This weekend will see the return of the Premier League, and thankfully no more international breaks for the next four months. While the events in Paris and elsewhere have overshadowed the football this international break, there is hope that some semblance of normalcy returns with the return of what is widely regarded as the most entertaining league in the world.
There have been a number of developments in football over this break that may have understandably gone unmentioned or unnoticed. We'll do our best to fill you in over the course of this week with that information and how it might affect your plans moving forward.
To get you started, here are five questions to ponder as you set your fantasy lineups this weekend:
Is Aston Villa set for a renaissance under Remi Garde?
The newly-appointed manager of the bottom club took charge at the most difficult moment he could have, facing off against league leaders Manchester City in Week 12. Shockingly, his squad were able to keep a clean sheet against the Citizens to record a vital point. Can one performance be looked to as an indication for future success? Probably not, though there was a lot more on display in the 90 minutes under Garde than we'd seen with Tim Sherwood at the helm.
The general consensus had been that the Villa squad wasn't good enough to compete at the level necessary to survive, but that doesn't seem to be entirely true. Can Garde inspire his charges to survival, or is it a case of too little, too late?
Is this the weekend that Chelsea finally get another win?
It's truly bizarre to see Chelsea lose three straight in the league, the first time since Roman Abramovich took charge of the club in 2003. The current run is the worst start by a defending champion in the Premier League era. When will it end? Chelsea fans will be hoping it's this weekend.
Norwich City, who are exactly a point over the Blues in the league in 15th place, will fight not to lose that spot against this Chelsea side who clearly need to a victory to keep their chances of a top four finish alive. Most FPL managers will have abandoned players like Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard for more in-form options, but is now the time to start considering Blues players not named Willian again?
Is Harry Kane back to top form?
After such a breakout in the second half of last season, it was disappointing to see Harry Kane have such a slow start to the season. Thankfully for him, his Tottenham Hotspur teammates carried the load following the opening day defeat to Manchester united until he found his scoring boots again.
With six goals in his last four outings for Spurs, including a hat-trick against AFC Bournemouth, has Kane rediscovered the form that made him a fantasy superstar last season, or is his current purple patch set to run out sooner than later?
Can Liverpool continue their recent dominance over Man City?
If there's one good thing that can be said of Brendan Rodgers' tenure as Liverpool boss, it's that he knew how to prepare his team to face the Citizens. The Reds ran out winners over City on the majority of occasions under Rodgers, and now Jurgen Klopp will be tasked with the same objective.
However, this Manchester City side have been in top form this season and will be eager to regain their form after the week 12 slip against Aston Villa. Equally, Klopp's men will be eager to regain momentum after losing to Crystal Palace two weeks ago. The Reds will need to rely on their big-game players such as Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Leiva and even Christian Benteke if they are to continue their run of success against the Manchester club.
With Sergio Agüero's availability in doubt for Manuel Pellegrini's men, The Reds may hold the advantage heading into the weekend in Manchester. Will they have enough if he returns, or even if he misses out?
Is it Olivier Giroud's turn to lead the way for Arsenal?
It's no doubt that Olivier Giroud has been doing well for this Arsenal side with his fine form, perhaps even equaling Alexis Sanchez's contributions to the club since being reinstated to the starting lineup. He clearly is capable of scoring and performing well in certain matches and this weekend's match against West Bromwich Albion could be a good place to look for fantasy investment as the Frenchman looks to be more consistent in his performances.
Mesut Ozil has been the key man for the Gunners this season, and his form could benefit Giroud as he leads the line against the Baggies and through Arsenal's favorable run over the next four gameweeks as they also face Norwich, Sunderland and Aston Villa. Will Giroud be a worthwhile buy for your fantasy teams beginning this week?
Let us know your views on these questions as we head into Week 13 in the Premier League!