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Smith: Strikers must step up

Burnley 13 hours ago
Read
 By John Culea
Jul 31, 2014

2014-15 defenders' value assessed

Branislav Ivanovic might be the best choice for Premier League fantasy managers as Chelsea start with a favourable schedule.

ESPN FC's 2014-2015 Premier League fantasy game begins Aug. 16. Managers have until then to put together their best 15 players within the 100 million pound spending limit.

Having looked at the available forwards and midfielders already, here are observations on selected defenders with comparisons to last season and considerations for players new to the Premier League.

Most expensive

Leighton Baines, Everton: 7.8; (last season: 8.4)

Baines is not the scoring threat he was under David Moyes and was sidelined for the first time with an injury. Even so, he was the third-highest fantasy defender. Everton's early schedule has Arsenal and Chelsea in the second and third weeks.

Recommended picks

Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea: 7.6; (8.4)

Ivanovic is a much more attractive early pick over Baines, especially with Chelsea's first two games against promoted teams.

Filipe Luis, Chelsea: (7.2); (new)

The 28-year-old Brazilian transfer from Atletico Madrid is a bit pricey, but should be a strong partner with Ivanovic in the Blues' solid defence.

Seamus Coleman, Everton: 7.0; (8.1)

Coleman is an incredible bargain for being last season's top fantasy defender.

Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City: 7.1; (7.6)

He was outstanding in the World Cup and one of the best defenders in the PL. He was seventh in fantasy defender points and scores goals.

Martin Skrtel, Liverpool: 7.0; (6.6)

Skrtel grabs every opponent in sight but is an excellent addition, especially with his ability to score off set pieces.

Dejan Lovren, Liverpool: 5.8; (6.5)

The Southampton transfer is an upgrade for the Reds' defense.

Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal: 7.1; ( 7.3)

The Frenchman had a solid season with two goals in 32 games and was the ninth-best fantasy defender.

Good value

Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham: 6.6; (6.2)

After an off year because of injuries, the Belgian is a scoring threat and a hard-nosed defender.

Ron Vlaar, Aston Villa: 5.2; (5.3)

The Dutchman was a star in the World Cup, and, although he missed badly on a penalty kick, he had the guts to take it when others wimped out.

Ben Davies, Tottenham: 5.6; (6.0)

Davies comes at a bargain price and should shore up the Spurs' defense.

Phil Jones, Manchester United: 6.1; (6.9)

He seems to be a preferred starter for his new manager and gives his all but sometimes at a physical price.

With Phil Jones appearing to gain the approval of Louis Van Gaal, he could be a bargain buy this season.

Overpriced

Vincent Kompany, Manchester City: 7.4; (7.6)

Kompany has much to do to justify having the third-highest defender salary. Because of injuries, he was ranked 21st for fantasy defenders.

Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea: 7.0; (7.8)

He had zero PL goals last season and was 23rd among fantasy defenders. The only justification in taking him is Chelsea's soft opening schedule.

Barcary Sagna, Manchester City: 6.5; (6.6)

He almost never scored with Arsenal and is not likely to do so with City.

Per Mertesacker, Arsenal: 7.2; (7.3)

The German has the fourth-highest fantasy salary and was used sparingly in the World Cup. He looked slow and could miss the Gunners' first game for lack of training.

John Terry, Chelsea: 7.3; (8.3)

At 33 and retired from international duty, can the fourth-highest fantasy player log 34 games again?

Gary Cahill, Chelsea: 7.0; (8.0)

With one goal and one assist in 30 games, Cahill was the 11th-highest fantasy player.

Risky

Luke Shaw, Manchester United: 6.6; (6.0)

The 19-year-old with great potential has a skimpy résumé (zero goals, one assist and 20 clean sheets in 60 games at Southampton). As the highest-paid teenager in league history, he had better deliver and be humble amongst established players who do more for their team. His new manager also questions his fitness.

Glen Johnson, Liverpool: 6.5; (6.1)

Johnson struggled for England. How much fuel is left in the 29-year-old's tank?

Jose Fonte, Southampton: 6.0; (6.5)

He was the sixth-highest fantasy defender; however, the Saints have had a mass player exodus.

Good gambles

Jon Flanagan, Liverpool: 6.1; (5.7)

Falangan is a Brendan Rodgers favorite and justified that with defending that belied his 21 years.

Joleon Lescott, WBA: 5.4; (5.8)

Ignored at Manchester City, he is out to prove himself.

Bad picks

Jose Enrique, Liverpool: 6.7; (6.4)

Injuries were many, and he is getting slower.

Martin Demichelis, Manchester City: 6.9; (7.5)

Despite a good World Cup for Argentina, his defense is suspect.

Maynor Figueroa, Hull: 5.3; (4.9)

One of the worst fantasy picks.

Question mark

Mathieu Debuchy, Arsenal: 6.7; (5.6)

He has greater offensive potential than the departing Sagna and is now on a better team than Newcastle.

Other question marks (with lack of playing time)

Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho, Liverpool; Chris Smalling and Rafael, Manchester United.

John Culea

John Culea is an American living in San Diego who became hooked on football while serving in the Navy for two years in London. A former TV news, Emmy Award-winning anchor/reporter, he goes by the fantasy honorary title of "Sir John." He is a devoted Chelsea supporter and offers previews of upcoming Premier League action and a review of the games played from an American perspective.

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