The first Premier League winter break is already in full swing but how does it affect the Fantasy landscape?
On the face of it, not a great deal.
There are no blanks or doubles to factor in and we’ll still have a full complement of ten top-flight fixtures to consider ahead of Saturday morning’s Fantasy Premier League deadline.
The big difference, of course, is that the games are spread out over ten days.
Only eight teams are in action this weekend, with the remaining dozen playing between February 14-17.
The full fixture list is as follows:
As many of you will be aware, we’ll only hear from eight Premier League managers ahead of the Gameweek 26 deadline.
Graham Potter and Nigel Pearson held their pre-match press conferences on Thursday, while Carlo Ancelotti, Roy Hodgson, Chris Wilder, Eddie Howe, Pep Guardiola and David Moyes will all face the media on Friday.
We’ll hopefully soon be up to speed on the injury news from those eight clubs, although anyone acquainted with the non-committal Guardiola and Howe will know that they are capable of springing a surprise or two with their teamsheets from week to week.
As for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leicester City, Southampton, Burnley, Norwich City, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Newcastle United, Chelsea and Manchester United, we will have limited information on the fitness front.
There remains the very real possibility, then, that a number of players will be declared as unavailable – or passed fit – long after the Gameweek 26 deadline has been and gone, leaving FPL managers powerless to do anything about it.
Sadio Mane (£12.3m), for example, could well return for the Norwich City match a week on Saturday, with Klopp having previously said that the Senegalese winger “should be fine” and that the winter break is “perfect for him to get back on track”.
The fact that even a shred of doubt over his involvement remains, though, means that non-owners considering a move for the premium midfielder ahead of a juicy-looking fixture at Carrow Road would be taking a slight gamble on his fitness.
The situation will be the same for all the other clubs in action from February 14-17, of course.
Adama Traore (£5.8m) is among the cluster of players currently flagged who we won’t get an update on ahead of the Gameweek 26 deadline although the FPL midfielder has travelled with the rest of the Wolves squad for some warm-weather training in Marbella and Nuno Espirito Santo said the winger will “hopefully be OK”.
The likes of Ben Davies (£5.3m), back in training with Spurs, could also return in Gameweek 26, perhaps putting Japhet Tanganga‘s (£4.0m) security of starts in some doubt given what Jose Mourinho had said previously about the importance of the Welshman to his system.
Christian Pulisic (£6.9m) and Paul Pogba (£8.3m) had been pencilled in for comebacks after the winter break, meanwhile, which could impact on Chelsea and Manchester United’s attack-minded assets.
We’ll have a full summary of the latest injury situation at all 20 Premier League clubs in Friday’s team news article and video round-up.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a number of deadline-day captures may be involved for their new clubs for the very first time in Gameweek 26, having been ineligible to play last weekend.
Jarrod Bowen (£6.5m), predominantly an inverted right-winger at Hull City, may put pressure on Robert Snodgrass (£5.2m) in the medium term, although the latter’s 18-point haul in Gameweeek 25 surely stands him in good stead for another start.
Odion Ighalo (£6.5m) and Borja Baston (£5.5m) will probably be expecting to be among the substitutes when their new clubs, Manchester United and Aston Villa, play in over a week’s time, while it remains to be seen if Cedric Soares (£4.8m) will be fit enough for his Arsenal bow.
New Sheffield United striker Richairo Zivkovic (£5.0m) will add to the uncertainty in his side’s attack, meanwhile, with Chris Wilder fond of rotating his forwards.
One January window capture who we already have seen in action is Danny Rose (£5.3m), who emerged as a substitute in Newcastle’s 0-0 draw with Norwich.
Rose could very well make his full Magpies debut at the Emirates, which could spell bad news for Matt Ritchie (£5.3m) at left wing-back.
Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.4m) could soon present Fantasy managers with a new route into the Southampton defence, meanwhile, if Ralph Hasenhuttl deems him ready to feature against Burnley.
The UEFA Champions League and Europa League both recommence on the other side of the winter break.
Manchester City and Chelsea won’t be in Champions League action until after Gameweek 27 but Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester United, Wolves and Arsenal are involved in European competition immediately after Gameweek 26, with all five of those clubs having Premier League games between February 14-17.
Wolves have a generous six-day recovery period in between their meetings with Leicester and Espanyol but Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United have European involvement around 72 hours after the completion of their Gameweek 26 fixtures.
While fatigue-led rotation oughtn’t to be too much of a concern given that these players would have just enjoyed up to two weeks off, the likes of Klopp and Mourinho could opt to manage game-time in Gameweek 26 if, for example, their respective sides are cruising against Norwich and Aston Villa.
It’s a strange captaincy conundrum this week, what with there being some excellent fixtures but also the possibility existing of us being dealt shock news on the injury front after the Gameweek 26 deadline.
Some of the leading candidates for the armband, Mohamed Salah (£12.7m), Mane, Son Heung-min (£10.0m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m), Danny Ings (£7.0m), Jamie Vardy (£9.8m) and Raul Jimenez (£7.7m), all play a week or so after Saturday’s FPL deadline passes.
On the flip side, the main captaincy contenders this weekend – Kevin De Bruyne (£10.7m), Riyad Mahrez (£8.5m) and Sergio Aguero (£12.0m) – are at the mercy of Guardiola’s rotation roulette, even if they are passed fit in Friday’s press conference (De Bruyne perhaps less so, given that he has started 17 league matches on the bounce).
The vice-captaincy takes some of the jeopardy out of the decision, of course, with Joe championing the strategy of captaining/vice-captaining players from different weekends within Gameweek 26 – if only to keep things interesting in this extra-long Gameweek.
Our captaincy video goes through the runners and riders and can be viewed below, while the Captain Sensible article will follow in its usual slot on Friday morning.
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