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The big kick-off is almost with us and yet, thanks to the shortage of space in Chelsea’s physio room, it’s a good bet your final Fantasy Football line-up is in a state of minor turmoil. High time for me to naively start sticking my neck out then, in an attempt to find you the big Fantasy points scorers for the weekend’s games. Have that big pinch of salt at the ready.
It seems logical to start at the back, given that this is the area of your team most in flux after John Terry’s injury. That setback has far-reaching effects on your team. Terry’s absence often transforms Chelsea’s defence from an impenetrable wall, to four strangers with an inability to cope with the cross ball. That means, despite facing Steve Bruce’s Birmingham, who seem likely to roll themselves into a 4-5-1 shaped ball come kick-off, Petr Cech is not the dead cert for a clean sheet he was a week ago. Instead it’s Edwin Van der Sar and Tim Howard who seem to offer the best potential, with home games against Reading and Wigan respectively.
I’m going for Howard in goal then, with teammate Phil Jagielka in a centre-back role. There’s a good chance that David Moyes will employ Jagielka in midfield to cover the loss of Tim Cahill, so the opportunity for assists this weekend are somewhat increased.
Completing the back four I have the Manchester United pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. Vidic offers a goal threat of course, while Evra demonstrated his cavaliering runs in the Shield game at the weekend. Reading could put up some resistance but they should be too busy defending their own goal to pose a sustained threat on United’s.
Arsenal’s Emmanuel Eboue completes my back four. Fulham at home offers a decent chance of a clean sheet, assuming Arsenal don’t continue last season’s masochistic trend of winning games the hard way and letting their opponents score first. In addition, Eboue has been pushed into a midfield role pre-season and that should continue this weekend. His forging runs and occasional devastating crosses could well find him hauling in some additional points against Fulham’s defence that includes several new faces.
Elsewhere in defence, I like Newcastle’s Geremi and Wigan’s Paul Scharner for much the same reason as Eboue. Both are likely to be employed in midfield. However, both have tricky away days at Bolton and Everton respectively, making them unlikely candidates for clean sheets. If you’re looking for a bargain, I’d opt for Gerald Cid or Abdoulaye Meite at Bolton who could well keep Newcastle’s Mark Viduka and Alan Smith at bay.
Moving on to the midfield and I don’t need to point out that getting Cristiano Ronaldo or Frank Lampard in for the weekend, or any weekend for that matter, would be a wise option. Although, with Lampard requiring painkilling injections to get out on the field, I prefer the United man. Chelsea’s Florent Malouda is a different story though. He will have caught the eye of many after Sunday’s shield game, although there is still doubts over his fitness having picked up a knock scoring Chelsea’s equaliser. I’d wait until the last minute, but, if he’s passed fit, he’s one of my top recommendations for the season and could well be the chief threat to Birmingham’s goal in Didier Drogba’s absence.
Mikel Arteta should be as central to Everton’s attacking ploys as always. He’ll once again hog set pieces, snatch the ball off Andy Johnson for penalties and fire in cross after cross into the Wigan box come the weekend. Stewart Downing completes my quartet in midfield. Boro have face Blackburn at the Riverside but more to the point, Downing has been pushed up as part of a front three on a few occasions in pre-season. I’m predicting more goals for him this season and looking at Boro’s fixtures, he could well harvest some steady points throughout August and September.
Outside of these four it’s hard to ignore Jason Koumas. Outstanding in pre-season, in another week I’d have in my side in a shot. A trip to Everton is a tough one though. I expect a war of attrition with few opportunities. It might be a blank this week for Koumas then, but he’ll feature regularly in my lineups in coming week’s I’m sure. Lower down the price bracket, there’s David Jones at Derby, a player central to their creativity from open play and set pieces, who faces a Pompey defence that includes several new faces. While West Ham’s Mark Noble could have a decent season and faces a Manchester City side, that will need introductions in the dressing room.
Up front, with Drogba out of the equation, I can’t see past Robin Van Persie. He came on strong at the end of pre-season and I can see him running riot against Fulham at the Emirates. Certainly, he’s my â€œtip of the weekâ€ for the big points.
Wayne Rooney is, of course, hard to ignore and will be keen to impress after the arrival of Carlos Tevez against Reading. The Argentine meanwhile, still tangled in red tape and unlikely to appear. I can’t bring myself to tip too many United players though, so I’m going for Yakubu alongside Van Persie. He broke his pre-season duck last time out for Boro and I can see Gareth Southgate’s side attacking Blackburn, given Southgate’s injuries at the back. As I mentioned when discussing Downing, Boro’s fixtures are also kind to them throughout August so he’s one you could keep for a few weeks and see some steady points. Although current speculation suggests he could be subject to a move away from the Riverside.
Nicolas Anelka and Johnson could both profit from home games, with Anelka my favoured choice their given the lack of an established strike partner for Johnson. Dimitar Berbatov could prosper at Sunderland but there’s still doubt on whether Robbie Keane or Darren Bent will partner him casting a cloud over their potential value this weekend. Dean Ashton and Craig Bellamy for the Hammers at home to City and David Nugent and Lua Lua for Pompey at Derby, could be better bets in the mid-price range. For a real bargain though, look no futher than Vaz Te. Five goals in pre-season tells you all you need to know as he goes into a home game against Newcastle brimming with goalscoring confidence.
That’s about it for this week. Of course things may change as the weekend draws near, so if you want to keep up to date with team news, injuries and more of my rambles, track down my site for the latest. I might pop back early next week if things go well. Alternatively, if everything I’ve just written turns out to be nonsense, then you may never hear of me again.
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