So here is the final team previews, brought to you just one day before the start of the new season (apologies for cutting things a bit close). I will post later tonight a review of all the last minute injury news, as well as tweeting them tomorrow morning before the 11:30 deadline. Today's previews lack the star power of yesterday but plenty of bargains can be found, and each team has something to offer
Projected Team: Fulop, McCartney, Collins, Ferdinand, Bardsley, Richardson, Cattermole, Cana, Malbranque, Bent, Jones
After being given a substantial war chest by the board, Steve Bruce has spent very well on Weirside and his team look stronger than they ever have. It would not be surprising at all to see Sunderland pushing Fulham and West Ham for top half spots rather than scrapping at the wrong end of the table.
At the back the team is largely unchanged, which is disappointing for a team who ranked just 13th in total defense (16th home, 12th away) last season. Paolo de Silva (4.5m) should feature when he gains match fitness, having been granted a work permit yesterday. The Paraguyan captain should feature at centre back, presumably alongside Anton Ferdinand (4.5m) both of whom look like decent bench players.
The midfield looks much improved with the added steel of Cattermole (5m) and Cana (5m) giving Malbranque (6m) and Richardson (6m) more flexibility to play in advanced roles. Cattermole is in the same bracket as Mascherano, Mikel and Neville as a consistent defensive player who may get the odd goal or assist but should largely be considered as a good reliable bench option. Cana, however, has the potential to be more that this as I doubt the aforementioned players can do this. His cool finishing will also be familiar to Liverpool fans, thanks to his goal in the Champions League last season. Do not expect a prolific goalscorer but for 5m you are getting the new club captain who will play every week and has shown that he can score when presented with the chance. I would probably rank him behind Jimenez as the 2nd best 5m prospect right now (until Anderson proves he is a starter). Malbranque and Richardson are both solid attacking options with Malbranque looking like the pick of the pair. While Richardson scored 4 goals to Malbranque's 1, Malbranque added 9 assists and 20 bonus points and would have exceeded 140 points if he had played 34 games.
Up front, Sunderland have three legitimate options with Jones (7m), Bent (7m) and Campbell (6m) all capable of scoring goals in the top flight. Due to the big money paid, we would expect Bent to partner Jones up front, which limits the value of Frazier Campbell for now. On last year's pace, Bent would exceed 150 points if he played 34 games while Jones would chip in with around 135. Bent has the higher ceiling but is somewhat of a loose cannon, and cannot always be counted on to reliably contribute every week. That being said, his goal scoring record in the Premier League is impressive and there aren't many 7m strikers who could approach 15-18 goals a season. He isn't my favourite player for now, but weeks 3 through 7 are favourable and it might be worth jumping on his bandwagon is he shows he can settle in quickly.
Recommendation: Lorik Cana looks like a bargain at 5m, as he provides more attacking flare than fellow-5m players. He won't strike double digits but he could be a great rotation/bench option. Darren Bent also has the potential to be great value if he finds his shooting boots early.
Projected Team: Gomes, Assou Ekotto, Woodgate, Bassong, Corluka, Modric, Palacios, Jenas, Lennon, Defoe, Crouch
Redknapp has not overhauled his team with only a couple of additions likely to trouble the first team, though the depth has been much improved. Spurs' home defence led the league last year and the additions of Bassong, and Naughton should only help this unit. Going forward, Bent has been replaced by Crouch while the midfield is pretty much as you were.
Bassong, Assou-Ekotto and Woodgate all cost 5m and look to be good value, though at 5.5m Corluka looks expensive as there is no real reason to value him above his teammates. With Woodgate's injuries I would favour new arrival Bassong, who is a very impressive prospect and managed to score 2 bonus points playing in Newcastle's shambolic defence last year.
Modric (7.5m) appears to be great value as I believe the young Croation is set for a breakout year in the Premier League. Modric averaged better than a goal every 4 games before arriving at White Hart Lane and I expect him to at least double his 3 goal tally from last year. Lennon (7.5m) is also good value if you want someone to differentiate your side and he should be good for another 130 point season.
Up front I was disappointed to see Keane fall back down the pecking order as I rate him highly in both real and fantasy football. That being said, Crouch and Defoe is a formidable partnership and at Portsmouth one of the paid scored in almost every game. Defoe (8.5m) looks a tad overpriced to me though he does have the talent to top 15 goals with ease. Crouch (7.5m) won't get quite as many goals but his assists and bonus points should be high and he looks decent value for 7.5m. This year I think the premium (10m+) strikers are a cut above the rest and I would prefer to save money elsewhere and grab one of these, but I would not judge anyone who felt Defoe is worth the gamble.
Recommendation: Luka Modric is the focal point of one of the league's better teams and his value compares favourably to similar players like Young, Ireland and Arteta/Cahill.
Projected Team: Green, Ilunga, Upson, Tomkins, Faubert, Noble, Parker, Collison, Stanislas, Jimenez, Cole
Gianfranco Zola is said to want play a 4-3-3 and the desire to sell Ashton suggests this will be made up of Cole along with 2 attacking midfielder types (Jimenez, Stanislas, Savio). The defense remains unchanged, having surprisingly ranked 7th in total defense last year.
If Tomkins (4.5m) can hold down a regular spot he looks great value although Upson (5.5m) looks overpriced and should probably be avoided.
The midfield looks pretty uninspiring in fantasy terms with no 100 point players from last year. However, the arrival of Luis Jimenez (5m) has gotten me very excited as the on-loan Inter player has genuine class and could pull the strings in this side, as well chipping in with goals, assists and bonus points. The Chilean playmaker has not been a prolific scorer in his career, but being deployed behind Cole should help, and I can see 5 goals being a reachable target. For 5m there isn't a better player available and come midseason I would not be at all surprised to see his value pass 6m.
Up front starts and ends with Carlton Cole (7m), who of the bargains of last year. Still only 25, Cole seems to have been around forever but it was only last season that he showed the ability we all knew he had, earning himself an England call in the process. 10 goals was a very good return in 26 games and he should get closer to 15 if he can stay fit all year. He will therefore be solid value for 7m and is an ideal candidate for players looking to select three mid-level strikers to rotate.
Recommendation: Luis Jimenez has the ability and low value to become a 'must own' and I see big things for the playmaker.
Projected Team: Kirkland, Figueroa, Bramble, Sharner, Melchiot, N'Zogbia, Brown, Koumas, Gomez, Scotland, Rodallega
Wigan have lost some serious talent over the last 6 months or so - Palacios, Valencia, Zaki, Cattermole - but the team still looks solid enough to compete in the division. The arrival of Roberto Martinez has brought excitement to the JJB, sorry 'DW stadium', along with a couple of his former Swansea players who have a mammoth task on their hands in trying to step up into a Premier League team. Wigan had the joint 7th best defense last year and with no significant changes to the back line we can expect another solid performance, although the loss of Cattermole who protected them so well last year will definitely hurt. Martinez has a reputation for employing an attacking team so the defense may also get a bit more exposed, perhaps relegating the defenders to rotation/bench guys rather than every week starters. All four starters are 4.5m so attacking points must come into play when selecting your back. Bramble's 17 bonus points look attractive as does Scharner's ability to play further upfield (especially in light of Cattermole's departure). Therefore one of this pair looks to offer the best value.
With Valencia trying to replace Ronaldo at Old Trafford, the talent in Wigan's midfield does not look great with former Magpie Charles N'Zogbia (5.5m) looking the best bet, though the fact he can be deployed at left back and has never played more than 27 games in a season both worry me. I think Michael Brown (4.5m) might be the direct replacement for Cattermole, and if so, is decent bench value as an every week starter.
Jason Scotland (6m) and Hugo Rodallega (6.5m) are both big, strong, powerful forwards with the potential to cause opposition defences some matchup issues. However, at those prices I need more than players with either 9 or 0 Premier League games to their name and therefore cannot endorse either of them, even though Rodallega managed 3 goals in that brief period.
Recommendation: Paul Scharner (4.5m) had a monster 2007/08 with 135, scoring 4 goals and adding 15 bonus points. The Wigan defense has improved since then, so with even half that offensive production he could be a nice 4.5m addition, especially considering the time he may get playing in midfield.
Projected Team: Hennessey, Zubar, Craddock, Mancienne, Elokobi, Milijas, Kightly, Henry, Surman, Doyle, Ebanks-Blake
Wolves team looks fairly soft on paper and you fear for their ability to keep top sides at bay with a weak looking defense. There's no doubting that the other side of the ball is improved though with Doyle and Milijas looking like solid captures.
Wolves have no less than 12 fantasy listed defenders and it is not exactly clear which of them will feature on a weekly basis. Mancienne (5m) has joined from Chelsea and carries with him a stellar reputation, but he also brings with him a West London price tag and is therefore no worth considering. Two from Zubar, Craddock and Berra (all 4m) should get plenty of chances to play and whoever gets the first team nod (I am leaving Berra out for now due to injury) could be bench worthy. Alot of attention will be given to Halford (4.5m) due to his classification as a defendger despite sometimes featuring in midfield, but I can't see a regular spot for him in the first team and until he can prove that he isn't worth consideration.
I was excited to consider Milijas (6m) based on his reputation but his price tag has scared me off a little. In 2008/09 he scored 22 goals to lead the Serbian league, as well as being named MVP. However, 6m puts him alongside Premier league veterans like Steed Malbranque, Geovanni and Stilian Petrov which is a big risk to take for a unproven player. Wolves have been gifted a pretty nice fixture list to open the season so my advice would be to monitor Milijas in the first three games with an eye to bringing him in before the home game against Hull if he impresses. No other play in the Wolves midfield excites me at this point.
Up front Wolves have put together a decent strikeforce of two goalscorers who are proven in England, though not necessarily in the Premier League. Doyle had a decent record for reading with 19 in 62 games and looks like a decent rotation candidate for 5.5m, having added 23 in all competitions last year. Ebanks-Blake (5.5m) struck 25 in the league and has the skills to take the next step with double digits well within his range. I like this pair as rotation/low end starters and if the matchup is right I'd feel comfortable lining either up each week. Doyle is more proven but Ebanks-Blake has a higher ceiling so I'd pick which one I want based on the consistency of the rest of my team.
Recommendation: Sylvain Ebanks-Blake has 15 goal potential which can't be said for many, if any, sub 6m strikers. I probably wouldn't build my team with the idea of starting him for 38 straight weeks as many talented Championship strikers have failed in the big leagues, but he is definitely a nice option to paid with say Jozy Altidore or James Beattie alongside a premium talent.