With international breaks, Champions League, Europa League and other competitions, it’s almost possible to forget the Premier League... except for us, the superfans and fantasy league aficionados! As you agonize over last-minute decisions ahead of FRIDAY’S fantasy deadlines, let’s have a rundown of the big news and speculation.
[REMINDER: This game week starts Friday, so be sure to set your teams in time! Southampton & Leicester line-ups should be available for Fantrax.]
MANCHESTER CITY (Tuesday)
After the 2-0 weekend victory at Crystal Palace, Pep Guardiola made several changes to the Citizens’ XI for Tuesday’s 5-1 triumph over Atalanta. Following a rare rest, Sergio Aguero replaced Gabriel Jesus at forward, while Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden took over for Bernardo Silva and David Silva in midfield. Meanwhile, Kyle Walker replaced Joao Cancelo at right wing back.
Rodri and Fernandinho again paired out of position in central defense, but Rodri left injured in the first half, replaced by John Stones who is now recovered following a fairly long injury absence. Nicolas Otamendi, recovering from a shorter-term injury, also made a sub appearance late in the second half.
Ederson, Fernandinho, Walker, Gundogan, Mahrez, Sterling, and Aguero played the entire game, while Foden was dismissed for a pair of yellow cards. Cancelo replaced Mendy, and Otamendi replaced De Bruyne in the second half. Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Gabriel Jesus did not play.
Manchester City is home to Aston Villa on Saturday, affording a good amount of rest time. However, Pep Roulette will be a concern. While that’s usually limited to the offense, there will be a bit of uncertainty surrounding the defense as well. Rodri is likely to miss out according to the Sports Bank, so I expect Otamendi and Stones to partner in central defense this weekend. However, I would not be shocked if Stones and Fernandinho, or Otamendi and Fernandinho, were preferred instead. With Oleksandar Zinchenko also an injury doubt, Mendy’s spot at left back should be fairly secure. Pep has a choice at right back between Walker and Cancelo, and your guess is as good as mine.
Aguero is a near-lock to start up front. Otherwise, I think that Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Fernandinho have the best chances to join him on offense. However, any among Mahrez, Gundogan, and perhaps even Foden would not be a major surprise. Foden’s situation — being suspended in Champions League but not domestically — suggests that he may now get more EPL playing time than he has recently. Obviously, if Fernandinho remained in central defense, that would offer an extra spot in midfield that would probably go to Gundogan.
Following the Spurs’ 1-1 home draw with Watford, Mauricio Pochettino made four changes to the XI for the 5-0 home victory over Red Star Belgrade. Son Heung-Min replaced Lucas Moura in attack, while Erik Lamela and Tanguy Ndombele took over for Harry Winks in midfield as part of a switch from five defenders to four. Toby Alderweireld got a rest and Ben Davies replaced Danny Rose at left wing back.
Paulo Gazzaniga, Davies, Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier, Ndombele, Sissoko, Lamela and Harry Kane played the entire game. Vertonghen, Alli and Son were removed in the second half as Juan Foyth, Eric Dier and Giovani Lo Celso made appearances. That’s big news for Foyth and Lo Celso who had been out injured for a while. Christian Eriksen failed to play a single minute for the second game in a row.
Tottenham travels to Liverpool on Sunday, allowing ample rest time. Pochettino has been heavily criticized for his tactics this season, and having five defenders both start and play the entire game against a defensive Hornets’ side did nothing to ameliorate the jabs. As Spurs continue to struggle to find form and identity, it will be interesting to see what formation and players Poch uses at Anfield.
Kane will be automatic in attack, and I expect to see Son and Alli alongside him, while Rose should return at left back. Aurier is the favorite to be on the opposite flank, but Foyth is an outside possibility. Lo Celso’s situation is probably the same as Foyth; they might have earned starts against lesser competition, but they seem likely to remain on the bench at Liverpool.
Much will be in the air, with Eriksen being a major wildcard. In prior seasons, the Danish international’s inclusion for such an important match would never be in doubt, and while things have drastically and suddenly changed this campaign, it is not outside the realm of possibility that he will be summoned for his world class talents and big game experience. Whether Poch plays four or five defenders, and who among Lamela, Ndombele, Winks and Eriksen will feature in midfield, will be the big question marks.
For the trip to Ajax, Frank Lampard kept almost the same XI as he had in the weekend’s win over Newcastle, the only change being Mateo Kovacic replacing an injured Ross Barkley. Kepa Arrizabalaga, Marcos Alonso, Fikayo Tomori, Kurt Zouma, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, and Mason Mount played the entire game, while Callum Hudson-Odoi, Willian and Tammy Abraham were replaced by Reece James, Christian Pulisic and Michy Batshuayi in the second half.
It was deja vu all over again, with sub Pulisic assisting fellow sub Batshuayi to notch the winner in a 1-0 victory at Ajax, just as they had combined for a late goal in the 4-1 Week 7 win over Southampton. That pair will be pushing for starts, especially since minimal rest time has been afforded for Chelsea’s trip to Burnley on Saturday. Emerson Palmieri will be an option to come in for Alonso, but the Spaniard’s winner at Newcastle along with the midweek clean sheet will help his case to keep the spot. N’golo Kante has not played since the win at Southampton, remaining doubtful for the trip to Turf Moor according to The Sport Review.
Mo Salah was able to overcome his injury concern that kept him out last weekend, sending Divock Origi back to the bench for the 4-1 victory at Genk. However, Trent Alexander-Arnold missed out through illness, replaced by an out-of-position James Milner. The trusty veteran returned to the XI as Jurgen Klopp’s Champions League security blanket. Dejan Lovren took over for the injured Joel Matip in central defense, while Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earned starts in midfield in place of Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Alisson, Milner, Virgil van Dijk, Lovren, Fabinho, Keita, Salah and Sadio Mane played the entire game, while Andrew Robertson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Roberto Firmino started and were replaced in the second half by Joe Gomez, Wijnaldum and Origi. Robertson came off with a knock, so he is a bit of a doubt for the weekend.
Liverpool welcomes Tottenham on Sunday, allowing a fair amount of rest time. An XI similar to the 1-1 draw at Manchester United is expected, with Salah sure to start over Origi as he did on Wednesday, but Klopp could be tempted to make a change or two in midfield. After all, Adam Lallana scored the vital equalizer at Old Trafford off the bench, and Oxlade-Chamberlain netted a brace in Champions League action.
The bigger question marks remain in defense, though. Klopp would love to see Matip return to partner VvD in the back, though Lovren remains a capable fill-in choice. Milner could fill in again for either Robertson or TAA if needed, but Klopp may not trust the old-timer’s legs against the speed of Spurs’ wingers, particularly Son Heung-Min, making Joe Gomez perhaps a likelier candidate. However, neither Milner nor Gomez may be needed, as The Kop Times reports that Robertson is likely to pass fit, while the Express says the same about TAA.
EUROPA LEAGUE (Thursday)
After Sunday’s draw with Liverpool, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made seven changes to the starting XI for the 1-0 win at Partizan Belgrade. Marcos Rojo, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Scott McTominay were the only holdovers. David De Gea, Eric Lindelof, Ashley Young, Fred, Andreas Pereira, Daniel James, and Marcus Rashford were replaced by Sergio Romero, Phil Jones, Brandon Williams, James Garner, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, and Anthony Martial. For Martial it was his first start since recovering from injury, and he scored the game’s only goal via the penalty spot.
Romero, Rojo, Maguire, Jones, Williams, McTominay, Mata and Lingard played the entire game. Wan-Bissaka, Garner and Martial subbed off in the second half, replaced by Pereira, James and Rashford. De Gea, Young, Lindelof and Fred did not play at all.
Paul Pogba (injured) again did not make the team, and according to Express will remain unavailable for the weekend. The Red Devils travel to Norwich on Sunday, affording little in the way of rest time. A line-up similar to last weekend’s is expected. It will be interesting to see if OGS turns to Martial again to start or is more cautious by using him from the bench.
For the 2-1 win at Slovan Bratislava, Nuno Espirito Santo made five changes from Saturday’s 1-1 tie with Southampton. Rui Patricio, Willy Boly, Conor Coady, Joao Moutinho, Patrick Cutrone and Raul Jimenez were the six who started both games. Ryan Bennett, Ruben Neves, Leander Dendoncker, Jonny and Adama Traore were replaced by Max Kilman, Ruben Vinagre, Matt Doherty, Romain Saiss, and Morgan Gibbs-White.
After being removed early from the Saints’ game, Bennett missed due to injury and is a doubt for this weekend. Patricio, Boly, Coady, Kliman, Moutinho, Doherty, Vinagre and Jimenez played the full game, while Saiss, Gibbs-White and Cutrone subbed out in the second half, replaced by Diogo Jota, Dendoncker and Traore. Jota received a red card via two yellows.
Wolves travel to Newcastle on Sunday, allowing little in the way of rest time. If you’re expecting me to say that Santo will likely feature a XI similar to that seen last weekend, you will not be left wanting.
After Monday’s 1-0 loss at Sheffield United, Unai Emery changed the entire Arsenal starting XI for the 3-2 home win over Guimaraes. Alexandre Lacazette made his first start following injury, and other notables in the XI were Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding, Shkrodan Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Lucas Torreira, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Lacazette and Maitland-Niles were among those subbed out in the second half, while Dani Ceballos, Matteo Guendouzi, and Nicolas Pepe came on as subs. After flubbing a glorious first half scoring opportunity on the weekend against the Blades, Pepe notched a late brace to secure the victory over Guimaraes.
The Gunners face Crystal Palace on Sunday, and will not have much benefit of rest. In fact, the game will mark the third within a week’s time. But considering complete turnover of the line-up, the team will not be especially tired, so Emery will not be shy about picking his preferred XI. It will be interesting to see if that includes Lacazette.
Newcastle midfielder Isaac Hayden serves the final game of his three-game ban for a straight red card.
Brighton midfielder Aaron Mooy (red card via two yellows) and Watford defender Jose Holebas (yellow card accumulation) serve their one game suspensions..
[Source: The FA]
- Crystal Palace’s Martin Kelly has a chance to be available following missing out from injury last weekend, but even so is not a sure starter in the Eagle’s packed central defense.
- Everton’s Yerry Mina is a doubt.
- Newcastle’s Fabian Schar seems unlikely to pass fit.
- West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell may miss a second straight game.
- Burnley’s Johann Berg Gudmnundsson is set to miss a second straight game.
- Southampton’s Moussa Djenepo will miss out for the fifth straight game.
- Watford’s Etienne Capoue and Roberto Pereyra are both doubtful and may be set for the dreaded game time decision.
- Burnley’s strike duo of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood are both up in the air.
- Watford’s Troy Deeney is set to miss his eighth straight contest, but is nearing a return. Fellow Hornets’ forward Danny Welbeck left last weekend’s game early and will be out again for this one.
[Source: the official fantasy Premier League site.]
What moves are you pondering ahead of the FRIDAY deadline? Please be sure to share any late-breaking news in the comments!