First up, I’d like to start by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully a great day was had by all……
But now, to the matter in hand, game week 13.
Don’t be caught out by the early deadline as West Ham face the Foxes on Black Friday. As always, around such eventualities, I aim to get my preview ‘live’ as early as possible with relevant updates added as necessary. So, don’t forget to keep checking as there will be lots of late team news coming through - particularly from those involved in Europe on Wednesday and Thursday.
West Ham United – vs – Leicester City
"Arnautovic looked really serious when he came off against Watford," said David Moyes. "Thankfully, there's no break but [his thumb] was badly swollen. He's fine and he's trained with a plaster on." Andre Ayew returns after missing the 2-0 defeat at Vicarage Road due to illness, however, despite training with the squad, Michail Antonio “won't be with us” as he is short of match-fitness. James Collins is another player who could miss out on Friday: "We need him back [but] I don't think rushing him or Antonio is the right thing to do with so many matches coming up." Javier Hernandez [hamstring] will start some running "hopefully" next week. Jose Fonte [foot] and Sam Byram [thigh] remain side-lined.
Claude Puel is hoping Matthew James [Achilles] and Robert Huth [foot] will be back in contention by the end of this month. Failing that, the pair should return in early December. No other expected absentees after Ben Chilwell and Vicente Iborra were passed fit for the visit of Manchester City last weekend.
Crystal Palace – vs – Stoke City
Jordon Mutch and Patrick van Aanholt are back in contention as Roy Hodgson confirms only Chung-Yong Lee [muscular] and Connor Wickham [ACL knee] are out through injury. "Our injury situation [is] very good." Christian Benteke is pushing for a start following his 15-minute cameo against Everton. The Eagles striker had been side-lined for almost two months, but his rustiness didn’t stop Hodgson singling him out after missing a gilt-edged opportunity to win the game: “He is a big money signing for the club and there is a lot of expectancy and he will have to live up to those expectations.”
The Potters have no fresh injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s trip to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Cameron won't be available after missing the last three games, but Mark Hughes insists the US international is on the road to recovery: “Geoff is stepping up his work, which is good news. He's progressing well and we’re hoping he will get back into the playing group next week." Lee Grant will again deputise for the injured Butland [broken finger]: "It’s pretty straightforward with Jack. We’ve just got to give it the time it needs and once he can get the gloves on and get out working he should be back very, very quickly.” Barring any last-minute problems, forgotten man Stephen Ireland [broken leg] is the only other player missing through injury.
Manchester United – vs – Brighton and Hove Albion
Speaking ahead of the Champions League tie in Basel, Jose Mourinho confirmed Phil Jones would miss out on Saturday. However, he did confirm that Eric Bailly has a “chance” of facing Brighton. Zlatan Ibrahimović is pushing for a start having been introduced from the bench in his last two but Marcos Rojo is unlikely to be named in the starting XI following 90 minutes on Wednesday evening. Paul Pogba is a shoo-in following a dazzling display against Newcastle in his first appearance in over two months.
No fresh injury concerns for Chris Hughton following the 2-2 draw against Stoke on Monday night. Steve Sidwell [back] is the only player not training at the moment. Sam Baldock is yet to feature following calf surgery in the summer but Beram Kayal will be in the travelling squad to Old Trafford. The midfielder suffered a fractured fibula in Brighton's final pre-season game against Atletico Madrid.
Newcastle United – vs – Watford
Paul Dummett is back in full training but by the players own admission he’ll need some game time with the Under-23s before returning to the first-team. Mikel Merino has stepped up his recovery – ever so slightly – but the midfielder is still not taking part in full sessions. Saturday is probably a week too soon for Jamaal Lascelles which means Ciaran Clark and Florian Lejeune look certain to be paired centrally despite their poor showing at Old Trafford. Mo Diame is the most likely replacement for the suspended Isaac Hayden although Rafa has hinted that Chancel Mbemba could play in an advanced role if needed. Christian Atsu is “getting better” but it’s still too early to say when he will return.
Kiko Femenía has recovered from the lower leg injury that forced him off against West Ham and the full-back is fit to face Newcastle. "He is okay,” said Marco Silva. “He has done all the sessions with us this week.” The Head Coach also confirmed Daryl Janmaat was left out of the squad last weekend for "tactical" reasons. Silva was unable to give an exact time frame on Younès Kaboul, Isaac Success, Nathaniel Chalobah and Craig Cathcart. “We'll see what happens in the next weeks,” he said. Troy Deeney serves the final game of his three-match ban.
Swansea City – vs – AFC Bournemouth
"Abraham hasn’t trained yet. We’ll have to see how he responds to the treatment [on Thursday] and see if he trains tomorrow," said Clement. "But he’s a doubt. I would say 50-50 at this point. There’s only one session left." Bony is ready for action having made his first appearance since September last weekend: "I would prefer to have Tammy available, of course, because he has shown he can score goals for us. But we have Wilfried back fit and he is ready to start. He is motivated, he is hungry to play and perform." Kyle Bartley is a definite absentee. Mesa could return to the match-day squad despite his omission at Burnley: “Roque is training every day, he is motivated, and he is pushing hard,” said the Swans manager. “I am looking at my selection and he has as good a chance to play as anybody, particularly with some players struggling for form.”
Jermain Defoe missed the win over Huddersfield after suffering a calf strain in training, but Eddie Howe is hopeful the striker can return in time for Swansea. However, his role is likely to be from the bench after Callum Wilson grabbed a hat-trick as 10-man Bournemouth trounced the Terriers. Jordon Ibe took a whack to the knee during the game and he remains a doubt – Lewis Cook is one potential replacement as Adam Smith is expected to deputise for the suspended Simon Francis. Adam Federici, Brad Smith and Tyrone Mings remain in the treatment room but Junior Stanislas [groin] is closing in on a comeback.
Tottenham Hotspur – vs – West Bromwich Albion
Victor Wanyama is progressing and Pochettino "hopes" he will be back before the end of the year, however, he is "not sure" at the moment. Toby Alderweireld continues to undergo rehab on his hamstring and looks set to miss the next 10 games [at least] - not expected back until January. Erik Lamela played an hour for the Reserves last Saturday following more than 12 months out and the Tottenham boss will make a late call on whether he makes the squad or continues to build fitness with the Under-23s. Danny Rose was said to be “fuming” after missing out against Arsenal but the left-back impressed in Dortmund leaving Pochettino with a tough decision to make.
Gary Megson will take temporary charge following the dismissal of Tony Pulis after the Baggies were comprehensively beaten at home by Chelsea. Nacer Chadli [hamstring], James Morrison [Achilles] and Craig Dawson [knee] are all long-term absentees, but the trio are hoping to return around Christmas.
Liverpool – vs – Chelsea
Adam Lallana is in full training but after missing the previous 3 months, Jurgen Klopp is not prepared to rush the midfielder and risk a setback. Joel Matip is said to have a “big chance” of making Saturday after missing the win over Southampton due to a minor thigh strain. Nathaniel Clyne is the only other major concern and the full-back won’t play again until February after undergoing back surgery.
Victor Moses isn’t far away but after missing the past 6 weeks with a hamstring strain, the wing-back can’t expect anything other than a place on the bench at best. Alvaro Morata was rested midweek, but the striker should return to the starting XI while Luiz, Willian and Pedro are all expected to make way from the side which won 4-0 against Qarabag. Charly Musonda [muscular] and Kenedy [knee] remain major doubts while there is no timeframe on a potential return for Michy Batshuayi [ankle].
Southampton – vs – Everton
Not a game for the faint hearted with both sides struggling for form. A decision on Mario Lemina [ankle] will be made closer to kick-off and Pellegrino will consider his midfield options with Oriol Romeu set to sit this one out through suspension. James Ward-Prowse would be my guess. Charlie Austin is knocking at the door as the Saints have only scored 9 times this season, three of which, came against West Ham back in August!
Everton suffered another embarrassing Europa League defeat and confidence is at an all-time low as the search for a permanent manager continues – even David Unsworth is having second thoughts. The caretaker boss asked the players to make it difficult for him to leave them out of the team on Sunday, but the majority have made it very easy, after another shambolic display. Morgan Schneiderlin should recover from a minor toe problem while Sandro or Wayne Rooney could come in to replace Oumar Niasse – the first Premier League player to be retrospectively suspended for the ‘Successful Deception of a Match Official’ aka DIVING. Of those currently injured, Mason Holgate [groin] is the closest with James McCarthy and Ross Barkley due back in in around 2-3 weeks. Yannick Bolasie trained with the first-team on Wednesday and the winger is said to be targeting late December.
Burnley – vs – Arsenal
Chris Wood missed the win over Swansea following his late return from international duty leaving Sean Dyche with a decision to make after his replacement – Ashley Barnes – was on hand to score his first Premier League goal of the campaign. Tom Heaton and Jon Walters will do well to play again this year.
Arsène Wenger rested his big guns in Cologne on Thursday, but his side did contain Olivier Giroud [back after a thigh problem] and Danny Welbeck [recently recovered from a hamstring strain]. And it was the latter who set tongues wagging when he was replaced at the break, fortunately the Arsenal boss moved quickly to allay growing concerns. “It was planned that he would only play 45 mins,” he said. “He has only just come back from injury, and we have more games on Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday again. He has no problem." Theo Walcott [illness] should return which leaves – remarkably – only Santi Cazorla sidelined.
Huddersfield Town – vs – Manchester City
David Wagner suggested Kasey Palmer would be back in contention following another run out for the Under-23s on Monday evening. The Chelsea loanee hasn’t featured since September due to a hamstring complaint. Steve Mounie - looking to start for the first time in 2 months - should be in contention after a disappointing result at the Vitality. Michael Hefele is taking much longer than originally anticipated and he, along with Philip Billing and Jon Stankovic, won’t be back until the new year.
Nicolas Otamendi makes a timely return following the news that a hamstring strain is likely to keep John Stones out for up to 6 weeks. Guardiola can also call upon captain Vincent Kompany who returned against Leicester last weekend. Pep hinted this week that because of Benjamin Mendy’s injury, Leroy Sane must play wide, which is why Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus “don’t play together.”