Chelsea v. Aston Villa preview

Chelsea and Aston Villa both came out winners by two goals on the BPL’s opening weekend; the former a routine two-nil win over Hull City Tigers and the latter a surprise 3-1 victory at the Emirates. (If you’re keeping track Arsenal have already conceded more penalties, two, than the number of new players, one, that they’ve purchased this transfer window) This Wednesday’s matchup (3 pm, NBC Sports) will see the winner top the table in the young season.


Frank Lampard ( Getty Images)

Frank Lampard ( Getty Images)

The Blues eased their way to a comfortable win, netting two early goals and then cruising in the second half in anticipation of the mid-week clash with Villa. Kevin De Bruyne, who returned from a season long loan with Werder Bremen, contributed with an assist on Oscar’s 11th minute goal. Frank Lampard scored a cracking free-kick on 25 minutes after having an early penalty attempted saved. The second half was a boring affair, with Jose Mourinho urging his team to slow down the pace to conserve energy; Chelsea begin the season by playing three games in 8 days. That stretch will culminate with a visit to Old Trafford on Monday, August 26th. It remains to be seen which squad Mourinho runs out on Wednesday. Does an older Frank Lampard get another start in midweek? Does the erratic Fernando Torres retain his place in the XI? Will Juan Mata return from injury?

Aston Villa

Christian Benteke (Photo Cred: Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Christian Benteke (Photo Cred: Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

The Villians got the first shock victory of the season by winning 3-1 at the Emirates over Arsenal. They fell behind early to an Olivier Giroud Goal, but were level at half-time through a Christian Benteke goal where he headed his saved penalty into the net. Benteke scored a second penalty after Laurent Koscielny made a clumsy tackle inside the penalty area. Koscielny’s day would only get worse after he was sent off for a second yellow-cardable offense. Villa would put the nail in the coffin thanks to a late counter-attacking goal from new signing Antonio Luna. American fans will recognize goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The former Chivas man has made a name for himself in England, routinely keeping a weak Villa side in many games. Aston Villa have a decent enough side, and it wouldn’t come as a shock to see them steal another point or three at Stamford Bridge.

What to watch for

Belgians, Belgians and more Belgians. This matchup could feature as many as four Belgian internationals on the field at once. Chelsea have Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, while Villa will surely run out Christian Benteke in the starting XI. Hazard, Lukaku, and Benteke combined for 45 goals and 19 assists in the premier league. De Bruyne had 10 goals and 9 assists in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen. If Belguim qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, all four will surely be in the 23 man squad.

Projected Starting XI

Chelsea: Cech; Cole, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic; Ramires, Van Ginkel; Hazard, De Bruyne, Oscar; Torres
Aston Villa: Guzan; Baker, Vlaar, Luna, Lowtan; El Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph; Weimann, Agbonlaho, Benteke


Villa will make the game interesting, but Chelsea have too much experience in defense to make the same mistakes Arsenal made over the weekend. Aston Villa could, and probably will get on the score sheet through a pesky Christian Benteke, but Chelsea will cruise at home to a 3-1 victory.

Andrew Gerdes contributes to the Dojo’s BPL coverage, and is the Dojo’s resident Major League Soccer expert. Gerdes can now use “we” when referring to a team, thanks to his employment with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.


EPL Weekly Review – Week 1

Liverpool started the 2013/14 EPL season with a win over Stoke City. The score line wasn’t reflective of Liverpool’s dominance but showed Liverpool’s lack of finishing ability without Luis Suarez. Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic had the strongest showing of the game and kept the away side competitive. The opening week was rather scripted and without surprises save for the Arsenal game. Arsenal opened their season against Aston Villa at home where they were favorites to win. Arsene Wenger’s side fell victim to Murphy’s Law. Questionable referring calls and injuries battled back Arsenal’s early lead. Christian Benteke scored on two penalties before Laurent Koscielney was booked for his second yellow. The Gunners are faced with an alarming lack of depth at defense. Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna left the field with injures while Vermaelan and Monreal are still sidelined. With Koscielny’s red card suspension, Arsenal could struggle to start the season towards the top of the table. These injuries have brought Wenger’s managerial capabilities back into question. A loss to Fenerbahce would be disastrous for Wenger and the morale of the team. Tottenham started their season with 3 points against newly promoted Crystal Palace. The Spurs earned their first penalty kick of the season, after not receiving a single call last year, which summer signing Soldado put away. Tottenham managed a mere 3 shots on goal without their superstar Gareth Bale, who is still out on injury. Chelsea began their season with a convincing win over Cardiff City. Frank Lampard scored a mesmerizing free kick after missing an earlier PK. Yesterday Manchester City opened their campaign with a 4-0 win over Newcastle United at the Etihad. Aguero re-entered the Premier League with a stunning finish. Goals and plays of the week:


FC Lorient vs. FC Nantes


Lampard goal vs Hull City


Aguero goal vs Newcastle


Yaya Toure free kick vs Newcastle


Ryan Colclough goal vs Tranmere Rovers

Daniel Dicce is widely considered among the most brilliant minds currently inhabiting 1522 n15th Street apartment 3 EFGH. It is with this tremendous mental zeal that Dicce survives on a mere 11 hours of sleep a night.


EPL Preview

EPL-Logo-1Being an avid reader of The Sports Dojo over the last few weeks, I’ve sensed a growing restlessness. I have decided to provide relief to the poor souls ‘entertained’ by the unbearably long games of catch and stickball plaguing our televisions. The beautiful sport begins anew this Saturday in England. The 2013/14 English Premier League will prove to be the most interesting in years. Story-lines of the season include the annual coaching carousel sparked by the departure of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, the promotion of Cardiff City to the Premier League, and the return of Jose Mourinho to Chelsea. With the first game a mere two days away, every sports website needs a proper preview. Here is the long awaited 2013 Sports Dojo Futbol Preview.

2013/14 Projected EPL Table
Manchester United
Manchester City
Norwich City
West Brom
Swansea City
West Ham
Aston Villa
Newcastle United
Stoke City
Crystal Palace
PFA Team of the Year
GK: David De Gea (Manchester United)
Defenders: Baines (Everton) Kompany (Manchester City) Luiz (Chelsea) Evra (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Bale (Tottenham) Mata (Chelsea) Hazard (Chelsea) Kagawa (Manchester United)
Strikers: Robin Van Persie (Manchester United) Aguero (Manchester City)

Coach of the Year
Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)

Team Previews


Manager- Jose Mourinho (5th Season, 1st since 2008)

2012/13 Place- 3rd Place

Key Player- David Luiz

David Luiz is the most pivotal player in Chelsea’s starting line-up. Chelsea fans have come to expect consistently great performances out of midfielders Mata and Hazard. David Luiz lacks consistency. He ranges from the ambitious player who makes risky runs from the center back position to the consistent sweeping defender that he became in the final quarter of the 2012/13 season. Consistent performances similar to his Confederates Cup run will aid Chelsea’s back line.

Jose Mourinho– The return of the self proclaimed ‘Special One’ will bring expectations of his third Premier League Title. Mourinho left Spanish super club Real Madrid trophyless last season, including an embarrassing Copa del Rey loss against rival Atletico Madrid. However, Mourinho is still widely considered one of the best active coaches in the world.

Projected Line-Up

Torres, Schurrle, Mata, Hazard, Essien, Ramires, Cole, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Ivanovic, Cech

2013/14 Projection

Chelsea is my preseason favourite to win the Premiership. New coaches will put the Manchester clubs at a disadvantage. Fernando Torres found spurts of form last season but primarily outside the league. Mourinho will have to inspire performance in the Spaniard or forgo his usual reluctance to incorporate youth players into the starting line-up and start Belgian Lukaku.

Dream Season- Chelsea are capable of winning all three trophies, but not capable of the Treble. A dream season at Stamford Bridge would be to recapture the Premier League title and make deep runs into the Champions League and FA Cup Tournament.

Nightmare Season- Mourinho fails to win a trophy for the second consecutive season and finishes behind London rival Arsenal.


Manchester United

Manager- David Moyes (1st Season)

2012/13 Finish- Champions

Key Player- Robin Van Persie

Last year’s Golden Boot winner, Van Persie scored in spurts last season. Manchester United need RvP to have a consistent year to overcome the other obstacles facing the club.

Projected Line-Up

Robin Van Persie, Nani, Wayne Rooney, Valencia, Kagawa, Carrick, Evra, Raphael, Vidic, Ferdinand, De Gea

2013/14 Projection

David Moyes has been signed from Everton to fill the shoes of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester United look to defend their title against their rivals Manchester City and London teams Arsenal and Chelsea. Manchester United have maintained the core of their Championship winning season of 2013. The only obstacle between them and a repeat title is the challenge of adjusting to a new manager. The 2013/14 season will provide a further opportunity for Japanese star Shinji Kagawa to display his talents for the EPL viewing world. His 2012/13 campaign was limited by injuries and lack of playing time behind Scholes and Nani.

Dream Season- Manchester United adjust to their manager painlessly with help from veteran leaders. They defend their title.

Nightmare Season- United finishes behind City and the departure of SAF begins the decline of the club.



Manager- Arsene Wenger (18th Season)

2012/13 Record- 4th Place

Key Players- Laurent Koscielny

The French center back became a regular partner alongside Per Mertesacker late in the season. His tenure was marked by a 10 game unbeaten streak. Kos and Mertesacker’s pairing solidified a backline that was under a constant rearrangement.

Projected Line-Up

Giroud, Cazorla, Wilshire, Walcott, Arteta, Ramsey, Gibbs, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Szczesny

2013/14 Projection

Arsenal is the only top four team headed into the 2013/14 with the same coach. Arsene Wenger finds himself in his 18th season amid an eight year trophy drought. The North London Library has risen to a brisk whisper of frustration towards Wenger’s policy. In a league where the top tiered teams spend big to win big, Arsenal, at the direction of their American owner and Wenger, have remained ‘fiscally responsible.’ The Gunners have made a habit of trading their star players every offseason, but have managed to keep all of their key starters from last season. Arsenal are legitimate challengers for the League Title and FA Cup. To win the title and silence Piers Morgan, Arsenal need consistency from Walcott and the striker position. Arsenal’s season will be decided from March 15th to April 5th where the Gunners will face Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Everton.

Dream Season- League Title or FA Cup win

Nightmare Season- A finish below North London Rival Tottenham and 5th place finish


Manchester City

Manager- Manuel Pellegrini (1st Season)

2012/13 Finish- Runners Up

Key Player- David Silva

The Spanish playmaker has been equipped with some of Europe’s best talent this offseason. Wingers Navas and Jovetic add firepower to an already lethal Aguero led striking force. Toss in Fernandinho and the Sky Blues have the potential to finally make a run in the Champions League. Silva will have to rebound from an inconsistent season last year to be an integral playmaker on the level of Ozil, Mata, and Iniesta.

Key Addition- Jesus Navas

Navas will start over Nasri who had a disappointing season this past year. Navas is a fast, technical and fearless attacker who takes on fullbacks and creates plays for his teammates.

Projected Line-Up

Aguero, Jovetic, Silva, Navas, Yaya, Fernandinho, Clichy, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Hart

2013/14 Projection

Manchester City had a weak title defense last season, losing to crosstown rivals Manchester United only added insult to injury. City has spent big this transfer window (unsurprisingly) to push towards another title. Pellegrini steps into a similar situation to his tenure at Real Madrid. Despite an impressive Champions League run, Pellegrini failed to keep Malaga in the top four of La Liga. Malaga’s weak second half of the season and awful away record should be a concern for City.

Dream Season- City wins the league title and makes a run in the Champions League

Nightmare Season- City remains trophyless for a second year and battles for Wenger’s fourth place trophy with the two North London squads.


Tottenham Hotspur

Manager- Andre Villas-Boas (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 5th Place

Key Player- Gareth Bale

Arguably the best player in the Premier League, Bale must keep his impressive form consistent to keep Spurs in contention.

Key Addition- Paulinho

The Brazilian international will give the Spurs two very good holding midfielders.

Projected Line-Up

Soldado, Lennon, Bale, Sigurdosson, Dembele, Paulinho, Assou Ekotto, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Lloris

2013/14 Projection

Tottenham enter the 2013/14 season with high hopes. At the publishing of this review, Gareth Bale has stayed put despite speculated interest from Real Madrid. Although the Spurs rely heavily on him, Chairman Levy has spent big this offseason to build a thicker team. Anything short of a top four finish for Tottenham would be considered a failure and would likely force Bale out at the end of the season. Tottenham are also legitimate contenders for Europa League Champions.

Dream Season- Spurs finish ahead of Arsenal and qualify for Champions League

Nightmare Season-Spurs have yet another late season collapse and finish behind Arsenal and out of top 4.


Liverpool F.C.

Manager- Brendan Rodgers (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 7th Place

Key Player- Coutinho

As the Suarez saga rages on, Coutinho and Sturridge will have to form a dealdy duo to fill the void of Suarez’s striking prowess.

Key Addition- Kolo Toure

Liverpool signed a much needed center back with experience to play alongside Agger.

Projected Line up (Suarez suspended first 6 games)

Sturridge, Asaps, Coutinho, Sterling, Gerrard, Lucas, Enrique, Johnson, Toure, Agger, Mignolet

2013/14 Projection

The departure of Reina and a turbulent (to say the least) offseason with Luis Suarez will make for an interesting season. Brazilian center defensive midfielder Lucas will likely start alongside Steven Gerrard. Injury problems to plagued Lucas’ early career but he still shows great promise. Fellow Brazilian Coutinho will also likely start for the Red’s this year. He is the most important element to Liverpool’s attack this season given the Suarez situation.

Deam Season- Liverpool climb back into the top four. However, this is unlikely barring Bale exit.

Nightmare Season- Liverpool show no progress in the second year of the Brendan Rodgers experiment and finish behind rivals Everton at 7th place again.


Manager- Roberto Martinez (1st Season)

2012/13 Finish- 6th Place

Key Player- Leighton Baines

Everton managed to hold on to their coveted left back Baines this transfer season. Baines was named to the 2012/13 PFA team of the year.

Projected Line-Up

Anichebe, Mirallas, Fellaini, Pienaar, Gibson, Osman, Baines, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka, Howard

2013/14 Projection

Despite losing manager David Moyes to Manchester United, Everton hung on to Baines and Fellaini. Moyes is replaced by Roberto Martinez, former Wigan manager and winner of the 2012/13 FA Cup. Martinez brings with him striker Kone from the Ivory Coast. Kone will add depth and competition for the starting striker spot against Anichebe and Jelavic. Everton had a very successful season last year finishing 6th in front of rivals Liverpool and qualifying for the Europa League.

Dream Season- Everton remain at 6th ahead of Liverpool and make a deep run in the Europa League. They do not have the talent to pass Spurs this year but expect big things from Kevin Mirallas and Jelavic.

Nightmare Season- Although I do not see them climbing high, I also do not see them falling far. An 8th place finish behind Liverpool is a worst case scenario for the Toffees.


Norwich City

Manager- Chris Hughton (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 11th Place

Key Player- Rickey van Wolfswinkel

Norwich are in dire need of a goalscorer and they spent heavily this transfer season for this young dutch player.

Key Addition- Gary Hooper (ST from Celtic)

Projected Line-Up

Hooper, Van Wolfswinkel, Snodgrass, Pilkington, Fer, Johnson, Olsson, Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Ruddy

2013/14 Season Projection

Norwich are my team to watch this season. The Canaries have had a brilliant transfer season solidifying their midfield with Fer and adding firepower with Hooper and Van Wolfswinkel. Survival will not be the goal this season as manager Chris Hughton will look to advance his team above mid table.

Dream Season- Norwich makes a deep run in the FA Cup. If the transfer season pick ups work out, the Canaries are legitimate contenders to qualify for Europa League.

Nightmare Season- Despite spending big and bringing in foreign talent, Norwich fails to play well as a team (a la QPR) and spends the season hovering around 15th.


West Bromwich Albion

Manager- Steve Clarke (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 8th Place

Key Player- Morrison

West Brom have a relatively weak attacking force. Relative to teams near them in the table. Morrison is another year older and will need to help strikers Long and Anelka.

Projected Line-Up

Long, Brunt, Morrison, Dorrans, Mulumu, Yacob, Ridgewell, Reid, Lugano, McAuley, Foster

2013/14 Season Projection

West Brom had a brilliant start to their 2012/13 campaign. They were the surprises of the season until the new year brought them misfortune. West Brom slid down the standings and lost 4 of the last 5 matches to end the year. Manager Steve Clarke must find consistency this season. He has brought in Anelka and Lugano to add experience and leadership to his side.

Dream Season- West Brom maintain their position in the league or continue their upward trend.

Nightmare Season- The ending of last season bleeds into the start of this one. Without Lukaku, Long shoulders the striking weight with aging Anelka and West Brom finish in the lowest quartile.
Swansea City

Manager- Michael Laudrup (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 9th Place

Key Player- Wilfried Bony

Bony will link up with Michu at the front of the attack to provide the goals Michu’s second half slump failed to produce.

Projected Line-Up

Bony, Routledge, Michu, Dyer, Shelvey, Ki, Taylor, Chico, Williams, Rangel, Vorm

2013/14 Projection

Swansea is one of two Welsh teams in the Premiership this upcoming season. The Swans made a habit of stealing points from higher placed teams last season and earned the respect of the League. Laudrup finished an impressive 9th after the departure of Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool. Laudrup was aided by Spanish striker Michu who was sensational last season. Swansea also captured the Capital One Cup, defeating Chelsea and Liverpool before toppling Bradford in the final. Extra matches in Europe this year could prove problematic, but Swansea have an unusual amount of depth for a mid table team. Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer are two of my favorite underrated wingers.

Dream Season- Swansea make a run in Europa League and endure the long season to remain comfortably mid table.

Nightmare Season- Michu cannot recover the form he started last season with and the Swans drop towards the lower quartile of the table. Laudrup leaves at the end of the season.


Fulham FC

Manager- Martin Jol (3rd Year)

2012/13 Finish- 12th Place

Key Player- Amorebieta

The human yellow card from Athletico Bilbao was an expensive transfer for Fulham. His physical play will fit well in England.

Key Addition- Stekelenburg

This keeper is a solid pick-up at for Fulham to replace recently departed Schwarzer.

Projected Line-Up

Berbatov, Ruiz, Kacaniklic, Boateng, Sidwell, Duff, Riise, Amorebieta, Hangeland, Reither, Stekelenburg

2013/14 Projection

The talk around Craven Cottage has been about new owner Sahid Kahn, the Pakistani owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Quietly, Fulham have reinforced at the Goalkeeping and center back position. The 2012/13 campaign was uneventful. The Whites fell three places with the loss of their lead goalscorer Clint Dempsey. Any fluctuation for Fulham will be minimal this year but I expect a slight increase.

Dream Season- Fulham finish mid table, approximately 9th, mostly due to Berbatov’s brilliance again.

Nightmare Season- The aging Berbatov cannot continue his flashy career at the same pace. Fulham fall to 16th.


Sunderland AFC

Manager- Paul DiCanio (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 17th Place

Key Addition- Giaccherini

The Italian international was an expensive purchase for the Black Cats this transfer season. His speed on the wing and technical ability will aid Fletcher or Altidore up top.

Projected Line-Up

Fletcher, Sessernon, Giaccherini, Johnson, Larsson, Colback, Gardner, Bardsley, O’Shea, Cuellar, Mannone

2013/14 Season Projection

Sunderland have brought a few new faces to north England during the offseason. Americans will be interested in how Jozy Altidore will fair in his second stint in the EPL. He has played spectacularly for the US and scored 31 goals in the Eredivisie last year. Vito Mannone was purchased from Arsenal to replace Mignolet, who transferred to Liverpool. Paul DiCanio managed to salvage important points from Newcastle and Everton to stay in the league last season but will be under the gun to perform this year.

Dream Season- The Black Cats finish mid to lower table but survive, and finish ahead of rivals Newcastle.

Nightmare Season- Relegation.


Southampton FC

Manager- Mauricio Pochettino (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 14th Place

Key Player- Jay Rodriguez

This youngster will have to find the net this season to aid aging striker Rickie Lambert.

Key Addition- Victor Wanyama

The former Celtic defensive midfielder was pivotal in their Champions League win over powerhouse Barcelona. Wanyama moves into the Premier League at a very young age of 22. This box to box midfielder will be a sought after target in the future.

Projected Line-Up

Lambert, Puncheon, Ramirez, Rodriguez, Wanyama, Shaw, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Gazzaniga

2013/14 Season Projection

Southampton managed to fight off relegation despite a very disappointing start to their 2012/13 campaign. The Saints are a youthful team with a great deal of talent. Mauricio Pochettino joined Southampton from La Liga club Espanyol to keep Southampton out of relegation. His victories included impressive wins over Liverpool and Chelsea. Offseason transfer Victor Wanyama will aid Southampton’s quest to move towards mid table.

Dream Season- The Saints mature a great deal over the offseason and make a move towards mid table finishing as high as 9th.

Nightmare Season- Southampton suffers the sophomore slump because their youth doesn’t rise to the occasion. The Saints are relegated.


West Ham United

Manager- Sam Allardyce (3rd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 10th Place

Key Player- Winston Reid

Hammer of the year last season, the Center Back from New Zealand is the rock of West Ham’s defense.

Key Addition- Razvan Rat

The free transfer from Shaktar will sure up the Hammer’s back line.

Projected Line-Up

Carroll, Jarvis, Nolan, Vez Te, Diame, Noble, Rat, O’Brien, Reids, Collins, Jaas

2013/14 Season Projection

I do not forecast any large change in West Ham this season. To climb the table, newly signed Andy Carroll will need to provide offense and the Hammers will have to improve away from Upton Park. Aging winger Joe Cole will be relied on to provide quality minutes off the bench. Expect a few impressive upsets similar to last season’s wins over Chelsea and West Brom.

Dream Season- West Ham finishes 8th and takes one back in their rather one sided rivalry with Tottenham. The East Londoners avenge their third round, RVP offsides goal, loss and make a deep cup run.

Nightmare Season- Injury woes to Andy Carroll continue, West Ham fights for 16th and young talent leaves Upton Park.


Aston Villa

Manager- Paul Lambert (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 15th Place

Key Addition- Jores Okore

The young center back was an expensive purchase for Villa this year. He will add depth to the Villa back line and will gain valuable experience learning from Vlaar. He and Baker will be the defensive core of their future.

Key Player- Christain Benteke

He will need an encore performance of last season. Benteke netted 19 league goals for Villa and was the driving force of their attack.

Projected Line-Up

Benteke, Agbonlahor, Bacuna, Weimann, Westwood, Delph, Luna, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Guzan

2013/14 Season Projection

Benteke staying was a huge plus for the Villans. The sought after Belgian is a ripe 22, yet is a challenger for the League’s Golden Boot. Brad Guzan continues the legacy of American goalkeepers in the Premier League. Guzan was named player of the year for Villa after the 2012/13 season. This is another team I do not foresee fluctuating too much this upcoming season.

Dream Season- Aston Villa capture the League Cup they came within one game of competing for last season.

Nightmare Season- Benteke suffers a sophomore slump and the Villans spend the 2013/14 season fighting for survival.


Cardiff City

Manager- Malky Mackay (3rd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 1st Place Championship

Key Addition- Medel

He joins Cardiff from Sevilla where he played as a center defensive midfielder. The young Chilean joins Cardiff on an 11 million pound transfer fee.

Projected Line-Up

Cornelius, Bellamy, Noone, Conway, Whittingham, Medel, Taylor, Connolly, Turner, Hudson, Marshall

2013/14 Season Projection

Cardiff is the most likely to stay up of the promoted teams. They dominated the Championship last season mostly due to the rebranding of the club under Malaysian owner Vincent Tan. Tan has proven he is willing to spend big to make Cardiff a mainstay in the Premier League. Tan focused on young talent and signed Gary Medel for a club record fee. Although I expect Cardiff to stay up, I do not believe they will flourish or become a mainstay without further overhaul from management.

Dream Season- Cardiff finish as high as 13th and make a deep run for the cup.

Nightmare Season- Tan’s experiment fails in similar fashion to QPR.


Newcastle United

Manager- Alan Pardew (4th Season)

2012/13 Finish- 16th Place

Key Player- Yohan Cabaye

The Frenchman will be charged with heading the struggling Newcastle attack.

Key Addition- Loic Remy

ST QPR: The departure of Demba Ba to Chelsea hurt the Magpies. This left Papiss Cisse the prime striker in a system not particularly tailored to his playing ability. Remy will provide much needed depth to Newcastle.

Projected Line-Up

Remy, Gutierrez, Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Tiote, Sissoko, Stanton, Debuchy, Coloccini, Taylor, Krul

2013/14 Season Projection

Newcastle United came five points from relegation last season due to a multitude of issues. Ben Arfa’s injury and Demba Ba’s transfer hurt Newcastle’s attack last year. Barring a repeat of the unusually high numbers of injuries suffered last year, Newcastle should hope to climb upwards.

Dream Season- Newcastle will climb upwards towards mid table while Remy rejuvenates the Magpie attack. Newcastle will also look to finish above rivals Sunderland.

Nightmare Season-  Injuries and stubborn managerial strategies plague the 2013/14 campaign. Newcastle is relegated.


Hull City

Manager- Steve Bruce (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 2nd in Championship

Key Addition- Allan McGregor

Starter for Scotland’s international side, McGregor will command the Tiger’s back line this year.

Key Player- El Mohamady

He was named Hull City’s player of the season last year and will look to provide another award winning season.

Projected Line-Up

Graham, Karen, Quinn, Evans, El Mohamady, Meyler, Brady, Chester, Davies, Figueroa, McGregor

2013/14 Projection

Hull City will likely be relegated. They lack the striking capabilities necessary to stay afloat in the Premier League. Steve Bruce finds himself in a similar position to his tenure at Birmingham City where he won promotion.

Dream Season- Simply surviving in the Premier League this season would be wonderful for Hull. Afterwards, they must call in players from loans and use funds to reinforce their thin team.

Nightmare- Relegation.


Stoke City

Manager- Mark Hughes (1st Season)

2012/13 Finish- 13th

Key Player- Ryan Shawcross

The young captain encompasses the Stoke brutality and is the centerpiece of their tough defense.

Projected Line-Up

Crouch, Etherington, Walters, Whelan, Adam, N’Zoni, Pieters, Huth, Shawcross, Shotton, Begovic

2013/14 Projection-

Stoke managed to hold onto sought after talents Ryan Shawcross and Asmir Begovic during the transfer window. However, Stoke will spend another season fighting relegation. The Potters moved on from long time manager Tony Pulis to QPR’s former manager Mark Hughes. Hughes will likely bring with him, a new style of play shifting from Pulis’ defensively focused system.

Dream Season- Stoke finish mid table and make another deep run into the FA Cup.

Nightmare Season- Stoke is relegated


Crystal Palace

Manager- Ian Holloway (2nd Season)

2012/13 Finish- 5th in Championship, promoted via playoff

Key Addition- Chamakh

After losing Zaha to Manchester United, Palace needed a goalscorer whom they found in Chamakh. The flashy former Gunner will need to find consistency he lacked at Arsenal to help keep Palace afloat.

Projected Starting Line-Up

Chamakh, Murray, Williams, Jedinik, Dikgacoi, Garvan, Ward, McCarthy, Delaney, Moxey, Speroni

2013/14 Projection

Crystal Palace will fight with Hull or Stoke for 19th place this year. Despite an impressive signing of Campana from Sevilla, Palace is aging. Delaney (32), McCarthy (30) and two other starters turning 30 this year. Manager Ian Halloway will seek to keep the Eagles afloat in the Premier League, a task he could not accomplish at Blackpool. Survival is their only goal this year.

Dream Season- Crystal Palace remains in the Premier League for another year.

Nightmare Season- Relegated.


Daniel “Smilin’ Wanderer” Dicce joined the Sports Dojo team as a soccer analyst this season. Employed by US Soccer as a glorified waterboy, Dicce was the recipient of the 2011 Nelms Economics Prize awarded annually to a high schooler displaying any interest in Economics whatsoever… like seriously any interest.

Finding Surprises, Busts In The Second Half Of The MLB Season

Now that the MLB All-Star game has come and gone, the focus for fantasy baseball owners shifts back to the games that matter. Less than half of the regular season is remaining, which means that owners will be looking for any type of edge to solidify a spot in their league’s playoffs. Here are three players poised for big second halves along with three players who could very well cool off.


Chase Headley

A terrible first half of the season for Chase Headley has everyone turning sour on him. However, he has too much of a solid track record to simply think he can’t turn things around. The Padres aren’t going anywhere in 2013, but Headley is still a lot better than a .229/.330/.359 hitter with seven home runs and 31 RBI. Get him for cheap now if you can trade for him.

Tim Lincecum

Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum celebrating Lincecum's no hitter

Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum celebrating Lincecum’s no hitter

Now that The Freak has a new no-hitter to brag about, fantasy baseball owners might be reluctant to trade him away. With that being said, Lincecum has shown signs in his recent outings that he might be finally getting back to his old self. His 3.83 ERA with over a strikeout per inning in his last seven starts is really encouraging. He could help any rotation down the stretch in fantasy.

Billy Butler

Ever since he arrived in the big leagues, Billy Butler has been a truly professional hitter. Despite a below average first half, all of his other statistics seem to look solid. He is still tough to strike out, and he is still making solid contact. Expect his luck to turn around a bit, although his power numbers might never get back to the 29 home runs he hit last year.


Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez

After a lot of hype coming out of Vanderbilt and being drafted #2 overall, Pedro Alvarez put it all together in the first half of the season to make his first All-Star game. However, if you take a closer look at his numbers, his most glaring weakness is still there. He still strikes out way, way too much, and that has a tendency to catch up. His numbers across the board will most likely dip, meaning now would be a good time to sell.

Carlos Beltran

The outfielder has been great throughout his career, but now that he is 36 years old, he just can’t be trusted as an everyday player in fantasy leagues. He has already battled injuries this season, and if 2012 was an indication (.236 hitter after the break), he could be cooling off quickly.

Bartolo Colon

What Bartolo Colon has done this season is pretty remarkable up to this point. His 12-3 record with a 2.70 ERA might be one of the biggest surprises of the first half. However, Colon is 40 years old now, and this is not 2005. Yes, that’s right, Colon hasn’t thrown over 200 innings since 2005, and it seems unlikely that something won’t go wrong during the stretch run.

Guest contribution from I highly suggest using their site if you are interested in daily fantasy sports.

Point Guard Power Part 2- Guest Contribution

Welcome back as we begin to break down the sixteen starting point guards from the 2013 NBA Playoffs and the differences among various styles of play. Please note, these groupings reflect the sixteen teams starting point guard, regardless of injury. For example, Derrick Rose missed the entire 2012-2013 season but is considered Chicago’s starting point guard when healthy. (Player’s in each group are in no special order)

The “If I had 5 picks to build a team, my 5th pick would be a Point Guard” Group:

Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets, 3rd Season:

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin


Remember when Lin was known for this? That seems almost like a lifetime ago. Since Lin moved to the Houston Rockets at the beginning of the season, he has fallen out of cloud nine and into more of a supporting role. No longer do you see Lin holding the ball with the clock ticking down. That role was handed off to James Harden. Lin’s strengths are his ability to attack the rim, absorb contact, and finish. He’s an average mid-range shooter who likes to shoot from the elbow and foul line if the drive isn’t there. Lin’s weakness may be his sustainability. During the opening round series versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lin received an upper-body injury that limited his play and forced him out of Games 2 and 3. Ironically, Games 2 and 3 are the only two games the Rockets won against the Thunder, eventually falling in game six. When Lin managed to get into the game, his impact was minimal, averaging a measly 4.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and 2.0 APG. While Lin may not be an attack first type of player, his mindset is similar to Tony Parker in that he is always looking for ways to create opportunities for his teammates.

  • Biggest Question: Can Lin be a reliable, consistent point guard?

Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks, 4th Season:

In a rather guard heavy draft in 2009, Jeff Teague started just 10 games combined in his first two seasons in the league. Other notable guards picked before Teague, who went 19th; Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio, Ty Lawson, and Jrue Holiday. Teague began to show signs of a worthy draft pick late in the 2012 playoffs, where he averaged 14.0 PPG and 4.0 APG respectively. This year’s NBA Playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks had an early exit, but Teague finished with 14.0 PPG and 5.0 APG. Teague’s game flourishes when he is able to create turnovers with his quick and speedy defense. Along with his defense, the turnovers he creates led to fast break and transition points which only help buffer his stats. Between his second and third year in the league, Teague’s stat line jumped from 5.2/2.0/1.5 (PPG/APG/RPG) to 12.6/4.9/2.4. After the Hawks early exit in this year’s NBA Playoffs, Teague finished the season averaging 14.6/7.2/2.3 and continued to show improvement in all areas of his game. During his third year Teague also was top ten in the league in steals and steals per game. Potential is one of the top characteristics an NBA looks for when evaluating players. Now every player will not end up being like Michael Jordan, Teague’s consistent improvement year after year shows the coaching staff and fans that he can be an extremely talented point guard in this league.

  • Biggest Question: Can Teague show the league how much he continues to improve?

The “On the Rise” Group:

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets, 4th Season:

There’s no doubt that if you need to win a footrace, Ty Lawson will be your pick. Easily one of the fastest point guard’s in the league, Lawson’s ability to change his pace and stop on a dime, explode to the rim, and shoot the ball well from the perimeter make him a matchup nightmare for opponents. Not many defenders can run with Lawson all game and one of the reasons why the Denver Nuggets averaged the most points per game in the regular season is due to Lawson’s ability to move quickly. Representing a new breed of point guards, Lawson’s agility is easily one of his best qualities. He has missed multiple games due to nagging leg injuries, which are usually resolved by a day or two of rest. Look for Lawson to remain a consistent competitor throughout his career and in the years to come.

  • Biggest question: Can Lawson step up and become the face of the team?

Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat, 5th Season:

One of the most interesting point guards over the past couple years is Mario Chalmers. Famously known for his buzzer beating shot to help Kansas knock off Memphis in the 2008 NCAA Basketball Finals, Chalmers has had opportunities that many other players haven’t had. Chalmers has been lucky enough to have played in the NBA Finals three out of his five seasons. If that wasn’t enough, he’s had the privilege to play alongside two of the top ten players in the league, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Besides not having a true center, the biggest criticism of the Miami Heat is their lack of a true point guard. Chalmers has a knack for disappearing during stretches of games. Whether he is shooting the ball well or not, he is going to average heavy minutes as he’s averaged 8.0 points per game in the NBA Finals while logging an average of 27.6 minutes per game. His strengths rely on his ability to hit shots early in the game to spark the Heat offense and spread the floor more. He’s a streaky shooter who can hit from deep but what is a little concerning is that in twenty-one playoff games this season, he’s only managed to eclipse five assists 3 times.

  • Biggest question: Can Chalmers prove that he doesn’t need James or Wade to produce big numbers?

George Hill, Indiana Pacers, 5th Season:

Coming out of the 2008 draft class, which featured the likes of Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, and Russell Westbrook, George Hill is someone to keep your eye on. Originally drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, Hill moved to Indiana to start the 2011-2012 season. Hill is an extremely strong player, capable of shooting from distance and also driving hard in the lane. Coming off his first season in Indiana, Hill averaged 9.6/2.9/3.0 during the regular season. Although it was in a losing effort, Hill averaged 14.2/4.7/3.7 against the Miami Heat in NBA playoffs. What is promising from a point guard standpoint is the increase in assists from 2.9 to 4.7. Hill has the ability, similar to Tony Parker, to control the tempo of the game. His confidence with the ball is promising for someone who still has many years left in the league. Hill creates efficient offense for the Pacers but there is always room for improvement. He also has long, lanky arms that can pester whomever he defends. If Hill can commit to the defensive side of the ball and allow his defense to create offense, the Pacers may finally break through and finally defeat the Heat.

  • Biggest question: Can Hill compliment the breakout of Paul George to become the next big duo? (Other big duos: Durant-Westbrook, James-Wade, Duncan-Parker)

Mike Conley Jr., Memphis Grizzlies, 6th Season:

For those that want to see one of the new studs at the point guard position, Mike Conley Jr. is a sight to see. Over the past four seasons and possible 303 games played, not including playoffs, Conley has started in 302 of them. Conley has made an immediate impact on the Memphis Grizzles and his play reflects the characteristics of his team. A defensive-minded, team-oriented, grinding type style of play has led to the emergence of the Grizzles as a new contender in the Western Conference and Conley has a lot to do with that. His decision making ability is his best asset. In the regular season, Conley finished averaging, 14.6/6.1/2.8. In the playoffs, his numbers grew to 17.0/7.1/4.7. What more can you ask for? Conley loves high pick-and-roll situations where he uses his basketball IQ to read defenses. Depending on the positioning of his defender, he knows when it’s time to attack the basket, spot up for a jump shot, or dish the ball to a teammate. I like to call Conley a Steve Nash 2.0 (More on this later).

  • Biggest question: Can Conley continue to help spear the resurgence of the Grizzlies?

Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks, 4th Season:

Finally, we begin to tap into what the new breed of point guards is all about. Brandon Jennings may be one of the finest examples. After reading last week’s piece, you can see there has been a change in the way the point guard position has been played. There is very few pass-first point guards left in the league and more are sprouting up like Brandon Jennings. Simply put, Jennings likes to shoot. What gets Jennings into trouble is that he has become the player that his team depends upon to score. This is a huge change in perspective from a few years ago. Usually your point guard would run a play for your go to player, but when your go to player is also the point guard, things get tricky. Jennings has yet to harness the ability to understand when it is right or wrong to take a shot. There is no question that he embraces the role and pressure of hitting the big shot, but sometimes his play can hurt his team. When a point guard begins to think that he must make the basket or that he must make the play, sometimes selfish play results and this is what hurts Jennings. He is a phenomenal shooter when he heats up and an extremely good ball handler, but his defense and decision-making must improve.

  • Biggest question: Does Jennings have what it takes to become dependable in crunch time?

The “I Have My Own Style” Group:

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls, 4th Season:

What makes Derrick Rose so special? Every step on the court is explosive and with purpose. His will to carry a team earned him MVP honors in 2011 and this past season was a goose egg on an otherwise astounding resume. Rose may not have played a game since 2012, but there is no question he is among the NBA’s elite players. Rose has so much explosiveness, yet so much control. This is what makes him so dangerous and terrifying to guard. This is where we see another new breed of point guard style. A style based on hardnosed driving and shot creation. Shot creation essentially is a player’s ability to turn a poor shot attempt into high percentage shot attempt. Rose provides this exceptionally well because of his ability to pivot, cut, or drive through the lane with ease. Spectators of the game are always looking for ways in which players improve their game. Rose did just that when he started to focus on shooting the three-point shot more effectively. This is what makes Rose so important to the Bulls. He leads by example, never afraid to play hard and physical, which is something that most point guards shy away from. Rose has averaged 36.8 minutes per game during his four year spell in the NBA. This is impressive considering the physical toll his body takes from colliding with bodies on a nightly basis. The biggest question for Rose is whether or not his ACL injury will hinder his ability to play with the same explosiveness and intensity from previous years.

  • Biggest question: Does D-Rose come back playing like the old D-Rose?

Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets, 8th Season:

There are a select few players in the league who have a big impact during their rookie season. Deron Williams is one of those players. After finishing his rookie season averaging 10.8/4.5/2.4, he jumped to 16.2/9.3/3.3 in his sophomore campaign. In eight seasons, Williams has averaged double digit assists in four of them. Don’t let the assists catch you off guard, Williams can get hot and it doesn’t take long. This past season he hit eleven three-pointers in one game. He’s extremely quick off the dribble and his ball handling is second to none. There aren’t many negative aspects with his game but there wasvsomething that plagued him at times this past season. He just disappeared for games. Numerous times during the season he’d have a strong 20 point, 10 assist night and follow that up with a measly 6 point, 5 assist night. When Williams starts to settle for long-range jumpers instead of slashing in the lane and dishing the ball out to teammates, you know it may be an off night. While Williams’s talent level is extremely high, he has the same problem that Mario Chalmers occasionally has. They both will play 25-30 minutes but barely contribute on the offensive end. Chalmers has an excuse because he is falls down the pecking order behind James, Wade, and Bosh but Williams is the leader of the team and no team can win with their best player underperforming.

  • Biggest question: Is Williams capable of delivering an MVP-caliber season?

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics, 7th Season:

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo


There may not be a nickname for Rajon Rondo, but he might as well be called a walking double-double. Dating back to the 2011-2012 season and a portion of the 2012-2013 season, Rondo had a streak of 37 games with 10 or more assists; the second longest streak of all time behind Magic Johnson. He’s lead the league in assists and triple-doubles the past two years. Unfortunately, Rondo’s biggest enemy is himself. He demands so much of himself and sometimes that hurts him and the team. Mentally the game escapes him sometimes and there seems to a correlation between how he plays and the type of television broadcast. It’s safe to say that in playoff time, where most games are nationally televised, Rondo becomes more of an attacker and less of a distributor. Take your pick.

In games that are NOT nationally televised:















In games that ARE nationally televised:















  • Biggest question: Can Rondo carry the load as the Celtics begin to rebuild?

The “New Wave” Group:

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder, 4th Season:

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook


What makes Russell Westbrook part of the new wave? He likes to shoot…a lot. When he does, it’s a flip of the coin. Either he is going to make most of them and have a good night or he is going to miss nearly every shot and it turns into a long night. Westbrook is an extremely fast paced guard. You can say he likes to control the tempo, but the tempo is always fast. He pushes the ball and doesn’t give the defense a chance to get set up. When he does start to push the ball, he developed two lethal moves. The first is a pure explosive drive to the hoop. Derrick Rose and he have a lot in common when it comes to driving at the basket because both generate tremendous power. The second move is a magnificent looking and perfectly timed pull up jump shot. These two moves are his claim to fame and it’s near impossible to stop. The only downfall to Westbrook, other than poor shooting performances, is how important of a player he thinks he is. There are times when the Thunder are under stress and those are the times where Kevin Durant must save the team, but Westbrook thinks anything Durant can do, he can do as well.

  • Biggest question: Can Westbrook accept that he is #2 behind Durant?

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, 3rd Season:

There used to be a battle between who was a better pure-shooter, Ray Allen or Reggie Miller? After the Golden State Warriors made some noise in this year’s playoff run, Stephen Curry may get to enter the debate. Calling his past year a breakout year may be an understatement because Curry has been on many team’s radars for a long time now. There is no question he can shoot but a big theme with some of the other point guards is their improvement. Can Curry take the playoff experience he’s gained and add another weapon to his arsenal? Such has looking to get his team involved and driving harder to the basket. He had some circus drives in the first round of the NBA Playoffs but eventually he will need to build some more muscle to absorb the contact. Clearly the theme of the new wave is the point guard’s mentality to shoot more often. Curry is the prime example. Curry’s main concern is his weak ankles. Staying healthy has a direct impact on Curry’s potential success in the league.

  • Biggest question: Can Curry stay healthy?

The “Old-Fashioned” Group:

Raymond Felton, New York Knicks, 8th Season:

It seems odd to mention Raymond Felton alongside these other great guards but remember this piece isn’t measuring the best sixteen guards, just their styles. That being said, Felton is a treat to watch. He isn’t the fastest guard or the guard you’re going to rely on to take the last shot, but he’s a floor general. He runs the offense efficiently and really is Mike Woodson’s voice on the court. He plays surprisingly tough defense, but his decision making and court sense put him in this group. He excels when he gets a high pick and is able to read and react to the defense. Felton has never failed to average more than 5.5 assists in a season and never failed to average more than 10 points in a season. He is a quintessential cog to the Knicks team and his style of play defines the style in which the Knicks play. Felton never shies away from the spotlight, he embraces it and better than that, he plays within himself. Felton is the kind of player who will sacrifice the numbers to get the result, and that’s something that is harder to come by in the league today.

  • Biggest question: Can Felton help Carmelo Anthony challenge the Heat in the Eastern Conference?

Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers, 16th Season:

What an honor it has been watching Steve Nash play year after year. There may not be a better guard in a pick and roll situation than Nash. His passing is spectacular, his free throw shooting is above average, and his basketball IQ is off the charts. Nash has led the league in assists five times during his career as well as adding two consecutive MVP trophies in 2005 and 2006. While he may be older now, Nash relies more on the mental aspect of his game rather than the physical. He isn’t going to break you down off the dribble or blow by you with speed. He’s going to methodically pick your defense apart. He’ll make the extra pass, stretch the defense and before you know it the balls sinking through the hoop. (This is where Mike Conley is the Steve Nash 2.0…Conley is capable of doing all of these things because he pays attention to detail but what separates him from Nash, and why he’s the “2.0” version, is his ability to have the extra explosive step Nash never had. This makes Conley a lethal passer and driver). While his offensive execution is second to none, where his weakness lies comes on the other side of the ball. Maybe considered an average defender, he doesn’t have the speed to keep up with the likes of Russell Westbrook for a full game. As Nash becomes older, the nagging injuries become bigger obstacles for him. As an NBA fan, appreciate the way Nash plays because he’s one-of-a-kind and he’ll be gone before you know it. Nash also would rank high on the list of best players to NOT win an NBA Championship.

  • Biggest question: How many more seasons does Nash have left in the tank?

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers, 8th Season:

For the past few years, Chris Paul’s name has been the answer to this question by almost everyone, “Who is the best point guard in the NBA?” and rightfully so. Paul has consistently been the most productive point guard in the league. Paul has averaged an impressive 18.6 PPG and 9.8 APG over eight seasons in the league. Paul won Rookie of the Year in 2006, has led the league in assists twice (2008,2009) and led the league in steals five times (2008,2009,2011,2012,2013). Unfortunately, Paul’s biggest enemy may be the playoffs. While posting similar numbers in the playoffs (20.9 PPG and 9.5 APG), he has never managed to reach the Conference finals in five post-season trips (three with the then-New Orleans Hornets and two with the Los Angeles Clippers). Paul embodies very different styles and mentalities in a point guard. He has the ability to create his own shot, which means he is the one his team looks for in crunch time. His best trait may be his composure with the ball. His ball handling is elegant; his passing is unparalleled; and more importantly his commercials are entertaining.

  • Biggest question: Can Paul reach the NBA Finals at some point during his career?

Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs, 12th Season:

For a more in depth analysis of Tony Parker, refer to Part I.

The “Honorable Mention” Group:

While these sixteen point guards mentioned above are all talented players, there are always some that get snubbed from the playoffs. Here are other guards to look out for.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers:

He’s sort of fast. So don’t blink.

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves:

Great handling. Even better passing.

Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers:

Don’t give him space or he’ll blow by you.

While point guards are an important part of the game, their styles are always changing. This has led to new promising talent and even more exciting games. As speed and explosiveness become more popular in a point guard, the more polished guards know that one upping someone isn’t about beating your defender on a nice lay-up, it’s about winning games when it matters most. This is why the style of your team’s point guard can define how successful your team is. I think we can all agree the San Antonio Spurs are glad that Tony Parker is theirs.

Joe Meola