Asian Cup could cause headache
Last January, the African Cup of Nations caused problems for many managers with some top stars, including Chelsea's Didier Drogba, heading home for a month.
The AFC Asian Cup may not cause as many issues, though the lower profile of this competition means it has crept up on many unsuspecting fantasy managers.
The tournament runs from Jan 7 to Jan 29, but FIFA rules state players must be released by their clubs by December 24. All nations have already submitted a preliminary squad of up to 50 players but these lists do not, in the main, appear to have been made public.
Only Australia and Iran have released their preliminary squads, with Australia selecting Mark Schwarzer (Fulham), Brad Jones (Liverpool), David Carney (Blackpool), Brett Emerton (Blackburn), Tim Cahill (Everton) and Chris Herd (Aston Villa). There are no Iranians in the Premier League.
Most nations display a bit of understanding about club commitments, and it is likely those Asian players in England will be allowed to play some part in the busy Christmas programme. But with the whole of January a write off for Premier League fantasy it's virtually impossible to keep hold of any top performing players over this period. Transfers will have to be used - if you've kept back a good quota - to rotate for that six-week period.
Those picked will miss up to seven Premier League games as well as two rounds of the FA Cup should they reach the final of the Asian Cup.
Only a handful of players will be away who play any meaningful part in fantasy terms. We pick out those who will be sorely missed in the coming weeks.
• Tim Cahill, Australia and Everton, 95 points
Selected in: 13,311 teams (ninth most popular by position)
The loss of the Everton midfielder is going to come as a huge blow to many managers. Cahill is currently the top scorer in the entire game with 95 points, having scored nine goals (only Dimitar Berbatov, Carlos Tevez and Andrew Carroll have scored more) with four assists. He is ten points clear of Florent Malouda to be the top scoring player. It is vital to keep an eye on the team news to know when he will head to Qatar. Everton manager David Moyes is livid about Cahill's absence, largely because when the Toffees signed the player Australia were not in the Asia Confederation.
• Park Ji-Sung, South Korea and Manchester United, 47 points
Selected in: 1,912 teams (61st)
Park may not be one of those players at the top of a manager's transfer list, but he has at times been useful as a reasonably priced squad player. With 47 points scored at a cost of £6.5 million he's no great bargain, but he has been an attractive buy. The South Korean midfielder has netted four goals, and an assist too. There are plenty of players to have scored more points than Park at a lower price, with Stoke's Matthew Etherington a wise purchase.
• Lee Chung-Yong, South Korea and Bolton Wanderers, 52 points
Selected in: 3,077 teams (41st)
Tipped in our pre-season column as a possible bargain buy, Lee has performed well and is far better value for money than his compatriot Park. Priced at just £5.5 million, Lee has netted two goals and grabbed three assists so far this term and at that price it is difficult to find another player without having spare budget. The only players to have scored more points than Lee at the same price or lower are Sunderland's Jordan Henderson and Chris Brunt of West Bromwich Albion.
• Mark Schwarzer, Australia and Fulham, 38 points
Selected in: 3,783 teams (13th)
Fulham may not have had the best of seasons so far this term, but a return of 38 points is not bad for a goalkeeper who missed the first three gameweeks of the season through injury. The points from those games could easily have moved Schwarzer up to fifth in the goalkeeper table, even though the Cottagers have only kept four clean sheets with the Australian in goal. Schwarzer's price of £5 million is not cheap, so a switch to someone like Manchester City's Joe Hart or Birmingham City's Ben Foster looks wise.
We'll round off this week's column with another reminder of how we handle postponed games, especially with only three Premier League games surviving the weather over last weekend.
Those games will fit into the gameweek in which they actually take place, meaning some teams will have two matches that week. For instance, gameweek 24 will now also feature the rearranged game between Blackpool and Manchester United. Those two teams will also face Sunderland and Birmingham City, both at home, that gameweek which will make United players popular for captaincy. It could yet be that further games are rearranged for that midweek.
This has to be done because players you had on the original fixture date may be injured when the game is eventually played, they may no longer play for the same club and most importantly, retrospective points could affect the Manager of the Month prize - with games rearranged sometimes months later it could affect the monthly winner after they have already received a copy of FIFA 2011.