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EPL Week 18 Pre-Deadline Chat

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It’s an early Friday start, so let’s try to get a handle on injury/suspension/rotation news and expected starting line-ups.

Kevin De Bruyne - Manchester City - Carabao Cup: Quarter Final
Kevin De Bruyne scored Man City’s first goal in the midweek Carabao Cup match. Will he start again?
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

One of the worst things for fantasy managers is the dreaded Friday game. One stinking Friday game advances the deadline, then the remaining nine over the weekend sit in a news shadow. In an ideal three-day weekend, we would much rather have the bulk of the games on Saturday (and Sunday), and only one on Monday, in order to have as much actionable news as possible when considering our fantasy choices. But as we know, life is not always fair. The good thing is that we’re all in the same boat, it’s an even playing field for all fantasy managers.

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Wolverhampton v. Liverpool (Friday)

Finally rounding into form recently, Diogo Jota was injured last weekend and has been ruled out of this weekend’s clash, likely opening a spot for Ivan Cavaleiro. Nuno Espirito Santo will not be expected to change anything otherwise, given Wolves’ excellent results lately, although he may be tempted to go in a more defensive direction with the high-flying Reds coming to the Molineux.

For Fantrax managers, this is your silver lining — a look at Klopp’s rotation (or lack thereof) just before the deadline. All doubts in your roster can be erased by bargain-bin inclusions found in the ‘Pool side. You don’t have that luxury in Official FPL, where you’ll harbor some concerns, particularly over the health of Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner; TAA is very doubtful, while Milner has a better chance of passing fit. Fabinho put in an outstanding performance in midfield against Manchester United and would love to be rewarded with another start.

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Arsenal v. Burnley (Saturday early game)

In Arsenal’s Wednesday Carabao Cup defeat to Tottenham, Nacho Monreal, Granit Xhaka, Sokratis, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles represented the back four, while Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Torreira played the full 90 in midfield, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did at striker. Matteo Guendouzi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi started but were withdrawn before the finish. Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny came in from the bench. Injured defenders Sead Kolasinac, Skhrodan Mustafi and Hector Bellerin did not make the team at all, and all may face the dreaded game-time decision. Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil has emerged as the subject of transfer (or loan) chatter for not featuring in Unai Emery’s plans, so those of you hoping for Ozil to earn a start may have to keep waiting.

The Clarets announced surgery for Aaron Lennon, who will be sidelined for a spell. That leaves a bit of a problem in midfield, as Robbie Brady and Johann Berg Gudmundsson are doubtful with injury.

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Bournemouth v. Brighton

In Wednesday’s Carabao cup defeat at the hands of Chelsea, Callum Wilson returned from injury to play the full 90. Nathaniel Ake, Steve Cook, Diego Rico, Charlie Daniels, Jordon Ibe, Junior Stanislas, and David Brooks were among the other starters, as Ryan Fraser, Joshua King and Jermain Defoe subbed in from the bench. Defender Simon Francis is doubtful, while otherwise there is no news coming from Bournemouth.

Shane Duffy serves the last of his three game suspension, while Jose Izquierdo and Ali Jahanbaksh remain out injured, so Brighton will be expected to go with the same line-up as last weekend, or at least something very similar.

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Chelsea v. Leicester

In Tuesday’s Carabao Cup loss to Manchester City, Claude Puel started Harry Maguire, Christian Fuchs, Danny Simpson, Wilfred Ndidi, Demarai Gray, Rachid Ghezzal, and Kelechi Iheanacho, while Marc Albrighton, James Maddison and Ricardo Pereira saw limited minutes from the bench, and Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan and Kaspar Schmeichel rested entirely. With the Foxes traveling to Stamford Bridge, I don’t expect too many fantasy managers to have a big interest in Leicester players, but the usual favorites Jamie Vardy and James Maddison will both be expected to start.

In Wednesday’s victory over Bournemouth, Maurizio Sarri started Kepa Arrizabalaga, Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ross Barkley, Mateo Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Willian, and Olivier Giroud, while David Luiz, Pedro and goal-scoring hero Eden Hazard earned limited minutes from the bench. Willian was removed after only 55 minutes. Attempting to read the tea leaves, I expect a line-up unchanged from the past two Premiership games, allowing both Pedro and Willian to start on the wings with Hazard again playing in a false 9 role, and putting Giroud back on the bench (Alvaro Morata is out injured). There should not be much worry about Rudiger not featuring again, given that he is a central defender.

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Huddersfield v. Southampton

Star Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy remains out with a somewhat long-term injury, but Steve Mounie’s three-game suspension is over so he is available for selection up front. Rajiv Van La Parra is doubtful.

For the visiting Saints, Ryan Bertrand remains out, which should leave Matt Targett in the XI for this game and likely the next as well. Meanwhile, Nathan Redmond is doubtful, while Cedric Soares and Mario Lemina are expected to pass fit. But with Southampton coming off a rousing home win over Arsenal, why make any changes?

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Manchester City v. Crystal Palace

In Tuesday’s Carabao Cup victory over Leicester, the big news was that Pep Guardiola started both Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, both of whom had been on the mend. And KDB scored! Other notables in the XI were Riyad Mahrez, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, and Kyle Walker. Meanwhile, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, and Ilkay Gundogan saw limited minutes from the bench, while Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Fernandhinho, and Fabian Delph were rested entirely. With so much time for rest between Tuesday and Saturday, Pep will be expected to start Aguero again, and perhaps KDB as well, along with Sterling, at home against Palace. The injured David Silva and Danilo were again not in the team, and are not expected to be available yet this weekend. Benjamin Mendy remains out longer term.

Wayne Hennessey and Cheikhou Kouyate are doubtful for the visiting Eagles, but were you planning on having them in your fantasy teams at the Etihad even if they were 100% assured of starting?

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Newcastle v. Fulham

Karl Darlow and Federico Fernandez are expected to be available for the Magpies, but whether it is in the XI or on the bench is unknown. Kenedy is a doubt, while Jonjo Shelvey remains out.

Andre Zambo Anguissa and Ryan Sessegnon are out injured for Fulham. It is unclear whether Claudio Ranieri will have to try some changes in a desperate attempt to shake things up for the wayward Cottagers, or if he will go with continuity in the hopes that his vision will take hold.

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West Ham v. Watford

West Ham shared good news regarding the injury recovery of Marko Arnautovic, but while it is ahead of plans, he will still likely be unavailable until after Christmas. Lucas Perez looks to face a game-time decision, while Andy Carroll continues to push for a start; either would of course shift Michail Antonio back to a less offensive role.

Watford’s Etienne Capoue returns from suspension, but Javi Gracia may wish to leave the team unchanged after the win against Cardiff and draw at Everton, as Domingos Quina and Gerard Deulofeu have performed well in recent starts.

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Cardiff v. Manchester United (Saturday late game)

I think it’s safe to say that none of the names on Cardiff’s injury list should impact any fantasy managers, so I’ll take a pass.

As for Manchester United, welcome back Mr. Skolskjaer! Can you give your delinquent students a performance bump? There is much that is up in the air regarding the caretaker manager’s plans, but one thing that has to be a near certainty is Paul Pogba being given the chance to make an impact after being frozen out by Jose Mourinho, which could put Juan Mata to the bench. Speaking of pricey but underutilized midfielders, Fred also offers an option. Romelu Lukaku will miss the next two games due to compassionate leave, so that should assure Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial as the forward pair. Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay will likely face a game time decision, while Chris Smalling seems to be even more doubtful.

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Everton v. Tottenham (Sunday game)

Idrissa Gueye looms as the only injury doubt for Everton.

In Spurs’ Wednesday triumph at the Emirates, Mauricio Pochettino started an unusual back four: Toby Alderweireld alongside usual wing defenders Ben Davies, Danny Rose, and Kieran Trippier. Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min (scorer of the first goal), Dele Alli (who scored the second goal), and Lucas Moura formed the quartet of attackers. Son and Lucas were removed in the 2nd half, replaced by Erik Lamela and Harry Kane. Kane of course will be expected to return to the XI on Sunday. Otherwise it is difficult to predict the offensive starters with much certainty. With Eriksen and Alli having played the full 90, and with both having earlier injuries this season, they may be most at risk of resting a bit on the bench at the weekend.

With Jan Vertonghen likely out another couple/few weeks, Juan Foyth could return to pair with Alderweireld in central defense, with Davinson Sanchez another option should he pass fit. That would leave Poch a choice between Davies and Rose opposite Trippier on the wings, unless of course he chooses to play the trio together again. Further adding to the uncertainty, Serge Aurier could possibly pass fit; but even so, a place on the bench would seem more likely than a start. Defensive midfielder Eric Dier is out until January, and it is possible that youngster Oliver Skipp may earn a second straight start, but being home to Burnley and away to Everton are not exactly the same thing, so that would probably be a surprise.

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Which line-ups are you most concerned about? Please be sure to share any late-breaking news in the comments!

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