Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Football Rumours: Kaka, Raul Albiol and Sami Khedeira


In Yahoo Fantasy Football world, Kaka's bit-part status in Jose Mourinho's squad has been a bit of a pain in the neck for Fantasy managers. The £50 million (former?) galactico has made just 5 starts and mustered 12 appearances in total out of a possible 17. We know there is always potential for goals. Yet, he doesn't seem to be trusted for the big games and has only had an impact against lowly opposition. His three goals have come against Betis, Zaragoza and Villarreal; all sides who currently sit in the lower half of the division. Three goals and two assists is a meagre return for a man of his talent and it is sad to see the once glorious playmaker now being used as a reliable back-up rotated to appear in Real's less significant matches.

It is no wonder he is being linked with any side with a bit of cash. Today it's Chelsea, Man Utd, and Paris Saint Germain. Manchester United in particular could certainly use a playmaking dynamo to link midfield and attack. However, he appears most likely to go to Chelsea where he would join up with another £50million duffer in Fernando Torres. A thought which is at once titillating and mortifying. However, at 29 there is a sense that Kaka's best days are behind him, and with the injuries he's had, he could well be planning to "do an Owen." It could well be enough to see out his time as a bit-part player in one of the great teams of the modern age.

Raul Albiol

A slightly less sexy rumour is that of Raul Albiol making the switch to the Premier League.

The former Valencia defender has been used just 5 times in La Liga and always seems to be a last resort. He has a delicious Fantasy Football market value of 2.2 which is very exciting if you know he is going to start, but then again, he has a tendency of collecting negative points. Of his 5 appearances, he has scored positive points just twice. Woo.

It seems unlikely that Manchester United would be desperate enough for his services, although it's understandable that Mourinho wants him out. He has plenty of cover at centre back with Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Rafael Varane. Maybe a loan deal?

Albiol is nicknamed El Chori because of his big sausage.

Here is a vid of him being "owned" by Juan Mata

Sami Khedeira

Perhaps the least likely move, but apparently there is a rumour out there. The holding midfielder has not started the past couple of games and this has something to do with Lass Diarra putting in some lively shifts in the centre of the park. However, it's almost impossible to see Mourinho letting one of his first signings at the club move on to Chelsea or Manchester United, for any amount of money. If anything, it's more likely Mou wants rid of Lass.

Khedeira is now established as one of the great defensive midfielders of the game, but this role is notoriously impossible to represent in Fantasy Football. He is the kind of chap you avoid unless desperate. He has 7.5 points for the season from 12 games. He has no goals. He has one shot on target. His best stat is a total of 15 intercepted passes. So, only slightly more enterprising than Darren Gibson.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

W17 preview

With Barcelona proving they’re the best team in the world by beating
useless sides no-one’s heard of in Japan this week, Real Madrid have
an ideal opportunity to reclaim their 3 point cushion at the top of
the Liga before the winter break. Egos in the Real dressing room are
bruised and battered after last week’s humbling in El Clasico. Despite
the increasing feeling that the power balance may have been shifting
at the top after years of Catalunian dominance, Barca’s 3-1 victory,
and Cristiano Ronaldo’s ineffective display were an all too familiar
return to the status quo. All Real can do in response is do what they
have been doing all season (before last week’s interruption) and win.

Sevilla have been awkward opposition for Los Merengues over the past
few years, having won four of their last six Liga meetings between the
two sides at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium. Saying that, Jose
Mourinho bucked the trend when his side registered a 6-2 thrashing in
this fixture as recently as May this year with Ronaldo scoring four.
This season, Los Blancos have been devastating away from home with 21
goals from 8 games. However they come up against a Sevilla defence
that has looked far more organised this year and put in a magnificent
display to earn a clean sheet at Camp Nou earlier this term.

Real have no new injury worries, with just Ricardo Carvalho out
long-term. Sevilla’s Argentine winger Diego Perrotti is struggling
with a knock. This should be a victory for Real. 3-1 Real, look out
for a vengeful display from Ronaldo.

Third placed Valencia also had a wobble last week when they stopped
playing after 89 minutes and conspired to lose against Real Betis.
This week, It’s a case of “old money” (maybe that should be, “no
money”) versus “new money” as they take on the nouveau riche Malaga.
Los Che need to get back to winning ways with Levante rediscovering
their form and breathing down their necks in fourth place. Unai Emery
welcomed back the classy Ever Banega during the midweek Copa del Rey
visit to Cadiz and the Argentinian schemer could be back in the
starting line-up this weekend. I’ll tip a Valencia win. 2-1 Ones to
watch: Soldado and Tino Costa.

Levante have a tricky visit to Granada but should prevail against the
promoted side who have one of the meanest defences in the Liga. This
is likely to be a low-scoring affair with Aruna Kone the best bet to
nick a goal.

Osasuna have had an excellent start to the season in stark contrast to
Villarreal who they host this weekend. The Pamplonans have been free
scoring and great entertainment value. They welcome back born-again
midfield maestro Raul Garcia this week, and in tandem with attacking
dynamo Alvaro Cejudo, Los Rojillos are more than capable of heaping on
further misery for the Yellow Submarine. 2-0: Ones to watch: Nino,

Espanyol and Sporting Gijon go head to head after both sides recorded
impressive wins last week. Expect a low score draw. Ones to watch:
Romaric (Espanyol), Nacho Novo (Gijon)

Athletic Bilbao take on the struggling Zaragoza at San Mames. This is
an ideal opportunity for Bilbao to get back to winning ways after a
stuttering spell in La Liga. Underachieving wing-wizard Jermaine
Pennant suffered some kind of anterograde amnesia in 2009 after he
signed for Zaragoza: he was always late; forgot where he parked his
car and seemed to lose all footballing ability during his stint on the
continent. A similar collective sickness appears to have gripped a
side who have become totally devoid of talent, ambition or desire and
are now rooted to the foot of the table. Bilbao are without suspended
captain Andani Iraola and Fernando Llorente is a doubt. 3-1 home win.
Ones to watch: Ander Herrera, Toquero, Muniain and Susaesta.

Atletico Madrid come galloping into their home tie with Real Betis off
the back of their triumphant Europa Cup performance in midweek.
Despite the fact their fans hate them, Gregory’s Manzano’s boys love
playing at home and with Falcao, Ada Turan and Diego all starting to
purr, expect another home win. 3-1 Atletico.

On paper, Mallorca versus Getafe may look like the sort of game that
any neutral would rather poke their own eyes out than endure. However,
it excites me, if only because Mallorca are starting to look like they
can win and this could be one of the most one-sided games of the
weekend. Getafe are useless. Victor knows how to score

Racing Santander versus Sociedad is up there in the tedium rankings.
Sociedad keep squeezing out the points and Carlos Vela is starting to
fulfill his potential as the poor man’s Lionel Messi. Racing Santander
can’t excite me unless Kennedy Bakiricoglu is playing, and he’s still
a doubt. A deathly 1-1. Snooze fest

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Nacho Novo ruined my weekend

Nacho Novo crawled out of his tiny mouse hole, dusted himself down, picked himself up and put in a devestating performance last weekend that saw him pick up the dubious honour of "highest scoring player of the week in Yahoo Fantasy Football La Liga". Not many diminutive ex-Rangers strikers can say that. Novo spearheaded a Sporting Gijon side that did a naughty and upset my predictions by tonking Rayo Vallecano 3-1 on their own turf. Hugely disappointing considering the Gijon started the weekend 2 pts off the bottom and promoted Vallecano have exceeded expectations with a promising start to the season.

The spaniad spent almost 10 years in Scotland playing for Raith Rovers, Dundee and Rangers and achieved legendary status with the Glasgow side, winning all the major domestic trophies.

Novo was dominant against Vallecano with 2 goals, 4 shots, a matchwinning goal, and a total of 29.5 pts. All from a meagre value of 5.48. Astonishing effort from the number 10 who has struggled for goals since his return to Spain last year.

Extra tit-bits about Novo:

He hates Aberdeen fans.
He lowered his shorts at their fans once.
Fan site
Discussion of PES attributes
He almost became scottish
Depite never representing Spain, he has played for the regional side of Galicia.
He features in countless Rangers' fans tribute videos:

Best of the rest
The top XI from week 16

Nacho Novo, 29.5pts, Sporting Gijon
Victor, 22, Mallorca
Sergio Garcia, 21.5, Espanyol

Romaric, 26.5, Espanyol
Verdu, 23, Espanyol
Xavi, 19, Barca
Aranburu, 14, Sociedad

Nano, 19, Levante
Juanfran, 11, Levante
Gonzalez, 12.5, Racing

Munua, 22, Levante

Results (predicted score in brackets):

RCD Espanyol 4 - 2 Atlético Madrid (1-0)
Athletic Bilbao 1 - 1 Racing Santander (2-0)
Málaga CF 1 - 1 Osasuna (3-1)
Real Zaragoza 0 - 1 RCD Mallorca (1-0)
Villarreal CF 1 - 1 Real Sociedad (1-0)
Getafe CF 1 - 0 Granada CF (1-0)
Rayo Vallecano 1 - 3 Sporting Gijón (1-0)

Real Madrid 1 - 3 FC Barcelona (2-1)
Real Betis 2 - 1 Valencia CF (0-1)
Levante UD 1 - 0 Sevilla FC (0-0)

Friday, 9 December 2011

This weekend. Clasisco, Valencia and more

Predictions and probabilites

Real Madrid v Barcelona

Whisper it quietly, but for the first time in a long while, Real Madrid feel like favourites for El Clasico.

Pep Guardiola is unbeaten at the Bernabeu since he took over in 2008, with two wins and a draw. However, Barca's current away form is poor by their high standards. They have only won two from six away Liga games, and their last outing ended in a humbling 1-0 defeat at Getafe.

Meanwhile, Real have gone through an unstoppable spell and are looking
for their 16th consecutive victory in all competitions. In La Liga,
they have scored 49 goals in 14 games, and have not dropped a point at
home all season.

However, Mourinho cannot boast the impressive home defensive record of his foes: while Barca have yet to concede at the Camp Nou, Real have conceded at least a goal a game so far at home this term.

In terms of personnel, both sides will be close to full strength having been able to rest their stars in midweek. Ricardo Carvalho (Real) and Ibrahima Affellay (Barca) are long term absentees. Adriano could return for Barca.

Mourinho has declared he will opt for one of Benzema and Higuain in a three-pronged attack with Ronaldo and Di Maria. Guardiola has something of a selection headache in attack,where the returning Pedro will be vying for a spot with the in-form Alex Sanchez.

Prediction: A win for Real, but Barca will score. Top picks: Ronaldo, Di Maria; Messi. 2-1

3rd place Valencia visit Real ”the slump” Betis. Valencia whimpered out of the Champions League after being given a good seeing to by
Didier Drogba and Chelsea in midweek. But that humbling is nothing
compared to that which Betis have received since daring to visit the
summit of the Liga standings in week 4. They are on a dismal downward
spiral and haven’t won since winning their four opening games – and
they’ve lost 10 of their last 12 meetings with Los Che. You get the

Valencia are big favourites and the only tricky bit will be
predicting the right players for the win. Tino Costa is loving it in
central midfield after getting more regular starts and is a reliable
pick. Roberto Soldado can be expected to net. Prediction: Away win 0-1

A fairly titillating tie involves Valencia’s plucky neighbours,
Levante. The fourth placed upstarts take on a sparkling Sevilla side in one of the most exciting games of the weekend. If Sevilla were to win, they would leapfrog their opponents into 4th.

The southerners have only scored three away from home all season, but they’ve only conceded two so they will provide awkward opposition to a Levante side with a healthy home record.

Neither side have any new injury worries. Levante have to be sure to suppress Ivan Rakitic and Jesus "the chosen one" Navas who were devastating in Sevilla’s 3-0 defeat over Getafe last weekend.

Prediction: low score draw: 1-1. Ones to watch: Aruna Kone and
Barkero; Rakitic, Negredo.

Malaga v Osasuna is the next match of interest, and by my calculations should be the most one sided fixture of the round. Malaga like to score, and Osasuna tend to concede away from home. Don’t get me wrong, Osasuna love to pull a shock win as much as Malaga like to pull a
shock defeat but the stats favour the home team.

Malaga have a number of injury problems with Wellington, Julio Baptista and Joaquin all confirmed as unfit for the game, but have the squad to cope. Osasuna are missing midfield maestro Javad Nekounam through suspension. Prediction: a win by a couple for Malaga. Ones to watch: Cazorla, Isco, Rondon. 3-1

Espanyol v Atletico Madrid. A close match to call with both sides
stumbling along inconsistently. While Atletico are healthily placed in
8th, they have terrible away form and Espanyol know how to scratch out
the home wins. It’s going to be tight.

Atletico welcome back first teamers Arda Turan, Diego "the liability" Godin and Thibaut Courtois. Espanyol are without Manchester City loanee Vladimir Weiss and the injured Javier Marquez. A home win is expected but a surprise upset could be worth a punt: 1-0

Atlethico Bilbao should ease back in to winning ways against Racing
Santander, but star striker Fernando Llorente is doubtful. The onus
will be on the likes of Iker Muniain and Markel Susaeta to bring the pain. 2-0

Rayo Vallecano v Gijon. A home win for Vallecano. Look out for goals
for Michu and Raul Tamudo. 2-0

Getafe v Granada. Granada and their mean defence have been on a tidy
run, lifting them to 12th. Getafe are missing Dani Guiza and Pedro Leon. Should be a slim home win but Granada more than capable of an upset. 1-0. Getafe's Miku and Castro to star.

Villarreal v Sociedad. Two of this season’s slow starters trying to
claw their way up the table. Javier Garrido welcomes back Nilmar and Cani from injury, but defender Mussachio is suspended. 1-1. Look out for: Ruben, De Guzman and a goal from the half-way line for Sociedad's Inigo Martinez.

Real Zaragoza v Mallorca. A grim prospect for the neutral but look out for forgotten Portugeezer Helder Postiga. 1-0

Monday, 5 December 2011

Team of the Week 15

Roberto, 20

5 saves as Granada earn hard fought victory over Zaragoza

Marcelo, 19

Real's Brazilian full-back shows rival Coentrao how it's done on the left side.

Moreno, 15

Defender of the week, with a goal and some bits and bobs, even as his side, Espanyol, went down 2-1 at Valencia.

Flano, 14

Surprise goal from defender as Osasuna beat Betis 2-1

Angel Di Maria, 19

Matchwinning goal and assist from Argie wing man.

Fabregas, 18

Two more goals gives the false-nine seven for the season.

Tino Costa, 14

Instrumental display, scoring a Pen and assisting for the second in Valencia's crucial home win.

Gabi, 14

The surprise attacking performance of the week. A goal, assist and own goal from the Atletico winger.

Messi, 23.5

A goal and a plethora of extras. Central to Barca's 5-0 demolition of Levante.

Falcao, 21

Matchwinning goal and assist on return from injury for 40m Euro man.

Alex Sanchez, 20

Another goal for the Chilean as his stock begins to soar.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Jornada 15 preview: Barcelona v Levante, Gijon v Madrid... and the rest

Bit gutted as my predictions calculations are missing this week. I ran them this morning but I have failed to get the appropriate JPG. What I can tell you is that the most likely results (from my memory mind) were:

Barca 2-0 Levante
Gijon 0-3 Real Madrid
Valencia 1-0 Espanyol
Racing 0-0 Villarreal
Atletico 1-0 Vallecano
Sociedad 0-0 Villarreal
Osasuna 1-0 Betis
Granada 1-0 Zaragoza
Mallorca 0-1 Bilbao
Sevilla 1-0 Getafe

All about the Classico now. "But the classico's not til next weekend" I hear you say. "But we have to bang on about it at every given opportunity. Work it in where you can. Classico Classico Classico"
Well, Barca are in dissaray. They are a massive 3 POINTS off the pace
after being ruthlessly battered 1-0 at Getafe last week while Real
Madrid mauled Atletico 4-1. Pep obviously has his mind elsewhere -
Chelsea probably, and Mourinho is king. the title race may as well be
over. Forget that Barca have won every home game in La Liga, averaging
4 goals a game without conceding one.

This week Barca host last month's flavour of the month (?) Levante.
Fourth placed Levante are just 5 points behind Barca but have
a formidable task ahead of them. However, the forgotten table toppers
Levante can boast that they are the only side to have beaten current
leaders Real Madrid this season. Barca could boast that they beat Rayo
Vallecano 4-0 in midweek but no one would listen. Levante also scored
a thumping 4-0 victoryover Gijon last week and likes of Aruna Kone and top-scorer Juanlu will need to maintain their excellent form if they have any
hope of taking anything from the game.

They must also summon the spirit of Nelson Valdez if they are to "do a Hercules" at Camp Nou.
Barcelona are full strength apart from wing back Adriano who has
picked up a thigh strain.
Barcelona are hot favourites for the home win and need the win ahead
of next week's Classico. Ones to watch: Messi,
Alexis Sanchez, Fabregas and Iniesta

Sporting Gijon v Real Madrid, 17.00
In the early kick off, the sensible money will be on Real Madrid
reasserting their 6 point lead at the top this weekend - vital
psychological advantage ahead of the El Classicoooooo. Real will be
without Ricardo Carvalho and the suspended Xabi Alonso as they look to
extend their thirteen match winning run. Alonso has been an integral
part of Mourinho’s line-up since he fled Liverpoo to play for a team
who might actually win things one day. The Special One has
several options to replace Alonso: tiny summer signing Nuri Sahin;
flaky youth Esteban Granero; or pompous wild man Lass Diarra. Who will
partner German tiger Sami Khedeira in this tricky away tie for the
league leaders.

Despite lying 18th, Gijon can delude themselves that they are more
than capable of causing an upset
having beaten Real at the Bernabeau only in April. Christiano Ronaldo
is a doubt with an ankle sprain picked up in the Madrid derby last
weekend, but should play despite having missed training earlier this
week. With 5 goals in 12 games this season, former Real Madrid trainee
David "the barrel" Barral carries the main threat for an otherwise
rather insipid
Gijon side.

No upset for Gijon this time. Madrid will coast to their fourteenth
win in a row. Ones to watch: Benzema and Ronaldo.

Valencia v Espanyol
If it’s guaranteed wins you’re interested in, look no further than
Valencia at home to Espanyol. The Andalucians have won 3 of their last
four and need to maintain their excellent run with Levante hot on
their heels. Valencia are still without long term absentees Sergio
Canales and Even Banega in midfield but Tino Costa and Sofiane
Feghouli have stepped up to the plate in their absence and have put in
some excellent displays in the centre of the park. Brazilian forward
Jonas scored his first of the season in La Liga last week and looks to
be coming into some form. While, still in the top half of the table,
Espanyol have been inconsistent of late and suffered a shock home loss
to Osasuna last week. While Christian Alvarez has put in some great
displays between the posts this season, Catalunia’s “other” side are
struggling for goals.
Home win: ones to watch: Soldado, Tino, Jonas, Diego Alves

Racing Santander vs Villarreal
Saturday’s fourth fixture looks likely to be terribly dull affair.
Racing Santander have lost Hector Cuper and Villarreal have lost their
identity. A great chance for the Yellow Submarine to grab a morale
boosting win but a low/no score draw seems more likely.

Atletico Madrid v Rayo Vallecano
Despite their woeful away record, Atletico are excellent at home. Will
they be buoyed or exhausted from their midweek Europa Cup victory at
Celtic? Falcao is back, but Adrian has more than made a case for
keeping his place ahead of the record signing. Vallecano are very much
capable of causing an upset.
Home win: Assenjo, Diego, Falcao

Sevilla v Getafe
Sevilla ground out a vital 1-0 win at Zaragoza last week. Despite
Getafe’s heroics against Barca, they still stink away from home.
Sevilla should build with another win.
Home win: Varas, Negredo, Rakitic, Trochowski

Granada will be favourites to beat Zaragoza, especially following
their surprise defeat of Atletico Bilbao last week. Their impressive
defence will need to keep a close eye on Zaragoza’s Helder Postiga.
Osasuna host Betis and are favourites to build on a good run of form.
Alvaro Cejudo, Raul Garcia and Nino can all be expected to do well.
Sociedad v Malaga is an awkward one to call and a draw seems the most
likely result. Finally, Bilbao must bounce back from the shock loss to
Granada and take the win at Mallorca.