With the buzz surrounding the festive period still ringing, fantasy managers return to a more familiar pace of play, given the standard interval between game-weeks sixteen and seventeen. The focus shifts to European action in the midweek, forcing the Premier League to resemble something close to normalcy among December’s flurry of activity. While European action further congests the calendar of England’s elite, the remaining Premier League sides are granted a reprieve from the hectic holiday schedule. Similarly, fantasy managers are offered a breather after a slate of fixtures that lure them into the unpredictability of injury uncertainty, rash transfers, and rotation speculation. But, for two brief deadlines, we return to the regularly scheduled rhythms of the premier league.
WE INTERRUPT THIS BROADCAST TO BRING YOU LATE BREAKING GAME-WEEK SIXTEEN NEWS:
Vitality stadium is sure to be rocking as this season’s mid-table delight, Bournemouth, welcome title contenders Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp took the largest gamble of the title race thus far, in game-week fifteen, with a nearly full-change lineup. The reds were able to overcome the Burnley test, albeit in a tighter manner than originally anticipated. Joe Gomez did suffer an injury in that game, ruling him out this weekend. Fellow center back, Dejan Lovren was also ruled out by Klopp, as well. I would speculate that Joel Matip is inline for the start in week 16. There is good news for the defense, however, as Andrew Robertson starts after returning to full training following Wednesday’s game. In midfield, Sadio Mane is out for the second game in a row, and line-mate Georginio Wijnaldum is in. After the stunning lineup from Klopp in the midweek, and the importance of the looming Champions’ League fixture, fantasy managers are not entirely clear of another rotated lineup, but I would expect much less, as far as quantity goes, when you consider the strength of their opponent and their title intentions.
For the Cherries, none of the fan-favorite fantasy assets are under any threat of injury according to Eddie Howe. They did receive bad news regarding Lewis Cook, confirming he will miss the remainder of the season with torn knee ligament. He joins Dan Gosling and Adam Smith on the sidelines for this week’s match.
Arsenal return home, for the first time following their North London Derby victory. The league’s second-highest scoring offense could be getting one of its most prevalent attackers back. Unai Emery indicated that Mesut Ozil has been receiving treatment for a back issue that has kept him out of the last two matches. He will need to pass a fitness test prior to the match. His return would be a boon, as Aaron Ramsey has been flagged with an ankle injury. Likewise, he will need to pass a physio-test to be declared fit to play. In defense, value stand-in Rob Holding was revealed to have torn his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. Full back Nacho Monreal is also on the list of those needing pregame clearance from the training staff. Indications are that the muscle injury to his leg is close to being behind him, so he could return to the squad this weekend.
It is a bit of a mixed-bag for David Wagner’s men for this weekend. His side sees two players, Steve Mounie and Philip Billing, absent through suspension. On the injury front, there is good news regarding a possible return for Chris Lowe, as he has joined in training all week long. Wagner has also reported that Terence Kongolo has returned to full fitness following his early departure from the midweek duel.
Burnley v. Brighton
Sean Dyche was happy to report that there were no injury setbacks following the midweek action. Steven Defour is the only player from the long term injury list to be nearing inclusion to the gameday selections. Otherwise, things for the clarets remain as they were.
Things are murkier for the Seagulls though. The lingering shoulder injury hampering Glen Murray was aggravated versus Crystal Palace, Wednesday. In his stead, the upstart Florin Andone may get the start leading the Brighton attack. The Romanian has scored two goals in his last two appearances, showing his value as a third-striker candidate if he leads the attack. Shane Duffy will miss out following his abbreviated red card cameo in game-week fifteen. Chris Hughton suggested that Leon Balogun will be the defender most suited to replace him. While Duffy exits due to his red card, teammate Dale Stephens will be returning from his. Midfielder, Jose Izquierdo faces a race against time similar to Murray’s. He will need to test the injury pregame, requiring clearance from the training staff.
For Cardiff, there are no noteworthy injuries to the fantasy-relevant players. However, there were some other newsworthy developments during the week. Neil Warnock confirmed that, following a penalty miss from Joe Ralls versus West Ham, Victor Camarasa will be the primary penalty taker going forward, which will delight the 1.7% of managers that own him, as well as those considering the midfielder’s addition to their squad. Secondly, Warnock gave a vote of confidence to Callum Paterson as the man tagged to lead the bluebirds’ line.
Jose Mourinho was minimal help to fantasy managers when it came to sharing information regarding the bevvy of injuries to the United squad, especially in defense. His response to the health of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly revealed nothing actionable. It is notable that he did suggest these players were not at 100% but were approaching a level of fitness that would allow them to play. Unfortunately, he gave no indications as to who those players might be. To help the defense, though, Ashley Young will return from his suspension via yellow card accumulation. The Special One did seem to hint at good news for the many Anthony Martial owners. While nothing he said can be was done so with any certainty, his perspective hinted that the injury was minimal and should allow him to see the field this weekend.
The Tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri, revealed a clean bill of health at his press conference. This announcement will relieve those managers who hung on to Andre Schurrle who unexpectedly missed midweek.
West Ham v. Crystal Palace
To the chagrin of a multitude of fantasy managers, Marko Arnautovic finally fell victim to a lower body injury that has been plaguing him most of the season. It was confirmed by Manuel Pellegrini that Arnautovic would be out at least until the start of 2019. With all the great fixtures ahead, a door has been opened for a handful of fantasy castoffs. Lucas Perez came on and scored two goals in place of Arnie. Chicharito, a recent punt consideration, is now in position to be of relevance for fantasy managers. Also in that conversation is the once again healthy Andy Carroll. There were no indications to help fantasy managers deduce the likely successor to the hammers’ striker role, which is unfortunate due to the upcoming run of games for them. Elsewhere on the pitch, Jack Wilshere will be inactive once again, following a brief return from a prior injury. Pellegrini indicated that defender Aaron Cresswell will miss one more match with his injury, hoping he will return versus Fulham in a week’s time.
After having some injury questions midweek, Maurizio Sarri provided an update confirming a label of full fitness for his squad. Following his potential exclusion from the Wolves match, Sarri adamantly downplayed the back injury that had put the Spaniard’s status in question.
With the approximate date of return nearing for Kevin De Bruyne, Pep Guardiola listed him as out for the weekend fixture. The continuing saga of Sergio Aguero was stripped of its drama as Pep ruled him out for the Saturday match as well. Otherwise, there were no hints towards player selection in the match versus Chelsea. Whether or not the roulette wheel will be given a big spin will be found out upon the lineup reveal Saturday.
The Leicester press conference spanned the entire spectrum from good news to bad. Positive reports of health were given to Harry Maguire, Jonny Evans, and Rachid Ghezzal. All are expected to be in the selected team, come Saturday. The worst news was placed on Jamie Vardy who will not be available for the Spurs clash.
The most impactful news from Mauricio Pochettino was that Kieran Trippier would miss the weekend tilt after he re-aggravated his groin injury against Southampton. Center back fill-in Juan Foyth became the only new injury revelation. While confirming his absence, this seems to assert that the rest of the back line has reached full fitness. Despite this assessment, Pochettino iterated that the lineup would be heavily rotated versus the Foxes. The Champions’ League tilt versus Barcelona looms large if the North Londoners want to advance to the knockout stages.
After earning a yellow card against Everton, Fabian Schar will serve his accumulation suspension against Wolves. On the injury front, Kenedy was given an optimistic outlook regarding his foot injury. Rafa Benitez suggested that participation at Friday’s practice would be enough to deem him fit for the lone Sunday clash.
Nuno Espirito Santo will again look to submit a lineup with the fewest number of changes possible. Jonny is the only injury currently plaguing the Wolves side. After all the preseason hype, Diogo Jota finally made a fantasy impact assuming Reuen Neves’ role during his suspension. With the return of Neves, we expect a return to prior starting lineups.
Everton v. Watford
The lights of Goodison Park will shine for all the world to see on Monday night. Marco Silva confirmed that there were no injuries sustained during the Newcastle fixture. The extra day of rest suggests that a full-strength squad could be deployed.
Aside from his long term absentees, Javi Gracia will have a full squad available for deployment Monday. Daryl Janmaat’s injury continues at least one more week to the fortune of Kiko Femenia owners. Otherwise, the health news is good for fantasy managers, and Hornets fans, alike.
The last pressing deadline of early December comes in week sixteen. Following the lineup lock, managers can take a much needed deep breath to assess the carnage of the compact fixture schedule. Using this week-long break to thoroughly assess the status of your team could prove vital during the New Year’s run-in of festive fixtures.
HOW TO WATCH EPL GAMES THIS WEEKEND (in U.S.)
Dates: December 8-10
Available Broadcast TV:
NBC: Chelsea v. Manchester City
Telemundo: Manchester United v. Fulham
Available Cable TV:
CNBC: Arsenal v. Huddersfield
NBCSN: Bournemouth v. Liverpool, Manchester United v. Fulham, Leicester V. Spurs, Newcastle v. Wolves, Everton v. Watford
NBC Sports Gold: Cardiff v. Southampton, West Ham v. Crystal Palace, Burnley v. Brighton
Fubo.TV, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV: Chelsea v. Manchester City, Arsenal v. Huddersfield, Bournemouth v. Liverpool, Manchester United v. Fulham, Leicester v. Spurs, Newcastle v. Wolves, Everton v. Watford
Does the uncertainty of player rotation have your team spinning? Who are you looking to bring in to stabilize your squad? What is your strategy to stop the bleeding and return to your regularly anticipated scoring?