After seemingly interminable international breaks for the first four months of the season, this week has felt like it has flown by. If it feels like you were just reading the previous version of this column a couple days ago, it's because you were reading the previous version of this column just a few days ago. Not a great deal has changed injury-wise since then but there have been a few key suspensions and updates that all fantasy managers should be aware of heading into Week 15.
Crystal Palace v Cardiff City - There is no particularly interesting injury or suspension news here unless you're under the impression that it is 2007 and healthy-again Craig Bellamy is still fantasy-relevant. In the absence of anything particularly relevant to this column's theme, I'll remind you of what you have been reading from Galin, Jeremy, Steve, and Nik which is that Joel Ward has been a consistent fantasy stud despite playing for a bad team. He's missed two matches and had two where he's had just around 5 points but everything else has been 8 and up. Despite this, his "player card" indicates that he's in fewer than 2% of fantasy teams. That's criminal.
Liverpool v West Ham United - The headline here is that Daniel Sturridge is still out. Of emerging interest is the fact that Ravel Morrison picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and will miss out on the trip to Anfield. It may not be relevant this week but Morrison is starting to realize the promise he showed in the youth ranks and is played just off of Carlton Cole in midweek despite being listed as a midfielder. If you're looking for an inexpensive midfielder for next week, Morrison - priced at 7.17 - should be in your thought process.
Manchester United v Newcastle - More bad news for Manchester United as it doesn't sound like Robin van Persie will be back anytime soon and this week Wayne Rooney is added to the list of absentees due to yellow card accumulation. As if that weren't enough, Shinji Kagawa is a doubt due to an illness. The Japanese playmaker hasn't been exceptional in the Premier League this season but with Rooney and RvP out United will need someone to tee up Javier Hernandez and/or Danny Welbeck. Newcastle certainly came back to earth with a thud (not to be confused with a THud) at Swansea on Wednesday so it will be interesting to see which team can reverse their mid-week fortunes in this one. The healthy away team or the ailing home team that seemingly has more talent and certainly more pedigree.
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Southampton v Manchester City - Speaking of teams that have come back to earth with a loud thud, Southampton certainly can't be happy to see a Manchester City team that has been killing opponents at home and finally found a way to get three points on the road in mid-week even if the dying minutes of the match were a bit ugly for the Citizens. The Saints will continue to miss Artur Boruc, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Gaston Ramirez but will presumably have their first choice starting defense restored after Jose Fonte was left on the bench against Aston Villa. The away team will hope that Vincent Kompany can play for the second time in 4 days after a long layoff but the match will come too soon for David Silva, Matija Nastasic, and Stevan Jovetic (who may not really exist for all we know). This means that Samir Nasri and Martin Demichelis will likely continue to start. Edin Dzeko got the start in mid-week but it seems likely that Alvaro Negredo will return to the starting line-up after getting a rest.
Stoke City v Chelsea - The news from Chelsea is typically uninformative for fantasy managers. David Luiz is definitely out but Oscar's status isn't clear. Samuel Eto'o is available again but there is no word on whether he'll slot back into his starting spot or not. Worst of all, there is nothing said anywhere about possible rotation. With all of the fixtures coming up in December and early January it seems likely that Mourinho will continue to mix and match his attacking players to ensure that all are well rested. This will be an especially serious risk when Chelsea are playing modest opposition like Stoke City. Willian and Mata were the beneficiaries against Sunderland, will we see Schurrle or De Bruyne or someone else against Stoke?
Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - The only potentially serious injury news here is that Jan Vertonghen is in doubt after twisting an ankle against Fulham. With Sunderland giving up goals galore against Chelsea but Spurs struggling to score without a wonder strike (see Holtby or Chiriches vs. Fulham) or a penalty (See Soldado all season) it will be interesting to see how this match goes.
West Bromwich v Norwich City - The two important options against Norwich's leaky defense are Shane Long and Stephane Sessegnon with at least some thought given to a Morgan Amalfitano revival (he's making a lot of key passes but they aren't being converted to anything that generates fantasy points since his stunning early-season run). Those players are all in fine health. Norwich continue to miss Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Anthony Pilkington, and Robert Snodgrass at least one of whom could be of fantasy interest if he were healthy (I'll let you figure out which one that is).
Arsenal v Everton - Setting fantasy games aside, this is the most interesting fixture of the weekend with Arsenal continuing to roll through the pretenders to the Champions League spots (Liverpool and Southampton I'm looking at you) while Everton have been punching significantly above their traditional weight with wins over Manchester United and Chelsea and points from Liverpool and Spurs. With the firepower available to Everton, this seems like a good week to divest yourself of Arsenal defenders and Szczesny while banking on a match high on opportunities and fantasy point for attackers regardless of the final number of goals between the two.
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Fulham v Aston Villa - Ordinarily this would have been an obvious spot to pick up Christian Benteke but given his current slump and Villa's effectiveness without him in mid-week you have to be at least a bit concerned that he might continue to sit (although you could see the logic that if ever there was a team that would help Benteke break out of his rut, Fulham would be it). Making things even harder for the Cottagers will be the absence of Darren Bent due to being ineligible to play against the team that owns his rights. This might be a good weekend to take a flier on Brad Guzan.
Swansea City v Hull City - The Swansea "false nine" thing went pretty well against Newcastle in mid-week which is good because injuries may force Michael Laudrup to use it again. While they are all getting closer to health, Wilfried Bony, Michu and Alvaro Vazquez are all listed as "doubtful" so despite the seemingly strong match-up, it's hard to pick out a Swansea attacker to really love other than maybe the occasionally-brilliant-occasionally-moronic Jonjo Shelvey. Hull will have Curtis Davies back from suspension to help deal with Shelvey and company.