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Friday, February 24, 2012
Injury concerns force changes

Dale Johnson

Injuries have taken their toll on some of the fantasy game's leading lights in recent weeks, not least at Chelsea where John Terry, at one stage the top-scoring defender by some distance, has been ruled out long term. Blues skipper Terry has not played since Gameweek 22, just when the defender had recorded back to back clean sheets. A knee injury kept him out for the next three gameweeks, and now exploratory surgery on that same problem means he faces another six weeks on the sidelines and will miss a vital chunk of the fantasy season. After being clear as the best defender, Terry has now dropped to fourth and he has been offloaded by most fantasy managers. After being one of the most popular defensive signings, scoring 107 points, he is now down to 11.9% ownership and falling. His scoring average of 4.9 points per game makes him, along with Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the most consistent defender when available. But no one can realistically hold on to Terry as the most expensive defender at 9.0 million. The next in the cost table is Everton's Leighton Baines who is way back on 7.7 million. Chelsea have kept only one clean sheet since Terry was forced into the treatment room, and that came in the 1-0 FA Cup win at Queens Park Rangers. In the three fantasy gameweeks without Terry, Chelsea have let in six goals with their soft underbelly now exposed by the loss of their captain and leader at the back. Chelsea's options have been reduced with Jose Bosingwa now facing an extended period on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Bosingwa was one of the top signings at the start of the season with a goal, assist and clean sheet in the opening three gameweeks of the campaign. Now he's only owned by 2.2% of managers and his injury will be of far more interest to the 8% who own Ashley Cole. Cole was surprisingly left out for the Champions League defeat at Napoli with Bosingwa preferred at left-back. At least fantasy managers can now be content in the knowledge Cole will be back in the league. What this does mean is that Gary Cahill begins to look a viable option again. After struggling to get into the team in the early weeks following his move from Bolton, Andre Villas-Boas has little option but to use him. Cahill, priced at 4.9 million - the cheapest Chelsea defender available, has only made one Premier League appearance for his new club when they conceded three against Man United. But with Chelsea in dire form is their defence worth investing in, regardless of price? Chelsea have desirable home games coming up against Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City and also go to West Bromwich Albion, who have a woeful home record. It's a brave call. Antonio Valencia's injury, picked up in last week's Europa League win away at Ajax Amsterdam, came just when the Ecuador winger had come back into hot form. In the last 11 gameweeks, Valencia had picked up nine assists and two goals. His ownership had climbed to 15.8% and from nowhere is now ranked the 26th best midfielder. That a mere 0.7% of managers have since sold him since picking up the injury may suggest a lack of clear options elsewhere. He is out for a month so will only miss a handful of games too; maybe a brief switch to Nani will pay dividends, but you will need plenty of spare cash for that. Valencia is priced at 7.0 million while Nani is 8.1 million. A cheaper option, though with greater risk, is Ashley Young at 6.6 million. The only other United player who could cause concern is Wayne Rooney, who has had a tendency to be left out every now and then. But with a run of form which has brought four goals in last two gameweeks it would be foolish to sell him now. He may not have faced Ajax in the return leg of the European tie, but there have to be goals in the upcoming games against Norwich, West Brom, Wolves, Fulham and Blackburn. A game at Spurs also slots into that run. Aston Villa now have two defensive players facing an extended period out. Richard Dunne - ranked 26th in defenders - has a shoulder injury and is out until April, though none of the 1.7% of managers who own him have yet traded. A bigger loss to bargain hunters is Ciaran Clark, a defender actually playing in midfield who faces a similar period out. Finding a player of that ilk for a 5.0 million fee will not be easy - though we are brought back to Cahill who could save you 0.1 million. Finally, Aaron Ramsey faces what is at the time of writing an undetermined period out with an ankle injury. The Arsenal midfielder has generally been an inconsistent fantasy performer but is ranked as high as 20th among midfielders. That has not transferred into high ownership, he's in just 2.8% of squads, and only Charlie Adam and Stephen Ward are less popular in the top 20 scorers.

Moving fixtures

Most fantasy managers will already have noticed that both Liverpool and Everton are without a match in this gameweek, this is due to the Merseyside derby being postponed with Liverpool playing Cardiff City in the Carling Cup final. As stated in the How To Play, this game will be scored in the fantasy gameweek it actually takes place so there is no point selecting players from these teams. As yet there is no new date for the game. The will be a similar situation for the next three round dates of the FA Cup, on the weekends of March 17, April 14 and May 5. Any team which progresses through the rounds will have to move their fixture. In many cases the games may be moved to the following midweek, meaning there is no effect on the gameweek schedule, but that is not certain. For the week of March 17, we have so far lost Blackburn v Sunderland, Everton v Arsenal, QPR v Liverpool, Tottenham v Stoke and Aston Villa v Bolton Wanderers. Man City v Chelsea will also fall if the Blues win their FA Cup replay at Birmingham. As yet there are no new dates for these fixtures.


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