Not only going down but shutting down

HM Revenue and Customs have issued a winding-up petition on Portsmouth football club over unpaid taxes, according to the BBC.

It is understood that the order was presented on December 23 with Pompey set for a court hearing in February.

Bottom of the Premier League, Portsmouth have suffered severe financial problems in the past year, with players receiving wages late twice this season and a transfer embargo ordered after they failed to make payments to other clubs for transfers
This is terrible preparation for their meeting with Arsenal today but it quite literally puts the club's future in jeapordy. If they go down, and only one club bottom at Xmas have survived, they'll be finished. It could even be a worse situation than neighbors Southampton have suffered through. And though they have a run in the top-flight and an FA Cup trophy to show for it, I wonder if their fans think it will be worth it. 'Arry certainly knew when to jump ship, didn't he? 

I'll be interested in Neal's take on this.  The nexus of business and football is his speciality.

In more immediate news, today's match will be the last for their African contingent - Yebda, Belhadj, Kanu, Utaka, Diop, and possibly Dindane. However, they will be missing O'Hara as he picked up his fifth yellow in the West Ham match. 

It all points to severe hiding from the Gunners, even without Fabregas.  I know a lot of us have bet our fantasy week on Arsenal - some more than others - and today could be the big pay off.

Monday Morning Manager

Consider this an open thread for the "midweek" round of fixtures.  Right now Spurs have almost seen off West Ham.   No Bassong today, which is a disappointment.  Also I'm looking at Diamanti for the Barn Door.

Team news is coming out for the other matches.  Reid is MIA for Sunderland while Saha is missing for the Toffees.  Drogs and Kalou get a final run out for Chelsea - with Sturridge on the bench.  Birmingham and Burnley are unchanged.  Tuncay is partnered today by Beattie, not Sidibe.  Etc.

Rotation got you?  Who are you looking at for January matches, or are you waiting for transfers?

Good luck.

Boxing Day Live

For as long as I can get away with it here at my parents house without feeling like I'm ignoring the holidays-with-the-family thing.

Late Fitness Test

Merry Xmas everyone.  No time for pleasantries, so here's my final line-up for the "week":


Vermaelan Bassong Baird

Arshavin Lee Etherington MTaylor

Eduardo Tuncay Klasnic

Good luck to you. I'm sure there will be lots to talk about over the next 12 days!

Injuries and Suspensions - Quick Christmas Day Edition

Not too much surprising to report really...

At Arsenal, fantasy manager plans may be up in the air now as the Arsenal team notes report that Cesc may be back for the Sunday match with Villa (and even if he doesn't make that one it would seem that the next match would be a definite).  This decreases Denilson's value well below his current market price.  All other Arsenal midfield options also move down a bit in value over the course of the 3 matches as Cesc is more likely to come in and push them out of the frame or at least further to the side.  The least likely to be negatively impacted is Nasri whose minutes shouldn't overlap with Cesc's much at all.

At Chelsea, the Elk is out as expected and you can be almost positive that Drogs will find his way to an intentional YC in this match so that his accumulation suspension is served while he is on Ivory Coast duty.

Modric looks to be out again for Spurs making Kranjcar all the more valuable (although still not likely worth his current market price). 

David Dunn is still out for Rovers - probably not the week to play him anyway but worth noting as he has been worth playing when he's been healthy.

Citeh's entire defence (Lescott, Onuoha, Bridge, and maybe Richards) are injured making Given a pretty shaky option (even shakier than he has been the last few weeks which has been pretty shaky).  Zabaleta and Sylvinho are both options if you need an inexpensive starter in defence but I'm not particularly excited about either unless it really gets you something else you need in your line-up.  The other potential benefit is to the value of Stoke (Eth) and Wolves attackers (Milijas) - if you were leaning towards either this might be the news that clinched the decision.  I'm still not completely sold on either guy but I'd be feeling a lot better today than I was yesterday about both.

No full team report from ManYoo yet but it looks like SAF is going to push Fabio and Rafael back into the line-up.  I don't know how he plans to deploy what would be a group consisting of Evra, Vidic, Rafael, and Fabio (assuming Wes Brown - listed as questionable - doesn't make it back) - in my mind, this doesn't change things too much for anyone other than Kuszczak (who, as I mentioned in TWA, will have actual defenders in front of him which is an improvement).

That's about all there is to report here on Christmas Day at about Noon Eastern Time.

Best of Luck to everyone and a Very Merry Christmas.

Cheers - Neal

The Week and Christmas Holiday Extravaganza Ahead

In the spirit of the holidays, I am going to be charitable to everyone reading and keep things relatively brief this time around.  Obviously there are a lot of moving parts to think about with 3 matches for some teams and the possibility of the weather canceling more matches like it did for Bolton as our "never bet on or against Bolton" rule was underscored for everyone who had forgotten or thought that the rule was rendered irrelevant once Big Sam moved on a couple of years ago.  With all that in mind, here we go on a quick roller coster ride starting with the 3 gamers and ending up with the potential one-gamers (Burnley if Bolton/Burnley is postponed due to weather).

One final note for everyone who hasn't been following the conversation about how many matches are included in the Christmas "matchweek" (and if you haven't looked at the table on the "Team Manager" page since it was updated) - we have confirmed with Yahoo that all of the matches from December 26 until January 7 will be included.  Should make for a crazy time as we all pull our hair out after players get injured or suspended or rotated part of the way through the 2 or 3 match stretch.  As you select your team, it is just as important that you go for guys who will be selected as it will be to pick the best match-ups or most talented/hottest players.

Early Doors

This "week" just keeps getting stranger and stranger.  It began, of course, with Wigan/Bolton postponed and since then we've gone through the "Nasri or won't he" drama.  But the news just hasn't stopped.  So we've got updates from Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs, the African Cup of Nations and more.

Nasri facing three-match ban

Football Association chiefs yesterday ordered referee Steve Bennett to review a video of Nasri’s bust-up with Hull City’s Richard Garcia.

Bungling Bennett admitted to the FA he missed Nasri’s stamp on Garcia’s foot which sparked a 20-man brawl during Arsenal’s bad-tempered brawl with Hull at the Emirates on Saturday.

Nasri was booked for his part in the melee which followed, while Arsenal midfielder Alex Song could also be in trouble for grabbing Hull’s Stephen Hunt round the throat.

The FA now have until 6pm today to decide whether to charge Nasri which could land him with a three-match ban for violent conduct.

That would rule Nasri out of the crucial Christmas and New Year games with high-flying rivals Aston Villa on December 27, the visit to Portsmouth three days later and the FA Cup tie at West Ham.
So much for that three-game week coming up. Looks like we'll have to gut to afford Eduardo and/or Diaby after their goals against Hull.

[Updated]... Let's think just a bit more about this. As Neal talked about in Saturday's chat the next gameweek is going to include Stoke/Fulham on January 5 and Arsenal/Bolton on the 6th. Let's just say that Nasri is suspended; Fabregas isn't likely back until the Bolton match right? And by then Song and Eboue will have gone to the African Cup of Nations. So who is left? Are there any Arsenal attackers we can count on to play each of the three games?

Well, there's Arshavin and Eduardo up top. Neither has set the league on fire this season, but hey... they're three gamers! (See how easy it is to talk yourself into it?) Denilson looks assured a spot, and he's the third free kick option behind Cesc and Nasri. The one caveat with Denilson is if he has to take a more defensive position to accommodate Diaby, who is finally convincing everyone that he is a much better attacker than defender - despite being tall and black, and hence "the next Viera".

So Diaby, Eduardo and Arshavin are the front players in Arsenal's 4-3-3. Denilson is one of the middle three, and probably the kick taker. The other two spots? Maybe no one gets three games. From the Hull match, it's Eboue and Song. Walcott and Ramsey are available, but seem to be behind the others, when available.

Okay... well, that helped me.  Two-gamers are hard enough to not pick.  But three gamers??  That's gut Drogba go all in time!!  And Arsenal are certainly the most attractive of the quartet of teams with triple games.    Aston Villa is a very tough match up for them, but @Pompey and home to Bolton... they have to be backed in those matches, don't they?  But Almunia is now expensive, the defence is fragile... and there are only three midfielders and a foward we can look to to get the majority of playing time.

I think.  Maybe.   We'll see.

Final Update
Samir Nasri has escaped further disciplinary action for his part in the 21-man fracas that erupted between Arsenal and Hull City on Saturday, but both clubs are still facing the prospect of a Football Association charge for failing to control their players.
Well, so much for that. Back to the drawing board.

Wigan-Bolton clash postponed

Wigan have postponed Monday night's Premier League clash with near-neighbours Bolton because of the severe weather conditions in the north west.

Heavy snow in the region over the weekend has made roads treacherous in the area, although the playing surface at the DW Stadium was actually deemed playable.

However, safety concerns regarding the public areas surrounding the ground, which are still covered in snow and ice, meant the club had no option but to call off the match.

So those of us - including myself and Neal - who have bet on or against Bolton are stuck with zero points for the week. Remember when we talked about the a player being red carded in the first of a week's two matches as being the most frustrating thing about fantasy? Well I forgot about weather related postponements. ARGH! I'm so mad I could kick a puppy.

How you doin'?

I was doing pretty lousy. But now... Now I'm better.

I had a pretty bad Saturday with 32 points from 5 players. Tevez was my high scorer with 14.5, and Given was propping up the table having lost 4 points. (I wonder if Mancini's appointment will be the boot up the butt - and/or he'll bring catenaccio to Eastlands. Either way I'm curious to see how it turns out; but thinking Given might be a better long-term bet all of a sudden. See? Better.)

Wolves/Burnley is on now and Milijas just scored!! So I'm even better all of a sudden.

How you doin'?

The Barn Door Live - Snowed In Edition

Hello everyone, I'm coming to you live from the basement in snow-bound Mclean, Va.  We had about 8" of snow since midnight last night with the promise of more to come today.  It looks great outside and what better excuse to stick around in an online chat between now and when Arsenal and Hull finish up in about 7 hours.

Here's the line-up I'll be following: Reina, Verm, Heiti, Foley, BFAR, O'Hara, Eagles, Bowyer, Arshavin, Drogs, and Klasnic. Seems that there was a move on the Chat last weekend to dive off of the Birmingham bandwagon.  Did you dive off? If so, why?  Come on in, announce yourself, let us know what your line-up is, and start chatting.  Oh yeah, if you get in early enough to get an automatic posting spot, please let me know when you leave so I can give the spot to someone else.

Cheers - Neal

Injuries and Suspensions

Ramsey behind Denilson again?

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

Looks like Glen Johnson and Nando will be back for Pool but Riera will not be - Nando is obviously a strong bet playing against Pompey.

DDunn is doubtful/facing a late fitness test which means you should run scared from Rovers players.  The plus side is that Spurs defenders are just that much more attractive with one of Rovers' best attacking threats out of the picture.

On the other hand, Kranjcar's spot is guaranteed as Modric has picked up another knock (an ankle) and will not make it.

The out-of-action/doubtful list for the ManYoo/Fulham match is pretty crazy...AJ, Davies, Kamara, Evans, O'Shea, GNev, Rio, Wes Brown, EvdS, and MAYBE Vidic - that's a lot of star power missing.  Look for de Laet and Kuszczak to be the interesting/high value options.

de Jong is suspended for Citeh so Kompany is likely to take his spot (yawn) and Cana is suspended for the opposing side (again, yawn) although fewer holding options will mean Citeh's attack will have that many more opportunities.  Probably don't want anyone from Sunderland's defence in your side.

At Arsenal, the rumor mill has Denilson (not Ramsey) coming in for Cesc.  The question is, who do we expect to start in Arsenal's 4-3-3/4-5-1/4-6-0 formation? Song, Diaby, Denilson, Nasri, Walcott, and Arsh would be the logical answer but I have to admit that there SHOULD be a place for Ramsey in that line-up given the way Walcott and Nasri have performed since returning from injury.  I'm not saying it WILL happen, I'm just saying it should.  Ramsey is probably too big a risk to put into your team unless he's the best option you have for an inexpensive midfielder.

Kevin Foley is really the only interesting name related to injuries and the Wolves/Burnley match.  With Edwards injured, he is a defender playing in midfield.  How well he'll play in midfield is another question entirely but it isn't outside of the realm of possibility that he'll do well for his price/position.

Cahill is back from suspension for Everton but Rodwell is out injured.  Not much to make here but Everton's defence is likely to remain leaky without Rodwell (and possibly even after he's back).  No reason to jump off of the Birmingham bandwagon based on the quality/health of the opposition. Birmingham score reasonably well on the road (middle of the pack in the league) and have won 3 times while Everton have let in a lot of goals at home (3rd worst in the league) and lost or drawn 6 of their 8 at home. The only reason this match-up looks bad for Birmingham is because of the brand-equity Everton has built over the last 4 or 5 years as one of the best teams outside of the Big Four.  Thus far this season, that is nothing other than a reputation.

Drogba is back for CHE and JCole looks likely to feature as well.

That is about all that is really of interest heading into the weekend.  Still not sure exactly what moves I'll make but certainly some food for thought as the "get Ramsey into the line-up" bandwagon lost significant momentum between Thursday and Friday.

Cheers - Neal

The Week Ahead

OK, I'm going to try something different this time around.  Why? Because as we get farther and farther away from the most recent transfer window and farther into a season, there is less and less of interest to say about the same set of teams and players.  Sure, there are hot streaks and cold streaks and sometimes I get my team selection right and sometimes it is miserable but that only takes me so far in keeping me motivated.  So when I find my motivation is flagging a bit, it's time to try something new with the column and see how it goes.  In the worst case, it will be an interesting one-time thing for everyone who is kind enough to read (OK, the real worst case is that it really sucks but hopefully not).  The best case is that I get something better from it that lives on after this week as part of a new and improved Week Ahead column.  This is how we ended up with the blog in the first place, how it moved from here to the Yahoo site for a few years, and how the Live Chat got started so hopefully we'll continue to find new ways to keep things interesting.

Fixture List

Help me out here. 

I'm looking at Yahoo!'s fixture listings for the next few weeks... Is it my imagination or are there some teams with more upcoming matches than others?  I'm going to break down what I'm seeing, but can someone/anyone help confirm these issues?
  • This week (12/19-21) there is a full slate of matches.  Everyone plays once.
  • Next week (12/26-30) is a double week. There will be a full slate of matches Saturday and Sunday, with the teams' second matches Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.  Now if I'm reading this correctly Manchester United and Wigan DO NOT HAVE TWO MATCHES.  They are the only two teams playing once this matchweek.  [See the corrections in the comments below.]  Additionally, everyone has the second match after just one off day save for Liverpool, Bolton, Portsmouth and Arsenal who each have two days off before their second match.
  • Matchweek 17, following the New Year (1/5-6) will consist of only two midweek matches - Stoke v. Fulham and Arsenal v. Bolton.
  • The rest of January sees all teams in action four times with a double week sandwiched between two vanilla "everyone plays once on Saturday through Monday" weeks the last game of which is Sunderland v. Stoke on February 1.
  • February then "starts" with a double week followed by two regular weeks.
Of course there is the added complications of teams participating and progressing in the FA and League Cups.  The next rounds are arleady scheduled, but weeks further out may be impacted by Cup games.

The League schedule has a hard stop this year because of the World Cup so we're likely to see a lot of fixture pile-up come the spring.

In the mean time, what does this all mean?  For me it means Rooney and Rodallega, while they would be tempting otherwise, are out of the discussion.  If you have Kirkland for ridiculously cheap you're going to lose a game unless you're in for the long haul.  Arsenal players become very attractive in the short-term and we'll try to keep up with who is actually available for selection at any given time.  It also puts Bolton players on the map, which if you've read the blog for any length of time, you know we don't bet on or against Bolton.  Unless we do.

How did you do?

Our long midweek nightmare is finally over. How did you do?

I got goals from Rooney and Kranjcar, and a clean sheet from Bassong. I was also 90 seconds away from a Reina clean sheet before N'Zogbia put a minus nine (6 lost for the clean sheet and three lost for the goal allowe) on me. And yes, I'm VERY bitter about that.

On the barn door, which is still open:

Rooney to Anelka
Kranjcar to Arshavin
Reid to Nasri
Bowyer to Chung-Yong Lee
Jordan to Sylvinho

Phew! Didn't realize there were that many changes until I saw them all in one place. With Cesc coming off injured today, I'll be looking at Ramsey as a cheap middie and I would still love to pick up Milijas. Also, I would like to get off the Chucho bandwagon so I'll be trying to move to Eduardo as well. Too much Arsenal, perhaps. But home to Hull... Maybe I even gut Reina to make it happen.

Stay tuned.

Midweek Team News

No, there isn't anything more frustrating than midweek team news.  You've already made your decisions and this can't help you one little bit.  But I'm posting it because it may start informing your decisions for this upcoming weekend.  With Drogba in an injury scare and other popular fantasy players like Giggs and Traore suffering from hamstring injuries of some severity it's worth a look.
Wednesday Updates:

Didier Drogba injures back during training

Don't you just LOVE double weeks?

The Guardian reports:
Chelsea could be without 18-goal striker Didier Drogba against Portsmouth after the Ivory Coast international hurt his back in a training ground incident earlier today.

Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti revealed that Drogba had to leave their training session after sustaining the injury which now threatens his participation against Avram Grant's struggling side.
Maybe we'll get an early look at how Chelsea plan to line up in January when Drogba, Essien and Kalou (all three injured now!) leave for the African Cup of Nations.  And for more on that, check out the Y!AM's look at the "drop or not to drop" Drogba dilemma.
...will Drogba score enough points the rest of the way (after his return) to cover off 4 weeks of zero, compared to the scores you could get during those 4 weeks PLUS the rest of the way?

Well, quite possibly.

How did you do?

This is becoming a familiar sight again in the English Premier League.

How did you do this weekend? We're only halfway through the week - hence the Monday Morning Manager's reticence to say too much just yet - but there were lots of points to be had this weekend. Did you get them?

I got points from Birmingham City's offense, but couldn't afford the real bonanza from their D. Rooney disappointed but still pulled in some points, while Spurs just disappointed. For all the talk of the teams with two home games, only 1 - Birminham City again - actually won. Crazy!

So far my team is shaping up as such:

Reina -2 (boooooo!)
Vermaelan 7 (from what, I don't know)
Bassong 3.5 (about what you'd expect from a Spurs defender)
Jordan 2 (was hoping for more from this, Burnley's easier fixture)
Eagles 13.5 (woohoo!  a nice surprise from a player who wasn't much more than an enabler at 6 and change)
Reid 15 (another nice return)
Kranjcar 2.5 (next to Reina the disappointment of the week)
Bowyer 24.5 (gold, Jerry)
Drogba 26 (high-scorer for me and if he keeps alternating braces with anonymous performances... well, we'll still miss him in January)
Rooney 8.5 (see Vermaelan)
Benitez 17 (another surprise total from an enabling player - also 6 and change)


The Barn Door Live - December 12, 2009

That's right, we're back!  Argentina has been and gone and as my reward for going on a fantastic vacation, I get to come back to a 2-match week.  Even better, I was gone for the better part of 2 weeks and actually gained ground on Jeremy last weekend (we're actually dead even for the year so far).

Here's my team - Reina (who I'm very nervous about), Verm, Heiti, SeaBass, BFAR, Collison, O'Hara, Eagles, Drogs, Rooney, and Franco

Looking ahead to next weekend Arsenal are home to Hull (Theo? Ramsey?), Chelsea head to WHU (let's see who starts for CHE in midfield this week), and Wolves/Burnley both have a chance to pick up some points as they face off at Wolves...

OK, here we go, it's Wigan at Stoke City on ESPN2 HD live from Neal's temporary (for the next 6 or so months) basement!!!

Late Fitness Test

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

Hello everybody.  I'm back from my 10 day football pilgrimage to Argentina.  I used the opportunity to soak in the incredible passion for the game that the Argentinians have and hopefully that extra passion and energy will translate into me making better picks for myself.  Looking back on my last 3 or 4 TWA posts, I am not disappointed by my logic or the suggestions I've been making but I've certainly been managing to choose the worst possible of those options for myself when it comes down to time to actually fill out my own squad.  Hopefully, spending a little time watching Boca Juniors among others live will change that luck up.  For those who are interested, here's a quick recap of my trip before getting to today's injury news...

1) The meat is stunningly good - especially the beef and sausage - I can't emphasize enough how well I ate while I was there

2) The non-stop energy at the football stadiums is really incredible - singing/chanting/jumping up and down in the stands started well before the match and was non-stop until halftime at which point everyone sort of milled around and socialized (no music blaring, no scoreboard to look at, no little kids playing matches against each other to kill the time - this was definitely an old school fan experience) - after the half the energy started up again from scratch and went well beyond the final whistle.

3) One other stadium note - we were forced to wait for 20 minutes to exit the stadium while the away supporters were given time to leave unmolested by the home supporters - in situations where there is even a hint of the possibility of violence this seems like a great idea (and the clubs would have more opportunities to sell merchandise/food/whatever to the home supporters while they're waiting to leave)

4) A final stadium note - they didn't sell beer or any other sort of alcohol so either the supporters were doing all of this without the benefit of alcohol or they were sustaining their buzz through 2 hours without adding to the initial consumption - in my old age, I find this impressive regardless of which of the above is generally the case (I'm sure it is a mix of both).

5) The streets of both Buenos Aires and Mendoza (the two cities we visited) were entirely tree-lined which made for an extremely nice environment for walking around and seeing the sites.  I wasn't sure exactly what to expect but the general attractiveness of the cities surpassed any expectations I had.

6) The football, for all the passion and excitement, wasn't spectacular.  It wasn't quite so bad as MLS but it wasn't even up to Germany or Holland let alone the big leagues of Europe.  I don't know what I was expecting given the economy and the size of the country but it wasn't fantastic.

The best final summary is that I highly recommend that you take a trip there if you have a chance.  If you have questions add them in to the live chat tomorrow and I'll be happy to answer.  OK, down to the injuries and suspensions...

Late Fitness Tests that matter...Beattie (one gamer so probably not worth it anyway), Kirkland (which makes him even less attractive as a potential one or no-gamer and two tough matches - both away to Stoke and Wigan), George McCartney

Out...Upson, CCole, Zavon Hines, Deco, Alex, Kalou, Essien, Tim Cahill, Yobo, Jummy, DDunn (likely out for the first of Rovers' two matches), KRich & Phil Bardsley (both suspended one match - probably not a good match to have anyone in Sunderland's defence),  Spurs centrebacks (King and Woody) which makes SeaBass a good value at 5.54, Wes Brown and Fabio (at least one match each as they recover from knocks), Bendtner, Eboue, Sicky.

Back...Noble (with two reasonable match-ups), Davies (two OK match-ups), Bellamy & Ireland (although with Citeh's success without them you wonder if they'll come right back in - I'd consider them risky compared to guys who are fully healthy and more likely to feature in both matches), Heitinga (but as a defender not farther up the field + he's a one-gamer), David James and Younes Kaboul (although their second match of the 2 is against CHE so not so interesting really), Modric (who diminishes both his own value and that of Kranj by his possible inclusion - my guess is that each gets 120 minutes between the two matches and that neither are worth their price), James Collins (who is still questionable given that Cuellar has done well in his absence - I'm sure he'll play some but probably won't be a 90 minute starter which, when combined with the ManYoo match-up makes him a tough buy), Nando, Theo, Song and maybe Diaby. 

A lot of information but my quick summary is that SeaBass is the biggest beneficiary of the injuries and that Theo has the most potential to make a relatively low-cost impact of those who will likely get a start due to injuries.

The Week Ahead

Welcome home, Neal.  What did you miss?  Well, read the posts below of course.  What about the week ahead?   Well, let's see if we can get you up to speed on that too.

First, go and read the Yahoo! Assistant Manager's Week 15 Player Picks. The Y!AM was kind enough to write last week's TWA and he has a really good look at this week's double-game schedule and a nice list of the relevant-for-fantasy players.

Got it?  Okay, now on with the show.

Bridge out for Six

CITY have been hit by an injury blow after a scan revealed Wayne Bridge could be out of action for up to six weeks - ruling him out of the two-legged Carling Cup semi-final against United next month.

Initial diagnosis suggested two to three weeks, but a scan revealed a medial ligament injury which could keep him out for four to six weeks...

"Now we have Wayne injured. But we have Sylvinho who can slot in there with all his experience, we have Javier Garrido still available, and Joleon Lescott has played left-back for Everton.

Stevie Ireland is also expected to be back in the reckoning after missing the win over Chelsea with a knee injury, while Shaun Wright-Phillips has shaken off a calf problem.

Micah Richards, meanwhile, has recovered from a knee injury and has returned to training, having limped out of the victory against Chelsea on Saturday.
Sylvinho (6.07) would be a good value pick, but it's the option to move Lescott to left back and play Kompany, who is cheap at just over 4 but listed as a midfielder, at center back.  Something to check on in Friday's team news.

Rooney "will be fit"

So says Sir Alex:
United take on Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday and Fergie said he expected to have some of his injured players back.

"We expect Nemanja Vidic to be fit for Saturday's game," said Fergie.

"Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov will both be fit, as will Ryan Giggs.

Modric on the Mend

Luka Modric will play in a behind-closed-doors friendly for Tottenham on Tuesday afternoon as he continues his recovery from the broken leg he suffered in August after a challenge from Lee Bowyer.

The Croat was originally ruled out for just eight weeks but complications mean he has only recently returned to light training. If he comes through the friendly unscathed, he could return to the full squad to face Wolves this weekend.

Wilson Palacios is still a doubt for that game after suffering a rib injury in Sunday's 2-2 draw with Everton.
That's a fine "how do you do" for me as I'm looking to Krancjar as a great option for the upcoming week.  It's enough that 'arry could inexplicably drop him at any time - and has - or give Keane a run out in midfield instead of the Kranc.  Now I have the "will he won't he" worry with Modric in the frame as well.

Monday Morning Manager

Out of the shadows

Another "mid-table" performance from the Manager's team this week.

Reina - clean sheet, but no win. Same points as PRobbo, who cost 1/2 as much.

Vermaelan - Nice to have Verm back as Arsenal keep a clean sheet against Stoke. Guess I was wrong to think Stoke's size and aggression would get them at least a goal.

Black Cat Black and Blues

Sunderland players are going to be popular this week as they have nice home matches against Portsmouth and Aston Villa.  But be careful how you pick because according to Yahoo!UK/Eurosport, the Black Cats are struggling with both injuries and suspensions:
Full-backs Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson both picked up fifth bookings of the season in the 1-0 defeat at Fulham and will miss bottom side Portsmouth's visit to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

With the club currently assessing the ankle injury defender Anton Ferdinand picked up at Craven Cottage, John Mensah struggling with a persistent calf problem, Lee Cattermole still fighting his way back from medial ligament damage and keeper Craig Gordon out for three months with a broken arm, Bruce finds himself with limited options once again.

Bullard out until February

Hull City playmaker Jimmy Bullard will be out until the end of January after injuring his left knee at Aston Villa at the weekend, the Premier League club's manager Phil Brown said on Monday.

Rooney doubt

ManU's innovative "check your neighbor" approach to injury prevention doesn't seem to be working.

United are facing an injury crisis of epic proportions, and not just in defence, with Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov joining an ever-increasing list of players on the treatment table.

There was a further blow to the Reds' rearguard with news that John O'Shea and Jonny Evans will both be out until the New Year.
United hope Wes Brown (hamstring) and Nemanja Vidic (flu) will replenish the Reds' decimated defence. But the injury problems don't stop there. Neither Rooney (hamstring) nor Berbatov (knee) travelled to Germany and both men are doubtful to play against Villa.
"Rafael and Fabio will certainly not [feature against Villa]. We're hoping that we can have Wes Brown fit for Saturday. But it's a strain and it won't be an easy one."

And this was especially interesting, considering the double-fixture week we have and the one coming up over Christmas/New Year:
Ryan Giggs, also missing from the group that travelled to Wolfsburg, will be fit for Saturday. But the news regarding Berbatov and Rooney is less positive.

"We left Ryan behind because we’ve been playing him in one game a week and that has worked for us. He is fit for Saturday, but Berbatov and Rooney are both doubtful."

Late Fitness Test

You've all talked yourselves into the Captain, haven't you? Kirkland is (well, was) dirt cheap and he got the clean sheet last week against Sunderland. Well... if he's a good bet this week, hosting Birmingham, here's my thinking: I'll take the money I was spending on Duff (still a good bet, home to Fulham) and get Scharner. He's listed as a defender so he'll do well if Kirkland does well. And hopefully he can continue to get points from his attacking midfield role. It's funny...

Injuries and Suspensions

So Torres won't be risked, but is this the week we see Aquilani?  Walcott is out again for Arsenal who also have Song suspeneded.  Everton lost Distin and Gosling in midweek further diminishing their options, and already had Heitinga suspended for the visit of Spurs. 

All your team news, including a glut of crocked strikers:

The Week Ahead

A guest TWA this week from our friend (and yours) the Yahoo! Assistant Manager.


Hi guys,

Firstly, thanks to Jeremy & Neal for giving me the opportunity to write The Week Ahead for Week 14. I've followed their blog for 5 years & they were the inspiration for me to start my Yahoo! Assistant Manager Blog this season, so it's a great honour!

I always begin with a look at the fixtures & the immediate stand-out Week 14 fixtures are Arsenal at home to Stoke & Aston Villa at home to Hull.

Stoke are in good form & will undoubtedly cause Arsenal problems from set pieces, but I feel Arsenal's pace & movement will be too much & can see a 4-1 scoreline as the Gunners bounce back from their Chelsea battering. Hull are also playing well since Jimmy Bullard returned, but Villa have the ability to turn it on at home & are another side who will want to please the fans after a disappointing performance vs Spurs. They performed well in the Carling Cup, so it's a home win for me.

Another good looking fixture is Portsmouth at home to Burnley. It may be a surprise that I'd tip the team rock bottom of the league, but anyone who's seen their recent form (and Burnley's away form) will know that Pompey are due a win. Two away teams in good league form, Man Utd at West Ham & Tottenham at Everton cannot be ignored either.

We then come to a bunch of fixtures which could go either way. Fulham v Sunderland, Blackburn v Liverpool, Wolves v Bolton, Wigan v Birmingham. They all sound like they could be 1-1 draws don't they? They might be, but there are still decent options from these teams that'll I'll go in to more detail about below. Any other season I'd have Liverpool in the 'stand-out fixtures' section, but they're so out-of-sorts at the moment that I can't get excited about them. Mind you, Torres would change everything.

Finally, we have Man City v Chelsea. I think Chelsea will win, but I can see it being a heated game as City will be doing everything to try & prove they can challenge the elite, so I’ll be avoiding the majority of players from this fixture apart from a certain striker.

That's my fixture analysis, now on to my player picks... after the jump.

Downing Starts and Scores

When last we saw him.

Home to Hull City this weekend, he suddenly becomes a very interesting pick at 8.64.

Here's his day according to the BBC.
45:00+0:05 Stewart Downing sends in a cross, Richard Hughes manages to make a clearance.

73:41 GOAL - Stewart Downing:
Portsmouth 1 - 3 Aston Villa Stewart Downing finds the back of the net with a headed goal from close range. Portsmouth 1-3 Aston Villa.

78:04 Tal Ben-Haim gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Ashley Young. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Stewart Downing, Younes Kaboul manages to make a clearance.

79:53 A cross is delivered by Stewart Downing, save made by Asmir Begovic.

80:31 Stewart Downing produces a left-footed shot from outside the box and misses left.
Nothing too outrageous.  Young and Milner (who also scored) still taking the corners.  Young and Gabby also had shots on target.  I was looking at Carew just under 8.  Now I wonder... Downing for a bit more? Or will Carew benefit from the additional service?

Monday Morning Manager

This is going to come in pieces and I apologize for the delay.  The Arsenal/Chelsea wrap-up alone has taken me more than an hour to write.  I hope the time translates to quality, though I'm afraid it doesn't.

Regardless, our look back at the week that was - and who did and did not make the Manager's fantasy team - and our attempt to use that to inform future choices... after the jump.


How did you do?

I earned 82.5 points with the largest contributions from that man, Drogba, PRobbo and the Hammers pair of Collison and CCole.

I leap-frogged Neal this week - a big 2.5 point gap! - as he earned 55 points with Drogba and Collison his big (only!) hitters.

Monday Morning Manager coming this evening.  In the meantime, how did you do, and whom did you grab on the barn door? 

Matchday Open Thread

I apologize to everyone who is navigating to this space in hopes of finding a Live Chat to supplement their watching of the Saturday Premier League matches.  Unfortunately, life has intervened and between house guests for the Thanksgiving holiday and preparation for vacation, I just won't have time to make a decent effort at it.  I hope for one week that the "old school" way of connecting everyone while they're watching will suffice.

Enjoy the matches...

Cheers - Neal

Late Fitness Test

Ok... let's head around the country and around the league and look at the matches this weekend. Along the way I'll try to justify explain my team selection. Hopefully we can spark some thought and maybe a little debate.... after the jump.

Injuries and Suspensions

Do you want to start, or should I? I don't know... is that a set of golf clubs over there?

More news and ruminations coming later, but for now here are a couple of quick links for you.

Yahoo!UK Team News
Yahoo!UK Choose 'em or Lose 'em
F365 News Roundup
SkySports Previews
BettingZone Previews

The Week Ahead

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers everywhere around the world. For those of you not familiar with the US Thanksgiving holiday, I started writing an explanation of the "whys" and "wherefores" of it but it wasn't very good so I'm linking you to the Wikipedia entry.  The quick answer is that it is the day that we give thanks for all of the good in our lives and celebrate with a harvest feast consisting of somewhat ridiculous quantities of turkey, stuffing, corn, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and a lot of other stuff.  Many families have added drinking way too much to the mix because, well, if they're going to have to see each other then they should probably be drunk.  The final innovation that has been added to the holiday weekend in recent years is "Black Friday" or the orgy of shopping and deep retail discounts that marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.  Stores have taken to opening in the wee hours of the morning (we're talking 2 AM, 3 AM, etc) and for some reason people have decided it is worth getting up at that time to get in on the "exceptional deals" that the merchants have put on offer.

In the spirit of the holiday, here are a few things vaguely related to fantasy footie and the blog that I'm thankful for...

  1. the pending emergence of Gabriel Obertan - there just haven't been enough decent fantasy midfielders on Big Four teams this season and Obertan has the chance to stake a claim in among a fairly useless set of ManYoo wingers - he certainly can't be worse than Nani/Valencia/Park for fantasy purposes.
  2. the opening of January Silly Season - I know most people tire of the rumors but I love it all - the baseless speculation, the tabloid-driven rumors, and the occasional actual deal that might give us fantasy owners something new to throw into the mix
  3. the fact that our move is done and we should be relatively settled for the next six to eight months until we move again
  4. the fact that FiOs (our new TV/Internet service provider) includes Fox Soccer Channel, GolTV, and NFL Red Zone in their basic package (nice not to have to pay a premium for them anymore)
  5. Tim Howard getting shelled over his two matches this past week and one of the guys near me in the standings in our private league having him  (that was a big -12.00 for T-Ho and Jon)...
OK, on to the players...

Monday Morning Manager

Gallagher, Andrews, Nelsen and Robinson before the match.

Counting the cost of Friday's trades, after the jump.

The Barn Door Live - November 22

I'm up before the rest of the family - it's 5:30am here - so I'm going to try my hand at the live commentary thing. So join me for Bolton/Blackburn.

The Barn Door Live - November 21, 2009

You're looking live for one last time at Neal's townhouse basement - the next time we come to you it will be from temporary quarters in a condo while we wait to buy our next house (which probably won't happen until the off-season).

As Jeremy stated, it's been a crazy week for both injuries and injury news (BBC and Sky + ESPN seemed to disagree wildly about the status of some key players like Danny Murphy and Drogs).

Anyway, I ended up with Robbo (crossing fingers), Verm, Heiti, Emerton, Cesc, Dunn, Duffmen, Jummy, Drogs, Campbell, and Saha.

Late Fitness Test

Getting the band back together! I'm going to party like it's 2001-2002.  I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

It's been a crazy week, hasn't it?  With all of the injuries... and the fact that the injuries were to the studs of the league... and the fact that we didn't know the extent of those injuries until, well today... if we know at all.  So to get my head right as I set my team for the week, here's a round up of what I'm looking at and what I'm thinking.  And despite that, whom I'm choosing.

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

The news is slow to come in to SoccerNet today but I'm in off-site planning meetings for 2010 as part of my day job so I'm getting a head start of things. 

Arsenal - I'm not going to repeat the entire injury list because I just don't have the time.  Here's what you have to know...1) RvP is out.  Nasri should be fully healthy and start.  EdS is their only real option at striker.  Gibbs, while not as crocked as first reported, will miss out.  Silvestre is likely to deputize.  I'm not sure how thrilled I am with Silvestre as an option given that he weakens the defence overall but he's a nice option at a cheap price.  EdS is almost a must-have.

For Sunderland Fulop will deputize for the injured Gordon and Turner and KJones are both suspended.  Frazier Campbell remains a great inexpensive striking option (I don't know where they came from but he had 9 points for a cost of 3+ last time out - just saying).

For the feature match of the weekend - Gerrard, GJohnson and Agger should play.  Nando is going to miss out.  Yossi and Riera are likely but not certain and Aquilani is going to come off the bench.  For Citeh MPet, Bellamy, Robinho are the relevant players on the sidelines.  That's a lot of striking power not playing.  For me, that means that Ireland is an interesting play.

Very interesting news from Chelsea on the BBC site which seems to imply that JT, Ballack, Drogs, and ACole should all be back from their rumored injuries while Lamps will miss out with a thigh strain.  The big question is which Chelsea midfielder does this benefit? Deco? Ballack? Essien? JCole? FloMal? What it does do is make it likely that Kalou will remain on the bench and not be the fantasy boon everyone was hoping.  Hopefully, people didn't get too carried away and sell Drogs thinking he'd indeed be out for an extended period.

For the ManYoo/Everton match - Vidic is likely to play while Rio, GNev, O'Shea, and Evans are all rated somewhere between doubtful and out which means that ManYoo's entire defence is going to be pretty shaky.  I'd stay away.  On the Everton side, Bily (suspended), PNev, Osman, and Pienaar are all rated as out for this weekend.  The complication is that the last three are all "close to returning" which means they might play midweek complicating life for fantasy managers.

Of the other 2-match teams, Rovers are pretty much fully healthy, Fulham should have Danny Murphy and he should be taking a lot of kicks which is a good thing for his value.  Hull may still be missing Myhill not that you should have been considering him (or any Hull keeper) very strongly.  Geovanni is also back from suspension but not sure he's that terribly valuable either.

Other random notes...Carlton Cole should be back at WHU as should SPet at Villa (back from suspension)...SeaBass remains out...Lennon might make it back...Modric still out...

Not too much else to report.  Good luck with team selection.  For those who follow the live chat on Saturdays - I'm not sure if I'll be able to host or not.  If you're interested, please come by and check it out but my wife and I are moving so I can't make any promises.

Cheers - Neal

The Week Ahead

How to begin making sense of this week? 

We start out with the crazy happenings between Ireland and France today - if ever there was a case to be made for instituting replay, this was it.  Sadly, the case of the Irish is not likely to be sufficient to make it happen.  Until a major team (that draws major crowd and sponsorship support) misses out on the World Cup or Champions League because of a poor decision that would have been overturned by a replay we won't see any significant action.  If it had been England or Germany that missed out on the same type of play, you can bet that we'd see replay happen quickly.  Why the difference? No one is thinking "well, if it happens to Ireland, it can happen to me too" whereas the WOULD be thinking "if it happens to England/Germany/Brazil/Italy/Spain/Argentina then it could most definitely happen to me"  Just something to contemplate as the Irish go home completely bummed out and the French prepare for an undeserved World Cup campaign next summer.

OK, on to the insanity that is the injury situation in the Prem and how it impacts everyone's line-up.  If you don't think it impacts your roster, then you either don't have a great roster or you haven't been reading all of the injury reports.  Half of Arsenal's senior squad is crocked plus Drogs, Lamps, JT, Berbs, and MPet who are also somewhere between questionable and out make up what is sure to be a complex injury puzzle for this coming weekend.

Throw in the fact that there are four mediocre-at-best teams (Rovers, Hull, Fulham, and Everton) that are two-gamers and things are going to be pretty strange out there.  So, here we go with this week's analysis...

Fantasy Injury Focus - Arsenal

The great entertainers, and the great source of fantasy points over the years.  Also, a great source of injury frustration as year after year players come in and disappear into the training room only to reappear briefly and inevitably too early, finding themselves injured all over again.

The latest blow is of course Robin van Persie being ruled out for two months with ankle ligament damage. But that's by no means the extent of Arsenal's woes. They were already missing Bendtner, Walcott, Vela, Djourou, Clichy, Denilson and added Diaby (calf) and Gibbs (foot or ankle, depending on who you read) to the list after their latest international commitments. And Arsenal have only just gotten Rosicky and Nasri back from their long-term injuries.

So what can we expect from Arsenal against Sunderland? Wenger is very stubborn when it comes to formations. He stuck with 4-4-2 forever, and will likely use his new 4-3-3 regardless of who is available to play. Almunia is entrenched in goal again. The back four likely is Sagna - Vermaelan - Gallas - Silvestre, though another option would be to bring Senderos into the center of defence and move Gallas to left back where he has been unhappy, but very effective for Arsenal and Chelsea before that.

The midfield three will likely be Cesc playing in front of Song and Nasri with Nasri replacing Diaby and having more license to get forward. Ramsey would also be an option, having played really well against Wolves. The front three would seemingly have to be Arshavin - Eduardo - Rosicky.

Eboue is a wildcard in all of this. He would give the squad more balance as Nari, Rosicky, Eduardo and Arsahvin all favor the left if they can't play through the middle. Maybe, just maybe, Wenger does go back to the 4-4-2 with Rosicky and Eboue on the wings and Arshavin and Eduardo pushed up front together.

However they line-up, Sunderland probably won't have to face a barage of crosses or long punts into the box. This will be a diminutive team with Song the long 6-footer. Arsenal may win tons of corner kicks, but I would be stunned if they were to convert any of them. Expect lots of CWs, but very few SCs.  On the other hand, Reid may have a big day if he gets the chance to aim crosses at Bent and Jones (and Turner et al coming up from the back).

Blog Roundtable

Talking Chelsea and two-gamers with my friend, and fantasy football newbie, Tundra United.  After the jump.

Fantasy Injury Focus - Chelsea

Yes, no, maybe, no, no, yes, no, yes, maybe, maybe, yes

I want nothing more than to break down the injury situation this week in a clear and useful fashion. I'm afraid that I won't be able do it though. There are so many injuries to so many high-profile players - and so many questions hanging around the extent of some of these injuries - that I know I'm going to miss something. But bear with me as I try to sort it out for myself, by myself and with the help of some roundtable participants.

I guess we have to start with Chelsea, and specifically Drogba. He's the top scorer in the game, and on more than half our teams... at a significant discount. And he's going to be out for three weeks with a broken rib. Or will he? All the reports seem to find their source at The Sun and I'm going to wait until I hear something more official before making permanent changes to my team.

But that being said, if he's out for three weeks he could miss Wolves, @Arsenal and maybe @Citeh. Then he could play up to five relatively easy matches - Everton, Portsmouth, @West Ham, @Birmingham, Fulham - before he would miss a month of games to the African Cup of Nations. Of course this all depends on when he could play with a broken rib, if he indeed has a broken rib, and when he would be required to join up with the Ivory Coast team ahead of the competition. The uncertainty of it all is maddening, but hopefully we'll know more as the week progresses.

In all honesty, I'm leaning towards sell. If the reports are true, I'm likely to gamble that I can make up enough points to compensate for the lack of Drogba in my team. And then I'll be hoping that there are some attractive arrivals in the January transfer window - paging David Villa - that I can rebuild my team and/or buy Drogba back.

Drogba, however, isn't the only Chelsea injury. Bosingwa is out for months, Ashley Cole is suffering from a shin fracture, Lampard is out for weeks with a thigh injury... breathe... Terry and Ballack are doubts with ankle and knee injuries, respectively, and Deco came out of Portugal's playoff with a groin strain. Anelka becomes the must-have Chelsea player for fantasy, but with Wolves' struggles and the Arsenal match looming, I wouldn't be surprised to see the likes of Alex, Kalou (a potential fantasy steal!) and Malouda play this weekend. A bit more of a stretch - but not that much - would have Joe Cole (another fantasy value) at the point of the midfield. Maybe Ferreira, also around 6, at left back? Though Zhirkov played for Russia, so he may be an option as well.

Injuries and International Friendlies

The Injury Files: Monday November 16

You have to imagine that a lot of high profile managers in the Prem are F U R I O U S to say the least after a spate of injuries to important players that happened in matches that meant exactly nothing in the grander scheme of things.

The biggest of the injuries came to RvP and Drogba (granted Drogba's injury theoretically came during the ManYoo clash) who likely face 6 and 3 weeks on the shelf respectively. 

Elsewhere, Lamps and JT were both out of England's friendly with Brazil (at least they didn't pick up their injuries in a match that meant nothing but regardless, they seem likely to be crocked for Chelsea's next match if not more).  Just in case you thought things couldn't get more Arsenal-like at Chelsea, it looks like Ballack has some sort of knee infection concern that may or may not keep him out for a while.

At Eastlands, the news is no better with MPet picking up a fresh problem with his knee. 

What do I take from all this? 1) it's a good thing for them that CHE are playing Wolves next weekend; 2) Kalou, Deco, and Joe Cole just got a lot more interesting; and 3) ditto Eduardo.

Just some items to contemplate as you get ready to resume the fantasy season this coming weekend...

Cheers - Neal

Monday Morning Manager

International week, so who knows if anything from this week past will carry over through the break.  But just in case, here are some impressions of the - disappointing, for most - week that was, after the jump.

Caption Competition

Chelsea's captain John Terry jumps into the arms of team-mat... AFP/Getty Images - Sunday November 8, 06:32 PM

Remember, this is a family-friendly site.

The Barn Door Live - Nov. 7

Here's my squad for the weekend
Given, Verm, Heiti, Gibbs, Fab4, MPet, DDunn, BFAR, Drogs, Bellamy, Campbell

and here's Jeremy's team for those interested...
Given, Verm, Heiti, Gibbs, Emerton, BFAR, DDunn, Collison, RvP, Bellamy, Drogs

Looking ahead to next week (OK, two weeks from now since there's another International break coming up next weekend) - Rovers, Fulham, Everton, and Hull are all 2-gamers.  None are exceptionally exciting based on the quality of the clubs and the match-ups (Everton - the best of the group - is on the road twice with one being ManYoo; Rovers - both on the road - against teams that are playing better than they are; Fulham is on the road against Brum who aren't terrible at home and home to Rovers; and Hull are, well, Hull.

Outside of the two-gamers Chelsea host Wolves and Stoke host Pompey.

Live chat after the jump.

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

You can check either the link above or yesterday's The Week Ahead post for a complete listing of those missing through suspension after the Premier League's refs.  As I mentioned yesterday, the interesting opportunities that will result from suspensions are O'Shea being a line-up definite and Frazier Campbell deputizing for Kenwyne Jones.  Hard to imagine guys like Nigel Reo-Coker or Paul Robinson (the defender) doing much for their fantasy managers regardless of the opportunity to start.

Elsewhere in injury news...
Looks like Rovers have kicked the H1N1 thing and are fully healthy - that may put Brett Emerton's place in the midfield in doubt (although I'm not sure Big Sam actually knows what his best line-up is).  I'd downgrade Emerton from "very promising risk" to "a big gamble."

K2 and Kolo back for Citeh making both expensive but potentially strong picks.

Sunderland have no holding midfielder with Cana suspended and Cattermole still injured.  Could be a good thing for the Spurs attack who are likely to get Lennon back and will definitely get Defoe back.  SeaBass is out but Woody may be ready to go.

Clichy, Bendtner, Traore, Vela, Denilson, and Walcott are out for Arsenal - the big question is "which of Rosicky, Nasri, and EdS are likely to join the clearly first choice Cesc, Song, Arshavin, RvP, and (seemingly) Abou Diaby?"  Nasri has been playing well but he's only just returning from injury.  EdS would be a more natural fit as a third player up top in the 4-3-3.  Rosicky has probably performed the best of the three thus far.  Hard to handicap this race so I'm going to stay away.

For ManYoo - Rio is out but Vidic is back.  Berbs is good to go (make your own joke about whether that's actually a positive or negative for ManYoo).  Park is also out.

For Chelsea's part, it looks like Zhirkov and Bosingwa are the only injury doubts meaning that the only real questions are related to which midfielders will start.  Lamps aside, your guess is as good as mine...

No word yet on Carlton Cole for this week's match.  Zavon Hines would be an interesting play but probably not worth it unless news comes out that CCole is definitely out.  Just so I have it written down somewhere, I think Hines is going to be a nice solid fantasy player at some point in the next couple of years.

No AJ or Murphy for Fulham and Duffman (who has been a good fantasy player) is facing the dreaded "late fitness test" - I'm not a big fan of Fulham on the road and even less so with those guys missing.  The only guy this really benefits is Clint Dempsey who is almost certain to start in an attacking role.

OK - that's about it.  Good luck with your Friday moves and we'll look forward to seeing you on the Live Chat tomorrow.

Cheers - Neal

The Week Ahead

My apologies to one and all for the lateness of the post.  The combination of the deciding game of the World Series last night (the bad guys won) and all-day meetings today have left me scrambling a bit for this column.  Now, by scrambling, I don't mean that I'm scrambling for things to write - anyone who has been reading for any length of time will realize that I'm rarely at a loss for words - but rather for time. 

I do have two topics that I want to cover before I get to the recommendations...

Bargain Shopping

So, if I want Bellamy for the weekend - which I do - that leaves me 6.03 for a fourth middie or defender.  Who to choose?  And of course, the caveat here is that whomever I pick will be wrong.  The candidates after the jump.

Matchday Open Thread

Just comments stream today.

Diamanti on the bench. Milner injured, but Petrov passed fit.

Good luck, all.

Clichy suffers stress fracture

We won't see Bendtner or Clichy again for a month

via Sky Sports:
Arsenal defender Gael Clichy is facing a month on the sidelines after suffering a suspected stress fracture in his lower back.

The left-back is an integral member of Arsene Wenger's first XI but has been forced onto the treatment table after sustaining the injury.

France international Clichy will miss Wednesday's UEFA Champions League clash with AZ Alkmaar and the next European clash against Standard Liege on 24th November.

The problem will also keep him out of the reckoning for the forthcoming Premier League games against Wolves, Sunderland and London rivals Chelsea.

Gibbs is 6.23 and looks a good bet all of a sudden.

Also, with Bendtner out for a similar length of time, a Premier League fantasy manager's eyes will wander to Eduardo (8.28) or the perpetually returning Rosicky (9.06).

Monday Morning Manager

Good week for me -- great Saturday then gave most of it back on Sunday. 107 points with five 2-gamers. Not that I'm expecting much from them.  More on that after the jump.

Bassong injury blow for Tottenham

In happier times

via Yahoo!UK/Eurosport:
Tottenham's injury problems show no signs of abating, as Sebastien Bassong has revealed he is likely to be out for a month with a hamstring problem.

The classy Cameroon defender played the entire 90 minutes of Spurs' 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday, but manager Harry Redknapp said after the game that Bassong had picked up an injury.

Redknapp did not elaborate on the nature of the problem, but Bassong explained that a hamstring injury is likely to rule him out until December.

"It's not good news. It's a hamstring. I'll be out maybe four or five weeks. It just feels like my muscle is gone," he said in the Daily Mirror.
Anyone have him at enough of a discount that they'll take the zeros for a month or so?

The Barn Door Live - Oct 31

Happy Halloween Everyone. Great match to start off the Premier League morning/day/evening. Looking forward to it.

My line-up is Given, Verm, Heiti, Dunne, Lamps, Kranj (GRR as he starts on the bench), Kightly, Milner, Drogba, Gabby, and Diamanti. Not my favorite line-up ever but I wasn't too excited by the alternatives either.

Looking ahead to next weekend - Arsenal get Wolves; Liverpool host Birmingham; Citeh host Burnley; and Villa continue the fantasy-manager-friendly portion of their schedule by hosting Bolton. ManYoo play Chelsea so probably not a bad idea to ditch players from both of those sides (other than those you have at a significant discount).

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

So, what to make of the return of David Bentley - will he finally fit into what Spurs do? Will he be the same unmitigated disaster that made him one of the worst transfer buys of the last 5 years?  Will he even start? Or is 'arry just using this as a smoke screen while planning to start Jenas, Kranj, Palacios, and THud in some arrangement?

My guess is that he'll play but certainly not be up to the standards he set while at Rovers for fantasy performance (no guarantee he'll take kicks which Kranj has been doing).  Overall analysis? He'll be OK but probably won't be worth the price which is still high (10.83).  If you're into risk, there's definitely upside at that price but there's also a fair amount of downside.

Elsewhere in this match - Arsenal will likely recall Almunia as their keeper as Mannone has certainly not lived up to his first few performances.  Walcott and Rosicky with definitely miss out with Nasri not likely to start twice in a row coming off of his long-term absence.

Elsewhere around the league - ManYoo has a bit of a crisis going at the back where it seems likely that at least one, if not both, of Vidic and Rio will be out.  Evans becomes much more attractive in this case.  Ordinarily, I'd wonder if their defence would hold but with H1N1-infested Rovers the opposition, I think things will be OK.  Evans, Rafael, and O'Shea are all probably strong bets at a much more reasonable price than the average ManYoo defender in most weeks.  Oh yeah, Fletch and Park are also both out and Giggs "has a knock" for whatever that's worth.

At Chelsea the big concern is over the health of Ivanovic who will undergo the dreaded "late fitness test" which is code for "make fantasy managers crazy" - I'd stay away from both he and his likely replacements as we have no idea what will come of this.

Another question mark, this one for Burnley is Jensen.  If he starts at home against Hull both he and Mears are interesting plays.  If not, neither of them are nearly as interesting.  The problem? Jensen's status seems unclear.  I'd stay away here too.

Seems like Jummy is still hurting as his body adjusts to playing footie again.  He didn't train on Thursday and I'd be very careful about starting him.  Probably best to wait until a) Hull are at home; and b) until he has a clean bill of health.

AJ and Gerrard will both miss LIV/FUL as will new boy Aquilani (virus) and Glen Johnson (calf).  Not good news for Liverpool as this match has "trap" and/or "let down" written all over it.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sorensen is likely to be back for Stoke after Simonsen deputized while Sorensen was out with the flu.  More rumors of Tuncay "forcing his way into the starting line-up" but I'll believe it when I see it.  Sorensen immediately becomes a strong option in net given the weak opposition.

DBent is a question mark for Sunderland and I'm pretty sure no fantasy manager feels badly for him after the stinker that he posted last weekend for lots of us who had him.  The doubt reduces his value while at the same time not increasing that of Frazier Campbell enough to make him worthwhile.

Not too much else of note other than Scott Parker and Jermain Defoe's suspensions.  Best of luck in your selections and I'll look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow for the Live Chat.

Early Doors

As we edge closer and closer to decision day, I am becoming increasingly frustrated with my line-up and frantic in my trade ideas. I think you'll see from the roundtable - after the jump - that I've come to a conclusion, but that Neal is sensibly (and probably in my best interests) trying to talk me back from it.

But before we get to that, just a few other items of note.

1. I want to remind everyone that I'm tagging what I read using the 'fantasyepl' tag on Delicious. You can see the latest on Delicious or down the center column. Mostly it's small injury and form related news that doesn't warrant a full post (and/or will likely be covered in TWA or I&S posts) but that could be relevant for your team selection. For example:
2. I've started a Twitter list of English Premier League and specifically fantasy English Premier League sources. Feel free to follow it, and more importantly feel free to suggest other feeds to add. You can reach me at @jspitzberg or in the comments section of this blog. Or on the Fantasy English Premier League Facebook page, etc... You get the idea.

3. My basketball site, is coming out of the gate. Check it out if you are interested in youth basketball in the United States or are looking for tips/drills/advice on how to play the game and play the game better anywhere in the world.

Now, on with the fun...

The Week Ahead (with more Baseball)

So, here I am recovering from a pretty rotten weekend.  Let's recap.  I managed to pick all around the points (Cesc instead of MPet, Milner instead of Gabby, Stuck with Bily over Kightly, etc.) and ended up with 65 points or so.  Arsenal couldn't capitalize on a weekend where ManYoo got outplayed and beaten; and the rest of the pretenders (Citeh, Villa, Sunderland, Everton, and Spurs) all dropped points.  My own footie match was canceled because the field was saturated with water from the night before even though the actual day of the match was a beautiful day for a match.  Throw in some ugly fantasy NFL results and top it off with a lackluster game from my NFL team (the Eagles) on Monday even though they won. Even worse? I have had to wait an entire week for my baseball team to get started with the World Series.

Speaking of baseball, I'm writing this during Game 1 of the World Series so you'll be getting sporadic updates from the game [Phillies loaded the bases with 2 outs in the first inning but couldn't get a run across - so far so good since the Yankees pitcher is supposed to be the second coming].

Hopefully, this week is off to a better start.  Arsenal's reserves/youth team beat Liverpool's reserve/youth team in Carling Cup action.  Not the biggest news ever but I'm hoping it means that things are about to turn around.

[3 up and 3 down for the Yankees in the bottom of the first - nice start from Cliff Lee - I like it]

Two gamers

It's official.

WHU/AST on Wednesday.  Adjust your teams accordingly.

Blog Roundtable

Because you haven't demanded it, the return of your least favorite blog feature.

[12:57] JSpitzberg: ok...
[12:58] JSpitzberg: kpb/sonko --> sidwell/mears
[12:58] Neal J Thurman: who does Mears have this week?
[12:59] JSpitzberg: home to hull
[12:59] Neal J Thurman: seems reasonable
[13:00] Neal J Thurman: although Sidwell got killed in F365's winners and losers feature for just not being very good for pretty much the entire duration of his post-Reading career which makes it hard to pull the trigger on that today
[13:01] JSpitzberg: ha
[13:01] JSpitzberg: that's what made me look at him
[13:01] Neal J Thurman: the reverse Sports Illustrated/Madden Jinx?
[13:01] JSpitzberg: buy low
[13:01] Neal J Thurman: if those guys tend to start underperforming as they regress to the mean, then Sidwell should be better as he progresses back toward the mean?
[13:02] JSpitzberg: sonko @ 3 something....
[13:02] JSpitzberg: hate that
[13:03] JSpitzberg: enablers should be a buck
[13:03] JSpitzberg: hate a midfield enabler too
[13:03] JSpitzberg: but at 2 per match...
[13:03] JSpitzberg: that's 4 v. sonko's 0
[13:03] JSpitzberg: assuming you don't bring him back having kept a cleanie
[13:03] JSpitzberg: then i like mear's matchup and return
[13:03] JSpitzberg: i dunno
[13:04] JSpitzberg: don't like anything about this
[13:05] Neal J Thurman: I'm hoping to just write this weekend off as picking around the points (DBent over Saha, Cesc over MPet, took risk on Bily, etc) and try not to stress about it
[13:05] Neal J Thurman: Milner looked a good bet but did f*ck-all
[13:06] JSpitzberg: yup
[13:06] JSpitzberg: but gotta ride him through the 2 games
[13:06] Neal J Thurman: yup
[13:07] JSpitzberg: then maybe he becomes bily?
[13:07] JSpitzberg: so sidwell becomes someone decent...
[13:07] JSpitzberg: well 1/2 decent... as well
[13:07] Neal J Thurman: will have to see what the prognosis for Bily is (between health and Pienaar coming back)
[13:08] JSpitzberg: and osman being out
[13:08] Neal J Thurman: right
[13:09] Neal J Thurman: Everton a bit of a mess really
[13:09] JSpitzberg: and of course saha scores
[13:09] JSpitzberg: after we all loaded him up and then bailed
[13:10] Neal J Thurman: yup
[13:11] JSpitzberg: collison interesting
[13:11] JSpitzberg: but that might mean gutting kranc instead of kpb
[13:11] JSpitzberg: and i'm 1 for 1 betting against Ars ;-)
[13:13] Neal J Thurman: guys who take kicks always seem to be a good bet against ARS - lots of bad penalties and scrambles at the back that lead to corners
[13:13] Neal J Thurman: penalties = fouls
[13:13] JSpitzberg: some of both
[13:13] Neal J Thurman: but the occasional penalty too
[13:20] JSpitzberg: kightly off the schnide...
[13:20] JSpitzberg: into the black for the year ;-)
[13:21] JSpitzberg: @stoke (wouldn't have him this week anyway)...
[13:21] JSpitzberg: ars (taking kicks against)....
[13:21] JSpitzberg: @che (ouch)
[13:21] JSpitzberg: brm, bol, @spurs, @man, burn, @liv, mac
[13:22] JSpitzberg: *sigh*
[13:28] Neal J Thurman: gonna be tough to pick him - especially now that he's shown that he's a big YC guy
[13:29] JSpitzberg: but for the cost...
[13:29] JSpitzberg: gonna be hard to stay away :-(
[13:29] Neal J Thurman: true


A little in the way of apologies and self-promotion. 

I've been missing 'round these parts for the better part of a month and I'm sorry.  I started several Monday Morning Manager posts, but didn't finish any of them.  And while I've continued to pour everything I could into playing the game, I just didn't have the time or attention span to also coherently and entertainingly write about it very much.  The reason is iHoops - a new venture my company has launched together with the NCAA and NBA (some of the big boys in the sports world here). And tonight is our coming out party! The following commercial will debut at halftime of TNT's broadcast of the Celtics/Cavs game and we're really excited about it.

We're going to be adding a lot to the site very quickly, so if you are interested, please check back often. Otherwise, thank you for your understanding about why blogging has been a little light. Hopefully I can get back up to speed quickly, maybe with more smaller items and fewer of the big features - which Neal is better at anyway.