The Week Ahead

Funny that on today of all days, SAF was asked questions about whether the group stages of the Champions League were just a cash grab or if there was any purpose behind them.  Well, I have to say that for FC Zurich there is without a doubt a purpose behind the group stages.  In the same way that every American who was present for the World Cup draw against eventual champions Italy in 2006 will never forget it because of the quality of the opponents (and because we were jobbed out of the deserved victory) - Zurich supporters will not forget their famous win over AC Milan at the San Siro today.  OK, maybe Milan aren't the team they have been in years past but Zurich have NEVER been that club so a win over the famous Italians on their home turf is a big deal.

The cynics who talk about the futility of supporting a team that has no chance to win the title (whether we are talking about the Premier League, Champions League, or any other sporting endeavor) simply don't get it.  For all of the Manchester United supporters (regardless of what you think about their "right" to support the Red Devils) there may be championships but there is mostly disappointment - not winning every year, not winning every week, not winning by enough, not winning with enough style - you get the idea.  Think about the fact that supporters of FC Zurich or Burnley have already had one of their best years ever.  Burnley was promoted to the Prem and then they beat ManYoo.  My guess is that they'll be talking about this year for years and years.  Meanwhile, ManYoo supporters - despite winning last season and being in first position now - have bemoaned the loss of CRon, been concerned with the composition of their squad, and NOT won the Champions League.  In short ManYoo supporters have had something of a forgettable 2009.

Just something to think about the next time you're questioning your choice to follow a team that doesn't contend for honors every season.  Keep your expectations reasonable and enjoy it when your club far exceeds those expectations and know that your counterparts who support far more fashionable clubs won't be able to do the same.

OK, on to the analysis...

Save money. Live better.

Steven Gerrard is currently 21.33 and has been producing well, but there are cheaper alternatives producing better results, especially across the front line. But to get those players - Rooney, van Persie, Kuyt, etc - you'll need that Gerrard money. So as a quick experiment in lieu of the Monday Morning Manager - for now as I just don't have the time to write the MMM at the moment - let's see if we can put together a half-decent midfield for this week's matches spending no more than 21.33.

Benitez returns home

via YahooUK!/Eurosport:
Christian Benitez has flown back to Ecuador, after the Birmingham striker's father was involved in a car accident.

Blues did not hesitate in giving the forward permission to return to his homeland and manager Alex McLeish admits it is doubtful as to whether Benitez will be available to face Burnley at the weekend.
I've been touting Chucho for a while now and finally picked him last week. He returned an honest 8pts for and investment of under 7 so I was happy enough. I had already sold him on the barn door, however, to try to boost my forward line. So best wishes for a speedy recovery and we'll be excited to consider him again upon his return.

How did you do this weekend?

I had a mixed weekend.  I got contributions from most every player, but had two holes in my team - Hutton and Gomez - and didn't have Torres, and the less likely Keane.  So another weekend of consolidating my stranglehold on the midtable.

Still Given to play today, but I feel like we "all" have him.

Given - ??
Hutton - 0
Vermaelen - 9.5
Heitinga - 12
Gomez - 0
Gerrard - 15.5
O'Hara - 6.5
Lennon - 6
Chucho - 8
Defoe - 11
Drogba - 14
82.5 with Given to play

A fuller wrap-up to come in the Monday Morning Manager after MAC/WHU. But for now let us know how you did in the comments.

Barn Door Live - Sept. 26th

FYI - My team is Given, Verm, Heitinga, SeaBass, Lamps, O'Hara, Lennon, Jordi Gomez, Hunt, Drogba, Rooney

Injuries and Suspensions

Here we go again.  For those who want a quick summary you can find the widget in the middle column if you scroll down a bit.  They aren't perfect but it's about as comprehensive a resource as you can have in one place.  One thing I don't know is if they follow the American convention for the meanings of terms like "doubtful" (25% likely to play); "questionable" (50% likely to play) and "probable" (75% likely to play).  That's generally how I interpret those words after years and years of being trained that way by NFL injury reports (just thought I'd let you know).

Here's the quick rundown of each match, the injury and suspension situation, and what it means to you, the fantasy manager...

Mmm, delicious!

So here's a new feature for the blog.

I'm going to be tagging what I read on the web using the social bookmarking service,  You can follow along here, or better yet, I'll be including the links down the sidebar (middle column).  Some of these links will surely find its way into blog posts but others may be quick hits, nuggets, or baseless conjecture from an unverified source.  

Regardless I'll be reading it, so I'll be sharing it.

The Week Ahead

So, apparently my choice to keep Shay Given wasn't the greatest ever. Who saw Darren Fletcher scoring a brace coming ahead of time? If it had been Rooney scoring more than the one, I'd have been completely good with Given's performance but it wasn't to be. A very interesting weekend though. It would appear that ManYoo will have trouble defending their title. Assuming that injuries don't make a major impact on what comes next then Chelsea will be a cut above ManYoo, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Citeh. I can't say I have much of a feel for which of those four clubs will fall out of the Big Four. Here's something to think about before you answer - which teams are the most dependent on one or two players and therefore the most likely to be impacted by injury?

Maybe I'm just being biased and finding scenarios that are advantageous to Arsenal but I have a hard time seeing ManYoo doing anything of note if they lost Rooney for an extended stretch (which wouldn't be a shock given his injury history). Ditto Liverpool if they lost either Nando or Gerrard (and do any of us have a hard time envisioning Nando getting hurt again?). I'm perfectly willing to admit that neither Arsenal nor Citeh have a single player who is as consistently good as Rooney (this year), Gerrard, and Nando have been. What they do have in place of consistent stars are a bunch of well-above-average players. For instance, I could easily see Arsenal doing just fine (again) if Cesc, Arshavin, or RvP were to go down and obviously Citeh were very competitive with K2, Robinho, and Tevez either out or at something less than full strength.

Does this mean ManYoo or Liverpool should be the odds on favorites to miss the Champions League spots? Of course not. What it does mean is that they are likely more vulnerable than you think. They could get lucky and be relatively injury-free for the entire season (it happens). If they're not though, it could become clear very quickly which team won't make the grade.

OK, here is the in no way clunky transition from my opening ramble/rant to the analysis of the week ahead in fantasy footie... after the jump.

Early Early Doors

Happier times for Paterson and Burnley fans of all ages.

Too much news to wait until tomorrow, so here we go, extra early.

The most horrendous bout of cramp

Just a flesh wound.

If "the most horrendous bout of cramp." isn't your new team name, I'll be very disappointed in you.

from Sporting Life:
Didier Drogba has been given the all-clear to resume training on Thursday after being carried off against Tottenham on Sunday with a calf injury.

The Ivory Coast international is set to figure in the squad for the trip to Wigan on Saturday after a scan revealed there was no serious damage to his calf...

"Didier had a scan and there's no problem with his calf," confirmed Chelsea's assistant boss Ray Wilkins. "It was just the most horrendous bout of cramp.
Here's the original story from It's also interesting to note that Joe Cole and Yuri Zhirkov will start Chelsea's Carling Cup match against QPR.

So Chelsea's midfield just got even more crowded and even more difficult to predict.

Monday Morning Manager

Two of the week's stars, Brad Friedel and Fernando Torres

Monday Morning Manager, part the second after the jump.  Sunday's matches were reviewed here.

Givet update

Defender Gael Givet injured a knee at Goodison Park and definitely will not feature [in Rovers' Carling Cup third-round tie at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night.]
Update from
Blackburn Rovers could be without defender Gael Givet for a lengthy period after the Frenchman sustained a knee injury in yesterday's defeat at Everton.

Manager Sam Allardyce is concerned at the extent of Givet's injury and is awaiting news.  "He fell on his knee, we aren't sure of the extent of the damage yet," he told the club's official website.

"But it is a little worrying that it isn't a kick so he may have twisted or tweaked a ligament."

Bassong given all-clear

Tottenham defender Sebastien Bassong has been given the all-clear by a head and neck specialist after suffering concussion during yesterday's 3-0 defeat at Chelsea.
Which is great news for Spurs as he's their only fit specialist at center back (with Corluka as the jack of all defensive trades). It's also gold for fantasy managers as Spurs have a nice run of games and Bassong is cheap again after the mauling Spurs got from Chelsea. I also found this interesting:
Redknapp has already confirmed that Portsmouth loanee Jamie O'Hara will return to Tottenham in January.

"We will definitely get Jamie back as soon as we can," Redknapp said.

"I like Jamie as a player and I didn't want him to go but Portsmouth insisted on it as part of the deal to sell Kevin-Prince Boateng to them so we had no choice."
Interesting behind the scenes look as Spurs had to loan O'Hara out for Pompey to take KPB. That's crazy talk! Though to be fair KPB has looked dangerous for Pompey. However, it is O'Hara who is the class of that side and they'll have to spend big petro-dollars(euros?) to replace him in January.

Monday Morning Manager

What a weekend of football! Derbies, nail-biters, blow-outs, sure-things, surprises and more. The Manager looks back to help you look ahead. Part the first after the jump. The rest soon.

The Barn Door Live - Sept. 19

As a point of reference for all of you, here is my team for the weekend...

GK: Shay Given
D: Verm, Wilko, Givet
M: Lamps, BFAY, Hunt, O'Hara
F: Drogs, Roonaldo, Tuncay

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

Burnley/Sunderland - Hard to imagine that the early match is going to be worthy of being on TV just about everywhere the Prem can be seen.  Not much news that will make fantasy managers scramble to switch up their sides either.

Arsenal/Wigan - RvP should be a go but Arshavin and Almunia are still out; Go with Mannone at your own risk but Cesc is always more valuable when Arshavin isn't present as he is the undisputed fulcrum of the attack.  All hands are on deck for Wigan.

Bolton/Stoke - Elmander is back; Gardner will probably play some; Lawrence and Eth should inject some attacking inspiration for Stoke while the man who is expected to cash in (that's Big Fat James Beattie) is a major doubt.  Fuller is even more interesting with Lawrence and Eth available to help get him the ball.

Villa/Pompey - They wrote an entire paragraph that said little other than Carew MAY get a start - not sure why they bothered.  Equally little to say about Pompey.

Hull/Brum - Fun news that JVoH may get his first start.  I'm not sure I'd do anything about this other than having a smile on my face on Saturday knowing that it is going to happen..  No word what it might mean for Jozy.  Brum is pretty much an entire team of injuries - Faddy, Queudrue, Jerome, Vignal, Bent, Taylor, Carsley, and Johnson.  Not exactly Manchester United's Treble Winning side but still going to be a lot to overcome.  Might be worth making some investments in Hull beyond Stephen Hunt.

WHU/Liverpool - Sounds like Diamanti might start but I'm not sure if you want to pick him up for the Liverpool match (might be worth watching for the future though); Masch should be back for Liv which is good for the value of Liverpool defenders and Reina but virtually worthless as news in its own right.  Aurelio is also fully fit but I'm not sure he'll actually play so that news may only be interesting to the Aurelio family.

ManYoo/Citeh - Rio seems unlikely meaning that Jonny Evans will slot into the "too expensive to consider based on the match-up" slot that Ferdinand previously held.  Berbs and Fletch are both likely but again, not sure I'd spend much time worrying about them until the competition gets easier.  For Citeh - looks like Robinho and Ireland will play while K2, RSC, and Carlito will all sit.  Amazing that Citeh will be lacking for strikers given all of their spending.

Wolves/Fulham - The interesting news here is that Kightly should be back.  I'm not sure if this match will be available on TV here but if I have a chance, I'm going to watch at least some of it so I have a better feel for whether he will be as productive in the Prem as he was in the Championship (is he another Ashley Young? or another Chris Eagles?).  Fullham appears to be fully healthy.  Not too much else of interest here unless you were thinking of starting Jody Craddock (and I'm not sure why you would be).

Everton/Rovers - Neill isn't ready yet, Bilyaletdinov is a doubt with a groin injury; PNev is out for a month so really not much of note to report from the Everton side; Rovers appear to be fully fit with Benni making it back from his ankle injury.

Chelsea/Spurs - A Joe Cole sighting against Porto (plus Deco's return to health) throws Chelsea's midfield into even more selection chaos (outside of Lamps) - you have to assume there's only a 50% chance than any given CHE midfielder outside of Lamps will start as Essien, Ballack, Deco, JCole, Malouda, and Mikel fight for 3 spots.  Drogs is back from Champions League suspension so expect him to start.  On the Spurs side of the pitch there isn't much to report other than a Gomes/Cudicini decision (you should have either vs. Chelsea at the Bridge) and Bale will be back (presumably to the bench if he even gets that far).

Good luck and remember not to make any rash Friday trades.

See you tomorrow morning for the Live Chat.

Cheers - Neal

Early Doors

Your early look at the news ahead of tomorrow's team press-conferences, after the jump.

The Week Ahead

You'll have to excuse me if my heart hasn't exactly calmed back down after Arsenal's first 5 minutes in Belgium today. The only thing that kept me even close to sane was switching back over to the "headline match-up" between Inter and Barca - if ever there was a match that could lower your heart rate then this was it. I believe my one sort-of word summary of it to Jeremy over instant message was "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" (although I probably had a few more z's in there). It is why, despite my respect for the accomplishments of both, I really can't stand either Serie A teams or Jose Mourinho. Both have been incredibly effective over time but that doesn't make me any more interested in spending 2 hour increments of my life watching them.

Speaking of Arsenal-related stories (as I so often do), here's my take on the Citeh loss last weekend. All of the summer talk in the press and among the supporters was about the need for more defenders and a better holding midfielder. While I'd never turn down additional help at either position, somehow the big gap between the pipes never really came up. Almunia wasn't entirely responsible for Arsenal's demise but he certainly didn't help and could be classified as a decidedly negative influence on the outcome as far as the visitors were concerned.

Now, you might think that this was about to set me off on a rant about Wenger or Arsenal's financial situation. Instead of that, I'm going to ask a more basic question about the value of goalkeepers. Why is it that players so able to influence the outcome of a match are so undervalued? I don't have specific statistics on goalkeeper transfer fees but if you consider that the value in strikers is that they can turn a match by putting the ball in the net then why wouldn't a keeper who can turn a match by keeping that same ball OUT of the net be equally valuable? The fact that Given, Schwarzer, Friedel, and Howard have all switched teams for a combined sum of less than what Spurs paid for David Bentley to sit on the bench for the last year and a half. If any of those gentlemen were at Arsenal you'd have to think that Arsenal would have at least 4 points for their travels to Manchester the last two weeks rather than having nothing to show for those two trips.

The final point in my pre-analysis digression is a reference to the famous baseball book "Moneyball". I won't talk about the baseball part of the book but the underlying lesson was that for someone trying to build a sports team on a limited budget, the best approach is to figure out what skill or set of skills other teams are under-valuing and then invest in those skills as opposed to investing scarce resources in the same traits that everyone else is paying (or even over-paying) for. My point? If you're Arsenal and you're financially challenged compared to your rivals or you're a bottom of the table team without any oil money attempting to bring you up to the top - why aren't you investing heavily in an excellent keeper at £5 million as opposed to trying to compete for a slightly better-than-average midfielder like Stuart Downing at £12 million? What would you rather have? Brad Friedel and £7 million in the bank or Downing? Granted, the same team ended up with both but what would you consider the better use of money?

OK, enough of my ranting, on to the analysis of the upcoming week in Fantasy Footie, after the jump.

Double blow for Birmingham City

In football, one day you are in and the next day... you are out.

via Birmingham Mail and hat tip to the Fantasy Football Scout:

BLUES have been dealt more injury blows as their fears over James McFadden and Franck Queudrue were confirmed.

The pair both suffered [muscle] tears in the derby defeat by Villa and are probably set to be out of action for around a month...

Because of Queudrue joining the casualties – among them are Stephen Carr, Cameron Jerome, Marcus Bent, Gregory Vignal and Martin Taylor – either Scott Dann or Giovanny Espinoza will figure on Humberside.

Queudrue has been the star of a very stingy Birmingham City team and they'll miss him tremendously. McFadden's injury perhaps changes their attacking formation if McLeish replaces him with Chucho Benitez. The Blues are at Hull City this weekend, so this could be a match they've penciled in as a must 3-points. I could see them going to a 4-4-2 with Chucho partnering O'Connor from the start.

Adebayor hit with two FA charges

We won't be seeing something like this again for a month


Emmanuel Adebayor will miss the Manchester derby after not appealing the violent conduct charge lodged against him by the Football Association.

Adebayor had until 6pm Wednesday to respond to the charge and in accepting it, has effectively condemned himself to a three-match ban.

via Yahoo!UK/Eurosport:

The Football Association have hit Emmanuel Adebayor with two charges following his stormy performance in Manchester City's win over Arsenal on Saturday.

Adebayor is facing a three-match ban for violent conduct for the incident involving Robin van Persie, while the City striker is likely to face an additional punishment for the celebration that followed his goal in the 4-2 win...

"Under the fast-track disciplinary process, Adebayor has been charged with violent conduct following an incident with Robin van Persie, which resulted in the Arsenal player receiving facial injuries.

"Referee Mark Clattenburg has advised the FA that he did not see this incident, but has confirmed that had he done so, he would have sent Adebayor off for violent conduct. The player has until 6pm on Wednesday evening to respond to the charge...

Unless the Togo international can successfully argue his case, he is almost certain not to be available for City at least until their trip to Wigan on October 18.

Emphasis mine.

Pending appeal, we'll be looking for a new striker in our fantasy teams forthwith.

Monday Morning Manager

Manchester City 4 - 2 Arsenal
The match everyone is talking about. The fantasy implications of a K2 suspension could be huge with Citeh really down to Bellamy in attack. Maybe a chance for Petrov, though we'll have to wait and see how Robinho and Ireland are rated for the Manchester derby. K2 scored for the fourth consecutive match but only returned seven points due to a silly yellow and SWP's inability to finish what was an amazing run and cross from the big striker. I'm not sure that you want to get in on Citeh ahead of the derby - in fact, if you have the likes of K2 or Given at or close to cost you may want to get off the bus - but Bellamy and Richards could be good value beyond this weekend.

Almunia continues to challenge Tim Howard for most disappointing goalkeeper, losing double-digit points for the second week in a row. In Arshavin's absence Diaby, Fabregas, and off the bench Rosicky returned points and RvP was back on form. Diaby could be an interesting play home to Wigan this weekend. Yes, he was out of his depth agains ManU, but Wigan aren't that caliber. And he'll likely be given an attacking brief with even Fabregas sitting deeper to allow Diaby to support van Persie.

Fulham 2 - 1 Everton
A match-up of two of the Premiership's European representatives, and if this were last season no doubt there would have been a lot of fantasy interest. But this season those players we relied on last year are too expensive and neither side had done much of anything to date. So in the end it's Fulham who take advantage, getting a goal from Damien Duff (Duff! Duff! Duff!) winning the game. Duff's 22pt week is almost as much as any other Fulham player has accumulated over the course of the season. And though Duff is an attractive option, his price tag isn't. Fulham have to travel to Bulgaria in midweek and then are on the road again to a better than expected (if not great themselves) Wolves team.

There's much more fantasy interest in Everton, despite their terrible form. Jack Rodwell has a very attractive price and with Neville's knee injury he should keep his midfield spot for the foreseeable future. Heitinga has been added to the system, though we'll have to wait and see what his role will be. Baines is their best fantasy player, but his price tag more than reflects that. It's incredible to me that Tim Howard is in the red for the season, but there you have it. Everton's upcoming schedule is nice - Rovers, @Pompey, Stoke, Wolves, @Bolton - but other than Rodwell as a midfield enabler, I'm not sure you want to invest in the Toffees until they prove they can turn their season around.

Birmingham City 0 - 1 Aston Villa
This was always going to be an ugly match, and so it proved. Birmingham continue to be hard to beat, but beatable none-the-less. Chucho Benitez continues to be a substitute, but Birmingham are going to need goals and I think he's going to be a starter starting this week. Birmingham play @Hull, Bolton, and @Burnley before the schedule toughens again and they're going to have to score to win these games and they'll expect points from these games. He's a gamble, but if you're looking to get in at the start of something... otherwise, Queudrue and Hart are good choices at reasonable prices.

Villa have the gift of a home game against Pompey coming up. Of course Ashley Young is the pick of the litter, but Villa's new-look defence has some promise, if not much value. Friedel, Warnock, Collins, Cuellar and Collins Dunne could get you point, but will cost you.

Tottenham Hotspur 1 - 3 Manchester United
ManU continue to dominate Spurs. If this was a litmus test for these teams the result is - same as it ever was. For fantasy managers, Rooney continues to be the man and Defoe got on the score sheet again. ManU's midfield rotation continued with Nani the surprising (to me at least) casualty. I'm thinking that like Chelsea's mid, it's not worth trying to out-guess the real manager. There are enough other players on other teams who will get the call week in and week out that it's not worth the heartache.

Spurs have to travel to Chelsea this upcoming weekend, but they follow that with Burnley, @Bolton, @Portsmouth and Stoke. Managers looking for a K2 replacement (should he be suspended) could do worse than Defoe for that stretch.

Wigan Athletic 1 - 0 West Ham United
West Ham continue to struggle while Wigan rode a second goal of the season from Rodallega and five saves from Kirkland to win. Gomez continues to collect points with three shots on target this week. However, Koumas and N'Zogbia have gone missing since week one and Martinez may have to think about bringing Scotland into the starting lineup now that he's not coming back from international duty before game time. I don't know that that is the answer, but seemingly it's his only other striker option.

Zola is also looking for attacking options as they are too reliant on CCole and he's not someone you want to put too much faith in. It was Zeb Hines' chance to play in a 4-4-2 with Cole with Diamanti on the bench and Jimenez not even that close to the match, and clearly it didn't work. Diamanti looked dangerous when he came on and would be a nice option if West Ham didn't have a pretty rough stretch of games coming up. Still, he's a bit of a free-kick wizard scoring two in a midweek reserve match and putting another one just wide against Wigan.

Sunderland 4 - 1 Hull City
Hull showcased their tendency to lose big, giving up at least three goals for the third time this season. But the story has to be Stephen Hunt's becoming a must-have midfielder. He's still just above 9 and averaging 12.2 fantasy points per week. I love players like him who are reasonably priced and get phantom points - crosses, corners won, etc - week in and week out, even when they aren't scoring goals. They're the bedrock of any successful fantasy team.

Darren Bent was back on the score sheet with a penalty kick and later in the game taking advantage of a defensive mix-up with Sonko playing him miles onside. (Sonko might develop into a nice do-no-harm defender now that he's starting for Hull rather than languishing in Stoke's reserves. He might be another good enabler if you're looking to squeeze a bit more money out of your defence - and are tired of getting points from the likes of Bassong or Wilkinson.) Sunderland play @Burnley and Wolves before @ManU and Liverpool so if you want in, get in now.

Stoke City 1 - 2 Chelsea
Tuncay's value was never going to be in Tuncay's fantasy returns was it? As expected Tuncay was on the bench for this one and didn't return any points after coming in late. However his price was "corrected" to 7 so he's no longer the incredible deal. It will still be interesting to see how Pulis uses him.

Chelsea rotated their midfield again - I'm off that bus - and had Kalou come in for Anelka and Ivanovic for Carvalho. But Drogba was again the man with a sweet first half equalizer before Malouda, perhaps fortunately, won the match at the death. Lampard scored well too.

Portsmouth 2 - 3 Bolton Wanderers
Four consecutive headers in the box, the last scoring a winning goal even though two other players were in offsides positions. Has to be Bolton, doesn't it? They pick up their first points of the season and leave Pompey stranded at the foot of the table. O'Hara came in and created both Pompey goals , from from a corner and the other from a blocked shot which unfortunately didn't return any fantasy points for him. But I do think he's going to be a good midfield option even on a horrible team... really they are Championship quality at most all positions and are heading to that level in a handbasket. I may even think about betting against them before lining up players against Hull in the coming weeks. And as much as I want to bet against Hull, that's saying something.

Liverpool 4 - 0 Burnley
This was the Benayoun show... if only Rafa would give him a regular run in the side! He played off Torres, relegating Gerrard to a deeper midfield role, and just KILLED Burnley netting three and setting up more. Until he has a regular place it's probably just too risky to bet on him, especially at his newly inflated price. Gerrad had another good game, justifying his elite status while Torres went missing as he is wont to do (as Neal likes to point out). Glen Johnson was a hot pick coming into the weekend and while he had a good day I know fantasy managers were looking for more. Kuyt also had a good game, continuing his year and a half run of being probably the most underrated player in both real and fantasy football.

Not much to say for Burnley other than Jensen continues to performe well in victory or defeat. This week he retunrs 8.5 points making ELEVEN saves while conceeding 4. If one were looking for a keeper to rest Given for the derby, one could do worse than Jensen at home to Sunderland.

Blackburn Rovers 3 - 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
David Dunn is the latest middie to be deployed in an advanced positions - Gomez, Gerrard, Milijas, Diaby, etc - and as we predicted he put up points. Though to be fair his goal was about as much his as Nugent's England goal belong to Nugent. But Big Sam is moving to a 4-5-1 to give Dunn a chance to create from the hole and his run might continue at struggling Everton next week.

Wolves needed a goal from their Austrian giant, and Maierhofer is in line for more playing time. That could help Jarvis, who has been playing really well for fantasy managers, and Kightly as he returns from injury. Milijas continues to disappoint. He was supposed to be the fulcrum of the Wolves' offense, but more often than not he comes out early in the second half. If he comes out of the dressing room at half time at all.

Knee injury woe for Neville

Passing of the torch? Neville and Rodwell against Arsenal earlier this season.

via Yahoo!UK/Eurosport:

Everton captain Phil Neville damaged knee ligaments in Sunday's 2-1 defeat at Fulham and could face a "lengthy lay-off", the club have confirmed on their website.

Neville was stretchered from the field and club physiotherapist Mick Rathbone confirmed that the player could now be out for some time.

"An MRI scan on Monday morning has confirmed our fears and it has revealed that Phil has damaged ligaments at the back of his knee," Rathbone told

So Rodwell becomes a viable, and cheap, middie. He's been playing and producing well for his price, but now he's seemingly a sure starter. Though to be fair to him, he's been a sure starter all season.

Programming note:  The Monday Morning Manager will likely be an evening affair today.

The Barn Door Live - Week 4

Just a reminder to everyone who is going to participate. I will let the first 25 of you who are commenting frequently comment without moderation (unless and until you abuse it, we follow FIFA's respect campaign here at the blog). For those of you who get to the chat after those 25 slots are full, I will be moderating comments as quickly as I can. Just remember, I do get up for bathroom breaks, the occasional beverage, and/or because my wife wants/needs something.

Looking forward to the chat.

Cheers - Neal

Last Rites

Getting the band back together. For fantasy at least.

Okay, so "Last Rites" is a terrible title for this post.  It's just some quick thoughts on a Friday night/Saturday morning.  I wanted something that played off "Early Doors" and well, it's getting late so I'm not as creative as I'd like to be.  Best to get on with the post then, but please feel free to help me name this post properly.
  • Late injury news - Schwarzer a doubt
  • An intra-blog disagreement.  Neal says,
    "No certainty of O'Hara playing for Pompey - I like the thought of him as a cheap option but I'm not willing to go too far out on a limb until I know how (and if) they intend to deploy him regularly.  More a BD option than something for this week if you ask me (and you sort of did by being here to read this column)." 
    I think O'Hara will be a direct replacement for Krancjar who moved to Spurs while O'Hara moved the other way on loan.  He seems to agree, telling that, "he has been recruited as an attacking midfielder to create and score goals...."The manager sees me as an attacking midfielder who can link up with the strikers."  I think Hart is going to put him right out against Bolton, and I'm putting him right into my fantasy team.  Hopefully I can get out ahead of the mob on this one.
  • Speaking of bargains, we've all been talking up Tuncay.  I think it's a great pick for Stoke and a big chance for fantasy managers.  However, I'm not on the bandwagon this week.  I wanted to be, believe me.  Thinking Tuncay at forward to get Glen Johnson at the back.  But in the end, I just can't do it.  I'm going to stick with Gael Givet who to this point has been getting points to spite me for not picking him.  I'm going to use that money to go back to Darren Bent.  He disappointed me last when I had him in the team week 2 (against Rovers no less, with Givet scoring) when KWynneJ took all the points.  But I can't get over my "bet against Hull" idea for this season, and especially with Hull replacing Turner with Sonko, I'm going back to the well.
Good luck to everyone and I'll see you on the other side of the weekend for the Monday Morning Manager.

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

No certainty of O'Hara playing for Pompey - I like the thought of him as a cheap option but I'm not willing to go too far out on a limb until I know how (and if) they intend to deploy him regularly.  More a BD option than something for this week if you ask me (and you sort of did by being here to read this column).

Aurelio is back in contention for Liverpool meaning that Insua's position as the de facto starter is at least somewhat at risk.  No definitive statements on what Rafa will do but certainly risk for fantasy managers.

Deco and Zhirkov (still) out for Chelsea meaning that Ballack's value goes up (less likely to be rotated).

Someone named Trevor Carson is in contention for the Keeper role at Sunderland this weekend.  In my mind the fact that there are two fitness tests (Gordon and Fulop) plus an untested player puts the value of the Sunderland keeper at almost nil.  I'd look for other options (Robbo if you're looking cheap or, more likely, just spend a bit more money and save yourself the agony of hoping that Robbo doesn't have another rotten fantasy match).

Looks like the well-named Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink will get his debut while Altidore (as predicted) will be a late decision.

Tevez definitely out for the Arsenal match and Robinho is a late fitness test - no word on MPet's prospects so I'd ignore the hope that he'll start in place of Robinho.

Arshavin is out for Arsenal but Cesc is back and, what's this? There's a 'sicky sighting.  He probably won't have anything more than a substitute role but worth mentioning since who knows when we'll get to say he has a chance to feature in an actual match again after this weekend's inevitable hamstring strain 5 minutes after coming on.

Great news for fantasy managers with SeaBass at a big discount who wanted to hold on to him despite this weekend's opposition - looks like he'll be available and will likely feature.  Ditto Kranjcar and possibly Ledley King - could be a fun match vs. the Champions.

GNev is "in contention" for ManYoo which sounds to me like he'll get no more than 60 minutes of action in the best case scenario.  Not enough to qualify for CS points and I'm not sure I'd bet on that happening regardless.  I'd stay away.  O'Shea is also out if you were thinking of going in that direction.  Implication that Valencia will start on the bench (not a statement of fact, just an implication) due to travel rigors.  I assume that means a midfield with Nani and Park on the wings.

Newcomers Dunne and Collins are both going to start for Villa in central defence as Davies will be out for a while (January?).  The interesting test for that pairing will be Benitez who appears to be at a high enough fitness level (finally) that McLeish is considering starting him for the first time. 

Finally, you have to think that Heitinga will start at right back for Everton - his reputation is certainly strong but with a trip to Fulham no easy task I'm going to watch this one before making a decision on the Barn Door the same goes for Bilyaletdinov who may also feature.

Good luck and remember not to make any rash Friday moves.  Oh yeah, for those of you here in the USA, welcome back to the NFL - going to be an ugly Sunday of TV watching between two Premier League matches and then the first afternoon and evening of the NFL.

See you tomorrow morning for the live chat.

The Week Ahead

Welcome back everyone. Every year it happens and every year it seems like an eternity. We get a brief taste of the Prem and then they stick us with an International break just when we think we're starting to get a handle on things. For European players, there is the worry of injuries and for players from Africa, Asia, Australia, North and South America there is the added immediate concern over readiness following the draining combination of playing a (presumably) highly contested match followed by one or more really long flights. This may not seem like a big deal, after all these guys ARE paid to be in shape and are among the best athletes in the world. What we too frequently forget is that they are also competing against other highly trained and skilled athletes and being even a little bit off your game due to matches/travel may be enough to give the person you are facing off against a meaningful advantage. Imagine (and this is hypothetical because I'm on a train while writing and can't access the Web to come up with an actual example) being someone like Fabio from ManYoo (a promising player and on most days a reasonable left back) and you were called up to play for Brazil against Argentina and whomever else Brazil played in midweek. While you played two matches and traveled countless miles through a bunch of airports, security lines, and first class lounges. You return a bit jet-lagged and your reward is a date with Aaron Lennon who is on top of his game and played his midweek match at home. This isn't going to tip the scales in favor of a Championship level winger trying to break down the best left back in the world but in cases where the match-up might have been pretty even it might tip it significantly in the direction of the better rested player who didn't travel.

Now, before you get overly worried wondering "hey, what happened to Evra? why won't he be marking Lennon?" Fear not, as far as I know that will be the case. I just used that example to make a point. That said, as you evaluate players like Jozy Altidore (I saw we had a couple of questions about him on the Facebook page), Tim Howard, Kenwyne Jones, Robinho (if he's healthy), Palacios, Valencia, Park Ji-Sung and the like make sure you keep in mind that they are slightly less valuable than they might be a little lackluster this week.

A few additional notes before we get to the analysis...
  1. How about Argentina looking like a huge risk not to qualify for South Africa 2010. If ever there was a rock solid case to be made against bringing in a legendary player with little-to-no managerial experience for any reason, then this has to be it. You could blame Alan Shearer's failure on lack of time for a turn-around or lack of talented players. You could similarly blame Roy Keane's failure at Sunderland on geography and the inability to attract great talent to a less-than-desireable location/less-than-fashionable club without having Man Citeh's money to throw at the problem. Hard to say the same about Argentina - we all know the talent is there and there's lots of it. To take a team led by someone widely considered the World's best player supported by exceptional talent just about everywhere on the field means that there is only one place that the finger can be pointed. Big Fat Diego we're looking at you buddy!
  2. England, WOW! My understanding is that being an England supporter (the die hard kind, not like me who is generally happy for them when they win because I follow all of the players but won't lose a wink of sleep if they lose miserably) is somewhat akin to being a Chicago Cubs fan in American Baseball. There is a prevailing sense of dread no matter the current situation. If things are looking up, then you're waiting for the other shoe to drop (and generally it has been dropping on and breaking Wayne Rooney's foot when that happens). If things are looking down, then you don't expect that they will turn around and produce a nice surprise story in a major tournament. As an outsider and not being prone to that brand of negativity I have to say that things may actually be looking up for England. I certainly wouldn't want to draw them in a group in South Africa under the Capello regime. Maybe I've had too much of the Kool-Aid and maybe too much of it depends on Lennon keeping up his current form for a sustained period of time (something he's never done before) but I'd have to consider them in at least the second tier of Cup contenders (behind Spain and Brazil but firmly in the "it wouldn't surprise me at all if they won" category). When was the last time anyone claiming to be rational thought that?
  3. Finally, for those of you on the East Coast of the United States (and specifically those easily able to get to the Washington, DC area), I want to direct you to a Soccer Film Festival that is coming to the District in mid-October. DC is the second stop for Kicking & Screening which was co-founded by Greg Lalas. Greg is also Managing Editor of, color commentator for the New England Revolution, as well as being a contributor to It isn't as if he needed another job and another way to contribute to the growth of soccer in the US but the first festival (in NYC) was a great success and I encourage those of you who can make it to check out the DC version. You can find all the information you want at
OK, with my usual rambling introduction out of the way, here's my look at the upcoming week in fantasy footie...

There are definitely some interesting clashes this weekend between the traditional powers of the Premier League (Arsenal and ManYoo) and the wanna-be challengers to the top four slots (Citeh and Spurs respectively) and the Champions League births that go with them. While these are certainly the most compelling match-ups for fans to watch, they are most certainly NOT the matches fantasy managers will be focused on. If you have players from those four teams at a significant discount (Rooney, K2, Verm, Lennon, etc.) then by all means keep them but if you're buying specifically for this week, you should be focusing on Liverpool (home vs. Burnley) and Villa (@Brum) with occasional glances at Chelsea (@Stoke), Sunderland (home vs. Hull), and Rovers (home vs. Wolves). Wigan, West Ham, Everton, Fulham, Pompey, and Bolton probably all fit into the "fairly evenly matched" category as well so don't avoid their players but this certainly isn't the week to go "all in" on those guys.

Best Value Striker of the Week - Hard to argue with Tuncay as the best value player period. I'm not sure what glitch in the Yahoo database put him in at a price of 1.00 but he's there and he's likely to play a significant enough role in Stoke's attack to at least be good for a few points a week even if he remains largely a substitute. My guess is that he will have a regular starting role either on a wing or as a striker and even if he's below average for a starting striker he'll have no trouble beating the 1 fantast point/unit of cost benchmark that should put you in a position to finish strong in your group. He'll be good value for the money spent and he'll enable you to substitute a premium guy in for an average guy somewhere else in your line-up. If he's the difference between Nani in your midfield and Ashley Young, you tell me what you think the right thing to do is? My message, get in now before its too late. Not really close for second place here. Doyle could start re-emerging as a relevant fantasy player now that there's some distance between him and his injuries.

Best Premium Striker of the Week - Hard to argue with Nando as your choice here. I saw a question from someone on the Facebook thread about the fact that Torres didn't look very good in his International matches over the past week. If there's one thing that I've learned by following him is that it doesn't necessarily matter how well he was playing 10 minutes previously let along the previous week. Spain could afford him sleepwalking through a game they didn't need at all (they're dominating their group). I'd expect that he and Gerrard will be up to their old tricks against Burnley as they attempt to get Liverpool back on track in the title race (contrary to popular opinion, they aren't out of it quite yet). I'd put Anelka second on this list - ordinarily I'd go Drogba because I think he's the better of the two but I'm assuming that Drogs is coming from qualifying in Africa and might even be relegated to the substitute's bench as Coach Carlo continues to rotate his players. Given the situation, it wouldn't be the worst idea that I pray doesn't happen (says the guy who has Drogs at a significant discount).

Best of the Rest - DBent with a good match-up and a reasonable price; Benni McCarthy who seems due for a breakout (he seems to score about every third match these days) and has the match-up to do it - he's also priced to move; finally, I wouldn't completely object to giving Piquionne another try at Pompey - they're home and Bolton aren't the most intimidating guests ever - don't get me wrong, I'd rather have Tuncay at 1.00 over Piquionne at 6.36 but since we've already covered that, Piq is another option.

Best Value Midfielder of the Week - The match-up isn't great but I'm sticking with Stephen Hunt as my value play in midfield even as his price has crept up. It hasn't mattered who the opponent is, he's delivered points. When Hull score, he's in the middle of it and when they don't he's generally doing his best to generate phantom points for his fantasy owners in the form of fouls suffered, corners won, and successful crosses. He may fade over the course of the season due to his size and the rigors of the Premier League on smaller wingers but for now, consider me in.

Best Premium Midfielder of the Week - Hard to argue with the two guys that fueled England's goal-scoring parade against Croatia - Lamps and Stevie G. Both have reasonably attractive match-ups this weekend and are going to fight it out to be the most productive midfielder in the fantasy league this season. I have to give the slight edge to Gerrard this weekend based on opposition and venue but only in cases where you're paying retail. If you have one or the other at a discount, stick with the one you've got. The third man in this conversation is BFAY who hasn't been spectacular yet this season but is due for a breakout match and I wouldn't be shocked if Birmingham were the ones to oblige him with opportunities a-plenty - if you can't afford Gerrard or Lamps at "retail" then BFAY is a nice alternative for a lot less money.

Best of the Rest - MGP, Ballack, Milner, and Nani are all decent options at reasonable prices that could rival Hunt for best value for the weekend - if you like one of their match-ups better I'd have no quarrel with you going in that direction over Hunt (or using the Tuncay savings to get another one of these guys); KRich and David Dunn are talented, injury/inexplicable gaffe-prone but have decent match-ups and are lower-priced options still. Early blog crush Jordi Gomez continues to be solid for a low-low price. Finally, all those of you who fondly remember Martin Petrov's great debut season in the Prem (and fantasy) will have fond hopes that he may get the call to supplant injured Robinho this weekend. The match-up isn't the greatest but he's the sort of guy who can exploit the tendency of Arsenal's full backs (Sagna in this case) to get forward.

Best Value Defender of the Week - This is a tough call as the sources of so many of the season's great defending bargains have tough match-ups this weekend (Arsenal/Verm, Citeh/Richards & Bridge, Spurs/SeaBass, Stoke/Wilko). Despite that, I'm going to pick a guy who was quietly good in his last stop (as a fantasy player and even more so as a real player). Step up to the plate Mr. Warnock. He should pick up more clean sheets at Villa than he did at Rovers (this week is particularly promising in that regard). He has the capability to go forward and win points that way which has traditionally been possible within Villa's style of play (see Barry, Gareth). Finally, the price isn't outrageous at 8.36. Jamie Carragher is another pretty strong option for all of the same reasons but Liverpool has been giving up goals that they didn't last season so where this paragraph would have been about Carra last season, I'm a little more reluctant to throw him in here now.

Best Premium Defender of the Week - Can there be any doubt that the answer lies in the city of Liverpool? Between Baines and GJohnson you have the two best point producers thus far. The thing that separates them (again, assuming you're buying at retail this week) is that GJohnson has the far more attractive match-up. I'm not sure I can buy into him scoring again but expecting a solid 8 or 9 points at a minimum from this week isn't unrealistic. If you're going to invest in a defender, that's not a bad downside. Honestly though, if I were going to spend, I'd be more likely to go with someone like Ricardo Carvalho at 10.12 than I would be to spend THAT much money on Baines or GJohnson - defenders just don't tend to put up consistently excellent attacking numbers.

Best of the Rest - I don't really intend to move off of the core of relatively inexpensive guys who have been doing good things thus far this season - Verm, Wilko, Givet. Dunne isn't a terrible option. Beye is less expensive even than Warnock and has the same positives. Finally, it's worth watching what information SAF gives on Gary Neville - my concern is that he won't go the 75 minutes necessary for a Clean Sheet (if ManYoo can hold Spurs, that is - not as much of a guarantee as I would have guessed at the start of the season).

Best Value Keeper of the Week - I have to say that I'm definitely supportive of what Hull (and Stoke) did over the summer to improve their respective squads. For their money, I think they did a much better job acquiring talent than, say, Sunderland. That said, with Craig Gordon back and Hull traveling to visit the Black Cats I'd have to back Gordon as the best value at Keeper this week. Robbo is second for me in this category but despite Big Sam's best efforts to "Bolton-ize" Rovers (or just get them back to the Hughes era) Robbo hasn't exactly been a fantasy point machine.

Best Premium Keeper of the Week - Really, this is between Petr, Pepe, and the previously mentioned Big Brad. If Stoke hadn't been such a difficult home opponent last season then Cech would definitely be the man here but they were. Similarly, if I trusted Liverpool's defence as much as I did last year then Reina would be the choice but I don't (especially with Masch coming back from what must have been a demoralizing International break plus the travel) so he isn't. That leaves us with Friedel. Yes, he's on the road but I don't think that much of Birmingham's attack and Villa's defence has been better than I expected given that they didn't adequately (in my mind at least) replace Laursen.

Best of the Rest - Now, I know I called out Gordon as the best value and Friedel as the best Premium guy but I have a hard time not mentioning that Shay Given is still only in the low 9s. Citeh may not win against Arsenal this weekend but one thing that we know about Given's time at Citeh is that he will face a lot of shots and save more than his share meaning that even something like a 2-1 loss isn't the same for him as it would be for, say, Almunia who managed a -10.50 in the 2-1 loss to ManYoo. Given, in the same match would like find a way to salvage 5 or 6 points. Not necessarily the reason to buy him this week but certainly a reason to pick him up at a reasonable price soon and then just stop thinking about the Keeper position for the rest of the season. (That's certainly my strategy now that I have him locked in at 6.10)

That's about it, best of luck with your selections and we'll look forward to seeing you on Friday for Injuries and Suspensions and on Saturday for the Live Chat.

Cheers - Neal

Early Doors

Arshavin with some of the taller members of Arsenal's first team

Arsenal's Arshavin out but Rosicky, Walcott on way back

Arsenal's Russian midfielder Andrei Arshavin will miss their next three matches after aggravating a groin injury on World Cup duty this week, his club manager Arsene Wenger said on Thursday...

He will now miss Saturday's league game at Manchester City, next week's Champions League opener away to Standard Liege and the following weekend's league match at home to Wigan Athletic.

"As for Tomas, he played 54 minutes in good shape. Of course, we have to be cautious. But the good news is he's back and he played. I don't know if he'll be in the squad for Saturday."

There was also encouraging news regarding winger Walcott with Wenger confirming the back problem that had sidelined him this season for Arsenal and England had healed and he could be back to face Standard Liege next week.

Spurs hopeful over Bassong

Tottenham are hopeful of centre-back Sebastien Bassong being fit of the Barclays Premier League clash against Manchester United on Saturday despite missing Cameroon's midweek clash against Gabon.

The 23-year-old picked up a slight knock to one of his knees against the same opponents last weekend and missed the return clash on Wednesday night, although Paul Le Guen's decision to leave him out of the squad was thought to be down to selection rather than injury.

Ferdinand could return at Spurs

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand could return from injury in time for Saturday's trip to Tottenham Hotspur.

The England centre-back has been sidelined with a thigh injury since the Community Shield defeat to Chelsea in August but has stepped up his recovery in training all week.

United manager Alex Ferguson said: "Rio has been in training this week and has got a chance for Saturday, I'm not sure how big a chance but he has got a chance.

Carson in line for debut

Third-choice goalkeeper Trevor Carson is on standby to make his Sunderland debut when Hull visit the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Craig Gordon is unlikely to face the Tigers having been ruled out of Scotland`s World Cup qualifier against Holland with a thigh strain while Marton Fulop is battling a long-standing heel injury.

Lee Cattermole missed out on England Under-21s encounter with Greece in midweek while striker Kenwyne Jones will be monitored having been away with Trinidad & Tobago.
Blues duo feature in practice match

Chelsea duo Joe Cole and Paulo Ferreira continued their return from injury in a 1-1 draw with Fulham in a practice match on Tuesday.

The pair are both in the process of recovering from serious knee injuries and it was the first time they had faced outside opposition since they were sidelined.

and related...

Davies boost for Fulham

Fulham midfielder Simon Davies continued his comeback from injury by taking part in friendly draw against Chelsea.

The Wales international has been out since before the end of last season after having surgery on a stress fracture of the foot, but he started a practice game at Chelsea's Cobham training ground on Tuesday.

Keeper crisis for Black Cats?

via AFP:
Scotland suffered a major blow on Wednesday when goalkeeper Craig Gordon was ruled out of their crucial World Cup qualifying match against the Netherlands after failing a fitness test on a thigh injury.

The Sunderland shot-stopper missed training due to the problem on Monday and was given a 50-50 chance of playing.
So both of Sunderland's first team keepers are injury doubts heading into what should have been a home banker against Hull City. Now combine that with the Black Cat's lack of a recognized left-back and the likes of Stephen Hunt and Kamel Ghilas become more attractive fantasy options.

Unless you think Trevor Carson is the bet.

Tevez out of Arsenal match, Robinho Doubt

via Yahoo!UK/Eurosport:
Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez will miss Saturday's Premier League game against Arsenal, manager Mark Hughes has confirmed.

The 25-year-old picked up a knee injury while on international duty with Argentina, but City hope he will ready to face Manchester United the following weekend.

"Our doctor has spoken to the Argentine medical people and the feeling is that he is out for the weekend so he will not play against Arsenal," Hughes told the club website.

"The hope is that he will be okay for the derby, but we will have to determine that when he comes back.

"He is staying with the national squad because he needs acute treatment at the early stage of the injury, which is what he can get now.

"Flying him back quickly might compromise the injury, so he will be back towards the end of the week so we can assess him and hopefully get him ready for the United game."

Robinho, who faced Tevez in Brazil's 3-1 win over Argentina on Saturday, also has a slight knock.

"It's a different situation with Robi," said Hughes. "It's an old injury that he aggravated last year, just above his ankle.

"We are going to get him back as soon as possible, the hope is that he will be an option for the weekend."
For fantasy managers, Tevez to Bellamy is more or less a straight swap as would be Robinho to K2.  Otherwise, there's always Tuncay for a buck. ;-)

Also, the Fantasist has a great round-up of Premier League teams' injury status.

Bruce sweating over McCartney injury

via YahooUk!/Eurosport:

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is anxiously awaiting news of George McCartney's hamstring injury amid speculation the defender could be sidelined for up to six weeks.

McCartney damaged the hamstring in training on Friday ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier in Poland, and missed that game.

He remains a major doubt for Wednesday's clash with Slovakia, and there are fears on Wearside that a man who has a history of similar problems could be out of action for several weeks.

That would represent a serious blow to Bruce as well as the 28-year-old, who is the club's only recognised senior left-back.

Danny Collins, a centre-half who played much of his football for the Black Cats at left-back, was allowed to join Barclays Premier League rivals Stoke as the transfer window drew to a close last week...

Youngster Michael Liddle is injured as well as inexperienced, and Bruce may have to be creative as he looks for a replacement.

Right-back Phil Bardsley has played on the left before, as has central defender John Mensah, a loan signing from Lyon, although that might be a big ask for the new arrival.

McCartney had looked good this season, getting forward and getting fantasy points.  He was always going to be popular this week as Sunderland host Hull City.  Collins would have been the clear pick as he looked comfortable filling in for McCartney for long stretches last season.  But now we'll have to wait and see what Bruce has in mind.  However, Bardsley is a bit expensive, and Mensah isn't in the system yet.  So maybe it's just a stay away. 

Benitez to start against Villa

Via YahooUK!/Eurosport:

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is poised to hand a first Premier League start to striker Christian Benitez in Sunday's derby with Aston Villa at St Andrew's.

Benitez, signed from Santos Laguna, has impressed as a substitute and is now at full fitness after undergoing shoulder surgery at the beginning of the summer.

Former Scotland boss McLeish hinted the Ecuador international will play from the outset against Villa.

McLeish said: "I've felt in recent weeks that Christian was more effective as an impact player.

"But that may change in a week's time (against Villa). If I can't play him at home, then I will never play him.

Remember, you read it here first. Via the Monday Morning Manager:
It only remains to be seen if they have enough to win, or even draw, these close games. A lot will rest on Benitez, and I'm guessing that he'll start to get more involved after the international break - depending on his own travels. He's creeping up in price, but it may be worth a look at him on the barn door after the Villa match as Birmingham then face @Hull, Bolton and @Burnley.
Of course, Tuncay is now the bargain striker di tutti bargain strikers. But Christian Benitez is another good post-HRod option. I really don't like picking players going in to derby matches, especially one as historically contentious as the Second City derby but I'll plug him again for the stretch following.

Bet They're Wishing They'd Signed Ribery Last Month...

Football365 | All The News | Football News | BLUES BUYS BANNED UNTIL 2011
Chelsea have been banned from registering any new players for the next two transfer windows after FIFA found them guilty of inducing a French teenager to breach his contract with another club.

Gael Kakuta, 18, joined Chelsea from Lens two years ago but the French club lodged a complaint with the sport's world governing body.

Now FIFA's dispute resolution chamber (DRC) has ruled that Kakuta breached his contract with Lens and that Chelsea induced him to do so.
Talk about some stunning news from out of nowhere.  Either the editors at Football365 are having some fun with us in the wake of the transfer window closing and their being no more sensational stories of immediate interest or FIFA have over-reacted to something that doesn't seem to merit it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sort of giddy at the notion of Chelsea not being able to throw their cash around in January or next Summer but isn't this entirely on the player?  A club can't force a player to breach a contract, they can only suggest it and facilitate it by being willing to sign a player who has made that decision.  You can argue that in signing the player, they have acted unethically but it seems minor in contrast to the type of "tapping up" that goes on all the time - Real Madrid being the masters. 

Is this FIFA finally finding a way to hit back at Chelsea for buying success as opposed to building it organically the way they perceive Real, Bacra, Milan, ManYoo, and Arsenal have done?  Is it just that there is more of a paper trail than there ever is in any of the alleged "tapping up" situations? 

Regardless, just a bizarre thing to wake up to this morning.  Even more so when you think about how old Chelsea's current squad is and the impact that not refreshing their talent base might have if any of their main cogs (Lamps, JT, Drogs, Elk) fall off significantly between now and January 2011 when they can next buy players.

Not BIG News But Fun

Football365 | All The News | Football News | TIGERS POUNCE FOR HESSELINK

Here at the blog, we've always enjoyed Jan Venegoor of Hesselink as much for his name as for his production in lesser leagues like those in Holland and Scotland.  The news that he is coming to the Prem (presumably as a reserve) at Hull is excellent.  We can't wait for that first sighting of a jersey that the equipment manager had to strain to fit his name across the back - just good times.

Even better, it is a chance to refer back to the story of why his name is what it is and what it means.

Bargains Galore

Tuncay signs for Stoke City

The Yahoo! Fantasy Football world is abuzz... Tuncay Sanli has been relisted in the game at 1! He's listed as a forward, which isn't ideal because to my mind, he'll play in midfield as he often did for Boro. As I wrote in the Monday Morning Manager:
It will be very interesting to see how they incorporate Tuncay into the squad. But as a striker priced at 1!!... well, that in itself is quite apeallilng. He came on for Fuller at the weekend, but I think it will be Etherington who is most at threat.
Stoke have a pretty rough schedule upcoming - Chelsea, @Bolton, Manchester United, @Everton, West Ham and @Spurs - so you're likely to get what you pay for with Tuncay. However, it may be worth it if you can upgrade another position or two to cover what you think you might lose in that 2nd or 3rd striker spot. For instance, I was looking to get rid of Rodallega as he and Wigan have failed to reproduce their opening day form. I can go to Tuncay and be fairly confident of replicating HRod's 3 points a game but for 6 less. Now I can (with a combination of other cost saving moves which we'll touch on below) move from Givet to Glen Johnson. And while Neal thinks it would be buying GJohn at the top of the market, he's a good bet going into Liverpool's upcoming matches home to Burnley, @West Ham, and Hull.

Other possible bargains exist, but come with real negatives.  Namely cheap players who will now be likely starters on really lousy teams.  Case in point, Jamie O'Hara moves on loan from Spurs to Pompey.  He'll likely take the left-midfield role that Krancjar, um... left to move the other way.  O'Hara is 4.23 and has shown in the past that he can take kicks and get in amongst the fantasy points.  The down side, of course, is that Pompey are terrible but O'Hara may be the best of the bunch and could get 'kick-taker on a bad team' points.

We've bemoaned the lack of quality, cheap defenders in the game.  Sonko is at least cheap.  He's 3.32, one of only two defenders priced below 4.  And now that he's moved to Hull City to replace the Sunderland-bound Michael Turner he'll get on the field.  Of course, as we wrote on yesterday, "you might have been happier had he stayed in Stoke's reserves." But then again, Turner has been averaging 8 points a match almost entirely from defensive work - passes intercepted, blocked shots, tackles, etc. So if Sonko can even get half of that, he'll end up being a good investment.

Transfer Window Deadline Day

transfer window wrap-up courtesy Yahoo!UK/Eurosport:
Everton signed Dutch defender Johnny Heitinga from Atletico Madrid for six million pounds (6.8 million euros) just before the transfer window shut on Tuesday.

Heitinga agreed a five-year contract with the Premier League club and the move was announced in the final hour before the 1600GMT deadline.

The 25-year-old follows French defender Sylvain Distin to Goodison Park as Toffees boss David Moyes strengthens his back-four after Joleon Lescott's move to Manchester City.

Presumably Heitinga is Everton's answer to their ongoing right-back dilemma. He could be a really nice fantasy option in Everton's stabilized, new-look defense.

On a relatively low-key transfer deadline day, Tottenham swooped for Portsmouth's Croatia midfielder Niko Kranjcar.

We here at the blog were rooting for Spurs to sign the cheaper and more dynamic Martin Petrov, but alas it wasn't to be. At over 10, Kranjcar is probably too expensive to bring in to too many fantasy teams where the money is probably better spent on more consistent or lonelier playmakers (who won't be sharing creative duties with the likes of Lennon and THud).

And then there was an odd round of center-back shuffle:

Aston Villa spent five million pounds (5.8 million euros) to sign Wales defender James Collins from West Ham.

Collins put pen to paper on a four-year contract and could make his debut against local rivals Birmingham on September 13.

Portsmouth boss Paul Hart made a triple swoop for Watford centre-back Mike Williamson, Manchester City defender Tal Ben Haim and Benfica midfielder Hassan Yebda.

Israel international Ben Haim agreed a four-year contract and his free transfer will be rubber-stamped once he has been given a work permit.

Hart could pair Ben Haim with Williamson, who cost three million pounds (3.8 million euros) from Championship club Watford and agreed a four-year contract.

Elsewhere, Stoke City signed defender Danny Collins from Sunderland for 2.75 million pounds (3.1 million euros), although the fee for the 29-year-old could rise to 3.5 million pounds (3.9 million euros)

Hull boss Phil Brown increased his defensive options by landing Senegal centre-back Ibrahima Sonko, 28, on a season-long loan from Stoke.

Nothing much to see here for fantasy unless you're looking for a cheap option in Sonko. Though you might have been happier had he stayed in Stoke's reserves.

However one worth watching could be:

Bolton bolstered their forward line by signing Croatia striker Ivan Klasnic, 29, on a one-year loan from French club Nantes.

Klasnic has had a checkered career - he'll get hot for a season or 18-months and then goes off the boil (or gets injured) for as long. If he could get hot for Bolton, he could be a god-send for them and a viable fantasy option for you. I wonder if it will be worth picking him at Portsmouth next game week? Certainly it will be worth monitoring his status in the game (does he get posted?) and the Ginger Mourinho's comments about his status in the Bolton XI (or XVIII).


Birmingham signed Finland midfielder Teemu Tainio, 29, on loan from Sunderland for the rest of the season.

Bringing their total of holding midfielders to a dangerously unstable number -- Carsley, Bowyer, Ferguson, Tainio, and injured captain Johnson.