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Dublin: 10 °C Sunday 17 February, 2019
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Fantasy Football: singing the praise of Luis Suarez

The season is entering its final stages but there are still a lot of fantasy football points to be dished out. Step inside for the latest insights.

Image: Tim Hales/AP/Press Association Images

THIS WEEK IN the Premier League brings us “Clash of the Moneybags” – old oil money against new oil money.   A great time to discuss the prospects of the two clubs that are trying to buy their way to the top.

Chelsea certainly slumped their way through the middle part of the season but seem to have at least some solid momentum heading into the home stretch.

As I see it, they have two major issues left to confront.  First, there’s a lot of aging players who are certainly not going to get any better and are likely to start declining if they haven’t already.  Terry, Cole, Lampard, and Drogba will need to be replaced in the near future.

Thus far only Terry’s spot seems to be extremely solid with a rotation of Alex, Luiz, and Ivanovic a very strong group.  Less certain are the replacements for the other three to say nothing of the fact that Mikel just isn’t any better than average.

On top of the roster issues looms the specter of the viability of the manager.  It’s hard to question Carlo based on his track record over time but he’s certainly not been exceptional this season and the rumblings are there.

At City the primary question is the manager.  Mancini has come under heavy criticism for his defensive minded formations and the lack of results that have frequently been seen against teams of inferior talent.  There’s also no sense that he’s been able to really create a sense of team among City’s band of mercenaries.  Not a good sign when your only real job is to bring what ownership views as an exceptional bunch together and at least ensure that they beat the teams they are more talented than.

Underlying the managerial issues is the fact that much of the roster just doesn’t appear to be as talented as the prices would lead you to believe.  Tevez, Silva, and Hart are among the best players at their positions in the league and the world but outside of those three there seem to be more expensive players than exceptional players.

It took Chelsea a while to figure out how to spend their money wisely.  Oddly, Manchester City bought a couple of Chelsea’s seconds – Bridge and SWP – and then repeated other of their early-Roman Era mistakes by overpaying for solid-but-not-spectacular English players/EPL veterans.  In City’s case it was Barry, Milner, and Lescott while Chelsea invested in Parker, Duff, SWP, and Bridge.

The interesting question that we’ll never know the answer to is whether it was Chelsea’s improved player acquisition strategy or their hiring of Mourinho that pushed them to trophies.  If it was, one might argue that neither team is in a good position to replicate Chelsea’s Mourinho-era success no matter how much money they spend.

Will their riches overcome their desire to buy shiny objects rather than ones of real quality? Will either find a manager than can bring the diverse sets of egos that they’ve purchased together to the extent that they become a team?

As you watch the match this weekend, these are certainly the things that Arsenal, United, Liverpool, and Spurs will be thinking in the backs of their heads because if Chelsea and/or City figure out the secret then one or more of the others will be on the outside of the Champions League looking in.

OK, on to your regularly scheduled fantasy analysis.

Schedule

Real Value – those matches that should improve the demonstrated value of some of the players involved.

  • Spurs vs. West Ham – I’m a believer in the Hammers revival but I’m also a believer in the fact that there will be a lot of goals in this one.  Stay away from defenders on both sides but look to load up on the attackers.
  • Man United vs. Bolton – United have been incredibly strong at home this season and there’s no reason to expect that it won’t continue – especially if Vidic makes it back from his calf strain.
  • Arsenal @ WBA – This match-up didn’t work out so well for the Gunners last time around but WBA were playing much better than and Arsenal will be THRILLED to be facing an opponent that isn’t one of the most celebrated in the history of world football.

Forwards

  • Suarez – I completely have a football and fantasy EPL crush on him – I see Robin van Persie but healthier.
  • Chicharito – Hard to deny the form he’s in.  The only concern is whether Berbs gets a start at his expense.  If you’re nervous about rotation then Rooney is the choice.
  • RvP – A huge surprise that he’s back but he’s been money when he’s played.
  • Ba – I’m on the bandwagon in a big way.
  • Defoe – He tends to be streaky and his two spectacular goals against Wolves in his last match seems likely to signal his return to the goals.

Midfielders

  • Hitzlsperger – A revelation since he returned to health and started playing for WHU.  Think Villa are bummed they gave up on him?  They could really use someone like him right now.
  • Meireles – He’s cooled down a bit but he’s easily been the most productive player in Liverpool’s midfield and the presence of Suarez and Carroll should provide more chances for the playmaker.
  • Valencia – He’s looked very good since returning to the line-up and he’s a much better bargain that the miraculously healed Nani.  If you have the money you should probably go with Nani though.
  • Adam – Rovers seem to be in the process of packing it in – I don’t necessarily believe that Blackpool will win but I like the chances of Adam doing well and likely getting at least a goal on a PK.
  • Wilshere – When I’m looking for a bargain I keep thinking this will be the week when he comes good from a fantasy standpoint.

Defenders

  • Smalling – Assuming that Rio is still out and Vidic is back as expected then Smalling is exceptional value especially since he’s playing at home.
  • Walker – I’ve been impressed by Wolves recent run but away to Villa seems like a strong bet for a home clean sheet and Walker also brings a reasonable chance of some attacking points all for the low-low price of 4.0. Plus, you can only have so many players from Man United.
  • Johnson – He’s been exceptional value all year so this pick isn’t exactly news but Birmingham have a better-than-decent shot of a clean sheet on the road even if they are just as likely to be blanked themselves.
  • Alcaraz – A Wigan defender? Definitely when you look at Birmingham’s scoring record on the road.

Goalkeepers

  • EvdS – Not a great week for keepers and you’re probably out of Man United slots at this point but if you have one left he’s the most solid play.
  • Reina – The best of the rest of a mediocre field.
  • Al-Habsi – See Alcaraz – I don’t love it but Birmingham have really been wretched scoring on the road (and in general really)
  • Foster – Wigan is only slightly better at scoring at home than Birmingham is at scoring on the road.  Can you say nil-nil draw?

Captains

  • Suarez – Just a feeling combined with the fact that I know he’ll start.
  • Chicharito/Rooney – Whichever you’re most comfortable with based on what you think about SAF’s rotation policies.
  • Ba – Did I mention that I really like that Spurs/Hammers match to be a high scoring affair?

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About the author:

Neal Thurman and Jeremy Spitzberg

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