Matchcast = match points?

Football | Live matchcasts - Yahoo! Sport UK

For what it is worth, Yahoo! has the Brm/Bol match listed in their Matchcasts for the week so they are aware of it. Does that mean we'll get the points? Well, that's not as clear, but I expect that we will.

Glandular Fever...Catch It...

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...

Pop quiz, hotshot

[12:16] JSpitzberg: pop quiz, hot shot...
[12:16] JSpitzberg: it's the first leg of a european tie...
[12:16] JSpitzberg: 70th minute...
[12:17] JSpitzberg: you're away from home...
[12:17] JSpitzberg: and down by 2 goals to nil.
[12:17] JSpitzberg: you've already made 1 sub due to an injury.
[12:17] JSpitzberg: do you bring on attackers and go for the away goal?
[12:17] JSpitzberg: or sit back and hope it doesn't get worse?
[12:17] buttonmoulder: away goal
[12:18] buttonmoulder: 2-1 is a draw
[12:18] JSpitzberg: now assume you're mclaren ;-)
[12:18] JSpitzberg: 73:23
Goal kick taken long by Pascal Zuberbuhler (Basle). Middlesbrough substitution: Gaizka Mendieta replaced by Fabio Rochemback (tactical). Middlesbrough substitution: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink replaced by Aiyegbeni Yakubu (tactical).
[12:18] JSpitzberg: like for like
[12:18] buttonmoulder: pretty much
[12:19] buttonmoulder: howabout JFH for mendieta
[12:19] buttonmoulder: i mean yak for mendieta
[12:19] JSpitzberg: yeah... bring in the yak for a middie
[12:19] buttonmoulder: with jfh dropping into the rooney role
[12:19] JSpitzberg: and get morrison in the game on the right
[12:19] JSpitzberg: run at them for 20 mins
[12:19] buttonmoulder: i would have started morrison
[12:19] JSpitzberg: or take off fat viduka
[12:19] buttonmoulder: it's not january!
[12:20] buttonmoulder: viduka will never score
[12:20] JSpitzberg: lol
[12:20] JSpitzberg: it's no where NEAR the transfer window
[12:20] buttonmoulder: what happened to maccaroni
[12:20] JSpitzberg: 3rd choice right-wing these days
[12:21] buttonmoulder: but better than viduka in a non-January month
[12:21] buttonmoulder: just put on all the speed you have
[12:22] JSpitzberg: right
[12:22] JSpitzberg: yak
[12:22] JSpitzberg: downing
[12:22] JSpitzberg: morrison
[12:22] JSpitzberg: speed and width
[12:22] buttonmoulder: i agree with you. a like for like substitution is useless when your original like managed to get you a 2-0 hole

Friday's Team News Today

for all of you smacking your lips at the prospect of a home match to Sunderland...

Valente blow for Toffees
Gary Naysmith will continue at left back with Valente out, but Italian stopper Alessandro Pistone is continuing his comeback from a cruciate injury after a run-out in the reserves.

'There has been no reaction,' said Moyes after Pistone played 45 minutes in the reserves.

'He is ahead of schedule. Sandro is just finding it a bit of a struggle to get up to speed with the rest of the lads in training at the minute.

'He won't be back in the team next week or anything like that, it will be further down the line when that happens. But I would hope that Sandro would be available for the first team before the end of the season and that's his goal as well.'

Moyes has also missed out on the services of Mikel Arteta in recent games, and he could also miss the weekend clash with Sunderland after returning home for treatment.

'We will wait and see how he is,' said Moyes.

'He went to see his back specialist in Spain and we will know more when he gets back whether he will be available or not.'


If he spent less time at the beauty shop and more time on the training pitch, he might be a half-decent player.

Yes, but...

Fergie Delighted With Dilemma
"When we were at our very best, we had four great strikers," said Ferguson.

"It was one of the factors in us winning the Treble. We had great players at the time and everyone did their job.

"If we can do that again and get four strikers competing for the position, and we can rotate them at the right moments, that has to be good for the club.
But in '99 you had a first-choice pairing, and two players who knew their role was to come off the bench and win games when needed.

Now you have three players who expect to start and one who is probably not ready for prime time.

And no amount of "glory days" talk is going to change the fact that this is a different situation and will kill fantasy managers over the remaining months of the season.

Kissing James Milner?

Glandular fever set to end Parker's season
The 25-year-old was today awaiting the results of tests which will determine whether or not he is suffering from glandular fever.

If they prove positive, he will sit out the rest of the campaign and his hopes of winning a late call-up to Sven-Goran Eriksson's England World Cup squad will be at an end.

Two Game Confusion

FA Premiership Fixtures | 2006 April
Manchester United - Sunderland 14 April 2006
That's a Friday. Does that mean that ManU are 2-gamers next week (Ars, Sun) after playing @Bolton this week, and then 1 gamers over Easter weekend (@Tot) when everyone else will have 2 games (save Sunderland... please!)?

I may have rushed to sell Giggs & Van der Sar, etc too quickly.

Ruud to return, Giggs to be rested?


Kieran Richardson has already been ruled out with slight damage to an ankle joint but, with an arduous trip to Bolton looming on Saturday, Ryan Giggs may be rested if he is not fully fit.

Giggs' eye-catching performances in central midfield have been one of the major reasons behind United's run of five straight league wins but the Welshman did limp out of one tackle on Sunday and in any case, Ferguson is not expecting the veteran to push his body through three matches a week on a regular basis.

If Giggs is missing, Darren Fletcher is most likely to return, with at least one untested youngster being drafted onto the bench.

Richardson's replacement is more obvious, with Park Ji-sung an automatic inclusion on the left-hand side.

Lazy Monday Blogging

The blogger is lazy, not the day.

[09:43] JSpitzberg: what if they held an epl game on monday and no one cared?
[09:44] Neal J Thurman: lol - I sense a tree in the woods analogy coming on
[09:44] JSpitzberg: something like that
[09:46] Neal J Thurman: Mido might do something crazy - that's always reason to pay a little attention - or WBA could give up a Birmingham-like 7
[09:48] Neal J Thurman: and apparently, there's a Mssr. Wenger on line 2 for you and a Mr. Hughes on line 1, they both wanted to let you know they will be watching very intently

Ruud may start against Hammers

Ruud may start against Hammers -
Ruud van Nistelrooy is set to be thrust back into the first-team spotlight on Wednesday with Sir Alex Ferguson promising to make changes for the Barclays Premiership encounter with West Ham.
Rooney to make way?

I also wouldn't be surprised to see Evra for Silvestre. Fletcher in the midfield would be the other change, but would SAF sacrifice an attacker in Park or risk disrupting the still-new O'Shea/Giggs partnership?

Small victories

BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | West Ham Utd | Live Text
90:00 (2:37)
West Ham substitution: Yossi Benayoun replaced by Shaun Newton (tactical).
Woo hoo!

Just kidding. Put Newton in the team as he was cheap and allowed me to buy "the premium choice" ManU players, as Neal called them. Could have stayed with Dailly, but figured maybe, just maybe Newton would get in the game. And sure enough. ;-)

Glad that Wigan was able to score and that Collins had a quiet day (though he should do alright even without a clean sheet). Congrats to all of you (Mike) with NR-C in the team. That game winning goal will be big in an otherwise quiet week (okay, only 1/2 the games have been played so far).

As for those of you with D'Alessandro and/or Eboue (Neal, again) all I can say is I'm sorry, and maybe they'll be 2-gamers soon. Oh, and in the immortal words of Nelson Muntz, "ha HA!"

Now let's hope that Birmingham don't attack or defend any better than they did on Wednesday.

A Quickie...

Sorry kids but this is going to be a quick one because I'm headed out of town. Fortunately, it's a pretty easy week to discuss. Before we get to that, I'm going to tempt fate and brag on myself a little bit after a pretty good weekend last weekend.

Let's recap - Chelsea terrible, Adebayor - goal; Saha - brace; Nolan - goal; Sheringham - goal; McFadden - goal and two; MGP - Goal; Bellamy - brace; Apparently, Collins John was too much of a stretch but at least you didn't waste much money if you chose him.

OK, on to the two-gamers you need to have. At striker, there are a bunch of options between Rooney, Saha, Ashton, and Harewood. My preference is for the first three. In midfield Etherington, Ronaldo, Giggs and Park are all likely to get two matches. In defense, James Collins is cheap and likely to get two games given the injury situation in the West Ham defense. Wes Brown is also out so Vidic is another good cheap option (although his quality - or lack thereof - makes it less likely that ManYoo will get two clean sheets this week). O'Shea and Gary Neville - in that order - are the premium choices. Hayden Mullins is also an interesting choice in defense as he isn't too expensive and generally plays in midfield despite being listed as a defender. In net, if you're switching to a two-gamer, van der Saar is really the only choice. Hislop will get two matches but he has two tough away matches - a good one-gamer would probably make more sense.

If you're looking for a few cheap one-gamers to supplement the two-gamers D'Allesandro in the Pompey midfield is still cheap as is Adebayor from Arsenal is still inexpensive as well. Huth is still cheap and despite his less-than-stellar performance last week, he's likely to play again in the absence of William Gallas.


McFadden's assist gone again!

Anyone else missing points (again!) from Saturday's Everton/Villa match? Other than, you know, Villa.

Early Speculation on the Two-Gamers...

Rooney, Giggs, Ronaldo, and Saha are the ManYoo guys you should find a way to get in your line-up. Ashton and Etherington are the best two prospects from the Hammers with Harewood and Benayoun in the consideration set as well. O'Shea is expensive but also worth it. I'm sticking with Vidic until I see the injury reports at the end of the week. The other two guys to keep an eye out for on defense are Mullins and Collins from West Ham. Mullins has been getting PT in midfield but is listed as a defender which is always a good thing. Collins subbed in for Anton Ferdinand in the FA Cup match against City and was singled out for praise by Pardew in his post-game interview. If Ferdinand can't go, Collins becomes a no-brainer given his cheap price.

Unfortunately, all of the above has me missing out on van der Saar in net but, of course, that would be a great pick-up as well. Hislop is slightly less valuable since the Hammers have two tough matches but his is much more affordable (12.87 vs. 15.79).

More to come at the end of the week.

Friday's Team News Today

West Ham United FC's progress to the FA Cup semi-finals after a 2-1 win at Manchester City FC last night has been tempered by the news that Scotland defender Christian Dailly will be out for a month with a torn hamstring. The 32-year-old has made 21 appearances but only five starts in the Premiership this season.

Blog-favorite, James Milner

Lose The Monkey And The Organ-Grinder...
James Milner has come in and performed admirably for Villa, but if anything, that just makes the bitter pill of O'Leary's transfer market bumbling even harder to swallow. Milner's career was going nowhere this time a year ago. If O'Leary had offered Newcastle Solano and £1million for the youngster they would have accepted it. Instead, O'Leary has either pushed up Milner's value when Villa do try and make the deal permanent or - more likely - turned a player going nowhere into a valuable member of a rival Premiership squad.

From the home office in Tampa, FL

United fans face ticket quandary
New Manchester United season ticket holders will be forced to join the Red Devils 'Cup scheme', which could cost them an extra £250 a year...

However, it could also work against the American with some supporters who may have wanted to guarantee a seat at Premier League games, being put off at the prospect of having to pay over 33% extra to watch the likes of Lille, Barnet and Burton.
... and watch them win! ;-)

Assisted Living on Merseyside

We got our points... I guess. McFadden only credited with one assist. Maybe his "shot" off the post went off a defender before Cahill crashed it home. Regardless, I guess I'll be happy with it.

Now, do I keep him through this week? At Liv in the Merseyside derby. Bad news. But he's a striker listed as a middie, and next week he'll be playing Sunderland. Or do I gut him for a 2 gamers and hope to be able to buy him back next week? Somthing tells me that our readers will recommend the latter course. But I'm already sitting on Dailly on the D... that's how tight the money is. And I may want the cash to move from Adebayor to Ashton. Guess we have all week to figure it out.

Rock the vote!

Please contact Yahoo! and enquire about McFadden's missing assists. There should be two of them.

Be pleasant, but firm.

Thank you.
Jeremy "Screwed on Merseyside... again!"

St. Patrick's Day Limericks

Too good not to share:
There once was a striker named Ashton
Who when fed decent balls really cashed in.
Will the gaffer let him play
or will he be rested that day?
Thats the bollocks fantasy fortunes are dashed on.
Decision day and the time's always tight,
I want to make sure I get the team right.
Garcia for 'pool,
Or maybe just Kewell,
Though whomever I pick will be shyte.
Thanks to Toby and Mike.

For a few dollars more

Players angered by final cutbacks
Malcolm Glazer's commitment to making financial cutbacks at Manchester United has extended to the club's squad, after it emerged last night that some of Sir Alex Ferguson's fringe players had to pay £72 each for tickets to watch the Carling Cup final. Several directors, scouts, coaches and senior staff also had to dip into their own pockets after a Glazer-inspired decision which has provoked condemnation throughout Old Trafford, particularly in the dressing room.

The players were distinctly unimpressed when they subsequently discovered United had allocated as many as 70 complimentary tickets to sponsors and other guests.

For a few quid, maybe Ruud could have played.

$10 Strike Force

Borghetti, Sinama-Pongolle, and Wright-Phillips, B.

And I'm half serious here. $10.24 for three strikers who are likely to play (may/might/could play?) against lesser or stretched opposition.

Then use the cash saved to get Lampard, playing at Fulham, or C-Ronaldo at West Brom.

Thrown Under The Bus... 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.

Happy Shopping...

All change

Good luck this weekend. With injuries, suspensions, cup and European ties, it'll be an accomplishment just having all 11 players on your fantasy team playing this weekend.

West Ham, Bolton, Boro and Man City will rest players. Villa has been decimated by injuries. Other squads like ManU, Chelsea, and Liverpool are picking their attackers from a bag.

What's your strategy? Do you pick the better players with the better matchups and hope they play? Or do you go down in class and hope to get a full 90 from someone?

And check back soon for Neal's, ahem..., expert advice.

Not Rooney too?!?!?!

Ferguson may give Rooney a rest
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson may give Wayne Rooney a rest from first-team action.

The 20-year-old striker has missed only two out of the last 31 matches for United - and now Ferguson believes the England star deserves a break.

Now their just fucking with me... right?

Friday's Team News Today

Phillips doubt for Villa
Phillips has been sent home from Villa's Bodymoor Heath training complex and is "extremely doubtful" for the trip to Goodison Park.

Villa boss David O'Leary is already without Milan Baros, while Juan Pablo Angel has a similar ankle problem, although the Colombian has more chance of being fit to face David Moyes' side.

Meanwhile, midfielder James Milner has been advised to rest for a week after undergoing tests on the virus which kept him out of last week's Premiership game at Blackburn plus the defeat at Eastlands.
All in for Everton? Beattie expensive but in form. van der Meyde CHEAP and returning from injury. McFadden or Osman in the midfield?

Friday's Team News Today

Pardew hails extra-time match-winner Harewood
Pardew is likely to field a weakened side against Portsmouth at the weekend to ensure West Ham are at maximum strength to face City.
Can we expect the same for Pearce? This puts Ashton & Samaras (two recent blog regulars) in doubt. And I guess I shouldn't have bought Anton Ferdinand so quickly.

The City boss said he would be aiming to win both matches, allaying fears that he might be tempted to field a weakened team for the league match.

"I'm going to have a staff meeting and decide how we are going to approach this next four or five days," he revealed.

"We are nowhere near good enough a team or a club to prioritise anything.

"I've got to pick a side that I think is going to win the first game, then I've got to pick a side that I think is going to win the second game."

Mid-week Pick 'em

Who starts for Liverpool on the right side of midfield? Kromkamp? Cisse? Garcia? I would guess it is from the latter two as Rafa will want the win at home to poor-traveling Fulham. Maybe Garcia on the back of his goal at the weekend?

Or even better, maybe Gerrard moves to the right of a midfield diamond with Didi at the base, Kewell on the left, and Garcia at the point. That would give Warnock (shame it wouldn't be Riise) and Finnan license to get forward and put crosses in towards Crouch.

Now that would be an EXCITING lineup for Liverpool. Which pretty much rules it out of contention. :-(

Otherwise, how do you think the game will turn out? I'm thinking 1 or 2 - nil for 'Pool is likely. But for fantasy reasons I'm rooting for Fulham. C'mon Steed! Show everyone why you were a Liverpool target when you first broke into the EPL!

Continuing coverage (Samaras)

Man City 2 - 1 Aston Villa
Samaras, the victim of some terrible challenges, had departed with a dead leg

Continuing coverage (Milner)

O'Leary awaits news of tests on loan star Milner
[T]here are now unconfirmed fears the 20-year-old, who also missed last night's 2-1 FA Cup fifth-round replay loss at Manchester City, may be suffering from glandular fever.
He's got mono! Is he some high-schooler kissing behind the bleachers? Who gets mono!?!? And who might he have shared it with?

(No, wait. That's an Ashley Cole story)

Respect the streak

Man City 2 - Aston Villa 1

Samaras continues to be hot, netting his 5th goal in as many games for club and country. Can he continue at pace, home to Wigan this weekend?

On a related note, if West Ham beat Bolton tomorrow, they will play at Man City on Monday the 20th, at Wigan on Saturday the 25th, and then at ManU on Wed the 29th. Will Pardew continue to rotate his strikers? Are his priorities in the league or the Cup?

Short version: Is Ashton still a good fantasy pick?

Another Gunner returns too soon.

First Cole and Campbell and Lauren, then van Persie, and now Ljungberg. Are the Gunners so shallow a team that they need to force their players back from injury early? And when will they learn that it only increases their time on the sidelines?

Freddie faces spell out
Arsenal ace Freddie Ljungberg faces up to ten days on the sidelines with a calf problem....

Ljungberg will be missing for this weekend's home clash with Charlton, but Arsenal will be hoping he is available for the trip to Portsmouth on March 25.
I wouldn't expect to see Freddie back before the Juve game.

Maybe 1 game after all

Bridge to return at Anfield
Fulham manager Chris Coleman has confirmed that Wayne Bridge is likely to return for their game against Liverpool in midweek.
Though confirmation of "likely" and "hopefully" isn't much confirmation at all.

Last post on the RvN/Saha matter...

... for now. Is this the real story?

Fergie wants four-star attack

The problem, it appears, is not so much with Van Nistelrooy, or even Saha for that matter, more the emergence of Rooney as the undisputed number one in United ranks.

It may be a bit of a dent to Van Nistelrooy's pride but Rooney is the man who is currently indispensable to the Red Devils cause and on the evidence of the past few games, the former Everton star is more effective when Saha is alongside him.

From the headquarters in Tampa Bay, Florida

Is this a football decision? A business decision by the Glazers? A personal loyalty test from SAF? Who's running this dog and pony show, and how can fantasy managers make sense of it?

Ruud told to sign or be sold

Van Nistelrooy's contract is due to expire in June 2008 and the proposed deal would see his wages rise to £90,000 a week.

But Sir Alex Ferguson is apparently keen to sell him for maximum value at the end of the season if the striker refuses to prove his loyalty to the Old Trafford club.

And the winner is...

... Stomach bug.

Milner ruled out of cup clash with stomach bug

Aston Villa midfielder James Milner has been ruled out of tonight's FA Cup fifth round replay against Manchester City because of a stomach virus.

Hat-tricks for all my friends!

Man Utd 2 - 0 Newcastle

Goal Attempts:
Man Utd28

On Target:
Man Utd12

Rooney was sublime, Saha was ridiculous. Saha got in good positions, and did well to link play when he dropped off, but his finishing was terrible. But will this win keep Ruud on the bench again? Probably.

Though I've been wrong before. Mostly, actually.

If you thought Friday's team news was shady...

...Saturday's wrap-up isn't any better. So why exactly did Milner miss Villa's match with Rovers (whom I dropped at the last minute for Steed Malbranque, not that the pts will be any better)? Was it:
Rovers dreaming of Champions League, United Kingdom - 53 minutes ago
... A pre-match injury sustained by James Milner should have disrupted Villa's plans, but his last-minute replacement, Luke Moore, injected pace into a line-up ...
Rovers Maintain Euro Bid
4TheGame, UK - 4 hours ago
... Olof Mellberg returned from suspension for the visitors, but David O'Leary was forced into a last-minute change after James Milner failed to shake off a virus ...
Blackburn v Aston Villa, UK - 5 hours ago
... With James Milner a late withdrawal with stomach cramps, Luke Moore stepped into the breach.Villa, with a place in the club history books in their sights ...
My guess... he was abducted by vampiric aliens allied with the Loch Ness monster who have Hitler's brain implanted in Elvis' body.

And let this be a lesson unto you...

Don't start Ashton...get mauled by Bolton...the football gods have spoken...Mr. Pardew, are you listening?

Reds as far as the eye can see...

Greetings from the ATL. Interesting as always, we have another week where there are a couple teams that have two matches and the rest are sitting on one. This always leads managers to the questions "how many do I go for?" "which two-gamers are worth it?" and "what do I do with the slots where I can't afford the two-gamer I want?" Fear not, I'm here to give you the answers (or at least my answers - I'm sure there will be dissent)...

In case you haven't checked things out yet, Liverpool and Fulham are playing two matches this week so those are the guys you should be evaluating against the normal crop of one gamers.

Chelsea - Before we get in to this week's analysis, I'd like to comment on the Champions League..."HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA". OK, with that out of the way, on to this week's match against Spurs. Robben is out and miraculously, Duffman isn't hurt so he is a good bet if you're in the market for a moderately priced midfielder who isn't playing two games. Spurs have been a little shakey in defense the past few weeks having yielded a very impressive performance to Rovers despite coming out on top. Throw in Chelsea's anger and the London rivalry and you have to think Chelsea scores at least 2 in this one. Lampard is always a good bet but his hamstring is still a question and anyone with the money for Lamps should be spending it on Gerrard this week. For Spurs, Robbie Keane is in fine form but this isn't the weekend to pick him up - this probably applies even more to others on Spurs who are a) playing away; b) playing Chelsea; and c) not as hot as Keane right now.

The Former "Big Two" - So, the good news is that Arsenal is moving on in the Champions League, the bad news is that they're playing Juve and old friend Patrick Vieira in the next round. Not good times as it seems likely that they'll go out AND they'll still have to focus on something other than finishing 4th in the Premiership. The match this Sunday with Liverpool won't help matters much. It may be at home and there may be momentum coming off of the victory over Real but I can't say I'm too optimistic from a fantasy standpoint. For the big spenders in the crowd, sell Henry and pick up Gerrard. Crouch over Adebayor. Kewell over Reyes. You get the idea. If you're looking to save in defense (more on that later) I'd suggest Eboue if you must go with a one-gamer - another low-scoring affair between these two teams wouldnt' surprise me at all. Especially in the cozy confines of Highury.

Manchester United welcome Newcastle to the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday in a match that I have to admit, I don't have much of a feel for. NUFC has been playing well in recent weeks as they've regained health and United have been good but not great. The positive for fantasy managers is that both sides have been scoring. I'm sticking with Ronaldo and I wouldn't counsel against Emre but that's about it for me on this match.

Special Liverpool/Fulham Section - In addition to the recommendations above, I'm going with an all-Liverpool backline. They're expensive but the combination of going to Fowler (who is dirt cheap) and not being able to afford Gerrard has me looking at Finnan, Hyypia (if he looks to be healthy), Agger (if Hyypia isn't), and Carragher. The uncertainty at left back and the possibility that the answer will be Warnock (a midfielder according to Yahoo) makes that position less interesting unless you're SURE Traore is going to be the guy. Reina is a no-brainer.

Fulham has two tough matches this week against the teams from Liverpool. Wayne Bridge is a great (and inexpensive) bet in defense. If you just HAVE to have all two-gamers, then think about Malbranque in midfield and Helguson up top but given the level of defense played by their competition this week, I'm not going that way.

Against the Relegation Zone - Sunderland hosts Wigan who are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Manchester United this past Monday. The only thing I have to say about this match is Camara, Camara, Camara. I tried to make the money work so I could afford Gerrard but it didn't happen so I'm going with Camara to light up a Black Cats squad that is a bit in shambles. He looked the part against United but just couldn't quite finish. Expect different results this weekend. Wigan have an excellent record against the bad teams and, well, Sunderland fits that description.

Manchester City, fresh off a Samaras double against Sunderland (yup, had to rub that in J), stay in the relegation zone as they face Pompey. Barton is back and Pompey is terrible. Samaras is still a good idea if you are looking for an affordable one-gamer. Barton might not be a terrible idea either. I refuse to waste more than a sentence on Sunderland.

I'm really not sure what to say about Birmingham against WBA other than at least Pennant plays for Brum. Not a terrible week to pick him but Kewell and Gerrard should be the preferred options in midfield.

Random Fantasty EPL Notes - Bolton vs. West Ham features my man Dean Ashton in a bad match-up but I'm sticking with him (because that's what I do), that's just about it from this one - Reo Coker is sick...Nothing worth mentioning from the Everton side of Everton and Fulham...Rovers welcome MGP back for their match against Villa - MGP and Bellamy (if he's not in jail) are decent but expensive bets...Finally, the Boro/Charlton match is probably not worth investing in unless, like me, you already have Downing - no point in skipping out on the bet now.

Happy Shopping - sorry it took so long to get here...

And with Liverpool having 2 games this week!

Riise out for three weeks
Liverpool star John Arne Riise faces three weeks out through injury.

The Norwegian international missed Wednesday's UEFA Champions League defeat to Benfica with a hip problem.

Riise sustained the injury in last weekend's draw with Charlton and he has been advised to rest the problem for three weeks.
Warnock? Traore? Will Hyypia be ready for these games?

UPDATE: Warnock is listed as a middie, albeit at $4.56. Traore is a $7 defender. Happy shopping!

2 games for Wayne Bridge?

Kean expects early Bridge return
Fulham assistant manager Steve Kean has revealed that full back Wayne Bridge could return to the starting line-up at the weekend.

Bridge sprained his ankle on international duty with England but could return ahead of schedule for Fulham's weekend trip to Everton.
I'm a bit torn on this one. It would be great to have Bridge if he's playing 2 games. Good player, good fantasy numbers since his move to Fulham. On the other hand Fulham are terrible on the road and their 2 games are @EVE and @LIV. On the road and against parsimonious defenses. The good news would be that neither team scores a ton.

Tempted to stay with Scharner, who scores every other match (yes, I know that this means this week is fallow) and is @Sunderland.

Cole still out

"Which one?", you might ask.

Cole still out
Manchester City striker Andy Cole will be out for at least another three weeks as he battles to recover from his knee ligament operation.

Cole suffered the injury in last month's Barclays Premiership win over Charlton, and Blues boss Stuart Pearce initially suggested the veteran forward could be back within four weeks. But Pearce has revealed the 33-year-old will be sidelined for Tuesday's FA Cup replay with Aston Villa and a possible sixth-round tie against either West Ham or Bolton. Cole will also sit out the Premiership encounters with Portsmouth, Wigan and Chelsea.
How many of you (smart lads that you are) had Samaras v Sunderland? How many have picked him up for Portsmouth?

Location: A plush office on Weirside

Vacant Sunderland post attracting interest

"Mr. Murray, there's a Mr. Souness on the line for you."

"Sir, a fax just arrived from Mr. Souness."

"A candy-gram. Signed, "Thinking of you. Won't you think of me. -GS"

"Mr. Souness here to see you sir. I tried, Sir, but he says he knows you are here. He says he'll wait in the lobby and you'll have to pass him on the way to the bathroom or the exit at some point. Yes, Sir, I've alerted security."

(Hat tip to Mike for the joke.)

Ashton for England, part II

Pards: Dean can play Roo role
Dean Ashton could yet have a chance of gatecrashing England's World Cup squad because he can operate in a similar role to Wayne Rooney, according to West Ham manager Alan Pardew...

"The advantage he has got on other strikers is he can play in a deep role and link things in.

"Look outside of Wayne Rooney, if he got injured, who would do that role?

"Dean could do it well. He's only just doing that role here but he's been terrific."

Ashton for England

The Resident Yank's [that's Neal, to you] Dean Ashton fetish has reached new heights...
I have to admit it; I’m confused about how England is going about selecting forwards for this summer’s World Cup. This may have everything to do with the fact that I’m an American and I’m watching these matches from afar, but in the great tradition of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America I’m going to run with the premise that there’s something to be learned about a topic by looking at it from an outsider’s point of view.

CSI:Merseyside, the Conclusion

Liverpool's Finnan in the clear
Greater Manchester Police have informed Liverpool they will not be taking any action against Steve Finnan following allegations that he racially abused Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

Duff Duff Duff!

Four-game ban for Robben after appeal fails
Robben will miss Chelsea's next three Premier League games - against Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham and Manchester City - plus their FA Cup quarter-final against Newcastle United.

Or Cole Cole Cole!

Stomach-Punch Weekend

I'm such an idiot.

Had Henry, Samaras and Breen in the team. Sold them for Yakubu, Vassell and Mills.

Left 4 goals on the table and still feel sick about it this morning.

So Many Options...

Now that that silly Carling Cup thing is out of the way, it looks like some level of normalcy will return to EPL schedules everywhere. Just in time for that happy circumstance Frank Lampard and Ruud van Nistelrooy have picked up injury concerns that are serious enough to make them doubtful but not so serious that we KNOW for a fact that they'll be out. This underscores what is certain to be an interesting week for fantasy managers everywhere - especially when it comes to picking strikers.

Chelsea - For the second week in a row, Chelsea play a bottom of the table team. The Blues go into this week's match with West Brom with a great deal of uncertainty. Lampard looks likely to miss out as he tries to recover ahead of the return match with Barcalona in midweek. Eidur looks set to take his place at the top of midfield and may be a nice pick-up - not the best striker out there this week, but a good striker for CHEAP (5.95) on a good team against a bad one. That said, you're filling a striker spot with a midfielder which violates one of the fundamental rules that we here at the Fantasy EPL Blog believe in. Elsewhere for the Blues, the defense looks to be somewhat unsettled - Gallas is not fully fit, Del Horno seems to be in the doghouse, so who knows how the Chelsea back line will look. Will Del Horno be given another chance? Will Huth - coming off a goal against Italy midweek - deputize again in the center of defense? Despite a likely clean sheet, my inclination is to stay away from Chelsea defenders unless I have the $$ to upgrade to Terry. As usual, no Baggies merit any serious consideration against a top of the table squad.

The Former "Big Two" - Can you really count a trip to West London to face Fulham as an away match? If you do, then you probaby want to stay away from any Arsenal players (yes, even Henry) because they just haven't been very good on their travels. Henry always has a chance to have a breakout match but he's no longer the certainty he was in years past. In fact, the entire Arsenal offense looked lost for about 60 minutes last weekend against Rovers. Only towards the end did they start clicking in the absence of the copious space that Real Madrid provided in the center of the park. Adebayor managed to nick 8 points in the last few minutes of the match and might be a reasonable bet for the money up front. Reyes was ineffective against Rovers although Fulham's defense will never be confused for Blackburn's. Eboue is still a great bet since he's cheap and shows some offensive potential on the right side of defense. On the Fulham side of the ball, you have to like both McBride and Helguson who has been on a crazy hot streak. N. Jensen might be an interesting pick-up as he deputizes for injured Wayne Bridge bombing balls into the box for Fulham's two target men.

Now we get to the really difficult match of the week. Manchester United, fresh off crushing Wigan on neutral ground, face them at the JJB. The biggest question revolves around whether Ruud will have recovered from his stomach virus sufficiently to reclaim his starting spot. If he doesn't, you have to like Saha for 7.19 starting at the top of an offense that has been producing in recent weeks. This is also the weekend where Cristiano Ronaldo repays my faith in him over the last couple weeks as he kept his roster spot on my squad while others dropped him. Rooney is likely to put up some points but given his cost, I'm likely to stay away. For my money, the United back line is either too expensive or too uncertain depending on who we're talking about so I'm ignoring them against competent opposition since there are much better match-ups to be had. For Wigan, Camara seemed to be the only really bright light in the Carling Cup final but there are much better options.

Against the Relegation Zone - An up and down Manchester City squad welcomes back Captain America Claudio Reyna just in time to replace suspended Joey Barton in the center of midfield. Oh yeah, they also welcome Sunderland to the City of Manchester Stadium which can be seen as nothing but a good thing for the Blue section of Manchester. My gut tells me that Darius Vassell is the guy to go with here despite the fact that Riera and Samaras are cheaper. Darius has had some outstanding fantasty matches this year and seems due for another. I tried to do some digging to find out why he didn't play vs. Liverpool but there was precious little to be found and he is included in the squad for Sunday's match. For Sunderland, well, that's probably not even worth the effort just expended in typing the name of the club and the rest of this sentence.

Birmingham head to Boro in what is sure to be touted as a "relegation six-pointer" when, in reality, it would take a lot for Birmingham to push past Boro over the next 12 matches. The best news related to this match is that Downing seems to be recovered from his knee issue and looks to be back in the squad. I look for he and long-time Blog favorite Yakubu to be in fine form against the Blues. With Pennant having had another personal incident this past week, you have to wonder if he'll be included. If there are no reprocussions for his actions, he's always a good one for your line-up. If there's even a hint of a doubt, it might be worth considering Riera or Milner instead.

Speaking of Milner and his buddies from Villa Park, they round out the relegation zone opponents as they host Pompey. Right now, I have Luke Moore and Milner in my line-up but Moore is a doubt for me as I ponder the other forwards who a) have good match-ups; b) are cheap; and c) might have a higher percentage chance of starting. If I were O'Leary, I'd be starting Moore every chance I got but there's a reason Villa are struggling so you can't just assume these things. I'd stay away from the rest of the participants in this one - Villa's defense is too banged up to assume they'll keep the sheet clean and Pompey is pretty much terrible despite Jeremy's slurping of D'Alessandro.

Random Fantasy EPL Notes - Newcastle host Bolton in what promises to be an unpleasant match from an aestetics point-of-view - Emre, Nolan and Stelios are the only guys I'd even consider and I can't say I considered any of them for very long...West Ham host Everton in a match-up of a team that has been scoring a lot of goals against a team that hasn't been giving too many up - I'm sticking with my boy Ashton for this one but certainly understand the argument against doing so, Etherington and Harewood aren't bad bets either, not much positive to say about the Everton guys...Liverpool host Charlton and you have to like a host of Reds in this one - Gerrard and Kewell are great bets and this seems like a good match-up for Crouch as well, on the defensive side of the ball Kromkamp is likely to deputize for Finnan on the right which is a good thing and Pepe Reina will likely get his standard 15 points in net, Charlton will be bad, 'nuff said on that topic...We close the week with Rovers visiting Spurs in what is likely to be a gritty, gutty match with a lot of vigor in the tackle and at least twice as many yellow cards as goals - Rovers are missing MGP and Bellamy will have to essentially go it alone against an excellent defense...Carrick and Mido are always pretty good bets for Spurs but this week doesn't seem like the best week to select them.

Happy Shopping...

Now this is just getting ridiculous

Stomach complaint may sideline Ruud
Ruud van Nistelrooy could be struggling to win his Manchester United starting spot back after pulling out of Holland's friendly win over Ecuador with a stomach complaint.


But those hopes could now be in jeopardy as United medical staff assess the extent of a complaint which proved enough to force Van Nistelrooy to stand down from the Dutch side that recorded a 1-0 triumph, with his replacement Dirk Kuyt netting the only goal.

Bridge too far

England v Uruguay Report
[T]o make matters worse, Wayne Bridge was carried off with injured ankle ligaments after an accidental collision with `keeper Paul Robinson.


It was a cruel twist for Chelsea full-back Bridge who is back in regular Barclays Premiership action, on loan at Fulham, after breaking his ankle last year.

Chris Coleman and Jose Mourinho will not be too happy either.
I assume all you nay-sayers will be moving to Kromkamp now? ;-)


Police investigate claims that Finnan made racist remark to Evra
A police investigation has been launched after deaf football fans complained they had lip-read Liverpool's Steve Finnan making a racist remark towards Patrice Evra of Manchester United.

The Merseyside club immediately denounced the claim as an "outrageous slur" but Greater Manchester police confirmed last night that inquiries are ongoing into allegations that the Liverpool full-back "made an offensive comment" during last month's 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford.

It is understood that the alleged remark was picked up by fans watching the game on television. Two contacted the police, as well as Manchester United, and claimed they had lip-read what the Republic of Ireland international apparently said. Police are understood to have taken statements and to be reviewing footage of the game.
I sure hope this isn't true. But lip reading fans watching on TV complaining to the police? Now that's just silly!

'Fergie wanted to drop RVN against Liverpool'

'Fergie wanted to drop RVN against Liverpool' -
The paper claims that the ManYoo boss had 'detected a drop in the Dutchman's form and decided to drop him' but 'Queiroz, who has a big say in team selection, convinced Fergie that dumping him with a big mistake.'

Van Nistelrooy responded with an abject, listless display as ManYoo tamely succumbed to their bitter rivals. The same could not be said of Sir Fergie, however. Upon the Dutchman's refusal to chase a long ball in the second half, Red Face appeared at the touchline with a particularly red face and animatedly berated his star striker with what can only be described on a family website as 'industrial language'.

He then told Queiroz that Van Nistelrooy was not getting a second chance in Cardiff.
Now there seems to be real questions about Ruud's place. Not good. Not good at all.

Friday's Team News Today

Chelsea left to sweat over Lampard fitness
He [Frank Lampard] is doubtful for Saturday's game at West Brom but Chelsea will wait for the results of the scan before ruling him in or out of next week's trip to Barcelona.
Would the Ice man be the most likely replacement? Is he still cheap, even after his assist at the weekend? Is it worth picking up a forward playing in the midfield? West Brom haven't exactly been shy in giving up the goals recently.