Champions League Premier fantasy impacts

Posted by John Culea

There were four matches involving Premier League teams and after the games were over we had multiple talking points for this weekend's Premier League fantasy competition.

The Blues had the most difficult trip in terms of distance (Ukraine) and competition (Shakhtar Donetsk, 12-0-0) and lost 2-1.

RDM was able to use John Terry, suspended four games for FA competition; however, excepting Eden Hazard he chose to go with the rest of his regular starting line-up. Frank Lampard returned to the first XI, only to go down after just 15 minutes with a calf injury. Don't look for him to be available Sunday against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

In terms of goals conceded in the Premier League, Chelsea is tied with Arsenal for the best record, giving up just six. But against Shakhtar Donetsk, their defenders brought back nightmarish memories of the 1-4 demolition put on the Blues by Atletico Madrid August 31 in the UEFA Super Cup. Only Petr Cech's nine saves on Tuesday prevented another pasting.

Fantasy managers holding Oscar will like what they saw and Torres showed flashes of brilliance, but again, the Spaniard could not close the sale. Chelsea's best PL player so far, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard drifted in and out of the game, but other than Lampard, fantasy managers will have all Chelsea players fit for Sunday's game.

Chelsea will be encouraged how Manchester United played on Tuesday, not because MU won but that SAF's team has now conceded the first goal in eight of their 12 matches this season.

Manchester United 3-2 Braga
SAF opted to keep Valencia and Evra in civvies and benched Rio, Nani, Young and Welbeck against Braga. Kagawa got the start, seemingly proof that he will play more outside the PL than in, although his status is muddled after he was injured and subbed out at the half. Chicharito also started, as did Cleverly and Buttner. Rooney and RVP were up front with #10 used more in an attacking midfielder role.

Based on what we saw in the Ukraine and at Old Trafford on Tuesday, Sunday's game between Chelsea and Man Utd could be a 5-4 goal fest. "Shocking defending" by Man Utd on Tuesday was one announcer's understatement of the year and Chelsea wasn't much better.

Fantasy managers now wonder what SAF will do with Chicharito on Sunday. For the first eight games of the PL season, Hernandez has been a major disappointment. Tuesday, he looked like the young spark plug from last season, scoring a brace and threatening for all 79 minutes he played.

Nani emerged from SAF's doghouse and had a strong match. Will he start on Sunday? And what about Valencia who has looked terrific since coming back from injury?

Fantasy questions fill the air over GK De Gea who had an absolute howler late in the game against Braga. His giveaway nearly allowed the visitors to equalize.

Wednesday's games involved Manchester City on the road at Ajax and Arsenal at home against Schalke 04.

Manchester City's 3-1 stinker at Ajax saw them take the lead on a glorious pass from Richards and then a nifty delivery from Milner to Nasri who scored. After that it was ugly, as Ajax scored three unanswered goals. Premier League fantasy managers holding City players can rightly be nervous about Saturday's game at home against Swansea City. Against Ajax, Yaya Toure, described by one TV announcer as having "no fuel in his tank" was disengaged and while covering for his midfield teammates, he rarely ventured forward. Additionally, he and Kolorav appeared to bicker on the pitch.

After his performance, Lescott is not likely to play on Saturday. He allowed a shorter player to out jump him, resulting in a header that was Ajax's go-ahead goal. Four minutes later when Mancini pulled Lescott, the manager offered no handshake or even a glance in his direction when Lescott came off the pitch. Not exactly a recipe for team unity.

Dzeko started as the lone striker with Aguero positioned just behind him, but the combination produced no goals. Tevez and Balotelli were on the bench and eventually came in. Neither had much impact with Tevez not having a touch for 12 minutes until he had some useful play.

City is a team with multiple question marks including if David Silva, who was missed against Ajax will return to action on Saturday.

In London, Schalke 04 defeated Arsenal, perhaps not as convincingly as City's loss. However, the 0-2 home defeat, showed a Gunners' team lacking firepower. Six Arsenal shots with just two on target won't win many games and even with bottom feeder QPR coming to the Emirates Saturday, fantasy managers wonder who will find the net for Arsenal.

If any good news came from the one victory and three losses, it is that Injuries seemed to be few for the four teams. Lampard is out with a calf issue. Kagawa is doubtful with a knee injury and although Toure had his foot cut, he played through the injury.

Thursday's Europa League fixtures involve Liverpool, Tottenham, and Newcastle. While a factor to the team's image, income, and form, Europa competition is not nearly as important as UCL.

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