Rocking his best Richard Nixon pose in anticipation of a return to Everton in January. The only downside is that Everton's starting XI will be even more difficult to pick. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
I was supposed to be off from work this week. As you may have noticed, I wrote a lot at the beginning of the week because I was actually able to make the "I'm on vacation" thing stick for exactly two days. Somehow that morphed into some meetings on Wednesday, a work trip to Indianapolis on Thursday, and an unconscionably early return flight today (Friday) to get home to interview a few job candidates before 10:30 AM. That sort of schedule didn't leave a ton of time to write my usual mid-week pieces about the schedule and my player picks. Now we've arrived at Friday and I'll try to get as much to you as I can. First, we'll start with our traditional Friday Injuries and Suspensions post backed up by SoccerNet's consolidated reporting on team news. My take on the fantasy implications of that news after the jump:
Blackburn Rovers vs. West Bromwich Albion - Not much of note here other than the fact that Hoilett isn't definite to return to the line-up. After what we saw from Rovers last weekend, they don't have too many other attacking options so upgrade Albion's chances of a CS slightly.
Everton vs. Norwich City - Everton are going to make life more difficult for fantasy managers as they get healthier with Rodwell, Osman and Drenthe back to fitness there is a lot less certainty over the starting prospects of some of their players, specifically Bilyaletdinov. Add Distin's return to the mix and Heitinga's spot is also in question (but not definitely forfeit). Lot's of uncertainty for Everton while Norwich is in a pretty good place as they are pretty much entirely healthy.
Fulham vs. Bolton - Davies and Schwarzer are both out and Zamora faces the dreaded late fitness test. With Fulham playing at home to poor opposition
Stockdale Etheridge may be a nice, inexpensive option in net. For Bolton's part, they are healthy aside from the long-term absentees. The problem is that they aren't very good.
Newcastle United vs. Swansea City - Talk about a difficult proposition to figure - NUFC's entire defending spine (Coloccini, Williamson, and Tiote) are questionable with Gosling, Taylor, and Guthrie all definitely out. If the questionable trio don't make it I may get a call up. In my mind, this fixture rides entirely on the health of that group. If they are healthy then NUFC's defensive strength probably trumps Swansea's road woes. If those guys are out for the Magpies then just about anything could happen.
Wolverhampton vs. Stoke - A couple of mild injury concerns at Wolves (Jarvis and Edwards) but the wording of the comments makes you think both will be available. Stoke seem to be healthy and likely to start the same group that "beat" Spurs.
Wigan vs. Chelsea - Talk about minimal information, the news on the Chelsea side is all of two sentences long and the longer of the two focuses on something that we've known for ages (Essien is crocked). Otherwise, all it says is that Calamity Luiz is back from his suspension. It will be interesting to see how Chelsea line-up but this certainly doesn't help us figure it out. I won't insult you by implying that you might pick any Wigan players.
Queens Park Rangers vs. Manchester United - Not too much for fantasy managers from Loftus Road where Anton Ferdinand is out for a defense that seems to have about zero chance of a clean sheet. On the United side, Berbs is available again but not terribly likely to be selected. Otherwise, the long-term absentees are still absent. We were really hoping for news on the winger situation and who will start between Ashley Young, Nani, and Antonio Valencia. Lots of people with Valencia on the Barn Door worried that he won't start. No help here unfortunately.
Aston Villa vs. Liverpool - Gabby Agbonlahor is out due to suspension for accumulation of yellow cards which isn't good for fantasy managers, the manager, or the Villa faithful. The big question is how Liverpool will cope with a central midfield pairing of Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam, neither of whom is noted for their strong tackling. Spearing is still out on suspension and Lucas is a long-term absentee. I'd downgrade Liverpool's chances of a road clean sheet to a pretty low number even without Gabby. You have to figure Albrighton has a chance to continue his modest revival.
Tottenham vs. Sunderland - Looks like all the key players are healthy and available except Kaboul (suspended) and King (late fitness test/perma-crocked). The match-up is a good one for Spurs even with MON improving Sunderland's prospects. I don't expect you to be interested enough in Sunderland to care about their minor and continuing injuries.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal - In the spirit of naming matches, we'll call this on "No El Leftbackico" as both teams are shorn of their only two specialist left backs (City has Clichy suspended and Kolarov injured while Arsenal has both Gibbs and Santos injured) . For City, Zabaleta is the most likely deputy with Richards returning at right back. No real concern for City here other than the fact that Zab is almost guaranteed a yellow card trying to contain the speed TW14. Arsenal is likely to continue with their Stoke formation at the back (4 CBs with Djourou on the right and Verm on the left). Should be interesting as both sides try to contain a lot of speed and attacking skill. I'm very excited for this match but not terribly excited to invest in it from a fantasy standpoint.
I'll try to post some player picks later in the day but I'm fading fast after my early wake up (my 2nd this week earlier than 5 AM) so I'm not making any promises. I should be back and at least somewhat rested for some chatting tomorrow.