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Week 9 Pre-Deadline Chat: Crisis Mode

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The international week (and the time leading up to it) has brought injury crises to Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham, in particular. How do things look ahead of Game Week 9?

Sadio Mane runs with the ball - Liverpool FC - Premier League
Sadio Mane is among several injury doubts for Liverpool.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

While the international break can provide extra time for some players to heal, every fantasy manager’s fear is that it will bring more pain than recovery. Reds, Red Devils and Spurs fans have particularly felt it from both sides. How are things looking as the GW9 deadline rapidly approaches?

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Saturday

Chelsea v Manchester United (early game)

For the home side, Antonio Rudiger is a slight doubt, with Gary Cahill available to fill in if necessary. Ross Barkley was able to train on Friday and has returned to fitness, leaving it unclear whether he or Mateo Kovacic will start alongside Jorginho. The usual Willian / Pedro and Olivier Giroud / Alvaro Morata questions also remain; Willian and Giroud are more likely to remain in the XI, but neither is 100% settled.

For the visiting Red Devils, midfielder Jesse Lingard has missed the past two games with a groin problem, and it looks likely that he will miss another. Wing defender Luke Shaw, midfielder Marouane Fellaini and defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic all suffered injuries over the break, and they now face the dreaded game-time decision. Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo have returned to training and will be available for selection, but they have not been regular starters. Neither Alexis Sanchez nor Antonio Valencia traveled to London with the team, so that pair will be a serious question mark. Even after Sanchez scored the winner against Newcastle, the “BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!” rumor mill has it that Sanchez is mulling over an exit strategy from United, throwing a further wrench into things on top of the team’s injury concerns and constant chatter surrounding the possible sacking of Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho’s line-ups have been fairly unpredictable this season, so I’m not going to try to get inside his head with a likely XI, especially given so much uncertainty surrounding injury. Of course, given the locale and level of competition, I don’t expect too many fantasy managers to rely heavily on Manchester United players for joy, so whom Mou picks — or doesn’t — may not be a major concern in FPL world. In Fantrax, the lineups will be published in the last hour before the deadline, so tune in here if you want surety.

Bournemouth v Southampton

Forward Joshua King and midfielder Ryan Fraser are the Cherries’ main concern; Fraser picked up a knock over the break. If Fraser fails to pass fit, Junior Stanislas could earn his first start of the season. Jermain Defoe may do likewise if King doesn’t make it, although Lys Mousset offers another alternative. Wing backs Charlie Daniels and Diego Rico have missed out on the past five and two games, respectively; both are now expected to be fit. Among the pair, Rico would seem to be more likely to take the spot in the starting XI, perhaps replacing Simon Francis and leaving Daniels on the bench. Of course, Eddie Howe could choose to go with momentum and keep things the same. Defender Nathan Ake has been the subject of recent rumored interest from Tottenham, so he will be keen to impress.

Saints’ keeper Alex McCarthy suffered an injury over the break, but Hughes is confident that his #1 will be able to feature at the Vitality, leaving the embattled manager a full squad to select from. Making some changes to jump-start the Saints could be in order, but are you really biting your nails wondering whether Shane Long or Manolo Gabbiadini will start alongside Danny Ings?

Cardiff v Fulham

Keeper Alex Smithies will be on the bench after missing out so far this season through injury, and while Neil Etheridge will retain the #1 spot, Smithies should challenge for it going forward. In extremely welcome news for the home side, defensive midfielder Aron Gunnarsson has passed fit, but Neil Warnock has not revealed whether he will start or merely provide a boost from the bench. Attacking midfielder Danny Ward suffered an injury in Week 8 and will likely miss out again, but had not started either of the most recent pair of games, so he may not have been on your radar anyway. Fellow midfielder Joe Ralls will be out for a while through a combination of suspension and injury. On top of that, Warnock threw some shade at striker Kenneth Zohore, making it difficult to feel too good about the Bluebirds’ offense despite being at home to Fulham’s horrible defense.

Defenders Joe Bryan and Timothy Fosu-Mensah missed Week 8’s game for Fulham, and while Bryan has again been ruled out, Fosu-Mensah could return. Midfielder Neeskens Kebano has not featured yet this season, and while the international break has helped his recovery, he seems more likely to come in as a substitute than crack the XI. Tom Cairney will miss out through injury, which is generally just more of the same as far as this season has gone for the influential midfielder.

Manchester City v Burnley

The big news for the home Citizens is that Kevin De Bruyne is ready to play, though of course it is probable that he comes in for a cameo rather than starting, leaving Bernardo Silva that role. If KDB does make the XI, he will almost certainly not play the full 90. Otherwise, midfielder Ilkay Gundogan remains out injured, while defender Fabian Delph has returned to training following injury but Benjamin Mendy should not be worried about losing his spot. Pep Guardiola shared glowing words for Raheem Sterling in his presser, so you should certainly expect him to continue his vital role in the XI. Following his horrible PK miss against Liverpool, Riyad Mahrez may be in some danger of losing his starting spot to Leroy Sane.

Manchester City have named a training pitch in Joe Hart’s honor, so the home fans will have a rousing return in store for their former legend. Robbie Brady is nearing a return for Burnley following a long injury layoff, but this game (and perhaps the level of competition) is too soon. Defender James Tarkowski is a doubt through injury, so Kevin Long may be called on by Sean Dyche to fill in.

Newcastle v Brighton

Forward Salomon Rondon and defender Ciaran Clark remain out injured. Defender Paul Dummett is set for a return to the XI following his own injury spell, likely displacing Javier Manquillo. With Rondon out, that leaves Ayoze Perez, Yoshinori Muto and Joselu fighting it out for the two spots in the Magpies’ <cough> “attack.”

Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross has returned to training, but it remains unclear whether his fitness is good enough to start or merely provide a boost from the bench. Midfielder Dale Stephens and defender Gaeton Bong face the dreaded game-time decision, while midfielder Davy Propper is confirmed out.

West Ham v Tottenham

After picking up a knock on international duty — and earning poor marks from Manuel Pellegrini for his performance against Brighton — Arthur Masuaku seems likely to cede his wing back spot to Aaron Cresswell. There was video of Marko Arnautovic limping during training, but the star striker is expected to start. Otherwise, the Hammers will have Andy Carroll, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, and Robert Snodgrass available, but the trio may have to settle for spots on the bench.

Announcements of cancelled dates at the new stadium keep coming in, and the Spurs have been hard-hit by the injury bug in the past month or so, but the return of influential midfielder Christian Eriksen after missing the last pair of games is extremely welcome relief. However, midfielder Dele Alli and defenders Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen remain out (Vertonghen being the most long-term). Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min will be expected to keep their starting spots in midfield attack, but Erik Lamela provides an alternative. In the midfield engine room, Mousa Dembele has passed fit and will likely displace Harry Winks. Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies should likewise stay the starters in back, but Serge Aurier is an option on the wing.

Wolverhampton v Watford

Amazingly, it has been eight games with the same XI for Wolverhampton. That is going to change at some point — Leo Bonatini, Ivan Cavaleiro and Adama Traore are all itching to grab starts. But that probably won’t happen this week because of Wolves’ form, the extra rest, and the lack of injury concerns (keeper Rui Patricio overcame his slight muscle problem).

The Hornets without defenders Jose Holebas and Christian Kabasele who are serving suspensions, and midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah is an injury doubt. In better news, defender Marc Navarro has recovered from injury and is expected to slot in at left-back. Craig Cathcart and Adam Masina will probably join him, leaving manager Javi Gracia a choice between Adrian Mariappa and Sebastian Prodl for the final slot. Gracia has hinted that wing-midfielder Gerard Deulofeu will see significant minutes in this game after featuring as a late sub in Week 8, but it is unclear whether that means as a starter or merely as an earlier sub.

Huddersfield v Liverpool (late game)

David Wagner’s squad has several injury concerns, but if you’re really counting on anybody from Huddersfield for fantasy glory — especially this week against Liverpool — then you are a masochist and I do not want to contribute to your pain, no matter how much you enjoy it. Reminder: Liverpool beat Huddersfield 3-0 both on the road and at home last season. There, that’s all the pain I’m offering.

Speaking of injury concerns — fantasy-worth injury concerns, that is — the traveling Reds have no shortage. Midfielder Naby Keita has been ruled out (expected out for two weeks), while forward Mo Salah, midfielders Sadio Mane and James Milner, and defender Virgil van Dijk are all doubts facing game-time decisions. Dejan Loven’s return in Week 8 and Jurgen Klopp’s decision to replace Trent Alexander-Arnold with Joe Gomez moving over to wing back adds further uncertainty. Given VVD’s issue, it would not be a shock to see a back four of Robertson, Lovren, Gomez and TAA, but that is only one of several possibilities. Meanwhile, forward Daniel Sturridge and midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri would love to get starts, but those would only come if Klopp decides not to risk Salah and/or Mane, respectively. If Milner cannot start, then Fabinho and Adam Lallana also offer intriguing options.

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Sunday

Everton v Crystal Palace

Midfielder Andre Gomes and defender Yerry Mina are set to make their long-awaited Toffees debuts after recovering from injury, but those will likely come in substitute fashion. Idrissa Gueye is doubtful following injury with Senegal, but he’s a defensive midfielder, so from a fantasy perspective, not very important!

At his presser, Roy Hodgson left much in the air concerning the availability of strikers Wilfried Zaha and Alexander Sorloth, midfielder Max Meyer, and defender Papa Souare. He mentioned the return to training of forward Connor Wickham, who could offer a desperate option in offense should Zaha, Sorloth and Meyer all prove unable to feature. However, Jordan Ayew would likely be a single focal point up front in that event.

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Monday

Arsenal v Leicester

After suffering an injury with Greece over the break, central defender Sokratis is a doubt for Monday’s affair, with Rob Holding in line to continue in his stead. Keeper Petr Cech seems to have come back into contention earlier than expected, so he could displace Bernd Leno. Meanwhile, forward Danny Welbeck and midfielders Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mesut Ozil have passed fit following injury, leaving Unai Emery a wealth of options. Of that trio, Ozil will be most likely to earn a start. Of the starters against Fulham, Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan face probable returns to the bench.

Claude Puel’s job performance has apparently come under scrutiny recently, and the ban of central defender Wes Morgan for the trip to London is not going to help, but Jonny Evans is not a shabby replacement. Otherwise, Demarai Gray is the only noteworthy absence after having missed the past two games as well.

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What players’ statuses are you biting your nails over? Be sure to share any late-breaking news in the comments!

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