I don't know if he'll ever be the next great Italian defender but he certainly has the potential to return some value this weekend against Stoke City. Do you know who he is? (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
The first match of the weekend is going to turn on whose injuries hurt the most. Key injuries include Mikael Arteta on the Arsenal side as well as Didier Drogba and David Luiz on the Chelsea side will certainly limit the options of the respective managers. Throw in the fact that Branislav Ivanovic is still suspended and Chelsea's defense is limited while Arsenal's reverted to being shaky last weekend against Wigan. I'm guessing not too many fantasy managers have a great deal invested in this match but it will certainly be an interesting one.
Click past the jump to see the injury and suspension highlights from the matches you're likely most interested in:
Aston Villa vs. Sunderland - The interesting news here is all about two-game Aston Villa and the part that will have all fantasy managers frustrated is the uncertain messages on the availability of Ciaran Clark, Chris Herd, Stephen Warnock and Marc Albrighton. The team news by no means rules any of them out but it also doesn't indicate that any will necessarily be ready to start two matches over the course of five days either. My advice would be to tread VERY cautiously with these guys PLUS the ones who they might replace.
Bolton vs. Swansea - The news from the Reebok is MUCH more stable than that from Villa Park. Bolton's team is likely to remain unchanged and certainly won't change due to injury. The players I'm considering are mostly bargains like Tim Ream and Ryo Miyaichi.
Wolverhampton vs. Manchester City - Manchester City is fully healthy and missing only Mario Balotelli. That's great news if you're a City supporter but the fact that there isn't a great deal of news on some of the rotation questions certainly makes life difficult for fantasy managers - especially if you're looking at some of City's wing defenders. I'd stick with the players up and down the spine of the team if you're spending - Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Jolean Lescott, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, and Carlos Tevez. Just about everyone else seems very questionable due to potential rotation unless you have some information you think solidifies someone else's spot.
Manchester United vs. Everton - There appear to be no significant new absences for United for the critical match against Everton. The big question is what happens with the attacking spots. Who will the odd man out on the wings be? Will Chicharito continue to be left on the bench? These questions are all extremely important because we're at a point in the season where all of those players are expensive and if you choose one and they end up sitting you'll be at a decided disadvantage.
Newcastle vs. Stoke City - Newcastle are fairly healthy as well and, in fact, have players coming back into the squad. The only real concern this creates is who the starting four will be at the back with Tiote back at holding midfielder. Last weekend Perch, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, and Simpson all started but one will very likely find their way to the bench with Tiote back. Chances are that Perch would be the one at risk of losing his spot so Santon likely represents the potential value play.
You can follow the link to the consolidated Team News on SoccerNet but my sense is that the above is the news you need to know as a fantasy manager.