Why not now? Spring is springing and there are at least some times when we might want to be outdoors. In the States, Major League Baseball is starting (today in fact), college basketball is all-encompassing for a few weeks, and for those of us inclined toward soccer MLS is starting up. Elsewhere in the world the Cricket World Cup is also going on which certainly has potential Premier League fans in places like India, South Africa, and Australia pretty engrossed (good luck to India in the finals on Saturday).
The bottom line is that there is so much going on that distracts us from the season. I have to admit that if you'd asked me yesterday I couldn't have told you with any fidelity who I had on my roster for either the Yahoo! or Premier League games. With a season so long I have to think that letting the audience, especially those outside the UK, turn their focus elsewhere for almost an entire month has to be a bad idea. Especially if the month is March. The Premier League would do well to lobby to have the same sort of break happen in February instead because there's nothing else going on then to distract the audience. Just a thought before diving into the recommendations.
Where we separate the match-ups that provide managers with real value from those that just look like they might provide value and those that don’t even promise that much.
- Arsenal vs. Rovers – Arsenal have tended to use International breaks to regroup after a series of poor results. Perhaps getting away from the bad mojo helps. I expect this to be no different especially with key players returning and Rovers struggling mightily down the stretch.
- Spurs @ Wigan – Spurs need to bounce back as well and the fact that Wigan is the opposition should help a lot. I should throw out the caution not to get TOO excited since Spurs have tended to underperform in these situations this season.
- Chelsea @ Stoke – Chelsea seem to be playing significantly better and while Stoke are tough, I don’t see them putting one over on the Blues. I believe in Chelsea’s momentum more than I believe in the home field advantage.
- Man United @ WHU – I’m not saying that the Hammers will win but between United’s road struggles, West Ham’s recent form and their desperation to avoid the drop I see this as being less than a bonanza for fantasy managers.
- Man City vs. Sunderland – City SHOULD be in the first category but it feels like they’re coming apart down the stretch between injuries, general unrest, and the sense that it was always a poorly constructed “team.” I’m guessing that Sunderland – the definition of an average team – will make this very competitive.
- Suarez – For an Arsenal supporter, I have really fallen hard for this guy and he’s rewarded me for doing so. If you’re already on the bandwagon then stick with it, if not, you’re late and you’d best get a seat before they all fill up.
- SEB – I have a feeling and I’m a bit taken with Wolves’ late season run to stay up. With Doyle injured on international duty Ebanks-Blake should get the start and I like his chances.
- Gyan – Hard not to be swayed by his performance against England in mid-week and his price isn’t that bad either at 8.55.
- Berbatov – Going out on a bit of a limb but with Chicharito having started in midweek in Mexico City you have to guess that he’ll be on the bench for a modest opponent. I’m not predicting a multi-goal match for Berbs but he does tend to pick on bottom-of-the-table opponents.
- Zamora – I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the returning striker who is playing at home against the most generous defense in the league. Zamora will be even more important with Dempsey likely tired from playing in mid-week and then doing the trans-Atlantic commute.
- Nani – More a "hold" than a "buy" because he's really expensive - if you're looking to buy in the United midfield then I'd go Valencia who should continue to improve as he comes back to full health and conditioning.
- Modric – VDV is really the guy to have but again, he's a "hold" and likely too expensive to buy so if you're buying at retail then I'd say Modric is your guy with Bale unlikely to feature.
- Hitzlsperger – I like him against the United central midfield if you’re going to take a risk on a player going up against a good team.
- Brunt – He's at home and Liverpool aren't exactly air-tight and at the end of the day WBA score a lot (not as many as they give up but still). He isn't cheap but he isn't too expensive either.
- Hoilett – Arsenal are likely to win and maybe even win big but they aren't going to keep a clean sheet so who not go with the in-form player who isn't too expensive.
- Luiz – He’s been great and the price isn’t too crazy - not much more too it than that.
- Heitinga – If you're buying at retail he's a solid enabler who may get a start despite his mid-week outburst about playing time and positioning - the match-up is only OK but you're not going to do much better as far as potential value for the money.
- Smalling – I’m not thrilled about the prospect of United getting a clean sheet but for the price Smalling is the right pick.
- Enrique – Call this SEB insurance (see above) in case it turns out that a match full of back-up forwards ends up in an ugly nil-nil draw. Enrique represents a reasonable price to get in on potential clean sheet points.
- Schwarzer – Fulham are tough defensively and even more so at Craven Cottage so I like the value of him at home for under 8 if you’re looking for a value pick.
- T-Ho – Solid Everton match-up and Howard's price is right. He isn't guaranteed points but certainly not a bad bet.
- Friedel – Really cheap and at least an OK match-up but I can't say I love Villa on the road under any circumstances.
- Cech - If you're spending the money, he's the best bet.