Hilario, Verm, Bale, Hutton, Fab4, Gerrard, AJ, Maxi, Drogs, Bendtner, and Doyle
Please keep in mind as we discuss the BD that Chelsea, Villa, Citeh, Fulham, Spurs, and Rovers are all off next week. Burnley and Bolton have two matches. Arsenal has a great home match-up (Burnley) and ManYoo and Liverpool have great road match-ups (Wolves and Wigan respectively).
Live chat after the jump.
Why not me?
So, what to make of the mid-week results? Is Chelsea stumbling? They certainly seem to be keeping things together with smoke and mirrors at this point. Have ManYoo righted the ship? Their blow-out win over West Ham was impressive but did it signify anything or was it just a case of superior talent combined with better effort on a single day? Can Arsenal beat their new Bolton (Stoke) this weekend to ensure that they keep their momentum going in the right direction? What the hell should we make of the "next four" - Citeh, Liverpool, Spurs, and Villa? Can any of them put together a sustained period of excellence? And finally, did Everton wait too long to put it all together? Throw in the battle for the final two relegation spots (Pompey are goners) and these are the story lines that will make up the rest of the season.
Three of those story lines will also play a critical role in determining the outcome of this weekend's matches.
Benitez insists he will slowly nurse the club’s leading scorer this season back into action as he does not want him to suffer yet another injury setback.As I wrote on Monday, I think Torres is one for next week, but it will be worth following the news to see if there is any stronger indication that he'll get a run out from the start against Rovers.
The Reds boss revealed Torres will again be a substitute in the Europa League second-leg clash in Romania against Unirea Urziceni on Thursday night, but it is hoped he will be able to select him from the start in Sunday’s home Premier League game with Blackburn.
Benitez said: “We decided to put him in the squad (against City) because he was training well last Friday. Now he can carry on and progress. He will be ready soon.
“We have to be careful because it has been a long time. Now it is a question of one step at a time.”
He added: “You cannot push him too hard because you could lose the player and it is not necessary.
“We will see how he progresses and we will decide each day.”
Meanwhile, in the West Midlands...
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy is set to name unchanged line-up for a third successive game for Saturday’s latest survival collision at Bolton.
The Molineux chief, who has earned a reputation for regularly changing his team this season in a bid to find a winning formula, has Michael Mancienne available again after ineligibility prevented him facing his parent club Chelsea last weekend.
But he was so impressed with the players’ application in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat that he hinted at retaining faith with the same XI at the Reebok that fell harshly to the Premier League leaders 2-0 and beat Tottenham 1-0...
And he revealed his satisfaction at the way Kevin Foley – described by critics as a square peg in a round hole – has adapted to his new role at wide right in the absence of the injured Michael Kightly, Dave Edwards and Andy Keogh...
“People tell me Kevin Foley is a full-back but he’s played really well for us in that position.
“He keeps the ball and but for a world class save he would have scored the equaliser against Chelsea.
“He had a couple of chances at Birmingham as well.
“It’s definitely suiting us to play the way we’re playing.
The Kevins, Doyle and Foley, are definitely on my radar for this weekend's match.
And in news that will interest Gareth Bale owners, especially those of you who have been enjoying his services at 2...
Assou-Ekotto could be available for this weekend's clash with Everton, but he concedes that he cannot expect to walk back into the team.
O'Hara turning the other cheek, but that was then.
Portsmouth's troubles boiled over on to the training ground on Monday when a practice match erupted into fisticuffs between midfielders Michael Brown and Jamie O'Hara.I came across this story while trying to find any evidence that O'Hara, and the other Pompey loanees, would have to go back to their parent clubs if Pompey do go into administration at the end of this week. Pompey play @Burnley and are reasonably attractive fantasy picks. I've only found speculation about the loanee issue, nothing definitive. However, it does sound like the tension is high on the South Coast. Perhaps backing Burnley (Jensen, Eagles, Fletcher, etc) is the way to play it this weekend.
With the cash-strapped club's future hanging in the balance this week, the tension was palpable at their Eastleigh training complex and Brown was making his presence known with over-zealous tackles.
But when he jumped in on O'Hara, the Tottenham loanee punched Brown to the ground. Team-mates rushed to break up the melee, with Brown coming off worst with a black eye.
One player said: 'It was all over pretty quickly. Brown had been flying in with a few challenges and he just caught O'Hara with a nasty one. It was a possible leg-breaker. O'Hara just snapped and punched him. He didn't take any messing.'
Only one more after today and he qualifies for a winner's medal.
Foster, Neville, Brown, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Gibson, Scholes, Anderson, Berbatov, Rooney.
Subs: Kuszczak, Owen, Park, Rafael, Evans, Fletcher, Diouf.
Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Upson, Spector, Behrami, Noble, Kovac, Diamanti, Franco, Cole.
Subs: Stech, Dyer, Ilan, Mido, Da Costa, Collison, Daprela.
Consider this your matchday open thread (and Van Der Sar bitch session).
Stoke boss Tony Pulis has confirmed Matthew Etherington is in line for a shock return to the side for the FA Cup fifth-round replay against Manchester City at the Britannia Stadium.
Etherington was taken off on a stretcher in the initial tie 11 days ago amid fears he had suffered serious knee ligament damage.
But following a rapid recovery the winger will now be assessed over the next 24 hours and may undergo a late fitness test.
However, in less encouraging injury news:
Aaron Lennon has suffered a setback in his recovery from a groin problem, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has confirmed...I wouldn't bet on it. (Too soon?)
Redknapp, speaking ahead of Wednesday night's FA Cup fifth-round replay against Bolton, said: "He was close to getting fit, but has had a bit of a setback.
"Hopefully it should not put him back much from where he was, and he could still be fit in a couple of weeks."
Looking early at options to move off of my ManYoo guys since they don't have any games next weekend. Arsenal and Bolton look to be interesting based on the match-ups.
... beat 'em!
Here is the info on "Beat the Bloggers" private group #7. Thank you so much for your interest in these groups and please remember you can only join one. Still a lot of season left to be played. Still a lot of bragging rights left to be earned. So get in there!
Group ID = 26793
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Quite a bit of news to be had this weekend. Some of it may even be relevant to your team...
Looks like Vidic will finally make his 2010 debut against Everton - the increased likelihood of him playing twice boosts his potential value greatly and reduces that of Evans who is likely to give way to Rio Ferdinand in midweek as his suspension will be up.
ManYoo will also be missing Nani and Giggs from their midfield for both matches due to suspension and a broken arm respectively. The two absences mean Valencia and Park are very likely to start both matches for ManYoo. Both are excellent value for the price as a result.
Lots of injuries in the Arsenal/Sunderland match with Sunderland missing BFAR, KRich, Anton Ferdinand, Mensah, Cattermole, and Meyler with Malbranque also unlikely but not ruled out entirely. For Arsenal, the goalkeeping situation remains up in the air but I have to bet that Almunia will get the start after Fabianski's disaster against Porto. Diaby, Arshavin, and Gallas will also be out but Song is set to return. What does all of that mean? I'm not sure but looking at the names of the missing, I'm going to guess that there will be goals going both ways and that Cesc, Bendtner, and DBent will all be worthy picks. I am also going to reverse myself on recommending that you have the Arsenal keeper. I think ARS will get the win but with Sol and Clichy at the back I have a hard time seeing a clean sheet. The only hope is that Sunderland don't have any quality midfielders to exploit Arsenal's defensive frailties.
Benni McCarthy is doubtful with a knee injury but Franco and (really?) Kieron Dyer are both fit after some strong training sessions. The big downside here is that WHU now have something of an excess at forward with Diamanti, CCole, Franco, et al - could mean bad things for rotation.
In Barn Door news, looks like Jummy might be on the bench this weekend which means that you probably want to think about picking him up on the cheap (unless he injures himself again getting up off the bench to warm up). Ditto for Arteta from Everton. Two traditionally excellent fantasy point producers who are returning after long layoffs and can be had on the cheap. Feels like we're all Pompey and the Transfer Window has opened out of season, huh?
At Chelsea, the injuries continue to mount with Lamps and Alex joining ACole, Essien, Bosingwa, Belletti, and Deco on the sidelines. Presumably this means that the starting back four will be Zhirkov, JT, Carvalho, and Ivanovic making Zhirkov and Carvalho more valuable than usual. The injuries will also mean that the most likely midfield line-up will be FloMal, Mikel, Ballack, and JCole. The increased likelihood of starting (and against Wolves no less) dramatically increases the value of Ballack and Cole especially.
Eth remains out for Stoke with the knee injury that caused him to miss the mid-week match and Abdoulaye Faye is also gone via suspension picked up in that same match. As Pompey is this week's opposition, it is somewhat relevant to fantasy managers that more of the attack is likely to go through Liam Lawrence with Eth sidelined although I'm more inclined to believe that, like midweek, his absence will really just serve to stagnate the attack.
Gabby and Heskey are questionable but it sounds like both will play on Sunday while Warnock will also shake off the knock he picked up in FA Cup action to feature.
Finally, some news from the Citeh/Liverpool clash where Vieira is suspended for the next three matches (nice to see his time in Italy hasn't changed him too much), MPet follows up three matches of nothin' with a knee injury that could keep him out for a month and Carlito is still at home in Argentina. On the Liverpool side, Benayoun may return but Kyrgiakos, Nando, and GJohn are all out. What does it mean? Well, it certainly means that Adam Johnson will continue to start so for those who didn't pick him up cheap earlier should consider doing so now - he's looked good. It also likely means that Bellamy will start vs. Liverpool. Speaking of Liverpool, Yossi's price has dropped below 10 (9.51 to be exact). With him coming back against strong competition, my strategy will be to hope he does poorly and his price falls a bit more for next week. An affordable midfield that includes Adam Johnson, Jummy, Arteta, and Benayoun for a combined price under 35 seems like just the thing to allow me to keep going with Rooney, K2, and Drogba up top and EvdS in net.
Good luck picking your squad for this weekend. Please join us for the Live Chat for the Everton/ManYoo match early tomorrow although I may not be able to keep it going for the afternoon matches.
Cheers - Neal
Feels like forever since I've written one of these and with 3 matches played by many of my players with an FA Cup weekend in-between, I guess it has been. Since it has been a while, I'll do my best to remember how I arrived at the current make-up of my roster. It has been evolving fairly regularly for the past 14 days which has seen some 35 to 40 inches of snow fall on us in the DC area followed by a trip to South Carolina for a half-marathon (my wife was running, not me - let's not be crazy) that was canceled because of 1.5" of snow that was completely melted by the time the race would have been run and finally on to Tampa, Florida for a week of working remotely somewhere that the weather doesn't threaten snow seemingly every day. Somewhere in that chaos K2, Tevez, Drogs, Eth, and the amazingly resurgent Bale powered me to over 200 points in this match week. Hopefully, I can keep the momentum going.
For fantasy managers, this could be a chance for Heitinga to step into a defensive midfield role with Yobo coming into the backline or for Jack Rodwell, just back from injury himself, to reclaim a regular place.
Everton manager David Moyes believes Fellaini will be absent for around six months, meaning he could return for the start of next season.
Today's Europa League match against Sporting Lisbon doesn't give us much of a clue as Johnny Heit is ineligible. But Yobo is in central defence and Rodwell is on the bench.
Mazel tov to Carlos Tevez and family on the birth of their baby girl. That's great news for him personally, and for fantasy managers it means a much more rapid return to Manchester City than was originally planned. He and Craig Bellamy could be available for the Liverpool match but will miss today's match at Stoke.
Two-match hero Matt Etherington - really, is there a player other than Stephen Hunt who steps up their game more in Y!fantasy football double-match weeks? - is out with a knee injury which will sideline him for a few weeks. Perhaps Liam Lawrence becomes a good pick-up for the weekend's trip to Portsmouth?
These multiple match weeks can be so frustrating! Especially in a "week" like this one where you have FA Cup games before or between matches... there is so much can go wrong in terms of injuries, suspensions and squad rotation. Who knew that Martin Petrov would be injured or that Tevez's wife was having a difficult pregnancy? How could you predict that James McCarthy would go out with a hamstring strain or Etherington would do his knee 15minutes into the FA Cup match?
However, persevere we must. As always, consider this your midweek matchday open thread.
Broken ankle rules Ashley Cole out for three months - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet
Well, it would appear that ACole is out for the rest of the season with a broken ankle. Looks like Yuri Zhirkov will be a regular starter for Chelsea. He won't get any clean sheet points since he's listed as a midfielder but he'll likely be worth a punt if you need an inexpensive midfielder.
The article also starts the speculation about ACole's World Cup spot which might now revert to JT's good buddy Wayne Bridge who is really the only other specialist left back even remotely in contention. Lescott seems to be the next in line after Bridge with Warnock and Baines also in the picture. None of the above makes you feel better about England's chances, do they?
Anyone want to bet that we'll see some more stories about wacky remedies as England pray for ACole to be back in time to get some level of form back.
Cheers - Neal
Striker Benni McCarthy misses West Ham's home match with Birmingham with a knee injury picked up against Burnley on Saturday.Adjust your upcoming two-match week expectations accordingly.
Today we get into the midweek portion of our program. Unlike last week, there are no huge "Drogba, or not Drogba" issues hanging over our heads. With Manchester United and West Ham United being two-gamers it's more a matter of how many of those players can you afford or stomach.
But there are still many interesting subplots... injuries, suspensions, new arrivals and returning heroes. All of which we'll chronicle and comment after the jump.
And, as always, consider this your midweek matchday open thread.
This is how most fans will remember the Dyer era at West Ham.
I guess Berbatov and Robinho can rest easy now. This is clearly the worst £30 million plus transfer ever.
West Ham's Kieron Dyer will have cost the club £30 million by the time his contract is up, even though he has started only five games for the club.
The Hammers bought the injury-prone midfielder on a four-year contract from Newcastle for £7 million in August 2007, and handed him a £70,000-a-week despite the club's medical team expressing concerns at time.
West Ham also had to pay £1m in agents' fees to push the deal through, which means that with wages and bonuses included the entire deal will cost the Hammers around £30m.
EdvS, Verm, Bale, Hutton, Eth, MPet, Lee, McCarthy (Wig), Drogs, Tevez, and K2.
OK, off to Liverpool for the derby...
Klasnic remains crocked for Bolton which could give Elmander a chance to redeem himself for the big contract he hasn't come close to earning yet. Weiss and Wilshere look to be "included in the squad" but no mention of either starting meaning that MTay and Lee are probably the safer bets if you can afford them.
Nevland seems like he might be fit enough to at least steal some time from Okaka at Fulham and Gera is question mark.
Geovanni is out with a ligament problem and Jummy is still 3 weeks from being a great bargain.
At three-gamers Citeh have Kompany and Micah Richards out but Bridge and Vieira are both back and should start while Lescott is only likely for the bench (at least for the first match of the 3). Adam Johnson is also available to steal some minutes from MPet.
Nando, Yussi, and GJohnson still out at Liv
Arteta is "back in contention" which means he's a major opportunity on the BD. Yak and Yobo are back from the ANC and Rodwell is fit again too. Jags and Hibbert are close to returning but not quite yet. Regardless, Everton look like they'll have some line-up chaos for a few weeks while Moyes figures out who to play where and when now that he has some players healthy and present.
Vidic is back for ManYoo after a nerve issue (no jokes about it being "nerves" rather than "a nerve" after some of his performances against top teams in the last 18 months or so).
Dunn still out for Rovers meaning that MGP is probably their main source of inspiration which will make Jeremy happy.
Hutton looks set to start for Sunderland at right back. Melchiot is a late fitness test for Wigan and Victor Moses looks to be in the squad but not starting.
Spurs new boys Eidur and Kaboul are both available (but likely on the bench) but BAE is still out with a groin injury (what is it with groins at WHL? Pav, BAE, Lennon, and Woody all have groin issues - if anyone has a solid creative joke on the topic, please share in the comments). The BAE injury is good news for those with Bale.
Carew is back for Villa but probably not worth your time.
Mikel is back for Chelsea but Belletti and Essien are still injured.
Arsenal, as usual, are without a player of occasional quality for a big match with EdS definitely out and Diaby uncertain.
Not any huge news for your squad really but all worth knowing.
See you tomorrow for the live chat assuming snow hasn't crippled the region to the point where I don't have one of TV or broadband internet service (they're predicting anywhere between 1 and 3 feet of snow for us here in the DC area so we'll see).
Cheers - Neal
By way of apology, here's a photo of Steve Bull scoring against WBA in 1996.
First, to the person who commented on the Transfer Deadline Winners & Losers debating the comment I made about Wolves being a remote footballing outpost. The comment wasn't made to offend Wolves supporters or belittle the club's history. I made the comment because in a world where clubs attempt to recruit players who are generally young, single, fairly wealthy, have employment options, and in nearly all cases aren't students of English footballing history it is difficult for clubs that are geographically isolated to recruit. Selling players on England based on climate can be difficult enough for the famous clubs like ManYoo, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool. If you extend the selling to include a smaller city (like Wolverhampton) and/or a less famous club to TODAY'S players (like relegation-threatened Wolves) and you make the problem nearly impossible to overcome. Clubs like Wolves, Wigan, and Hull face a huge uphill battle to sign decent players. It is no mystery that Wigan have been most successful recruiting players from "below the radar" soccer countries like Honduras. This isn't my opinion of Wolverhampton, I'd play there in a second if they offered me a contract, these are just the facts of trying to recruit players in the modern day.
With that clarification out of the way, I turn my attention to one of the "fashionable" clubs that didn't do what they needed to at the Transfer Deadline. My beloved Arsenal. What is my opinion of them after no transfers and 5 dropped points over their last two matches? I think the most astute headline I saw was "Beautiful Game 1; Winning the Game 3" (I think it was on Football365). My interpretation of that headline was that while Wenger probably has more talent on his team and they certainly play a more skilled game, they sacrifice a certain amount of pragmatism in doing so.
... beat 'em!
Here is the info on "Beat the Bloggers" private group #6. Thank you so much for your interest in these groups and please remember you can only join one. Still a lot of season left to be played. Still a lot of bragging rights left to be earned. So get in there!
Group ID = 26502
Password = bloggers
You have your John Terry's in England and we have our John Harkes'
I don't post this because it is at all relevant to the overall topic of the blog but because the topic came up in our Live Chat this past Saturday and all of a sudden, 10 years later, the truth comes out on national television and in a major US newspaper. I don't want to say that the blog had anything to do with this revelation but if you want to put two-and-two together... ;-) (seriously, we had nothing to do with it but we're happy to get in on the coincidence and a little sex scandal is always good for site traffic).
Go Pompey (especially O'Hara and Utaka).
Cheers - Neal
Every deadline day it's the same set of Spurs players who move around the league. Three from this line-up alone, and you could add Kaboul to the list.
The obligatory, but in this case excellent and fantasy relevant, transfer window winners and losers post.