It's two-match time again which means that the focus for Late Fitness Check will be all about the two-gamers and their likelihood of playing along with the health/prospects of the players you might be using to fill in around the two-gamers. In that spirit, we'll lead off with the two-gamers and then cover the "rest" after that.
Sunderland v Everton - Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka are the two issues for Everton in that both are out for the Sunderland match but seem likely to be available for the Manchester United clash on the 20th. That undercuts the value of both them and their replacements (although Osman's starting spot is certainly not a sure thing even if he is healthy given the strong play of other Everton midfielders recently). Otherwise, Everton are healthy and managers will be looking to find ways to get players in to their line-ups despite high prices coming off of a sustained winning streak. On the Sunderland side, Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore are both out with a long term ankle injury and a knock picked up in training respectively. Otherwise Sunderland is healthy and ready to provide some inexpensive two-match alternatives for big fans of portfolio theory (although I can't say I'm in love with any of the options).
Liverpool v Manchester City - The big question here for fantasy managers is what to do about Sergio Aguero. He is definitely available again after being out for a month but the speculation on PhysioRoom.com's excellent Twitter feed and elsewhere is that he is most likely to be on the bench given the layoff. If he does play two matches then he's as close to a must-have as there is but with so many potentially valuable (and expensive) options out there can you afford to take the risk that he won't go twice and someone like Romelu Lukaku will play twice against weaker competition. Otherwise both the rest of Manchester City's team and anyone you might be keeping from Liverpool for one match (Suarez, Sturridge and Gerrard are the obvious candidates) are healthy and eligible to play.
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa - Crystal Palace is the important one here and they are fully fit heading into their match with Aston Villa. James Puncheon and Joel Ward are pretty expensive given that @EVE is their second match but you'd have to consider someone like Joe Ledley if you're struggling for a middling priced midfielder with some upside potential. Ledley's price to production ration is much stronger than his counterparts at Manchester City (Silva, Nasri, and Navas) although the sample size is also much smaller. Hard to see anyone from Villa fitting into your plans regardless of their health.
West Bromwich v Tottenham Hotspur - Spurs have some injuries but I can't think of any way in which the injuries or the potential replacements would impact your fantasy thinking in any way.
Stoke City v Newcastle - Charlie Adam will be available and that could be interesting only because Newcastle are still struggling with injuries to critical players. Tim Krul might return but they are still missing Loic Remy (their best attacker) and Mathieu Debuchy (their best defender) which makes Stoke's prospects at least somewhat interesting for the home match. Probably not worth overthinking since you could get two matches of Joe Ledley or Jesus Navas for about the same price but still worth mentioning since this is an injury analysis column and I'd feel guilty focusing only on three matches for an entire match week.
Fulham v Norwich City - Hard to imagine there's a lot for fantasy managers here but Norwich have been pretty good in matches they HAD to have and this definitely qualifies going into their murderer's row of matches to close out the season. The issue is that their most productive player - Robert Snodgrass - is way too expensive. I'd stay away from this one in general but Leroy Fer seems likely to be back and comes with a bargain price that might help you afford more quality two-gamers.
Southampton v Cardiff City - With Boruc up in the air and Kelvin Davis out there's a chance that $1 Paulo Gazzaniga will start for Southampton against a relegation-bound team. Could be a very interesting alternative to some of the big name options that would allow you to load up on players at other positions who will get two matches. This isn't a guarantee but if you factor in the possibility that one of the premium two-match keepers (Joe Hart) has to go on the road to face a historically excellent attack then a low risk play might not be the worst thing in the world.
Swansea City v Chelsea - Eden Hazard appears to be out for this one. Unfortunately, his likely replacement, Mohamed Salah, has gotten very expensive very quickly. Otherwise, you have the usual rotation issues to worry about now that Chelsea have progressed in the Champions League thrown on top of the fact that the Blues only have one match. Swansea are healthy too but are facing a top three team which doesn't bode well for the value of their players as fill-ins given that you're mostly looking at starters. Michu could be a cut price option to fill a spot but he's been worse than useless from a fantasy standpoint since his return. Hard to imagine vs. Chelsea will be the time he rediscovers his form.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manchester City
- Aston Villa