With apologies to Wesley Snipes

While you should "Always bet on black", you should "Never bet on Bolton".

Tottenham - Bolton

BoltonShots OnShots OffBlocked ShotsFoulsFouls WonOffsidesSaves
H Nakata0000000

Well, that didn't work very well...

The end of the season tends to be a funny thing. For those of you at the tops of your private leagues, you are in an excellent position. You can look at players and match-ups and choose the strongest group you can afford and hope for the best in good conscience. For those of us trying to make up ground (I'm about 100 points behind fellow-blogger Jeremy in 2nd place in our group) the task isn't so easy.

Last week, for instance, my first instinct was to go with Solano - he's been hot, the match-up was a good one for him, and he wasn't terribly expensive. In fact, I had him in my squad for the majority of the week. As the deadline approached, I realized that to make up the gap, I had to go high-risk/high-reward. On the report that Amiobi and Shearer were likely out, I went with Luque who scored recently and has something to prove going into an off-season of uncertainty. Solano had a nice match, Amiobi recovered from having his teeth knocked out, Luque sat - not good times.

In honor of such situations, I'm going to make two sets of recommendations. One will be the traditional "best players available" recommendations and are generally intended for those looking to keep leads over friends, related to side bets (ahem, not that these things ever happen), or win private or public leagues. The second set will be for the rest of us who are trying to make up ground and should be taken in the spirit they are intended - high risk, high reward. They have the potential to turn out great but may yield you nothing instead. Here goes...

For the Leaders...
This may reek of my Arsenal bias but they need the points and they do have Sunderland this week...
Striker
There aren't too many surprises here to be honest. I'm sure most of you have K2 (that's Adebayor to you) at a pretty cheap price and you should probably stick with him. Henry and Rooney are probably the best two candidates to partner him if you can scrape together the money. Rooney has a tough one against Chelsea but he's a big game guy and he follows that up with a home match vs. what is sure to be an exhausted Boro squad. The streaky option up top is Luis Boa Morte, he generally scores in bunches and it looks like he's hitting a hot patch - never a bad thing with Sunderland on the schedule.

Midfield
This is the weekend to go old school. Arsenal look to be without Hleb and Reyes meaning that Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires are very likely to start and play most if not all the time in both matches this week. They're also relatively cheap (both under $9). Throw in an injury to Gilberto and you may want to go with Diaby as well who is extremely cheap (under $4). As far as non-Arsenal midfielders go, Malbranque, Ronaldo, and Lampard are the three best bets in my eyes. Ronaldo and Lamps because, well, they're Ronaldo and Lamps and Malbranque because of Sunderland being on the schedule.

Defense
More Arsenal here with Eboue and Clichy being affordable and almost guaranteed to play given that there are few options for Arsenal at right back and Cole is unlikely to start in his first match back and unlikely to go the full 90 in either match even if he does feature at some point. Wayne Bridge is another good, affordable bet here due to match-ups and his propensity for going forward.

Keeper
Niemi, Niemi, Niemi - he's cheap and he's been great since his return to the Fulham line-up. It's sort of the perfect situation for a fantasy keeper - the Cottagers are bad enough on defense that Niemi gets a lot of save chances but not SO BAD that he let's in too many goals. Even when he doesn't get a win/clean-sheet, he tends to get a lot of points off of saves. When he gets a win/clean-sheet, he's huge.

Swinging for the Fences...
Where the "safe" strategy features a lot of Arsenal and Fulham players (all of whom are very likely to start both team games while both teams face Sunderland), the high-risk strategy focuses on Boro.

Striker
It looks like JFH and Viduka are injured to at least some extent so it is likely that UEFA Cup hero Maccarone will get a lot of playing time over the three matches Boro has this week. He's obviously hot and as a bonus, he's dirt cheap ($6.56). Yakubu is also likely to get some PT in the absence of Boro's other strikers but he hasn't been what you'd call hot lately so I'm not particularly inclined to take that risk despite previous years' late season heroics from the Yak. The other part of the strategy is to take strikers who have quality but aren't necessarily facing the best match-ups and hoping they overcome those match-ups - Bellamy, Drogba, and Samaras come quickly to mind. Or take a flyer on someone like Brian McBride who hasn't been great lately but has good match-ups and isn't too terribly expensive.

Midfielders
I've been a big Stewart Downing fan since his arrival in Boro's starting XI. Boro are scheduled for three matches this week (and three tough ones at that) and while I'm sure he won't play in all three - the chance that he'll play in most/all of two should be sufficiently interesting to make him worth the risk. Slightly less attractive but in the same boat are his teammates Rochemback and Morrison. The only other non-obvious choice that is appealing to me in any way is Joey Barton who is due for a decent match or two.

Defenders
This is a tough one - certainly Ashley Cole represents a huge risk but I can't see him getting THAT much time combined in Arsenal's two matches. The best I think you can expect is 1 start and 1 substitute appearance. Upside of 20 points if he has a great game in the start and a clean sheet in the substitute appearance. Parnaby from Boro isn't a bad bet given their injuries in the back and his 3-game status - not really who you think of when you think fantasy defenders but he's solid (but a bit pricey). Outside of those two, you might want to be a little conservative here because you don't want to lose points on really bad risks.

Keeper
Either take a risk blowing budget on one of the old standards (Champions League hero Lehmann comes to mind) or go all out on the notion that Schwartzer is hurt and Jones gets three starts for Boro.

Good Luck as the season winds to a close...

Hleb allays injury fears

Hleb allays injury fears
The talented dribbler accepts he may require surgery at the season's close to clear up the problem, but any such plans have now been shelved until after the final.
But does this mean that he's rested through the remaining EPL games? Figure K2 (Adebayor) returns and Freddie moves back into midfield?

Wigan boss Jewell resigned to Bullard departure

Wigan boss Jewell resigned to Bullard departure

Odd timing for a transfer with just days left in the season. And an odd move... down the table. But maybe he's a Londoner? Regardless, fantasy managers should note that:
Jewell, though, feels Bullard - signed from Peterborough in January 2003 for £275,000 - is on his way, to such an extent the player is not included in tomorrow's squad to face Portsmouth.

Squad Rotation fashionable in London

At Arsenal or Chelsea, sure. But Fulham?

Man City v Fulham preview
Coleman is likely to shuffle his front-line after a lack of goals in previous weeks with Brian McBride and Heidar Helguson expected to make way for Tomasz Radzinski and Collins John in attack while Philippe Christanval is bidding for a midfield slot.

Irwin Fletcher?

Chelsea v Man Utd preview
Gabriel Heinze is unlikely to be risked after feeling a twinge in the reserves in midweek but Scotland coach Walter Smith was forced to correct himself when indicating Fletcher was injured as the midfielder is fit and available.

Fool me twice

Roeder's Emre hope
Roeder could also be boosted by the return of Michael Owen, who looks poised to take the field for the first time since breaking a bone in his foot against Tottenham on New Year's Eve.

Someone is going to get the games

Sven concerned over Cole
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger recently hinted that England's first choice left-back would only be available for the last two Premiership games of the season, along with the UEFA Champions League final, due to his fitness problems.
Flamini out with a bad hammy? Cole still not ready? Clichy back, but ready for 3 games in a week? Would love to pick up one of these guys for Ars' easy schedule but not sure who is going to be able to play. Or worse, they could end up splitting time.

Buy 38, get 1 free

Looks like Yahoo! has done the reasonable thing and split the remaining "week" in two, putting all the final Saturday's games into a 39th week.

Premiership Season
Start
Aug 13
Midseason
Dec 24
End
May 7

So Boro are 3 gamers, not 4. And ManU and Che lose attractive 3rd matchups (CHA and @NUFC respectively). But Ars and Fulham still play Sunderland and Citeh in what look to be the best matchups of the week.

Another mystery solved

Scotland without injured Fletcher for Japan trip
However, the Scots are missing influential Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher due to a knee injury.

"Fletcher is not available to us, he dislocated a knee cap playing against West Ham so that puts him out and he will not be there," Smith told a news conference at Hampden Park.

Cone of Silence



As I did last week, I'm taping the Arsenal/Villareal match to watch later. So I'm COS.

I will, however, be following Villa/Citeh out of the corner of my eye/browser. Neal has Milner in his team this week, so naturally I'm rooting for Citeh. Feed the Goat... er, the Greek!

Benitez plans to rest players against West Ham

Benitez plans to rest players against West Ham
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez plans to rest some players for Wednesday's Premier League match against FA Cup final opponents West Ham United.

"We will try and rest some players that will need a rest," Benitez told reporters on Tuesday.

"Maybe they will rest some players as well because they will be thinking about the final.

"This game will not be the most important result of the season as we will be thinking of the final," he added.
BUT WHO? I'm still thinking (and hoping, as he's in my team) that Robbie Fowler, cup-tied for the FA Cup, will start. And hopefully he'll continue his goal-a-game streak.

Brad Jones x4?

Schwarzer eyes return
Mark Schwarzer is confident of returning to training within two weeks, despite the fact he is having surgery on his broken cheekbone.

The Middlesbrough number one was caught by a stray elbow from Dean Ashton during the FA Cup semi-final defeat to West Ham on Sunday.

If Schwarzer progresses as he expects, then he would be available for the Uefa Cup final in May - should Boro navigate their way past Steaua Bucharest on Thursday.
B. Jones (MID - G) @BOL,@MAN,EVE,@FUL [ BUY ] 10.12

Live on Pay-per-view!

The day fair play died
'All I can say is that when Wenger squared up to me on the touchline, I had to hold myself back because he doesn't know how strong I am.'
The Professor v The Dutch Strongman in a "loser leaves Europe" match!

How many games?

Fantasy Football | Premiership Fantasy Football Game - Yahoo! Sport UK

3 gamers? 4 gamers? Yahoo! stretching the meaning of "week" here as we enter the last round.

Boro play 4 games, but will any of the players get more than 2?

Desperately Seeking Danny

Jenas blow for Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur have suffered a blow with the news that Jermaine Jenas is out of their crucial derby clash with Arsenal on Saturday.

The England midfielder has suffered shin injury during training on late on Friday and he has been forced to pull out of the clash at Highbury.
It's amazing that this news got out today. Normally this is the kind of thing you find out only as the teams take the pitch.

So Jenas, Tainio and Davids are out or doubtful. That leaves Carrick and Lennon certain starters. Does Jol keep his diamond with Murphy at the point and Reid on the left? Does he throw Huddlestone in a holding role despite his inexperience? Or move Lennon to the left, push Stalteri into midfield and bring Kelly in as fullback on that side?

Regardless, it looks a good chance for Danny Murphy to step into (and up in) a BIG game. While he probably won't be at the top of your 'must buy' list tonight, it does raise questions about Tot as a whole in this match. I have Keane in the squad as he's been unstoppable for the last month or so. Is this the weekend he's stopped?

What a mess...

We're getting down to crunch time (both in the various races in the Premiership and in everyone's private leagues) and what do we have but a week with very few attractive choices. The positive side is that if you guess right, you have a chance to make up some ground in your league or extend your lead if you're so fortunate as to have one. The negative side is that there are few sure things this week and most of the names that we, as fantasy managers, have come to rely on for points when they are absolutely needed are either not playing this week (Chelsea & ManYoo plus some random good players like Bellamy & Pedersen), are playing more important matches this week which may lead to uncertain selection policy (Liverpool & Arsenal), or are playing in a particularly meaningful derby (Arsenal & Spurs). Throw in some key injury uncertainty (LuaLua, Emre, Pennant & Stefanovic) and there's not a lot out there to get excited about.

Never fear, I wouldn't let a little thing like that get in the way of making some predictions and recommendations. So here we go...

1) Adebayor, or K2 as we like to call him here at the blog - he can't play in the Champions League so he'll likely be partnering whomever Wenger decides to play at striker vs. Spurs (of course the "does he play Henry?" question is probably the biggest of the week).

2) Gary O'Neil - he's been hot as has Pompey...and they're playing Sunderland...at home...what's not to like?

3) D'Alessandro - see O'Neil above

4) James McFadden - we've been pimping this guy all year, Everton has been in a bit of a slump but home to a Birmingham side wrecked by injury might be the time the Toffees and McFadden break out

5) Bridge and Niemi - Fulham are at home and both are generally good bets at home...and they're cheap.

6) Naysmith - Always a solid fantasy choice and he's cheap with a good match-up.

Right now, I'm thinking about those guys as the core of my line-up. Around them, I'll be placing some more expensive pieces - the most obvious question is the above stated Henry question. You have to think that Wenger will play Henry given the importance of the tie with Spurs relative to finishing fourth. If the Gunners win, they'll be in the driver's seat for 4th and bunches of cash next year. If they rest Henry, they're in some deep trouble and have to count on finishing off Villareal and then beating Barcalona in the finals (possible, but still a hard road).

Gerrard is another interesting option but I'm not sure why Rafa would play him in the Premiership with the FA Cup still in play. If he plays vs. West Ham in mid-week and gets injured then Rafa will look silly.

Random possibilities for your consideration - Baros, Barton, Samaras, and Luque all of whom should start in relatively meaningless matches...

In defense, I think I'm going to find a way to get Eboue in my line-up - I can't imagine Wenger benching him as there are no other options at right back and he's been great going forward. Always a threat to do something big.

Hopefully, something contained above will be helpful.

Happy Shopping. Go Gunners!

Owen ready for Newcastle comeback

Owen ready for Newcastle comeback
Newcastle United striker Michael Owen has been included in the Magpies' squad to face West Brom on Saturday.
Anyone with a strong enough stomach to gamble on this one?

Has anyone seen Danny Murphy?

Tottenham have injury problems before trip to Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur are struggling with injury problems before Saturday's visit to Arsenal for their biggest game of the season. There are doubts over striker Mido, central defender Anthony Gardner, midfielders Teemu Tainio and Edgar Davids while captain Ledley King is already out of the campaign with a broken foot.
To be honest, the more interesting questions are on the other side of the pitch. How will Arsenal line up knowing that they have to protect their 1-0 in Spain just a few days later? Especially since Thierry Henry is a reasonable (for him) $20 in Yahoo! fantasy.

Soccer-metrics?

Jermaine Pennant has 5 assists on 126 crosses. For comparison, Lampard has 8 from 84. Two and 1/2 times more efficient.

Is that the difference between Heskey and Drogba more than a reflection on the provider?

Last year BRM had Gronkjaer, who couldn't get a cross in to save his life. In fact he was called "Dracula" because he was afraid of crosses. Now they have the most prolific crosser of the ball in the EPL and the blame shifts squarely to the strikers. My $0.02.

And just think, what if Chelsea had brought in Pennant instead of SWP? Scary, eh?

Cone of Silence



COS on Arsenal/Villareal.

Cech feared leg was broken

Cech feared leg was broken
Cech momentarily thought he had suffered a serious injury, but is relieved that he is unlikely to miss any games for the champions-elect.
So don't rush to buy Cudicini just yet. C'mon, admit that it crossed your mind. It's okay, we're all friends here.

Injury rules Blues defender Upson out for six months

Injury rules Blues defender Upson out for six months
Upson's continued enforced absence means that Martin Taylor is likely to deputise for the remainder of the campaign alongside Kenny Cunningham - starting with tomorrow's home clash with his previous club Blackburn.

But former Blackburn midfielder David Dunn will almost certainly be unavailable with the calf injury sustained in the first half against Villa and leading scorer Jiri Jarosik is given only a 50-50 chance of recovering from a hamstring injury.
A lot of soccer since our last posting. Good to see that some things never change. Birmingham losing players to injury has been a constant all season and will surely be the excuse given for their relegation. It will be interesting to see if next year these same players stay in the EPL on different teams (Dunn, Pennant, Jarosik, Melchiot, etc.) perform well and play consistently.

Update from Old Trafford...

Looks like Saha is injured, possibly seriously. RvN now enters the no-brainer category if you have the $$...

Some quick analysis...

The blog editor didn't let me in earlier today when I had time so I'm going to have to make this pretty quick...

I'm still pretty high on the ManYoo guys given their form and their schedule during the two-game period. Without any injury reports, it's a bit difficult going but the following are great bets - Rooney, Giggs, Ronaldo, Neville, Rio, and EvdS. Silvestre, Brown, Vidic, Park, Saha, RVN, and Fletcher are good bets but you may end up bitter depending on SAF's selection policy (no injury listed for Fletcher despite that being the stated reason for his exclusion vs. Arsenal). My take on Heinze is that while he may be on the substitute's bench for both matches, it makes more sense to get him for next week rather than the upcoming week.

As far as non-ManYoo guys go, I don't have very many in my line-up but I figured I'd discuss briefly anyway. Dean Ashton has OK match-ups and is dirt cheap (under 6). Sticking with Adebayor or Samaras through the one-game week isn't a terrible idea but if you need to make up points, it's probably time to take the risk and go for a two gamer. Harewood is more expensive than Ashton but wouldn't be a bad choice either. At Chelsea, the song remains the same. If I were confident that Crespo would be selected for both matches, I'd probably go with him but at best, it's a calculated risk.

In midfield, D'Alessandro has been playing well as Pompey have been picking up points consistently - playing Boro and CHA doesn't hurt either. Charles N'Zogbia is another possibility based on the combination of price, production and match-ups - not a no-brainer but might be a good idea if you need to free up some money for one of the high priced Red Devils.

N'Zogbia's teammate Given is another cheap option that could pay off big based on match-ups.

At the back Sadler and Naysmith are the two value picks this week - neither is likely to set the world on fire based on their match-ups but in a world where the good defenders cost 8 or 9, there is some value in $6 defenders...

Good luck and happy shopping...

Good news, but for which team?

Campbell back for Gunners

Sol Campbell will start for Arsenal on Wednesday in their Barclays Premiership trip to Portsmouth...

Philippe Senderos will be rested, while captain Thierry Henry will come back into the starting line-up. Freddie Ljungberg and Jose Antonio Reyes are also in contention again, but left-back Ashley Cole (ankle), Cesc Fabregas (foot), Pascal Cygan (hamstring) and long-term absentee Lauren (knee) are all still out.

Curb your enthusiasm

Heinze likely to return against Sunderland
Heinze is regarded as Ferguson's first-choice left-back despite MikaĆ«l Silvestre's switch from centre-half and the £5m acquisition of Patrice Evra from Monaco, and he is expected to be among the substitutes for the Sunderland match. If United have a comfortable lead, Ferguson intends to bring him on in the second half.

Kudos to Yahoo!

Premiership Fantasy Football Game - Yahoo! Sport UK - Week 34

We give them a lot of shit when points don't update or 2 games get added or taken away, but most times Yahoo! runs a great game and comes through with what they promise. Week 34 points for Brmingham/Bolton are posted... and it's not pretty. Looks like Jussi and Davies got 1 point a piece. Okocha with 8 and Nolan with 4.

Evra more confusion

Heinze set to return for Premiership run in
Ferguson has now admitted he was extremely close to naming Heinze on the bench for the weekend win over Arsenal and, providing the former Paris St Germain star comes through training without a problem this week, he is set to make his comeback in the Good Friday clash with basement boys Sunderland, four days before his 28th birthday.
Another great pull out from the article:
Unfortunately for the Black Cats, it is not a case of if United win on Friday but how many they win by.

Seven points behind Chelsea with five games remaining, the Red Devils also have an eight-goal deficit to make up on the Londoners and the arrival of Sunderland offers a glorious opportunity to make inroads into that particular Blues advantage.

And All I Can Say In Response...

...is Glory, Glory Man United...

And yes, I threw up a little bit in my own mouth when I typed that. BAD mojo picking fantasy players from your team's most hated rival when they're playing against your guys. I guess the only thing I can say for myself is that if I HADN'T picked them, I'd be that much more bitter about life today because Arsenal lost this weekend and the Hammers managed to choke away a one-goal advantage up a man 20 minutes into their match at Stamford Bridge.

Looking forward to next week...

1) (as one of our readers pointed out in the comments section last week) It'll start early due to ManYoo's Friday match that has been included in this week's schedule.

2) Arsenal vs. Man City will be post-poned due to Arsenal's Champions League clash so Arsenal and Citeh are one-gamers instead of two-gamers.

3) Fulham and Liverpool are also one-gamers

4) ManYoo seem to have the most attractive match-ups (SUN, @TOT) in addition to being in excellent form.

5) While no one has two terrible opponents or two home matches - Charlton, who can't seem to score, have @FUL and POM and the Hammers have MAC and @MID (who are focused on UEFA Cup).

Just a few thoughts to get the week started - buy ManYoo early and often this week.

Nothing to say

Between my backline getting caught in a wash-out, 1/4 of my budget sitting on Arsenal's bench, and Neal getting 30pts from his ManU defense (have you no sense of decency?)... I have nothing to say.

Maybe after Wednesday's match. If Yahoo recognizes it, that is.

Have a good Monday all.

Chaos Reigns...

In the nearly two years we've been doing this blog, there are weeks where I've been uncertain as to what I wanted to write. There have been weeks where I didn't necessarily feel THAT strongly about the picks I made. In some cases, it was because I didn't like that week's matchups, in some cases it was because I liked too many of them and couldn't focus my thoughts down to a managable set of things for our readers to consider. Usually, I feel pretty good about what I put up here being sound advice capable of helping someone plant themselves firmly in the top percentile or two of the Yahoo overall standings. This week, I have to admit that I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to say. Why?

ManYoo theoretically play twice this week (Sunday and Friday) but after advertising this week as a "two-gamer" for ManYoo for most of the week, the Sunderland match has been pulled off the board amid speculation that it will be included in next week's fixture list where pretty much everyone has two matches.

Arsenal's rained out match with Pompey has been rescheduled for Wednesday but that has yet to be added to the Yahoo schedule for this week. That fact combined with the lack of any credit for Bolton's match with Birmingham makes me worry about loading up on Gunners.

In the absence of certainty related to Arsenal and ManYoo's 2nd matches this week, we're left with those two clubs playing each other in a fixture that is rarely gold for fantasy managers. So what to do?

Basically, you have to take a leap of faith one way or the other related to the two-gamers. Finding a way to load up on Henry/Rooney plus Adebayor up front (with perhaps Todorov as a CHEAP 3rd striker who will be playing two matches). In the midfield, Cesc is still relatively inexpensive and in fine form recently. Pires, Ljungberg, Flamini, Fletcher and D'Allesandro are also potential two-gamers who are priced to move.

The back is much more troublesome - van der Saar and (new German #1) Lehmann are both through the roof expensive as are pretty much the full complement of Arsenal and ManYoo defenders.

If you don't believe that Arsenal and ManYoo will get credit for their second matches this week, then the most attractive players out there are from Fulham, Everton, and Spurs. Beattie, Keane and Collins John are of particular interest up front. Malbranque, Carrick, Arteta, McFadden, and Cahill are the favorites in midfield. Niemi is back and should be relatively cheap for his match with Sunderland in net. The back is more problematic but I'd go with Everton's defense (Naysmith being the most interesting).

I'd write more but I'll be spending the rest of my afternoon trying to figure out what the hell to do with this mess. In the end, I'm guessing my strategy will involve getting Henry on my squad. In uncertain times, you can't go too far wrong with that TH on your side - if he gets two games, all the better.

Happy Shopping...and good luck containing your outrage when you find out that your guess about the two-gamer thing turned out to be wrong.

2 from 3

Man Utd v Arsenal preview
Sir Alex Ferguson's main selection poser is yet again whether to start with Ruud van Nistelrooy or Louis Saha alongside Wayne Rooney. Van Nistelrooy was clearly shocked and upset to be left out last weekend, after notching the winner against West Ham, and he repeated the trick to clinch the points at Bolton.

However, Saha produced a Man of the Match display at The Reebok and will be difficult to dislodge, even though Ferguson hinted after the game that the Dutchman may get the nod.

TMI

Premiership Team News
Kevin Kyle is unlikely to figure after being scalded in an accident at home.
Uh-huh. What they don't tell you is:
From SI's 10-spot:

I hate when that happens: A soccer player in England had to miss time recently because he spilled boiling water on his privates. Kevin Kyle, who plays for Sunderland in the Premiership, was feeding his 8-month-old son, Max, with the infant perched on his knee. But Max kicked the jug of hot water Kyle was holding to warm up a milk bottle, spilling the scalding liquid in his lap. Here's our favorite line from the story: "It is understood to have burnt Kyle's testicles and his inner thigh." Great use of the passive voice. It almost sounds as if Kyle said to a reporter, "Hey, I can show you where the burn is," and the reporter responded, "No! I'll take your word for it!"
Hat tip to Toby for the full story.

C'mon 'arry!

This is not what you want to hear from the lesser bet on a 2-game week:

Premiership Team News
Portsmouth record signing Benjani Mwaruwari will delay a knee operation. Harry Redknapp starts a vital run of three home games in eight days with 'two or three players doubtful' after knocks in training but will not reveal details until late fitness tests are taken. Striker Svetoslav Todorov and fit-again defender Dejan Stefanovic are both in contention for places in the starting line-up, however.

Fixture Congestion

Arsenal can't afford any slip-ups
Following Sunday's clash at Old Trafford, the Gunners must then play their re-arranged match away to Portsmouth on Wednesday, April 12. Three days later, they will host relegation-battlers West Brom.

The first leg of their Champions League semi-final with Villarreal will take place on Wednesday, April 19, meaning their clash against Manchester City which had been scheduled for Easter Monday will now be played on May 4 - just three days after they travel to Sunderland...

'We play Sunday, then Wednesday at Portsmouth. We need to win every game, so Sol will come into that because I will have to rotate the team.'

So Arsenal are 2 gamers this week (in reality, if not in Yahoo! fantasy) then 1 gamers over Easter. Do you pick and hold?

2 Gamers, cont.

BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Arsenal | Fixtures
Wednesday, 12 April 2006
Barclays Premiership
Portsmouth v Arsenal, 20:00

2 Gamers, cont.

Yahoo! is at least listing the BRM/BOL game on last week's pages even if they haven't updated the points yet.
K. Davies (BOL - F) @BRM,MAN
J. Okocha (BOL - M) @BRM,MAN
etc...

2 Gamers

We don't know any more than you do. Less maybe.

BRM/BOL. MAN/SUN.

No. frickin. clue.

Sorry. I wish I knew more... who to keep, who to sell. But no one here knows nothing.

For now.

Spreading the Media Empire

Jeremy is forever giving me a hard time about not posting my articles from other sites. So, here's the latest.

If you're more inclined toward audio content, here's the archive of my radio appearance this past weekend (warning to the non-MLS fans in the audience - and I assume that's most of you - there's some EPL/Champions League talk but mostly it's about the start of the MLS season). From the link above, click on Segment 6 and fast forward to the 10th minute.

Birmingham - Bolton

Birmingham - Bolton

Lineups are announced and players are warming up
I'm surprised to be so excited by this game, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it's a big one.

First we have the whole "will they or won't they" with Yahoo! fantasy points. I have Jussi, Jay-Jay, and Kevin Davies in my team this week. So I'm hoping they will! ;-)

But this game also has huge implications at both ends of the table -- for both the relegation fight AND the fight for European places.

Good luck to all!

UPDATE: Following the text of the game at work, but it sounds brutal. Jarosik's goal one of two shots on target all half? And the other coming at the death from Nolan (whom Neal has on his team). Sounds like a game neither team wants to lose, and it sounds like painful viewing. And it's not the bumper fantasy pay-day I was looking for either. So far...

Two years ago this would have been news

Mendieta out until next season
Gaizka Mendieta, Middlesbrough's Spanish midfielder, will miss the rest of the season after breaking a bone in his foot in training.
I would certainly have been of interest to this blog. But after missing out on most of last year, and a sizeable chunk of this year, through injury; with Boro anonymous in the league as they chase UEFA and FA Cup dreams; and with Rochemback a similar player in all but hairstyle, it hardly seems to matter.

Add him to the distinguished list of once productive fantasy Boro players that have moved on to oblivion (or Scotland) - Juninho, Maccarone, Geremi, Greening....

More quotables

Kuqi coup proves too cruel for Jewell
"I didn't think it was a foul, I thought it was GBH and I'm at a total loss, but I shouldn't be surprised," said Paul Jewell, apoplectic in the aftermath.

Greatest. Line. Ever?

Real strop as ref 'massacres' Madrid's title hopes
You could understand Roberto Carlos being furious at the decision, but his sending off was as stupid as his tackle. When the brains were being handed out, he was rolling out his sleeping bag and opening a flask of hot tea ready for a freezing all-night vigil outside the massive thighs sale. And, while you can't go sending players off for being thick - you would never complete a single game - he asked for trouble.

Goose egg?

Dean Ashton (WHU - F)



Yahoo!'s matchcast had Ashton with a shot on and one blocked for a corner. That's 6pts in my book. If I had Ashton, I'd be pissed. Not as pissed as if I had McFadden and was screwed out of 2 assists. And certainly not "where's Forrsell's goal from 2002" pissed. But pissed.

What's the deal with Ashton and WHU? Distracted by the Cup run? Believing the hype? And now they face Chelsea. Time to look for other cheap strikers... John @Sun anyone?

You can't go home again

ESPNsoccernet - England - Vote David O'Leary?
The sight of Thierry Henry being hauled off by Wenger with a full 25 minutes still to run could have been construed as a insult to Villa, but why bother humouring an opponent that isn't worthy of gracing your beautifully manicured pitch? Arsenal have much bigger fish to fry than O'Leary.
As a fully-fledged fake (fantasy) member of the Football Managers Association, all I can say is, "Ouch, baby. Very ouch."

By the way, Emmanuel "Kanu Too" Adebayor is my new favorite player.

-The "Sunday Morning" Manager