To field a full squad in an abbreviated week or to save major discounts...that is the question. I know very successful fantasy managers (I'm looking at you Mo) who are fundamentally against taking an intentional zero at any time. I know other very successful fantasy managers who will argue that Liverpool's attack have been potent enough that taking a zero or two this weekend to retain the option of selecting a Liverpool-heavy team during the week when they make up their Week 29 match is a very good reason.
My approach to this quandry is as follows...
My goal this week and every week is to fill as many positions as possible with a player that I feel can be a net benefit to my team within the constraints of my budget. As many have, this has meant keeping a bench of extremely inexpensive players and piling nearly my entire 150 budget into my starting eleven. This week, I am looking at my budget differently. I have Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge at huge discounts and I intend to keep them through the end of the season given their exceptional performances thus far. As a result, I consider my budget for this week to be the money that isn't going to keep them. From there, I have started assembling the strongest squad I can with the money and roster slots available. My strong preference is for starting nine or ten players whose production I feel good about rather than stretching to get to eleven and ending up with two or more who are highly unlikely to produce much more than disruption to the remaining weeks of my team. If I can move in a player likely to contribute 5 points who also has some potential upside without compromising the rest of my roster then that's a move worth making. What I won't do is move heaven and earth to get a player from a team that has a match that either isn't a certain starter or has a track record of doing very little. Given the greatly reduced number of players who are actually playing this weekend this isn't an easy exercise.
In the end, my advice will differ manager-by-manager depending on the make-up of your current roster. If Luis Suarez is the only player you have on a major discount then there's no reason you should be fielding a full roster this weekend. If you have Suarez, Sturridge and one or more of the Liverpool midfielders at major discounts then your best move is likely to take it on the chin this weekend secure in the knowledge that you'll get it back when your opponents can't afford to pay retail for all of those guys for the rest of the season - even when they have their make-up match.
With that, we're off to see what havoc the international schedule has played with this week's starting line-ups:
West Brom vs. Manchester United - West Brom has been something of a revolving door of new players, injured players and rotating favorites over the early stages of Pepe Mel's reign which makes it rather difficult to guess what might come next now that Chris Brunt and James Morrison are questionable due to injuries picked up on international duty. The one interesting name for me in the WBA midfield is Stephane Sessegnon, it isn't a certainty that he gets a start coming back from injury but given a reasonable price and United's defensive issues, it isn't an unreasonable bet to make. Speaking of United's defense, Phil Jones is definitely still out and Jonny Evans is a doubt which means there's every chance that the Baggies will generate some chances.
Cardiff City vs. Fulham - Cardiff City is pretty well healthy which doesn't change the fact that they're bad but given that their opposition is also bad and on the road will give fantasy managers hope that there could be some value to be had from players like Jordon Mutch. Over on the Fulham sideline, Scott Parker, Damien Duff, William Kvist and Fernando Amoribieta are all out. This could well be the weekend to consider Nik's favorite Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell despite the price. It might also be worth a shout for someone like Johnny Heitinga or Sascha Reither who are both likely to start and for once have at least an outside chance at a clean sheet in addition to some phantom points.
Crystal Palace vs. Southampton - The Saints have had a shocking number of players out on international duty given that they aren't one of the "big" clubs in the Premier League. The vague statements made about their players still being in the process of being assessed will leave an uncomfortable feeling in the guts of fantasy managers everywhere. I don't think there's huge risk associated with any of the players you're likely to pick but there's always the chance that they'll be just a bit off for a trip to the meatgrinder that is Selhursts Park under Tony Pulis. The Saints players will look like great bargains but I wouldn't go too far overboard.
Norwich City vs. Stoke City - The big news here is that Charlie Adam will miss out while serving the first match of a three match ban for stomping on Olivier Giroud last weekend. The ban couldn't have come at a worse time for Adam's fantasy value as he was set to be one of the most selected players given his strong recent performances and the "quality" of this weekend's opposition. The problem here is that there isn't really a back-up Charlie Adam on the Stoke City roster for fantasy players to buy in on. The one guy who might have been that guy is Marko Arnautovic since he has shown some creative sparks at times this season but he's also a doubt heading into this match. On the Norwich City side, it's hard to love much here. Robert Snodgrass isn't 100% certain to start and his price and designation as a forward in the Yahoo game mean selecting him would mean denying yourself someone like Eden Hazard, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Jay Rodriguez or Ricky Lambert. The Norwich midfielders are healthy but incredibly hit and miss with their production. I'd at least consider Nathan Redmond but he's cooled off significantly from earlier in the season while his price hasn't dropped as much as you'd like.
Chelsea vs. Tottenham - Eden Hazard's knock was apparently not serious and he's set to feature which is major news. Otherwise, Chelsea should be fairly fit which means we just have to worry about rotation as players return from international duty. On the Spurs side the frustrating absentee is Christen Eriksen whose absence probably increases the value of all Chelsea defenders and Petr Cech (but maybe not enough to make them worth their prices against a team as high up the table as Spurs).