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Manchester City vs Chelsea: Lineups and Preview

Chelsea vs Liverpool: Confirmed Lineups

FY Top 5 For GW7: Including Arsenal, Man United and a Boot In The Groin!

Chelsea vs Atlético Madrid: Lineups and Fantasy Preview

Off the Mark: Demba Ba deserves moments in the spotlight, now he needs to leave Chelsea to find more

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group E - Chelsea v Steaua Bucharest - Stamford Bridge

Less is more, some say. It’s why there were only ever 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers and 14 of The Office. As another well-worn saying goes, always leave them laughing.

Sometimes though, just leaving them full stop is the best option.

Up until the past week, Demba Ba has been Chelsea’s best-paid supporter this season, the Senegalese forward afforded one of the best seats in the house as he got to watch Eden Hazard, Oscar and the like strut their stuff and make prolonged assaults on winning both the Premier League and Champions League.

Sure, Ba would get a chance to get onto the pitch occasionally – a few minutes here, a couple of touches there, two goals against Tottenham Hotspur, you know, the usual stuff – but he wasn’t really part of the team. He wasn’t really part of Jose Mourinho’s plans. He was just there. Another name, another number, another pay cheque to a club who can afford to dole out as many as they want.

Mourinho, utilising that special ability he has to put himself at the front and centre of each and every thing that his team does, has often been critical of his forwards this season, but you got the sense that he was never really singling out Ba. Doing so would be like blaming a weatherman for global warming, or Brazil for the Cuban Missile Crisis. It would just look out of place.

Coming off the back of his priceless strike against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, the winning goal that Ba scored against Swansea in the Premier League last weekend was absolutely vital to Chelsea’s title hopes. It has put those hopes back in their own hands, with logic now dictating that a win at Liverpool in 11 days’ time would see them become favourites again.

The Liberty Stadium saw what was only Ba’s third Premier League start of the season, whilst he scored his fourth goal. It was a big goal, but if Chelsea are to overhaul Liverpool and win the league, then how much of a part has he actually played?

The same can be said of the Champions League run too, as we now have the bizarre notion that Chelsea’s two most important goals of the season were scored by a man who has barely featured.

If, as expected, both Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o depart the club in the summer, with a shiny new £50m+ forward brought in – a Diego Costa or a Radamel Falcao – then Ba might well be put under pressure to stay and play second fiddle again. Chelsea would undoubtedly want him too.

But the forward is far too good a player to be forced into this situation again, and regardless of what the club say to him he should look to escape through the transfer window once it opens.

Ba could take inspiration from the man he effectively replaced at Stamford Bridge, Daniel Sturridge, who sensed an opportunity to leave and join a club and manager who believed in him in Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers.

As we saw at Newcastle, a fit, firing and most importantly selected Ba can be one of the best forwards in the Premier League, and he is certain to have more than a few suitors. Everton, should they be unable to secure Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea permanently, and Tottenham, if they are going to give up on the disastrous Roberto Soldado experiment, immediately spring to mind.

Perhaps Ba will decide that he’s had enough of England and leave for pastures new, but that would be a huge shame for Premier League fans if he does.

The forward is a player who deserves to be seen, to be appreciated, and most of all to play.

Come the summer he’ll find himself at front and centre of the shop window, and must hope for a caring buyer.


Norwich think it’s all over…

I was at the Fulham v Norwich game on Saturday, and whilst the 90 minutes itself wasn’t the most enthralling, what was perhaps most important was the reaction of the Norwich players come full-time.

Upon the final whistle, the likes of Nathan Redmond, Robert Snodgrass and Martin Olsson looked shell-shocked, with some sinking to their knees. It was as though the club had already been relegated.

With fixtures against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to come, many think they already have of course, but is there not the possibility that they could pick up a couple of points somewhere there?

Judging by those reactions, some of the players think they are down already.


Fulham can fire at Spurs

West Brom were seconds away from landing our bet last weekend only for Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen to equalise late on, and we’re going to take on Spurs again on Saturday.

Fulham make the trip to White Hart Lane desperate for points, and they can pick up something at a ground they won at last season.

If you’re feeling brave, have Felix Magath’s side at 5/1 to win, although the 11/8 Draw or Fulham Double Chance might be the way to go. They are also 10/3 to win on the Draw No Bet market.


Premier League Preview: Chelsea v Arsenal

Off the Mark: Samuel Eto’o is at Chelsea for a good time, not a long time

Off the Mark: Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho isn’t special enough to fool us this time

Premier League Preview: Chelsea, United & City – It’s all change at the top!

Fantasy Premier League: Scouting for the next Michu! have brought you a range of articles from some of the best players in the game from last season as we try to delve into the mindset of the top guys to help you with your own FPL teams.

Today is no exception. @JulianZip  finished 6th Globally after a fantastic season where he led the way overall on several occasions!

Many Thanks to Julian for his exclusive piece for FY.

It Starts…

In many ways, you could argue that the teams we pick between now and the start of the FPL season, will determine a lot about how the whole season will pan out for us. Yes, we get wildcards to ‘correct’ what we’ve done on a couple of occasions during the season, but the rest of the time we are shuffling one – or a few – transfers at a time, to get to the ideal team we want…which if you are anything like me, always remains a few weeks away.

Is it Wild to use a Wildcard?

What I believe also proves the importance of our starting teams, is a quick look at the FPL managers at the top last year. The majority of them were high in the overall rankings quite quickly…they had solid teams right from the outset. Where they appeared to believe that  they didn’t, for example the overall winner Matt and also the third place getter, wildcards were used almost immediately in week 2! So I think it is fair to suggest that your position after say the first ten weeks of the season is tougher to improve substantially, than it is to try to maintain a positive start….that’s been my experience, anyway.

Is Wilfried Bony the next Michu?

Having said that, creating our initial team involves possibly the most difficult decisions of all. Once the season proper is underway, we can look at stats and the performances of teams and individuals until we’re blue in the face. Until then though, there are a lot of variables to consider, and we have only limited (and often unreliable) evidence upon which to make our predictions. For two examples of this, think about new players and new managers:


New players are a gamble which can go either way. Where they are joining from different leagues altogether, we really are comparing apples and oranges. For example, Wilfried Bony scored more than a goal a game for Vitesse in the Eredivisie last season, but there aren’t many examples to compare him with to work out how likely it is that this will translate into immediate EPL success. Looking at the last few seasons of top 5 scorers in Holland, Suarez at Ajax is the standout example where it did work (though even he took some time to warm into it) but when I look further, I can’t see too many others. It is also of course, context specific; we need to judge them not only on their own merits, but on the existing squad options they are joining, playing style and all-important fixtures. Michu’s translation of goals from Vallecano in Spain to instant goals at Swansea is an example of where successful transition did happen quickly and spectacularly…but you had to take a bit of a leap of faith to have him before his first game last year which delivered 18 points. If you can manage to pick one or two ‘2012 Michu’s’ in your team now, you’re obviously going to have a head start on many others and be doing really well.

The alternative is to stick with what and who you know. But, even players who are proven EPL performers can become a whole different ballgame when they move clubs within the league! Look at Dempsey going from Fulham to Tottenham last season…his scoring, and FPL productivity took a pretty big swing. He scored only 2 goals in the first 15 games last year, compared to the end of the year before, when he was a ‘must-have’. The role that new players take in a team is something we can only look at the pre-season to get any evidence for…and those games are usually pretty experimental.

To confuse the issue even more, even players who stay at the same team who have had an outstanding season (and ended the previous season in form) aren’t necessarily guaranteed to be good choices…look at David Silva, Nani and Papiss Cisse last year for three examples of that. Despite them though, I still think sticking at the start of the year with a core of proven FPL performers is the way to go.

New Starts: Mourinho vs Moyes vs Pellegrini

The effect of new managers is a particularly relevant variable this season. The way a team plays i.e. formation; who the favoured ‘nailed-on’ players are; or how heavily rotation is used, obviously have a huge effect on player FPL reliability. Will Mourinho apply his (some would say sometimes ugly) Inter Milan approach, or the more free scoring Real Madrid approach (103 goals in 38 La Liga games!)?. He no doubt relies on his personnel to decide, and looking at Chelsea’s riches in the attacking midfield, it’s hopefully the latter…but we don’t know that yet – the guy is an enigma, to put it nicely. Presumably Moyes will in some ways apply a ‘it ain’t broke so don’t fix it too much’ principle, but at the same time, he’ll want to stamp his own mark on Man United. The team that I am most interested in seeing in an FPL sense though this year is Man City. Last season, I mostly steered clear of Mancini and his heavy rotation ways (never forgave him for taking Micah Richards off in the 59th minute during a clean sheet), but if Pellegrini is being straight with us when he promises an attacking style and more time in the oppositions half, then coupled with the removal of the Balotelli and Tevez options, one or two of the City attacking players might well get off to a lightening start and have consistent seasons.


FPL players who have been around a while will know that having a good year also relies on  being able to pick a few surprise packets. I believe this is particularly true of budget defensive options. You probably did really well last year if you managed to foresee that you’d get double figure clean sheets from a few cheap Norwich or West Ham defenders. Stoke historically seem to provide a somewhat reliable option in this regard, but there again is the managerial change variable….they’ve just employed a former striker for the top job!

So when it comes to preseason, the more you think about it, the more you are probably left with questions rather than answers. Personally, I’ll be doing my best to make sure that I have a team with a solid base of proven FPL performers, with a couple of gambles – most likely on one or two from the promoted teams, or if I can be convinced the new EPL arrivals from abroad. Most importantly, I’m going to try to have a team full of people consistently playing as close to 90 minutes as possible. Toward the end of last year, when transfers were a valuable commodity, I found myself stuck with the likes of Harte and Marveaux, which is something that this year I’m keen to avoid.

Best of luck fellow addicts!


I did it just looking at stats heaps, match reports, highlights, and FPL websites – @JulianZip

About the Author

Julian led the way in FPL last year including a 5 week consecutive run at #1 towards the end of the season!…Being from Australia and not getting to see as much of the Premier League as he’d like makes this even more impressive!!

Such is the feat of his achievement Julian actually featured in the National Press Down Under

Julian epitomizes the stat based approach to the game, a great guy to interact with on twitter – make sure and drop a follow to @JulianZip .

Truly impressive guy – Best of luck this season from all at #FY

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