Reykjavik on a Friday night.
It’s not the most obvious of places to cast an eye over, but there will be more than a few of you keeping up with events in the Icelandic capital at the end of your working week.
At the time of writing, Fulham’s Brede Hangeland features in 13.9% of Fantasy Premier League teams, with John Arne Riise – his fellow defender for both Fulham and Norway – popping up in 8.3% of them.
Given that the amount of Fantasy bosses has now exceeded 2.3million, then that makes for a fair chunk of you who’ll be anxious to hear of the fate of Hangeland and Riise on international duty in Reykjavik, where an injury could wreck your week.
Norway play Slovenia at home next Tuesday too. A pull here or a strain there and suddenly the duo are out of their club sides, and more importantly they throw your plans into disarray as well.
International breaks have long been the scourge of club managers, but what about the problems they cause Fantasy ones?
Without the power of Sir Alex Ferguson you can’t tell the Holland boss Louis van Gaal to leave Robin van Persie out of the World Cup qualifier in Budapest next Tuesday because you’re thinking of making him your captain when Manchester United face Wigan at Old Trafford the following Saturday and you want him to be fresh.
Similarly, Eden Hazard might not have far to travel for Friday’s qualifier in Cardiff, but the Belgian has got another game at home to Croatia on the Tuesday and you want that little assist-making machine in top condition for Chelsea’s highly-charged trip to QPR.
And what’s that Roy? Ashley Cole has got an ankle problem that’s keeping him out of the Moldova game? Good. Now send him back to Chelsea, get them to find all the cotton wool they can get their hands on and don’t you dare think about picking him when England play Ukraine.
Fantasy bosses have to be selfish when watching their players in club action in cup competitions too of course – although you might have a team in one of those leagues on the side – yet somehow it is easier to take when a blow affects one of your boys when in their club colours as opposed to their national shirt. Club 1 Country 0.
For the clubs who lose those players for a week to 10 days, it almost becomes a case of the bigger they are the harder they fall.
Manchester United have published a list of 24 of their players who are on international duty over the next week or so on their website, as have Liverpool for their 19 – which is probably the size of their entire squad as a whole after recent dealings – whilst Chelsea have six in the England squad alone.
It’ll be next Wednesday at the earliest before their managers see all of them again, as air miles are clocked up and tired limbs are transported across all four corners of the globe.
Will they be back in top shape? Has the jet lag affected them? Is it possible for Luis Suarez to get from Montevideo to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in less than four days? Do they do direct flights?
All are questions that many will consider in the days to come, as eyes dart furiously from Argentina to Amsterdam and virtually everywhere in between.
Is it Reykjavik or bust for your Fantasy team?
It could be both.
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Injuries, terrible form and appointments with Argentinean golf courses were all reasons why these five didn’t shine in Yirma in 2011/12, but could things be different this time around?
Fernando Torres, Chelsea, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £10.0m
Just the FA Cup, Champions League, European Championships and Euro Golden Boot award made last term an unforgettable season to forget for Torres, who still comes across as one of the bigger enigmas in the division.
Bit part roles in all of those successes will have created a hunger though, and a desire to prove that the £50m Chelsea invested in him a year-and-a-half ago could still prove to be money well spent. There is a sense that if it’s ever going to happen, it’ll have to happen now.
Last season he scored exactly a quarter of the goals and picked up over 100 less Fantasy points than he managed in his electric debut season at Liverpool in 2007/08, and whilst he is unlikely to hit those heights again he might at least find himself approaching them.
The departure of Didier Drogba and the decision to loan Romelu Lukaku to West Brom has seen Roberto di Matteo place a huge vote of confidence in Torres, and with Chelsea recruiting creative players from all over the world to help him out this summer he won’t exactly be short of goalscoring chances.
He’s likely to take more than a few of them too.
Stewart Downing, Liverpool, Midfielder – Fantasy Price Tag £6.5m
By now everyone knows the stats, so much so that it doesn’t even matter that they weren’t true.
As endless tweets, Facebook jokes and message board posts will tell you, Downing’s first season as Liverpool’s £20m winger produced zero goals and zero assists – even though the Fantasy stats point out that he set up two goals in a match at QPR, whilst he managed a couple of strikes during the Reds’ run to the finals of both domestic cup competitions.
Regardless of that, his performances were still nowhere near what Liverpool supporters demanded, and the England man will know that he’ll have to step up his displays if his future at the club is to last much longer. Fortunately for him, he might just have the chance to.
With Brendan Rodgers ready to switch Liverpool’s approach to a 4-3-3 formation, Downing would appear set to occupy the wide right position in the front trio alongside Luis Suárez and Fabio Borini, at least until the Reds dip back into the transfer market – although the emergence of youngster Raheem Sterling (£4.5m) is worth keeping an eye on.
It was from a similar position that Downing bagged 163 Fantasy points in his final season at Aston Villa, more than double he got at Liverpool last season and including seven goals and nine assists for those who like to keep a track of such things.
He might not manage the same tally again, but an improvement looks almost certain.
He could scarcely have got any worse.
Carlos Tevez, Manchester City, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £9.0m
He’s back – for now – and he looks ready to make up for lost time.
Manchester City fans may have forgotten all about Tevez’s indiscretions last season the moment he started banging the goals in, and Fantasy bosses might be ready to do just the same.
The forward’s fine goal in the Community Shield on Sunday could have been taken from the impressive back catalogue he built up in scoring first 210 and then 185 Fantasy points in each of his first two seasons at City, and now seemingly back on board and back in Roberto Mancini’s plans, it might not be the last such wonderful strike.
The prospect of building a partnership with Sergio Agüero should have City fans drooling and opposition defenders dreading, and if Tevez quickly settles down and – more importantly – is kept happy, then his £9.0m Fantasy price tag could suddenly start looking incredibly cheap.
Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United, Defender – Fantasy Price Tag £7.0m
Would Manchester United have won the league last season if Vidic had been around all campaign?
It’s impossible to predict of course, but the presence of a player who scored well over 100 points in four out of his five other seasons in Fantasy Premier League, and 94 in the other one, certainly would have aided a United side who chopped and changed things at the back after the Serb picked up the knee injury in November which ruled him out of the rest of the campaign.
Now fit, the club captain will slot straight back into Sir Alex Ferguson’s side as if he has never been away, and his club are likely to benefit from both his defensive organisational abilities and his goalscoring threat in the opposition penalty area.
A real leader, Vidic’s return isn’t just a welcome one for United fans but also for Fantasy bosses who were frequently left scratching their heads at just which players would line-up for Ferguson’s side last season.
When fit Vidic walks in to United’s team, and could well walk into yours too.
Lucas, Liverpool, Midfielder – Fantasy Price Tag £5.0m
Like Vidic at United, Lucas’s absence from over half of Liverpool’s season can’t be underestimated, but was certainly vital.
The Brazilian isn’t the kind of player who’ll win man of the match awards every week or even get you a lot of Fantasy points, but it was clear to see how Liverpool struggled as soon as he picked up the problem in November which ruled him out of the rest of the campaign, with youthful, often raw players pressed into service in his absence.
Now back and taking his place in the centre of a Liverpool team who are likely to dominate possession in the vast majority of their games, Lucas will be looking to get back to the form which has made him one of the top defensive midfielders in world football, and he could well be regarded as an excellent cheap option for your team at just £5.0m.
Consistency is key for the Brazilian, and if you’re prepared to play a squad game then his valuable input and steady accumulation of points could be just what you need.