Wild and wacky Week 26 is over after seemingly taking about a month, and its wake has left more than its share of problems and concerns. Let’s delve into the uncertainty ahead of Week 27!
Several teams bring various levels of worry regarding rest/rotation:
- CHELSEA (four games in 11 days) faces Tottenham for GW27 on Saturday, followed by Tuesday’s visit of Baynern Munich in UEFA Champions League action, then travels to Bournemouth the next Saturday for GW28, with an FA Cup tie against Liverpool the next Tuesday.
- MANCHESTER CITY (four games in 11 days) played the GW26 fixture against West Ham on Wednesday, is now traveling to Leicester for GW27 on Saturday, followed by a trip to Real Madrid the following Wednesday for EUFA Champions League, and then faces Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup final that Sunday. Riyad Mahrez and Fernandinho were completely rested in the 2-0 win over West Ham and could earn recalls, but given the randomness of Pep Roulette your guess is as good as mine for whom they would replace. With Manchester City’s recently announced two-year ban from Champions League, the Sky Blues may choose to prioritize outside competitions ahead of the Premier League for the rest of the season. Of course, the team is also appealing the ban, so they may hold off on taking that step.
- ARSENAL (four games in 12 days) defeated Newcastle on Sunday in GW26, then traveled to Olympiakos for Champions League on Thursday, which is followed by Sunday’s GW27 trip to Everton and then the return leg at home against Olympiakos next Thursday. Mikel Arteta made a few changes from the Newcastle triumph to the win in Greece, as Bernd Leno, David Luiz, Shkrodan Mustafi, Bukayo Sako, Granit Xhaka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were the players who started both games; meanwhile, Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos came on as second half subs midweek after starting last weekend.
- TOTTENHAM (three games in seven days) played GW26 at Aston Villa on Sunday, then welcomed RB Leipzig to London in Champions League on Wednesday, and will travel to Chelsea on Saturday for GW27. However, given Spurs’ injury situation, Jose Mourinho may not enjoy the luxury of being able to rest his stars even if he wants to. For the 1-0 Champions League home loss against RB Leipzig, Jose started Lucas Moura at forward, joined by Deli Alli, Steven Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes in attack, along with Giovani Lo Celso in a more reserved role. If he chooses to change tack, Mou could give a start to Erik Lamela, who was fit enough following his return from injury to come on as a second half sub against Leipzig. Alternately, Tanguy Ndombele (also a 2nd half sub v. Leipzig) could instead fill in, while Eric Dier is another option to return to the XI alongside Harry Winks (as seen against Villa) in defensive midfield whether Mou is feeling attack-minded or more pragmatic.
- MANCHESTER UNITED (three games in seven days) played the GW26 fixture at Chelsea on Monday, followed by Thursday’s Europa League draw at Club Brugge, with the GW27 match versus Watford coming next on Sunday. While Anthony Martial, Nemanja Matic and Luke Shaw started again, OGS made several changes from the XI at Chelsea for the mid-week trip to Brugge, as David De Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly, Brandon Williams, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, and Daniel James got rest. Fernandes and Fred came on as second half subs, whereas Martial came off at 67’ so he should be somewhat fresh for the weekend.
- WOLVERHAMPTON (three games in nine days) had plenty of rest in between its GW26 fixture against Leicester on Friday and the Europa League game against Espanyol on Thursday, but now sees a much quicker turnaround with Sunday’s GW27 fixture against Norwich. Nuno Espirito Santo largely kept the same XI from the draw with Leicester for the 4-0 win over Espanyol, with Rui Patricio, Roman Saiss, Conor Coady, Willy Boly, Jonny, Ruben Neves, Matt Doherty, Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez starting both games. Offensive stars Jimenez, Jota and Adama Traore subbed out in the 2nd half Thursday, helping their cause for the weekend.
- LIVERPOOL (three games in 10 days) won at Norwich in week 26 on Saturday, then lost at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, but gets a huge amount of rest ahead of Monday’s home tilt in GW27 against West Ham.
In contrast, many of the other teams will have enjoyed loads of rest before GW27, notably those who played the first weekend of the elongated GW26 before going on vacation.
- Manchester City wing defender Oleksandr Zinchenko returns from his one-game suspension for a non-violent red card (two yellows). But since he has only been a spot starter this season, an immediate return to the XI will not be automatic.
- The only currently suspended player is Leicester City midfielder Hamza Choudhury, who serves a one-game suspension for a non-violent red card received against Wolves.
[SOURCE: The FA]
NOTABLE INJURY/FITNESS NEWS
- ARSENAL: Central defender Sokratis has missed the past four games with injury, and looks to be a game-time decision for the clash with Everton. Midfielder Lucas Torreira may also be a game-time decision from illness.
- BURNLEY: Forward Chris Wood was removed in the first half at Southampton with injury, and it is basically a coin toss as to whether he will be available this weekend. Fellow striker Ashley Barnes continues to miss out as he recovers from hernia surgery.
- CHELSEA: Forward Tammy Abraham missed the loss to Manchester United and looks like a game-time decision at the weekend; after Michy Batshuayi’s nightmare against the Red Devils, Frank Lampard would certainly love to have Abraham available. Midfielder N’Golo Kante was removed from that defeat early with injury and is expected to miss around the next three games. Meanwhile, attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic remains sidelined with injury.
- CRYSTAL PALACE: Defender James Tomkins was removed in the second half of the Everton loss and will miss out again this weekend and for an indefinite period beyond. He was replaced by Scott Dann who likely will continue to deputize, as Martin Kelly and Mamadou Sakho remain unavailable with injury.
- EVERTON: Winger Theo Walcott was removed against Crystal Palace due to injury and is 50/50 for the weekend.
- LEICESTER: With Wilfried Ndidi still unavailable due to injury and Hamza Choudhury suspended, Brendan Rodgers may turn to Dennis Praet, Marc Albrighton or Demarai Gray depending on how he wishes to reshuffle his XI.
- LIVERPOOL: After returning to fitness following injury recovery, Sadio Mane scored as a sub at Norwich and then made the XI for the mid-week trip to Madrid. While he was removed at halftime, Mane is not listed in the current injury report at FPL, so it appears that the substitution may have been tactical/precautionary. Midfielder Jordan Henderson has been ruled out with injury, so it would not be a surprise to see Naby Keita and/or Fabinho earn starts in the engine room, although James Milner offers another option after recently passing fit. Alternately, Milner could give a rest to wing defender Andrew Robertson or Trent Alexander-Arnold.
- MANCHESTER CITY: Aymeric Laporte started in central defense against West Ham but was removed after 65 minutes, perhaps as a cautionary measure given his difficulties gaining fitness after his return from long-term injury. Winger Raheem Sterling missed the Hammers’ affair through injury and is a toss-up for the weekend, while midfielder David Silva, who recently returned from injury but suffered another knock, seems to have a good shot of being available. Following long-term injury, Leroy Sane continues to build up match fitness as he gets closer to possibly featuring.
- MANCHESTER UNITED: Midfielder Scott McTominay has missed the past seven games with injury but seems to have a good chance of being available this weekend, possibly displacing Nemanja Matic. Forward Marcus Rashford continues to miss out, and the news recently got worse in that he may be absent the rest of the season; with Mason Greenwood a doubt with illness, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will likely continue to feature Anthony Martial up front, although recently-arrived loan Odion Ighalho could have an outside chance at filling that role.
- NORWICH CITY: Central defender Jordan Zimmerman is more unlikely than likely to feature due to recent injury; the Canaries’ only other healthy defender, Ben Godfrey, could see action for the first time since Week 23.
- SOUTHAMPTON: On loan wing defender Kyle Walker-Peters saw his first game time since week 3 with Tottenham, but he was removed in the second half against Burnley with injury and will miss out this weekend; Ralph Hasenhuttl could turn to defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu as he did the prior week, or alternately go with defender Jan Bednarek, Kevin Danso or Jan Valery.
- TOTTENHAM: Son Heung-Min has been an outstanding player when he’s been on the pitch this season. Of course, that latter part is a pretty big caveat, as the star winger has already missed five games this season thanks to suspension from three red cards (one rescinded) since the penultimate affair last campaign, and now looks set to miss a huge chunk of time — perhaps the rest of 2019-20 — due to a serious arm injury suffered in Sunday’s victory at Aston Villa. Further depleting the Spurs’ attack, Son joins forward Harry Kane and box-to-box midfielder Moussa Sissoko on the sidelines (in addition to the departure of Christian Eriksen); Kane and Sissoko are expected to be unavailable until April.
- WATFORD: Attacking midfielder Ismaila Sarr has missed the last three games with injury, but has a good chance of featuring this weekend. Defender Daryl Janmaat has been out long-term, and may also be available, but may have to settle for a sub appearance.
[SOURCE: official Premier League fantasy site]
What changes to your fantasy teams are you pondering before the deadline? Please be sure to share any late-breaking news in the comments.