Euro 2012 may have been and gone but the small matter of the upcoming Olympics gives Fantasy managers plenty to ponder ahead of the Premier League kick off on August 18. Some of the top-flight’s biggest sides will be sweating over the fitness of some of their first-team assets and, with the final taking place only seven days before the domestic season kicks off, there could well be a knock-on effect when selecting our squads for the upcoming 2012/13 campaign:
With so many venues playing host to the games, the group fixtures are crammed into three separate dates. The first set of matches take place on July 26, with a three day break before the next batch on July 29. Once again, we have three days to wait until the final lot of fixtures on August 1.
The quarter finals all play out on August 4 and semis are August 7 before the third-place play-off kicks off on 7.45pm on August 10. A day later sees the final take place at Wembley on Saturday August 11, just one day before Chelsea and Man City go head to head for the Community Shield and a week prior to the Premier League getting underway.
Arsenal – Aaron Ramsey, Chu-Young Park (S Korea)
Aston Villa – Benjamin Siegrist (Switzerland)
Chelsea – Ryan Bertrand, Daniel Sturridge, Juan Mata (Spain), Oriol Romeu (Spain)
Everton – Magaye Gueye (Senegal)
Fulham – Pajtim Kasami (Switzerland)
Liverpool – Craig Bellamy, Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Sebastian Coates (Uruguay)
Man City – Micah Richards
Man United – Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Rafael (Brazil), David De Gea (Spain)
QPR – Ryan Nelsen (New Zealand)
Southampton – Jack Cork
Sunderland – Ji Dong-Won (S Korea)
Swansea – Joe Allen, Neil Taylor, Scott Sinclair
Tottenham – Steven Caulker, Danny Rose, Sandro (Brazil)
West Brom – Craig Dawson
West Ham – James Tomkins, Mohamed Diame (Senegal)
Wigan – Maynor Figueroa (Honduras)
*GB unless stated
Looking at the participants, Swansea are the most effected in terms of first-team involvement. Scott Sinclair, Joe Allen and Neil Taylor were all regulars last time out under Brendan Rodgers and new boss Michael Laudrup will be sweating on their fitness ahead of the Swans first league game away to QPR on Saturday August 18. With Senegal, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay joining them in Group A, a top two finish and progress to the knockouts looks likely for Great Britain.
On the subject of Uruguay, Luis Suarez is one of the biggest names in the Premier League taking part. Compatriot and Liverpool team mate Sebastian Coates is also selected but his involvement is far less significant for Fantasy managers ahead of the Reds trip to West Brom on the opening day.
Chelsea and Man United both have four players apiece lining up for the Olympics. For the Blues, Juan Mata is the real worry for Fantasy managers – bearing in mind that Spain’s Group D opponents are Japan, Honduras and Morocco, progress seems inevitable. Roberto Di Matteo has already hinted he will give Mata time off from league duties until early September after his involvement with Spain in Euro 2012, suggesting he is likely to be left off our radars – all the more frustrating, bearing in mind Chelsea have a double Gameweek 1 and an outstanding opening schedule.
David De Gea’s involvement with Spain is likely to give Anders Lindegaard a chance to stake a first-team place in goal over United’s pre-season matches, while Rafael’s duties for Brazil may also prove disadvantageous to his chances of a starting role at right-back ahead of the opener at Everton.
Elsewhere, Micah Richards is the only Man City player on duty prior to the league opener at home to Southampton – Pablo Zabaleta is likely to take his place for the Community Shield match against Chelsea at the very least. The likes of Steven Caulker and Sandro will miss Spurs’ pre-season schedule under new boss Andre Villas-Boas, Sam Allardyce will be hoping first-choice centre-half James Tomkins and new signing Mohamed Diame come through unscathed, while Maynor Figueroa featured in every league game for Wigan last time round under Roberto Martinez.
In total, then, only four teams – Newcastle, Norwich, Reading and Stoke – are unaffected. It’s a huge relief for Alan Pardew in particular; Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba have both been omitted from the Senegal squad after the Magpies boss expressed concerns over their fitness. The duo are still expected to be part of their nation’s African Cup of Nations squad in January, though – something else for us to worry about in a few months time.