Fantasyland: Steals, duds and ideas for Week One league domination


Oh, hi. We’re four days away from the start of the Premier League on NBC Sports, and anticipation is getting to be nearly unbearable. For those of us using the free Pro Soccer Talk fantasy leagues on Yahoo Sports — there’s still plenty of time to join — here’s some preseason knowledge to help you build your squadron.

[ MORE: Compete against PST’s staff in Yahoo’s free Fantasy Premier League ]

But before we get to that, some Internet high-fives to those of you rivaling my favored team name of ‘Coloccini in a Bottle’ for most creative, plus a few other gems:

50 Shades O’Shea
Teenage Mutant Ninja Skrtels
You’ve Lost That Lovren Feeling
Krul Kids Only
AC Slater
Magath and Friends

Now onto the knowledge. First, there’s the handy tool that is knowing what everyone else is doing by using the “popularity” search under the players tab. Here are the most selected players going right now, and their prices:

Player, position, club, percentage selected by, price

1. Martin Kelly, DEF, Liverpool — 38%, 1 mil
2. Ross Barkley, MID, Everton — 35%, 6.41 mil
3. Raheem Steling, MID, Liverpool — 30%, 9.15 mil
4. Diego Costa, FWD, Chelsea — 29%, 12 mil
5. Alexis Sanchez, FWD, Arsenal — 27%, 12 mil
6. Vincent Kompany, DEF, Manchester City — 25%, 8.82 mil
7. Steven Caulker, DEF, QPR — 24%, 7 mil
8. Ander Herrera, MID, Manchester United — 24%, 7 mil
9. Mesut Ozil, MID, Arsenal — 21%, 9.37 mil
10. Wayne Rooney, FWD, Manchester United — 21%, 16.8 mil

Analysis: Caulker brought in the 11th most points — 301 –of any returning player in Yahoo’s game despite playing on a putrid Cardiff City club. Besides Rooney (370), no other name on the Top 10 brought in more than 220 (Sterling had 219).

As an aside, Kelly’s popularity is sheerly for his price and long-held potential. How much do you see him playing this year at Anfield? What if the whispers of his move to Crystal Palace grow? At a lone million, there’s a bit of you that wants to slot him in, right?

It’s fair to deduce that the majority of fantasy owners are looking for those value slots rather than the big names. But you need to carefully pluck a few of those big salaries for your team. They make that dough for a reason, which brings us to…


Priciest buys

1. Rooney, 16.8 mil
2. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool, 16.62 mil
3. Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool, 16.28 mil
4. Leighton Baines, Everton, 15.3 mil
5. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City, 15.29 mil
6. Eden Hazard, Chelsea, 14.39 mil
7. Santi Cazorla, Arsenal, 13.66 mil
8. Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal, 13.26 mil
9. Adam Lallana, Liverpool, 12.92 mil
10. Robin van Persie, Manchester United, 12.9 mil

Analysis: Lot of risks on this list. I’d avoid Gerrard altogether at that lofty price, as the odds of him replicating past fantasy success seem dicey. Aguero’s injuries make him a risk, while it’s hard to imagine Lallana will be as important to Liverpool as his price would make him to your team. If I’m betting on one of these guys on my squad — I’m not — it’s Hazard.

Avoid list

Some risks are too big, in my opinion. Here’s a list of guys I’d wait on… you’d rather pay a couple million more in a few months than watch your budget drop by 3-4.

1. Gerrard, 16.62 mil
2. Frank Lampard, MID, Man City, 10.5 mil
3. Lallana, 12.92 mil
4. Jay Rodriguez, FWD, Southampton, 11.86 mil
5. Seamus Coleman, DEF, Everton, 9.35 mil
6. Petr Cech, GK, Chelsea, 12.09 mil

In some cases — Gerrard, Lallana — it’s the price, but Rodriguez is coming off an injury and still pretty expensive, while Lampard’s effectiveness and playing time for a new club and culture are questionable for 10.5. Cech may not even be at Chelsea very long, or performing in league play, and you’re set to drop 12-plus? Nah. Coleman is a good player and not a huge risk, but banking on a back picking up another six-goal season after not scoring a single goal over the previous two seasons? Not my idea of a 9-plus guy, even if it turns out that Martinez’s system makes him a star again. I’ll take him for 10.5 with a smile on my face in October.

The bargain bin (no particular order)

This list is subjective, so here are the best steals I’m seeing. All of these have a bit of risk to them, and the lower the price, the more of a risk you’ll have to take in-season to replace them:

source: AP

1. Erik Lamela, MID, Tottenham — 2.77 mil
2. Barkley, 6.41 mil
3. Jack Rodwell, MID, Sunderland — 1 mil
4. Bojan, FWD, Stoke City — 6 mil
5. Ryan Bertrand, DEF, Southampton — 3.99 mil
6. Brede Hangeland, DEF, Crystal Palace — 6 mil
7. Bafetimbi Gomis, FWD, Swansea City — 7 mil
8. Yaya Sanogo, FWD, Arsenal — 2 mil
9. Tim Krul, GK, Newcastle — 5.25 mil
10. Enner Valencia, FWD, West Ham — 6 mil
11. Stevan Jovetic, FWD, Man City — 5.87 mil
12. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, MID, Arsenal — 5.31 mil
13. Ashley Young, MID, Manchester United — 4.94 mil
14. James Ward-Prowse, MID, Southampton — 4.93 mil
15. Jozy Altidore, FWD, Sunderland — 3.34 mil

Analysis: I’m using a number of these guys. There are a few, including Bertrand and Ward-Prowse, who are under five million but almost certain to factor in their teams fortunes. Young could be a breakout player in Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2, while Gomis could pair with Wilfried Bony to give Swansea a big boost. Bojan and Enner Valencia have everything you could want, but will be adapting to a new league.

That’s it for this week. Join the league and let us know what bargains you see.

Click on this link and enter the following information
League ID: 19012
Password: fvc2jtb

Serie A: Napoli make good on Juve’s slip-up, now just 2 back

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona still unbeaten after 29 league games; Ronaldo scores 4 ]

Napoli 1-0 Genoa

Juventus slipped up in a big, big way on Saturday, stumbling to a scoreless draw away to tiny SPAL 2013, and opening the door ever so slightly for Napoli. With a win on Sunday, secured by Raul Albiol’s late winner, Napoli now trail Juve by just two points with the two sides level on games played (29) once again.

The victory snapped a two-game winless skid for Napoli, a run which saw them cough up the top spot which they had held for nearly the entire season, and set up perhaps a colossal title decider on April 22, when first hosts second in their quest to claim a seventh straight Serie A title.

Crotone 0-2 Roma

One spot and 14 points further down the table, you’ll find an interesting battle for third, with Roma picking up their third straight win, 2-0 over 18th-place Crotone on Sunday.

Stephan El Shaarawy (38th minute) and Radja Nainggolan (74th) bagged the goals for Roma, who lead Inter Milan by four points with nine games to go (Inter have a game in hand).

Sampdoria 0-5 Inter Milan

No one was more impressive this weekend than Inter, who put four past Sampdoria in the first half, including a hat trick from Mauro Icardi, who would then go on to add his fourth — Inter’s fifth — in the second half. That’s 22 league goals for the Argentine forward, who now trails Lazio’s Ciro Immobile by two in the Golden Boot race.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Lazio 1-1 Bologna
AC Milan 3-2 Chievo
Hellas Verona 0-5 Atalanta
Torino 1-2 Fiorentina
Benevento 1-2 Cagliari

La Liga: Barcelona unbeaten after 29 games; Ronaldo scores 4

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United vs. Spurs in FA Cup semis; Chelsea-Southampton]

Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

Updated numbers for Barcelona’s current unbeaten run in La Liga: 29 games this season; 36 dating back to last season. The quest for the unbeaten league season is now just nine games from reality.

Perhaps even more impressive than the W-D-L record is their defensive record: 13 goals conceded in 29 games (they’ve also scored 74 and have a +61 goal differential).

Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Bilbao saw Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Co., go 11 points clear in the title race and all but secure their third title in four seasons, thanks to results elsewhere (see below).

Paco Alcacer opened the scoring after just eight minutes, and Messi made it 2-0 right on the half-hour mark (his league-leading 25th goal of the season; 34 in all competitions).

Real Madrid 6-3 Girona

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged four goals of his own to bring his season total to 22 (32 in all competitions), now second ahead of Suarez and three behind Messi for the Golden Boot, and in the process push Real Madrid (60 points) to within four points of Atletico Madrid in the race for second.

Ronaldo scored goals no. 1, 2, 4 and 6 for Madrid, with tallies from Lucas Vazquez and Gareth Bale sprinkled in between.

Villarreal 2-1 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid were the last side within touching distance of Barca — “just” eight points back coming into the weekend — but that’s no longer the case following a late collapse and a 2-1 defeat away to fourth-place Valencia.

Antoine Griezmann put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot in the 20th minute, but Enes Unal bagged an equalizer in the 82nd and the game-winner in the 91st. Atleti finished the game with 10 men after Vitolo was sent off in the 92nd minute.

Real host Atleti in the Madrid derby on April 8, a game which will go a long way towards crowning this season’s runners-up.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia 3-1 Alaves (Saturday)
Leganes 2-1 Sevilla
Real Betis 3-0 Espanyol (Saturday)
Celta Vigo 0-0 Malaga
Real Sociedad 1-2 Getafe (Saturday)
Levante 2-1 Eibar (Friday)
Deportivo La Coruña 1-1 Las Palmas (Saturday)

FA Cup: Conte “pleased” by Chelsea’s rebound after CL defeat

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The mark of a truly great team is not only found in the number of trophies won, but how they bounce back from failure.

[ MORE: Chelsea drawn against Southampton in semis; Man United-Spurs ]

After bowing out of the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona on Wednesday, Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea could have gone one of two ways during Sunday’s FA Cup quarterfinal clash with Leicester City — and for the rest of the season, for that matter. When Jamie Vardy pulled Leicester back to 1-1 with fewer than 15 minutes until full-time, the Blues had a choice to make: keep fighting, or fold under (more) pressure.

[ MORE: Spurs advance to FA Cup semifinal | Man United join them ]

To their credit, they were undeterred and booked their place in the semifinals, where they’ll face Southampton, courtesy of Pedro‘s 105th-minute winner. Following the game, Conte was highly complimentary (by his standard) of his players — quotes from the BBC:

“A tough game but we knew this. The last game at home we suffer a lot against Leicester. We must be pleased today. I saw a good performance and great character from my team. After the game in the Champions League when we spent a lot of energy they showed good heart to beat Leicester.”

“When you arrive at this point, every game is difficult. They (Southampton) have just changed coach but now it is important to be happy and to go for another game at Wembley. We will try to do our best to reach the final. We want to give satisfaction to our fans.

“I think that for us our target is to try and do our best. To work hard with the players. I must be pleased with the commitment of the players. If you can win a trophy it is important for a team like Chelsea. But the most important thing is for us to fight until the end in every competition. We will try to reach the final.”

[ MORE: Southampton see off Wigan | Chelsea complete the final four ]

As for Pedro, he believes scoring a goal of Sunday’s import will do wonders for his confidence, which could prove a massive boon in Chelsea’s quest to overcome a five-point deficit and usurp fourth-place Tottenham:

“It was a very difficult game. It was good for me to score for my confidence and to get to the next round.

“It was hard to find the pass in between the lines. Leicester defended very well and pressed high. It is difficult to win against this team.

“The most important thing for us was the teamwork and to make it through to the next round. “We have to fight in the next few games. It is a difficult situation for us in the league but we have to fight.

“We have a good opportunity to go to the final and fight for a place in the top four. But now is the moment to relax and enjoy this win.”

Leicester 1-2 Chelsea: Blues battle to victory

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  • Morata scores first goal of 2018
  • Vardy nets, score 17th of season
  • Pedro scores in extra time

Chelsea beat Leicester City 2-1 after extra time to seal their spot in the FA Cup semifinal.

Alvaro Morata gave Antonio Conte’s men the lead, but Jamie Vardy equalized to take it to extra time.

Pedro then struck to send Chelsea into the semifinal for the second-straight season.

Leicester started well and went close when Marc Albrighton‘s effort from the edge of the box squirmed just wide.

However the longer the first half well, the more dangerous Chelsea looked.

The West London club threatened on the break through Morata with Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses having plenty of space out wide.

Morata then made the breakthrough right on half time as Willian nicked the ball, surged forward and released the Spaniard who finished calmly for his first goal in 2018.

After the break Leicester finally came to life as Wilfred Ndidi picked out Vardy with a wonderful pass but the Leicester forward looped his header over the bar.

Albrighton whipped in plenty of inviting crosses as Leicester pushed hard for an equalizerand eventually broke through.

Vicente Iborra got on the end of Riyad Mahrez‘s cross and he was denied twice by heroic blocks but Vardy was on hand to tap home. Game on.

Substitute Shinji Okazaki almost got on the end of a cross soon after and at the other end Morata hit the post with an acrobatic finish… but he was in an offside position.

Morata was then denied twice by Kasper Schmeichel at the end of normal time as the game went to extra time.

Pedro was the hero for Chelsea as he headed home the winner in extra time to send Chelsea to Wembley.