Saturday, August 29, 2015

IEFSA Fantasy League Week 4 Preview

Last weekend I came up against IEFSA Fantasy League top dog @cjradune, and a quick glance of his team sitting proudly atop the league table tells you all you need to know about how I got on. While I was happy that all my eight outfielders started, it was their performances that were the real blow. No goals scored, only one clean sheet, the Chelsea defence continuing to ship goals and my Man Utd players struggling to find form going forward in the Premier League. A corner will have to be turned performance-wise soon, and hopefully it will be this weekend.
In fact, it will need to be this weekend if I am to have any chance of picking up my second win of the season. For you see the IEFSA fixture makers bias against my team continues apace, as I have to face unbeaten @nikarg. His side is one of only three teams with a comfortable 3-0 record to start the season.

@nikarg’s Team
Nik’s team has a solid spine on which he’s been gaining victories from. Lovren at the back has yet to concede a goal, While Albrighton and Shelvey in midfield have both been instrumental in their sides impressive early season form. Up front Nik can call upon Wayne Rooney; he hasn’t scored or assisted in the Premier League yet, and has come under a bit of criticism because of this, but did score a hattrick in Belgium in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Elsewhere around his squad: Christian Eriksson is out injured at the moment, but will surely go straight back into a seemingly lacklustre Spurs side when he is fit. Shane Long could play as his flex player, the Irishman doesn’t usually get the start in the Premier League, but often comes off the bench and is always a goal threat. In goals Nik is relying on Stoke’s Jack Butland. Stoke have not coughed up too many goals, but Butland has yet to keep a clean sheet. At home to West Brom this weekend is a good chance to get a first shut out.
How many minutes will Shane Long get this weekend?
What I Need To Happen

Jenkinson’s red card against Bournemouth means he will be suspended, throwing my backline into chaos again! I will have to start my only three other defenders, and with Holebas’ position under threat at Watford, I’m not guaranteed three starters. Plus Watford are away to Man City, a place they would be hard pressed to keep a clean sheet at.
A better chance of a clean sheet should be Chelsea at home to Crystal Palace. Courtois has yet to justify the high fee I forked out for him. This weekend, facing @nikarg, would be a good time to start. Another player yet to back up his high fee is Memphis Depay. The Dutchman faces a difficult trip to Wales this Sunday as Man Utd take on Swansea.
The fixtures work against my team (again!)
Swansea midfielder Andre Ayew has been my star man this year so far. A fixture against Man Utd is rarely a time to pick up massive points, and this game being on a Sunday means most of my squad will have played already. So do I hold off a roster spot for Schweinsteiger? Will he start? Do I leave three spots open for Memphis, Ayew and the German midfielder? Do I leave two spots free and rotate in whoever starts, or choose Ayew over one of the United players? Decisions, decisions!

Last weekend I pulled off the set. I correctly predicted all seven match ups. Some were very close run games, with the scoring of a goal or the keeping of a clean sheet the difference in most cases. So since I’m so good at this prediction lark! Here are this weeks picks.

As always, Follow @THE_IEFSA on Twitter for all your updates, and good luck everybody.

Friday, August 21, 2015

IEFSA Fantasy League Week 3 Preview

My team is sitting on a 1-1 record after last weekends defeat at the hands of @DFS_hambazaza. As disappointed as I was in my Chelsea goalkeeper letting Aguero ruin any chance of victory, I’m more disappointed in not having the full complement of players out on the pitch. Holebas of Watford didn’t get any minutes, leaving a whole roster spot go to waste. It’s hard enough to win in this league without handicapping your points tally in such a way. This week I’m determined to get all eight outfielders playing! Which will mean Holebas to the bench, and Amavi of Villa back to a starting spot.

I am also aware that I would have only beaten three other sides last week, so a big improvement will be needed from my team in Week 3.

@cjradune’s Team
CJRadune won last weekend to go to 2-0, this was thanks largely to Vincent Kompany and Ross Barkley, who brought in more than all the other players on his team combined. If these two players don’t reach those heights again I could be in with a chance. But it really is an uphill task, CJ’s team has outscored me in the first two weeks and he currently sits atop the IEFSA table having scored the most points.

With Joe Hart between the sticks, and Kompany and Luke Shaw, he really does have some stellar defensive options.  Colback, Barkley and Adam should make up the midfield, with Sunderland’s Larsson coming in if need be. Whoever makes it on to his team, he is sure to have three starters for their clubs.

Up front he is relying on Jamie Vardy as all his other forward options are injured. In the flex position it’s looking like he could insert either Ashley Young or Adnan Januzaj, and with Man United versus Newcastle being the early game he will be able to tinker his line up with one, or none, or both of them, according to Louis Van Gaal’s team sheet.

What I Need To Happen
Memphis Depay opened his Man Utd account during the week in the Champions League. Something similar would be very much appreciated come Saturday lunch time. Very rarely do Newcastle put up much resistance at Old Trafford but hopefully new Toon favourite Wijnaldum can pull in a few points. In my midfield, apart from my top scorer Andre Ayew, thing are very much up in the air. Delph is still out, Walters is a doubt, with Sinclair and Schweinsteiger not guaranteed to start. Perhaps another foray into the transfer market is in order?

If Man City keep another clean sheet at Everton, I’ll be looking at a 15+pts swing to @cjradune. It would be a big bonus if Hart’s goal can be breached, by anyone other than Ross Barkley of course. @cjradune’s team has scored six goals this season (compared to my teams paltry three) and if his attackers can be kept quiet for just one weekend, I hope it’s this one.

5 from 7 last weekend, as @GalinDragiev relying on the Sunderland goalkeeper and @RotoWireAndrew  running into a Lukaku inspired @RotoZdroik where the only blemishes. So let’s try again this week!

As always, make sure you are also following @THE_IEFSA on twitter for all the latest news and action over this exciting weekend.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fantasy Golf: Wyndham Championship

For those of you following me on Twitter (and if not, why not! => @GarryIrwin) you will have seen that I posted all the top 5 finishers for last weekend’s PGA Championship as my fantasy selections. If you haven`t moved up in the rankings after that, then you must already have been pretty high.

This week sees the PGA Tour head to Sedgefield Country Club in North Carolina. This is the final `normal` week of the Tour before the four rounds of the FedEx Playoffs begin. It is also the winding down of the Fantasy Golf games. Yahoo Fantasy Golf finishes its winter segment at the end of September. Official PGA Fantasy will end at the tail end of September too but will start up again two weeks later in October. AVIS Fantasy Golf will also finish on the 27th of September, but that game only started in April and surely won`t wait until that far into next season to start again?

This weeks picks for the Wyndham Championship are a mix of past winners and in form players, plus a long shot or two. As always picks are divided according to their grouping in Yahoo Fantasy Golf, with AVIS picks given at the bottom of the post.

Since this tournament has been played at Sedgefield (2008) the winners have alternated between the U.S. and overseas. Last year Columbia`s Camilo Villegas was victorious, so perhaps an American will win this time out? Not very scientific, but something to think about! Past American winners here include Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson. Simpson has always been there or there abouts over the last number of years here and should be within spitting distance of the top ten come Sunday evening.

Another former winner, and player who has always done well on the course, is Sweden`s Carl Pettersson. He holds the tournament (259) and course (61) records here. Just before this leg of the Tour moved to Sedgefield CC, it was held at Forest Oaks, and the winner in 2007 there was Brandt Snedeker. He finished in the top 5 here last year too, so will be fancied to do well.

Justin Thomas is an in form player coming into this weekend. A very credible 18th at the PGA Championship came after a fourth and a fifth at the Quicken Loans National and the John Deere Classic. Another young American with a bright future is Brooks Koepka. He comes to North Carolina having been inside the top 20 in every competition he`s entered since the disastrous 78 he posted on the final day of the Memorial Tournament back at the start of June. Look out for him to compete again.

So here are this week’s selections. Good Luck everybody.

Group A

Brooks Koepka

Webb Simpson

Bill Haas


Group B

Brandt Snedeker

Hideki Matsuyama

Billy Horschel

Paul Casey


Group C

Justin Thomas

Carl Pettersson

Boo Weekley

Branden Grace

Brian Davis

Charl Schwartzel

Will Wilcox

Jonas Blixt

David Toms

Johnson Wagner

AVIS PGA Fantasy Golf: Justin Thomas, Boo Weekley, Billy Horschel, Paul Casey; Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker.

Friday, August 14, 2015

IEFSA Fantasy League Week 2 Preview

The second week of the IEFSA Premier League Fantasy Football is upon us. I put one up early in the win column last time out, but I’m not going to get carried away just yet. If the schedule had worked against me, I could have met one of the six other teams who outscored me last weekend. This week I’m facing @DFS_hambazaza , who is coming off of a defeat. He ran into a Marc Albrighton inspired @nikarg, and will be doubly determined not to lose again and fall two far behind this early in the season.

@DFS_hambazaza’s Team
His team will be looking to welcome back Sergio Aguero upfront. Man City may be facing Chelsea this weekend, but Aguero is a goal threat against any team. Steven Fletcher scored this team’s only goal last week and he will be hopeful of more game time for this weeks match, and will probably be played in the flex position.

Only four of @DFS_Hambazaza’s outfielders were starters last weekend and he will hope to arrest this trend by shuffling his pack somewhat. Although he has left himself a bit top heavy, employing no less than five forwards, when at max you can only pencil in two to earn you points. When Trippier breaks into the Spurs side and Bertrand comes back from injury things should even out for him.

In Midfield his main goal threat appears to be Spur’s Nacer Chadli, who host Stoke City this weekend. While in goals he has Southampton’s Maarten Stekelenburg. The Saints kept 11 clean sheets at home last season, including one in a three nil win over Saturdays opponents Everton.

What I Need To Happen
I will be happy as long as my players all start for their respective clubs. Ayew and Wijnaldum were my goals scorers last weekend, and they meet each other at three o’clock on Saturday in what  will be, fingers crossed, a high scoring affair. What I hope will be a low scoring game, is the clash of two title contenders in Man City and Chelsea on Sunday. Not only to prevent Aguero from getting too many points, but also to enable Begovic to pick up some save points, or even a clean sheet.

My squad is heavily reliant on Watford and Villa players again. My two Watford defenders host a wounded West Brom. While of my three Villa signings, I’m thinking of only leaving in Gueyre in Midfield as they host Man Utd on Friday night. I’m relying on my big money signing Memphis Depay to do the business in this game, and depending on team selection I may move Schwiensteiger onto my starting rostor. If he fails to start again, then Stoke’s Walters will continue in the flex position.
What has 'Tactics' Tim got up his sleeve this week?
Lastly, Carl Jenkinson will be brought into to the defence, as I’m banking on him getting back into the West Ham side for the visit of Leicester. Impressive youngster Jordan Amavi makes way for Jenkinson’s inclusion. If Villa do cause an upset on Friday then I could very well be in deep trouble in this match-up.

Seeing as I managed to get six from seven last week, let’s keep this prediction ship sailing! (Only a Coutinho wonder strike was my undoing, but I’m sure @Smokey_Loogy was delighted to see it fly in!)

@FuzzyWarbles over @DanRiccio590

@RotoWireAndrew over @RotoZdroik

@Smokey_Loogy over @SportsByGotti

@nikarg over @TomSunderland_

There you have it. Don’t forget to follow @THE_IEFSA on twitter to keep up with all the exciting Premier League and Fantasy Football action over the next four days.

Friday, August 7, 2015

IEFSA Fantasy League Week 1 Preview

Gameweek 1 in the IEFSA fantasy league pits my team against @TomSunderland`s side. A good start in any league is crucial, you don`t want to be playing catch-up with half the league going into week 2. A lot of unknowns go into the first weekend of the Premier League, and if you`ve read my IEFSA draft overview you`ll know my squad has more unknowns than anyone. For any matchup I think it`s important to put out eight players who are going to start for their sides. Brilliantly, in the IEFSA league, you have right up until kick-off to tinker with your side, but once that referee's whistle blows your players are locked in.

I’m confident that my eight starters will each start for their respective sides, but I still have two subs to rotate in if things take a turn come team sheet submission time. Unfortunately, with Jenkinson of West Ham absent for Sundays clash with Arsenal, I`m left with no cover if any of my three defenders don`t make it onto the pitch at three o`clock on Saturday. Also, Welbeck and Delph are doubts for the weekend, and even if they pass fitness tests, they may not break into their sides starting eleven.

Tom`s Team

No such defensive problems for @TomSunderland though. His three players, Azpilicueta, Cahill and Stones, look like starters and they all play at home this weekend. His midfield is more difficult to call. Oxlade-Chamberlain is fresh off a match winning goal in the Community Shield and he will be fancied to earn some points for Tom on Sunday. Elsewhere in midfield; Cuadrado didn`t get onto the pitch last weekend as Oscar and Moses were thrown into the mix as subs before him. Herrera hasn`t featured much in a crowded Man Utd preseason, but at least Tom will know where he stands as United v Spurs is the first game of the new season. Wilshere has been ruled out with injury, so perhaps an extra player will be drafted in last minute. Lens of Sunderland I am worried about. There is a lot of buzz about the Dutchman and playing in a probable front three away to Leicester City could bring Tom some joy.

Up front it looks like Falcao will lead the line. Whether he leads the line for Chelsea ahead of Remy is another matter. His back-up forwards, Ings and Vydra look likely for spots on the bench. Having all three forwards playing games at differing times could work to my advantage, as Tom may have to stick or twist with Falco come Sunday teatime.

In goal he has the safe hands of Arsenal new boy (boy?!?) Petr Cech. West Ham haven`t beaten Arsenal away since 2007 and they have only managed two goals in this fixture since then. Perhaps a Cech clean sheet is a foregone conclusion. But I have no horse in that race, so I`m hoping Slaven Bilic sends out the Hammers to attack and score goals.

What I need to happen

Fretting over this man's team selection
Two Watford defenders mean I hope the Hornets get a clean sheet at Everton. A possible trio of Villa players away at Bournemouth has made up my mind over which Saturday three o`clock game to watch! In goal sits Courtois and Chelsea at home are normally good for a clean sheet, but I’m confident Swansea can get Courtois` hands dirty and negate some of the points Cahill and Azpilicueta are sure to get from the same fixture. I will more than likely need my forward players to chip in with goals this week and I`m optimistic Depay and Wijnaldum are up to the task. Schweinsteiger will be rotated in if he starts the early fixture, otherwise I`ll be placing Walters in the OF until the Stoke game the next day.

If a few of Tom`s midfield and forward players are left as spectators this weekend and my squad can score or assist in a one or two goals, then I will hopefully have enough to outscore his solid defence and pick up the win.


In a feature that is bound to be scrapped after week 1 when all these predictions go belly up, I`m going to call each of the IEFSA league match ups.

A lot of these are just coin flips, but if anything, it might help me put a hex on some of my closest rivals by tipping them to win every week!

 Enjoy the opening weekend of proper football everybody. And don’t forget to follow @IEFSA on twitter to keep up to date with all the happenings in the league.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Fantasy Football: IEFSA draft overview

The new Premier League season gets underway in a few short days, which means most people should have their fantasy teams complete with only a few injury doubts and late fitness tests really impacting on final selections. That is, unless you`ve entered yourself into a drafted league. In which case, you pour over the football news websites for info on the members of your squad with an obsession only Captain Ahab in Moby Dick could understand. If Martin Olsson is your third defender, it`s probably a good idea to follow him on Instagram to see if the pictures he takes give you any insight into that shoulder injury he`s carrying…… right?

The premier Fantasy Football draft league this year is run by IEFSA over at Fantrax. Some of the top names in Fantasy Sports writing on the web are competing for charity over the coming season, and you should follow them all on Twitter here -> @EPL_MOstradamus @RotoWireAndrew @BenDinnery @FantasyYIRMA @GalinDragiev @SportsByGotti @TomSunderland_ @FuzzyWarbles @cjradune @nealjthurman @Ben_Jata @RotoZdroik @nikarg @DanRiccio590 @wrigavin @DFS_hambazaza @Smokey_Loogy

Check out the IEFSA website and for up to the second news and updates follow @THE_IEFSA on twitter. If you fancy giving this fantasy draft game a go, you can enter a qualifier league here too -> First Qualifier League

The draft was completed just over a week ago and I thought it was about time to explain how the ragtag members of my squad came together. The overall theme of my squad was `Out with the Old, In with the New`. In most other fantasy games, a lot of teams will have the old reliables as bedrocks of their teams. Aguero, Baines, Ivanovic, Silva, etc. But in a drafted league, it`s very rare that one team would be packed with such players, and in a draft where everyone knows their Jordan Ayews from their Andre Ayews, it`s even rarer still. So rather than getting caught in lots of bidding wars over players, I felt it was better to just pick out a few players and concentrate on landing them. And the players I wanted to land were all new faces to the EPL. The reasons I will go into individually, but at the outset of the draft I knew this season I wanted to take a chance on these type of players to propel me up the league table, rather than blowing my budget to outbid people on Costa and Hazard. Of course they could all flop, get injured, be loaned off to the championship, etc, and my team will end up propping up the table, but let`s see what happens.
I ended up with eight new signings to the Premier League, and a player who is playing with a new club this season. A very untested bunch. This meant that between the sticks I wanted a more proven performer. My first selection of the draft was the Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois. I had hoped to get him at less than the $31 I was eventually bid up to, but I was happy to have him keeping goal every week. Chelsea had the fewest goals conceded last year and 17 clean sheets (11 at home), I realize other keepers gathered more points last season, but if Chelsea get near to less than a goal conceded a game and almost half a season of clean sheets again this year, I’ll be doing okay. Also if the defence falters, I think Courtois is good enough to pick up the slack, plus Begovic is not a bad replacement if Courtois does get sidelined for any reason.
The most expensive member of my squad ended up being Memphis Depay at $49. Another player I had earmarked for selection. With RVP leaving and Hernandez and Di Maria looking towards the exit door, I thought the goals would fall to Rooney and Depay to collect, with Mata chipping in too. He had a great record for Dutch side PSV last season, 28 goals in 40 appearances. I`m hoping he`ll take to the premier league from Dutch football more like a Ruud Van Nistelrooy rather than like a Jan Vannegoor of Hesselink. Depay was to be my main forward and I would have preferred to have paid something nearer the 31m Man Utd did for him, and paying $49 probably hampered the money I wanted to spend on my defence later in the draft.
Next up was the midfield, and a player I had my eye on was Newcastle`s Wijnaldum. In Holland he averaged a little under a goal every three games. I`m also hoping that Steve McClaren`s knowledge of the English and Dutch games means he`s fairly confident he`ll adapt quickly to the Premier League. I paid $22 for Wijnaldum and would have probably paid a little more. The other midfielder I wanted was Swansea`s new Ghana international Andre Ayew. At 25 he should be coming into the best football of his career, and what has come before wasn`t too shabby as he averaged around one goal in four games playing in France. He plays more of a forward than a midfielder, and I expect him to shine at Swansea.
As a back-up forward I had hoped to get my hands on Leicester City`s Shinji Okazaki, but when @GalinDragiev brought his value up to $12 I felt I had to back off. Okazaki is one of Japan`s most prolific goalscorers and easily got to double figures in goals at Mainz in each of the last two seasons.
My most expensive defensive purchase was West Ham`s Carl Jenkinson at $10. He averaged more points per game in Fantrax last season than both Trippier and Janmaat, who went for $20 and $12 respectively in the draft, so I`ve got to be happy with that. Rounding out my defence I have two players who have joined Watford this summer and a new signing at Aston Villa.
Of the three promoted sides Watford came up with the leakiest defence and new manager Quique Flores has moved to shore things up at the back with a few new faces. Jose Holebas comes in from Roma, while Allan Nyom was signed from Udinese (though played in Spain with Granada) and with Flores having been a right back during his playing days, I’m banking on him having an eye for a defender or two. At Villa, Tim Sherwood has brought in Jordan Amavi as left back. He may be only 21 but the Frenchman looks a class act and should hopefully cement his place there. He was my next biggest defensive signing at $5.
Back to midfield and another big signing was the $25 I spent on Man Utd`s Bastian Schweinsteiger. He may have a `possibly injured` little red flag beside his name every week and with United`s heavier schedule this season there is always the risk of rotation in a crowed Man Utd midfield, but I thought he would have went for a bit more than $25. He had one of his poorer seasons last year at Bayern where he only managed 28 games and five goals. I actually consider Schweinsteiger the biggest ‘gamble’ of my draft.
Rounding out my midfield I have Fabian Delph to come in if a couple of my main midfielders are not firing. People often ask why certain players go to big clubs when it looks like they will struggle to break into the first team and could end up sitting on the bench for prolonged periods, or worse, just forgotten about as their once bright career disappears. But every player backs themselves to compete at the top level and they convince themselves that they can be the main man at any side. If Delph is willing to back himself to be a fixture at Man City, I can back him for a $5 bid. He`s clearly a talented young player and I see no reason why he can`t get at least the same amount of game time as players such as Milner, Fernando, or Navas even!
I also added new Villa midfielder Idrissa Gueye for $9. The Senegalese arrives from Lille for 9m and scored 4 goals last season in Ligue 1. As a late addition post draft, I obtained the services of Villa`s Scott Sinclair, just as an extra body as players sit on the Injured Reserve list. He has been in good form in preseason and with Tim Sherwood brining an attacking style to the club, that means possible fantasy points at the right end of the field.
To complete my trio of forwards I have Danny Welbeck of Arsenal and Jonathan Walters of Stoke. Welbeck has yet to get a decent run in the Arsenal team, but with the Euros coming up I’m hoping he can force himself into some of Arsene Wenger’s plans and knock in a few goals. He is currently out injured. Walters on the other hand is never very far from Mark Hughes’ plans at Stoke City. He had his most prolific season scoring-wise last year, and something similar would be much appreciated from the $1 acquisition.
So that was the thinking behind my squad. Let me know what you think on Twitter @GarryIrwin, and look out for upcoming articles posted on The Notebook. For a breakdown of how each team drafted, Galin Dragiev covers all the bases over at Rotoworld in his comprehensive IEFSA draft review. Until next time, remember to join the qualifier league and to follow @THE_IEFSA on Twitter.