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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 25 January, 2020

Fantasy Football: squeaky-bum time

Our Fantasy boffins study the schedule and the form so you don’t have to.

Mick McCarthy's Wolves haven't generated much value for fantasy managers lately.
Mick McCarthy's Wolves haven't generated much value for fantasy managers lately.
Image: Rui Vieira/PA Wire/Press Association Images

WEEK 34 WAS the perfect illustration of the two-match week and how it causes us to pull out our collective hair as fantasy managers.

We all started off the two-match week worrying about the fact that the teams with two matches weren’t exactly Champions League contenders.

I’m sure some people looked at their Chelsea and Arsenal-heavy line-ups from the week previous and said “I just don’t believe in those two-gamers enough to sell guys like Drogba or Lampard or Cech.”

Others bit the bullet and went with their favourite players from Stoke, Fulham, Bolton, and Wolves.  The agony and ecstasy of being a fantasy manager is illustrated by how the week unfolded.

Early Saturday

Those who stuck with Chelsea’s big guns get a great start to the day as Chelsea get a clean sheet plus goals and assists from the big guns.  Those of us who moved from Chelsea to two-gamers are starting to feel a little sick to our stomachs as we think about what could have been had we just stayed away from our computers all weekend.

Later Saturday

That sick feeling in the pit of the stomach of those who went with the two-gamers gets worse as three of the four two-game teams played to lacklustre results – all three were involved in 1-1 draws that didn’t produce many great statistics for fantasy purposes.  To make matters worse, two key players – Ebanks Blake and Zamora – were relegated to the bench after reports had them as fit going into the weekend.  The only bright spots among highly fancied players were Kenwyne Jones and Jermaine Pennant.


With Bolton left to play against Arsenal, hopes were not high going into the last match of the weekend schedule.  If the two-gamers from Saturday had done well then this wouldn’t have been such a dire situation.  Since the Saturday results were pretty rotten even a Gooner like me was hoping to see some production from Bolton to save the weekend from a fantasy standpoint.  It may not have been a bonanza but for those of us who didn’t have Jones, it was nice to get that first goal of the weekend on the board from Sturridge who I’d imagine most fantasy owners had.  The downside was that Sturridge limped off leaving managers to wonder whether they had invested in a one-gamer rather than a two-gamer.


A lot of nervous fantasy owners looking at their rivals who stuck with Chelsea players (and other productive one-gamers).  The situation was not helped by the news that SEB didn’t even make the bench this time around.  So much for my bargain pick from Wolves.  To make matters worse, Etherington was hurt early and ended up the two matches with very little to show for his efforts.  By the end of the match though, things were looking up for those who had invested in Pennant, Jones, Begovic, and/or Stoke defenders.  Pennant and Jones specifically ended up having great weeks.


Last chance to salvage the week and Fulham came through huge.  No, Zamora didn’t start which meant that one slot ended up being a bust for me (and It many others) but Dempsey, Schwarzer, and Hangeland ended up showing, like Begovic and his Stoke team-mates, that there’s a reason we bet on players who are getting 180 minutes of matches in a week.  It didn’t start out pretty but it certainly ended well for most of us.  This isn’t to say that the two-match thing ALWAYS works out better than going with one-gamers but so long as you aren’t reaching for players who you’d NEVER consider otherwise  the two matches do tend to produce better results than just one.


Where we evaluate the match-ups that improve the value of the players involved versus the ones that leave the player’s value unchanged.  The first note is to mention that all teams are back to having one match only this week.

Real Value

  • MAC vs WHU – I’m not wild about Manchester City without Tevez but West Ham have clearly lost what momentum they had now that they’re playing a tougher schedule.
  • Stoke @ Blackpool – Another team that seems destined for the drop going up against a solid team riding some solid momentum.  I’m particularly interested in Stoke attackers – seems less likely that Blackpool will be shut out.
  • Fulham @ Sunderland – I’m not sure if any of Sunderland’s players are still healthy – my only hesitation here is that Fulham aren’t that great on the road.  I’m more interested in Fulham’s defense since Sunderland are missing all of their forwards.
  • Liverpool vs NUFC – Predicting how NUFC will perform has made me nervous all season and this week is no different but Liverpool are playing well and are at home which makes me feel good about their chances.

Stay Away

I hate trying to figure out where the points are going to come from when teams at the top of the table face off so I’m staying away from Arsenal vs Man United and Chelsea vs Spurs.  I suspect that United and Chelsea will win but betting on their premium players is especially risky since the opposition isn’t the typical mid-table pushovers.


  • Suarez – The headlines will be about Carroll playing his old team but Suarez is The Man and consistent best bet for Liverpool.
  • K Jones – More a “stick with him” than anything else but he’s a streaky scorer and he’s on three in three matches and playing against opposition that can’t keep the ball out of the net.
  • Odemwingie – The difference between WBA being safe and fighting relegation – he’s been a revelation.  Villa coming to town is hardly intimidating enough that it would dissuade you from having him in your side.
  • Beckford – Since I really don’t like any of City’s forwards, I’m recommending Beckford at Wigan over Balotelli (too unpredictable) and Dzeko (still not necessarily a starter).


  • Silva/Toure/Johnson – None of them have lived up to the hype but I’d suggest picking your two favourite of the three and assuming that West Ham’s visit will improve their outlooks.  Also a good idea to prepare ahead of time for next week’s two-gamer.
  • Dempsey – Easy to pick the guy coming off the brace but somehow that made Dempsey Fulham’s all-time scorer in the Premier League so who else would you bet on to score against teetering Sunderland.
  • Gardner – Still quietly having a strong fantasy season and gets to play at home to Wolves who have looked worse and worse as the season finishes up.
  • Meireles – Same logic as Suarez – he’s been exceptional during the Liverpool revival.
  • Pennant – With Eth hurt, Pennant will likely take all of the free kicks which will improve his chances for assists against goal-friendly Blackpool even further.


  • Kolarov – Solid chance of both clean sheet and attacking points against WHU and he’s still fairly cheap.
  • Kompany – More expensive and you’re probably over your limit of City players but he’d be my second choice.
  • Hangeland – With no forwards to face off against you have to like Fulham’s chance of a clean sheet even if the match is on the road.
  • Ridgewell – Same logic as Hangeland since it appears that Wolves forgot where the goal is away from home.


  • Hart – A no-brainer between this week’s match-up and preparing yourself to have him next week for the two matches.
  • Schwarzer – If you have him coming off of last week and don’t want to use a transfer here.
  • Foster – Home against Wolves seems like as solid a bet as you can find.


  • Suarez – I can’t say I’m in love with any of the choices for captain but Suarez is the best combination of a great match-up and exceptional talent.
  • Jones – He isn’t as talented but he’s in form and playing against Blackpool.
  • Dempsey – Also in form and playing against a crumbling Sunderland team (don’t let last weekend’s result fool you – it was at home against Wigan).

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About the author:

Neal Thurman and Jeremy Spitzberg

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