Barn Door Live - Jan 30

My line-up...

EvdS, Verm, Bale, Ivanovic, Lamps, FloMal, O'Hara, Utaka, Elk, Lando, and Fagan.

Live chat after the jump.

Late Fitness Test

DJ please... pick up your phone. I'm on the request line.

Just feel the need for a quick post. Spent the whole day going down every conceivable 2-match rabbit hole I could find. Really the worst of all possible Friday trading. I had been leaning towards getting the "sure" 2-gamers on my team. Cech. Ivanovic. Lampard. I even had Baird and Barmby for that reason. But I started trading... Lamps to Elk. Baird to Garcia. Baird to Fagan to move Barmby to O'Hara. Back and forth. Forth and back. But in the end it was deck chairs, as we like to call it. Just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

So I've canceled all those possible trades and I'm back to a saner place. Cech. Ivanovic. Lampard. Baird. They'll get two matches. Hopefully they'll give me a steady points return for the week.


So tonight... so tonight I'm deciding that there's no upside to Barmby. I'm in a 4-4-2. The least I can do is fail upwards. So I'm switching to a 4-3-3 and trading Barmby for Kamara. I don't know if Kamara starts. He's just coming back from injury and Gera is more likely to take the second/support striker role, playing off Zamora. But I can't afford Gera. So maybe Kamara gets 50 minutes over the course of two games. Maybe he gets a start. But how much am I going to miss from Barmby? On average, 4 points over 2 matches. I'm clearly willing to leave points on the table if I'm not selling Vermaelen this week. So maybe, just maybe Kamara comes up with a goal. Hey, it worked for everyone who took a gamble on Kalinic last week. (And yes, I'm looking at you, Y!AM!)

So my line-up for this week:


Vermaelen Bale Baird Ivanovic

Malouda Utaka Lampard

Kamara Tevez Donovan

I still don't like the team, but I think I can live with it.  At least, I'm not sure I can significantly improve it at this point without running the risk - even the likelihood - of making some really stupid decisions.  I mean, I already have Utaka and Kamara... how much dumber do I need to be?

Good luck to all of you.  See you on the Barn Door Live chat... daughters permitting.

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

The really big fantasy news is that Drogba and Kalou apparently won't be considered for action until the trip to Hull on Tuesday.  This makes Lamps, FloMal, and Elk the most attractive attackers for Chelsea (depending on what price you have them at).

The big news in the real world is that Vidic will return to give ManYoo at least one first team central defender with Rio out.  It still seems unlikely that Verm will play for Arsenal who will have Song and Eboue back from ANC action.  You probably don't want to go for either Evans or Sol as replacements because Evans is pretty expensive and Sol doesn't seem too likely to do positive things in such a big match.

Looks like Arteta is struggling with fitness again as he re-engages in strenuous exercise so he goes from being a "maybe" for this week to being doubtful.  Still worth a look for next week but he's not quite ready.

Ditto Jummy who would have been a great pick-up for the 2-match stretch if healthy but he's not quite ready nor does Zaki appear to be as he is listed as likely to be "on the bench" for this weekend's match.

Lennon is still sidelined for Spurs and King/Bassong is definitely a question mark.

Aurelio and Agger out for Liverpool.

Still lots of key injuries at Sunderland with Cattermole, KRich, Bardsley, Ferdinand, and Turner all on the sidelines.  Could be good times for Stoke attackers with Fuller and Sidibe likely to continue in the roles that saw them successful against Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend.

Carlton Cole is expected to start which might be interesting against Rovers although slightly less so with Samba returning from his red card suspension to combat the target forward.  Basturk is not ready for Rovers so he won't play. 

O'Hara is a Pompey player again until the end of the season although Yahoo didn't have him listed yesterday and they don't appear to have changed that as of this writing.  Assuming he comes back and plays he devalues KPB and probably sucks up a fair percentage of the few points Pompey is likely to get across their two matches.

Not too much else of interest.

Early News on the Double Doors

Wait for me over there, over by the Humber Bridge.

Which is my two-clever by half (get it, two?) way of introducing some important team news regarding our friends with two-matches this week. Wow... never post before you've had your coffee.

O'Hara returns to Pompey
Tottenham midfielder Jamie O'Hara has joined Portsmouth on loan until the end of the season...

The 23-year-old briefly returned to White Hart Lane earlier this month when his loan deal expired but has been persuaded to return to Fratton Park by Pompey boss Avram Grant.

Ancelotti set to rest star pair
It is a measure of Carlo Ancelotti's confidence that he is prepared to travel to Burnley without star strikers Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou.

The Ivory Coast pair have returned from African Nations Cup duty but will not be considered for the Barclays Premier League game at Turf Moor.

The Italian coach wants to give them more time to recover from their return journey from Angola and insisted the Burnley game has arrived too early for them.

"Didier and Kalou came back [on Thursday] and they are well and fit," said Ancelotti. "But they need to work for some days and so will not able to play. They will play on Tuesday against Hull.

"Didier will stay here to train. He has come back very well, also Kalou. They are fit but we don't want to take the risk for the next games."

The Week Ahead

So maybe you're wondering what those crazy sounds were that you heard over the last 24 hours.  Well, they were my cries of anguish as the news emerged that Arsenal had not only dropped 2 points to Villa on Wednesday but that they had potentially lost Verm long-term to a broken leg.  That initial sound was followed today by the equally loud sigh of relief when it was revealed that the leg was not broken and he went from doubtful for the rest of the season to a possibility (albeit a small one) of playing on Sunday.  Talk about your roller coaster of emotions.  Throw in the added news today that his opposite number Rio Ferdinand would definitely miss this weekend's clash as well as the three matches following and I went from feeling like Arsenal's season was once again coming to a pre-mature end in February to feeling like disaster had been narrowly avoided and there should still remain a reasonable amount of hope that a serious title drive could be mounted well into the Spring.

Am I entirely over the mid-week blues? Not at all, my fantasy team - coming off of a really nice week last week - was either not present (Degen, Kranjcar, Aquilani, and Valencia) or they might as well have been (I'm looking at you Anelka).  Throw in the fact that I didn't have Rooney and it was one of those situations where I just managed to pick around the points.  It happens but its never fun when it does.

Rio handed four-game ban

Easy come, easy go.
Rio Ferdinand has been handed a four-match suspension after being found guilty of violent conduct by the Football Association.

The Reds' defender was involved in an off-the-ball incident during United's 4-0 victory over Hull City and will now miss the next four matches against Arsenal, Portsmouth, Aston Villa and Everton.
However, Vidic was on the bench against Manchester City, so likely he'll step into the starting eleven at the Emirates.

Vermaelen Suffers Suspected Broken Leg

Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen did not suffer a broken leg during the Gunners' goalless draw at Aston Villa in the Premier League.

The 24-year-old, who has made a huge impact at the Emirates after his move from Ajax last year, limped off after 35 minutes.
But the Belgium international still may miss Arsenal's Premier League clash with Manchester United on Sunday.

"There is no fracture in Thomas' leg but his injury still has to be assessed. There is still a good chance he will not play on Sunday," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.

Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen suffered a suspected broken leg during the goalless draw at Aston Villa in the Premier League on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old Belgiium international, who has made a huge impact at the Emirates after his move from Ajax Amsterdam last year, limped off after 35 minutes.

"His leg is numb, it might be a nerve, or it might be a fracture of the fibula, we hope not, but we will check it in the morning," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports.

Matchday Open Thread

Big guns edition with Chelsea and Arsenal in league action and the Manchester Derby Part Deux in the Carling Cup.

As always, consider this your matchday open thread.

Matchday Open Thread

Here's your pre-match look in, blog roundtable style:
[11:21] JSpitzberg: so what does 20 million get you these days?
[11:21] JSpitzberg: a back up attacking middie, if you're LIV
[11:21] JSpitzberg: Gerrard fine and dandy, so Aquaman back on the bench
[11:22] buttonmoulder: working on Rooney +0 as my team this week
[11:22] JSpitzberg: i'm on Elk/Drogs/Tevez + no one over $4
[11:24] JSpitzberg: it's surprisingly easy
[11:29] JSpitzberg: i think barmby is a better choice than Aquilani
[11:29] JSpitzberg: what a world
[11:30] buttonmoulder: i hope leeds gets promoted just so i can buy a guy names snodgress
[11:30] JSpitzberg: ;-)  i'm in
[11:30] JSpitzberg: all name team always looking for good players
[11:30] buttonmoulder: felt so empty since windass left
[11:39] JSpitzberg: taylor makes the starting XI!
[11:39] JSpitzberg: unless it's another taylor
[11:40] JSpitzberg: bfdb for spurs.  kranc not on the bench
[11:40] JSpitzberg: but o'hara is
[11:40] JSpitzberg: with seabass
[11:40] buttonmoulder: kranc hurt?
[11:41] JSpitzberg: to the google!
[11:41] buttonmoulder: he's been all of their width when lennon's out
[11:41] JSpitzberg: no word
[11:41] JSpitzberg: but there is this...
[11:41] JSpitzberg: "The Tottenham manager conceded that it is time to hand over the responsibility and named Tom Huddlestone and Niko Kranjcar as prime candidates. "
[11:42] JSpitzberg: i guess defoe missed v. leeds
[11:42] buttonmoulder: responsibility for what?
[11:42] JSpitzberg: PKs
[11:42] JSpitzberg: uh oh...
[11:42] JSpitzberg: bair at right back?
[11:42] JSpitzberg: baird
[11:42] buttonmoulder: can't be.  i have him in my team
[11:42] buttonmoulder: he must be on the bench
[11:43] JSpitzberg: well, he's a good central middie
[11:43] JSpitzberg: but a lousy right back
[11:44] JSpitzberg: actually...
[11:44] JSpitzberg: ful in 3-5-2
[11:44] JSpitzberg: from their line-up at least
[11:44] JSpitzberg: sorry... 3-6-1
[11:45] JSpitzberg: 3 center backs - hang, hughes, smalling (who manu just bought)
[11:45] JSpitzberg: gera and duff wide
[11:45] JSpitzberg: murphy, dikgacoi and baird holding the middle
[11:45] JSpitzberg: and zamora up top
[11:45] JSpitzberg: murphy, dikgacoi, riise and baird holding the middle
[11:46] JSpitzberg: maybe it is a 4-4-2 in an alternate universe
[11:46] buttonmoulder: ha
OK, kick-off in the early matches. Consider this your matchday open thread.

Update: For the rest of the conversation, follow the link to read more.

Early Doors

A lot of news ahead of the midweek matches.  Lets go around the league...

Transfer Window Geeking Out

As has probably become apparent to most of you during the course of reading this blog, I'm a bit of a geek about not just the Premier League and the Fantasy Game (which would be even worse if better statistics were readily available) but also about the economics of the sport.  We have talked about the financial pressures on ManYoo and Liverpool well before it became apparent in selling off players and not signing new ones.  We've talked about the potential impact of Stan Kroenke selling off his NFL franchise as he potentially looks to take over at Arsenal.  You get the idea - not everything ends up being about the action on the field.

Why do I mention this? For no other reason than I have another bit of economic randomness to share (whether you want to read it is another story entirely)...

Good Times for Arsenal

Report: Egypt vs Cameroon - African Nations Cup - ESPN Soccernet

Everyone who watched Arsenal's makeshift attempts to stop mediocre opposition with their mix-and-match holding midfielders (Denilson, Diaby, and Eastmond) will be left with no doubt that today's result in the ANC provides a huge lift to Arsenal's title hopes.  The return of Song to their midfield will improve things all over the park.  Denilson will be able to move farther up the field and combine with Diaby to supplement Cesc as a creative force in midfield.  Denilson moving up will also push someone like Theo Walcott (who just isn't ready for the big stage) into a reserve role rather than a critical one.

It will be interesting to see how things go this week against Villa (not sure if Song will be back in time for that one) but with ManYoo, Chelsea, and Liverpool next up on the Premier League schedule they'll need Song as the anchor.

In other ACN news, the Ivory Coast's shocking loss to Algeria means that Drogba and Kalou will be back for Chelsea's two match week next week as well.  The major players still gone for next week will be Yebda, Belhadj, Mikel, Yakubu, Yobo, and Essien. 

Drogba Coming Back

Didier Drogba and his Ivory Coast team-mates will be returning to their clubs earlier than expected after the favourites were dumped out of the Africa Cup of Nations by Algeria in a dramatic quarter-final in Cabinda last night, losing 3-2 after extra time.
Bad news for Portsmouth who will remain without Yedba and Belhadj for their upcoming two match week.

What? That's not the first thing you thought of when you read that? Oh, you're more interested in DROGBA'S POTENTIAL RETURN FOR CHELSEA'S DOUBLE GAME WEEK?
Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou could face Burnley on Saturday following Ivory Coast's elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations.

The strikers are expected back at Chelsea by Wednesday following the 3-2 defeat to Algeria in the quarterfinals yesterday...

While their return will be too late to face Birmingham in two days, they should be ready to play at Burnley, which means they will have only missed four games.

There were concerns Drogba would have to serve a one-match ban having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Fulham, but the Football Association have deemed that he served the suspension against Watford on 3 January, even though he had already left the country to join up with the Ivory Coast squad.

Chelsea are confident Frank Lampard will be fit to face Birmingham, even though he limped off in the 2-0 FA Cup win against Preston with a slight calf strain. Juliano Belletti is expected to miss the game after twisting his knee.
UPDATE: One more Chelsea related note:
Leftback Ashley Cole joins Essien on the sidelines because of an ankle problem but will be replaced by Russia international Yuri Zhirkov and should be back in action early next month.
So Zhirkov becomes a nice, cheap midfield option. It breaks the rules as he's a defender listed in midfield, but in this case I'll allow it.

Barn Door Update

As you are working on your team, keep in mind that Chelsea (@Burnley, @Hull), Hull (Wolves, Chelsea), Fulham (Aston Villa, Portsmouth) and Portsmouth (@Manchester City, @Fulham) SHOULD be two-gamers.

However, Wolves and West Ham are NOT two-gamers as Wolves now have an FA Cup replay against Crystal Palace.

Injuries and Suspensions (sort of)

BBC Sport - Football - Man Utd v Hull

Hard to do justice to this column with FA Cup matches between now and most of the scheduled Premier League matches for the week but we do know that Rio Ferdinand is going to re-join the starting line-up at ManYoo meaning that either Johnny Evans or Wes Brown will be grabbing some pine (I guess that analogy doesn't really work in the Prem anymore with Audi providing individualized comfy seats to everyone on the bench - for those who are unaware "grabbing some pine" refers to sitting on the bench which traditionally has been made of pine wood here in the States).  My bet is that Brown will make way for Rio in an effort to ensure his workload isn't too heavy after his injury issues.  As for the right back situation, who knows...

Also worth noting that Berbs has recovered from his dead leg (no word on whether he has recovered from sucking all season but at least he'll be in the line-up if you care to have him in yours).

What a shock, Zaki is short of fitness and not ready to start for Hull...

Here is the list of Premier League clubs who have FA Cup matches this weekend (putting their players at risk of injury/suspension between now and mid-week)

Against "top competition" (most likely to field a full squad) - Birmingham, Everton, Sunderland, Pompey, and Stoke.

Against "less than top competition" (line-up probably sprinkled with reserves/kids) - Arsenal (because its what they do), Bolton, Fulham, Burnley, Chelsea, Wigan, Villa, Wolves, Spurs, Citeh

I guess the best advice I can give is not to worry too much about the things you can't control (injuries and suspensions that happen between the roster deadline and when your players play).  If you want to look at the FA Cup injury lists for the weekend, they might help a little bit too but hard to say how much.

Cheers - Neal

Update:  Some bits and bobs from the FA Cup team news.... FWIW.

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is set to make wholesale changes for the home FA Cup fourth-round clash with Brighton on Saturday.

Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon is still nursing a groin injury and will miss the FA Cup clash against his former club Leeds (kick-off 5.15pm). Tom Huddlestone is also out of the tie at White Hart Lane as he has a knee injury but midfielder Jamie O'Hara is available, while Jermaine Jenas should continue in midfield.

Midfielder Leon Osman returns for Everton's fourth round FA Cup clash with fellow Premier League side Birmingham at Goodison Park on Saturday. The 28-year-old missed last week's victory over Manchester City with a hamstring problem.

Everton's long-standing injury list appears to be shortening with Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling (both hamstring) likely to return for next week's league visit of Sunderland.

The Black Cats, who have been plagued by injuries and suspensions in recent weeks, will welcome back defender Michael Turner from a four-match ban.

Bruce has confirmed that keeper Craig Gordon, who has been out with a broken arm since November, will start and Lee Cattermole and Andy Reid (both hamstring) and Kieran Richardson (calf) are fit, although Cattermole has complained of soreness following his exertions in training.

Roberto Mancini intends to use two-goal hero Carlos Tevez sparingly at Glanford Park if at all.[07:37]

Rio Ferdinand is expected to partner Jonny Evans in the centre of Manchester United's defence against Hull at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Dimitar Berbatov has shaken off a dead leg and should also return after missing Tuesday's Carling Cup defeat at Manchester City.

Cole is suffering from an ankle problem and will be replaced by Yury Zhirkov. Goalkeeper Hilario will replace the rested Petr Cech.

Michael Essien has been ruled out for up to six weeks following the knee injury he sustained on duty with Ghana

Birmingham newcomer Michel could finally make his debut in the FA Cup fourth-round clash with Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday

Kevin Prince Boateng will miss out, though, as he is struggling with an ankle knock.

The Week Ahead

What can you say, Cesc is the man (at least when he's healthy). One of the commentators for the Sunday Bolton/Arsenal match called Fab4 "just short of world class" leaving the nice people at Bolton to wonder what exactly would have happened if he were ACTUALLY world class? Maybe it is the lack of any one defining characteristic - he doesn't have the speed on an Henry, the technical excellence of a Bergkamp, the tricks of a CRon, the power of a Drogba, the long distance thunderbolt of a Gerrard, or the close control of a Messi - that keeps people from giving him his due credit but he just makes winning plays. We'll see how it goes once the schedule gets harder here in the next month but he's neck and neck with Drogba for player of the year this season.

OK, on to my weekly rant. I want to know what has become of the wide midfielder at the top of the table. It used to be that the prevailing wisdom was that any Best XI would be made up entirely of players from the Big Four. Now? I'd argue that there are better wingers playing out of position or sitting on the bench at clubs outside of the "Big Four" than any starting for ANY of those clubs. Crazy? Let's see...

Matchday Open Thread

Team news is in.  Arsenal have Fab starting consecutive games for the first time in a while and welcome back Clichy and Denilson as well.  Bolton drop Klasnic to pack the midfield.

Liverpool have Aquilani and Riera supporting Kuyt with N'Gog on the bench.  Aurelio doesn't even make the sixteen, which is just brutal for me fantasy-wise.  Spurs bring in King for Bassong in an otherwise unchanged eleven.

Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Degen, Mascherano, Lucas, Riera, Aquilani, Kuyt.
Subs: Cavalieri, Maxi, Babel, Ngog, Spearing, Darby, Pacheco.

Tottenham: Gomes, Corluka, Dawson, King, Bale, Modric, Jenas, Palacios, Kranjcar, Crouch, Defoe.
Subs: Alnwick, Hutton, Pavlyuchenko, Keane, Giovani, Bassong, Rose

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Fabregas, Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky, Arshavin, Eduardo.
Subs: Fabianski, Vela, Walcott, Silvestre, Traore, Eastmond, Emmanuel-Thomas.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Lee, Mark Davies, Muamba, Cohen, Taylor, Kevin Davies.
Subs: Al Habsi, Samuel, Elmander, Klasnic, Ricketts, McCann, Andrew O'Brien.

And for the completist:
Aston Villa: Guzan, Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Petrov, Milner, Downing, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor, Heskey.
Subs: Friedel, Luke Young, Sidwell, Albrighton, Delfouneso, Delph, Beye.

Blackburn: Robinson, Chimbonda, Samba, Nelsen, Givet, Emerton, Nzonzi, Pedersen, Olsson, Dunn, Kalinic.

Consider this your matchday open thread.

Manchester Derby, Carling Cup Edition

Looks like everyone is at full strength.
1950: Manchester City v Manchester United line-ups:
Man City: Given, Zabaleta, Richards, Boyata, Garrido, De Jong, Kompany, Barry, Wright-Phillips, Tevez, Bellamy.
Subs: Taylor, Onuoha, Ireland, Robinho, Sylvinho, Petrov, Mwaruwari.

Man Utd:
Van der Sar, Rafael Da Silva, Brown, Jonathan Evans, Evra, Anderson, Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Rooney, Giggs.
Subs: Kuszczak, Neville, Owen, Park, Scholes, Fabio Da Silva, Diouf.
I think Petrov is an injury caution from the weekend, but interesting that Mancini has Bellamy and SWP supporting Tevez in a front three.  I guess it was to match United's similar formation.

Update: On behalf of fantasy managers everywhere I'd like to personally say f.u. to Citeh for saving this performance for the League Cup. I guess it was inevitable and we should have taken the schedule into account before the Everton match.

Injury Update

Arsenal midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Samir Nasri both face three weeks on the sidelines after picking up injuries during training last week.

Welshman Ramsey suffered a thigh injury during Friday's session while Nasri picked up a hamstring strain.
I guess Cesc is going to have to play each and every game now. I thought maybe he'd be rested for the Bolton "rematch" but now it seems that Arsenal can't afford that.

How did it go?

I am suffering through a lousy sports weekend.  Mostly because I'm getting crushed in fantasy football.  But certainly the San Diego Chargers didn't help.

I'm on 67.5 for the week.  The big disappointments were Given and Tevez.  Combined, as Neal has kindly pointed out, they scored as many points as Salgado.  No Almunia; no Cesc. I didn't pick Malouda because I was worried about Sturridge getting the playing time.  And while my two-gamers did okay, and I'm happy to have them in the next round. I'm not expecting anything but more heartache - and fewer points than those with Almunia; Cesc; etc - on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I have the week to think about Given and Tevez and how the f'd me this weekend.   Do I keep them with NO GAMES this week because they have a good run - POR, @Hull, Bolton, @Stoke - upcoming? 

What would you do, how did you do this week? 

The Barn Door Live - First Edition of My 40s

Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening everybody, I was going to say that it's nice not to have to deal with any cancellations this morning only to wake up to Pompey and Birmingham being melted out of all things (lots of snow + warming temperatures + heavy rains = excessively swampy pitch). I guess the only upside is that most people likely don't have too many players from this match other than those who got in on Hart when he was cheap and have held on to him.

OK - here's my line-up: Almunia, Verm, Bale, Salgado, Aquilani, Diaby, Cesc, Modric, Kranjcar, Sturridge, and Defoe.

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

The news from Arsenal (or at least it is news to me) is that Denilson is out this week with an abdominal injury.  This definitely leaves me wondering about who will nominally play in the holding spot this weekend for Arsenal.  Denilson wasn't a great choice as a replacement for Song but he IS a better choice than anyone else on the roster.  I guess the next most likely candidate is former "next Vieira" Diaby even though he has been playing much better in a more advanced role this season.  If Diaby is indeed the choice then that would re-open a more advanced spot for Ramsey or Rosicky (probably Ramsey as Wenger can't help but be ultra-cautious with 'sicky at this stage...right?)

Elsewhere the news is what we expected...
Liverpool - Nando, Gerrard, GJohn, and Benayoun all out (Riera too not that anyone really cares); Masch returns (pushing Aquilani a little further forward?) and Maxi Rodriguez will play if he is cleared (like there's a choice).  For the 3 of you who may be thinking that Babel is an option given the injury issues up top and on the wings we have this from Babel's very own Twitter page...
Hey people, I got some disappointing news, I m not travelling 2 Stoke.. The Boss left me out the squad. No explanation..
So...where will Babel end up? Hopefully somewhere he can start and we can find out if he is going to be a solid player or not.  I still hold out hope that he can contribute to a fantasy team and a real life team if given a legitimate shot.

ManYoo - Fletch and Rio are out and I'd personally rate Vidic as questionable given his recent health record but EvdS returns for ManYoo leaving the possibility that things will be solid at the back again.  Not a guarantee, just a possibility.

Spurs - King, Hutton, BAE, Lennon, and Woody are all ruled out.  This means Bale and SeaBass are in at the back (both are under 7 in cost and playing winnable matches where Spurs could easily get a CS).  Lennon's continued absence means that the Modric/Kranjcar pairing is likely to continue (and why not? as they're doing well).  No mention of Defoe's injury which I assume means he's in good shape to play.

Chelsea - Still missing their quartet of ACN players (Drogs, Mikel, Essien, and Kalou) along with the injured Deco and Bosingwa but the Elk returns.  Seems to me that their best line-up at this point is Elk + Sturridge which is nice for fantasy owners but we certainly don't know that for sure.  What we do know is that FloMal and JCole have been pretty close to useless and Sturridge has at least shown some flashes when given the chance so if you're taking a chance, go that way.

Elsewhere - I'm not sure on the status of O'Hara's loan deal at Pompey but I will be curious to see what they have left with Dindane, Belhadj, and Yebda all at the ACN.  If O'Hara is recalled to Spurs then things will start looking pretty thin at Fratton Park (although KPB might re-emerge as a great fantasy option as he will see more of the ball)...Sunderland is still missing a bunch of players (Turner, Gordon, Nosworthy, Ferdinand, BFAR, Cattermole, and Mensah) which means that Chelsea are essentially playing the Sunderland reserves with the starting strikers...Citeh have their line-up essentially determined by the ACN + injuries with K2, Bridge, Ireland, Lescott, Onuoha, RSC, and Kolo all out for one reason or another according to are likewise depleted with Yak, Yobo, Rodwell, Arteta, and Jagielka definitely out with Distin facing a fitness test.

Not too much excitement that we didn't know about already.  Good luck choosing your squads and I'll see you tomorrow on the Live Chat...

Cheers - Neal

The Week Ahead (Finally)

With the weekend's matches almost upon us (weather permitting) and with work coming out of my ears, here is the rapid fire Week Ahead...
  • Welcome back to Arsenal Sol Campbell and while I respect everything you did for the club I can honestly say I really hope we don't see a lot of you on the pitch for the rest of the season.  10 to 20 minutes here and there in matches we're winning big? Sure.  Starting more than once or twice when Gallas/Verm are inevitably suspended or have a minor knock? I really hope not.  That won't be good news for the Arsenal title hunt.
  • What can you say about Liverpool? I guess they're finally getting the karmic downside from fortune smiling on them in two of the greatest cup matches of all time (Champions League vs. AC Milan and FA Cup vs. WHU).  Not saying that they did anything wrong in either of those matches but they got incredible fortune and now they're seeing the horrible fortune with injuries that is the karmic opposite of those cup championships.  How far will they sink? Are they a top half team? 
  • As reported by the Assistant Manager, ManYoo are no longer two-gamers this weekend - Arsenal, Bolton, Spurs, and Liverpool are the two-match teams this time around (how many match weeks in a row have Arsenal and Bolton had or supposedly had an extra match?)
  • With Liverpool gutted by injuries Spurs (Hull and @LIV) are making it look a lot like a North London sort of weekend when it comes to team selection.
  • Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes in the comments sections and on Facebook - they're much appreciated even if old guys like me probably won't remember it happened after a few days ;-) 
For the one match teams, the recommendations aren't terribly innovative with Chelsea and ManYoo having the best match-ups with Sunderland being a disaster at the back and Burnley continuing to channel Hull's season arc from last season (famous results and high point total early and fading fast after that).  Wolves are home to Wigan if you're looking for a less fashionable club to pick a player or two from. Birmingham also look pretty strong with a trip to disintegrating Pompey on tap for the weekend.

A lot of the chatter on the comments sections of the blog and FB have been on the relative merits of EdS given Arsenal's status as two-gamers.  If you'll recall my breakdown of Arsenal's line-up options from last weekend (which was dead-on much to my surprise even though it didn't help me pick up any fantasy points), it hinged on Cesc remaining on the bench.  Well, he's back which puts one more name in the mix for the 5 positions in front of Denilson and the defence.  Given that EdS hasn't done much, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't start at least one of these matches.  At his current price (9.99), you need him to start to justify the price.  My take on EdS is that he just doesn't get enough phantom points to make him a good choice at anything about 7.5 or 8 in cost. 

The other big question I saw was about Ngog and with all of Liverpool's creative players - Gerrard, Nando, and Benayoun - out I'm having a hard time seeing Ngog getting anything if he starts.  Ngog isn't the sort of guy who is going to create points out of nothing.

So, who SHOULD you be looking at? Defoe (PhysioRoom has him back this weekend), Crouch, Klasnic, Sturridge, Donovan (he's taking at least some kicks and appears to be starting), Doyle, Agbonlahor, and whomever it looks like will partner Tevez at Citeh (Robinho? RSC? Benjani?).

Lots of good options here with a little uncertainty around who will start for Arsenal.  Obviously Cesc is the premium option of choice since he is projected to be back for match one of the Arsenal/Bolton doubleheader.  The question is who will give way among Nasri, EdS, Diaby, and Ramsey (I'm assuming that Denilson and Arshavin are guaranteed spots)?  My guess is that it is either Nasri or Ramsey.  My choice would be Nasri but I have a sneaking suspicion that Wenger will choose to send Ramsey to the bench. Hard to justify Arshavin based on his price and his production in the last 5 matches or so.  He could go off at any moment but hard to take that leap of faith when recent evidence has been so poor.

At Spurs it appears - again using PhysioRoom as the information source - that Lennon will not be back for either match.  This means that it is most likely that both Kranjcar and Modric will have wing roles and both are pretty strong bets at fairly reasonable prices.

At Bolton MTay is pretty expensive for someone who will be playing against Arsenal twice but if you can swing the money then it isn't hard to see him getting a bunch of phantom points and maybe one PK.  Cohen and Lee have both tailed off recently so I'd look at them only if they help you get to other players.

Speaking of guys who should only be considered if they enable other things...Aquilani may have to start twice because there are no other healthy midfielders at Liverpool but other than his price being right you shouldn't be too excited.

Among the one-gamers you might want to consider MPet, Larsson, Bowyer, and Milijas but I have to say I'm not looking very hard at those options.

The strongest options are Verm, Bale, Corluka, Bassong (depending on King's always variable status), and maybe Traore depending on the Clichy prognosis (PhysioRoom has him as coming back for this weekend).
Why no Liverpool defenders? Honestly, I'm not sure who is going to play at this point.  I'm not willing to pay for Insua, Carra, or Agger (very likely to start) and I'm not sure who gets the final spot (Degen, Skertl, or someone else).  With Bolton, I'm just not too excited about anyone who is playing Arsenal twice.

If you're looking for a solid one-match bet, Evans from ManYoo still may be worthwhile as might Zabaleta or Garrido from Citeh.  I've also been a fairly big fan of Heitinga and this probably isn't the best weekend to get back on that bandwagon but he's always a solid bet for cheap.

Gomez or Almunia? I can't believe I'm saying this but I think Gomez is the better bet but you'll pay for the opportunity to find out.  Almunia SHOULD be a strong play but he's just so dicey and with Song still at the ACN you just can't count on Arsenal's defence to hold up.  If you're buying cheaper, I'd go with whichever of Hennessey or Kirkland you like more but you'll have a rough weekend.

Injuries and suspensions tomorrow...

Cheers - Neal

The Week Ahead Placeholder

Lots to talk about for this weekend but fear not, The Week Ahead will happen but it has been an unusually busy week here at Blog Headquarters between my day job and the festivities surrounding my 40th birthday (yes, I'm old).  Maybe I'm just slowing down with age.  Look for something Thursday evening US time or first thing in the morning if you're in Europe or Asia.  If only someone would pay me to do this full time so it would be my first priority...

Cheers - Neal

New two-gamers confirmed; old ones dropped

I'll turn this over to the Y!Assistant Manager:
Manchester United's double week IS NO MORE.

Yahoo have changed the deadline for Week 19, so United's 2nd fixture vs Hull will now be placed in Week 20.

Only Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool & Bolton have double weeks.

Quien Es Mas Macho?

Evans y Crouch, o Rafael y Sturridge?

Liverpool 1 - 2 Reading

Uh oh.

via ESPN:
Liverpool's problems worsened after 29 minutes when Torres went off, replaced by David Ngog. The Spanish international had never rally recovered from that early bodycheck from Mills and headed straight down the tunnel with Liverpool doctor, Mark Waller, for treatment seemingly to a knee injury.
Liverpool's troubles worsened when Gerrard failed to appear after the break, Ryan Babel coming on to join Ngog up front. The Liverpool skipper was believed to have suffered a hamstring strain.

And in a two-match week, no less.

Hmm... but does it mean that Aquilani gets to take kicks? Or that N'Gog is a good enabler at forward?

Update via Liverpool's Official site:
Rafael Benitez faces an anxious wait on the fitness of duo Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard who will both have scans on injuries picked up during the FA Cup defeat to Reading .

"Both players will have a scan tomorrow (Thursday) and we have to wait for the doctor," Benitez told his post-match press conference.

"Gerrard has a problem with his hamstring and Torres twisted his knee.

"Yossi Benayoun also has some problems with his ribs so again we will have to wait."
Later update from ESPNSoccernet:
Liverpool's hopes of salvaging a fourth-place finish from what has become a truly dismal season have been undermined by the news that striker Fernando Torres will be sidelined for six weeks, while captain Steven Gerrard is out for a fortnight and midfielder Yossi Benayoun misses up to four weeks.

Rodriguez completes move to Liverpool

Liverpool completed the signing of Argentine forward Maxi Rodriguez from Atletico Madrid on a three-and-half-year contract, the Premier League club said on Wednesday.

The deal is now subject to him gaining international clearance but he was at Anfield on Wednesday to watch Liverpool's FA Cup third-round replay against Reading
So, what do we think of this deal? It devalues Riera, Babel and perhaps Benayoun... if not also Kuyt.  But if he's listed as a forward I don't think he'll have much fantasy value himself as he'll likely be played as a wide midfielder.

Can anyone speak to his recent form? Has he been in the side for a struggling Athletico Madrid?  Has he done anything since THAT goal in the 2006 World Cup?

Early Doors

Happier times.

We're just weeks into the new year and it's already time for many happy returns.

Dig For Victory

Calling all Pompey fans – we need your help to clear Fratton Park of snow and ice to give us the best chance of staging Saturday's Premier League game against Birmingham City...

Bring a shovel/spade and even a broom and wheelbarrow if you have them. Walkways, stairs and the pitch edge all need clearing.

Everyone who turns up to help out will be given two free tickets for the Birmingham game as thanks.

So there's your first match in jeopardy of cancellation this weekend.

Thanks to the efforts of more than 500 Pompey fans, the Blues have every chance of staging their Premier League fixture against Birmingham City on Saturday.

Two and out?

Good news:
The club is delighted to announce that tonight’s Premier League fixture with Blackburn Rovers will go ahead.

The club has received praise from all quarters for the tireless work that has taken place - day and night - over the weekend to ensure all areas and major walkways around the ground are free of ice and snow.

Following a meeting with the city council, the police and club officials this morning, the green light has now been given to play the game, and only a serious deterioration in the weather conditions in the next few hours will put the game at risk.
Wigan Athletic’s home match against Aston Villa became the sixth Premier League fixture to fall victim to the big freeze when their undersoil heating failed on Friday. Soon after, the postponement of this afternoon’s clash between West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers reduced this weekend’s 10 matches to just three, with tomorrow night’s game between Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers in the balance.

Manchester City's game at home to Blackburn Rovers tomorrow night is still scheduled to go ahead although conditions on roads and paths around Eastlands on Saturday were bad.

Crap. Keep your fingers crossed... if you can still feel them.

And then there were four

Wigan's Premier League match against Aston Villa has been postponed because of a frozen pitch at the DW Stadium.

The area around the pitch was cleared and passed fit for spectator access on Thursday.

However, the undersoil heating system failed late on Friday afternoon and engineers were unable to repair it.

But Arsenal/Everton should be a go.
Today's game against Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium is set to go ahead as normal.

Officials from both clubs have been in contact this morning to confirm there is currently no threat to the fixture.

There was no additional snowfall around The Emirates overnight and, contrary to reports in some areas of the media, there is no inspection planned this morning.

Good luck everyone. Live chat soon.

Latest Update...

Five Premier League games called off - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

After Hull City "assured" everyone that the ground would be good as early as this morning, they have officially joined the growing list of matches that have been postponed.  Here is the current list of matches that HAVE NOT been canceled (Yahoo! has actually updated the Week 18 Fixtures graphic on the Team Manager page)...

Arsenal v. Everton

Wigan v. Villa (although this one is in danger according to the link above so take anyone from it with a grain of salt)

Birmingham v. ManYoo

WHU v. Wolves

Citeh v. Rovers

I'm not sure exactly how to approach these.  My initial inclination is to push as many players from the matches for tomorrow into my line-up on the theory that there is the least risk of new weather conditions cropping up and causing post-fantasy roster deadline cancellations.

The other theory is that the longer you wait the more chance that the match can be saved by shoveling, plowing, etc. 

I think I like the former theory most so I'm going to stay away from Wigan/Villa because it is up in the air and then keep the Citeh players to a minimum.

Good luck and stay warm (and a hearty "suck it" to all of you enjoying beautiful climates anywhere in the world right now)

Guess we won't be having an early live chat after all since the match (CHE/Hull) isn't going to be played.

Cheers - Neal

Another one bites the snow

Not the KC Stadium we're talking about, but a relevant photo none-the-less.

So says Hull City:

Following safety advice due to the prevailing weather conditions, tomorrow's home game against Chelsea has been postponed.

That brings out total to five matches off.

Burnley v Stoke
Chelsea v Hull
Fulham v Portsmouth
Liverpool v Tottenham
Sunderland v Bolton

Choose accordingly.

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League Team News - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

Sorry, work intervenes...

The big story is still the need to monitor the cancellations more so than the injuries...

Otherwise, it looks like Landon Donovan might make his debut for Everton

Vidic is out for ManYoo meaning Evans/Brown will start (Evans is a pretty solid deal at 6.98) although I question their ability to keep a clean sheet in the Prem since they couldn't do it against Leeds.

The Arsenal post from yesterday still stands so expect Denilson, Diaby, and Ramsey to join Nasri, Arsh, and EdS/Rosicky assuming, you know, that they play the match.

Nothing much of note from Chelsea and Citeh have yet to post their injury news.

There will be a Live Chat for the early match tomorrow but I am uncertain about the later matches.  Tune in early and I should know the schedule by then.

Cheers - Neal

Before the Injuries, We Have Postponements

Two top-flight games off, Reds request postponement - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

Well, that certainly screws with the line-up I had locked in when I went to sleep last night.  The link above was correct when I linked it but it should now read "Three top-flight games off..."

To summarize the link above...

Fulham v. Pompey is officially called off (that's no Duffman or Dempsey for me and probably Baird and AJ for others as well).

Burnley v. Stoke is also called off which I'm sure impacts those who had Eth (and possibly Tuncay although he went off injured in midweek) remaining for a match against mediocre competition.

[UPDATE] Sunderland v. Bolton is the third match called off - will Bolton ever play again?  I think Jeremy's entire line-up is out

Furthermore, this weekend's bargain basement option of the week Gareth Bale is probably a lot less attractive as Liverpool has petitioned to have their match with Spurs on Sunday postponed (not official yet).

In other postponement news, it sounds like Hull City have reaffirmed that their match will be played with Chelsea while the field is in good shape for Birmingham vs. ManYoo but they are still assessing the safety situation for supporters in and around the stadium.

So, that's 2 matches officially down with one more likely on the way and you have to think that if conditions in West London are bad enough to force Fulham to cancel that the match at Arsenal will be at risk too.  If things stay like they are, I might field a team entirely made up of Arsenal and Chelsea players with one or two from Villa thrown in.

More to follow as we hear more.

Cheers - Neal

A Little Clarity... but not a lot

Football365 | All The News | Football News | WENGER BOOSTED BY ROSICKY RETURN

So, in this article that features news about Rosicky returning is the news that Fab4 will not make it back for this weekend's match with Everton (although he will make it back for the following match with Bolton, not to be confused with yesterday's postponed match with Bolton which was already a make-up for a match that had to be rescheduled from earlier in the season...deep breath).

Where does that leave Arsenal? With the following players to contend for spots...

Denilson, Diaby, Ramsey, Nasri, Rosicky, Arshavin, and EdS

Here's a quick game of musical players as the above seven gentlemen vie for the six spots in front of the keeper and defence...

Arshavin - this is the easiest one, according to the article he is healthy so he will start.  Five spots left between six guys.

Denilson - again, taking this article at face value he is healthy and will start and most likely in Cesc's spot with some chance of him dropping back and playing a more holding role (think Michael Carrick or Gareth Barry rather than Alex Song or Claude Makelele).  Regardless of the role, he's in leaving four spots for five guys.

Diaby - Wenger has been talking him up as an attacking player rather than what looked to be his original intention of making him into "the next Vieira." That said, there really isn't a true holding midfielder available so someone will have to figure it out with Diaby and Denilson the two most likely.  My guess is that they will end up playing off of each other in the center of midfield alternating runs forward with more defensive postures.  Either way, much like Denilson, Diaby seems to have earned a de facto starting spot assuming he isn't injured.  Now at 3 spots left for 4 players.

Nasri - I'm counting down in terms of my level of confidence that a given player will play and Sami is next on my list under the assumption that someone has to at least play semi-wide and it isn't likely to be Arshavin who is tabbed as the nominal "target striker" leaving it most likely that Nasri will start either on the left or the right.  Assuming I'm correct so far that leaves 2 spots for 3 players (Rosicky, Ramsey, and EdS).

Ramsey - Here's where I start making some assumptions...I start with the fact that Ramsey's been playing very well and there's a need for someone who is willing to play out toward the right (I won't imply that he is either a winger or someone who tends to get very wide but we're a long way from the days of Ljungberg and Pires hanging out on the touchlines).  I'd say Ramsey is about 60% likely to start...

EdS - My guess is that EdS fills out the last spot in the starting group because really Arshavin isn't enough as the only out-and-out striker.  That said, I can't say I've really understood Wenger's use of him since RvP went down (unless he really hasn't been as healthy as advertised until the last couple of weeks and Wenger is trying to shield the Arsenal medical staff from even more criticism in which case it makes total sense).

Rosicky - Given the explanation that Rosicky keeps suffering these minor injuries due to his body "readjusting" to playing regularly (or maybe it should be "adjusting" since I don't recall him being consistently healthy, well, ever).  In a sane world, this would mean Rosicky would be the first midfielder/attacker off the bench and play no more than 20 minutes for the next couple of weeks however, Wenger can never be trusted to do the right thing with players returning from injury so there is still a reasonable chance that Wenger throws the analysis above into chaos by starting Rosicky and benching Ramsey or EdS or Nasri.

So, I don't know if I've really helped or not with my little theoretical game of musical chairs but it helped me sort through the probabilities associated with picking Arsenal players for this weekend.

With any luck it helped you too.

See you tomorrow for Injuries and Suspensions.

Cheers - Neal

The Week Ahead

So I have a question for all of the readers out there...

First, what we know...
  • We know the man pictured to the right has been an excellent player through the years both for Arsenal and Inter - he's won championships
  • We know he really wants to play to increase his chances of featuring for France this summer in South Africa
  • We know he wasn't getting much run at Inter who are having the kind of season that Citeh want to have (Inter are first, 8 points ahead of Milan who has a match in hand)
  • We also know that Citeh have spent a lot of money on young guys - specifically Nigel de Jong and Vincent Kompany - who play the same spot at Paddy Vieira.
  • We also know Citeh have a player in Gareth Barry who plays some version of the holding midfield role occasionally for England
  • Finally, we know that Mancini has thus far been using two strikers (generally Bellamy and Tevez but hard to say how RSC or K2 will fit in once healthy and present)
So, what's the question? Why the hell did Citeh make THIS move when they clearly need central defenders more than they need another holding midfielder? Do they have so much money that they'll spend now and figure it all out later? Are they going to move Kompany and/or de Jong to the back line (Kompany was originally on Arsenal's radar as a defender if I recall correctly although my impression is that his few starts there last season were hardly convincing).  We can only assume that Vieira only said "yes" to Citeh with a promise of more playing time so you have to wonder if Citeh have actually weakened two positions (holding midfielder and central defender) by making this change rather than just spending money to improve the center of the back line.  Finally, the way I'm reading a lot of the comments, it almost sounds like Citeh has hired an assistant manager with quotes like "he's won before", "he can show the younger guys how it's done", etc.  Those are great qualities but they tend to be applied to part time players who are "good in the dressing room" rather than full time players who want to fight tooth and nail for a World Cup spot.

What should you take from all this? Mostly that I'm confused as to why anyone on either side thought this would be a good idea.  If Arsenal, who really need a holding midfielder for the next month and could provide playing time there, weren't interested then you have to think that Vieira isn't up to the challenge.  Ask yourself this, do you think Wenger if given the choice would prefer de Jong, Kompany, or Vieira for the next month until Song gets back?  I'd guess it would be one of the former two.


Arsenal's game with Bolton is postponed due to snow

Arsenal's Premier League clash with Bolton Wanderers has been postponed due to heavy snow around the Emirates Stadium in London.

While the club insisted the pitch was playable, torrid conditions around England would have prevented fans from safely accessing the stadium.

"Despite making every effort to stage tonight's match against Bolton Wanderers, the sudden and unpredicted adverse change in weather conditions in the Highbury area has left us no choice but to postpone the fixture," the club said on their website.

This sucks for so many reasons... I'm going to have to blog about it.
  • No points.  I had Klasnic, Eduardo, Lee, Arshavin and Vermaelan playing in this match. And I'm one of the less invested fantasy managers! "Points is points", as Neal and I always say, and today there are no points to be had.
  • This match was going to be the indicator of whether or not Ramsey is Cesc's understudy.  If he made the starting eleven today I would feel a whole lot better about having him in my fantasy team going into the weekend's match against Everton.  Now I just don't know.
  • Speaking of this weekend, do we have to start looking at the weather reports to see which matches actually get played?  That's a level of uncertainty that I can surely live without.
  • Now I've lost two Bolton matches.  This is why we never bet on or against them.  Unless we do... now they have two matches in hand.  Just when I was ready to gut Matty Taylor and spread the cash around he's looking at double weeks in the future.  Do I want to hang on to him for that eventuality?  So now I'm looking at team news, weather reports, and the FA's scheduling offices.  At some point this stops being fun and starts being a real chore.
But mostly this sucks because we don't get any points.

Update via MirrorFootball
Arsenal will hope to replay their fixture with Bolton the week after next, depending on their opponents’ commitments. They could end up playing Bolton twice in three days as they already go to the Reebok on January 17.
Two games against Bolton in a week. Maybe it's too early to get shot of Arsenal players? Maybe it's even too soon to dump MTay or your other Trotters?

Later Update, and contrary view, via The Independent:
Arsenal's fixture programme has become so congested after the
snow-enforced postponement of last night's Premier League game against
Bolton Wanderers that even league officials cannot pinpoint a date when
the game will be played – and admit that scheduling it will be
dependent on the club's Champions League progress...

Arsène Wenger's team are not likely to be able to fit in the game against Bolton until the end of March or possibly early April, by which time they may yet be in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Matchday Open Thread

Sorenson, Hangeland and Shawcross all come into the match after being injury doubts though Wilkinson can only make the bench.  He is joined there by former first team strikers Beattie and Fuller while Tuncay partners Sidibe on the pitch.  Fulham also have Kelly in at right back in place of the injured Paintsil.  Baird stays in central midfield with Murphy while Dempsey loses his place to Gera.  AJ (all 7.28 in the fantasy game of him) partners Zamora.

For tomorrow's match, Arsenal expect to have Denilson and Arshavin back.  However, Cesc has been definitely ruled out at least through the Everton match at the weekend.  As for Bolton, the only word is about Coyle joining as manager, but that announcement will likely be face "late fitness test" to happen by match time.

Consider this your matchday open thread.

Fulham Game Set To Go Ahead

STOKE CITY remain confident at this stage that this evening's Barclays Premier League match against Fulham will go ahead at the Britannia Stadium.

The Club have conducted a review of the situation with match referee Mark Clattenburg and the Police at lunchtime which confirmed that the pitch itself and the footprint of the Britannia Stadium are in good condition for the game tonight (7.45pm kick-off).

City's Chief Executive Tony Scholes commented: "There is no reason to believe that this evening's game won't go ahead at this moment in time."

However, the Club have stressed that they cannot legislate for any sudden change in the weather later today, even though no more snow is forecast.

FA Cup Notes

A few things pop out at me, looking at the lineups for today's FA Cup games.

Man City: Given, Richards, Garrido, Sylvinho, Kompany, Zabaleta, Petrov, Weiss, De Jong, Mwaruwari, Boyata.
Subs: Taylor, Barry, Tevez, Vidal, Bellamy, Trippier, Tutte.
Mancini looks to have named six defenders in his side. Garrido starts after his free kick goal in midweek. If he's at left back, then perhaps Sylvinho is at left midfield and Kompany is in midfield. Why Mancini thinks he can play MPet on the right is beyond me. But if Sylvinho doesn't have to actually defend, he could be a really nice fantasy option. Though likely that spot goes to Bellamy in a league game.

Stoke: Sorensen, Huth, Cort, Higginbotham, Collins, Lawrence, Delap, Whitehead, Etherington, Beattie, Fuller.
Subs: Simonsen, Whelan, Sidibe, Pugh, Sanli, Tonge, Wilkinson.
Tuncay finds himself back on the bench as Pulis goes looking for goals. I don't know if he's being rested, but I'm guessing that if Beattie/Fuller works today we'll see that pairing again against Fulham.

Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Cana, Da Silva, McCartney, Malbranque, Meyler, Henderson, Murphy, Campbell, Bent.
Subs: Carson, Healy, O'Donovan, Reed, Anderson, Noble, Liddle.
No Reid. No Zenden. No Jones.

Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Heitinga, Neill, Baines, Pienaar, Neville, Cahill, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov, Vaughan.
Subs: Nash, Coleman, Duffy, Forshaw, Agard, Baxter, Mustafi.
As we expected, Vaughan the lone striker. In more ways than one.

Tottenham: Gomes, Hutton, Dawson, Bassong, Bale, Kranjcar, Huddlestone, Palacios, Modric, Keane, Defoe.
Subs: Alnwick, Pavlyuchenko, Crouch, Naughton, Giovani, Corluka, Rose.
Bale the starting left back in BA-E's absence. Modric is 'arry's "answer" on the right of midfield, sans Lennon.

Cats Andy's injury agony

SUNDERLAND star Andy Reid could miss most of January with the hamstring strain he picked up in the Boxing Day game against Everton.

The Republic of Ireland international limped off at the end of the 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light and tests have shown that the muscle strain needs to be given weeks to recover.

"Andy's got a grade two tear," boss Steve Bruce revealed.  "And when you've got one like that, you're usally looking at a minimum of three weeks."
This is a huge blow to Sunderland, who can ill afford to lose him after a poor run of form.  Jordan Henderson may be one option for fantasy managers.  He's still under 7 and took the one corner and one free kick that Sunderland earned against Rovers.  Another, cheaper option may be Bolo Zenden at 4.62.  He's struggling with his own hamstring injury (he's not in today's FA Cup lineup), but if he's back he may be given a chance by Bruce. 

Sunderland next face Bolton so pick them for this one, then sell before @Chelsea and @Everton.  We'll see if Reid is back, and less pricey, for Stoke, Wigan and @Pompey.

Early Doors

It's still more than a week away from the end of the current game week, but it's not too early to count the cost of the "hectic festive period" (TM English Football Punditry Ltd) and see what team news is available ahead of the weekend's FA Cup matches.