideration.

Spurs join Arsenal, Liverpool, and United in fighting for a Champions League spot and also feature one, if not two of this season's must-have fantasy picks in Berbatov and Assou-Ekotto. Keane's injury worries throws his value (as well as that of Defoe) into doubt. Lennon is another Spurs players who is a) cheap; b) full of fantasy potential; and c) likely to start most weeks - he should be a serious candidate most weeks. Dawson is another inexpensive option in defense who did well for his fantasy managers last year. My final Spurs recommendation is last year's newbie at left back YP Lee who is this year's newbie at right back but there are probably better options.

Players Worth Serious Consideration: Saha, Rooney, Giggs, Ronaldo, GNev, Rio, van der Saar, Berbatov, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon

For the Budget Conscious: Saha, Berbatov, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon

The Relegation Zone - In my mind, the relegation zone currently consists of the three new teams (Reading, Watford, and Sheffield United) plus Fulham and Aston Villa who have lost ground since flirting with the drop zone last season. Honestly, Villa don't have ANY players that interest me very much as the season starts - throw in their opener at Emirates Stadium and things look even worse for the Villians. Fulham also face a rough early schedule but at least feature a few inexpensive options up top in Helguson and Collins John (if he starts). Jimmy Bullard in a free role may also be interesting to fantasy managers in some weeks but given the Bolton/ManYoo double in the first week, this isn't the week I'd pick him.

There are a couple interesting options coming up with the newly promoted clubs. In my mind, the most interesting options are Bobby Convey (Reading) who gets assists, takes kicks, and corners from his spot on the left side of midfield. Reading also features some good strikers but they are less interesting to me given the presence of cheap options McCarthy, Sheva, Berbatov, and Saha. The other interesting option is Ashley Young of Watford. He plays a very forward wing position that is essentially a striker spot and has drawn comparisons to Henry and Shawn Wright-Philips, not bad company for a cheap midfielder. Convey has the better schedule of the two in the first week but both are worth consideration if you're looking to save money in your midfield.

It'll probably be a few weeks before we get a better idea about the rest of the guys from the newly promoted teams.

Players Worth Serious Consideration: Boa Morte, Helguson, Convey, Young

For the Budget Conscious: Convey and Young

And The Rest - Of the rest of the teams in the Premiership, West Ham has the best combination of good players and easy first week schedule. They will certainly be weaker without Ashton and Etherington in the early going but Alan Pardew's shrewd use of the transfer window has created a deep squad at Upton Park very quickly. Harewood, Benayoun, Cole, Konchesky, and Pantsil (if he is going to start on the right) are all excellent values. Lee Bowyer is the leading candidate to fill in for Etherington (if Konchesky doesn't push forward) and might be worth a look.

Away from Upton Park...Newcastle and Wigan are both one-gamers so we don't have to spend any time thinking about them...Samaras has a tough first week but is inexpensive and was productive down the stretch last season...Everton with Cahill, Beattie, Howard, Arteta, and AJ as viable fantasy options has a decent first week schedule - Howard and AJ should be of special interest given their price...I'm not willing to spend too much time on Pompey's guys yet but Glen Johnson is worth a look if you're struggling for defenders on the cheap...Rovers welcome Benni McCarthy to the Prem (finally) and he should be in your consideration set for cheap strikers (although I'm going to give it a week or two with Rovers central midfield in question)...JFH and Darren Bent should both enter your mind but with the West Ham/ManYoo combo, I'd stay away...Boro are unsettled, don't have any particularly interesting bargains and play Chelsea in one of their two matches so there's another one to stay away from no matter how much you like Yakubu and Downing...Finally, Bolton are Bolton, if you're already thinking about anyone on their squad it's going to be a long season.

And with that, I welcome you to a new season of Yahoo Fantasy Football. For the people in our private leagues, good luck (but not too much, I'd hate to get my ass whipped) and to all of you, thanks again for reading and sending in your comments.

Boulahrouz For Blues

Boulahrouz For Blues - Yahoo! Sport UK

Chelsea have agreed an undisclosed fee for Hamburg's Dutch international Khalid Boulahrouz.

Boulahrouz, who can play in centre-back or left-back, was known as "Khalid the Cannibal" by Hamburg fans who loved his aggressive tackling style.

Good bit of business for them if only for the night-terrors it will give to Cristiano Ronaldo.

New boys in line for Toffees debuts

New boys in line for Toffees debuts - Yahoo! Sport UK
Everton should have all their close-season signings on show for the Premiership opener at home to Watford.Striker Andrew Johnson, defender Joleon Lescott and on-loan goalkeeper Tim Howard are all expected to start
It is likely that Phil Neville will fill in at right-back with boss David Moyes having to make serious decisions in midfield with Leon Osman, Simon Davies, Lee Carsley, Mikel Arteta, Kevin Kilbane, James McFadden and Tim Cahill chasing four places.
I would figure from l to r: Arteta, Cahill, Carsley, Osman. But perhaps Kilbane comes in for Osman and Arteta switches flanks? We'll see. I don't know if Carsley holds his spot in the 4-4-2, but without him thier midfield seems a bit too light-weight.

Some Updates...

Since Jeremy and I seem to be reversing roles the last couple days, I suppose I'll follow up his excellent season preview series with some updates (and I'll have my usual column posted later today)...

1. I almost forgot about Ashley Young - I followed his stats all last season in the Championship (along with teammate and American Jay DeMerit who is a strong central defender who is likely to make an impression on the Premiership) and he will definitely score some points this season.

2. Apparently, Heinze is injured so ManYoo will be even more makeshift in defense for at least the opener. Time to consider the notion that Evra, Silvestra, and Brown might start (with Rio).

3. Matt Taylor-related - Apparently 'arry has decided not to sign the Peruvian left back who has been training with the team for most of the pre-season. Might mean that Taylor will be sent back into the defense.

4. Just plain fun! It says here (at the bottom) that Big Sam might actually do something we here at the blog approve of and bring the beautifully-named Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink to the Premiership. Now THAT would create a dilema - ignore the fact that I don't like Bolton and root for them with the arrival of JVoH or turn my back on one of the greatest names in Premiership history.

5. Relegation - I think Reading have a better chance than Watford of staying up - they were just THAT dominant in the Championship and they weren't made up of a ton of Premiership cast-offs (so they're more like last year's West Ham team than they are last year's West Brom team). That they have (fellow Philadelphia native) Bobby Convey is just a bonus.

6. It looks pretty certain that YP "Free" Lee will start on the right of the Spurs D...

7. As much as I am still a member of the Hammers bandwagon, I'd be cautious with them early in the season as they seem to have some injury difficulties between the Ashton ankle injury, Newton's suspension, and Etherington's injury.

Clearance foils City's Trabelsi

Clearance foils City's Trabelsi - Yahoo! Sport UK
Manchester City's new signing Hatem Trabelsi will have to sit out Sunday's Premiership opener against champions Chelsea.The Tunisian international had hoped to receive clearance in time to make his debut in English football, but that looks increasingly unlikely.
"We don't have clearance, Clarence."

Please welcome back to the spotlight, Danny Mills. Have fun marking Arjen Robben all day.

Fantasy Premiership Season Preview, part 2

Part II (Manchster United - Wigan Athletic).

You can read part 1 here.
Manchester United

Another off-season of more disappointment and controversy than forward progress. And while ManU may not the be the dominant force in the Premiership any longer, they are still one of the elite clubs and have to be taken seriously by fantasy managers. Rooney, though not a goal-poacher like RvN (we'll miss him), has been a 10pt a game player for two years in a row. If only we could pick him this week, but injury and suspension means he's at best a 1-gamer this week and then won't play again until mid-September at Arsenal.

So we turn our attention elsewhere, and that means Saha stepping up into a lead role he's never held at ManU (though he did it very well at Fulham) and a midfield that can be dazzling and disappointing in equal measure. Giggs and Ronaldo are the picks of the bunch as they take kicks and get in on the goals. But they are pricey. Scholes is back, but around here he's persona non grata.... absolute fantasy poison.

In the defense, Hienze looks a good bet. Reasonably priced and back from injury. Hopefully he can make the left back spot his own again and hold off Silvestre and Evra. If you care to splurge on a keeper, Van der Saar is a good bet, but there are slightly and much cheaper options there.


Last year Boro struggled with serious injuries and European duties. This year looks to be another up and down year as they just can't seem to find an identity as a team. Are they a scrappy hard-to-beat team led by Boateng, or a quick high-scoring team run by Downing and Yakubu? If they figure out the latter, then those two will be fantasy must-haves, but my guess is that they will only find that form in flashes and will frustrate fantasy managers.

Newcastle United

The return of the 3-6-1! Newcastle have at least 6 top-quality midfielders, 4 of which could walk on to any fantasy team of mine. But is there enough room on the pitch, much less the team, for Milner, Solano, Emre, Duff, Parker, Dyer (remember him?) and N'Zogbia? And who will run with Ameobi up top? He's been scoring well in pre-season, but you figure that will end come the regular season unless they add another striker (and it won't be Kuyt, who is joining Rafa's Rotating RedsTM©®).

Their defense is a shambles, though there is a glimmer of home with Taylor back from injury. Yet somehow Given puts up the numbers year after year. He's a few bucks cheaper than the elite keepers, at least those from the elite teams, but he's still a few bucks more expensive than the bargains.


In the late stages of last season, Pompey avoided relegation and became a fantasy darlings. But do can they maintain that form and that intensity over the course of a full season? If not, they'll be right back in the mess and won't have such a kind schedule to fall back on. The interesting choice here is Matt Taylor in defense. Well, it is interesting if he's not in defense, but pushed up into the midfield. He's expensive for a defender on a crappy team, but priced about right for a winger who takes free-kicks and PKs. My guess is that he replaces D'Allessandro on the left of midfield, especially if 'arry ever actually signs that Peruvian left-back who has been training with them.


The first of the three promoted teams, of which I know much less about. However they have an American winger who takes kicks, and Neal just LOVES him some Bobby Convey.

Sheffield United

I know even less about this United, but I think that I am going to be betting on teams playing them all season long! I wish that list could start with Liverpool, but alas, they are 1-gamers (distracted by an away European match at that). So we wait.

Tottenham Hotspur

Last year's surprise package and this year's tip to "challenge the big three". Hell, everyone is getting on this bandwagon. What's a fantasy manager to do? Buy! Berbatov is a must-have. Defoe seems ready to step it up and will start with Keane injured for a few weeks. Dawson is a strong contender in the back, and that's saying something as "the rules" would argue against picking a central defender. Zokora, though a more deep-lying player, looks to be taking corners. And Lennon is an exciting player who could add some final product to his game this season. And then their is Jenas, who scored really well last season, is relatively cheap for that productivity, and could be taking free-kicks.

Their full-back situation is a bit in flux as they never did land the quality right-back they were looking for to replace Stalteri. But they have a new left back in Assou-Ekotto, who is young, but could be a starter. Especially if they move Lee over to the right as they have at times this pre-season.


Here's one promoted team that may have a chance to stay up. Not sure about their defense, but they seem to have quality in the attack. Something that some current Premiership teams are lacking. Marlon King is tipped to be a forward who can make the step up and score at this level. On a slightly wilder gamble, defender Jordan Stewart has top-flight experience with Leicester, and will line up in the midfield and take some free-kicks.

But my sleeper, dark horse, Nigel Reo-Coker pick of the season is Ashley Young. You gotta like that he's being called a "Thierry Henry" type player. He's small, but quick and strong. A winger that will play striker (listed as a middie... hello, the rules, anyone?), takes kicks, and scores goals.

West Ham United

Speaking of Reo-Coker, West Ham come into this season full of confidence and having bolstered their squad. But Ashton's ankle break robs them, and fantasy managers, of perhaps their best player and biggest goal threat. Harewood had good season totals, but how many of his goals came in gluts? And how barern was he between those times? More than a few, and very. Benayoun and Etherington are quality middies with good fantasy potential. In defense they have Konchesky who should be a better fantasy performer than he is and now they have two right backs for the one spot. Tyrone Mears is listed as a middie, so even if he does become the starter, he's out for fantasy. But John Paintsil is maybe a bit more likely to start, and listed properly. So if he does get the job, he is a good bet.

Wigan Athletic

Finally, Wigan. 1-gamers this week, so not a lot of attention. But Landzaat could be a good fantasy bet long term if he can fill Bullard's boots. However their aquisition of Heskey has me down on them. He killed Birmingham last year, and could take down last-season's feel good story with him this year. Camara is another one, like Harewood, Roberts, et al, who scores in bunches or not at all. Scharner was a good bet last year when he played in midfield and attack, but if he lines up as a center-back he's probably not worth the money.

Phew! As always when I write these longer pieces, I wonder how Neal does it week after week. Hope you like the preview and are as excited for the new season as we are. Good luck!

Cech Confident On Comeback

Cech Confident On Comeback - Yahoo! Sport UK

Finally a little more information on Cech's condition.
But the Chelsea number one is hoping to begin full training again next week even though he admits he is still unable to lift his arms higher than shoulder level.
Rap star Snoop Dogg and Chelsea keeper Petr CechThis makes me a little more confident on picking Cudicini this week. If he can't lift his arms above his shoulders it sounds like he's several weeks from a comeback. I mean, Cech is tall and his defense is solid, but he's going to need to extend his arms at some point to do something more strenuous than hug Snoop Dogg.

Fantasy Premiership Season Preview

Part I (Arsenal - Manchster City).

This is a strange starting point. Arsenal have perennial point getters throughout the team. Any other season and half your time is spent figuring out if how you can afford to field Thierry Henry. And Pires. And Freddie. And whichever defender you could afford. But this season I've spent next to no time on Arsenal. They only have one game next week so I am not considering any Gunners for week 1.

As the season continues, and this will probably be starting in week 2, is the aforementioned "how do I afford Thierry Henry" question. He is such a stud, you almost HAVE to get him if you can. One way to do that is to have affordable transfers, like Tomas Rosicky. He's an attacking player of some pedigree and looks to have a regular spot on the left of Arsenal's midfield.

In defense, Clichy should be the starting left-back when he returns from injury... and he's cheap! In the mean time, Justin Hoyte should hold down that spot and he's not much more expensive after his loan spell at Sunderland last season. Also cheap and at least temporarily starting is Johann Djourou, the other Swiss center back on the team. He won't get forward like an outside back, but again in the low $5, he's another good bet at the season's open.

Aston Villa

Villa weren't very good last season, and their best player, blog favorite James Milner, has moved back to Newcastle. Their big "signing" is new manager, Martin O'Neill. They have a few quality players but lack the creativity to really scare the opposition or excite fantasy managers. Gareth Barry is probably a good pick as he will take set-pieces, but he is susceptible to the stupid yellow. Patrik Berger probably can't come back from a long string of injuries, which is a shame. I would suggest staying away from Villa unless they show a real improvement early in the season.

Blackburn Rovers

Rovers were a good bet on the field and for fantasy teams last season. Pedersen from the off, and Reid and Bellamy later in season were good fantasy bets. This season they have new strikers in Jason Roberts who is feast or famine, and Benni McCarthy who has been pursued by Premiership teams for years but needs to prove himself in a tougher league than Portugal's. If they click, Rovers will do well, and at the transfer price of 6.24 it might be worth a flyer on McCarthy. Believe the hype! ;-)

Rovers' reputation is for toughness but don't have the defensive record to support that. But if they can stay healthy, having kept Nelsen and Savage should pay dividends. My best bet would be Michael Gray at left back. He quietly put up a pretty good average last season and as such is not too over-priced at 7-something units.

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton were a terrible team to pick from or against last year. They ruined opponents game plans and spread their own points around a number of players. This year they come into the season having lost their first-choice center backs and the Jay-Jay Okocha, the hub of the team. Stelios, Nolan, and Diouf will get their points. As will Vaz Te if he starts to see a little more playing time. But as hard as it was to pick Bolton last year, it will be harder this year. Though it just might be easier to pick against them.

Charlton Athletic

Charlton began the year on fire and ended it as bad as they started well (does that make sense?). They have Darren Bent and his 9pt a game average. They've added Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who proved in limited time last year that he can still do the business. Their midfield never recovered from Danny Murphy's benching and subsequent departure. But their attackers are still young and perhaps Ambrose, Thomas (when healthy again) and even Rommedahl will come good this season. Andy Reid is another good aquisition, and if he's in shape could provide points for Charlton and fantasy managers.

Their defense was just horrible last year and they've lost Powell and Perry (for better of for worse). I expect Sorondo to be the player that played so well for Crystal Palace 2 years ago. The Hermannator should move outside to full-back, which will help his point production but unfortunatly he's not cheap at over $9.


What can you say about Chelsea? For the fantasy manager, they have 2 must-haves in Shevchenko and Ballack. And their defense is so dominant that any of their defenders could be worth the money (except for Geremi as he's listed as a middie). And then there's Lampard, the second best fantasy player over the last few years, behind Henry. But priced accordingly.

But all is not easy for Chelsea, or fantasy manager looking to back them this year. Petr Cech is out injured, so Cudicini starts the season as the number 1. But for how long? Lampard and Ballack have to figure out how to play together without getting in each other's way. And fantasy managers really want to know who will start at left back for Chelsea. Will it be Bridge who seems out of favor this pre-seasson? Gallas, who wants out? Ferrira, switching over from right-back? Or Ashley Cole, switching over from Arsenal?


If Everton can stay healthy this year, they should return to the tough-to-beat team of two years ago. Their defense has gotten younger with Lescott in the back and Howard in net. And they've added Andy Johnson to attack. Arteta will be a good fantasy pick if he can avoid stupid yellow cards. And a return to form by these other players should open things up for Tim Cahill with his late runs from midfield and great ability to get on the end of set-pieces.


Fulham were a Jekyll and Hyde team last year. Tough a home but miserable on the road. And the questions remain this year about their quality and their depth. But they have signed Jimmy Bullard who did so well for Wigan last year. He'll be given a free role in attack and responsibility for set-pieces so he should continue to be a solid fantasy pick. Collins John was the "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy" in the middle of last season, but he faded down the stretch as Coleman prefered the more physical pairing of McBride and Helguson.

The real question over Fulham will be their defense. They've signed some young center backs and have good attackingn full-backs in the likes of Volz and Rosenior. But much will rest in the (inexpensive in Yahoo fantasy) gloves of Antti Niemi. Niemi is a top keeper and like Given at Newcastle he put up a ton of points behind a very shaky defense. Might be a keeper you want to get if Fulham are at home (and if he stays cheap, of course).


Liverpool look to have improved the most from last year, but they are off the radar right now as they, like Arsenal, only have one game this week. However that one game is against Sheffield United, so maybe it's worth the gamble?

Anyway, Gerrard is a fantasy stud. Plain and simple. As is Pennant. And Bellamy. Alonso gets his points too. Add Gonzalez and Zenden, returning from injury, and you have to wonder what their best XI is, and if they start to share the points around the team.

In the back, Riise is finally listed as a defender and not too expensive at $7. He seems to be first choice, but if not Fabio Aurellio looks to be a very attacking full-back and would be a must have if only he were a regular. Perhaps he'll become the new Jan Kromkamp -- king of the last minute substitute clean sheet points -- as he could come in for either Riise or Gonzalez late in games.

Manchester City

Last year, Citeh let their FA Cup run over-take their league campaign and their league form really suffered. This year, they'll have to overcome early injuries and the uncertainty surrounding a squad in transition -- just this week David James has left to be replaced by Issakson, and Distin is talking to Boro.

New defensive middies, Hammann and Dabo, should allow Joey Barton more freedom to join the attack after a very positive last season. He could be a fantasy sleeper again this year. It remains to be seen who their other attackers are, as they have Vassell, Samaras, Cole and Corradi fighting for time. Trevor Sinclair is effective when healthy, but that just isn't often enough.

Finally, we have to mention Sun Jihai, a defender who plays most of his games in the midfield. That's fantasy gold! Unfortunatley he starts the season injured. But when he returns, it will be interesting to see where, or if, he cracks the starting XI.

Part 2 (Manchester United - Wigan Athletic) tomorrow.

Reid rolls into Valley from Spurs

Reid rolls into Valley from Spurs - Yahoo! Sport UK

Charlton have signed Republic of Ireland midfielder Andy Reid from Tottenham for £3million - and handed him a four-year contract.

..."He has a great range of passing, a tremendous set-piece delivery and also possesses an eye for goal.

I'm going to assume that the "rolls into the valley" crack in the headline isn't a reference to Reid's alleged portlyness. Otherwise, I'm sure they would have just written, "Charlton Sign Fat Bastard". Regardless, Reid, if he can avoid stupid yellow cards, will give Charlton a provider from the midfield and someone with a good left-foot for free-kicks and corners to complement JFH's right.

And with Thomas injured, and Rommedahl never living up to the hype, Reid may go straight into the starting XI.

New Deal For Nelsen

New Deal For Nelsen - Yahoo! Sport UK

This is good news for Rovers as they already have enough drama with Niell. Now if Nelsen can just stay healthy for an extended period of time Rovers will be in good stead. Which is better than being in good Stead, except when Stead was good, it put Rovers in good stead. Or something like that.

United duo hit with three-match bans

United duo hit with three-match bans - Yahoo! Sport UK

Final word...
Rooney and Scholes will both be banned for three matches against Charlton, Watford and Tottenham, although they will be eligible for the season-opener against Fulham on Sunday.
If you were SAF, would you rest Rooney versus Fulham? Should be a home win, and no reason to risk further aggravating his groin injury if he's going to sit for 2 weeks anyway.

Ashton breaks ankle with England

Ashton breaks ankle with England - Yahoo! Sport UK
West Ham striker Dean Ashton will miss the start of the new Premiership season after breaking his ankle during England training on Tuesday.
This is sad news. Ashton is a blog favorite and we wish him a speedy recovery.

As for West Ham, they have depth at stiker with Harewood, Sheringham, Zamora and Cole. But they will miss Ashton's hold-up play and finishing.

Big News

It would appear that Ballack's injury might not have been as bad as he made it out to be. Shocking in the run up to mid-week international friendlies, I know.

Fantasy Implications:
WHEW - I was looking at having to retool my entire squad to find a way to afford a decent replacement for Ballack. If you're still not convinced that he's going to be a contributor this week you might want to look at Aaron Lennon (6.03), David Bentley (6.07), or suck it up and go with one of the newbie one-gamers like Gonzalez or Rosicky. Of that group, Lennon seems like the best first week bet given that he has two matches. Long term, Gonzalez seems to be the right choice since Rosicky may be subject to rotation until Reyes is sent packing to Madrid.

Sad Day for the Dean Ashton Bandwagon...

Blog favorite Dean Ashton has broken his ankle. I have to admit that as much as I think he's a fantastic player (and still under-rated), he's starting to build a Bellamy/Duff-like injury history.

Fantasy Implications...
Ashton was one of a few moderately priced strikers that has some history, a good team behind him, and favorable first-week match-ups. If you had him, or were considering him, alongside Berbatov and Sheva (this means you Jeremy) then you're probably in the market for Defoe, Saha, McCarthy or Harewood right about now.

Until it becomes clear who will partner Harewood - Zamora and Cole are the two most likely options with Sherringham remaining on the bench as a 20 minute reserve - there probably isn't an obvious West Ham replacement.

Football player crashes into home

Bramble crashes car into wall

Someone call the metaphor police!

Keane And Dunne To Miss Kick-Off

Keane And Dunne To Miss Kick-Off - Yahoo! Sport UK
Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne will both miss the start of the new Premiership season.
Potentially, the duo could each be looking at a three-game absence as both have had scans on their injuries that have revealed short-term lay-offs according to Ireland manager Steve Staunton.
Staunton today revealed: "In Robbie's case we are possibly looking at a 10-day period, with Richard's maybe a little longer."
So Defoe is all of a sudden a very attractive fantasy option. He's been scoring for fun in Spurs' pre-season.

As for Dunne's he's just another in a long line of Citeh injuries and departures. I think you could more easily name a Training Room XI than the team that will face Chelsea on Sunday.