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The Week Ahead, Part 1 - The Schedule

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If you needed an illustration of why we tend to stay away from big rivalries, this is it.
If you needed an illustration of why we tend to stay away from big rivalries, this is it.

We've finally made the leap to SBNation and our new blog name and we're thrilled with both changes.  We finally get to solidify our partnership with Nik (Y!AM) and trot out our clever new logo and name.  Even more importantly, the SBNation platform gives you guys more and better chances to express yourselves as part of our never-ending discussion of the Premier League and all things fantasy football.  For those who want to participate as you always have, you're welcome to continue reading and commenting.  For those who want participate more, I direct you to the FanPosts and FanShots options.  

FanPosts are your chance to write your own content related to fantasy footie and post them.  Loyal reader Mike Birty has kicked that effort off and you can click on the FanPost tab and check out the gauntlet he's thrown down and see if you can improve upon that.  He set the bar pretty high for a first run but we look forward to everyone's input and figuring out how we can work it into the overall narrative.

FanShots are more about posting other things you find around the web. You can post Images, Links, Videos, etc that you think would be of interest to our team here at the blog and/or your fellow readers.  You can feel free to post images of your team either heading into a weekend, the Barn Door team you have heading out of the weekend, or anything else your heart desires (but please keep it clean and on message.  We don't want to censor your creativity but we're part of a bigger enterprise now and we need to abide by the rules. 

With those couple of features introduced, we hope you enjoy our new home and stick with us as we learn how to get the most we possibly can out of all of the features and functions it has to offer.  If you have suggestions we are, as always, more than happy to listen.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog entry with the weekly schedule analysis...

The Home Teams

(As a reminder to our longtime readers and a note to our new ones here at SBNation, statistics have shown that fantasy performance like performance on the real-life pitch is better at home so we tend to start with an analysis of the best bets among the teams playing at home in any given game week)

Manchester City vs. Aston Villa - What else can you say about 3-0-0 at home with 9 goals scored and 0 conceded? That's City's record at home which makes for a lot of potential fantasy goodness.  As for Villa, they've had a sneaky season so far.  Despite their 7th place spot in the table no one has gotten very excited about them because they've been getting their points predominantly through draws (2-5-0 overall, 0-3-0 on the road).  Still, those road tests have been Fulham, Everton, and QPR which isn't really a murderer's row of opponents.  My sense is that Villa put in a solid shift but end up giving up a lot of "phantom points" and 2 goals without scoring in response.  Verdict: Advantage City Attackers and City Defenders. 

Chelsea vs. Everton - Graham, our fearless leader here at SBNation Soccer, is a Chelsea fan so I'm going to risk his wrath with my very first post by continuing to emphasize that I really don't believe in the Chelsea defense.  I believe in them enough to think that they'll win the match but to make them worth a fantasy pick, they'll need to contribute heavily to the attack or keep a clean sheet and I don't think they'll do either to the extent that you'd want to risk your budget on any of them.  On the other hand, the attack seems to be coming around to the entertaining, explosive style that supporters always wanted but never got under Mourinho (and others).  Everton have only kept one clean sheet all season (@Rovers) and I don't expect that they'll slow Chelsea down much.  Verdict: Advantage Chelsea Attackers. 

Norwich City vs. Swansea City - The fantasy love among the newly promoted teams has fallen decidedly with the Swans and rightly so given some of their stout defensive performances.  Quietly, Norwich has had almost exactly the same season (same number of points and same goal differential).  It would be easy to look at Norwich's home record (solid) and Swansea's road record (ugly) and come to the conclusion that Norwich should pick up the points here.  If you look a little close the Swans came by that road record by traveling to Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea.  All due respect to Norwich's solid home record but they are none of the above.  The more likely thing here is that Swansea's possession game and solid defending cancel out any potential Norwich home field advantage and we see a goalless draw.  Verdict: Advantage Norwich AND Swansea Defenders. 

Wigan vs. Bolton - It has all gone downhill very quickly at Bolton hasn't it? Key players leaving over the summer followed by key injuries to an already thin squad and you have the perfect recipe for bottom-of-the-table.  Wigan aren't any great shakes either and they couldn't capitalize on an early schedule that featured all three newly promoted teams.  Where does that leave us? My guess is that it leaves us with an ugly 2-1 home win where there will be some bargain points to be had in the Wigan attack.  Would I base my week on it, of course not, but if you need some cheap options that could pay off in midfield or up top, this is a good place to look.  Verdict: Advantage Wigan Attack. 

Arsenal vs. Sunderland - Arsenal's attack isn't what it used to be even as recently as last season.  The passing game that has defined the Wenger era is greatly diminished and with it the goals have faded.  There is undoubtedly some talent in the Gunners attack but it will likely remain overpriced for fantasy purposes until Wilshere comes back and can serve as part of a vital engine room.  The under-reported story is that Arsenal's defense is great fantasy value against bad teams and Sunderland have none of the attacking qualities that gives Arsenal fits.  With Bendtner ineligible to play against his parent club they have little height and with Gyan off to wherever he went, they don't have a deadly counter-attacker.  My guess is that Arsenal win 1-0 with 2-0 an outside possibility but that they do it very efficiently and in a way that doesn't their expensive attackers too many fantasy points.  The clean sheet is where the value lies for the Gunners this weekend - who'd have thunk it? Verdict: Advantage Arsenal Defense.

The Away Risks

(Another reminder/note that while we strongly prefer home players there will generally be one or two away teams that could present excellent fantasy value based on a match-up with a bad home team) 

Rovers @ QPR - We had such high hopes for QPR once Barton, SWP, and Young arrived at the transfer deadline.  They showed a brief glimpse of promise in the immediate aftermath of those moves but the wheels fell all the way off with last week's embarrassing 6-0 defeat to a Fulham team that no one is confusing with a title contender or even an attacking juggernaut.  Looking more carefully, we see that QPR have been a disaster at home having picked up only 2 points while scoring one goal over three matches at Loftus Road.  "But they're playing Rovers this weekend!" you say?  They lost 4-0 to Bolton in the season opener and they've managed to bet beaten up by Wigan this season as well.  My intuition tells me that Rovers, fresh off their trip to India, and not QPR are the ones that are going to get healthy in this match-up.  Verdict: Advantage Rovers Attack. 

I'll be back tomorrow with my player recommendations.