Lightning Strikes

... not once, but twice.

Today's goal v. Boro was fantastic. But check out this carbon copy goal against Leeds. Same spot on the field, same time in the game, same blistering shot.

Injury concerns for Hammers

Injury concerns for Hammers - Yahoo! Sport UK
With John Pantsil (knee ligament) a long-term concern, American Jonathan Spector is set to continue at right-back.
And he'll be directly matched-up against fellow American Bobby Convey. Should be fun!

Injury Updates...

Not a lot of interesting news to be had on the injury news front...the only two updates that struck me as particularly important are the following:

1) Everton's defense Hibbert, Stubbs, and Naysmith - are out or unlikely due to suspension and/or injury which may make Howard less valuable. I'm sticking with him but something to consider.

2) William Gallas looks likely to play which means that those thinking about getting a bargain in Justin Hoyte should consider that course of action a big risk. It also means that Arsenal's defense is more likely to get a clean sheet and get forward.

3) Silvestre is definitely out so Heinze is almost certain to start and play the full match in order to keep Evra off the field.

4) Looks like Riise is the choice at left full back for Liverpool against Bolton meaning that either Aurellio or Gonzalez will be headed to the bench - which one goes will be a big deal for fantasy managers. Aurellio seems to be the most likely to sit based on the limited sample of Rafa's behavior to date.

Parker Gets England Recall


Kudos to Scott Parker on a deserved call-up to the England team. But would you want to meet this guy in a dark alley?

FC Superfund v Livorno

My new favorite team...

FC Superfund

How could you compete? They probably each have 4 legs, a keeper with 6 arms, and cheerleaders that glow in the dark! They would have twice as many heads going for crosses!

(For the non-Americans, Superfund is our pot of government money available to clean up the worst, most hazardous waste sites.)

Pearce pondering formation change

Pearce pondering formation change - Yahoo! Sport UK

Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce is pondering a revolutionary change in formation at Everton on Saturday.Although the City chief does believe to an extent in the old saying 'never change a winning team', he also feels the need to start picking up points away from Eastlands has reached crisis point.

So, two of the stars of last weekend's win over West Ham - teenager midfielder Ishmael Miller and two-goal hero Georgios Samaras - are faced with the axe as Pearce looks to shore his side up with a five-man midfield, which will have Ousmane Dabo, Dietmar Hamann and Joey Barton occupying the central positions at Goodison Park.

How is a 5-man midfield "revolutionary"? Especially when he'll do it to counter Everton's 5-man midfield.

Regardless, this tactic may bog down the game and restrict either side's chances.

Wither Spurs...

Hmm, talk about mixed feelings. As predicted, Arsenal broke out of their scoring funk against Sheffield United at Emirates Stadium last Saturday (no real genius there). The downside was that somehow there was very little fantasy benefit from the Gunners attacking players. Cesc muted a nice performance with a yellow card. Henry had a respectable 17 points but got nothing for the first two goals despite creating both with a flick into Fabregas and a mishandled cross respectively. Rosicky was pretty much a non-factor with Ljungberg being the much more active of Arsenal's wing midfielders. All of this is to be kept in mind as Arsenal continue their string of matches against poor opposition with this week's visit to Charlton.

In other news, Spurs really aren't good (sorry Erik). They failed to capitalize on their opportunities and Jenas specifically justified everyone's dismay at his reputation with a spectacular miss. At the same time, Liverpool have started to emerge from their early-season offensive funk with Dirk Kuyt looking to be the man at the center of the good things that are happening at Anfield. Oddly, Mr. Gerrard still seems to be pretty much absent both on the pitch and for fantasy managers. The other worry here is squad rotation, especially on the left side where Riise, Gonzalez, and Aurellio are all vying for the two wing spots. Striker rotation is also going to be critical for fantasy managers looking to get in on Liverpool's newfound ability to put the ball in the net.

My final observation from last week (and Tuesday's Champions League match) is that even Ryan Giggs' sterling reputation doesn't do service to his impact on Manchester United. For years he has been a terror on the left side of midfield but now in what are supposed to be his waning years he has moved to the center of the pitch and United have been scintillating with him and mediocre without him. SAF will have a VERY interesting decision to make if both Giggs and Scholes are healthy at the same time – the Devils' best XI would feature Giggs in a central role and Scholes on the bench but will SAF pull the trigger? For fantasy managers, Rooney and Saha are far less valuable until Giggs returns – only Ronaldo seems like a prudent investment among ManYoo attackers given the current situation.

On to the week to come that…

Chelsea – Home to Villa and the war of words between O'Neill, Jose, and Petrov has already started with Petrov wanting "revenge" from the UEFA Cup Final a few seasons back…is this really the best story line that the media can come up with? How about Lampard being the ultimate fantasy player (getting lots of points but few that really matter) so far this season? How about the emergence of Ridgewell, Luke Moore, and Gabriel Agbonlahor at Villa? (and how sad is it for fantasy managers that Agbonlahor is listed as a forward?). Anyway, my (so far murky) crystal ball has this one ending as a hard fought 1-0 Chelsea win with few fantasy points available from either side. Ashley Cole is still inexpensive and should get at least decent points from a clean sheet. Lampard and Drogba are really the only two others that I'd give any serious consideration to. O'Neill's focus on organization leaves me thinking that Robben will find it hard going if he gets another start.

The Race for the Champions League – I'm about ready to drop Spurs from this category unless they show SOMETHING that resembles a sign of life. With stingy Pompey arriving at White Hart Lane, the prospects for a turn-around this week seem limited. In fact, given last week's performance by Spurs, I'm pushing Sean Davis in midfield as well as Kanu who seems likely to capitalize on the chaos that is currently infecting Spurs backline. Assou-Ekotto is still relatively inexpensive as a wing defender but Spurs inability to keep a clean sheet limits his value unless you can't afford anyone else.

As discussed above, Arsenal are coming off two straight impressive performances – one in the EPL and one in the Champions League. You would be right in saying that in neither case was the opposition spectacular but it hardly matters with Charlton providing this weeks test. Henry seems to be rounding into form – fantasy managers will ignore this fact at their own peril. I'm still bullish on Cesc as the fulcrum of an offense on the rise and one of the few midfielders guaranteed a spot in the Starting XI for the Gunners. On defense, Eboue is a must-start if you can afford him. He has been one of the major forces in the attack and you have to like Arsenal's chances for a clean sheet against Athletic. The big debate that Jeremy and I had this week over Instant Messager regards Arsenal's other forward. Van Persie looked good against Porto but his starting spot is certainly up in the air with K2 having led the line against Man United and seemingly been the first choice to partner Henry in the Prem so far this season. Roll the dice if you'd like but unless you see something definitive from Wenger, I'd stay away.

Liverpool are flying – just in time for a trip to the Reebok. This has never been a recipe for free flowing attacking play as Big Sam's boys try to jam things up and grind out their points. I'm in (perhaps a little late) for Kuyt and Gonzalez is a bargain if you think he's going to get the start but given the opposition and their ability to frustrate, I'd predict (at least) a yellow card for Bellamy and Gerrard and a general paucity (that means "lack" kids, sorry, felt the need to use my vocabulary today) of fantasy points to be had. There is a reasonable chance of a clean sheet for Liverpool so their defenders and Reina are decent bets but the best bet in defense is whichever of Riise or Aurellio starts and I'd guess that will be decided no earlier than Friday evening if then. Bolton, for their part, remain fantasy poison. Our hopes were raised when Anelka joined and he may yet provide fantasy managers with something to consider but so far he's hardly resembled the fantasy star that wore the same name on the back of a sky blue Manchester City shirt. Wait until he proves he's back before you dive in.

As noted above, Man United are a HUGE question mark in my mind until Giggs gets back. Ronaldo had a great individual fantasy weekend against Reading but Rooney and Saha look lost without Giggs to orchestrate the attack. Granted NUFC's back four aren't setting the Premiership afire nor are they a great bet on the road at Old Trafford but the same could be said of Reading's (even less talented) defense and that didn't exactly mean attacking fireworks for United. Ronaldo is definitely worth a spot. Saha is inexpensive enough that you could justify the risk. Rooney hasn't shown he's ready to produce. Heinze is another bargain who merits consideration if you think he can keep his elbows to himself and avoid another card – if he can refind some of his form going forward, he'll be a huge bargain this week. NUFC will likely find the going tough against United's still-difficult-to-breach defense. I'd stay away from Parker, Emre, Martins, and Ameobi this weekend. If you have to go for one, I'd say Emre would be my choice.

Against the Relegation Zone – So, you want to know what happened to West Ham's mojo from last season? Apparently, it has exited East London and made the short trip to the suburb of Reading where the Royals are looking more and more like last year's edition of the Hammers. Newly promoted club, free flowing offense, young players creating a reputation for themselves, great team spirit, optimism, and little to lose leading to shocking results like last week's home draw with Manchester United. This week, the Royals face what they must guard against next year (yes, I already have them staying up) – the weight of expectations and the need to integrate new players. West Ham have struggled despite raising their talent level and depth in the off-season and the results are apparent to fantasy managers. Given that neither team boasts a particularly strong defense, all of the strikers and offensive-minded midfielders in this match – Zamora, Tevez, Benayoun, Etherington, Lita, Doyle, Seol, Convey, and Sidwell – merit at least SOME consideration. In my mind, Zamora, Seol and Convey are the best bets with those wanting to take a HUGE high risk/high reward play thinking about Tevez. The defenses on both sides should be ignored with the possible exception of Nicky Shorey who has been getting forward nicely but is still unlikely to get clean sheet points.

Sheffield United host what has thus far been an up-and-down Boro squad. Given Sheffield United's modest offensive capabilities, Jonathan Woodgate might be in line to be a fantasy bargain this weekend. Euell, Yakubu, and Downing should all be in your thought process as well. Yakubu hasn't really had one of those crazy 30-point matches in a while and Sheffield United provide exactly the sort of stage that starts one of his positive fantasy runs. If that's the case then Downing and Euell are likely the two guys who will help make it happen. Sheffield United continue to have no players that fantasy managers should seriously consider.
Could someone please tell me how Watford's home match with Fulham was selected as the Monday Night match? Was there ever any situation that made this thing look appealing? Is the TV ratings system different in the UK? Do executives not really care about drawing an audience? Well, I guess it means I can feel good about watching something else on Monday. If I do watch (or TiVo) this one, it will be to see if fantasy must-have Ashley Young and Marlon King – Watford's dynamic duo and the two best players in this match – can break through and have the big match that both have been hinting at all season. Outside of those two and the possibility of my early season savior from last year – Collins John – there isn't much to recommend this one.

And the rest – If the world was a just place, Ameobi's goal would have been disallowed for the obvious offsides infraction and Tim Howard would have gotten his clean sheet and continued his early season rise from the depths of the bench at ManYoo. In OUR world, that didn't happen and Everton was pretty mediocre for fantasy managers last week. AJ had an off week with only Cahill and Arteta producing much. Again, those four should be in your consideration set with Cahill, AJ, and Howard at the top of the list as Everton host Joey Barton, Samaras, and their Man City teammates who you should be ignoring despite their performance last weekend.

Last and probably not least, Rovers host Wigan at Ewood Park. It may be that I'm running out of steam after a particularly long post but the only people I'm even a little bit excited about in this match are MGP if you're looking for a high-end midfielder and Bentley if you're looking on more of a budget.

Happy Shopping…

Spurs Nation SPORTSNATION - Sports Guy Chat
Dustin (ky): How do you feel about your soccer tema's WORST START IN 20 YEARS. Does every sport team that you have ever rooted for tortured you before the go onto glory? Didnt you pick this team because they were supposed not to be like the Sox?

SportsNation Bill Simmons: I feel terrible about Tottenham Hotspur - they're off to their worst start in like 14 years and i'm getting angry e-mails from British people blaming me for this, like it's my fault. Although the best part about hate mail from England is that they use really horrible words - the worst possible swear words you can think of. So I've kind of enjoyed that part. It never gets old when someone calls you a wanker.

Points are in

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

... for Sunday and Monday's games and I'm back in the top 1000. <sarcasm>Woohoo!</sarcasm>

Friday's Team News Today

Sky Sports - Gallas hit by hamstring blow
Arsene Wenger confirmed that William Gallas could be out of action for a number of weeks following Arsenal's 2-0 win over Porto in the UEFA Champions League.

The French international pulled up with a hamstring injury in the dying moments at Emirates Stadium, and had to be substituted
Arsenal also lost Johan Djourou to injury during the warm-up for the Porto game, as Justin Hoyte came in for a suprise start at left-back with Gallas shifted across to partner Kolo Toure.
Justin Hoyte costs 5.12 "units" but put up -1 over 2 games to start the season. Not sure the Plan B (C or D?) if Djourou is hurt come Saturday. Last year we learned that Flamini is a decent left back, and Hoyte could play at right back. But would either Hoyte or Eboue partner Toure? Would Gilberto move back into defense?

Thoughts? Wild speculation? Neal? Anyone?

Redknapp May Call On Cole

Redknapp May Call On Cole - Yahoo! Sport UK

In the category of "hope over experience", 'arry forgets his history:
Andy is just the type who could have come on and stuck away one of the many opportunities we created.
First of all, he's still Andrew, right? And second, is this the same player who has been dogged his whole career by the idea that he needs too many chances to score goals?
But an otherwise disappointing game will be remembered more for the two glorious opportunities spurned by Cole to pull Blackburn level.

And Spurs boss Glenn Hoddle must have left White Hart Lane feeling more than vindicated in his opinion that the former Manchester United striker needs too many chances to score at this level.
Not that I'm putting too much faith in Hoddle's opinion (from 2002), but it is emblematic of the complaint.

Monday Morning Manager

Another week, and try as he may, the Manager keeps slipping down the rankings. Like a lot of Mangers, he bet on Arsenal and for the first hour it looked like the blog had really oversold the matchup. He was as glum as Wenger looks to the left. But three goals later we all felt a little better about ourselves. Though not as good as those of us who were able (willing) to swing Henry and Lampard. Kudos.

Same for Reading/Manchester United. No Saha. Rooney still struggling. And Ronaldo continuing to put his shots into the stands until his late goal salvaged the tie and the Manager's fantasy weekend.

One further thought on Sheffield United... Chris Armstrong is listed as a defender. Just saying.

Newcastle looked impressive against Everton even without Damien Duff (Duff Duff Duff!) until the ball reached their strikers. Martins is a graveyard of good chances. And Ameobi needed a linesman's dispensation to score. Milner getting some games, but nowhere near the fantasy force he was for Villa last year. And Emre should be getting tons of points, but stupid fouls and bad deliveries from set pieces (not the mention the black hole at striker) are holding him back.

Everton line up a defensive wall.For their part, Everton did not look comfortable in defence. Do they need one from Stubbs or Weir to organize the D, despite the fact that the two of them are mobile as Easter Island statues? And now Hibbert is banned and Naysmith is injured. Valente and Neville to the rescue? The winner in that scenario may be Beattie if Neville's moving back forces Moyes to go to 4-4-2. I don't understand why he didn't bring on Beattie v NUFC. I know he was on the road, but with 10 v 10 and NUFC's defence as shaky as his own, that game was there to be won. Beattie's presence could have unsettled NUFC and made more space for Johnson to run into. As it was AJ was forced wide and out of danger. Could Beattie have been worse than Osman? Two or three break-aways squandered. Shooting practice for all of Everton, and please drill into their heads the virtue of the quick pass.

Angel continues to be Angel. Price not-with-standing. He even had an assist at the weekend! That's like real points! But the only other thing he did all game was illegally back into his marker 4 times cutting his fantasy point tally in half. The Manager knows he's a stiff, but couldn't pass up the chance on a lead-the-line striker who was at home to a shaky Charlton side and was CHEAPER THAN A CRAP DEFENDER. Now that "hope over experience" spot will go to Jason Euell who is cheaper than Angel. And yes, the Manager knows why. But @SHE, it's worth thinking about.

Until he comes to his senses,
The Manager

PS. A big fantasy "Screw you!" to Rafa "A player can't play three games in a week" Benitez for starting Kuyt who made it two goals in two games.

ESPNsoccernet with the funny

ESPNsoccernet - England - Team of the Week
Titus Bramble was at the heart of everything Everton did well in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle. The Magpies defender let his man go on multiple occasions, failed to make key tackles, could have concede a penalty, stood and watched as Tim Cahill headed Everton's goal at the back post and then got sent-off......this is Team Of The Weak isn't it?

Just to reiterate

The most obvious thing to point out to fantasy managers is that Arsenal are entering a stretch of games where they SHOULD do very well. Sheffield United this week followed by @Charlton, Watford, and @Reading before they host an Everton squad that is one of the better stories in the Premiership so far this season. This should have you thinking strategically about how to get and keep a few Arsenal players for the next month or so.

UPDATE: Just to spell it out further... Henry is the key, if you can afford him. He's just that good. And due. Dear lord is he due! Cesc is probably the second best bet as he's a certain starter and as Neal said, he does all the little things that get you points.

In the "probably a good idea" category are Eboue and Gallas, and Adebayor who looks likely to start alongside Henry.

On the "2 from 3" shelf are Rosicky, Ljundberg and Hleb -- two of whom will be the wide midfielders. I'm guessing the first two on the left and right, respectively.

Odd men out, though perhaps cheap substitutes who could make an impact, would be Robin van Persie up top and Julio Baptista in the midfield.

Key defenders out for Hammers

Key defenders out for Hammers - Yahoo! Sport UK

West Ham are missing defenders James Collins and Tyrone Mears for Saturday's Premiership clash away to Manchester City.Collins aggravated a groin strain in midweek while Mears has a calf strain, with both injuries expected to be short term.

Jonathan Spector is the most obvious choice to cover but Hammers boss Alan Pardew revealed he will not start due to a lack of match fitness.

Hello, Christian "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy" Dailly!

Alternatively, Mullins may find himself an emergency right-back.

However, the real interest is who starts up top for the Hammers. No word, or even an inkling, yet.

Benitez To Make More Changes

Benitez To Make More Changes - Yahoo! Sport UK
You cannot play two games a week with the same players because the tempo of football now is higher than before.
Curses, Rafa! Kuyt is just rounding into form and looks a fantasy point machine (if he could only put more shots on target). But fantasy managers are just being dared to pick him because Rafa seems determined not to.

So I have Kuyt as my third striker. Any better options?

Friday's Team News Today

Fit-again Henry hails 'unique' Wenger legacy
Henry is fit to return for Saturday's game at home to Sheffield United after missing two matches with a foot injury.

The Arsenal skipper said: 'It's better. I'm there to be picked.

Striker crisis

There are a lot of cheap strikers in Yahoo!'s fantasy game this year with great pedigree, playing for top teams, or both. Which leads to some tough decisions for fantasy managers. But what to make of this crop of ner-do-wells and ner-done-wells:
  • Kuyt - lively, but not accurate. victim of Rafa's rotation and/or CL (Champion's League) prioritization?
  • Shevchenko - save for 1 goal and a wicked free kick that was saved, has he done anything?
  • Berbatov - looked good, even in defeat, but out injured.
  • Tevez - always wants the ball, but that desire drags him very far from goal at times. dangerous dead-ball taker. but will he start (versus a ManCity team in crisis, no less) and might he play more than 45mins? has his arrival hurt WHU more than it has helped them - at least in the short term?
  • Martins - great game @WHU, but hasn't been a factor otherwise. is he more suited to the super-sub role he played at Inter?
  • JP Angel - lead-the-line striker and penalty kick taker, but an all or nothing bet. doesn't do the little things that get fantasy points so if he doesn't score (and he's hit the bar more times than the net this season) you go home empty handed.
  • Anelka - should improve his fitness and sharpness, but can Bolton change their style of play to get the best out of him? And/or can Anelka change his style of play to fit into the Bolton way?
  • King - has shown flashes of real skill, but will he get enough chances to shine as Watford struggle?
  • McCarthy - another all or nothing player. Few goals to the good, but nothing else to recommend him.
  • Mido - as we learned last year, Mido can shine against bad teams. but TOT don't have the same team without Carrick and now Lennon. And their strikers are suffering for it.
  • Heskey - last I checked, he's still Heskey. and that doesn't recommend him.
Any takers?

Berbatov suffers injury setback

BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Tottenham Hotspur | Berbatov suffers injury setback
Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov is set to be out until early October after suffering an injury blow in training.

Berbatov, 25, was expected to return this weekend but aggravated a groin injury which may need surgery to fix.

Without Lennon, and now without Berbatov, TOT are having trouble scoring goals. And they face a tough trip to Liverpool this weekend. But going forward (sorry), Mido may enter your fantasy considerations.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

More on the glut of cheap, if questionable, strikers in an upcoming post.

Right, and Yet So Wrong...

Sort of a sad week for me really. I took the leap of faith that Yahoo would get the Wednesday match into the system eventually. I threw in a couple Liverpool players and even a NUFC player and what did I get for my efforts? Not much...not much at all. The ones I chose did fine, but I didn't go hard enough. Throw in Nikky Anelka's complete inability to crack the here-to-fore pourous Boro defense and the only bright spot in my weekend was Arsenal beating ManYoo at Old Trafford. Well, that, and I was in Jamaica for the weekend. Hopefully, I can enjoy my tan while trying to figure out how to creep back up the leader boards.

The most obvious thing to point out to fantasy managers is that Arsenal are entering a stretch of games where they SHOULD do very well. Sheffield United this week followed by @Charlton, Watford, and @Reading before they host an Everton squad that is one of the better stories in the Premiership so far this season. This should have you thinking strategically about how to get and keep a few Arsenal players for the next month or so. More on this later... The other theme for the week is the "Big Teams" (other than Liverpool) playing teams they are MUCH more talented than. Chelsea travels down the road to visit Bullard-less Fulham and Man United visit newly promoted (but frisky and in the 6th spot) Reading.

For those of you looking for some players who aren't "brand names" who are doing well so far this season I give you two divisions...I'll leave out the Zamora's and other players we've been yapping about here on the blog and try to give some love to some new guys...

Good Overall (not necessarily for fantasy purposes)
Seol, Reading - would be a great fantasy player if listed correctly as a midfielder but as a striker he probably won't score enough to make you really happy unless you need a really cheap solution. That said, he's been great for Reading.

Agbonlahor, Villa - very different player from Seol but also doing great work down the right side of midfield. Sadly, he won't make many fantasy rosters as a forward given his positioning as a midfielder.

King, Watford - I've watched them a few times this season and he always seems to be on the verge of doing something pretty impressive if he isn't ACTUALLY doing something pretty impressive. Not a great fantasy season so far but he's even with Sheva on points so far (raise your hands everyone who would have guessed that after 5 matches...hands down Mrs. King).

Good Fantasy Players (who might be good in reality but I haven't seen enough to tell)
Davis, Pompey - it isn't just the defenders and David James who have been doing well, 4 assists in five matches and a price under 7 is difficult to pass up for bargain shoppers even if you aren't quite sure you believe the Pompey hype just yet.

Mwaruwari, Pompey - Maybe this should just be the Pompey category but after a pretty sketchy year last year he's been lighting it up this season. It remains to be seen how minutes are worked out now that Lua2 is back but he's been doing the job for those who have him in the line-up.

Bentley, Rovers - He doesn't quite deliver as much as he should on the field but at a low price he's consistently racked up "Phantom Points" for fantasy managers.

Chelsea - Hard to imagine, another week where I give Didier Drogba a hard time and he scores a wonderful goal. It's almost like he and Jose Mourinho read the blog and do the exact opposite of what I predict. I'd consider any advice I give on the subject of Drogba to be suspect at best but you have to give him some love for the way he's been coming through so far this year. Moving on past my failed attempts to predict the playing time and fantasy performance of Drogba, we get to the West London derby.

I'm torn between generally staying away from derby matches (remember Fulham beat Chelsea in this fixture last season) and the fact that Chelsea are SO much more talented that this year's edition of Fulham. You have to consider Peter Cech (if you have the money), Ashley Cole, and Frank Lampard. If the tea leaves lead you to believe that Robben might actually get a start in Ballack's absence, then he is a reasonable option as well given a moderate price. Right now, I'm leaning towards Cole as my only Chelsea choice.

The Race for the Champions League - This category isn't really working out right now but I have faith that the creme will rise to the top (with the possible exception of Spurs who are about to replace Arsenal as the Champions League contender in the most early-season trouble).

Man United are traveling to Reading to face off with the 6th place Royals who have been an excellent fantasy buy so far this season. My guess is that the trend will go on hiatus this week. United obviously missed the creative influence Giggs has been providing but with Rooney having had a week to knock off the rush United will likely return to their dangerous ways against a modestly talented defense. Saha, Rooney, Evra/Silvestre (depending on injuries), and Ronaldo should all go into your consideration set. Ordinarily, I'd say Ronaldo is too expensive given the other options but I'd expect to see him in excellent form following his gifting of the lone goal to Arsenal over the weekend.

Speaking of the Gooners, this is the time to buy. As far as I can tell, Rosicky is taking the criticism of the media to heart and is going to take every opportunity to shoot the ball. This will lead to SOTs, Corners Won, and the occasional goal. Fabregas is getting better and better with each match. If you look at his stats, he's doing a lot of the little things for fantasy managers and with Arsenal likely to score more goals in the next month, he's likely to improve on his per match point total. The big question this weekend will be Henry. If he plays, you have to consider making room on your team for the run of poor teams this month. If you're not COMPLETELY sure, it's probably not worth the risk given the price. It's probably also time to think about Eboue if you have some money to spend on a defender.

Liverpool and Spurs face off in the other match in this category and you have to be impressed by Dirk Kuyt so far. He's looked lively and finally broke out vs. NUFC in midweek. He looks like someone you should find a way to include in your squad when Liverpool have a good match-up. Given that Spurs are the opponent this weekend, this might not be the best time to buy but if you want to make sure you get in early on a good buy, you should consider it. The other interesting attractions outside of the obvious (Gerrard) are the wing defenders in this match-up Aurellio, Assou-Ekotto, and Chimbonda. Only the latter is really expensive and all are performing well for fantasy managers - especially those who are looking to save their money for Mssr. Henry.

The Relegation Zone - With the exception of Reading, the teams that you'd expect are settling to the bottom. Even worse, they're playing some excellent opposition this week. We've already discussed Reading vs. ManYoo, Arsenal vs. Sheffield United, and Fulham vs. Chelsea - one wonders what there is to say about Wigan vs. Watford which has (repeat after me) all the makings of a relegation six-pointer. My prediction is that Watford's offense will break out a little bit here and that Ashley Young will have an excellent week and Marlon King will net at least one. If you're looking for something a little different to do with your line-up, King might be the choice over someone like AJ who will be traveling to a better opponent in NUFC. Not much on the Wigan side to like really. They're quickly becoming a poor man's Bolton based on their collective mediocrity as fantasy players.

Random Fantasy Notes - Aren't we all sorry we weren't there for MGP's break-out match? You knew it was coming but you didn't know when and the fact that it came in a week when others had a double meant very few likely had him...that said, he has a tendency to get on streaks so it may be time to get on board and let him carry you for a few weeks even with a trip to Boro this week. I'm less enthusiastic about Benni McCarthy given the road trip and Boro's newfound defensive competence...Pompey host the still-miserable-to-watch-even-with-Anelka Wanderers and you have to think the clean sheet streak will continue given Bolton's inability to, y'a know, score...Glen Johnson, David James, Mwaruwari and Davis are all candidates you should consider with Johnson being particularly interesting given his price and recent form...Not sure what to make of the new-look Hammers, they seem to have a lot more talent than last season but the spark seems to be missing, I'm still pulling for them but my fantasy manager side says to get off the bandwagon until there are some signs that they know who each other are on the field...For Man City, Beasley might be something of a poor man's SWP on the wing and Joey Barton seems to be on an excellent streak of his own that is likely to continue against the so-far mediocre Hammers defense...Newcastle host Everton and fantasy stars Tim Howard and AJ...if you're looking for a mid-tier midfielder then Arteta is an excellent option as well...on the NUFC side of the ball you have to think that Everton's mostly-tight defense will contain NUFC for the most part but that Scott Parker will continue to rack up the points as he patrols the midfield - seems like a bad week to go in for Duff or Milner given the opposition...Finally, perhaps the bargains of the week comes in the form of JP Angel and Stilian Petrov of Villa, they faces a poorly performing Charlton side at home and seem likely to produce fantasy points in quantity this weekend. Even better they're both dirt cheap with Angel being an especially good bargain at under 5. Almost a must if Henry is in your plans (health permitting, of course)

Happy Shopping and Be Sure to Check In On The Injuries on Friday...

Liverpool - Newcastle Matchcast

Liverpool - Newcastle


  • 25 J Reina
  • 03 S Finnan
  • 23 J Carragher
  • 05 D Agger
  • 12 F Aurelio
  • 10 S Luis Garcia
  • 14 X Alonso
  • 22 M Sissoko
  • 08 S Gerrard
  • 17 C Bellamy
  • 18 D Kuyt


  • 01 J Dudek,
  • 04 S Hyypia,
  • 11 M Gonzalez,
  • 15 P Crouch,
  • 28 S Warnock


  • 12 S Harper
  • 02 S Carr
  • 26 P Ramage
  • 18 C Moore
  • 33 C Babayaro
  • 16 J Milner
  • 17 S Parker
  • 05 B Emre
  • 11 D Duff
  • 09 O Martins
  • 23 S Ameobi


  • 40 T Krul,
  • 14 C N'Zogbia,
  • 15 G Rossi,
  • 20 A Sibierski,
  • 22 N Butt
Looks like Aurelio for Warnock and Harper for Given are the only changes from the weekend.

Boro - Portsmouth

Revisiting an old issue...

Research & Analysis: Who's Hot - Week 2

Not sure when it may have happened, and it doesn't look like they have filtered through the private group standings, but the MID/POR points from week 2 are listed.

Rafa to keep same line-up

Rafa to keep same line-up - Yahoo! Sport UK
Rafael Benitez is pondering whether to name an unchanged line-up for the first time in 20 games for Wednesday's match against Newcastle.After picking up no fresh injuries in an encouraging performance in the 1-0 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday, Benitez could stick with the same side, keeping skipper Steven Gerrard on the left.
Can't comment on the effectiveness of the XI having not seen the game, but this does give me hope that Warnock and Kuyt can redeem themselves and put some positive points on the board for the Manager this week.

Manager's Lament

Fulham face six weeks without injured Boa Morte
To underline Tottenham's attacking weaknesses, their best efforts fell to their full-backs - Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Chimbonda.

Five minutes before the break, Ekotto forced Antti Niemi into a diving save at his near post with a thunderous right-foot drive while Chimbonda's late header would have gone in but for the bravery of Boa Morte and Helguson.
And the Manager had both TOT defenders in his squad until an 11th hour change to pick up Gerrard. And thus goes 30 points and 400 places in the rankings.

Will They or Won't They?

THAT is the question of the week...Will Yahoo include the Wednesday Liverpool/NUFC match in the point totals? Or will those points go the way of the Pompey/Boro match from earlier in the season (assuming that those points are, indeed, gone forever)? This is even more critical given the circumstances both clubs face. Both are a) in mediocre form; b) returning from mid-week European dates; c) facing tough weekend competition; and d) both are on the road on Sunday. One the basis of their regularly scheduled matches and travel circumstances, neither team is particularly attractive to Fantasy Managers. If, however, they are both going to be playing two matches then they there is reason to get excited about at least a few guys from each team. I'm still undecided but am leaning towards taking the chance that Yahoo will get it right. Regardless of which way you're leaning, I'll try to have something in here for you as you get ready to set your line-ups for this Battle of the (supposed) Titans weekend...

Chelsea - Ordinarily, Chelsea vs. Liverpool would be a HUGE deal given the history between the two clubs over the past few years and the recent war of words between Rafa and Jose. Unfortunately, Liverpool haven't produced the goods yet this season and what looked to be part one of a fantastic Sunday doubleheader looks a bit lopsided right now. That said, there are, as always, a few players worth considering from these two teams. Even given his woes Frank Lampard is a fantasy stud HOWEVER in the realm of high priced midfielders, he's only worth it if you think Gerrard will count for one match. Gerrard's form has been mediocre at best so far but right now I have him Lamps because he should get two matches. Elsewhere among the "take 'em if you think they're going to get two" ranks at Liverpool are Aurellio, Reina, and if you're feeling particularly biased towards the Reds then Kuyt (he's cheap, their best striker, and will probably play at least 120 minutes combined).

Elsewhere on the Chelsea side of the field, you have to think that 5.95 Ashley Cole will start again following his Starting XI debut on Tuesday in the Champions League. Given Liverpool's ineptitude in front of net, you have to think he's a reasonable bet for a clean sheet plus whatever offense he generates as Chelsea's only wide option on the left. Drogba just pisses me off - he does well when I ignore him and sucks when I choose him - so I'm just not even trying anymore. Sheva is getting close to being dead to me for his combination of hype and lack of production.

The Race for the Champions League - The other half of "Clash of the Titans Weekend" is Arsenal's visit to Old Trafford. Like their Anfield-based counterparts, Arsenal have managed to dim this high profile match with their mediocre start to the campaign. Henry and van Persie are doubtful and Henry has a history of coming up small in big clashes like this anyway. [Heresy for a Gooner to type, I know, but it can't be denied] Giggs is out. Rooney and Scholes are back. Saha looked great on Wednesday but the United defense looked TERRIBLE. Where does this leave us? If you're not going with the Liverpool/NUFC double thing, then it leaves you with the following real candidates for your line-up - Rooney, Scholes (but he is dead to me), Saha, van der Sar, Cesc and Rosicky. I haven't seen the injury report yet but Walcott or Baptista might have to be on this list as well if it is clear which will partner Adebayor (assuming The Beast is available on Yahoo by now). In general, though, I'd probably stay away from this one and if you have to get involved, go with the Red Devils (and yes, it hurt to type those words).

Speaking of teams that have disappointed out of the gate - we now arrive at Spurs who come off their UEFA Cup journey to Prague to host the Bullard-less Fulham. With Berbatov still seemingly injured and Keane/Defoe off to a stumbling start there aren't many strong candidates to choose from on either side of this battle. If you must Assou-Ekotto is probably your best bet.

The Relegation Zone - There's a battle between Reading and Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in what at least one commentator will surely call a "relegation six-pointer" even though Reading are sitting on six points after four matches. If you have space in your midfield Bobby Convey and Steve Sidwell are reasonable bets here as is Marcus Hahnemann. Given the influx of new, cheap strikers, I'd stay away from Reading's duo of Lita and Doyle but neither would be a terrible bet.

Watford gets a slightly more difficult task as they host the rejuvinated Aston Villa squad. In my mind, this match will feature two of the better bargain-priced non-two-match midfield bets this weekend - Stilian Petrov and Ashley Young. Petrov looked great in his debut this past week finishing with 10 points which would have been more if not for a spectacular goal line clearance by Tyrone Mears. For those looking for a Jimmy Bullard replacement, I think this is your guy. As for AY, the bandwagon rolls on and there's no reason to think that Villa are SO good that you shouldn't expect at least 8 points if not more like 12. If you're looking at this as a comfortable Villa win then you might also want to consider the super-cheap JP Angel as well as Gareth Barry who has looked great on crosses and free kicks. Another one to watch is Gabriel Agbonlahor who has looked somewhat dangerous on the left wing. Not a star yet but with a favorable match-up he might be good for an assist plus some "phantom points".

The Rest - Obviously, we'll start with Newcastle. If you're thinking they'll get two then Parker, Emre, Milner, Duff, and Martins should all at least cross your mind. Of that group, Scott Parker seems like the best bet to me. Martins hasn't found his range, Milner has never seemed comfortable at NUFC, Emre is up and down and Duff ended up the UEFA Cup match playnig left fullback. If you're spending time on the NUFC defense, well, there's nothing more I can say to you.

Charlton vs. Pompey leaves me wondering if this can really continue. If it does, then Sol Campbell, Kanu, and David James are all good bets. Until Pompey gives up a goal, I'm not going to bet against them so I'll leave the Charlton crew off my team.

If you were looking for a time for Nikky Anelka to announce his arrival back onto the Premiership scene, you might want to target this week's visit of the pourous Boro defense. They've given up a league-high nine goals so far and it seems like the ideal time to put "Le Sulk" on your roster.

Everton look to continue their hot start as they host Wigan - look for more great performances from Howard and AJ and both Arteta and Cahill should be in your consideration set until this streak is over. On the Wigan side, not so much.

Rovers and Man Citeh - nothing to see here, please move along.

And finally, we have the Premiership debuts of Tevez and Maschereno. Given that he's playing against Newcastle's defense and there aren't really any strong striker candidates from the LIV/NUFC double pairing, I think it's time to give Carlos (or Zamora who should get more space based on Tevez's reputation) a shot and hope for the best. The rest of the Hammers side will have to wait.

Best of luck and happy shopping...

Just for Fun...

As you are all no doubt aware, we here at the blog have a fascination with footballers with fun names. The current king of this category is without a doubt new Celtic striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. Having the opportunity to watch the ManYoo/Celtic Champions League match today, I heard an explanation of this fantastic name and figured I had to pass it along. Here goes...

Apparently, in days of old someone from the Vennegoor married someone from the Hesselink family in the Netherlands. The tradition at the time among the aristocracy was for the newly formed family to take the name of the more powerful of the two families. Apparently, there was no obvious difference in status between the Vennegoors and the Hesselinks and the families refused to compromise on one or the other so the decided to go with both. The "of" is apparently Dutch for "or" so he is not Jan Vennegoor who comes from a place called Hesselink but the family name has essentially become Vennegoor OR Hesselink and they have insisted that the entire name be used over time. Fantastic story. Never let it be said that you didn't learn something here on the blog...

BTW, Giggs left the match early - be sure to monitor the situation heading into the weekend...

MMM Substitute...

Sorry to disappoint those used to checking in after the last Premiership match of the match week expecting to find Jeremy's insights but my blog partner is at the hospital with his wife awaiting the birth of their second child so I'll have to do for the occasion. If you have a chance, wish Jeremy and Laura your best in the comments area...Since I'm starting the column with shout-outs, I'll add a congratulations to charter member of our private group Jon on his recent marriage and Doug on celebrating his 30th birthday this past Saturday.

OK, back to the week that was in the Premiership and in our little fantasy world...

First, I have to say something about my team (Arsenal, that is, not my fantasy team although they didn't do too well this week either). Let me be the first to forward the notion that a "Curse of Highbury" is developing. Arsenal are undoubtedly talented and they have been the better team in each of their matches this year. In years past, they found ways to get the ball into the back of the net. Would Henry have missed wide when taking his free kick early at Highbury? I can't remember it happening... This week they heeded the advice of the media and shot from deep more frequently and even when they did, nothing good came of it. With a trip to Old Trafford looming, they'd better get this worked out or they're in deep trouble.

From a fantasy standpoint, my major observation from the match is that Cesc is quietly developing into a very good fantasy option. He takes at least some free kicks and corners and is producing 8-10 "phantom points" per week. Once Arsenal are scoring - and it will happen sooner or later - and he adds some goals and assists to his point totals, he'll be a must-have given his status as a starter every week.

The new guys...after all the drama over the inability to add the big names from the transfer deadline, it turns out that Yahoo probably did all of us a favor. Among the big names only Stilian Petrov of Villa managed to have a good match. Anelka, Martins, Rossi, and Kuyt were largely anonymous and didn't appreciate much while they were unavailable to fantasy owners. This comment wasn't meant to absolve Yahoo - they had no way of knowing - just worth noting that none of them were spectacular in their first outing.

Trends...After four matches (for most teams), we can start to look at some player performance trends and...

It seems that Ryan Giggs has been reborn, he's scoring and generally looking like United's best player, we'll see if this continues when Rooney comes back but something that Fantasy Managers who wrote Giggs off as too old should keep in mind.

Early favorite Seol has cooled significantly since the first week as Premiership defenses have paid more attention to him.

It's official, AJ and Everton are on fire - with a light schedule through the end of October, it's time to get on the bandwagon if you're not already there. Howard and AJ are the only guys really performing at a high level for fantasy managers but Arteta and Cahill are worth considering when they have good match-ups as well.

Speaking of on fire, Bobby Zamora has continued his flying start in the face of the news that Tevez has arrived. Looks like we'll be looking at a Zamora/Tevez partnership once Tevez is ready to go. At this point, it's hard to call Zamora's streak just luck. We may be starting to get an idea of what Spurs saw in him a few years ago. If Tevez attracts attention, Zamora might be even more valuable assuming he doesn't lose time to rotation.

The AY bandwagon - Ashley Young continues to be the fantasy find of the season (remember you heard it here first). He has produced every week no matter who the opponent nor how well his own team has played. He's still not THAT expensive so go out and get him...

Bullard Replacement - Fantasy managers must be sorely disappointed that Jimmy Bullard has gone down with a serious injury (OUCH). Given Villa's performance so far and the results of his first match, you have to put Stilian Petrov at the top of your list to replace him. Other options include Scott Parker, Steve Sidwell, Damien Frances, and Cesc.

Drogba - He continues to be a source of frustration to Fantasy Managers. He's scored as many points as Henry this season so far in about the same number of minutes but he's definitely a source of frustration as he tends to miss starts and be very much hit and miss with his fantasy points. If you're willing to live with the ups and downs, you'll probably be happy with him at the end of the season but I know I'd go crazy if I were trying to figure out what weeks he's going to produce and when he's not.

America, F*ck Yeah...Not a headline you'll see associated with the beautiful game (or fantasy footie) too often but with Tim Howard, Brad Friedel, and Marcus Hahnemann coming away with clean sheets, Bocanegra and McBride scoring for Fulham and Convey assisting on Reading's goal it was a nice weekend for the American contingent in the Premiership. Probably not a trend outside of Howard and the possibility that Convey is starting to get acclimated but worth mentioning because, well, I'm American and still hurting from the World Cup smackdown that I spent a lot of money to see in person.

Best of luck Jer, we look forward to the pictures as well as a big weekend of matches with ManYoo/Arsenal and Liverpool/Chelsea coming up...

Bramble a thorny issue for Roeder

Bramble a thorny issue for Roeder - Sport - Times Online
Bullard’s dislocated knee — X-rays yesterday showed no fracture meaning his absence is only likely to stretch for two months — had been caused unwittingly by Parker’s challenge. The midfield player’s response was exemplary; visibly distraught, he sought out Coleman to offer his sympathy at half-time and full-time and yet still mustered a performance that recalled the indefatigable captaincy of Alan Shearer.
Tough news for Fulham, but kudos to Parker for handling the situation so well. He's playing so well for NUFC this season, and deserves an England look-in, Haergreaves and Carrick notwithstanding.

Red hot

Red hot - Sunday Times - Times Online
It was bad enough to have Dad missing at yesterday’s Merseyside derby, but on Tuesday Kuyt must play in Eindhoven knowing his father is in a hospital bed in Leiden, just 80 miles away. “My father is ill,” said the striker. “He had his operation last week and it is going well, but he can’t travel at the moment. If the time is there I will bring him to see me again in the future. He came to watch my first match and that meant a lot to me.”
All our best to Kuyt as he deals with a difficult time. But it is something for fantasy managers to think about before putting him on your team for Liverpool's potential 2-game week.

Roeder: Martins Will Come Good

Roeder: Martins Will Come Good - Yahoo! Sport UK

If NUFC do have 2 games, then Martins should be an automatic pick. But as
Newcastle have managed just three in as many Barclays Premiership games so far, and two of those have come from midfielder Scott Parker.
I just don't know. It's 2 road Premiership games to decent opponents following a road UEFA Cup game in Estonia. Picking against NUFC may be the smarter bet this week.

Cole Treated 'Like Invisible Man'

Cole Treated 'Like Invisible Man' - Yahoo! Sport UK
England full-back Ashley Cole has revealed how Arsenal's favourable treatment of Thierry Henry was one of the reasons why he wanted to leave the club for Premiership champions Chelsea.
Okay, now I've officially had enough of Cashley Cole. STFU! Don't start running your mouth about Henry because you're not half the player he is. Why don't you focus on winning a starting place at Chelsea and looking for good investment opportunities to launder some Russian money.

Just ridiculous. And he's only making himself seem smaller.

Stefanovic fears broken toe

Stefanovic fears broken toe - Yahoo! Sport UK
If the worst fears about Stefanovic are realised, Portsmouth could switch Matt Taylor from the left side of midfield into defence.
Bandwagon stops here. Everybody off.

Not that Taylor has done anything for the last two weeks... or Yahoo! has given him any credit (where are my points?!?!). But if he moves back to defense, and Kranjcar adds to the number of players in front of him to take set-pieces...

Maybe move for Finnan if Liv/Nufc are 2-gamers?

Derby Day Blues

AJ continues his run of form. It's now 4 goals in as many games, and from 5 shots on target. Kudos to everyone who stuck with him despite the derby matchup.

Speaking of form, Thierry Henry is rounding into his, even though his team ...


Sorry, watching ManU/Tot. Where was I? Oh yeah...

Henry is playing his part and getting his usual ton of fantasy points, but Arsenal are still struggling. And Boro continue their one week up, one week down cycle. So sell any Boro players you have and pick them up for the following week.

Damn you Frank Lampard! Don't you practice your PKs? That miss was a 13 point swing (from 7 for the goal to -6 for the miss)! Those points would have made it worth having you in the squad over Henry.

And speaking of Chelsea, is it time to abandon the Shevchenko bandwagon? I never got behind Ballack, and so far he's proved me nothing be right. But Sheva needs to step up and be counted in the Premiership or he'll be on the outside of my team looking in too. At least when Anelka or Martins, Tevez, etc, get posted.

On the injury front, we've got bad news on Aaron Lennon, Jimmy Bullard, and J.A. Riise. Real shame for Bullard as he started the season so brightly. Will his points now go to Wayne Routledge? Imagine, you can almost replicate the Crystal Palace squad that played in the Premiership two years ago -- Johnson, Boyce, Hall, Routledge -- and you would be doing alright.

The Lennon injury really hurts Tottenham as they were already struggling ith a lack of creativity from midfield. Now they lack any crossers of the ball and have lost the one player that would run at defenders. Sooner or later they are going to have to dig out this guy...

Friday's Team News

Sadly, there is nothing much to report on the Yahoo! front. No new players, no old (last Monday!) points. So we go into the week with the fantasy game we have, not the one we want. (That one was for you, Mike.)

Many, if not most, of the new arrivals seem to be set for roles on the bench, so perhaps we're not missing too much. Of the players that are listed in the game, the most attractive would be Ashley Cole. He's relatively cheap, but is he a certain starter? Or has Wayne Bridge done enough to maintain his place, for at least one more week, as Cole gets acclimated to the his new team?

Gallas seems a more certain starter. Most likely at left back in place of Hoyte, though perhaps center back if Djourou is unfit. However, Gallas will cost you north of 9. That's Matt Taylor money! ;-) May be worth it though if you think he can make an impact at home to an inscrutable Boro team.

With Berbatov out, many of us will be looking for a replacement up front. It is tempting to gut the squad and pick up Henry, again home to Boro. Otherwise, the most likely candidates are Rossi, McCarthy, Angel. Only Rossi is at home this week, against a poor-travelling Fulham, but he may only make the bench. I'm leaning towards McCarthy, but may switch to free up the money to pick up Ashley Cole.

That's my "early" two cents - it's just 9am here. We'll of course be posting any further news as it becomes available.

Tottenham boss hails return of the King

ESPNsoccernet - England - Tottenham boss hails return of the
King's return is tempered by the probable loss of £10.8million striker Dimitar Berbatov. He is almost certain to miss out with a groin strain suffered on international duty with Bulgaria.Jol said: 'Berbatov is probably out with a groin injury but Ledley is fit. If he is still fit on Saturday, he will play.'
Giving fantasy managers an early season headache. Berbatov has looked good so far, and it will be hard to sell him as he's already increased in value by almost 2 bucks/pounds/euros/units. But perhaps it is too early in the season to field 10 players. And with transfers presumably in the Yahoo! pipeline...

Seems Like Forever...

...since we had something meaningful to talk about. The injury updates and the transfer extravaganga have been good reading in the meantime (we hope) but having a two week break for Internationals after just 10 days of games was tough to take.

Now, on to the next thing that's tough to take - Yahoo not having the new players posted...I have a message in to my contact there so hopefully, there will be at least an update if not an actual resolution. Come on guys, you have players just DYING to get Anelka, Kuyt, Martins, Baptista, and Kanu into their line-ups.

So, while we wait for that along with tomorrow's injury report, here is my initial thinking on putting together my squad for the week...

Chelsea - The champions are home to a Charlton squad that have, as is there habit, been better than expected in the early going. That said, you'd have to give them almost zero chance of pulling out a win here. The big questions really revolve - as always - around the Chelsea newbies...Will Ashley Cole (who is cheap) start? If so, he's in. Is Ballack ready to contriubute after a lackluster debut? Will Sheva (finally) look like he's worth all the money? Will Kalou or Drogba start opposite Sheva? That's about it for the bargains. Of course Cech, Terry, and Lamps are excellent bets if you're willing to pay. We'll wait for tomorrow for a ruling on the Cole issue (although I have to think he'll start - sorry, Wayne). As for the two high-profile signings, they're both highly likely to make my line-up unless Yahoo gets the new guys into the system. I think I'm going to follow my own advice from last year and stay away from the #2 striker rotation now that Kalou looks to be replacing Crespo as the person cutting into Drogba's fantasy points. I'm still in on Lampard but I think I can do better with the money than Cech and Terry.

The Race for the Champions League - Well, this category is in a state of flux with Spurs and Arsenal stumbling out of the gate so far. For now, we'll assume that both are just anomolies but the situation deserves to be monitored. Unfortunately for Spurs, things don't get any easier with a trip to Old Trafford to visit red hot Manchester United. In my mind, this diminishes the value of the players on both squads. Especially the defenders from both teams and the Spurs attacking players. This looks like a 2-1 match to the Red Devils. Regardless of the exact outcome, I rate the chances of either side getting a clean sheet as low which immediately devalues both keepers and the defenders, especially the expensive ones. Throw in Rooney's continued absence and you have Saha as the only true value pick here. Giggs and Ronaldo are still valuable but they're expensive and you'd better have a feel about one or the other to choose them against Spurs. Berbatov and Assou-Ekotto are not terribly attractive given Berbatov's injury and the match-up. Malbranque is unlikely to be fit and Chimbonda will have his hands full with United's midfield. One final note, please remember that while United have been hot in winning their first three matches they haven't really played anyone...

Just as fantasy owners should be on alert because United and Spurs are going into a tough match, they should be equally aware of Liverpool as they head down the road for an away derby match at Everton. The high emotion (and Everton's relatively bright start) should increase the chances of an upset as well as the probability of yellow cards being more plentiful than goals. Of the players I would ordinarily consider from this match - Gerrard, Kuyt, Aurellia, Howard, and AJ - I'm really only considering Gerrard and Howard and I'm only considering Howard because I have him for cheap already. Kuyt isn't available on the system but if he came available in the next 24 hours or so, I'd think about it but would probably wait until next week. That really only leaves Gerrard and he's still expensive so you'd better be pretty sure since it means you'll have to scrimp somewhere else (wouldn't you rather go Terry and a midfield at 12 with a better match-up?).

Finally, we get to Arsenal. What to do with the Gunners? Yet another midfielder/second striker for the potential rotation in Baptista further devalues just about everyone except Henry and Cesc who seem like the only no-doubt-about-it first choice players in either midfield or attack. The big question you have to ask yourself is whether you're ready to bite on Henry and are willing to gut your squad to do it. With Boro struggling in defense, this might be a good week to bet on a Gunners outburst. Do remember though that you'll have to figure something else out next weekend as Henry heads to Old Trafford. I'm thinking I'll stay away this week despite the fact that I'm guessing Henry will score at least one and have an excellent fantasy weekend. Honestly, Rosicky is the only Gunner I'm really considering seriously. If I have some extra money, I might invest it in Eboue in the back - especially if Cole isn't a sure thing. On the Boro side, Downing and Yakubu are really the only two guys worth giving much consideration to with Downing being the low risk option likely to get you about 10 points but unlikely to get you more than 12. Yakubu is always a boom or bust pick and, frankly, there are plenty of options that are more attractive in my mind - especially for the money.

The Relegation Battle - Watford head to Bolton in a match-up that only matters a) if you're on the Ashley Young bandwagon (which I'm still on) and b) if they post Anelka. If they post Anelka, he's going right into my line-up against the Premiership newbies (I need to replace Berbatov who is both banged up and playing at ManYoo). Marlon King is obviously Premiership quality but the Bolton match-up doesn't make this the weekend where I'm going to give him a try.

Reading have the Monday Night match-up at home against a Manchester City team that is clearly in transition. The biggest problem here is that Reading are in something of a crisis at striker with Lita's arrest and the injury to Kitson leaving Doyle as the only established striker. The more I write about this, the more it looks like it's going to be a freakin' mess. I'd stay away from anyone other than Joey Barton who I'd rate as an above-average but not fantastic pick. If you really need two from this match Nicky Weaver might be a good bet as well.

Fulham are quickly distancing themselves from this category as they look better than the sum of their parts in the early going. The trip to St. James' Park should be an interesting match-up, especially now that Newcastle have two healthy strikers to line-up. Assuming Yahoo doesn't get Anelka, Kuyt, et al posted Rossi is likely to replace Berbatov in my line-up. Throw in the fact that Bullard will be facing a NUFC backline that wasn't improved during the transfer window means he's one to keep in your lineup. Not too much else to like here unless Martins gets posted or you want to take a relatively high-priced risk on Duffman, Milner or Nobby (none of which I'm willing to do).

Finally, we have Sheffield United hosting Rovers - is this the week that MGP finally breaks out? Certainly the match-up makes it possible and Benni McCarthy looked good against Chelsea so defenders will likely start to pay him more attention which will help Bentley (who has also looked good on the right) and MGP on the wings. If it looks like Rossi isn't going to start, McCarthy is likely my Berbatov replacement (again, presuming the new guys aren't posted). Rovers defenders are pretty expensive (and prone to yellow cards) so despite the good match-up, I'm going to stay away. Not much on the Blades side of the ball to consider.

And The Rest - Perhaps the two best stories of the season so far - West Ham (for their acquisitions) and Villa (for their fast start with minimal talent) face off at Upton Park. The early rumors were that Tevez and Maschereno won't play until the mid-week UEFA Cup match which is probably good since fantasy owners will want to get in early on these guys. It is less likely that Villa newboy Stiliyan Petrov will wait for Yahoo's technical issues to work themselvs out for his debut. As a result, the most interesting options for fantasy owners are Zamora and Angel who have both been hot at the start of the season. As Jeremy rightly pointed out, West Ham haven't kept a clean sheet in ages so while I love Konchesky's offensive skills he is only an OK choice this week given Villa's performances so far.

Finally, the third great story of the year so far Pompey are hosting Wigan at Fratton Park. Matt Taylor owners have to be questioning their choice to spend a lot of money until they see their points from last week - if you think he'll get his points eventually (which I do) then he's still a good bet even at the elevated price. Kanu is still unavailable almost guaranteeing that he won't score another goal after he finally does hit the fantasy board. David James is a pretty good bet given Pompey's no-goals-allowed defensive showing so far and a reasonable price. Stefanovich is also a low-budget option - he doesn't do much on offense but with another clean sheet very do-able against Wigan he might get you another 8-9 points for a low budget number.

Friday's Team News Today

BBC SPORT | Football | Internationals | Live: Euro 2008 qualifiers

2029: Northern Ireland goalkeeper Roy Carroll looks distraught as trudges down the tunnel to be replaced by Maik Taylor

2026: Northern Ireland are making an encouraging start as Mike Duff's cross causes panic in the Spanish box. But at the other end there's as Roy Carroll requires extensive treatment for a groin injury. He stays on but it doesn't look likely that he will stay on.

Who is West Ham's number 2 keeper -- Robert Green?

City hit by Darius injury blow

City hit by Darius injury blow - Yahoo! Sport UK
Manchester City striker Darius Vassell has been ruled out for at least two weeks with a knee strain.The former England forward suffered medial ligament damage during the 1-0 win over Arsenal at Eastlands.
Welcome to the starting line-up, RunDMB.

UPDATE, from Soccernet:
Darius Vassell (knee), DaMarcus Beasley (hamstring), Andreas Isaksson (hamstring) and Ben Thatcher (suspended) are all out.
So I guess Reyna continues on the left.

Yahoo! Fantasy Updates

We at blog central are painfully aware that Yahoo! has not updated their player lists since the transfer window closed, and that they haven't posted the points from last Monday's Middlesbrough-Portsmouth match.

We are looking forward to both with as much anticipation and eagerness as anyone else. In the meantime, all we can do is preach patience and understanding.

Arsenal Gunners - Roster - English Premier League

Arsenal Gunners - Roster - English Premier League - Yahoo!

Active Roster
No. Player Pos Ht Wt DOB Birthplace
9 Julio BaptistaM6-0159Oct 1, 1981São Paulo, Brazil

Follow up... looks like Yahoo! has Baptista listed as a midfielder on their roster page for the Gunners. We'll have to wait and see if this translates into the fantasy game.

In related concerns, looks like they have Niko Kranjcar as a middie as well.

The Beast Can Be The New Berg

The Beast Can Be The New Berg

... and surely by now you know how much this blog (Neal) loves the Berg! Anyway, this is just too good of a quotation not to pass on:
Using his boxer's physique and sprinter's acceleration to full effect, Baptista's favourite tactic was to charge into the opposition box to smash unsuspecting defenders from his path to goal. At times it was like watching a less unhinged Stan Collymore crossed with an elephant.
If so, better make sure to have him in your line-up for his first game in an Arsenal strip. Collymore was the master of the debut goal. And of course the quick slide into mediocrity there-after.

But perhaps Wenger finally has the man to partner Henry. And to put a little muscle into his flair side. Dare we say, "la bête dans la boîte"?

Berbatov Doubt For Reds Clash

Berbatov Doubt For Reds Clash - Yahoo! Sport UK
Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov could miss Saturday's Barclays Premiership match against Manchester United due to a groin injury.

Berbatov has impressed since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer but suffered an adductor strain during Bulgaria's 2-2 Euro 2008 qualifying draw against Romania at the weekend.

The target-man has returned to Spurs Lodge after being ruled out of his country's match against Slovenia on Wednesday but Spurs chief Martin Jol hopes he will be fit in time for the trip to Old Trafford.
This will make the second match in a row that Berbatov has been a doubt. However, it sounds more serious this time, and the match-up for Tottenham is worse. Time to sell Berbatov? It's hard as we all have him so cheap and he's scored points even when he hasn't scored goals (unlike say, Shevchenko). But if they post the new strikers, maybe.

Bank Holiday

Sory for the light posting. International week combined with holiday in the US.

We'll be back up to speed soon.

Cole completes Chelsea transfer

Cole completes Chelsea transfer - Yahoo! Sport UK
Ashley Cole moved from Arsenal to Chelsea on Thursday with French defender William Gallas moving in the opposite direction to bring to an end one of English football's most protracted transfer sagas.
So we all knew it was coming. Poor Wayne Bridge. This came so late, and with Gallas leaving, there was no chance for him to move (to Newcastle, right?) and he's going to be stuck on the Chelsea bench.

For fantasy managers, Ashley Cole at 6.58 -- not quite transfer prices, but still -- becomes a must-have. Meanwhile, for Arsenal fans like Neal, Gallas is just shy of 9, so a bit of a stretch. And where does he play? Seemingly he will be their left fullback, but he's never been shy about the fact that he doesn't want to play there and wants to play at center back.