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.