Neal Thurman

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Late Fitness Check - Week 14

Monday, December 02, 2013

We're turning things around very quickly this week and, as is typical with mid-week league matches, league-mandated press conferences aren't exactly timed with fantasy deadlines in mind.  As a result, we will piece together what we know of the injury situation and will do our best with rotations (always a dubious exercise even when team news is made available).   Jeremy is working on a full-on Player Picks column and in the meantime, I'm here with updates on injuries and the like for each match:


Make sure to read Jeremy's Player Picks for Week 14 (and do it quickly, the deadline is approaching!)


Crystal Palace v West Ham United - A surprising match to have a day all to itself featuring, as it does, two teams that everyone knew at the beginning of the season weren't going to be very good.  The important omissions here are the continued injury-related absences of Winston Reid and Andy Carroll depriving the Hammers of their best players on both ends of the field.  There have been signs of hope from each team in recent weeks but it is hard to justify diving in on anyone other than maybe Joel Ward who has been cranking out solid fantasy matches for Palace in obscurity and despite the relative lack of clean sheets (it's all intercepting passes and winning tackles which he does at an exceptional rate). 


Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur - Just Spurs' luck that the black Martin Jol-shaped cloud hanging over Craven Cottage has lifted just before Spurs come calling.  On the plus side for AVB's men, Fulham still aren't very talented although they may get Dimitar Berbatov and Brede Hangeland back for the clash with their fellow Londoners.  The first of those two bits of news may not be a good thing based on Berbs' form thus far this season but getting Hangeland back would be a huge boost for a team that has been giving up goals like it's already Christmas and that's all they can think to give.   On the Spurs side, the only injury news is long-standing with Danny Rose and Christen Eriksen still missing.  The other questions are all rotation-related - e.g., will Andros Townsend return to the starting line-up? 


Liverpool v Norwich City - This looked a lot more tantalizing before Liverpool went and laid an egg at Hull City over the weekend.  Take heart though because like Manchester City, Liverpool have been MUCH better at home than they've been on the road.  Philippe Coutinho came back from an ankle sprain to play some as a substitute against Hull but it isn't certain how healthy he is even though he isn't listed in the injury report.  Daniel Sturridge is the other big absentee and will continue to be through the holiday fixture crunch and into January.  Suarez and Gerrard are the obvious buys here and maybe Mignolet depending on a) how much you have to spend and b) how you feel about Norwich scoring a random goal against a team that has played poorly on defense for the last two and a half months. 


West Bromwich v Manchester City - Here's the big question - can Manchester City figure out their road woes agaist a modest opponent.  When you look at the talent available and the form they're in you'd say "of course" but then that's what you would have said when they went to Cardiff or Stoke or Aston Villa.  Vincent Kompany may make his return but his preferred partner, Matija Nastasic, will be out so with a rusty Kompany and (presumably) Demichelis at the back a clean sheet is a big ask.  


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Arsenal v Hull City - No new injuries for either Arsenal or Hull since the weekend so the questions are mostly about rotation.  Hull probably can't afford to make too many changes to a team that did so well against Liverpool.  On the Arsenal side, it seems likely that Theo Walcott and Mathieu Flamini will get starts after coming in as substitutes against Cardiff.  As for the players likely to get a rest, I'd guess at Arteta and Cazorla with an outside chance that Ozil gets a break in deference to the need for some rest ahead of tougher matches at Everton next weekend and at Napoli on the 11th.  There's a chance that Giroud gets a rest for the same reason with Arsenal playing Arteta and Flamini together at the base of midfield and three of Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, and Rosicky with Walcott as the lone forward.  


Manchester United v Everton - A fascinating match-up on so many levels with Everton in fine form and United struggling.  Everton were typically United's punching bag when Sir Alex was still around but you get the feeling that a Lukaku-led Toffees squad could break through at Old Trafford given United's recent results against lesser Premier League teams. There's no new injury news here - there is little clarification on when United's talisman from last season Robin van Persie is expected back from toe and groin injuries.  Michael Carrick is and will continue to be missing.  Everton will miss Leighton Baines again but are otherwise healthy.  Should be an interesting match between Rooney, Moyes and Fellaini being ex-Evertonians and the Toffees being ahead of United in the standings. 


Southampton v Aston Villa - This looked like a great chance for the Saints to rebound after consecutive disappointments against bigger teams in Arsenal and Chelsea right up until the point where Artur Boruc broke his hand and Morgan Schneiderlin picked up a knock.  The goalkeeper will be out until January while the prognosis on the midfielder isn't clear at all as of this writing.  The interesting question is what you think of Paulo Gazzaniga at 1 at home against Villa as a fantasy option.  He's certainly a great idea for your bench since he'll likely be playing for a spell while filling that bench spot at the cheapest possible price.  If you think the Saints' defense will rebound against Villa regardless of who is in goal then you have a great potential value.  If you're concerned about their overall form and the presence of a reserve keeper then you might want to consider the defense to be of downgraded value despite the weaker opposition.  I tend toward thinking there's some value here. 


Stoke City v Cardiff City - Talk about a bruising match. The injury list is extremely spare - Robert Huth and Marko Arnautovic being the only two names on either side listed - coming into the match, I'm not sure that the same will be said after it is over.  Both sides play a physical style and it wouldn't surprise me at all if yellow cards and injury-enforced substitutions outnumber goals in this one.  


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Sunderland v Chelsea - Chelsea are a frustrating bunch aren't they? Not quite as good as their talent says they should be and, for fantasy managers, not at all predictable as far as where the points may be coming from.  Sunderland are by-and-large healthy while Chelsea have Oscar, Samuel Eto'o and David Luiz listed on the injury report among the fantasy-relevant players missing for what should be a fairly winnable road match by Premier League standards.  Now all we have to do is sweat out Mourinho's bizarre-at-best rotation patterns if we decide to dive in on this one. 


Swansea City v Newcastle - Oh how times have changed, it wasn't too long ago that Newcastle were a laughing stock and Swansea were the exciting team punching above their weight and hovering right around the Champions League spots.  The Magpies arrive in Wales on Wednesday almost entirely healthy and on a four match winning streak for the first time in over a year while the Swans have stumbled back down to the bottom half of the table after Michael Laudrup's exceptional first season in charge.   To compound things for the Swans (and improve the prospects for Newcastle's defense), Laudrup will be without Michu, Wilfried Bony and Angel Rangel.  That is not good news for a team that has been repeatedly accused of being able to possess the ball but not do much with that possession.   I'd favor Newcastle here without a doubt but probably not go overboard. 

Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
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