Gameweek 18 is just around the corner so All Things FPL (ATFPL) presents the team news, focusing on rotation, Manchester City’s fixtures and injuries, and Agbonlahor’s red card being rescinded.
Now comes the time for Fantasy Managers to make sure they have three playing options on the bench as rotation strikes during the festive period. The one that could have the most effect is Chelsea’s situation, as 10 players in José Mourinho’s side have started 75% or more of Premier League matches this season. Despite obviously liking a small and settled squad, Mourinho will be forced into changes to keep his players fresh. However, Chelsea’s manager seems to like the festive fixtures and urged reporters and spectators alike to show the players respect:
“I have lots of respect for the players in this country, it doesn’t matter English or not English,” he said. “But the moment you are in football in this country I respect them a lot. In this moment the German guys [Bundesliga players] are on the beach, the Spanish guys [La Liga] are in the Maldives getting the sun and everybody is doing that.
In this country you play Boxing Day, you play on the 28th, you play on 1 January. No family, no Christmas, just football and I think they deserve respect.
The supporters all around the country, they give them that respect by selling out every stadium and I think that is the way to do it with the professionalism every player has today.”
The Chelsea question for Fantasy Managers this Gameweek is the availability of Eden Hazard, after he limped out of Monday’s 2-0 win at Stoke City. Otherwise, Mourinho has a full squad to work with. Chelsea’s opponents, West Ham, also have almost a fully fit squad with James Tomkins the only injury doubt for manager Sam Allardyce.
In stark contrast with Mourinho, Louis van Gaal is the manager that has used the most players this season (31), eleven more than his Chelsea counterpart. However, this has more to do with Manchester United’s injury troubles than constant tinkering so we could start to see more consistency in the Dutchman’s lineups as more players become fit. In United’s press conference Van Gaal acknowledged the strains of managing through the holiday period, noting the difference in players’ recovery time:
“For a few players it is fun because they are recovering quickly. You also have players who are not recovering so quickly, so I have to rotate. I have a lot of injured players, this is the problem with these matches.”
And rotate he must, with Marouane Fellaini and Daley Blind out of action and Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo still missing—on a more positive note Chris Smalling could return from a groin injury. Newcastle, Manchester United’s opponents, also have problems, with first-choice goalkeepers Tim Krul and Rob Elliot injured and Cheick Tioté suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season against Sunderland.
Good News and Bad News for Manchester City
Looking at the fixtures, this season’s December matches may suit Manchester City the most. Including last Gameweek’s feature, they face four sides in the bottom half with three games at home. That’s the good news; you couldn’t ask for better set of fixtures in his hectic period. Compare that to Liverpool’s fixtures last season, where Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool faced both Chelsea and Manchester City away, rotated in neither games and still lost both.
Now for the bad news: City still have no senior striker fit and will have to rely on one of their midfielders to cover up front. Last Gameweek, James Milner played as a false nine, providing movement and commendable application to open up spaces for City’s other midfielders. David Silva and Yaya Touré both benefited.
In addition to City’s strikers captain Vincent Kompany misses out again, but Gaël Clichy returns from a foot problem to add to Manuel Pellegrini’s options at the back. West Brom, City’s opponents, have only long-term absentee Jonas Olsson missing.
Agbonlahor’s Red Card Rescinded
The Football Association rescinded Gabby Agbonlahor’s red card received for a challenge against Manchester United’s Ashley Young last Gameweek. This means he will be free to face Swansea at the Liberty Stadium alongside Tom Cleverly, who was unable to play against his parent club, and Alan Hutton, back from suspension. Paul Lambert is missing the suspended Kieran Richardson and the injured Joe Cole, Ashley Westwood, Philippe Senderos, Nathan Baker, and Libor Kozak.
Swansea rotated heavily last Gameweek—Garry Monk made seven changes for the clash at the KC Stadium—including benching Wilfried Bony who is expected to start again against Aston Villa. Gylfi Sigurðsson, Leon Britton, and Jefferson Montero are all doubts but expected to be fit.
In Other News
- Stephan Ward is out and Michael Duff, Matt Taylor, and Sam Vokes are doubtful for Burnley’s home game against Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers welcomes back Mario Balotelli from a one-match ban but will be without the services of the suspended Fabio Borini, and injured Joe Allen and Glen Johnson.
- Crystal Palace have just one absentee, Marouane Chamakh, for their match against Southampton while Southampton will be without suspended Jose Fonte and injured Jack Cork, Jay Rodriguez, Sam Gallagher, and Jake Hesketh.
- Everton go into the game against Stoke City without first-team players Leon Osman, Kevin Mirallas, James McCarthy, Tony Hibbert, and Darron Gibson. Mark Hughes is doubtful on the fitness of striker Peter Crouch, while Marc Wilson, Victor Moses, Stephen Ireland, Peter Odemwingie, and Dionatan Teixeira are sidelined for the match.
- Spurs manager, Mauricio Pochettino, has a fully fit squad for the game away at Leicester, who are missing striker Chris Wood and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
- Steve Bruce has recalled Tom Ince and Maynor Figueroa from loan after losing several key players to injury. Michael Dawson is out for Hull’s trip to Sunderland, as well as Mohamed Diamé and long-term absentee Robert Snodgrass. Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore are suspended. Gus Poyet is missing injured left-back Patrick van Aanholt as well as his deputy Anthony Reveillere, while Connor Wickham is unavailable through suspension.
- Arséne Wenger’s Arsenal have been hit hard by injuries this season but have options in David Ospina, Tomáš Rosický, and Yaya Sanogo, all returning from injury. Laurent Koscielny is not ready for the match against QPR, who are missing Yun Suk-Young, Sandro, and Adel Taraabt, all through injury problems.