21-year-old Ross Barkley has made a serious case to be brought into the World Cup squad by England.

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

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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…

source:
Cazorla

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
Lamela

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

Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must

Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC
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Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is used to big matches, whether at Stamford Bridge, with the Belgian national team or during his loan to Atletico Madrid.

[ SPORTSWORLD: Courtois “standing tall” at Chelsea ]

If he doesn’t get one or two of those contests by the end of this season, a bad season will become an utter failure.

Courtois says it’s a long way to the Top Four, but Chelsea hasn’t given up on that hope. Regardless, he’s targeting wins over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, respectively.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“After that we play in the Champions League and FA Cup against two great sides and we have to try to win those games because the only way to save our season is to reach the final in one or both of them.”

Chelsea’s star has fallen this year, but this is still largely the team that won the Premier League last season. Courtois’ goals are not unreasonable.

LIVE – West Ham vs. Liverpool in FA Cup 4th round replay

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool is watched by Dimitri Payet of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on January 30, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Two Premier League teams clash in the FA Cup on Tuesday with a place in the last 16 on the line.

West Ham United welcome Liverpool to Upton Park (Follow live, 2:45 p.m. ET) following the 0-0 draw between the teams at Anfield 10 days ago.

[ LIVE: Follow West Ham-Liverpool here

Slaven Bilic‘s side will fancy their chances of getting past an injury-hit Liverpool squad and creating another famous FA Cup memory in their final season at the Boleyn Ground. With Dimitri Payet in contract negotiations about extending his stay at the Hammers, can the French playmaker lead them to a big win?

After missing Liverpool’s late collapse on Saturday during the 2-2 draw with Sunderland due to a bout of suspected appendicitis, manager Jurgen Klopp will return to the dugout. The German coach has already guided the Reds to one Wembley final during his debut season in charge as they face Manchester City in the League Cup final in less than three weeks time.

The winner of this clash will travel to second-tier Blackburn Rovers and they’ll be heavy favorites to reach the FA Cup quarterfinals.

Click on the link above to follow the game live, plus we will have a recap, reaction and analysis following the encounter in east London.

State of the USMNT: What is Klinsmann’s best XI for World Cup qualifiers?

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With the U.S. men’s national team ending their January camp with two narrow friendly wins over Iceland and Canada, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff will now be sitting back and thinking: “What did we learn? Who impressed? Who struggled?”

Or something like that.

[ MORE: American takeover at Everton update

Each year the January camp provides domestic based players — mostly from Major League Soccer but a sprinkling of other guys too — with the chance to impress Klinsmann and his staff in close quarters for multiple weeks in California. Many current U.S. regulars earned their stripes in January’s gone by and have established themselves ever since.

This January was no different as the experienced core of players — Michael Bradley, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore among them — showed their class and several promising players worked hard to get minutes in the friendlies.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

However, despite some glimmers of hope from youngsters such as Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter, what we learned about the USMNT heading into the two CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March is that the established players remain the best hope for success. Sure, the likes of John Brooks is impressing in the Bundesliga, Matt Miazga sealed a move to Chelsea and Lee Nguyen took his chance in January camp, but the old guard should remain in place through this next batch of World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala home and away on Mar. 25 and 29 and the Copa America Centenario this summer.

Question marks remain regarding some veterans, which could keep the situation a little more fluid than it should be.

One of those is Tim Howard with speculation of him moving away from Everton mounting plus a straight-up battle between Howard and Brad Guzan for the starting spot, while Clint Dempsey‘s status with the national team still seems to be somewhat clouded. Overall, though, the settled core of players who played together at the World Cup — plus or minus a few who have performed consistently over the last 18 months — should be kept together by Klinsmann. During last summer’s Gold Cup disappointment there was plenty of experimenting, especially in defense, but now is the time to settle things down and realize the following guys are the players you should count on going forward.

Below is my selection — feel free to select your own in the comments section — for the best XI available to Klinsmann, plus seven subs, assuming everyone is fit and available.

USMNT’s Best XI as of Feb. 9, 2016

—– Howard —–

— F. Johnson — Cameron — Besler — Ream —

—- Bradley —- Williams —-

—- Bedoya —- Dempsey —- Zardes —-

—– Altidore —–

Subs: Guzan, Brooks, Jones, Yedlin, Nagbe, Morris, Johannsson

Ahead of huge title clash, influential Leicester scout transfers to Arsenal

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Ben Wrigglesworth might not be a man you’ve heard a lot about, but he has been influential in helping Leicester City’s unlikely charge to the top of the Premier League.

Now, he’s been poached by Leicester’s main title rivals: Arsenal.

[ MORE: Spurs, Arsenal to battle for title?

Ahead of the monster clash between the Foxes and Gunners at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) the man who unearthed the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante has transferred to Arsenal and is now their First Team Video Scout.

Wrigglesworth, Leicester’s former Head of Technical Scouting, announced he would be leaving the Foxes via his Twitter page (see below) and he has now accepted a new role as part of Steve Rowley’s team at Arsenal.

It is believed he will not only help with the scouting of players but will also analyze Arsenal’s first team and the opposition.

[ MORE: Recapping Week 25 in the PL ]

Arsenal will unveil a new player performance center at their training HQ this summer and have recently purchased a soccer data company based in America, statDNA, to help them with scouting and player analysis.

With several Premier League teams now having huge player databases monitored by a team of talented individuals — often, like Wrigglesworth, with no pro playing experience — scouring the globe for the next bargain, the Moneyball vibe is strong.