Merry Christmas everyone! A trip to Molineux on Friday night signals the start of the festive fixture programme and a period which could define the rest of your season. Expect to see a sudden spike in injuries - soft tissue and muscular strains are prevalent – so the need for a strong bench has never warranted more consideration.
Team news can be difficult to track, and with such a quick turnaround between matches, up-to date information may not be readily available. So, we will be trying our best to ensure that you have all the latest and breaking news.
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Wolverhampton Wanderers – vs – Liverpool
Diogo Jota fails to recover from the hamstring injury which forced him off in the win over Bournemouth. "We have to wait a couple days more until the blood goes away so the doctor does a new exam and we have the exact diagnosis,” said Nuno Espírito Santo. "For tomorrow Jota is impossible, hopefully he'll be back soon." There are no other injury concerns for Wolves.
James Milner is training and should be in contention after missing the win over Manchester United: “I just had a bit of a sensation in my hamstring at the end of the Napoli game and the manager made the decision [to miss Sunday]. It was the right thing not to risk me." Nathaniel Clyne impressed last time out, so it remains to be seen whether Jurgen Klopp sticks, or changes it up at Molineux. Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to miss out again, however, he could return in GW19. “It actually looks surprisingly good,” said the Liverpool boss. “I think Wolves will still be a bit too early but after that, they told me we can think about him. The pain goes down second by second.” Joe Gomez (lower leg fracture), Joel Matip (fractured collarbone) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee ligament) remain long-term absentees.
Arsenal – vs – Burnley
Unai Emery confirmed Hector Bellerin had a "small [calf] injury" after the defeat at Southampton which was likely to keep the full-back sidelined for "some weeks". Sokratis is available after his ban, but Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring) and Sead Kolasinac (thigh) will be a late decision. Stefan Lichtsteiner has recovered from a minor knock.
There were concerns following the 1-0 defeat at Tottenham that Aaron Lennon would need an operation, and on Thursday, Sean Dyche confirmed the winger has had surgery to repair a cartilage tear in his knee. "It’s a tidying up situation. He’s happy with it and the surgeon is happy with it. Hopefully it will be a straight-forward recovery, albeit some time." Johann Berg Gudmundsson (hamstring) is back in training and could be available. Defour (knee) is rated as “touch and go” and could miss out again. “I don't think we'll make the judgement in Steven's favour." Robbie Brady has a chance of being available while Stephen Ward (knee surgery) has stepped up his recovery. “He’s back in training and back on the grass with us but will need a bit of time yet.” Nick Pope (dislocated shoulder) returned for the U23s, but the Clarets goalkeeper is not ready to be considered for the first-team just yet.
AFC Bournemouth – vs – Brighton and Hove Albion
Tyrone Mings was back in the matchday squad on Wednesday, but Eddie Howe is unsure whether Simon Francis can recover in time. “It’s more of a [groin] niggle than anything else. We’ll wait and see how he performs this week. I can’t give you a clear answer on his availability.” Callum Wilson managed 90 minutes against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup despite his recent return from a grade one hamstring tear. Dan Gosling, Adam Smith and Lewis Cook are all sidelined with serious knee injuries.
José Izquierdo (knee) has been ruled out again while Alireza Jahanbakhsh (hamstring) won’t be rushed following a minor setback. “He is close, but we still have to make sure that we do everything right.” Goalkeeper Mat Ryan will be available for the game with Arsenal on Boxing Day before he heads off to the Asian Cup with Australia. Shane Duffy serves the final game of his 3-game ban.
Chelsea – vs – Leicester City
Álvaro Morata twisted his knee in Budapest and the misfiring striker could miss he third successive game. With Olivier Giroud starting in the Carabao Cup, Eden Hazard is expected to return to the XI and play as a false 9. Andreas Christensen (hamstring) seems certain to miss out, although with only one Premier League start in 2018/19, his absence will not be felt.
Jamie Vardy was rested due to a niggling groin problem midweek but should return to the matchday squad at Chelsea. "I hope he can play and find his qualities. We need Jamie. It’s been difficult for him with injuries and suspensions. We need him at his best." Wilfried Ndidi sustained a knock at the Etihad on Tuesday and the midfielder is facing a late fitness test. “We will see tomorrow if he can play or not. It’s about his knee, he received a fall against him. He finished the game, but with pain, so we’ll see if he can participate.” Ben Chilwell (knee) is well-placed to return after missing the last two games. "I think he can participate [at Stamford Bridge]." Daniel Amartey (ankle) and Matty James (Achilles) continue to be monitored at the Club’s training ground and are making good progress.
Huddersfield Town – vs – Southampton
No fresh injury concerns from the home defeat to Newcastle. “Steve Mounié is back and in contention" after completing his ban. Rajiv Van la Parra (back) will have a late fitness test. Four first-team players have been ruled - Danny Williams (knee) and Abdelhamid Sabiri (shoulder) are both sidelined until February while Tom Smith (hamstring) is still around a month away. Despite being included in Australia's 23-man squad for the Asian Cup in January, Aaron Mooy is expected to miss the tournament. “We will rush nothing, no-one wants him to have further injuries. We think he’ll be out for eight weeks.”
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhüttl confirms that he has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to Huddersfield. Five players re-joined the group this week which included the likes of Jack Stephens (knee), Mario Lemina (abdominal) and Cedric Soares (calf). No mention of Nathan Redmond who picked up a knock in the win over Arsenal, although he has been pictured on the training pitches. Ryan Bertrand is one who could miss out again after undergoing minor back surgery.
Manchester City – vs – Crystal Palace
Ahead of the cup on Tuesday, Pep admitted his squad was looking a little stretched. “We don’t have many players, we have a lot of injured players, some players who have played the last few games will have to play,” he said. Vincent Kompany is the latest addition to the City casualty list which includes the likes of David Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo. Kevin De Bruyne, however, is back in Guardiola’s plans after recovering from a knee injury. "It is difficult to start when you are injured for five months, but it felt good to play for 70 minutes. I feel stiff, but I am happy to contribute. We want to win titles, and now, it's two games more and we can battle for another trophy." Sergio Agüero is also nearing full fitness.
Roy Hodgson has a decision to make after Guaita played his part in the 1-0 win over Leicester. Wayne Hennessey was a late withdrawal after suffering a back injury in training. "We didn’t know about losing the goalkeeper until yesterday. I thought Guaita did very well with very little preparation. We had to dig in to get the clean sheet, and all credit to the back four." Midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate should be okay after picking up a knock at Selhurst Park. Scott Dann and Connor Wickham are with the group, but after long-term injuries, neither is ready for a start.
Newcastle United – vs – Fulham
An ongoing toe problem saw Kenedy limp down the tunnel at full-time last weekend. However, the Chelsea loanee has been on the training pitches and is hoping to be cleared for the game. Federico Fernandez (calf) is another player looking to shake off a minor knock. Rafa Benitez may recall DeAndre Yedlin who is back after his ban.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is available after suspension, but Claudio Ranieri confirms the midfielder has been ruled out for "another ten days" having picked up an injury in training. Ryan Sessegnon (groin) will miss the trip to Tyneside, although the 18-year-old is hoping to return against Wolves (GW19) "or [the game] after.” No word on Kevin McDonald or Maxime Le Marchand. Alexander Mitrovic returns to his former stomping ground and will feel he has a point to prove. "When a player goes back to his previous club, he always wants to show something more. I hope he can have a very good match,” said Claudio Ranieri.
West Ham United – vs – Watford
Lucas Pérez (foot) faces a late fitness test. Otherwise, it's as you were for the Hammers. Up-to eight players could missing for the visit of Watford on Saturday including long-term absentees - Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid, Andriy Yarmolenko and Carlos Sánchez. Arnautovic (hamstring) has a chance of returning ahead of schedule. "I think, next week, he will be back working with the team.” Jack Wilshere won't play again this year. "We don't know if he needs [ankle] surgery. We need to wait for his medical examination. We cannot be sure just yet." Pellegrini plans to rotate over Christmas. "I always say that December is a key month. We need to play so many games - seven in [total] - this could decide a team's future. We've started [the month] well, but we're missing players and we have to use all of the squad."
Etienne Capoue returns after his ban. “Everybody knows he is a very important player for us,” said Javi Gracia. "His comeback makes us stronger. We have more options now. We know we play five games in 15 days and all of the players are important." No fresh injury concerns, so expect the Hornets to have a similar squad as last time out. “Will Hughes, Andre Gray, Sebastian Prödl and Adalberto Peñaranda are all out of the team. We'll see for the next games if they are ready.” Nathaniel Chalobah and Tom Cleverley “need time” before they reach peak fitness levels.
Cardiff City – vs – Manchester United
Ken Zohore was an unused substitute at Watford, but after another week of training, the striker stands a better chance of minutes. No mention of Danny Ward who has been struggling from an ongoing knee problem while Jazz Richards (hamstring) is almost certain to miss out. Greg Cunningham began some light work almost two weeks ago, so shouldn't be too far away.
United’s extended injury list of late has been whittled down over the past week and with Luke Shaw (back) in full training, Alexis Sánchez (hamstring) may be the only player unavailable through injury for Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s first game in charge.
Everton – vs – Tottenham Hotspur
The Toffees should have a clean bill of health with Idrissa Gueye expected to recover from a minor groin issue which kept him out of the loss at Manchester City. Marco Silva said James McCarthy is ready to make his competitive comeback having not featured for the first-team since suffering a double-fracture in January. "James is progressing. He is getting better. I know games will give him a better condition, but we are playing tough, tough matches and it is not easy to give him what everybody knows will help him get better, which is minutes in those games.”
Serge Aurier (groin) and Mousa Dembele (ankle) are in the final stages of rehab although the latter is not expected to return until next year. Eric Dier (appendicitis) has been discharged from hospital and will commence his recovery from next week. Jan Vertonghen has begun work, and although "he feels like he’s fit" the defender is still struggling with his thigh. "He’s recovering well, and we’ll see. We hope as soon as possible he can be available again.” Davinson Sánchez is back in full training and Juan Foyth was included in the 18 on Wednesday at Arsenal. Harry Kane is fine after a cold restricted the striker to role from the bench at the Emirates.