The Premier League is back after what seems like a surreal break away from domestic action.
The world paid homage to the innocent victims who lost their lives during the atrocities in Paris and those sentiments will continue following an agreement to play the French national anthem - La Marseillaise – before this weekends’ matches.
Our thoughts and prayers to all those affected.
Watford – vs – Manchester United
Jurado is available after missing the last 2-months due to hamstring and calf problems, but despite the loss at Leicester, Quique Flores is unlikely to tinker too much with his side. Sebastian Prodl picked up a calf problem after only three minutes in Austria and “It looks like he’ll miss 2/3 weeks.” Nathan Ake or Jose Holebas could provide cover defensively [if needed] as Tommie Hoban won’t be back for a few weeks yet. Allan Nyom escaped punishment from the Cameroonian FA after missing his countries World Cup qualifiers. The Federation could invoke a ruling which would suspend the defender domestically for one game but that now looks unlikely. Ighalo will train for the first time on Friday having played for Nigeria "if he is fit he will play,” said the Spanish coach.
Anthony Martial won’t be available having hobbled away from Wembley on Tuesday with a foot problem, however, the injury is not too serious and the 19-year-old could return for Uniteds’ Champions League tie versus PSV. Illness will keep Wayne Rooney out and Louis van Gaals’ lack of cover in attack becomes even more evident as Marouane Fellaini remains on the side-lines. James Wilson is an option for but the striker "cannot play 90 minutes due to a lack of match rhythm." Time for Memphis Depay to step up maybe? Michael Carrick’s ankle injury is not as bad as initially feared; the England international was stretchered off against Spain but will return “much quicker than everyone has written." Possibly against Leicester City next weekend. Antonio Valencia joins Luke Shaw in the treatment room having undergone foot surgery – the Ecuadorian will be lucky to play again this season which could force United into the transfer market come January.
West Brom – vs – Arsenal
Surprisingly and most un-Pulis like the Baggies’ boss confirmed. "Everyone is fit, everyone's raring to go and everyone's looking forward to the game [against Arsenal]." No last minute checks – knocks or niggles to contend with which makes my job a lot easier! Chris Brunt was rested from international duty to help relieve a groin problem and Salomon Rondon is back after representing Venezuela without any problems. Gareth McAuley will miss out after his sending off at Old Trafford – Jonas Olsson or James Chester are the likely candidates for a start.
Hector Bellerin has been passed fit, but Saturday will come too soon for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey. However, the pair do have a chance for Tuesdays’ UEFA Champions League tie versus Dinamo Zagreb. Theo Walcott has entered the final phase of his rehab and the Arsenal forward should be ready within a few weeks. Arsene Wenger will speak to Laurent Koscielny regarding his state of mind following last weeks’ atrocities in Paris. "What I will want from him is that he's completely committed and feels ready. If not, I will not play him." Alexis Sanchez managed 90-minutes for Chile despite a minor calf problem and it remains to be seen whether the winger will be rested for the trip to West Brom.
Everton – vs – Aston Villa
Tom Cleverley could line-up against his former employers after recovering from an ankle ligament injury "I am as fit as ever now and raring to go.” No fresh injury concerns for Everton. Brendon Galloway is a doubt, and with Bryan Oviedo already missing, Leighton Baines could get his first competitive start since May as the Toffees struggle to fill the left-back berth. A knee injury is expected to keep Tyias Browning out. Tony Hibbert "is on his way back" and Phil Jagielka "is in a [knee] brace, but is progressing well." Mo Besic is available having played for Bosnia on Monday but Steven Pienaar is lacking match fitness.
Gabby Agbonlahor can’t shake off a persistent calf complaint and the Villa forward will be lucky to make the squad. Kieran Richardson is expected to fill the void created by the absence of Jordan Amavi who will go under the knife next week after rupturing knee ligaments. Jores Okore is not ready for a return to the Premier League despite playing for the development side. Brad Guzan and Carlos Sanchez will be assessed on their return from international duty but Remi Garde does not expect any "major problems, only [that his players are] a little bit tired." Ashley Westwood [concussion] is available after missing the draw with City as a precaution.
Swansea City – vs – AFC Bournemouth
Garry Monk has the luxury of a fully fit squad. Andre Ayew was a minor concern at the beginning of the week but the Ghana international managed to come through 90 minutes for his country without any problems. Swansea have been unchanged since they won at Villa Park, but expect changes following back-to-back losses to Arsenal and Norwich.
Tommy Elphick is on target to return in December having entered the second phase of his rehab this week. Bournemouth were unlucky against Newcastle in game week twelve having dominated play, but the Premier League is a wicked mistress and if you fail to take your chances you will be punished. The Cherries’ are beginning to feel the loss of Callum Wilson. Glenn Murray failed to make the match day squad before the break while Marc Pugh was injured, however, their replacements [Junior Stanislas and Josh King] have been excellent and Eddie Howe could stick with the same side.
Newcastle United – vs – Leicester City
Rob Elliot has been passed fit after missing the Republic of Ireland’s play-off victory over Bosnia. The Newcastle goalkeeper has been battling an ongoing thigh problem but the 29-year-old will retain his place following a man-of-the-match performance at Dean Court. Karl Darlow isn’t far away but Freddie Woodman will provide the back-up. Gabriel Obertan had been nearing a return but United confirm the French winger will miss “between 3-4 months” following surgery to cure a hamstring problem. Jack Colback and Emmanuel Riviere remain out. Timelines have been extended on Steven Taylor – expect a return in January – and Rolando Aarons who will miss two months after suffering a training ground ankle injury.
Every [fantasy manager] and his dog are sweating on the fitness of Jamie Vardy. The striker has overcome a broken wrist and battled against a problematic Achilles in recent weeks but his latest setback is the hip injury which kept the 28-year-old out of the recent England internationals. Claudio Ranieri refused to be drawn in on whether Vardy would feature at St James’ Park “I hope he's available. I speak to the doctor," but media reports suggest the Premier Leagues’ top marksman "is highly likely to play" having trained "pain-free" on Thursday. No other concerns for Leicester although Okazaki and Kramaric could miss out due to fatigue and Wes Morgan won’t be assessed until late on Friday - Leonardo Ulloa "is ready to play."
Chelsea – vs – Norwich City
Radamel Falcao "will be back soon," but the striker won't be available on Saturday as his recovery from a muscular problem takes a little longer than expected. Thibaut Courtois has stepped up his rehab and the Belgium goalkeeper is on schedule to return in December. Eden Hazard has trained normally following his illness midweek. No mention of Kurt Zouma who missed out for France under-21s after picking up an unspecified injury at The Britannia last time out. The young defender was assessed at his countries headquarters in Clairefontaine before returning to Chelsea for further treatment. Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill are options should Mourinho decide to make changes in defence.
Nathan Redmond has trained all week and the England under-21 “will be fine for Saturday," confirmed Alex Neil. Redmond missed the win over Swansea because of a minor thigh injury. Those involved on international duty will be assessed on Friday. Youssouf Mulumbu picked up a slight knock playing for DR Congo but the midfielder is expected to be fine. The former Baggy will compete with Gary O’Neil for a place in the starting line-up. Russell Martin comes into contention after serving his suspension - Andre Wisdom is the player most likely to make way if the manager decides to bring the defender back in.
Southampton – vs – Stoke City
Jay Rodriguez suffered a devastating setback with the news that the striker is likely to need surgery to cure a niggling foot complaint. A final decision will be made this weekend but Ronald Koeman expects the worst with surgery already pencilled in for early next week. No fresh injury concerns for Southampton. Virgil van Dijk has responded well to treatment after a knee injury forced him off against Wales [for Netherlands] and Shane Long made his comeback for the Republic of Ireland despite only completing one training session within the last 5/6 weeks. “Players are tired but no injuries," following their international exertions.
Geoff Cameron and Mame Diouf are late returners but “both are fine,” confirmed Mark Hughes. Only Marc Muniesa [hamstring] and Shay Given [knee] will be missing from the squad which travels to St Marys’ on Saturday which means a return for Joselu. Erik Pieters caught a boot to the face against Chelsea which broke his nose in two places, but the tough Dutchman made himself available for international duty last week and will line-up for the Potters.
Manchester City – vs – Liverpool
“Sergio Aguero is fit, he’s ready to come back,” Pellegrini said during Fridays’ press conference. “But Silva continues with a small sprain in his ankle so it’s a risk for him." The Chilean manager may keep the Spaniard for Wednesdays’ trip to Juventus. Samir Nasri has been ruled out for up-to three months following [hamstring] surgery and Wilfried Bony won’t play having failed to recover from the muscular injury which ended his afternoon at Villa Park back in game week twelve. Eliaquim Mangala is expected to come in for Vincent Kompany as the skipper continues his ongoing battle against a calf injury. No mention of Pablo Zabaleta [knee] or Fabian Delph [hamstring] but the pair were pictured with the main group on Thursday and barring setbacks should be included in the City squad. Raheem Sterling will face Liverpool for the first time since his acrimonious departure in the summer.
Despite being as “fit as he can be,” Daniel Sturridge is not 100 per cent and Jürgen Klopp may resist the urge to throw the England striker straight back in following his recent return to training. Jordan Henderson "is in a good way" and the Liverpool captain will step up his rehab next week. Mamadou Sakho could be back before the end of the year after tests revealed his knee injury "is not that serious." Jordon Ibe, Kolo Toure and James Milner are in contention for the trip to The Etihad while Jordan Rossiter and Jose Enrique [both hamstring] are progressing nicely.
Tottenham – vs – West Ham United
Nacer Chadli "is recovering” from an ankle ligament strain “but is still out." Nabil Bentaleb "got a bad tackle” on his return to action this week and the Algerian international “is not 100 per cent." Erik Lamela has a small muscular issue but regardless the tricky Argentine is suspended having accumulated five cautions this season. “Everyone else came back fine from the internationals. Which is good,” announced Pochettino. Mousa Dembele has recovered from the calf injury which kept him out of Belgium’s win last weekend and Andros Townsend is added to the squad after apologising for his recent outburst. Clinton N’Jie and Heung-Min Son come back into the reckoning.
"We are going to miss Payet, it's a big loss for us,” revealed Bilic but the good news is that the Frenchman does not require surgery although he will still miss 12-weeks even “if all goes to plan.” Alex Song played an hour in a behind-closed-doors game during the break but the Barcelona loanee is still way short of match fitness and won’t threaten a start just yet. The prognosis on Enner Valencia is much better than anticipated and the Ecuadorian could be back before Christmas, however, a fit Diafra Sakho will help to cushion the blow. Kouyate returns from international duty on Friday “but he is not injured,” although he may be suffering from fatigue. Pedro Obiang is training again but Bilic only wants players who are 100 per cent for the trip to White Hart Lane and the midfielder doesn’t fall into that category just yet. James Collins is suspended which means Winston Reid will start at centre-back.
Crystal Palace – vs – Sunderland
Marouane Chamakh will make his long awaited comeback against Sunderland while former Black Cat Connor Wickham continued to build his fitness during the break. "They will be involved on Monday along with all those from Liverpool," said Pardew. A hamstring injury will keep Dwight Gayle side-lined and Bakary Sako has picked up a minor knock. The winger "may not train tomorrow," but he still has a chance for Monday. Joel Ward dropped to the bench for the win at Anfield as Martin Kelly kept his place and Pape Souare returned from injury. Could the former Newcastle boss is tempted to shuffle his back four?
Lee Cattermole has been battling a niggling groin problem in recent weeks but the Sunderland captain was back on the training pitches today. His return gives Sam Allardyce “virtually a fully fit squad” to choose from. A repeat of last years’ [3-1] win would do very nicely; a game which was also broadcast on a cold and dark Monday night in November.