Fantasy Football: avoid Manchester United and Liverpool players this weekend

It was a weekend dominated by beach balls, by petty squabbles and by surprise results. Defeats for Chelsea and Liverpool showed the world that the big four monopoly on the Premier League is far from permanent, whilst in Lancashire Blackburn and Burnley re-introduced the nation to their own, explosive rivalry. It all went into the melting pot to make for a fascinating week in football, real and fantasy.

You can join the Football Media fantasy football league (and try your hand at beating Neil to the finish line) by signing up here.

And if you’re wondering who that wonderful lady on the right is – that’s Francoise Boufhal. If you’re wondering why she’s there…Francoise Boufhal people, pay attention!.

Listen to this week’s Soccerlens Podcast, where Adrian Clarke and Iain Spragg discuss Liverpool’s problems in detail, preview the Liverpool v United and West Ham v Arsenal games and also talk to celebrated author and journalist Andy Mitten [podcast link].

The Men in Form

In Fantasy Football terms, it was a week for goalscoring defenders, for enigmatic midfielders, and powerful strikers. Aston Villa’s 2-1 win over Chelsea came via the heads of defenders James Collins and Richard Dunne, the central defensive pairing brought in Martin O’Neill at the end of the past transfer window, and fast helping propel Villa up the table. Dunne already has two goals to his name, whilst Collins capped a week in which he captained Wales for the first time with his first Premier League goal for three years.

In midfield, it was Kevin Prince-Boateng (a pick in this column recently), David Dunn and Luis Valencia who emerged from inconsistency to produce the kind of displays we all knew they were capable of. Boateng & Dunn are in fine form, and look rejuvenated after long spells of anonymity.

Up front, power and height was the order of the day. James Beattie may have decided the best way to celebrate a scrambled winner for Stoke City against West Ham was to bash the life out of an advertising hoarding, but his 13 points made him the week’s top points scorer, whilst there were big weeks for young Blackburn striker Franco Di Santo – including a first Premier League goal – and Fulham’s usually-points-shy Bobby Zamora.

The Men to Avoid

Not all new signings slot straight into a side’s line-up you know. Supporters may get all excited when their club announces a new arrival – unless it is Tommy Smith or Andriy Voronin of course – but managers need to find a way of accommodating the player into a settled (or unsettled) side, they need to ingratiate the player with their team-mates, establish their fitness, and make sure the supporters stay onside.

Considering this, it would be wise to steer clear of one or two recent signings who are yet to make their way into their club’s first team. Lucas Neill was a very late arrival at Everton, signing last month after his release from West Ham in the summer. He has Premier League pedigree, with the Hammers and Blackburn, and commands a value of £5.5m, but is yet to feature for the Toffees, as the likes of Tony Hibbert, Sylvain Distin and Joseph Yobo marshal the Blues’ defence. Stay away.

Likewise Nicola Kalinic at Blackburn. The young Serbian was coveted by Portsmouth (of course) before making a big-money switch to Ewood Park, but following a slow start in Lancashire, the 21 year old has managed just 122 minutes of action, picking up just 4 points. Avoid.

Bargain Hunt

Kevin Doyle (Wolves) – It was always going to be a shrewd piece of business by Mick McCarthy. Signing Doyle from Reading may have cost Wolves £5.5m, but he is repaying his fee quickly with a string of fine displays. A goal at Goodison Park on Saturday took him to three in four games, and he has picked up an impressive 30 points already this season. £5.4m could be spent much less wisely.

Martin Petrov (Manchester City) – Manchester City may have spent huge sums on vast arrays of attacking talent, but in recent weeks it has been the Bulgarian who has been the driving force behind the side’s impressive run. Two goals in his last two outings have given him a healthy tally of 26 points from just four games, and it is hard to find a sweeter left foot in the league. Especially for £6.7m.

Gary Neville (Manchester Utd) – It would be the greatest comeback since Take That (although far more annoying). Neville has seen his last two years ruined by injury, but his rebirth could well be upon us. Two starts all season may not prove this definitively, and United do have more right backs than most sides, but the veteran played again in midweek – nearly scoring a peach as well – and is doing everything right. He may be an irritant, but he is a cheap(ish) one.

Premier League Fixtures

• Wolves v Aston Villa
• Birmingham v Sunderland
• Burnley v Wigan
• Hull City v Portsmouth
• Tottenham v Stoke City
• Chelsea v Blackburn
• Bolton v Everton
• Liverpool v Man Utd
• Man City v Fulham
• West Ham v Arsenal

Points to be earned at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea welcome a Blackburn side leaking goals like Katie Price leaks stories, and at White Hart Lane as Tottenham welcome Stoke City’s travel-sick side. Liverpool v Manchester Utd is the weekend’s big game, but injuries and selection headaches may cause problems for Fantasy managers. Elsewhere there is another Lancashire derby for Burnley as Wigan head to Turf Moor, whilst Hull and Pompey play out a relegation six-pointer at the KC Stadium.

My Team

Well, let’s face it, I am flying. Another solid week from Cesc Fabregas as captain gave me 16 points to build on, and there were hefty contributions from Boateng (Kevin) and Turner (Michael) from my bench. All three forwards were again on target, and Charles N’Zogbia came good with 7 precious points.

Quick decision this week. Emiliano Insua is looking less and less like a top class defender by the week, and goes out. In comes Micah Richards, at a reduced fee of £5.4m. He will certainly play the next game as Pablo Zabaleta sits out through suspension, and has a chance to relaunch his season after a slow start.

Football Media League

Well look at that. Who sits on top? I sit on top. My 74 points obliterated the gap to long-term leader Jon Eggert Hallsson, and I now have a three point gap of my own. Other climbers were Andy Roach’s StrawBears and Joe Cassidy’s Savage Cabbage, but few could match the Baroque Social’s stunning ascent this week. Let’s see how different it is leading from the front eh? But didn’t I tell you all to listen to me? Smugness should well be removed by this time next week!

You can join the Football Media fantasy football league (and try your hand at beating Neil to the finish line) by signing up here.

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