The Week Ahead

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

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

1. What the hell happened to Kranjar last weekend? With Lennon, Defoe, and Modric missing from the line-up, I was a little surprised that Kranjcar was relegated to the bench for a couple reasons - first, that's a lot of fire power missing and second, he's been facilitating the Spurs attack pretty well over the last few weeks.  Even more surprising was that after falling behind just before the half there was no move made to insert one of their best healthy attacking players.  Throw in the fact that Bale WAS inserted in the left midfield role instead of  Kranjcar and you have to really wonder.  Was there an unreported H1N1 case at work? A late injury? If either were the case, you wouldn't think he'd have even made the bench.  I guess the overall question that Jeremy and I were asking ourselves after the match was over was "what the hell is going on here?"  I wish I knew but he went from someone I was pretty excited about in my line-up to a huge question mark in a hurry.

2. Is Liverpool following NUFC/Leeds? A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the financial indicators surrounding the potential takeover of Arsenal by Kroenke (which, by the way, is edging ever closer).  Now its time to turn the financial spotlight on Anfield.  Let's recap...Lots of money spent (badly) in the transfer market...lots of players on high wages in a down economy...many players on the books who likely wouldn't return half their transfer money to spend on players in January...early exit from the Champions League likely...position for next year's Champions League tenuous based on current form and the potential challenge of others...owners on shaky financial financial crisis getting better but hardly to the point where there are easy credit markets for highly leveraged people/ real young talent on the way up...rumors about top players wanting to leave.  What does this all say to me? It's going to be ugly at Anfield and fast unless Gillette and Hicks sell quickly. 

Why quickly? Masch already wants to leave.  If Rafa leaves, I'm not sure that Nando/Reina would be interested in staying.  If Nando/Reina/Masch leave, I'm not sure why Gerrard would stay.  The tax laws in England will make it much more difficult for English clubs (especially cash-strapped ones) to compete for high-quality players.  Chelsea and Citeh have the money to make salaries work out; ManYoo and Arsenal at least have history and prestige on their side along with iconic managers and just enough money to make it a reasonable proposition.  If Liverpool can't pay on par with the competition, don't have an iconic manager then ALL their left with is history/prestige and debt...lots and lots of debt.  Not good times at all.

I'm certainly not saying that this is what WILL happen.  Liverpool could retain Rafa and qualify for the Champions League next year and stave off their issues.  They could be purchased by someone with so much money they don't care if the club is profitable.  If one of these things doesn't happen soon though, Liverpool will be the next big name football club to be humbled by financial mismanagement and poor personnel decisions.

OK, enough doom and gloom (unless you count my choices of WHU/Villa players as doom and gloom from last week)...

Rovers, Citeh, Arsenal, and Liverpool present the most attractive match-ups for the coming weekend.  Outside of that group the match-ups are fairly even or the slightly better teams are playing on the road to teams that aren't bad enough that you want to bet that superior talent will win out over home field advantage.

The other interesting wrinkle (quite unrelated to schedule) is the proliferation of people who will be playing in place of suspended teammates after least weekend's parade of red cards.  Just so you have the complete list of people who you won't be seeing this weekend (we'll repeat it during injuries and suspensions)...

Beye (Villa), SPet (Villa), Ferguson (Brum), Bily (Everton), Samuel (Bolton), Geovanni (Hull), Degen (Liv), Carra (Liv), GNev (ManYoo), Cana (SUN), KJones (SUN), Buxton (Wigan)

The most interesting of these for fantasy managers will be GNev, and KJ.  The likely beneficiaries will be O'Shea and Frazier Campbell.  O'Shea's price has climbed a bit so that's not a huge advantage but Campbell's price and likelihood to start against a depleted Spurs defence leads us right into...

Campbell (an extremely cheap starter with an OK match-up), RvP (on fire), DiSanto (good match-up at a very nice price), K2 (does he get back on track? he is good at scoring in bunches against bad teams), Bellamy (he's been quiet off the pitch but very effective on it), Drogba (hard to invest this weekend but he's been the class of the league thus far), Nando (if you're buying a premium striker and can't afford RvP it's hard to bet against Nando coming to the rescue again), Beattie (even on the road, Hull don't worry me too much)

Cesc (best match-up for a premium midfielder), BFAR (but only if you got him before his price jumped), MPet (he'll be in consideration for a "BF" if he stays healthy and in the starting XI), Dunn (always wary of an injury or a card but he's been delivering this season and Pompey comes to visit), Benayoun (get the feeling that someone is going to have to help Nando out this weekend?), Nasri (if you want to take a risk on some upside, he's not a bad risk to take), Chung-Yong (the way Villa has been playing, a Bolton player on the road isn't as bad a bet as you might think), Fletcher (I generally stay away from matches between the Big Four but it feels like a Fletch weekend and the price is right).

Kyrgiakos (not easy to type but could be some cheap CS points if Brum can't break through at Anfield), Keiron Gibbs (the injury to Arsenal's first choice left back makes Gibbs a nice choice for the next month or so - maybe more if Arsenal's training staff continue to underestimate the severity of injuries), Emerton (as far as I could tell he was playing an attacking midfield role last weekend while being listed as a defender - against ManYoo, that's still not great; home to Pompey...much better), Zabaleta (good match-up and a reasonable price), and obviously my general advice to stick with Verm and Heiti remains...

I'm doing what I've been doing pretty much all season and sticking with Given (which finally paid off again after a few weeks of a dry spell).  If you're not doing that then the most logical choices available to you are Reina (I'm betting LIV will bounce back), Robbo (did I really just type that? maybe you should just ignore that), and Almunia.  If you're looking for something different, you might want to consider Kirkland to bounce back from an ugly weekend at home against Fulham who aren't exactly an attacking powerhouse with 13 goals in 10 matches and only one road victory (first day of the season @POR which you can hardly even count as a Premier League match).

We'll be back tomorrow with Injuries and Suspensions.

Cheers - Neal


  1. It's reported that Torres needs surgery on a hernia. Having had two, I can tell you that if he plays and holds off on surgery, he'll be far from 100%. Of course a 70% Nando is better than most players at 100% but it's still something to keep in mind.

  2. Anonymous4:50 PM

    Think EdS will start? How about Aquilani?

  3. Anonymous4:55 PM

    Who exactly is K2?

  4. Anonymous4:55 PM

    I BD' Dindane. Not expecting another hat trick, but any reason why I should drop him?

    Bob G.

  5. Anonymous6:42 PM

    K2 is a tall mountain between Pakistan and China.

  6. Anonymous7:11 PM

    I have Bilyaletdinov @ 4.77. I'd like to keep him but only if he's out for 1 week. Does anyone know if his red-card suspends him for 1 or 3 weeks?

  7. 3 games out for Bily Boy.

  8. just a quick retort on the Liverpool FC financial situation.."lots of money spent badly"?? not quite true considering the money spent was recouped to upgrade to players like Torres, Mascherano, Johnson etc....dont by the lazy journalism that just looks at the numbers...Liverpool in the last 5 seasons have only spent 83m pounds NET (purchses less sales)...thats only 16.6m per season...that isnt much when you look at the spend of clubs like Spurs, City etc...anyway dont believe what you read...but anyway agree with the sentiment...its not looking good financially...

  9. Anonymous7:55 PM

    lol @ K2 is a tall mountain between Pakistan and China

    K2 = Kanu 2 .. now you can guess who that is ..

  10. Gavin8:11 PM

    Dunn + Benayoun + Campbell


    O'Hara + Babel/Aquilani + Rodallega?

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  11. Neal,I thought Frazier Campbell is questionable due to Harmstring.

  12. Anonymous8:51 PM

    kev, yeah but, if youre going to talk about NET spending (which is the only one that makes sense) then you also have to note that spurs spent about 0 this summer, and arsenal have been spending little for ages...also - whichever way you look at it either they've either misspent or they haven't spent enough. And im sorry but the prices they paid for Johnson & Babel were madness...

  13. Anonymous8:54 PM

    @Gavin, the first one seems to spread the funds a bit better to me...but thats a difficult call. If you really like Rodallega then consider the second. One thing to note is that Campbell is potentially a doubt for sunderland

  14. - Kranjcar: no injury, just a formation Harry used I think. Keane more left. and a 4-5-1 type of formation. why he put BALE on instead of Kranjcar I haven't been able to find. Only 2-0 at the time but perhaps those 2 goals deflated the team and let Bale have a run out there an extend his good play to generate something?!
    - Bassong looks to be out a month. and Corluka is already out of Croatia's game on the 14th, so one would have to assume he's out for premier matches. Apparently it's been an issue for a while and will take 5-6 weeks to fix. Maybe with Dawson/Woody back, NOW is the time to get that injury sorted. (Teams news not out yet)
    - Black Cats missing Cattermole AND Cana is huge. those 2 are savages in midfield. I'm all in for Defoe this week.
    - Enough Spurs, With Geovanni out I'm really liking Hunt at 7 and change.
    - I like the first combo of players also.

  15. Actually. Ohara/Aquilini/HRod is better on second glance.

  16. I think I am going to trust my gut on this one.

    Vermaelen/Heitinga (not pleased with him lately though)/Givet/Gallas
    M. Brown/Etherington/Aquilani/

    Rodallega and Givet really stressed me but not near as much as Aquilani. I expect to get RvP Saturday with money from Rodellega/Gallas combined, then get a cheap mid or defender (Gibbs).
    Or is this nutso?

  17. Who is BFAR midfielder?

  18. Anonymous11:12 PM

    Blog Favourite Andy Reid
    Big Fat Andy Reid

  19. I've got a funny feeling Wolves are going to get something against the Arse..I'm not saying a win...but they're gonna do alright..just a weird hunch of mine, that's all!

  20. Firstly my condolences on the Phillies Neal. I actually caught myself watching the game. First ever baseball game I've ever watched haha.

    Secondly....great sense of dread everytime I look at my team but it's coming to the point where I have to make unpopular choices if I wanna pull away from the guys below me and get closer to the guys above me in the league. Make or break time....especially after a rotten week 10 (stupid double gamers). My team of the week...

    Heit, Verm, Krygiakos,
    O'hara,Cesc,J.Cole (gamble...big gamble), Aquilani (another huge gamble)
    Drogs, Gabby (hv him on big discount n it's home against Bolton, Zidane...oh no wait...that's Dindane (had him bndored at 7mil n no more moolah to get anyone else).

    I know it's always a major no no to take 2-3 gambles in one season much less one week...but maybe just maybe my luck will finally pull through.

    Hoping Rafa realises his job is on the line n puts in Aquilani, Hoping Joe Cole will get his chance and stuff it down Man Utd's throat and hoping lightning does strike twice with Dindane. can always dream :)

  21. Anonymous2:29 AM

    i got

  22. Robbo
    Verm Gibbs Sonko (cheap) Alexander
    Fab4 O'Hara MPet
    RVP Dindane Tevez

    Any feedback is much appreciated.

    MPet/Tevez or Beattie/Etherington. Which one do you fancy? City home to Burnley or Stoke @Hull? MPet isn't a sure starter and Tevez doesn't score much at City. But if City thrash Burnley, they'll be among the scorers.

  23. I know the sentiment is to bet against Hull, but here's some food for thought...

    Next three games:

    Home vs. Stoke
    Home vs. West Ham
    Home vs. Everton (struggling, really struggling)

    ALSO, the @WHU and @Everton is a two-gamer.

    Hunt is a good bet, and Myhill is a safe pick at his price if you are desperate. AND.. does Bullard get back in form?

  24. Anonymous4:45 AM

    will Myhill play this week?

  25. Anonymous4:47 AM

    @lucidswirl: is it worth to keep Torres since he is questionable?

  26. Anonymous4:52 AM

    can give some opinion??which better combo..
    adebayor+k.boateng or teves+MPetrov???

  27. forgot myhill is injured (i went to given), but keep an eye on him for the two-gamer

  28. Anonymous5:06 AM


  29. Anonymous7:18 AM

    Rodallega/Benayoun or Tevez/Petrov?

  30. Jeremy / Neal

    I've just noticed that Tuncay is listed as having played only one game on the yahoo system. Surely this isn't correct?! Some people are going to be very annoyed that they haven't received (the few) points for his recent appearances. Could you send this on to Yahoo please?



  31. Rodallega / Benayoun.. Petrov may not play.

  32. what about Babel @ 5.35 - listed as a midfield but after his goal in the champions league may start or too much of a risk?

    hmmm at 5.35 I think ill go with him.

  33. @4:47am - I think Torres will play, get a few goals - hopefully - and hit the bench. That's not really the problem, it's more what could happen rather than what is going on this week.

  34. Anonymous11:10 AM

    Please help: between bridge (doubtful), zabaleta or richards, who is the best choice??


  35. zabalettta!

  36. Anonymous11:35 AM

    I'm sweating a few things this week:
    Alexander (@5.79) or Emerton?
    Lose Bily (@4.77)?
    Play Nasri?
    Lose KPB, put in O'Hara?
    Rodallega or Adebayor?
    Based on match-ups I should take Emerton, Nasri, KPB and Adebayor but these are all risks! Tricky...

  37. Anonymous12:13 PM

    Adebayor will score!! not sure rodallega

  38. Anonymous1:38 AM

    Adebayor is a player with poor attitude... never play with as much committment as he should & never brings his game on a consistent level - I say drop him. If you look at his stats.. only 9 SOT for a striker of his calibre is extremely poor return - shows his laziness.

    Furthermore, City is far from firing on all cylinders (see Birmingham game - will have lost if not for Given).

    To Joe: I think you've barndoored Aquilani 1 game too early... knowing Rafa, he'll prob. only bring Aquilani on if Pool is level/losing @ 70th min as a desperation move.

  39. Giggsy111:42 AM

    Why is no one buying Krancjar!

    Too big a risk?

  40. We all know Liverpool will be losing and Rafa will be weighing all their options on the bench. Anyway, Aquilani isn't the worst pick for this week if he is really THAT good.