Let’s start with news surrounding the pair of teams that fantasy managers are most interested in for this mini-double game week.
THE DOUBLE GAMERS
- Everton (v. Wolves on Saturday, v. Manchester City on Wednesday) enjoys two home games, with plenty of rest time in between, as well as no other contests to take away their focus. One concern with the schedule could be the somewhat short rest time between Game Week 25 and 26, as the fixture at Watford comes the following Saturday. It will be difficult to imagine Marco Silva going with anything but his strongest XI for both parts of Everton’s double game week in front of the Goodison Park faithful, although he could be tempted to adopt a more defensive line-up than usual against the dangerous Sky Blues’ offense. In the reverse fixture — a 3-1 loss at the Etihad — Silva utilized a 5-4-1 featuring three central defenders (Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, and Kurt Zouma), and Dominic Calvert-Lewin earned a rare chance to lead the line (and he scored) while Richarlison moved to the wing. (Line-up information came via www.transfermarkt.com). Regarding injury news (via evertonfc.com), Yerry Mina and Phil Jagielka are unavailable against Wolves, while Leighton Baines and Idrissa Gueye will face a game-time decision.
- Manchester City (v. Arsenal on Sunday, at Everton on Wednesday) has one home game out of the two, which isn’t bad, but suffers a somewhat abbreviated amount of rest in between, while also facing brutal surrounding fixture congestion due to outside competitions (FA Cup, Champions League, and Carabao Cup) on top of the usual EPL affairs. Fantasy managers will point out that the Sky Blues are chasing Liverpool in the Premiership title race, hoping that Pep Guardiola will not rotate as much as he would were the Citizens instead lapping the field like last season. It is unlikely that everyone among Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, David Silva, and Kevin De Bruyne gets two starts, though you may get lucky with a couple/few of them. Jesus notched a brace in the reverse fixture with Everton, which could prioritize the Brazilian to start against the Toffees again after Aguero leads the line against the Gunners. As for injury news (via mancity.com), Vincent Kompany is ruled out of the Arsenal game, while Ederson and Benjamin Mendy are in contention, but reading the tea leaves Mendy would seem unlikely to feature so soon.
- Looking ahead, Everton and Manchester City are not the only teams that blank in Game Week 27; Chelsea and Brighton do likewise. Forward-thinking fantasy managers will want to keep that in mind with respect to transfer strategy both now and in the near future.
But of course, that’s not all! What else is going on?
OTHER BIG NEWS
- Everton’s Lucas Digne misses part or full in two of the next three game weeks (v. Wolves the first half of the team’s DGW-25 due to a one-game suspension, plus the blank in GW-27). Unless you have good cover at the position, you’ll want to consider swapping him out. If Leighton Baines is unable to feature following his early injury exit against Huddersfield, Jonjoe Kenny will likely deputize against Wolves.
- Despite signing a big contract extension in October, Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, the #2 defender in FPL, shockingly lost his starting job to Emerson Palmieri at Bournemouth without any injuries or other incidents reported. (How dare one of the most talented and accomplished wing backs in the world keep hitting the woodwork!!!) Now does the shambolic 4-0 loss mean that the Spaniard gets his spot back? Probably not, since the problems stemmed more from central defense and David Luiz, a generally lethargic team performance, and Maurizio Sarri’s stubbornly bizarre line-up featuring an out of position N’Golo Kante as the 4th offensive option. As with Digne, if your bench is bleak at defender — and if you haven’t already burned through your free transfer(s) — it may be time to swap out Alonso, particularly given Chelsea’s coming blank in GW27.
- Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold have missed the past three and two games, respectively, and it looks like it will be at least another week before they will feature. (via www.liverpoolfc.com and www.thisisanfield.com), leaving Jurgen Klopp in a defensive pickle given the situation with Lovren and TAA along with Nathaniel Clyne being on loan to Bournemouth and Joe Gomez suffering a big setback during recovery. Midfielder James Milner is available following suspension, but his poor performance against Crystal Palace as makeshift right back is certainly little comfort to Reds fans.
- Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, one of the most in-form players in the league with 6 goals and 5 fantasy assists in the past 7 games, hobbled off the pitch following the Red Devils’ comeback draw with Burnley. Fellow Red Devil Anthony Martial missed the Burnley game, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expects both to pass fit (via www.manutd.com).
- After a spell out injured, Tottenham winger Lucas Moura finally returned to the pitch, playing as a sub in the Spurs’ 2-1 comeback win over Watford. He should now be available to start should Mauricio Pochettino, in the continued absence of Dele Alli and Harry Kane, choose to go with a more offensive-minded XI than he did on Wednesday.
- Bournemouth’s David Brooks — goal and assist hero from the shellacking of Chelsea — left with injury late in the game and is reportedly out for about a month (via Sky Sports). Jordon Ibe may be the beneficiary.
- Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha will miss out on a one-game suspension due to the rapid fire pair of yellow cards he earned for a petulant reaction following a tackle from James Ward-Prowse and the subsequent mocking hand clapping toward the referee in the 1-1 draw with Southampton. In the wake of Zaha’s continuation of disrespect shown while leaving the field, the FA is considering further action and possibly extending the suspension further.
- Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson missed the Chelsea win and will miss a few more games following surgery, with Junior Stanislas continuing in his stead. Wilson is behind only Digne in terms of the number of fantasy managers who have dropped him this week.
The January transfer window closed on Thursday with a flurry of moves done in the latter days as usual. The recently arriving players — including Arsenal’s Denis Suarez (loan from Barcelona of La Liga), Burnley’s Peter Crouch (Stoke City of the Championship), Cardiff’s Leandro Bacuna (Reading of Championship), Palace’s Michy Batshuayi (loan from Chelsea), Bakary Sako (West Brom of Championship), Leicester’s Youri Tielemans (loan from Monaco of Ligue 1), and Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United of MLS) and Antonio Barreca (Monaco) — are more likely to feature as subs from the bench than to start immediately, given a dearth of practice time.
THE ASIAN CUP RETURNEES
We all saw what Son Heung-min did returning from Asian Cup action after South Korea was bounced, as he scored Spurs’ first goal in the 2-1 comeback win over Watford. Australia, China, Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam were also eliminated recently, but nobody is freshly available from those teams. Like Son for Spurs, Brighton keeper Mat Ryan has already made his first appearance since the tournament. Brighton Midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh is also available, but last featured in the EPL in early November and has dealt with injury problems so will not be expected to start soon.
The Asian Cup final between Qatar and Japan was held early on Friday. Congratulations Qatar on the 3-1 title-winning triumph! The timing makes it too early for any Premiership players in either team — in this case, Southampton’s Maya Yoshida and Newcastle’s Yoshinori Muto for Japan — to be ready this game week, with both of those EPL squads featuring Saturday.
- Tottenham v. Newcastle (early game)
- Brighton v. Watford
- Burnley v. Southampton
- Chelsea v. Huddersfield
- Crystal Palace v. Fulham
- Everton v. Wolves
- Cardiff v. Bournemouth (late game)
- Leicester v. Manchester United (early game)
- Manchester City v. Arsenal (late game)
- West Ham v. Liverpool
- Everton v. Manchester City
What injury or line-up news has you biting your nails down to the nub? Please share any late-breaking pre-deadline information in the comments, and then join us in the live chat below as you watch your favorite players and teams in action!