Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League team news - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

First, a note from Jeremy who pointed out the strangeness of N'gog being on the LIV bench yesterday but apparently not fit enough to come in and so much so that he is not even likely to make it to the weekend that won't be played until Sunday.  That Rafa is an odd dude.  Either that or he was basically saying, my squad is left so thin right now that I'd rather bring someone I will definitely not throw on rather than bringing along someone who is able-bodied.

So, first the important notes from Stoke, Fulham, Citeh, and Spurs...

  • Stoke -Sidibe could be back but that hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement and Begovic will start both matches which is only mildly attractive given the opposition and Stoke's mid-table quality;
  • Fulham - Zamora is definitely out and the news suggests Dempsey will fill in - not much word on other expected changes to rest starters ahead of the Europa Cup final but expect a similar line-up to last weekend;
  • Spurs - Word is that Lennon may start which isn't terribly helpful; you'd have to expect that even if he starts both matches he'll make way for Bentley between the 60th and 70th minute in both matches as he makes his way back to total fitness; typical news on King - could feature but can't imagine he'll start both given his fragile nature - figure Bassong starts vs. Bolton and King starts @Citeh;
  • Citeh - We were hoping for something more specific from Citeh - apparently Mancini isn't saying who his choice in net will be (Fulop vs. Nielsen) or give a definitive answer on K2 (Barry is fairly irrelevant based on his performance this season but he's in question as well).  I'm leaning toward ignoring the Citeh goalkeeping situation altogether and doing to same with K2 and praying he doesn't play two and score a bunch;
The rest...
  • Looks like Rooney and Rio will be risked and its hard to argue since ManYoo have slight title hopes - all of England will hold their collective breath in hopes that their key men for this summer aren't being rushed back to the detriment of the Three Lions;
  • O'Hara still out for Pompey;
  • Geoffrey Mujangi Bia to start for Wolves in midfield vs. Pompey;
  • N'gog out and Kuyt and Masch are question marks against Chelsea;
  • JT is back from suspension for CHE;
  • Hutton (the b@stard) is suspended for SUN and BFAR is out after calf surgery;
That's about it - good luck with team selections and we'll look forward to seeing you on the live chat tomorrow.

Cheers - Neal

Let the Summer Transfer Speculation Start In Earnest...

£40m Sergio Aguero heading to Chelsea - Transfers - ESPN Soccernet

Still waiting on some injury news but figured I'd get a head start on the summer transfer columns by forwarding this one along to everyone.

So, does this mean The Elk is gone? Does it mean that Chelsea will make fantasy managers miserable by rotating Drogs/Elk/Aguero + occasional appearances from Sturridge and Kalou at striker? In the real world, you'd think that after paying that much money for any player, that player would be a no-doubt-about-it starter every week he was healthy but when you talk about the super-rich clubs like Chelsea, Citeh, Real, and Barca who don't really operate with budgets that logic doesn't really apply.  In any event, he is the first potential +10 nominee heading into the next fantasy season with the hope being that there are more to come with ManYoo (striker? attacking midfielder? and winger?), Arsenal (keeper? center back? striker?), and Citeh (just about any and everything they can get their grubby paws on) all in the market for expensive players.  It could be the first time ever that a strong fantasy team could feature 3 premium superstars (Rooney, Drogs, Cesc/Gerrard) AND an entire team of new players in the league.  Interesting times.

The Week Ahead

I have to admit, I'm usually pretty well settled on my squad by the time I write this and only make changes due to injury or the threat of injury. This week? Not so much.  While there is the obvious focus on the teams with two matches (Spurs, Citeh, Stoke, and Fulham) I can't say I'm entirely thrilled with the options available to me the way I was with say Villa a couple of weeks ago. 

Why is that you ask? Some of it has to do with match-ups - Citeh has two home matches against very good competition (Villa and Spurs) who will be fighting them tooth and nail for the 4th Champions League spot.  Spurs has one attractive match-up (Bolton at WHL) and the aforementioned tough road match at Citeh.  Stoke host still-in-the-Europa-League-qualifying-hunt Everton and then travel to who-knows-what-you'll-get-from-them Fulham in mid-week and Fulham have a very attractive schedule (home twice for WHU and Stoke) but very little motivation to focus on the league.  Throw in the fact that nearly all of the Spurs players are expensive (except Modric and unless we think Bassong is going to play twice) and the fact that both Spurs and Citeh were fantasy duds (except Bale, he's always awesome) last weekend and it's really hard to get too excited about your choices, isn't it?

So, with only two fantasy match-weeks remaining in the schedule, I'm going to dispense with the usual format and just launch straight into my strategy for this week. 

  • Holding players at a discount - we're past the time when holding a player at a big discount is going to help you for the long term so each week you should be asking yourself, "is this the best way I can spend this money for THIS WEEK?"  Arteta at 13 is a great bargain and he's been on fire but you have to decide if you'd rather have one road game from Arteta or two from someone like Defoe for the same price.
  • Going for two-gamers - I may be over-reacting to a very productive week from my Villa contingent a few weeks back but I'd just be beside myself next midweek if I went with attractive-looking one gamers and they did nada for me over the weekend only to have to watch the two-gamers have another shot at it.  I'm trying to avoid crap two-gamers just for the sake of getting two matches (think Zabaleta/Palacios who are YC machines);

City duo doubtful for Villa clash

Racing to join Petrov on the sidelines?

City duo doubtful for Villa clash
Big-money striker Emmanuel Adebayor is struggling to shake off a thigh problem, whilst former Villa midfielder Gareth Barry is doubtful for the encounter with his former club after picking up a hamstring injury.

Manager Roberto Mancini must also decide whether to draft Martin Fulop straight into his starting line-up following his arrival on an emergency loan from Sunderland.
Time to scrape together the extra buck to move from K2 to Defoe. I gutted from Vanden Borre to Mancienne at the back to do just that.

As for Barry, I was just talking with Neal about him.

Fulop makes Man City switch

Once more into the breach!

Manchester City have signed up Hungarian international Marton Fulop on loan from Premier League rivals Sunderland to resolve a goalkeeping crisis threatening their bid for a Champions League qualifying place.

The 26-year-old joined up with his new, short-term team-mates at training on Wednesday after the deal was finalised...

"I'm ready to play, if I'm selected. I came here to do a job and I'm confident that I can do that. I feel good, and we need a win to get that fourth-place spot, which is so important for the club...

The Hungarian is expected to play against Aston Villa at home on Saturday. City have three games remaining and are sixth in the league, a point behind fourth-placed Tottenham and Villa and one ahead of Liverpool.

And thus we double the number of double-match keepers for a buck... well, Begovic for a buck and F├╝lop for a buck-sixty. Choose wisely.

Oh, and don't search Y! for "Fulop" as the umlaut doesn't register as a "u". Search for Sunderland keepers.

Tidbits from the Fantasist

Haven't you always imagined this guy was The Fantasist? But who knew he was a Barca fan!?

Interesting tidbits in The Fantasists blog today.

In relation to the growing idea that a player should return his value in points:
Last weekend 266 players featured in the Premier League, of which 57 outscored their value - that's 21 per cent.
The Fantasist's own team (1,232nd out of about 250,000 overall)
"250,000 overall"? Finally, after years of guessing - and guessing closer to 400,000 - we have an idea about how big the game actually is. Now, if only we had a sense of how many teams were still active at this point in the season...

Cruel Irony

Or maybe just lousy timing.

Shawcross won't be rushed, Thursday, April 15, 2010
Meanwhile, Pulis has hinted that Asmir Begovic will be making his debut in goal for Stoke before the end of the season.

Begovic, who could have been Portsmouth's FA Cup final goalkeeper had he not left for Stoke in January, is likely to be blooded in the final few fixtures.

"He's been fantastic in training and it would be nice to give him an opportunity," said Pulis.

It would also give Thomas Sorensen a break ahead of this summer's World Cup assignment with Denmark. The Dane's warm-up begins with a pre-tournament friendly in Copenhagen against a Senegal side that could include club captain Abdoulaye Faye.

Further news, from
"[Begovic]'s going to get some games now," Pulis added, "and hopefully the people in front of him will work a bit harder and make it more difficult for teams to play against us."

Steve Simonsen will take up residence on the bench against Everton next Saturday after already returning from a seven-match loan spell at Sheffield United.

Skipper Abdoulaye Faye is also struggling with a leg injury, but Stoke had the consolation of seeing Ryan Shawcross return for his first game since being sidelined by suspension and injury in late February.

Manchester City seek emergency loan of Marton Fulop

UPDATE: from the BBC:
Manchester City will be given special dispensation to sign a goalkeeper on an emergency loan deal until the end of the season, BBC Sport understands.

Shay Given will miss City's last three games after dislocating a shoulder in the 0-0 draw with Arsenal on Saturday.

Stuart Taylor is also out and Joe Hart is on loan at Birmingham, which leaves only the inexperienced Gunnar Nielsen.

Spokesmen for Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool said they had "no comment" on the Premier League ruling.

from The Guardian:
Manchester City want to sign Marton Fulop from Sunderland to take over from the injured Shay Given on an emergency loan deal until the end of the season.
Fulop, the Hungary goalkeeper, has fallen out of favour at the Stadium of Light and heads a list of targets drawn up by City to fill the void left by Given dislocating a shoulder in Saturday's 0‑0 draw at Arsenal...
City need permission from the Premier League to allow them to bring in another goalkeeper outside of the transfer window. The club have made an official request, backing up their claim with medical statements, and will find out tomorrow if they have been successful. However, it is understood that the Premier League is likely to be sympathetic as they fit the criteria for an emergency deal.
Fulop is 1.6 in the Y! game and could be a great bargain, with two home matches this week.  However, I'm likely to stick with the even cheaper Begovic (for a buck) home to Everton and at Fulham.  Pending Europa Cup results, of course.

In other Sunderland-related news:
Sunderland are appealing to the Football Association over the red card shown to Alan Hutton following his altercation with Jozy Altidore in the win at Hull City.
A spokesperson has confirmed they "are appealing the severity of the sanction" following Hutton's dismissal in Saturday's 1-0 win. The defender was embroiled in an altercation with the Hull City striker at the end of the first half that resulted in the referee Lee Probert dismissing both players.
Followinga challenge between the duo, Hutton sparked the incident by throwing the ball at Altidore, who responded by headbutting the Scot, causing facial injuries. Hutton is now due to miss the final two games of this season, at home to Manchester United and at Wolves, as well as the first of next term.

Worst. Decision. Ever.

So do I ditch Liverpool (@Burnley) and Sunderland (@Hull) and go for the likes of Tevez and K2 (@Arsenal)? They have a double game week next week, but I don't want to get too caught up in that and miss out on points this week. But maybe I won't.

I did, and I'm devestated.

I went from Gerrard/Maxi/Reina to Tevez/Adebayor/Green. And I'm devestated.


I'm so sorry about yesterday. Made a stupid, immature and costly mistake. I apologize to hull city and the fans who I let down. I let my emotions get the best of me and lost my composure. Believe it or not this year playing for hull was to date the best trip I've ever been on.
Stupid reaction by Jozy. Nicely taunted by Hutton who also went down quite theatrically.

Hutton was red carded as well, but has since had his suspension reduced to one match.

The Barn Door Live - April 24

Wow, big news this morning from PhysioRoom that Rooney isn't fit to make the Spurs match today - could this mean that Spurs ARE positioned to complete the hat trick of wins against the top 3 in 3 weeks? Would be big news for all those Spurs fans out there and obviously for the Chelsea supporters as well...

Here's my line-up for the week...Jussi, Bale, Jags, Hutton, Arteta, Gerrard, Maxi, MTay, AJ, Bendtner, and K2

For next week I'll be looking to load up on Spurs, Citeh, Stoke, and Fulham (depending on how their Euro adventure continues) as all four are currently scheduled to play two matches.

Injuries and Suspensions

photo courtesy of the Vladimir Weiss Facebook page

Premier League team news - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

It applies to neither an injury or a suspension but the Bolton team news indicates that Weiss might be given a start so if you need a cheap midfielder with a great match-up then he might be your guy...

Why is this particularly interesting? Well, because Pompey will be without Belhadj, O'Hara, and Ben Haim.  Throw in whatever adjustments they make because they don't want to risk anyone getting hurt before the FA Cup final and you have to figure Bolton is going to win this one.

Apparently my good feeling about David Ngog and his match-up with Burnley might have been a bit premature.  Word is that he has a back complaint after Thursday's Europa Cup match and will face the dreaded Late Fitness Test.  Nando is clearly the big name along with Insua, Aurelio, Skertl, and Kelly (not a bad defence sitting in the training room really).

As I mentioned in The Week Ahead, I'm staying away from ManYoo/Spurs but it seems likely that Wes Brown and Aaron Lennon don't agree with me and both are going to show up and potentially be involved for the first time in a while.  My sense is that neither will start so really nothing important in this one.  Kranj and Corluka are the only two really important injuries here with Ledley King facing his typical Late Fitness Test that we really should just re-name as "A Ledley" for all players.

At Hull, Altidore is likely to get a start with JVoH injured and Anthony Gardner is returning and likely to replace Mouyokolo who drew some attention from fantasy managers while he was in the line-up...

Scott Parker is back from suspension for WHU and Gary Caldwell does the same for their opponents Wigan.

Karl Henry is still suspended for Wolves while Rovers will be without Samba (groin) and Emerton (hammy) and everyone's favorite bundle of joy El Hadji Diouf is doubtful (tonsils). 

Arsenal has their usual laundry list of absentees - Almunia, Cesc, Arsh, Verm, Gallas, Gibbs, Djourou, and Ramsey but there is a good chance that Song and EdS will be back but it shouldn't matter too much to you.  Still have a bad feeling about this one for Arsenal.  Too much speed and attacking skill at Citeh for the Arsenal second team defence to contain. 

Early season favorite Johnny Heitinga looks like he may miss out on the rest of the season for Everton and he's definitely out this weekend while Fulham will be missing Zamora (good for EVE defenders and Howard's value) with Dempsey likely to replace Zamora.  Hero of Mike Langlais' late season run up the charts in our private group Chris Baird is likely to make way for old blog favorite John Pantsil.  In his debut away to Everton is probably not when you want to pick him up but definitely worth thinking about on the BD or for next week if the BD isn't necessary.

Finally, Chelsea are relatively healthy but will be missing John Terry due to his really stupid suspension last weekend.  I'm still sort of chuckling to myself that he was arguing with the officials as he left the field because he clearly seemed to believe that he shouldn't have seen red when it was pretty clear to everyone else on the planet not wearing really thick blue-tinted glasses that they were both legitimate cards.  Hmm, sense of entitlement, no sense of the likelihood of being punished for stupid behavior, any wonder this whole "being faithful" thing isn't working out so well for he or his wife?

The Week Ahead - NFL Draft Edition

Doesn't get much better than writing about fantasy soccer while watching the NFL Draft and keeping track of the Phillies/Braves on text cast. That's a good Thursday night.

The big question on my mind is "are Spurs capable of running the Premier League gauntlet?" Beating Arsenal, Chelsea, and ManYoo over three successive weekends? Can Bale score against all three (sorry Jer but it would be irresponsible journalism if I didn't ask)? Do ManYoo have the money to just have Bale stick behind when Spurs head back to London? Can all of the loyal blog readers out there believe that I've focused this much on Spurs in a positive light?

Honestly, I don't have too much by way of a rant this week. I'd already prepared myself for Arsenal being close but not quite good enough for the title. I'd have preferred to have better information on Arteta starting last weekend because I gave him up at 7 and change and bought him back on the Barn Door for 13 and change while replacing him with two matches of Downing who couldn't score more in two matches than Arteta did in one. Outside of those minor annoyances and the Phillies blowing a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth to the Braves on Tuesday night, it was a pretty strong week.

So, with no further ado, lets move on to the match-ups and the players most important to you for the upcoming weekend...

Song could return for Manchester City game

...or, The Song Remains the Same for Arsenal.
Alex Song may return for the visit of Manchester City on Saturday evening.

The midfielder, who has missed the last three games with an inflamed cartilage, faces a fitness test on Friday.

The inclusion of the Cameroon international is the only major change possible from the squad that lost at Wigan last Sunday. That is because Andrey Arshavin (calf), Manuel Almunia (wrist) and Denilson (groin) are still out.

“Maybe Song [could be off the injury list],” Wenger told TV Online on Thursday. “He has a test tomorrow and we’ll see. He is a question mark.

“Apart from that, nobody is back. Andrey Arshavin is out. Everyone else - Gallas, Almunia, Denilson - is still out too.”

I'm beginning to think that I took the wrong lesson from Burnley 0 - Manchester City 5. I thought Burnley were done and it was another "Who is playing Derby?" type situation where the bet was to pile in against them. But that really hasn't paid dividends for me. Granted, it hasn't been a bad play. But the better play would have been staying with Citeh. Neal had a bumper return from K2 and Onuoha in their 5-1 thrashing of Birmingham and I didn't do badly with AJ. Now those players are a little more affordable on the back of the 0-1 defeat to local rivals Manchester United. What can Citeh's front four of Tevez, K2, Bellamy and AJ do against the likes of Campbell, Silvestre and Fabianski? They scored four on Arsenal's first team at Eastlands earlier in the season, which gets lost when all we remember is K2 stamp on RvP. (Which reminds me, that should be added to the memorable images of the season, shouldn't it?)

So do I ditch Liverpool (@Burnley) and Sunderland (@Hull) and go for the likes of Tevez and K2 (@Arsenal)?  They have a double game week next week, but I don't want to get too caught up in that and miss out on points this week.  But maybe I won't.

Vennegoor given all clear

Well, maybe not all clear.

Hull City have welcomed news revealing that Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink has suffered no long-term damage.

The Dutch striker was knocked unconscious after colliding with Richard Dunne during Wednesday's 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa, with the game delayed by seven minutes as he was treated on the field before being carried off.

Vennegoor of Hesselink was immediately rushed to Hull Royal Infirmary for scans, with it feared that he may have suffered major head trauma.

However, medical tests have come back all clear and he has subsequently been released to recuperate at home.

The 31-year-old frontman will definitely sit out the Tigers' home date with Sunderland on Saturday, but could figure again before the end of the season.

I've had N'Gog penciled in as a cheap striker this week. But he's suffered a 24 trip to Madrid to play today and travels to Burnley at the weekend. Perhaps Jozy is a better option? He's cheaper. Hull must win, and they're at home to a poor-traveling Sunderland side. I don't know that I'm ready to ship out DBent from another of the striker positions, but maybe there are goals from both sides in this one.

Or is that just our USA bias talking?

Next up, the grope.

It's been quite a season in the English Premier League already.

We've had the handshake.

No changes for Villa

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is to set to name an unchanged side as his team chase Champions League qualification in Wednesday night's Barclays Premier League encounter at Hull City.

O'Neill is poised to retain the 11 that started last Sunday's 2-1 win at Portsmouth.

Hull boss Iain Dowie will not risk defender Anthony Gardner against Aston Villa.

The former Tottenham player, who has been out for two months with an ankle injury, has returned to full training and Dowie is hopeful he will be ready to face Sunderland on Saturday.

Midfielders Dean Marney (illness) and Bernard Mendy (hamstring) are doubtful while Caleb Folan is set to miss out because of a hip problem.

Kamil Zayatte, Amr Zaki, Ian Ashbee, Richard Garcia (all knee) and Stephen Hunt (foot) are out but keeper Matt Duke and teenage midfielder Tom Cairney will keep their places after impressing in the goalless draw against Birmingham at the weekend.

Europa League Semis On

Liverpool face the prospect of a 2,400 mile round-trip coach journey after Uefa ruled that the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid on Thursday would go ahead as planned.

European football's governing body made the decision despite widespread travel chaos, caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud. Uefa had earlier confirmed that Fulham's semi-final in Hamburg on the same day would also take place.

"Uefa is continuing to closely monitor the travel situation throughout Europe and beyond, in an effort to confirm the staging of a number of matches that are due to take place this week in Uefa competitions," a statement read.

"Regarding the Uefa Europa League semi-final, first-leg matches between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, and Hamburg SV and Fulham, it is planned that both games will go ahead as normal.
Emphasis mine.

This will certainly diminish the appeal of Liverpool players ahead of their trip to Burnley at the weekend. It will also make your Everton players - the likes of Arteta, Jagielka and Howard - more attractive as they'll face a road-weary Fulham.

Knee surgery rules Torres out for rest of season

Fernando Torres will miss the remainder of the season for Liverpool due to knee surgery, and his participation in the World Cup finals must be in some doubt as his club expect him to be sidelined for six weeks.

Torres, who previously underwent knee surgery in January, missed Liverpool's 0-0 draw with Fulham last weekend due to the problem and the striker will go under the knife on Sunday night after being seen by a specialist.
David N'gog

Get in while the barn door is open.

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti will allow Didier Drogba to decide whether he is fit enough to play on this season.

The Ivorian striker is currently nursing a groin injury, and may yet require surgery in order to cure the ailment.

He was in obvious discomfort throughout the Blues' 2-1 defeat at local rivals Tottenham on Sunday, but was unable to be replaced in the second half as Ancelotti had used all of his substitutes.

Drogba is now in danger of inflaming the problem and ruling himself out of action for a prolonged period of time.

Maicon's Juggling and Vollied Goal

Watching this makes me happy.

... and that's saying something on a day when Gareth Bale made a mockery of my team selection and has left me dreading the next two match days.

The Barn Door Live - April 17

It's Villa and Hull week...I'm "all in" to use the poker term.  BBBF, Bale, Dunne, Cuellar, Milner, Downing, Jummy, Kilbane, Bendtner, Carew, and Gabby...Should be interesting to see if this works out for me or if I should have stuck with some of the one-gamers...I'm about 25 points behind Jeremy in our private league so I have the motivation to make a push here at the end of the season.

Give us your line-up as you enter the chat. And we're off for the Manchester Derby - great early Saturday match...

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League team news - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

Before we get started with the news, today marks Jeremy's and my debut as print writers about Fantasy Football/Soccer.  The picture you see in this post is the cover photo.  On the pages following that cover we give a bit of a primer on how to play fantasy and then preview each team in the World Cup for fantasy players.  It was a lot of fun and we appreciate the nice people at Time, Inc Home Entertainment giving us the opportunity to participate.  Hopefully, there will be more to come between your favorite bloggers and World Soccer/Time, Inc.

OK, with that promotional announcement out of the way, we'll get started with the news that everyone is waiting for...

Warnock a doubt for Pompey trip

Wounded Villa warrior Stephen Warnock has emerged as a doubt for Sunday’s trip to Portsmouth.

The left-back picked up a knock as a result of a last-ditch sliding tackle to dispossess Leon Osman in the second-half of last night’s 2-2 draw with Everton and was eventually replaced by Nathan Delfouneso after 77 minutes.

Warnock will be assessed at the club’s Bodymoor Heath HQ today and manager Martin O’Neill has his fingers crossed for good news with the Premier League trip to the south-coast just three days away.

The Villa boss said: “Steven is pretty sore at the moment. We’re hoping we’ll have better news later today. At this minute, he’s feeling a wee bit better than he was...

But Villa are optimistic over his chances, however Luke Young is on standby to replace the England international if needed.

The Week Ahead

Disappointed in yesterday's result from WHL, I turned back to my post from February 18th (the week that Arsenal were deemed to be "back in the title race" by most of the media). Guess what? Turns out that while being disappointed by what happened yesterday isn't unreasonable, I certainly can't claim to be surprised by Arsenal (presumably) dropping out of the title race. Here's the excerpt from my Week Ahead post on February 18th...
One final thought on Arsenal before we get to the players recommendations. Looking at the schedule ahead vs. much tougher ones for ManYoo and Chelsea I'm sure many are wondering if Arsenal have a chance at the title despite their obvious inferiority to their title rivals when playing them on the field. I'm trying not to talk myself into a real title challenge despite the easy schedule. I am sticking with my assertion that the Gunners are clearly the 3rd best team in the land with a wide gulf on either side (they're not really that close to ManYoo/Chelsea but neither are Liv/Spurs/Citeh/Villa that close to them). I think they'll end up much closer to the title than they have been in recent years but I think that quality that separates the top two from Arsenal - call it resolve, character, or a killer instinct - will ultimately mean the difference in the title race. If we get to April and May I have a hard time seeing one or both of the top two dropping points against the lesser lights of the Prem when they know they have to win. They might make it harder on themselves than they need to by dropping points to the Birminghams of the world in January and February but when it comes down to crunch time, I can't see it happening. So, again, do I think Arsenal can win? It wouldn't be the craziest thing that's ever happened but if you're asking me if I'm getting emotionally invested in an Arsenal title chase in March, April, and May then the answer is definitely no.

So quickly to sum up...

Laws hopes life's a beach for Sunderland

Pssssst, Brian... op-stay with the ulliten-bay oard-bay aterial-may!
[Burnley manager Brian]Laws said: "I know Steve Bruce very well as we were at Wallsend Boys Club together. That's how far back we go. We have gone our different ways but got back together in the management side. He is a good friend.

"I saw him the other week and said 'I am going to send you a bucket of sand, a spade and a beachball. You enjoy yourself on holiday. It starts before we turn up on Saturday'. Let's hope they are thinking like that.'"
Ummmm... me thinks Laws should shut his trap. It's a funny joke and all, hahhahaha! But isn't there a wee chance that Bruce takes that back to his players, who are probably safe but not wildly so, and use it to gee them up for this match? I don't know that I'd be poking Sunderland if I were Laws. Besides, doesn't he know that Sunderland last used the beachball to score a match winning goal?

Gunners suffer Vermaelen blow

Arsenal have suffered a blow with the news that key defender Thomas Vermaelen has been ruled out for at least two weeks.

The Belgium international suffered a calf strain in the 2-1 defeat to Tottenham at White Hare Lane, a loss which dealt a hammer blow to Arsenal's title hopes.

The 24-year-old lasted just 19 minutes of the clash before having to hobble off and now faces a period on the sidelines.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger told the club's official website: "Certainly it is a calf strain. (He will be out for) two to three weeks."

It's all unraveling a bit for the Arsenal. Their title hopes are on a thread and now they lose the one player they could probably least afford to lose. Did you see Silvestre trying to mark Bale last night? Bale had the freedom of the penalty area and Silvestre was only receded rather than being able to close him down.

On top of that, their schedule stiffens a bit. Yes, Wigan are lousy but they can put in a shift at home. Just ask Liverpool. Then Manchester City who still have fourth to play for, not to mention K2 (and possibly Viera?) carrying a grudge. Then at Rovers who are strong on their pitch (just ask ManUtd and Chelsea) and then a local derby against Fulham, who granted may not have ANYTHING to play for in that match. But then again, nor may Arsenal by then.

Vermaelen has been on many a fantasy team from week one (or week two as @EVE didn't look a good bet at the time). And he's been a great choice. For 6 you could just leave him there and forget him - until he popped up with another goal. But now it's time to ship him out. Another Villa defender perhaps?

Introducing Danny Rose

Indian Player Debuts in Major League Soccer

Sunil Chhetri makes debut for Wizards in loss to Rapids - Soccer -

I know we have at least some following in India and who I'm sure will be interested to know (if they don't already) that one of their own, Sunil Chhetri, has made his professional debut in Major League Soccer on Tuesday.

I had a chance to watch some domestic league matches in India when I was there last summer and it is definitely a few steps down from MLS but with the growing popularity of the world game, India's huge population, and the widespread proliferation soccer/football as a participation sport among kids in India you have to think that this will be the first of many.  I'd guess that India will mirror the progress of US players as they emerged on the world scene in the 80s.

This will be an interesting story to follow over the coming years.

Matchday Open Thread

I'm a little late to the party as Cahill and Rose (???) have opened the scoring for Everton and Spurs, respectively.

Honestly, I'm just trying to get through the week with minimum of damage and move on to Villa's double.


Hmm, Nice Gossip But Hardly Seems Realistic

Football365 | All The News | Football News | UNITED PREPARING TO SELL BERBATOV

News in this feature that SAF will offload Berbs (not unrealistic) and spend big dollars on Benzema and Villa (wouldn't be surprised if it they ended up with one of the two).  Elsewhere in the feature it indicates that Fergie has asked for 60MM to spend on new recruits.  Something doesn't add up if you estimate the cost of those two at 60MM, the "return" on Berbs as 20MM.  That would leave only 20MM to reconstitute the midfield that has been non-existent for most of the season and potentially shore up the back line (although Smalling has already been purchased, you hardly get the sense that he's ready to be half of one of the top two or three central defensive pairings in the league since he doesn't start for Fulham). 

If you're a United supporter, you shouldn't take these rumors too seriously and you should be MUCH happier if some central midfield help finds its way to OT in the summer.  Heck, maybe Berbs would be more useful if he had more help from players not named Rooney when attacking.

Just some food for thought as I digest Chelsea's 1-0 win over Bolton and Drogba's mediocre day in that win.  Hopefully, we'll see better from Verm, Bale, and Bendtner tomorrow.

Cheers - Neal

Match Day Open Thread

Chelsea vs. Bolton - I have Drogba and FloMal playing in this one (or at least I hope they'll be playing). If you'd like to connect with your fellow blog followers, please feel free to do so in the comments section below.

I'll be back with TWA and Injuries and Suspensions later in the week and we'll both be posting as things come up during the week. The big thing to watch on the BD comes tomorrow with RvP possibly returning for Arsenal. The price is high now but will how might an appearance vs. Spurs change that?

Enjoy the match.


Sprint Distance Dedications

Please excuse this interruption to our usual footy blogging but I would like to share something that I'm involved in, and ask for your help.


Welcome to your Sprint Distance Dedications.

I'm your host, Jeremy "Casey Kasem" Spitzberg.

In an effort to raise money and awareness for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, I'm competing in the Solana Beach Triathlon with my company,

In the spirit of American Top Forty and its "Long Distance Dedication", I'm offering you the chance to send a Sprint Distance Dedication, in honor of the triathlon being a sprint distance race, to someone you love, miss, want to thank, or even anonymously tell to leave you alone already! Just visit my fundraising page and make a donation of any amount. You'll be asked for comments and please let me know what song you'd like to dedicate, to whom, and why. I'll update the Sprint Distance Dedications blog with that song's video, if I can find it, and share your dedication with that person and the world.

Thank you, and remember:
Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

Sprint Distance Dedications

No Arteta at Villa

Mikel Arteta and Victor Anichebe will miss Everton's game at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

The Spaniard has been missing since the Blues' 2-0 win over Manchester City last month, while Anichebe was stretchered off against Bolton earlier in March.

The news means David Moyes is expected to draw from the same squad that drew 2-2 with West Ham last time out.

"I don't see Mikel being fit for the game," Moyes told the media at his pre-match press briefing.

"Victor Anichebe won't be fit for the game either. I see everybody else as being okay though."

Decision Tomorrow

Seemingly unimpressed by my attempts to jinx him

From Carlo Ancelloti's press conference:
'Some players I want to rest, for sure will start from the beginning Ballack, and Kalou in place of Joe Cole. For the strikers I want to take a decision tomorrow.

'All players want to play 90 minutes and Deco was not happy when he came out [against Aston Villa] after doing a good job for 70 minutes. I said it is better to play well for 70 minutes than bad for 90 minutes.

'Defensively we are doing well, I don't have a possibility to change some players, Ferreira, Alex, Terry, Zhirkov are doing well.

Finally on a defensive note, Ashley Cole trained for the first time today with the rest of the squad, after fracturing his ankle in February. He is still pencilled in by the medical department for a return to action against Stoke a week on Sunday.

And in related striker news:
"Fernando Torres was examined by a knee specialist this afternoon in Spain. He received treatment and will continue to do so over the next few days, with the injury being reassessed later this week."

The Barn Door Live - April 10

So, here we go for FA Cup Semi Final weekend.  Only two matches and I have Hull vs. Burnley on TV and my line-up is...

Kirkland, Verm, Bale, Onuoha, Arteta, Nani, Jummy, FloMal, Drogs, Bendtner, and K2

The Week Ahead/Injuries & Suspensions Combined Entry

Sorry that the big post is running late but I got back from my soccer safari in London on Wednesday afternoon and have been catching up with work since then.  The trip was a pretty remarkable journey to three clubs - Arsenal, Fulham, and Crystal Palace - that each provide their own unique experience for the fans who attend their matches.  From the stadiums to the fans to the atmosphere at the ground I was struck at the fact that each experience was unique which differs a great deal from professional sports here in the States which offer very similar experiences across cities, stadiums, and different sports leagues (e.g., football, baseball, basketball).

I'll post something longer on my month in sports which includes Spring Training baseball, the three soccer matches in London, a regular season baseball game, and then the Philadelphia Union/DC United match on Saturday night which will also serve as the home debut of the Union.  I'll probably throw in some observations from my trip to Argentina as well and end up with a bit of a comparative review for anyone interested in such things.

Since I'm already running late, lets get right to the news and the player recommendations.

Robin van Persie in line for shock Tottenham return

The headline is a bit in-artful.  No, he's not rejoining Spurs.  But he could be playing against them next week According to the Mail Online.
Robin van Persie could be in line for a sensational return against Tottenham next week after Arsenal's chief physio Colin Lewin revealed the striker will begin full training 'imminently'.

The Dutchman looked set to be ruled out for the remainder of the season after damaging ankle ligaments in an international friendly against Italy in November.
Flying Dutchman: van Persie is set to return to full Arsenal training 'imminently'

Flying Dutchman: van Persie is set to return to full Arsenal training 'imminently'

But Van Persie could now be included in Arsenal's injury-hit squad for the crucial north London derby on Wednesday, as the Gunners look to bounce back from their defeat in Barcelona and ensuing exit from the Champions League.

'Robin will be joining the squad for full training imminently. That is a big boost for the club and will give everyone a big lift,' Lewin told

I'll believe it when I see it, but if I see it I'll sure as hell be trying to get him into my fantasy team!

Arjen Robben Haunts Ferguson Again

Robben travelled to London and met with Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson's offer came in much too low for PSV's and Robben's liking; PSV chairman Harry van Raaij told Manchester United the most that their €7 million offer would buy them was a shirt with Robben's autograph. Almost immediately, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich offered € 18 million (£ 12.1 million), and PSV accepted...

On 7th April 2010, Arjen sent Bayern Munich into the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League with a stunning volley against Manchester United from the edge of the area into the corner of the net. The game ended 3-2 to United (4-4 on aggregate) with Bayern advancing due to away goals. This goal means there is no English club in the semi-finals for the first time since 2003.

Does anyone else think that Robben and Lance Armstrong look alike, or is it just me?

Arsenalona to Africa via Argentina

Messi's master-class in last night's demolition of (an admittedly under-strength) Arsenal side, and their semi-final match-up with Inter, had me thinking about the fast-approaching World Cup. Well, I'm thinking about the World Cup a lot for other reasons, but more on that soon. [ed. note: We're published in the World Soccer Unofficial Guide to the 2010 World Cup!]

Certainly Maradona's focus - or what of it he has remaining - should be tuned in to that match as five, possibly six, of his players could feature. Samuel, Zanetti, Cambiasso and Milito (Diego) for Inter and Milito (Gabriel) and Messi for Barca. Throw in Lopez and Delgado from Lyon who will likely progress today and there is a strong Argentine representation in this year's premier European tournament.

Is that the strongest contingent from outside the club's home countries? France has two teams involved today, but also heavy representation at Arsenal, Henry at Barca, and even Evra and Ribery who meet in today's other match. Oddly the Brazilian representation is focused on the defensive side of the pitch with Cris, Maicon and Lucio coming to mind.

All this is probably apropos of nothing, but an excuse to post Messi's highlights and a chance to share my building anticipation of the World's Greatest Sporting Event™ presented in glorious high-definition by the World Leader™.

Fulham Stoke Rearranged

STOKE's Premier League match against Fulham has been rearranged for the final week of the season.

The game will now take place on either Wednesday, May 5 or Thursday, May 6 at Craven Cottage.

The match was originally scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 14, but Fulham have requested both to the FA and Stoke to move the game in an effort to spread their current fixture commitments.
Oh well, back to the drawing board.  Another week of just one-gamers, though stretched through midweek.  There's probably much gnashing of teeth over "wasted" barn door efforts.  Schwarzer not looking so hot @LIV this week, for instance.  But it's a level playing field.  I don't know that I want either Eth or certainly Gera any longer.  My current green players (selected, but not bought/saved) are Torres, Bullard and JCole having moved from Tevez, Eth and Gera.  I'm liking that the for the week.

Then next week it has to be all Aston Villa, doesn't it?   As ruinous as they were last time they had two good fixtures, they will play @POR and then home to @Hull.  Freidel, Gabby, Carew, BFAY.  Collect them all!

We're Going Up

Newcastle United gained immediate promotion back to the Premier League without playing on Monday after Nottingham Forest's failure to beat Cardiff City in the Championship (second division).

A 0-0 draw between Forest and Cardiff at the City Ground meant league leaders Newcastle, who were facing Sheffield United later (7:45 p.m.), are guaranteed to finish in one of the two automatic promotion places a year after their relegation from the top flight.

"It's a wonderful achievement by everybody at this football club from day one this season," delighted Newcastle manager Chris Hughton told Sky Sports before his side's match.

"Everyone has had a real desire to get back to the division that everyone in this city believes we should be in. The title is important now ... and that's the target."

Newcastle, who have led the Championship for most of the season, have 86 points with six matches to play, three points clear of West Bromwich Albion, who seem set to go up with them.

Monday Morning Manager

I was boarding a plane on Saturday morning and saw the ESPN crawl as I walked by a wall-mounted television. Burnley 0 Man City 4 it read at the time. I spent the next three hours dreaming up scenarios of how many goals of the four Tevez was involved in and what the final scoreline was going to be. I decided that he had probably scored a second consecutive hat-trick. With visions of that dancing in my head, I was disappointed to find out he had only scored one. But following up later I saw the assists, and AJ's contributions as well and was happy with the outcome. Then of course, the points didn't come in on Saturday. Or Sunday. How frustrating! But they're up now and Carlito and AJ both put up ~20 and even Fox brought points to the table - which was far from a sure thing.

Carlito is owned by over 20% of teams. To be honest, I'm surprised that more teams around me - in my private group - didn't have him. Playing Burnley, even at Burnley was nailed on for points. I stayed away from K2 as he's been so inconsistent this season, and after that hat-trick against Wigan, clearly Carlito was the hot hand. Foot, sorry. But I wasn't selling AJ, even after an anonymous few weeks. And I even looked into Viera and Kompany, but didn't pull the trigger on those moves, choosing instead to gamble on Maxi despite his matchup. While that didn't work out for me - Viera with 19 and Kompany with 14 - Maxi earned a respectable 8.5 and came oh-so-close to scoring. As he's cup-tied in Europe, he's sure to be fresh and ready for a flagging Fulham next week.

Speaking of Fulham, congratulations to them again for their European success so far. It's come at the cost of their interest in the Premier League, but they did have the luxury of coming up against Wigan, a team who is trying even less hard at the moment. Wigan's win at Liverpool was a great performance but it seems like they might have over-estimated the worth of that victory. They're not safe from the drop yet and will have to pick up points against Portsmouth, @West Ham and Hull City from their remaining fixtures. That should be possible, but it will be needed because their other two matches are Arsenal and @Chelsea.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out this particular gem from Neal's Week Ahead post:
Hangeland - reasonably priced, good match-up, and hasn't done anything yet going forward this season - I'm saying he's due;
Thankfully for me, Neal's back-line is otherwise set, but he sure got that pick spot on.

One pick that Neal didn't get right was Nasri.
Nasri - see Walcott above, he's been at his best when he's been in Cesc's role so if I were you I'd pick him up now and keep him for the rest of the season as he's likely to see his fortunes rise in his most comfortable position;
At least not yet. It was inexplicable how Wenger left him (and Bendtner, but that's more of a personal gripe because he's in my team so cheaply) out of the starting line-up against Wolves. I didn't go for Nasri because I was afraid that even in the "Cesc role" (Is that like the Makelele role? I mean are we coining the phrase yet? No offense to Fab4, but if we're calling out attacking middies, shouldn't that be the Messi role or the Gourcuff role?) Nasri would still be the guy behind the guy behind the guy scoring the points. Also, I knew that Wolves would be tough opponents (Hi, Chris Jones!) and that they might be more vulnerable to pace, so I went with Walcott in my fantasy team.

All that being said, Nasri's introduction saw Arsenal ratchet up the pressure - and yes, Henry's dismissal after Sicky went down like a little girl didn't help Wolves - and eventually... like virtually the last touch of the game eventually... score and win.

I'm not going to keep Walcott despite his 14 point return. At Spurs is not the same as home to Wolves (no offense, Chris Jones) and Walcott never seems to deliver medium- or long-term in fantasy. Instead I'm selling him and Osman (who was a virtual spectator against West Ham) for the two-match pairing of Etherington and Gera. I'm also going to be thinking about selling Tevez for Torres. But I'm leaning, thanks to a game-in-hand, towards keeping the Argentine.

Where are you on the barn door? Two-gamers? Well-chosen one gamers? Argentinians or Spaniards?

Matchday Open Thread

photo courtesy Lynchie999

Easing my way back into the blog with a matchday open thread. I'm going to try to follow Ful/Wig, Brm/Liv and then Eve/WHU today. After a decent Saturday - goals from Drogs, Bendt and Tevez and hopefully three assists from AJ - I'm looking for points from THo, Gardner, Osman and Maxi.


The Week Ahead/Injuries & Suspensions Combined Entry

 The blog is coming to you live from London today.  That's right, the heart of it all.  The birthplace of footie, the cradle of the Prem and all that.  I'm hoping that by tipping my toes in (metaphorical) holy waters, I'll be reborn (again, metaphorically) and this communing with all things footie-related will only take my powers of fantasy soccer prognostication to a new level.  Wishful thinking I'm sure but can't hurt to try.

The week started off with a visit to World Soccer Magazine and editor Gavin Hamilton who has given Jeremy and I our first opportunity to write about fantasy soccer - in this case, the World Cup - in an actual print publication.  As far as I can tell, our article and team-by-team fantasy ratings will appear in the US edition of World Soccer's The complete unofficial guide to World Cup 2010.  Very cool to see our names in print.  Also great to have a chance to chat with Gavin for a while yesterday as he has been with World Soccer for 15 years and has great insight into the world of writing about soccer.

The next step on my footie journey will be tomorrow (Saturday) when my wife and I travel to the Emirates to see Cesc-less, Arsh-less, and Gallas-less Arsenal host Wolves.  I know the Wolves supporters who regularly show up on the Live Chat will be hoping I come away disappointed but how could I possibly after having a chance to worship at the alter of one of football's great cathedrals.  I'm thrilled for the experience and while I hope that the outcome is a positive one for the home crowd, I'm more excited just to be there as they say.  (A side note - I actually played a match at Highbury but the season had ended so I didn't get to see Arsenal play a match there).  From the Emirates it will be on to Craven Cottage on Sunday for Ful/Wig and then Selhurst Park for Palace vs. Preston North End and a taste of life in the Championship.  Good times.

OK, on to the compressed week ahead/injuries and suspensions posting...