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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 15 hours ago
Read
Oct 21, 2008

Fantasy Focus: The injury curse

Handling injured players is always a tricky task, especially on a packed Saturday with the big four all playing. It's often too tempting to leave out the player with a knock but it's rarely black and white. Injuries are a curse which no fantasy manager can escape.

So many players - and many of them leading fantasy scorers - came back from international duty injured that it's hard to imagine anybody's team not being affected.

The biggest gripe on Saturday was the appearance of Amr Zaki in the Wigan team after being injured on international duty. With hard decisions to make due to the number of games being played it appears the Egyptian was left on the bench by a lot of managers. It turned out to be some mistake as he bagged two goals. Plenty of people have rushed to the ESPNsoccernet Podcast Facebook Wall to bemoan their lost points. Even worse, some people transferred him out completely which will surely turn out to be a huge error of judgement.

Zaki is gold in terms of fantasy points. He was dirt cheap at the start of the season meaning his scope to go up in value is far greater than others, while his price and popularity will mean more managers will be selecting him. This will be the time to cash in and use his new value on another striker who can have a greater impact in terms of picking off your mini-league rivals.

Another way to get hold of the Premier League's star names is to grab them as they return from an injury lay-off. Many bought Fernando Torres a few weeks ago when, due to his hamstring tweak, his value had dropped from £11m down to £9.5m. That's a real bargain for a player of the Spaniard's quality.

Even now he's only £9.8m but after suffering another knock with Spain there's every chance that he could drop even lower than £9.5m. It will be interesting to see what develops after Thursday morning's price fluctuations are activated. If Torres, as expected, misses the game against Chelsea next weekend then the optimum time to grab him may not be until the following Thursday.

Short-term injuries such as Torres' really should not force anyone to rush into a transfer, unless there is a viable alternative. With a player of Torres' ability a 10-day lay-off is easy to stomach. But too may people will make the change enabling others to pick the striker up on the cheap. The Liverpool forward was the third best striker in the game last season, and fifth overall, so buy him while he's at such a low value.

There are other players who have become bargains because of injuries. Team-mate Steven Gerrard was just £8.9m a few weeks ago and is now on the rise.

If you missed the boat on Deco at the start of the season then now is the time to move. The Portuguese was originally £8.5m but his tally of 23 points in August had people clambering for him with his value approaching £11m. Now, after returning against Middlesbrough after injury, he is back to £8.6million and could also be considered great value.

Defensively, it's worth keeping a close eye on Ricardo Carvalho in the long term. Out for a couple of months due to injury he will be removed from many teams. You certainly can't hold onto a player of the value of Carvalho for an extended period. Even taking into account the lay-off he is still worth more than at the start of the game but that will change. The smart managers have swapped him for Alex and will make the change back once Carvalho is fit.

It's a very similar situation with Martin Skrtel who will be out until Christmas. Andrea Dossena and Alvaro Arbeloa are a little more expensive but £4.2m Dan Agger, if Rafael Benitez forgives his gaffe against Wigan, or Sami Hyypia at £3.9m are steals. Although it's a question of reading Rafa's selection policy, which is always tough.

There are plenty of other key players who face time on the sidelines following the World Cup qualifiers. Michael Ballack will be out for a month so changing him for Deco, who's just £0.4m more expensive, is the logical decision. But Chelsea's problems do not end there with Didier Drogba also out for some time. With just four points this season Drogba has clearly been a poor signing. Ditch Essien, too, who will be lucky to see any more action this season.

But don't go wasting transfers on players who perhaps will just be missing for one game, such as Petr Cech, Roque Santa Cruz, Ryan Babel and Robinho. Joe Cole, too, is not expected to be out of too long. It's all about weighing up the value of a transfer in relation to the time out of action.

Other players who you may want to consider removing are Michael Owen, Martin Petrov, Dean Ashton and Paul Scholes who all face long periods on the sidelines.

It's difficult to make the right calls on injury-based transfers all the time, but at least they are enforced changes rather than a rash error of judgement which can cost you a couple more transfers to put right.

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