The holiday period is a crazy time for lots of people, but it's especially so in the Premier League, which hammers four games into a 12-day period. Due to the quick turnaround between matches, managers are constantly adjusting their team sheets to ensure players get proper rest, to avoid overplaying them now and paying for it later.
A number of big name players are already out with injuries, such as Sergio Aguero, Daniel Sturridge and Robin van Persie, so fantasy players know ahead of time that they won't play. Unfortunately, the confusion begins there, as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said recently that he'll have to rest Mesut Ozil sometime over the holiday period, but of course didn't say when.
Below is what we do know, or at least what we think we know, about the injuries heading into matchweek 18:
Hull City vs. Manchester United
Out: Marouane Fellaini is out for two months after undergoing wrist surgery last weekend. Nani is expected to be out for another few weeks with a hamstring injury, while Robin van Persie remains sidelined with his thigh injury. Joe Dudgeon (knee) could return in early 2014, although January may be too early. Stephen Quinn (hamstring) is looking at a return in January. Sone Aluko remains out with his Achilles injury.
Not Expected to Play: Robbie Brady (groin) isn’t likely to be fit during the holiday period.
Expected to Play: Danny Welbeck (knee) has returned to training and was cleared to travel after suffering a knee injury in last weekend’s match against West Ham. Nemanja Vidic (illness) may be cleared to return. Michael Carrick could make his return from an Achilles injury that has kept him out for a number of weeks.
Everton vs. Sunderland
Out: Gerard Deulofeu (hamstring) is at least four weeks out from a return. Arouna Kone and Darron Gibson are out long-term with knee injuries. Carlos Cuellar (hip) is likely out until February. Keiren Westwood may need surgery on his injured shoulder.
Expected to Play: Leighton Baines looks set to return after missing the last four weeks with a broken toe. Sylvain Distin and Steven Pienaar both picked up knocks in last weekend’s match against Swansea, but should be fit against Sunderland. Nikica Jelavic was held out of last weekend’s match after feeling tightness in his hamstring during the warm up, but should be good to go. John O’Shea will have a late fitness test due to his injured shoulder.
Newcastle vs. Stoke City
Out: Robert Huth (knee) has been ruled out for the holiday period. Ryan Taylor remains sidelined with his knee injury.
Expected to Play: Matthew Etherington could return from his back injury.
Norwich City vs. Fulham
Out: Anthony Pilkington (hamstring) could return in January. Alexander Tettey (ankle) is out until February. Elliott Bennett (knee) remains out for the long-term. Philippe Senderos will miss the rest of December with a groin injury. Brede Hangeland continues to sit following surgery to repair nerve damage in his back.
Expected to Play: Russell Martin (ankle) was held out last weekend but has returned to training and should feature. Jonathan Howson (back) faces a late fitness test. Dimitar Berbatov (groin) will also have a late fitness test. Hugo Rodallega (groin) could be available after missing more than a month.
Aston Villa vs. Crystal Palace
Out: Marouane Chamakh is out after picking him his fifth yellow card last weekend. Jerome Thomas continues to sit with a groin injury. Adlene Guedioura (rib/lung) should be back in mid-January. Jack Hunt doesn’t have a firm return date from his ankle injury. Patrick McCarthy hasn’t played yet this season due to his groin injury. Glenn Murray (knee) has begun running and could return in late January. Christian Benteke (knee) has been ruled out for the entire holiday period. Joe Bennett continues to sit with a back injury. Jores Okore (knee) may be able to return at some point late this season. Charles N’Zogbia (Achilles) could miss the entire season.
Expected to Play: Stuart O’Keefe missed Saturday’s match against Newcastle with a muscle complaint, but should be back. Kagisho Dikacoi had a similar issue that held him out of the Newcastle match, but he’s expected to be fit Thursday. Ron Vlaar (calf) could return after missing out against Stoke City last weekend.
Chelsea vs. Swansea City
Out: Michu will be out until February with an ankle injury. Michel Vorm will be out for awhile after having knee surgery. Nathan Dyer (ankle) is out until February. Garry Monk (knee) could return soon. Marco van Ginkel (knee) will likely miss the rest of the season.
Not Expected to Play: Ryan Bertrand is sitting out with a knock.
Expected to Play: Alvaro Vazquez (groin) was able to make a late appearance in last weekend’s match against Everton.
Tottenham vs. West Bromwich Albion
Out: Paulinho has two games left on his three-match ban for picking up a red card against Liverpool. Aaron Lennon will miss the next few weeks after picking up an abdominal injury during last Wednesday’s Capital One Cup match against West Ham. Andros Townsend (hamstring) is out for at least one month. Younes Kaboul remains sidelined with his quad injury. Jan Vertonghen (ankle) is still a few weeks away from returning. Harry Kane remains out with a back injury.
Not Expected to Play: Mousa Dembele was forced out of last Sunday’s match against Southampton with an ankle injury. Victor Anichebe looks set to miss out due to a groin injury.
Expected to Play: Sandro could return from his calf injury.
West Ham vs. Arsenal
Out: Ryo Miyaichi continues to sit with a hamstring injury. Yaya Sanogo (back) is expected to return in the middle of January. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) is targeting a return on January 4 to face Tottenham in the FA Cup. Abou Diaby (knee) is likely at least three months away. Stewart Downing is out until February with an Achilles injury. Mladen Petric remains sidelined with a calf injury. Winston Reid (ankle) could also be out until February. Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder) has no timetable for return. Andy Carroll (foot) appears close to a return, although we’ve heard that before.
Expected to Play: Laurent Koscielny (knee) has reportedly returned to training, although he was unable to feature Monday against Chelsea. Kevin Nolan returns from his multi-game ban for picking up a red card earlier this month.
Cardiff City vs. Southampton
Out: Victor Wanyama remains sidelined with a leg injury. Artur Boruc (hand) is still a few weeks away from returning. Kelvin Davis continues to be sidelined with his back injury. Guly do Prado (knee) could return in the first or second week of January.
Not Expected to Play: Craig Bellamy (knee) doesn’t appear ready to return from his knee injury.
Expected to Play: Luke Shaw could miss out due to the illness that forced him to miss last weekend’s match against Tottenham. Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring) is hopeful to return.
Manchester City vs. Liverpool
Out: Sergio Aguero (calf) could be out until the end of January. Micah Richards could miss at least a month due to a hamstring injury. Steven Gerrard could return in mid-January from his hamstring injury. Daniel Sturridge (ankle) will try to return before February. Jose Enrique is still about two months away from returning from knee surgery. Sebastian Coates (knee) may be able to return before the end of the season.
Expected to Play: Stevan Jovetic is still recovering from an illness, but could be available off the bench. Matija Nastasic (calf) may be able to return. Pablo Zabaleta made a surprise return to training Tuesday, and is expected to feature if he doesn't suffer any setbacks before Thursday. Jon Flanagan (hamstring) faces a late fitness test.