So, Russia and Qatar? I know that the announcement of the World Cup venues for 2018 and 2022 have exactly nothing to do with fantasy football or the Premier League but how can you ignore the major news of the day in the soccer world? Especially when you have to write column introductions about 100 times a year. Honestly, anything that you can grab hold of becomes instant gold.
Here are a few thoughts from someone (me) who has been to a couple World Cups (USA ‘94 and Germany ’06) and declined the option to go to others (Japorea ’02 and South Africa ’10).
- I’ll dispense with the bribery jokes because I’m sure you’ve read the majority of them already. If you haven’t or you just can’t get enough, here is a compilation of some of the bitterness here in the States over 2022 from Twitter.
- Of all the options for potential destinations, I can’t think of two any less appealing places among the candidate countries than the two that were chosen. I guess the upside is that at least it would be a trip to Russia in the summer. The downside is a trip to a desert where they’re generally against drinking and fun in the summer – good times and be sure to bring your SPF500!
- It was funny seeing Andrei Arshavin with the Russian delegation. He looked like an intern up there between his youthful face, haircut, and the way he looked in a suit I was wondering if some FIFA official might have mistakenly asked him to go get them a coffee at some point during the day.
- Finally, leave it to FIFA to host an event that the entire world is paying close attention to and managing to be 30 minutes late in making an announcement that only took about 20 minutes in total (about 15 of which was Sepp Blatter making a fool of himself).
OK, on to the week ahead in fantasy football with our regular departments on the schedule, player recommendations, and the top options at captain.
I like the way last week’s column worked out so I’m sticking with the format. Here are the matches that appear to create advantage for one team or the other broken down into the matches that actually create advantage for fantasy managers and those that will fool you if you just look at the standings:
- Arsenal v Fulham – Fulham just aren’t playing very well right now, they’re injured, and they’ve been a bad road team for quite some time. Throw in a trip to a big team and you’ve got a recipe for a bunch of goals for Arsenal (but I wouldn’t bet too heavily on the clean sheet for the home team)
- ManYoo @ Blackpool – Blackpool rediscovered some of their magic last weekend although they missed out on collecting all three points, they have tended to wilt when faced with stronger competition and ManYoo are starting to get their pieces back in place.
Important note, though: With today’s news that Blackpool may struggle to produce a playable field in freezing temperatures please watch the news closely to make sure this match will happen at all. If it is uncertain by the time you need to make your decisions, factor that uncertainty in accordingly.
- Liverpool v Villa – Villa have been a very bad road team and Liverpool have been pretty strong at home – throw in Villa’s injuries and Liverpool getting stronger contributions from Lucas and Meireles down the spine and this looks like maybe 3-1 to the home side.
Don’t Get Fooled:
- Chelsea v Everton – Everton aren’t very good right now but neither are Chelsea and given the prices for Chelsea players, you probably want to stay away. There’s a chance of a 4-3 scorefest but in my estimation there’s just as good a chance of a 0-0 stinker.
- Spurs @ Brum – Don’t take this as me dissing Spurs but Foster has been coming up big against strong opposition and Brum have taken points from top half teams Chelsea, Citeh, Bolton, Sunderland, and Liverpool. That Spurs will be missing VDV won’t help either.
- Sunderland vs. WHU - Top half hosting 20th place is usually a guaranteed win but with Sunderland’s central defense still hurting and WHU’s attack coming around the match-up looks better on paper than it is in reality for SUN.
- Chamakh – All he does is score goals (mostly at home).
- Obinna – He’s just on fire and Sunderland are without Bramble and Turner which makes me even more bullish on Obinna and the WHU attack this weekend even on the road against top half competition.
- Di Santo – Wigan just don’t have too many other choices right now and he’s cheap.
- Rooney – You can just feel the outburst coming.
- D-Bent – I do think Sunderland will score some against WHU and I could even see both forwards (Bent and Welbeck) being amongst the goals this weekend.
- Torres – Hard to ignore him at home against a struggling Villa side who played a strong team in mid-week while Liverpool left most of their best players at home for the trip to Bucharest on Thursday.
- Nani – Really the premium midfielder to have right now he’s in form while others are injured, suspended, or under-performing their prices.
- MGP – That’s Mort Gamst Pedersen for those who don’t know. He’s been hot and looks like he’ll shake off a knock to start at home against Wolves which is a nice match-up.
- DDunn – He’s likely a much better value than MGP given his recent (and almost constant) injuries, he’s not a bad value play in leagues where the price is significantly lower than other strong midfielders – assuming he doesn’t tweak a hammy on his way out of the locker room or something.
- Nasri – Like Chamakh, all he does is score goals (not so much with the assists which is surprising for a midfielder who takes more than his share of kicks). [Jeremy's note: Nasri a slight doubt, but expect him to play.]
- Meireles – He’s done well in Gerrard’s absence and the match-up is solid.
- Modric – I hate typing this because he’s always killed me whenever I’ve had him but his price is good and Spurs will need someone to slot into VDV’s spot as the creator.
- Jones – I like the chances of a clean sheet for Rovers with Wolves visiting and the home team likely fuming after the dismantling at the hands of United last weekend (that’s Phil Jones by the way).
- Kyrgiakos – He’s done well for fantasy purposes when he’s started and Carra’s injury should give him an extended run.
- Coleman – I hate the match-up but I am willing to bet on him the weekend after I pick him and he does nothing for me – especially with Arteta out due to suspension.
- Koscielny – I’m not particularly optimistic about an Arsenal clean sheet but his price will be reasonable in many leagues due to his card problem this season. At a cut rate price, he’s worth a gamble (while you spend the weekend praying that he doesn’t get a stupid card of one color or another).
- Rafael – Not exceptional value after a few starts in a row but the best way to get in on a strong ManYoo match-up.
- Robbo – Great value with Wolves coming to town and with his price likely depressed after seeing 7 fly by last weekend.
- Fab21 – See Koscielny above – same logic, the price is solid and the win is extremely likely.
- EvdS – Seems pretty likely to get a solid Win, CS, and a save or three but you’ll pay a premium for it in most leagues.
- Reina – I only hesitate because there’s always the chance that Villa will realize that they have Gabby, AY, and Downing all starting for them and score a few goals.
Top 3 Captaincy Candidates
- Rooney – Assuming they play the match at all.
- Torres – Moves to the first slot if Blackpool can’t get their field straight.
- Bent – He doesn’t do much else, but you can usually count on him for goals when he’s healthy
- Obinna – I can’t tell you how much I like him against the depleted Sunderland defense (consider this a bonus in case Man U don’t play).
Neal Thurman and Jeremy Spitzberg write what they believe to be the oldest running blog focused on English Premier League, http://fantasyepl.blogspot.com. They also believe they were the first two people ever paid real money to blog exclusively about the same. They may be entirely wrong on both counts but that doesn’t stop them from writing or telling people that they were first. Perhaps more surprising than being blogging pioneers is that both Neal and Jeremy are Yanks who have day jobs entirely unrelated to football or futbol or soccer (or whatever you happen to call the beautiful game). Despite this seeming handicap, they are capable of discussing both the Premier League and fantasy sports strategy in great, some would say geeky, depth.