With finals fast approaching, it’s time to consider how they could impact your fantasy team over the remaining rounds.
For those who are unaware, in the Fox Sports version of the game coaches are afforded 6 free transfers for the first week (Elimination Finals) and second week (Semi Finals), while you can make as many transfers as you wish – without a points penalty – for the Grand Final.
The number of players you have can have from one team jumps from 3 to 6 for the first two weeks of finals, and then to 8 for the Grand Final.
Therefore, it’s important to do our best to plan ahead given only four of the ten teams will play in the first week (3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th), and then four again (1st, 2nd and the two winners from week 1) in the second.
The finals picture will become clearer after this round, where the ladder-leading Roar (on goal difference) travel to Melbourne to face 4th placed City, while 2nd placed Wanderers are at home to 3rd placed Adelaide.
Adelaide will be missing Jordan Elsey through suspension and both Tarek Elrich and Pablo Sanchez through injury, while Marcelo Carrusca and Iacopo La Rocca are under injury clouds, meaning their top two hopes are teetering.
5th placed Perth and 6th placed Victory would be expected to take the 3 points against the Phoenix and the Jets respectively, however 7th placed Sydney could find themselves back in finals contention should either side stumble – they face the 10th placed Mariners this week and surely must take the three points to be any hope of seeing postseason action.
Having a playing goalkeeper in week 1 could be a problem for several coaches, as currently the top three first-choice goalkeepers in terms of ownership are Vedran Janjetovic (31.4%), Mark Birighitti (15.5%) and Paul Izzo (11.2%).
Izzo’s Mariners are already out of finals contention, while Birighitti’s Jets trail 6th placed Victory by 7 points. Janjetovic’s Sydney are only 3 points behind the Victory, however the Sky Blues would need a significant reversal in form (they are winless in their last 8 games) to make the playoffs.
Of course, if the super-cheap Jamie Young manages to hold his spot the problem goes away – unless the Roar finish in the top 2. This is highly questionable, however, as Michael Theo has been the incumbent since returning from injury in Round 16 and surely must be expected to take back the gloves when fit
Finals are a concern for Izzo owners in particular, given it is highly unlikely they would also own another regular starter. They would likely need to free up significant cash from another part of their team in order to bring in a keeper who will be lining up in week 1 of the finals.
Goalkeepers may play a bigger role than some coaches might think, given clean sheets are potentially on the rise again. From Rounds 15-21 only 8 clean sheets were kept (of a possible 70); the last two rounds have produced 8 (of a possible 20). It’s one more thing to keep an eye on.
Ante Covic ($269k) will probably be playing in week 1 – Perth are in great form and should take nine points from their last four games. It probably won’t be enough for a top two spot (they are 7 points behind the Roar and the Wanderers) so he seems a safe pick.
Adelaide held top spot before their loss to City on Friday night, however injury concerns coupled with a tough draw should see them struggle to keep pace at the top. Therefore Eugene Galekovic ($295k) may come into calculations. Adelaide do have a strong defence (the least goals conceded; also only Sydney FC and the Wanderers have allowed their opponents fewer shots on target) and will likely be at home in week 1 of finals, making Galekovic more appealing than he would otherwise be with his hefty price tag.
Liam Reddy ($261k), Michael Theo ($262k) and Thomas Sorensen ($273k) are all risky players to have at the moment as your top two will likely come from their three teams. City do trail the current top two by 3 points, however they can catch the Roar this week by beating them at home. A loss and they are probably going to find it tough to finish first or second. City’s defence has been an issue this season, however with 2 clean sheets in the last two rounds (their 2nd and 3rd of the season) it seems the influence of additions Alex Wilkinson and Osama Malik are now being felt, and City could be a contender in the finals – and Sorensen a justifiable selection.
With some movement still to be expected among the top 6 spots, any notion of safety at this stage is based purely on our assumptions of who has the toughest draw and who is most likely to accrue points. That said, Perth seem likely to finish somewhere from 3rd to 6th, as do Victory and Adelaide – unless they can shock the Wanderers this week. So it’d be a good idea to look at having players from those teams in your squads.
Fortunately, Perth have two strong prospects in Andy Keogh and Diego Castro. Throw in one of Marc Warren or Alex Grant as a defensive cheapie (or Shane Lowry for better security) and you’ve probably got the ideal 3 from Perth heading into the finals. Easy.
Victory are a little harder to pick given their ACL participation, but Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler aren’t part of that squad, so they can be safely selected. Finkler is badly out of form though.
Besart Berisha is also struggling a little lately (1 goal in his last 5 from only 2 shots on target), and his minutes are being cut short due to ACL participation. He isn’t the nailed-on pick he used to be, however he could come to life at any point. He’d still need to be in your considerations, especially with Victory looking likely to finish between 3rd and 6th place.
Other Victory players to consider are defensive cheapie Scott Galloway or the cheaper, but riskier, Thomas Deng. Kosta Barbarouses may be too risky to select given his place in the ACL squad, though if things get tight for Victory he may have to play more regularly in the domestic competition.
The main Adelaide players to have are Craig Goodwin and Stefan Mauk – however Goodwin’s fantasy value may now be in question. Based on last week’s line-up it seems Amor prefers Iacopo La Rocca to Jordan Elsey in central defence, and Elsey also performed poorly as a make-shift left back (in the absence of the injured Tarek Elrich, who is expected to be out for most of the remaining games, if not all of them).
Goodwin could be set for a positional change to left back, where he is far less productive from a fantasy standpoint. It seems the logical move for Amor to make, however it is possible he could persist with Elsey at left back given Goodwin’s attacking value to the side. If Amor opts to blood a rookie there this weekend, we can expect that Elsey will be given another chance. If Goodwin is there, it could be bad news for Adelaide’s best fantasy prospect.
Both Elsey and La Rocca can be considered cheapie options, though, as noted, both of them could be out this week, perhaps with Isaias or youth team player Ruon Tongyik playing in central defence (Ben Warland, the Reds’ 4th choice centre back, is also suspended having been sent off in last week’s NPL game). Dylan McGowan is awkwardly priced, but we can fully expect him to start every game unless injured. If forced to pick between Elsey and La Rocca, it seems La Rocca is the more likely to be a starter (if fit).
Coaches could gamble on the injury prone and inconsistent Marcelo Carrusca once he’s fit again, while George Mells or Bruce Kamau may provide some (extremely limited) bench cover. Kamau could come into calculations if Amor does shift Goodwin to left back – he may do so anyway if Cirio is forced to deputise for the injured Carrusca in midfield, while one of his main competitors in Pablo Sanchez is injured. Otherwise, there’s not a lot to consider at Adelaide.
If Melbourne City do finish in the top two it means premiums Aaron Mooy, Bruno Fornaroli and Harry Novillo will all miss week 1 of the finals. This does put fantasy coaches in a tough position, as they are forced with a decision – do they bench Mooy and have a significant amount of money sitting among their subs, or do they trade him out and potentially have to pay more to bring him in the following week?
Currently, if I traded Mooy from my team I would receive $369k from him, but to bring him back in I’d have to pay $382k. It’s not a huge difference, but it could be crucial when our options become even more limited in the finals (and especially the Grand Final) and not having that $13k could haunt me. However, so could benching Mooy out and missing out on having one of the top scorers that week if one of the playing guns fires.
Fornaroli is an even bigger issue for me, with a difference of $23k between his sell and buy values.
Trading these players out could also influence their values, so the hit might not be as bad as it first appears – assuming, that is, if everyone else who owns them also opts to move them on.
The problem will vary for each coach depending on their own situation, but if I am faced with losing money on several players I think I will be taking the hit. If it’s just one or two players, it will depend on who I can bring in to cover for them. If my team is significantly weakened by having premiums ‘resting’ on the bench, then I think it might be better to move them on.