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 wins the League… of Hate; Bournemouth, Leicester not hated

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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A family of English newspapers conducted its annual survey of which teams are the most hated in the Premier League, and there’s a new champion.

Manchester United has dropped to second in the table to Chelsea in what the Manchester Evening News called the “League of Hate”.

[ MORE: Rooney’s England position not set ]

According to the MEN, 10,000 fans were quizzed on their love and hate:

A national survey asked fans of each top flight club which sides they hate, and which they love, and the west London club came out as the most disliked club overall.

United, who won the dubious accolade last year, have been revealed to be the next most reviled side.

It’s no surprise that the league’s more successful sides sit atop the table while newer PL clubs like Bournemouth and Burnley are not reviled. That said, Leicester’s dream story has them 19th. How much more success do they need to have before shooting up the hate table?

Here’s the Top Five, and all results:

1) Chelsea
2) Manchester United
3) Liverpool
4) Manchester City
5) Arsenal

Allardyce will use Rooney where he’s playing for Manchester United

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - JULY 25:  Newly appointed England manager Sam Allardyce poses after a press conference at St. George's Park on July 25, 2016 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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England manager Sam Allardyce is going to choose the best players going, and play them where they’re playing for their club.

Joe Prince-Wright has a full write-up on Allardyce’s unveiling here, as the English boss says Wayne Rooney will play for his country in the same spot as his club.

[ MORE: Cresswell out four months ]

So it seems Jose Mourinho’s preference at Manchester United will help dictate where England’s leading scorer will line up.

From the BBC:

“I still think Wayne Rooney has a massive place to play in the England side,” said the 61-year-old.

“If Jose says he is not going to play him in centre midfield and he is playing up front and scoring goals for Manchester United then it would be pointless me bringing him into England and playing him in centre midfield.”

Those comments will have anti-Jurgen Klinsmann folks nodding their heads in approval. That said, Allardyce isn’t exactly going out on a limb, as Rooney is widely expected to play deeper for United with strikers like Anthony Martial, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford also around.

FIFA bans council member Niersbach in World Cup bids probe

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  FIFA Executive Committee member Wolfgang Niersbach looks on during the Extraordinary FIFA Congress at Hallenstadion on February 26, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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FIFA council member Wolfgang Niersbach, a member of FIFA’s ruling council, was banned from soccer for one year on Monday in the first sanction from the investigation into Germany’s 2006 World Cup bid.

FIFA’s ethics committee found Niersbach guilty of failing to report findings about possible unethical conduct and conflicts of interest during the bidding process.

Niersbach, who was a vice president of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee in charge of media and marketing, described the punishment as “inappropriate and excessive.”

[ MORE: Cresswell out four months ]

Last year, Niersbach had been considered a possible successor to UEFA President Michel Platini before resigning as president of the German soccer federation when allegations against the bid first surfaced.

Niersbach retained his elected positions on the top decision-making bodies at both FIFA and UEFA. He is the first member of the rebranded FIFA Council, which replaced the discredited executive committee in May, to be sanctioned by the ethics division.

“This decision hits me hard,” Niersbach said. “I was confident after last Thursday’s hearing in Zurich that the ethics commission would not impose a ban, but that it would follow my argument that I am only to blame for a belated report on the critical payments between the 2006 World Cup organizing committee and FIFA in 2005, of which I gradually became aware in the summer of 2015, and that it would set a different punishment.

“I acknowledged my mistake and regretted it again.”

Niersbach is consulting his lawyers about whether to appeal against his ban.

[ MORE: Does Pogba match his fee? ]

Swiss federal prosecutors, and German criminal and tax investigators, also have wider ongoing criminal cases into the 2006 World Cup – a hugely successful tournament at the time which the host nation called its “Summer Fairytale.”

The probe involves irregular seven-figure payments and contracts during the bidding process and organization of the World Cup implicating senior officials.

The main FIFA ethics case focuses on former Germany great Franz Beckenbauer, who headed the World Cup organizing team and joined the FIFA executive committee in 2007; Theo Zwanziger, who replaced Beckenbauer at FIFA in 2011; Horst Schmidt, vice president of the World Cup organizing panel; and Stefan Hans, chief financial officer for the organizers.

In February, an inquiry report commissioned by the federation tried to explain a complex trail of payments of 6.7 million euros ($7 million) and 10 million Swiss francs ($10 million) that linked Beckenbauer, then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter, FIFA powerbroker Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar and Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the late former Adidas executive and part owner of Swiss marketing agency Infront.

The report, by law firm Freshfields, did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

West Ham loses ex-Hammer of the Year Cresswell for four months

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Aaron Cresswell was one of the stalwarts of the last two Premier League campaigns, a good crosser capable of lung-busting runs and the occasional brilliant shot.

So it’s a significant blow for West Ham United to be without him for the next four months.

[ MORE: Does Pogba match his fee? ]

Cresswell has played in 75 of the Hammers’ 76 PL matches since arriving from Ipswich Town in 2014, and was injured in a 50/50 play against Karlsruher SC this weekend.

He may not need surgery to repair the knee ligaments, but is out nonetheless.

From WHUFC.com:

Head of Medical and Sports Science Stijn Vandenbroucke explained that Cresswell had undergone a scan and will consult a specialist in central London early next week. The medical team will then take a decision whether or not the defender requires surgery.

“Whatever course of action we decide to take, Aaron faces a period of rest, followed by treatment and rehabilitation and he will be out for a period of between three and four months,” said Vandenbroucke.

Left back isn’t a position of strength for most teams, and West Ham doesn’t look to be an exception.

Vandenbroucke also issued an update on Manuel Lanzini, saying the club won’t know his status until the attacker returns from Argentina duty. Lanzini was injured with Argentina’s Olympic team while preparing for the Games in Rio.