Remember when you were a kid, and you were so excited on Christmas Eve that you couldn't sleep? Well, tonight is like that for me, and I assume many others, as I anticipate the opening kickoff of the Premier League season tomorrow morning! It seems like it was ages ago when Leicester City lifted that trophy, shocking the sporting world and proving to be the ultimate underdog story (no disrespect to Peter LeFleur and the gang).
The one thing I didn't have to deal with as a kid for Christmas Eve, however, was the stress of knowing if I chose the wrong gift to open first, it could ruin my entire holiday. Yet, that's what we deal with as fantasy Premier League managers. Tonight is the final chance to make changes to our teams without having to pay any penalties, lose any discounts (or have to pay more for players than before), or worry about having to worry about transfer limits. These final lineup decisions could play a huge role in our entire seasons, and they are not to be made lightly.
Due to Euros having just ended about a month ago, there are players who will be missing this weekend, simply due to fatigue. Other players will be out due to injuries suffered during the offseason or that are lingering from last year. Plus, we have a lot of new faces to choose from (looking at you, Pogba....well, you aren't a NEW face, are you?) that may or may not play right off the bat, but are worth stashing on the bench for the following weeks.
With that in mind, here are the players who will likely not take the pitch this weekend--or at least won't start--along with players we know will be out for a match or longer.
- ARSENAL have been hit pretty hard by the Euro fatigue issue, and a few untimely injuries. Arsene Wenger confirmed on Friday that Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, and Laurent Koscielny are not fully fit from the tournament and will most likely miss the match against Liverpool on Sunday. With Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker, Jack Wilshire, and now Gabriel out with injuries, the starting eleven will be heavily gutted for the early-season powerhouse matchup. The good news is that Alexis Sanchez is back to full fitness, and the addition of Granit Xhaka should help offset some of the losses.
- CHELSEA will be without the services of Kurt Zouma to start the season, but he should only miss the first month or so, which makes him a good candidate to buy and stash.
- CRYSTAL PALACE will be without a few of their players to start the season. Injuries during the friendlies to Frazier Campbell and Bakary Sako will have them out for a few weeks at least. However, James McArthur and Papa Souare look to be fit just in time for their Saturday opener against West Bromwhich Albion, which they should fancy themselves to win.
- Can you call someone a troll if they finally deliver for their managers? Well, Romelu Lukaku could still be about his trolling ways if he misses the EVERTON opener on Saturday against Tottenham. A heel injury midweek saw him receive stitches, but he is expected to start the home opener. However, new signing Ashley Williams will not be a question mark; Ronaldo Koeman has already confirmed that he will not be on the team sheet. The defense should get a boost with the return of Seamus Coleman, who is expected to start despite dealing with an ankle issue.
- Defending champions LEICESTER CITY will be without the services of Robert Huth for their opener as he serves the final match of his three-match ban, given last season. However, it looks like everyone else should be ready, which is good news for those selecting Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in their sides.
- Perhaps no team in the Premier League has the number of question marks heading into the season as LIVERPOOL. Jurgen Klopp has already admitted that he has "no idea" whether Daniel Sturridge will be ready for the trip to the Emirates on Sunday, and if he isn't fit then he could join a host of others on the sidelines. Mamadou Sakho is almost certainly out for the opener, and will likely miss more than that. James Milner is almost certainly out as well with a heel issue. Luckily for fantasy managers, the other players who are injury concerns hold no fantasy value.
- Some big names look likely to miss out for MANCHESTER CITY when they host Sunderland in the late match on Saturday. Vincent Kompany has been ruled out until September, along with new signing Ilkay Gundogan. Fellow addition Leroy Sane is also set to miss out due to a lack of fitness, although he should be ready for the following match. Fantasy managers will need to decide whether they want to gamble on Kevin De Bruyne being ready as he is still recovering from Euro and has not featured in the preseason, while Nicolas Otamendi will be a match-time decision due to a thigh injury. The good news for the Citizens is that Sergio Aguero is fit and ready, along with David Silva, and both should be relied upon heavily.
- Oh hey, it's Paul Pogba. Welcome back to MANCHESTER UNITED. Your welcome home present....a one match ban, carried over from the Copa Italia. The new midfield maestro will not play the opening weekend, but there's no guarantee he would have been ready, suspension or not. He will be joined on the naughty stool by Chris Smalling, who saw red in the FA Cup final in May. Jesse Lingard, the hero of the FA Cup and goalscorer in the Community Shield, will likely miss out on the opener at Bournemouth, but he holds very little fantasy value at this time to begin with. Expect to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Anthony Martial unleashed against Bournemouth, as all three looked quite healthy and active in the preseason.
- SOUTHAMPTON has a few injury concerns, but it looks likely that Jose Fonte will be ready for their match on Saturday. Ryan Bertrand, however, will not be so lucky, as he will miss out due to a knee injury. One player to keep an eye on is Nathan Redmond, as Claude Puel has hinted he could be deployed as part of a striker partnership.
- STOKE CITY will be without keeper Jack Butland, who suffered an injury on Friday. This is something to keep a close eye on, as the injury was to the same ankle that he fractured against Germany while on international duty back in March. It is unknown whether Shay Given or Jakob Haugaard will take his place in net, but either would be an intriguing value pick against a Middlesbrough side fresh into the Premier League. While Butland is expected to return soon, it is a situation worth monitoring. Luckily for Stoke, Marko Arnautovic is most likely set to start.
- TOTTENHAM will be without the services of Moussa Dembele, who is still serving out the final four matches of a six-match ban stemming from last season. Luckily for Spurs, that is the extent of their worries, as they look to be at full fitness for their match against Everton.
- It will be interesting to see how WEST HAM UNITED line up when they face Chelsea on Monday afternoon. With Manuel Lanzini out for at least a month, I expect to see Sofiane Feghouli deployed on the right wing, and it will be interesting to see if he locks down the job. (Full disclosure: I have him on my IEFSA team, and I sure hope he does!) Aaron Cresswell is set to miss out on the first three to four months of the season due to a knee injury suffered in late July, while Diafra Sakho is out for this weekend due to a back injury.