Just when you thought it was safe to build your Week 37 XI around Wayne Rooney....
The fantasy Premier League universe is currently in a state of panic as managers try to determine Rooney's status following a report yesterday that he limped off the training ground with a groin problem and is a major doubt for tomorrow's clash with Sunderland. The issue is compounded by the fact that Manchester United have a double gameweek on their plate, both at Old Trafford, making their prospects the focus of investment, especially after their 4-0 result in the post-Moyes era.
Well, my friends, I am sorry to say that, as of this writing, interim manager Ryan Giggs and the United brass have yet to confirm that Rooney is officially ruled out for tomorrow, but several sources in the press are beginning to confirm it for them. Not only did Rooney pick up a groin injury which can be very difficult to shake off quickly, he also caught a "bug" that is apparently lingering around the clubhouse. Having the flu and pain in the groin area is tough enough to deal with while sitting on a couch watching football, let alone trying to play through it at the highest level. Giggs stated yesterday that Rooney wants to play through it, but in the hours that have followed since, there have only been negative reports on his chances of lacing up the boots tomorrow.
Perhaps Rooney will be fit enough for United's second match in their double gameweek when they host Hull City, a fixture that in a non-double gameweek would be just as tempting for investment in the forward, but even those who would take one potential game out of him surely cannot be thinking of handing him the armband at this point. In other words, for 99% of fantasy managers, it looks like it is time to reshuffle things. My advice would be, if at all possible, to wait to as close to the deadline before completely dismantling your XI to be sure Rooney's likely absence has been confirmed. Remember: unless Manchester United officially rules Rooney out then there is still a chance. This is too big a deal to decide too soon. There will be a massive shift in the rankings between those who get this right and those who get it wrong.
In the meantime, let's look around each club's injury and suspension news for Gameweek 37, starting first with the all-important double gaameweek clubs...
Aston Villa (HUL, mac) - Christian Benteke remains out indefinitely for the Lions with an Achilles' injury. Nicklas Helenius is fit and available again for selection though he has Grant Holt and Andreas Weimann above him in the pecking order. Leandro Bacuna came off at halftime in last weekend's loss due to illness but has recovered and should be returning to the XI.
Hull City (avl, mun) - Steve Harper will continue between the sticks as Allan McGregor is still sidelined. Robbie Brady and Paul McShane remain out indefinitely due to groin and ankle problems respectively. Sone Aluko returned from injury last week and scored as a substitute, as he pushes for a spot in Steve Bruce's XI, which will likely be determined by which of the 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 formations the manager opts for.
Manchester City (eve, AVL) - David Silva is fit and back in contention for City, and Yaya Toure looks set to give it another go despite his early exit last week when he was noticeably hobbling around. The rest of the squad is fully fit otherwise, with the exception of Jesus Navas and Matija Nastasic. The pecking order of strikers these days at the Etihad looks to be Aguero, Dzeko, Negredo, Jovetic.
Manchester United (SUN, HUL) - As if the Rooney scare hasn't offered enough intrigue out of Old Trafford, reports have indicated that Robin van Persie is back in training and that there is a chance he could play a part in the Red Devils double gameweek. It would seem unlikely that he would be pushed to start both games of the double, if he plays at all. For only 12m, a pair of 20 minute cameos from RVP could wind up being a bargain. Juan Mata should be in line to start after coming off the bench with a brace last weekend and represents the safest pick at forward from United. Rafael remains out. Even with the success of last week's result, expect Giggs to make a change or two in midfield and defense.
Sunderland (mun, WBA) - Ki Sung-Yeung appears to be unavailable for the run in with tendonitis, he is definitely not playing tomorrow. Carlos Cuellar continues to be an every week doubt but with Sunderland's recent success, would probably not figure into Gus Poyet's thinking anyway. Liam Bridcutt made his way back last week with a substitute cameo but is unlikely to crack the XI as well.
West Bromwich Albion (ars, sun) - Liam Ridgewell is the primary loss for the Baggies as he looks to possibly return for their final match in Gameweek 38. Gareth McAuley returned to training this week after missing the previous two matches and looks to regain his spot in the XI, probably at the expense of Craig Dawson.
And now, for those clubs with one match this week....
Arsenal (WBA) - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss out with a groin injury while Bacary Sagna is a doubt with a knee injury. Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere remain in the physio room, so Nacho Monreal should get another start and if Sagna can't go, Carl Jenkinson would likely fill in at RB. Otherwise, expect Arsene Wenger to stick with the side that won convincingly last weekend.
Cardiff City (new) - The biggest hit to the Bluebirds this weekend is the suspension of Juan Cala. Ben Turner looks the best bet to deputize. Craig Noone is likely done for the season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have everyone else available to him as Cardiff seek a miracle last-minute escape from relegation.
Chelsea (NOR) - Peter Cech remains out meaning Mark Schwarzer will continue to fill in, but big names Eden Hazard and John Terry are back in contention again in a fixture that could produce fantasy points on par with the double gameweek prospects. Ramires is suspended for the remainder of the season. Oscar revealed he has been hampered with a thigh injury recently, but is still available for selection for Jose Mourinho.
Crystal Palace (LIV) - No new concerns for Tony Pulis' side, just a matter of whether he opts for two strikers and one CDM, or the other way around.
Everton (MAC) - Sylvain Distin and Phil Jageilka are still labeled as doubts for the Toffee defense though neither has yet to be formally ruled out. John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz would partner at CB again should Distin and Jags miss out. Gareth Barry is ineligible to face his parent club, meaning Leon Osman will probably play a deeper role in midfield and all but guarantee a start for Ross Barkley at CAM.
Fulham (stk) - Steve Sidwell is a slight doubt as he recovers from a challenge that saw him leave last week's match early. All other injuries to their squad are of the long term variety and have no bearing in your fantasy blueprints.
Liverpool (cry) - The fitness of Daniel Sturridge remains a question mark but no news today is good news as he hopes to partner Luis Suarez again up top. Jordan Henderson is suspended for the third and final match. Brendan Rodgers will likely find room for Raheem Sterling regardless of Sturridge's availability, meaning one of Lucas or Joe Allen is likely to make way for the two-forward attack.
Newcastle United (CAR) - The Magpies will be without Papiss Cisse (knee) and Davide Santon (hamstring) again, but they are getting healthier otherwise with Loic Remy and Luuk de Jong fully fit and Mathieu Debuchy looks to have nailed his spot back down. What Alan Pardew has in mind for Hatem Ben Arfa....well that is anybody's guess.
Norwich City (che) Not that there is any reason to consider anyone from their side, but for the sake of continuity, here goes...Joseph Yobo has returned to training as he battled back from a calf injury, but is only 50/50 at this point to feature. Anthony Pilkington remains out but is looking toward the final matchday to possibly return.
Southampton (swa) - Ricky Lambert is dealing with a knock but is still thought to be available to the Saints, otherwise Sam Gallagher is truly their only other current option to lead the line. Morgan Scheiderlin is 50/50 with a calf injury, Victor Wanyama and Jack Cork should probably partner in central midfield then. Gaston Ramirez is out with an ankle problem but hopes to return for the final match next weekend.
Stoke City (FUL) - Much to Fulham's delight, Ryan Shawcross will miss out as he serves his suspension. With Robert Huth long gone with a knee issue, the normally strong physical duo at center back will now offer up the likes of Mark Muniesa and Marc Wilson to try and stop the Cottagers. Oussama Assaidi popped up with a knock in training and could be a doubt for this one.
Swansea City (SOU) - The lost season for Michu continues as Garry Monk is set to be without him again, as he is carrying both an ankle and a shoulder injury. Angel Rangel is done for the season as well after picking up a groin injury last weekend. Dwight Tiendalli should take his place for the final two games. Chico has served his two-match ban, and will likely regain his spot over Jordi Amat at CB.
Tottenham (whm) - Jan Vertonghen has not been ruled out but is highly unlikely to return this weekend. Mousa Dembele also continues to be a major doubt with an ankle problem. Andros Townsend has also gone down with an ankle injury and is done for the season.
West Ham United (TOT) - James Tompkins is dealing with a knock but otherwise Sam Allardyce has a full compliment of defenders to choose from. Outside of Winston Reid, none of them should be considered nailed on at this point.