Fixture congestion and the short off-season seems to be taking its toll on the Premier League, with some clubs coming out of the latest international break with their squads heavily hit by injuries.
Undoubtedly the worst-affected are Liverpool. With Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara all out or doubtful, the Reds will potentially be missing stars with a whopping 3,455 minutes of playing time so far this season.
That’s by some margin the highest toll in the league, and makes this weekend’s tricky clash with Leicester City look all the trickier.
Lose Liverpool or risk the reserves?
Managers playing it safe may wish to steer clear of the champions altogether as a result of those stark figures. However, risk-takers will also be tempted by some of those set to step up and take their chance.
Among them is a potential bargain in Nathaniel Phillips (£4.0), who got 90 minutes during the 2-1 win against West Ham before the break.
Likewise, Curtis Jones (£4.4) also took a turn in midfield during that game and would be a cheap-as-chips way to get into a side still likely to score plenty of goals.
Meanwhile, the absence of Salah with coronavirus could present an opportunity for Diogo Jota (£6.5) to continue the sparkling form that has seen him amass 28 points already.
At a little over half the price of his Egyptian teammate, a direct switch would free up a fair amount of funds for use elsewhere.
Where else to keep watch
Manchester United will also be watched nervously this week. Regular starters Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof are both doubts and their absences would push the Red Devils to the second-worst affected in terms of lost playing time.
Southampton have hugely outperformed expectations so far, but with the loss of Danny Ings until mid-December and a chance of captain James Ward-Prowse missing out with a hamstring injury, could they be set for a bumpy landing?
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Aston Villa are the only club who have every single player who has made it onto the pitch this season at their disposal. Could that help them maintain their terrific start?
Time to use your chips?
For those managers struggling with a lot of red and orange triangles on their teamsheets, throwing down a Wildcard or even a Free Hit would get them out of a hole without suffering a major points loss.
Nearly three million players (around 40%) have already used their Wildcard. Of those, around a fifth of took the plunge in Gameweek 5 following the first international break… detect a theme here?
Those that still have the chip left and are suffering with injuries might not find a better time to use it before it resets at the end of the year.
Failing that, the Free Hit could be a riskier option. Bear in mind that would rule it out later in the season, when Double Gameweeks are likely to become more common.
However, bosses ruing short-term absentees like Salah – who is expected to return to contention after his quarantine ends on November 28 – may be tempted to make the one-week-only change.
Just 866,293 – around 11% of managers – have made use of their Free Hit chip so far. But could desperate times lead to desperate measures?
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