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The Late Fitness Check - Premier League Fantasy Week 1

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And it begins (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
And it begins (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Wow, in less than 24 hours all will be right with the world again - the Premier League will be back and in full swing. The opening weekend of the season is always a tough one for fantasy managers. We have to balance out excitement over new signings with the fact that those new signings may or may not be ready to do. We also know from long experience that players who have participated in summer tournaments (in this case Euro2012 and the Olympics) may or may not be ready in time for the first week or two of the season.

My advice at all times, but especially this weekend is to err on the side of caution and pick players that you KNOW will be healthy and starting. There are always a few surprises even using this rule of thumb but if you add risks to the inevitable surprises you could easily end up starting off the season with a few zeros in your line-up and no one likes that.

OK, with that said, here we go with all the team news that we find relevant:

Wigan vs. Chelsea

Not a lot of great information here other than confirmation that Marko Marin is unlikely to figure. My assumption is that Gary Cahill will start at CB over David Luiz but I'd avoid both in favor of certain starters like John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Ramires. Seems unlikely that Oscar will start but he may see time off of the bench.

Reading vs. Stoke City

Jimmy Kebe and Jason Roberts are both suspended for the first two matches but it would appear that Jobi McAnuff will be ready to start which should make him an interesting two-match play. Ditto Ian Harte who we have discussed elsewhere.

Manchester City vs. Southampton

Lots of uncertainty here around Joe Hart and Mario Balotelli who are both questionable making it likely that you'll avoid the MAC goalkeeper position entirely for Week 1 and tend towards Carlos Tevez if you want a value-priced MAC forward. The one piece of definite news is that Micah Richards is out so Pablo Zabaleta will deputize for the first month of the season - he's more expensive than Richards so probably not a good choice but still worth noting.

Arsenal vs. Sunderland

Another season and another fairly long list of Arsenal injuries with Theo Walcott a "late fitness check" and a very vague statement about Santi Cazorla (although I'd guess he plays). Arsenal will definitely be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere. No word about the prospects of new attackers Lukas Podolski (although I'm pretty sure he'll start) and Olivier Giroud (less certain but not sure what the alternative is).

Sunderland will be without Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley and David Vaughn and Stephane Sessegnon may miss out as well. Not that you were thinking of picking any of them on the road at the Emirates.

Fulham vs. Norwich

I'm guessing that there isn't a lot of anticipated action on this match but for those who loved his production last season, Clint Dempsey has been left out based on his transfer turmoil.

Queens Park Rangers vs. Swansea City

Talk about a lot of potential debutantes in one place - there's nothing definitive but Fabio, Michu, Junior Hoilett, Park Ji-Sung, and Jonathan De Guzman are among the players to watch here. All are likely to start. Probably not a lot of people will pick any/many but this will produce the most Barn Door candidates for sure.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Liverpool

Another match that probably won't get a lot of fantasy play but worth noting that Liverpool's newbies Fabio Borini and Joe Allen are likely to start. Shane Long is also available but Jonas Olsson and James Morrison are question marks for WBA.

West Ham vs. Aston Villa

The most interesting guy on the WHU side of the ball, Modibo Maiga isn't yet ready to start so we'll have to wait to check him out. On the Villa side we'll have the chance to check out new recruits Brett Holman, Karim El Ahmadi, Ron Vlaar and Matthew Lowton as potential Barn Door candidates for next week.

Newcastle vs. Tottenham

Lots of injury (and other causes) absences in this one with Luka Modric being left out and joining Scott Parker for Spurs. On the Newcastle side, Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa are all questionable - ouch. Good thing this isn't a very attractive fantasy match-up.

Everton vs. Manchester United

Not much excitement here other than the potential debut of some obscure Dutch forward for Manchester United - not sure if it will be as a starter or off the bench. Across the back line, Nemanja Vidic is back but Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are both out with Vidic being a solid bargain. Not too much of note to report on the Everton side.