It's kind of a funny week in the Premier League. After some headline match-ups in the league over the past few weeks and tasty mid-week Champions League clashes between Manchester City and Bayern Munich and Arsenal and Napoli, this weekend offers up a steady diet of bigger clubs against clubs that are not so big. Throw in the fact that we're heading into yet another international break and there is a little bit of a sense of anti-climax heading into the weekend. Sure, Manchester City hosts undefeated Everton in a match-up that SHOULD favor the home team but only the most partisan of observers will feel particularly good about City's readiness to get the three points. Outside of that semi-big match-up, the interest really lies in the ability of big name teams to get back to what we usually expect from them both in reality and fantasy production. What do I mean?
- Overall Manchester United's fantasy output as a team (455 collective points) has been closer to that of newly promoted Hull City (425) than the most productive fantasy teams in the league Liverpool (550), Manchester City (534) and Arsenal (517). Will Manchester United get back to producing fantasy points as a group or will their current manager's old team continue to out-pace the Red Devils significantly (Everton is at 509 so far which is 10% more than United's output)?
- Shockingly, despite looking stronger in the table, Chelsea are even worse as fantasy point producers than Manchester United having scored only 444 points thus far this season.
- On the pleasant surprise side, much less-fancied Southampton is scoring at a very respectable clip at 488 total fantasy points.
I'm planning a more complete statistical run down for the International Break but given the dramatic difference between our assumptions about the fantasy proficiency of some of the "big" teams and the reality of what has happened so far is an important early-season note. We all have more money to spend this season which means that we can afford brand name players from Manchester United and Chelsea in our squads every week. These choices mean that it is all the more important to know where the points are coming from, not just who the biggest names are.
Now back to our regularly scheduled analysis of Week 7 Team News and the implications for your fantasy squad:
Manchester City v Everton - Manchester City have no fantasy-relevant injuries or suspensions which means that Sergio Aguero will likely be back and we have to expect that Negredo will be his partner but there is reason to be nervous that Dzeko might take that spot. The only mildly interesting issue facing Everton is the absence of Gareth Barry against his parent club. Barry has been very good and while he isn't going to be a big fantasy producer himself, he has freed up Ross Barkley to attack and Barkley may feel more responsibility to defend both because of the opponent add the lack of Barry at his back. If you have Barkley at his season-opening price of 1.99 and want to keep that discount then I'd recommend you put him on the bench this weekend.
Liverpool v Crystal Palace
- Nothing much of interest here from a Team News standpoint. Suarez and Sturridge could score a hat trick each against what is likely the least talented team in the Premier League team this season. Steven Gerrard
could also have an even bigger week than usual given a solid chance that Liverpool get a penalty and/or a number of free kicks that Gerrard could put on target.
Hull City v Aston Villa - The big news here is that early season hero Robbie Brady is out for up to a month after the Ireland international underwent a hernia operation. The injury comes at a good time for Hull City with a Benteke-less Villa beatable and then two weeks off for international break. Regardless, fantasy managers should look at alternatives to Brady (see that Gerrard note above). For Villa, Gabby Agbonlahor looks like he COULD be back but that's not enough for me to have any interest in diving in.
Sunderland v Manchester United - The big issue here is the question of Wayne Rooney's fitness. The England forward missed out in mid-week with a shin issue and there has been no substantial update on his status. United should win this one with or without Rooney which may mean that David Moyes will be a little cautious - certainly fantasy managers should be cautious with Suarez, Giroud, Sturridge, Lukaku, and Aguero all options more certain to start.
Fulham v Stoke City - Nothing here that should have any impact on your fantasy preparations.
Cardiff City v Newcastle - The only marginally interesting note here is that Yohan Cabaye appears to be back and ready to start rather than coming off the bench as he did last weekend.
Norwich City v Chelsea - Eden Hazard is doubtful which is fairly big news. This seems to make it highly likely that Mata, Oscar, and Schurrle will play behind Samuel Eto'o who will definitely start given the absence of Fernando Torres due to injury. You weren't going to pick any Norwich players against Chelsea so there isn't any important news on that front.
Southampton v Swansea City - Luke Shaw is a potential absentee due to illness and Ashley Williams is still in doubt due to his ankle injury. Shaw has been excellent but you shouldn't take the risk given his uncertain status.
Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Younes Kaboul and Danny Rose will not play which will leave Spurs a little vulnerable at the back but West Ham have a hard time scoring so it shouldn't change your approach to Hugo Lloris much, if at all. Not much else here worth noting.
West Bromwich v Arsenal - Bacary Sagna is out for a few weeks with a hamstring issue which will make Carl Jenkinson an interesting option (although Arsenal getting a road clean sheet seems like a questionable investment - the only reason to make it is that Jenkinson doesn't cost too much). Otherwise, the injuries here are the ones that we've known about for a while - Cazorla, Walcott, Ox and Podolski.
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