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...

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.


  1. Anonymous10:18 PM

    Neal, Jeremy,

    Maybe it's time to make a little money with this thing:

  2. Anonymous11:41 PM

    No Hennessey as the Wolves keeper hosting awful Pompey? I'm surprised. He's inexpensive, likely to keep a clean sheet against a toothless Portsmouth. Why isn't he mentioned?

  3. If you saw the Everton-Pompey match from last weekend, I think you would have seen that Pompey looked very capable of scoring, and could even be called unlucky not to have leveled the score. Hennessey is cheap, but you may as well go for Myhill in that case as the likelihood of either team keeping a clean sheet is about equal. I'm sticking with Given. Even if they can't keep a clean sheet, he manages to get enough saves to justify keeping him.

    Good luck to everybody this weekend! Thanks Neal for TWA.

  4. Bilyaletdinov would start. Piennar is injured.

  5. I take it we are giving up on Gomez and Milijas?

  6. Anonymous12:55 AM

    Neal, I called Arshavin to score last week and he should have had one, look for him to score this week - Tony.

  7. i'm on the arshavin bandwagon. he scored a sweet goal midweek (admittedly offside) against olympiakos. he's due in the prem.

  8. Anonymous7:51 AM

    Just being mentioned in one of Neal's post makes me feel great! My attack will be Drogs, Saha and Rooney or Drogs, Saha, RvP. Doyle is a good backup choice and i am still going crazy on which united midfielder to pick. Watch me mess up my midfield again....Good luck to everyone


  9. Anonymous8:07 AM

    One thing to note is that Petr Cech is red-card-out. This makes the 'pool players (coming back hopefully pumped up after the horrible performance in Italy), a little more likable for this week than on a usual Chelsea header week.


  10. Anonymous8:44 AM

    any thoughts on backing hilario at about 4.5? i figure chelsea may not shut out liverpool, but they will probably get a close win (2-1?) and hilario will likely save more than he lets in.

    -- Chelski Fan

  11. I have a feeling Chelsea will beat Liverpool but I can honestly see Stevie having a great game. He is the type of player who will want to atone for the midweek atrocity against Fiorentina and I can see him racking up some nice pointage! Hilario may not be a bad shout but I'm not sure Chelsea will keep a "clean one" either.

  12. Anonymous10:13 AM

    i take what i said about my attack back. Since i believe that Rooney will want to prove what hes really worth after a let down last week and RvP looks in great shape this weekend my attack will be an all out drogs rooney RvP.


  13. myhill

    please rate my team for this week..huhu

  14. Anonymous10:27 AM

    Which one should I go with?

    Fabs/Diamanti or

    It's really keeping me in huge stress...!!!

  15. Anonymous10:28 AM

    Third choice would be Arshavin/Crouch (Defoe is out, news say)...decisions, decisions...!!!

  16. anonymous, choose arshavin/diamanti..

  17. Anonymous10:35 AM

    I second or third any Gerrard feelings this week. I see a laser from his foot just outside the 18, screaming past Hilario. Don't know who wins the game, but Gerrard will be busy.

    Any thoughts on Vennegoor? I tweeted Jozy to tell me if he's starting but haven't heard back yet.

    I had Turner last week for his goal. But don't like him this week. Anyone talk me off getting rid of him.

  18. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Anybody taking a flier on Adebayor?

  19. Hi guys - great read as always...I'm on the Wolves-wagon too!...just a word of caution, Defoe & Eduardo both out injured.


  20. Anonymous12:09 PM

    What do you think - Lennon or Milner?

  21. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Can someone quote the source of Defoe and Eduardo being out injured? I have both :(


  22. my dilemma is i am dropping giggs. i can go down to geovanni along with lennon, ohara and bily. this would allow me to go from bridge up to gallas, who will be with heit. and verm. in defence.

    the 2nd option is i can go from bridge down to sonko, which would allow me to go from giggs to fabregas. are either of these worth having.

    thanks so much!

  23. -RockON...both the reports have come from Redknapp & Wenger themselves on the club's official websites.

  24. Why do you guys think that Gerrard will have a good weekend? Hasn't he been fielded at a more defensive position so far this season? The ones who are going forward more are benayoun, kuyt and Riera.

    Also, how come there's no mention of Baines in the post? Isn't he a good choice for this weekend as well? thanks.

  25. Anonymous1:28 PM

    Riera/Joe Cole/Nani/Walcott/'Sicky --- which one??
    all of them is around 8.8-8 and none of them are assured starters.

    I am tilting towards Nani


  26. Anonymous1:49 PM

    Will Tomasz Kuszczak replace Foster between the sticks for manyoo?


  27. Anonymous1:58 PM

    Mutt - if none are assured starters then why take them? Look at Wolves and Jarvis or some other team bad team with an assured starters. i always eliminate risk when I can.

  28. This blog could use more fantasy, less butthurt over United's success... forgettable 2009? Wow, if a mini-treble season is forgettable, I guess it was complete disaster for the rest of the English teams... when was the last time Arsenal won a trophy again??

  29. ...and I totally understood the supposed point of the fandom aspect of it all, but you're kidding yourself if you think I'll ever forget Kiko's goal, Ronnie's UCL goals, the record UCL unbeaten and scoreless streaks, Rafa's backfire, Giggs' season overall, or if ya think your little shots here and there come across as nothing more than sour grapes. They don't. Love the blog more often than not, appreciate the fantasy advice... just gotta understand, could do without ya lumping all ManUtd supporters in as plastic, negative nancies, when you're wrong. It was a fantastic season that sure, ended on a down note, but that doesn't overshadow the accomplishments overall. JMO.

  30. Anonymous3:38 PM

    i'm going with
    drogba/rooney/van persie
    thoughts,comments appriciated..

  31. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Aren't you late on Fletcher? Everything else looks good.

  32. plus the supporters of the big teams often tend to be over defensive =D

  33. Anonymous6:33 PM

    I need help building my team. I'm almost done but have doubts.
    What do you guys think?

  34. Anonymous7:16 PM

    Wich combo sounds better???

    Arsh/Kightly/Roon or

    Plizzzzz help!!!

  35. Anonymous8:22 PM

    You all have very interesting points regarding the Forward formation, but on the Torres topic, I think he'll lay an egg this weekend. Not to say he will play's just that Chelsea have a stubborn defence at Stamford Bridge. In this case, I'd choose Gerrard over Torres because I feel that Liverpool goals are going to come from set pieces. Now on another note, I have heard no mention of Rodallega, which I'm curious as to why because he is playing...wait for it...HULL CITY, unless he's injured. I say if he is fit, he gets at least 2 goals.

    My Team:
    Fabregas/Lennon/Knightly/Arshavin (He's due a goal)
    Drogba/Rodallega/Tevez(Cause he's Carlitos)

  36. Anonymous8:29 PM

    wheres tuncay?
    why he didt play?/

  37. Anonymous8:36 PM

    Mannone (picked at 6.24)
    Vermelen (picked at 7 or so) .. Heitinga (5 something) ... O'Shea (just picked)
    Trying smthg new this week... Fab4..Ballack..S.Hunt and (open spot... was thinking J.Faubert)
    Drogs ... Rooney ... Tuncay (picked at 1.0 worth keeping??)

  38. Anonymous8:54 PM

    Mokoena is suddenly very attractive to fill a spot in midfield and to allow to spend money on the rest... costs 1.0 and will surely do at least that against Wolves...

  39. Is Drogba injured? why he isn't playing at the Champions League?

  40. i like VofH (he was great in fifa!), could be a bargain if he's gonna play

    i started to drop giggs thinking he would not be starting after 90 min this week, but i could see him playing again since the int. break follows as opposed to previously could have been another midweek match to rest up for..

    Geo has quietly been a solid, consistent producer this year, regardless of his team's performance.

    HRod has been money this year as well

    @Rick_ Rafa mentioned switching Gerrard back to his effective spot behind torres, not sure if he ment right away, or once mascherano is back?

    butthurt is a funny word.

    anyone else worried about whether Bily will play after 90 min today?

  41. - Yes, Defoe will most likely not play against Bolton and there is talk that he might not play for the Three Lions either! 'Doubtful'. He spent Sat. night in the hospital. My money is on him not playing at all.
    - Didn't Bily have an assist today?! I'm not too worried about him playing 89 minutes today! they are trying to get him more assimilated to the English game
    - Gerrard/Rodallega or Arsh/Rooney. No choice really.
    - Sure Liverpool have something to prove, Cech is out, but the game is at Stamford Bridge which negates all those 'Pool positives. I'm staying away(hence going with Arsh/Rooney!)

  42. I was there in Kaiserslautern in 2006 - you are absolutely dead on, Neal!

  43. Any thoughts if Jordi will start / play for Wigan at Hull? He was sat against Chelsea so that Latics could play a more defensive game. I don't think this should be the case against Hull... Thoughts?

  44. Anonymous5:56 AM

    Feb or Arsh??? which better???

  45. Anonymous7:03 AM

    re: fab or arsh.. it's a toss of the coin really,fab should produce double figures against blackburn,arsh is improving and could play up front alongside van persie if bentner's out.

  46. Anonymous7:04 AM

    re: billy.. should play had another assist midweek and hit the post himself

  47. Anonymous7:07 AM

    oh and about fletcher,i have him since before his two goals,so it's hard to pick a cheaper option

  48. I think Gomez will be on the bench again after they beat Chelsea 3-1 without him. Honestly I think he's a good player and has been performing well for them. I was shocked at his absence from the team against Chelsea.

  49. Anonymous9:14 AM


  50. zumba89:59 AM

    Hi! I just checked Poul Scholes statistic and he has 0 (yes that is zero) crosses completed. And that is 0 in 4 games. Can somebody confirm that that is a correct. I somehow doubt that he didn't put even one successful cross together.

    Can somebody please explain to me when is a cross considered a cross and not a pass in fantasy football?

  51. @zumba8, a successful cross is in the air and connects with a teammate in the penalty area. At least that is how I interpret it.

  52. zumba810:26 AM

    @Jeremy, If it has to conect inside the penalty area, that probably explains it.

    thank you for the answer!

  53. Wonder if Hunt is still very much in the middle of Wolves attack? Or is Geovanni a better choice? Thanks guys. =)

  54. This comment has been removed by the author.

  55. Anonymous1:12 AM

    Why no love for PArker and Diamanti????? both are 2 weekers and sure start.. Diamanti a gr8 pick if Barn Doored him at 13...
    Carrick and Scholes are also not bad options with the later may be not starting both the games... I think Carrick will start both the matches cos he is suspended for 2nd leg of Champs league.... so for me worth a consideration at 8.2....