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...
Very interesting weekend in the Prem with few obviously teams to choose from. Arsenal and ManYoo are both more talented than their opponents and playing at home but neither Rovers nor Sunderland are guaranteed walkovers. Elsewhere, there are lots of pretty even match-ups Villa/Citeh; Chelsea/Liverpool; Everton/Stoke; Burnley/Brum; WHU/Fulham; and Hull/Wigan. Certainly Spurs are better than Bolton but they travel to the Reebok which is generally a grinder (although it hasn't been too tough on opponents with Bolton having gotten all of one point at home so far). So, to sum up - Arsenal and ManYoo players are a priority with Spurs players just a shade behind them.
Best Value Striker of the Week - I mentioned him on our Live Chat last Saturday before he scored on Sunday so he isn't as strong a value as he was on the Barn Door (after he scored) but if you're looking for some really strong value at the forward position then I'd be looking at Kevin Doyle from Wolves. They host dreadful Pompey and I like Doyle to get a goal as well as a bunch of phantom points from Shots on Target and Corners Won. He may not score the most points of the weekend but for the money, I think make those who buy in very happy.
Best Premium Striker of the Week - I'm sure readers are much more interested in asking Vincent (a Live Chat participant who had Keane, Nando, and Drogs as his strikers last weekend) what he's doing with his premium strikers but Vincent doesn't have a blog that I'm aware of so you'll have to settle for my recommendation of RvP who has performed very well in fantasy despite not really having a dominating match yet. Plus, you have to think RvP (not a shy personality) has a bit of a thing for embarrassing Rovers even though nearly all of the people involved in the incidents a few years back are no longer at the club. I'm backing him to get some revenge.
Best of the Rest - Rooney to rebound from a goose egg last weekend; Defoe to take back the scoring from Keane; Saha to keep the magic run going; Nugent to outscore his price; EdS to either start and do well or score a late substitute goal; and Diamanti to pick up a bunch of phantom points in an otherwise ugly match between WHU and Fulham.
Best Value Midfielder of the Week - That's right, you're reading this right, I'm going two Wolves players in two straight "Best Value" picks. I've been excited about Michael Kightly since Wolves confirmed their promotion. Kightly put up the kind of stats in the Championship that leads you to believe that he'll be a productive fantasy player - goals, assists, takes kicks, and presumably gets a lot of phantom points. He came on in the second half last weekend and played well accumulating 4.5 in his cameo. If I were certain that Bilyaletdinov would start I'd be inclined to put him in this spot because he looked really good after Pienaar came off last weekend. If I were David Moyes, I'd drop Osman to the bench and start Bily (you didn't think I was typing that name again) on the left of midfield and Pienaar on the right.
Best Premium Midfielder of the Week - What to do here? Cesc who still doesn't seem entirely recovered from his hamstring injury and doesn't score that many goals? Giggs on the chance that he won't start against beatable opposition after starting in the Champions League match against Wolfsburg? Lamps or Gerrard going against each other? Arshavin on the chance that he'll FINALLY break out of his fantasy slump? Honestly, the answer I've come to is not to take any of them and, following Jeremy's advice from earlier in the week am spending my money elsewhere. If you simply MUST have a premium midfielder then Fab4 is probably the best bet.
Best of the Rest - THud to be the straw that stirs Spurs drink with lots of phantom points and maybe an assist in there; KPB (that's Kevin Prince Boetang) to continue to be a conscious-less gunner who fires on net at every opportunity which ain't great for Pompey in real life but definitely works out nicely for fantasy managers at his price; MPet to continue his fantasy renaissance and make us wish he'd been sold somewhere he'd be first choice all season; Hunt to rebound after a bad week; and Ballack to piss off all the managers who dropped him last week after he was inexplicably dropped from the 18 when people were excited about his form.
Best Value Defender of the Week - No, no Wolves here in this category. I'm sticking with Bassong as the best combination of low price and the potential for Clean Sheet and some attacking points. Not much else to be had for under 6.00 really and Spurs have a pretty strong match-up.
Best Premium Defender of the Week - How can you not go Vermaelen here? Even if he doesn't score he has a good chance of a clean sheet (especially if Mannone is still in net) and seems to be the target for corners and other set pieces which should be good for a SOT or two.
Best of the Rest - Heitinga; Distin; Corluka; O'Shea; Mears; McShane
Best Value Keeper of the Week -Foster seems to be the best bet here assuming that the choice of Kuszczak for the Champions League match wasn't indicative of the selection policy for the weekend.
Best Premium Keeper of the Week - Hard to argue with Manonne after two straight weeks of clean sheets in which he stopped many strong shot attempts. He may look like the teenage child of a Mafia guy from an 80s movie but he's been the goods since he got his chance. Probably a little late to go after him at his current price but if you are going to spend, go all the way and get Vito.
Best of the Rest - Given; Jensen; and if you have the stomach for it and need the money elsewhere then Myhill is your man at home against an up-and-down Wigan team.