Fantasy Football

Chris Burton offers pointers for Sky Sports' Fantasy Football

Last updated: 12th September 2008  

Fantasy Football

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The international break will hopefully have given those of you currently down on your Fantasy Football luck an opportunity to recharge your batteries.

Watching England demolish Croatia on Wednesday evening may have rekindled your belief that football is, as the old saying goes, a funny old game where anything really is possible.

A forgettable start to the season, or countless lacklustre friendlies in England's case, can be put to rest with 90 minutes of magic.

So stop kicking yourself for mistakenly believing Everton possessed a watertight defence or that Tottenham would finally come good, and look to the future with a renewed sense of optimism.

This may sound like the musings of man who has endured a less than auspicious start to life in the Fantasy hot-seat and is attempting to kid himself that better times are just around the corner - and you would be right.

However, blind optimism has always been my forte - it comes with being a Nottingham Forest fan - and I am confident that office bragging rights are mine for the taking.

I have chosen my XI warriors set for Premier League battle, confident in the knowledge that things can only get better - can't they?

I have browsed through the weekend fixture list, and the respective injury concerns of those involved, and will try my best to divulge helpful bargain hunting tips in a manner befitting of the good Duke David Dickinson - although you have been warned of my personal failings thus far.

Confidence

I imagine a certain Mr T. Walcott will feature heavily among those looking to do business this weekend following his hat-trick bagging exploits for England in Zagreb, and for just 4million he could prove a shrewd acquisition for those who believe players thrive on confidence.

A word of warning, though, to anyone tempted to lump on the international heroes of the last week. It has long been accepted that midweek European action takes its toll on those involved, so why should international action prove to be any different?

However, with top flight training grounds overrun by tumble weed of late it appears everyone is in the same boat!

Newcastle's defensive pairing of Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini have both donned their national shirts over the last seven days, but with St James' Park set to play host to Hull on Saturday they represent good value at 3.5million apiece to keep a clean sheet.

Everton's leaky defence heads to unpredictable Stoke on Sunday, but it may be worth holding fire on wielding the axe on the likes of Tim Howard and Joleon Lescott just yet.

Meanwhile, with transfer deadline day madness consigned to the history books, there are a host of big-money men set to make their debuts this weekend.

Dimitar Berbatov (7.4m) should thrive in his new surroundings at Manchester United and will be keen to make an instant impact in a tasty North West derby against Liverpool, while the man set to step into his shoes at White Hart Lane, Roman Pavlyuchenko (6.8m), has all the credentials to be a success in England.

A few more names which may be worth a punt include Wigan's Egyptian striker Amr Zaki (5.8m), who currently leads the way with 21 points in the attacking stakes, and Everton's new Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who cost the Toffees 15million big ones in real money but is yours for just 3.7m.

Doubts

There are, of course, a few men to avoid - with a number of big names among them.

Doubts persist over the fitness of Liverpool duo Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, although both are in Rafa Benitez's squad, but with reigning champions Manchester United the visitors to Anfield there seems little point in taking the risk.

Chelsea's Joe Cole suffered a nasty gash to the head on England duty and looks likely to miss the Blues' trip to Manchester City, while Arsenal's Samir Nasri was forced to sit out France's clash with Serbia and remains a doubt for the Gunners.

Newcastle's Argentine winger Jonas Gutierrez has settled in quickly on Tyneside but picked up a shoulder knock while back in South America, and Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien has been ruled out of action for up to six months with a cruciate knee ligament problem - with anyone who is yet to replace him really not taking things seriously.

So, there you have it. Hopefully now you are ready to tackle the latest round of Sky Sports' Fantasy Football with a reinvigorated sense of belief. I have boldly urged you to lump on Newcastle defenders this weekend while resisting the urge to include big-names carrying injury doubts, and tipped debutants to shine among new friends.

I may prove to be disastrously wide of the mark, but that is the risk you have to take when it comes to this management lark.

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