It is Thanksgiving weekend here in the US and those of you who read US-based editorial content have been overwhelmed with writers using the this holiday as a crutch for their introductory remarks this week. While I'm not going to entirely avoid the cliche, I'll at least give you one additional thing to be thankful for, I'll keep it brief. As I look back on the past year, I'm thankful and endlessly amazed that I'm heading into year 10 of doing this. Over the last few years the team of people has increased from me and Jeremy to include Nik, Galin, and Steve and it is fantastic that we've kept growing the team and adding people who are passionate about the Premier League and great teammates in delivering this section of Rotoworld to you. I'm sure I speak for each member of the Rotoworld PL team when I say how thankful we are to the people we've gotten to know at Rotoworld and NBC Sports this season - everyone we've encountered has been supportive and done whatever they could to help us be successful as we launched the site's Premier League coverage. Finally, thank you to all of our readers who love the Premier League and playing fantasy games - we love that you keep coming back and we love that you take the time to share your thoughts on what we're doing (even if you tell us you think we're idiots). I've got many things to be thankful for related to soccer and not but those are the ones that I felt were important to share in this forum.
Oh yeah, this is a column about the Premier League so how could I leave out that I'm thankful that and Arsenal are top of the table? And with that, we're back to our regularly scheduled analysis of the Team News for week 13 in the Premier League:
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Aston Villa v Sunderland - There aren't any significant injury or suspension concerns here and even Wes Brown, who was red carded wrongly last weekend, won't be suspended due to it being rescinded. Villa's big comeback on Monday may have you believing that at home, against a bottom dweller, you might want to dive in. I'd consider Benteke for sure but I don't think I'd go too far beyond him despite Weimann's strong play in Villa's comeback.
Cardiff City v Arsenal - Can it be true? Can a match featuring Arsenal boast two sides that are fairly fit? It is apparently so. Lukas Podolski is back in training but not ready to play quite yet but otherwise, the only absentees for this one will be long termers Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Abou Diaby. The interesting decisions for fantasy managers here will all be related to squad rotation and how comfortable you feel that a given Arsenal player will start - especially from among the midfield group.
Everton v Stoke - There was a time when the six week absence of Leighton Baines would spark rejoicing among fantasy managers as they got excited about the prospect of an inexpensive replacement playing outside back. The way the game is working this year, the concern really goes the other way. That is, will Everton's attackers be nearly as effective without standout Baines attacking down the left and creating chances for the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas? I don't want to overreact but it is definitely something worth thinking about when you're making your choices. The upside for Everton is that Stoke will be missing Robert Huth at the back and Marko Arnautovic in the wide areas.
Newcastle v West Brom - Newcastle are on fire while West Brom had what appeared to be a sure victory crumble in their hands on Monday. With Newcastle almost entirely healthy and Steve Clarke indicating that West Brom have a number of doubts (although he oddly didn't name any of them which is particularly annoying to gamblers and fantasy managers for sure) you have to think that loading up on Newcastle players isn't such a bad idea here. The news that Mathieu Debuchy is back from suspension is even better.
West Ham v Fulham - West Ham has been struggling mightily to score goals while Fulham have been struggling mightily to keep them out (and overall really). There will likely be some fantasy goodness in here somewhere but if you think you know were it is coming from you're a better person than I am (and you can be thankful that I set you up to make a joke off of that last sentence in the comments section if you're so inclined). Really though, stay away from this mess of a match.
Norwich v Crystal Palace - While both sides really need the points, Norwich will be particularly nervous as this is a rare match they may be favored in. Their nerves will stem from the absences of Robert Snodgrass, Anthony Pilkington and Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Leroy Fur has been popping up with some goals and might be worth a shout but otherwise, both sides of this encounter look grim.
Check out The Week 13 Free Kick | First XI: Lucky 13 Picks | AM's Player Picks Week 13
Man City v Swansea - Manchester City are at home and despite the fact that they are missing some significant players - Kompany, Nastasic, and Silva for sure - and probably aren't sure who is starting in net, there's no reason to think that this won't be another City route. Making things more difficult for Swansea will be the absence of Wilfried Bony and Angel Rangel. Could it be another 4+ goals from City at home? Hard to bet against it at this point.
Tottenham v Man Utd - Emmanuel Adebayor was back for a brief minute and he's gone again with a groin injury but that's probably the only meaningful news from the Spurs side. The real questions in this match are related to United who may be without Nemanja Vidic and Robin van Persie again for a difficult trip to White Hart Lane. The team news was hardly definitive in either case which makes me think that neither should be in anyone's fantasy line-up unless there's a very strong bench player backing them up.
Chelsea v Southampton - Samuel Eto'o is definitely out for this match and likely the next for Chelsea. The other meaningful question raised is the readiness of David Luiz to return to the line-up. Luiz isn't a great fantasy play in general and with the competition difficult, this isn't the time to buy. Speaking of that difficult opposition for Jose Mourinho's men, Southampton is not missing anyone likely to provide a significant fantasy presence so consider them full strength. Will they be able to bounce back from Artur Boruc's boneheaded play at the Emirates or will Chelsea continue their dominance at home under the Special/Calm One?
Hull City v Liverpool - Daniel Sturridge is healthy and should return to the starting line-up. That's not good news for Hull as they enter the match without starting CB Paul McShane. Hull were always going to struggle with Liverpool's high octane attack and this just makes things worse. I'd be loading up on Liverpool attackers if I were you. The question is really how you balance the squad between Liverpool and City attackers in my mind.