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Week 15: Outs, Doubts, Ins and Wins

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Welcome back to the busy December schedule! The games are coming fast, and so are the injuries. We all saw how important it was to have bench cover for Game Week 14, as there were plenty of absentees on the pitch, Wayne Rooney being the most surprising. There will also be some returning players, namely Diego Costa, coming back from a one game suspension for accumulating five yellow cards. Without further ado, let's then discuss who is "out," "doubt," "in" and "win" for Game Week 15...

Will Rooney be back to lead the United team at Southampton?
Will Rooney be back to lead the United team at Southampton?
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Below is a breakdown of what each of the categories means:

Out: Fantasy-relevant players who have been confirmed out for the week, either through injury or suspension

Doubt: Players facing the dreaded late fitness test, rotation concerns and those who are out of form/favor

In: The likeliest replacements for the Outs & Doubts

Win: Fantasy player to watch / my hunch pick of the week

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Arsenal

Out: Mesut Ozil, Mathieu Debuchy, Jack Wilshire, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal

Doubt: Wojciech Szczesny, Kirenan Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky, Yaya Sanogo

In: Damián Martínez, Mathieu Flamini

Win: Olivier Giroud

The injuries are not letting go of Arsenal during the busy December schedule. There is good news, nonetheless, as Mathieu Debuchy has returned to training, although the Stoke game will be too early for the Frenchman to make his long-awaited comeback. Another positive is that Arsenal is traveling to Turkey in the mid-week having already clinched birth in the knockout stages of the Champions League which may give Arsène Wenger an opportunity to rest key players. Domestically, the team is just 3 and 2 points behind Southampton and Manchester United, respectively, and will be looking to gain ground in the standings with those two teams playing each other on Monday. And while the gaffer conceded that Alexis Sanchez' fitness is "in the red zone" due to the hectic schedule, the Chilean will likely be rested in the mid-week rather than an important away game at Stoke-on-Trent.

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Aston Villa

Out: Andreas Weimann (suspension), Fabian Delph, Philippe Senderos, Ron Vlaar, Nathan Baker

Doubt: Joe Cole

In: Carlos Sánchez, Jores Okare, Charles N'Zogbia

Win: Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke is back and so are the wins for Aston Villa. After a much needed victory that took the team up to the twelfth place, the Villans will be looking to move up even higher (pending a win and an Everton loss) playing home to the league's bottom side, Leicester City.

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Burnley

Out: Matthew Taylor, Sam Vokes

Doubt: Stephen Ward, Michael Duff

In: Ben Mee / Jason Shackell, Michael Keane

Win: Danny Ings

With only 1 point separating the Clarets from their match day opponent, Queens Park Rangers, this is the early "game of the season" for both teams. The objective for Burnley, of course, will be not to concede - quite a task given all the injuries in defense. Offensively, the team has not created many chances either, having relied heavily on Kieran Trippier's long balls into the penalty box.

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Chelsea

Out: Nemanja Matić (suspension)

Doubt: N/A

In: Ramires / John Obi Mikel

Win: Diego Costa

The "beast" is back, but will he perform as most expect him to or turn in another disappointing performance a la Sunderland? Chelsea has not looked sharp away and after its September 20, 2-2 home draw with Hull, Newcastle has not conceded at home. What gives?

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Crystal Palace

Out: Damien Delaney, Adrian Mariappa, Paddy McCarthy, Glenn Murray

Doubt: Dwight Gayle, Joe Ledley

In: Wilfried Zaha, Frazier Campbell

Win: Yannick Bolasie

Away to a Tottenham team that is still looking for its identity in domestic competition presents an opportunity for Crystal Palace to put behind a bitter home defeat to Aston Villa. With Joe Ledley and Dwight Gayle both doubtful, however, Neil Warnock and Co. would be chuffed even with 1 point at White Hart Lane.

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Everton

Out: Antolin Alcaraz, John Stones, Bryan Oviedo

Doubt: James McCarthy, Steven Naismith

In: Muhamed Bešić, Leon Osman (maybe)

Win: Kevin Mirallas

Away to City is a formidable task considering Everton's mediocre away form, with their last away win coming at Burnley on October 26. The Toffees will be hopeful that Manchester City will be concentrating on its upcoming decisive clash with Roma, hoping to clinch a spot in the knockout Champions League stages and, perhaps, resting a few key players.

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Hull City

Out: Mohamed Diame, Tom Ince, Robert Snodgrass, Gaston Ramirez (suspension)

Doubt: Robbie Brady, David Meyler

In: Sone Aluko, Abel Hernandez (maybe)

Win: Nikica Jelavic

What happened to the team that was flying high and had arguable the best transfer window in the Premier League?! Losers of 4 straight before earning at point at Everton on Tuesday and out of the "drop zone" based on goal difference only, things need to change for Steve Bruce's team. There won't be a better opportunity for three points than the home clash with West Bromwich Albion, just one point ahead of the Tigers.

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Leicester City

Out: Wes Morgan (suspension), Dean Hammond, Matthew Upson

Doubt: David Nugent

In: Liam Moore

Win: Jamie Vardy

There is too much talent on this Leicester City team to be dead last in the standings. Has the team lost confidence in its manager? These are the musings for the next time, but away to Aston Villa is a good game to earn at least a point should the Foxes have any aspirations of improving their chances of staying up, because the schedule does not get easier with games vs. Manchester City, West Ham and Tottenham to follow.

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Liverpool

Out: Mario Balotelli, Jon Flanagan, Mamadou Sakho, Daniel Sturridge

Doubt: Philippe Coutinho, Jose Enrique

In: Rickie Lambert, Kolo Toure

Win: Steven Gerrard

There is talk about rotation but I do not foresee it for 2 reasons. First, Liverpool is only 5 points away from fourth place with pivotal games against Manchester United and Arsenal coming up in Game Weeks 16 and 17, respectively, which makes the upcoming home game with Sunderland that more important. Second, the Champions League "winner advance" tie against Basel is also at home. The December 17 League Cup at Bournemouth is where Brendan Rodgers will likely rest his key players.

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Manchester City

Out: Vincent Kompany, Stefan Jovetic, David Silva

Doubt: Yaya Toure

In: Elaquim Mangala, Martín Demichelis, Jesus Navas, Aleksandr Kolarov, Edin Dzeko

Win: Sergio Aguero

If there is a contender to battle Chelsea for the Premier League trophy this season, Manchester City is that team. The Citizens received welcome news that both Edin Dzeko and Aleksandr Kolarov are both fit and ready to play. With Sergio Aguero in the form of his career, resting him against Everton is not an option. The concern will be the minutes given to the Argentine striker due to the upcoming important away Champions League game in Rome.

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Manchester United

Out: Daley Blind, Rafael da Silva, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw

Doubt: Angel Di Maria

In: Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Radamel Falcao (maybe)

Win: Juan Mata

It is becoming more certain that Angel Di Maria miss out, while Wayne Rooney has recovered fully to captain the team at Southampton. Furthermore, the offensive resurgence of Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini, along with Southampton's diminishing form will give the team from Manchester the needed boost of confidence that it can take the 3 points and dethrone in standings the surprise team of the season.

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Newcastle United

Out: Rolando Aarons, Tim Krul, Gabriel Obertan, Ryan Taylor

Doubt: Fabricio Colloccini, Sammy Amoebi

In: Moussa Sissoko, Jack Colback

Win: Remy Cabella (hunch)

Newcastle looked like a different team when Remy Cabella stepped onto the pitch in the second half and I expect Alan Pardew to give him an opportunity to prove himself against Chelsea from the opening minutes. The much needed return of Moussa Sissoko and the overall reliable defense has the makings of a tightly contested match against the league leaders.

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Queens Park Rangers

Out: Alejandro Faurlin, Adel Taarabt

Doubt: N/A

In: N/A

Win: Charlie Austin

This is a "must win" game for Queens Park Rangers. With the likes of Vargas, Barton, Fer and Austin, the team from London should have enough firepower to defeat Burnley and move up in standings.

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Southampton

Out: Morgan Schneiderlin, James Ward-Prowse, Jay Rodriguez

Doubt: Toby Alderweireld, Jack Cork, Dusan Tadic

In: Maya Yoshida (maybe)

Win: Shane Long (hunch)

The long season is slowly catching up with Southampton, losers of two in a row. Home to the Manchester United team well on its heels, the Saints must show their resolve and end the skid; they clearly possess enough talent and willpower to do that. Nonetheless, Koeman and the board will need to make the necessary January signings to remain competitive and challenge for the highly coveted Champions League spots.

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Stoke City

Out: Peter Odemwingie, Andy Wilkinson, Victor Moses

Doubt: Robert Huth, Jonathan Walters, Steven Ireland

In: Oussama Assaidi, Marko Arnautović (both maybe)

Win: Mame Biram Diouf

This has been a rollercoaster season for the Potters. One thing for sure though, this is not the same "kick and run" ruffian team of the past but a much more offensive-minded squad largely due to the additions of Bojan Krkić and Mame Biram Diouf. With wins against Manchester City and Tottenham already, it should come as no surprise should Arsenal come to the less than welcoming Brittania and find it difficult to get a much needed win.

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Sunderland

Out: Patrick Van Aanholt, Billy Jones, Emmanuele Giaccherini

Doubt: Wes Brown, Adam Johnson

In: Will Buckley (maybe)

Win: Sebastian Larsson (hunch)

The Black Cats followed up an impressive 0-0 stalemate against Chelsea with a feeble performance against the defending champions. Which team will show up against Liverpool is anyone's guess.

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Swansea City

Out: Neil Taylor (suspension), Federico Fernández

Doubt: N/A 

In: Dwight Tiendalli

Win: Gylfi Sigurdsson

Swansea City will travel to East London looking to build up momentum after a convincing victory against Queens Park Rangers. The team's away form, however, has been unimpressive, as the Swans won only once away from the Liberty Stadium, the opener against Manchester United.

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Tottenham

Out: Kyle Walker

Doubt: Emanuel Adebayor, Étienne Capoue, Danny Rose, Andros Townsend

In: Kyle Naughton (maybe), Nacer Chadli, Aaron Lennon, Harry Kane

Win: Christian Eriksen

During the opening 15 minutes against Chelsea, I kept thinking that this is the Tottenham team their fans have been waiting on this whole season. The pace and aggression were top notch, but we all know how that game ended. Mauricio Pochettino's team has been clearly underperforming and what could be a better time to make amends than a home game against Crystal Palace.

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West Bromwich Albion

Out: Chris Brunt, Jonas Olsson, Claudio Yacob (suspension)

Doubt: N/A

In: Craig Gardner

Win: Stéphane Sessègnon (hunch)

A must win for the struggling Albion team, just one point away from the relegation drop. While still early into the season, the Baggies have had trouble finishing games after taking the lead. Away to Hull is no easy task with Saido Berahino failing to score in the last 5 games. On a separate note, to the scout behind the £10m Brown Ideye acquisition from my hometown team, Dynamo Kiev, a heartfelt "Thank you!"

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West Ham United

Out: Modibo Maiga

Doubt: Mark Noble

In: Alex Song, Diafra Sakho (maybe), Winston Reid, Enner Valencia

Win: Stewart Downing

The meeting of the two surprise teams of the season, both still clinging to the hopes of playing European football next season. This is the deepest West Ham team in years and I do not see them slowing down any time soon, while Garry Monk and the Swans need to make a few shrewd acquisitions in January to keep up the pace. How about "another" Michu?!

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So there you have it! I scored 125 points last game week after dropping Tadic and look to keep the momentum going. My team at the moment is: Courtois, Cresswell, Vertonghen, Trippier, Fabregas, Sterling, Sigurdsson, Downing, Sanchez, Benteke, Aguero, w/ Okore (£1.29) Kelly (£1), Birdcutt (£1.01), Martinez (£1.53) on my bench. I am still tinkering with it and looking for ways to bring in Austin and Caulker.  Any hunch players who you think will do well this week? Good luck to all!

Sani.