Newcastle United v Arsenal is the first of three Gameweek 34 matches to take place on Sunday and gets underway at 14:00 BST at St James’ Park.
Sandwiched between the Gunners’ two-legged UEFA Europa League semi-final tie against Villarreal, this almost meaningless league fixture on Tyneside always looked like an opportunity for Mikel Arteta to rest some key players.
He has done just that and made eight changes from Thursday’s match in Spain, with only Martin Odegaard (£5.7m), Dani Ceballos (£4.7m) – who is suspended for the rematch with the La Liga side – and Granit Xhaka (£5.2m) retaining their place in the starting XI.
There are benchings for the likes of Bernd Leno (£5.0m), Bukayo Saka (£5.1m), Thomas Partey (£4.9m), Nicolas Pepe (£7.6m) and Emile Smith Rowe (£4.2m), while Rob Holding (£4.3m) – the most-owned Arsenal asset among the top 10,000 Fantasy Premier League managers – isn’t even among the substitutes.
Speaking ahead of today’s game, the Arsenal head coach said of the mass rotation:
It was just to prepare today’s game the best possible way. We played 40 minutes with 10 men [on Thursday], we had a crazy schedule and there are players that haven’t recovered.
We know the risks that we are taking every week, last week we learned a lesson with Laca. We lost so many players in the last few weeks and we need fresh players as well.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.3m) is back in the side after a spell on the sidelines with malaria.
His manager said of his fitness:
He’s been progressing every day. Last week against Villarreal, he could only play 10-15 minutes. But he’s feeling better every day. Let’s see how long he lasts, it’s a good way to see where he is in terms of fitness.
Arsenal are again without Kieran Tierney (£5.2m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£8.4m), however, with Arteta explaining ahead of kick-off:
They haven’t trained with us yet; it’s very unlikely to have them ready in the next few games.
As for Newcastle, the team news is a lot more straightforward.
Steve Bruce has made just one change to the team that drew 1-1 with Liverpool in Gameweek 32.
It’s an expected one, too, as Callum Wilson (£6.5m) returns up top in place of Joelinton (£5.7m).
In-form loanee Joe Willock (£4.7m) is ineligible to face his loan club so misses out.
As a result of Arteta’s high-profile benchings, the most-owned Arsenal starter in the top 10k is Gabriel Martinelli (£4.9m) – at just 0.29%.
Goalkeeper Mathew Ryan (£4.1m) features in 4.1% of FPL squads overall but is bench fodder for more than three-quarters of his owners.
The Magpies are similarly unfancied by active Fantasy managers at present, with not one of their players owned by more than 0.5% of the top 10,000.
The returning Wilson does feature in 5.6% of FPL teams overall, however.
Newcastle United XI: Dubravka, Clark, Dummett, Fernandez, Shelvey, Longstaff, Ritchie, Murphy, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Wilson
Subs: Gillespie, M Longstaff, Schär, Joelinton, Gayle, Lewis, Hendrick, Krafth, Anderson
Arsenal XI: Ryan, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Elneny, Xhaka, Ceballos, Odegaard, Willian, Aubameyang, Martinelli
Subs: Leno, Saka, Soares, Partey, Pepe, Chambers, Mari, Nketiah, Smith Rowe
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