Game week twenty-four finds itself shoehorned into one of the busiest weeks’ of the footballing calendar. Following on from the 4th round of the FA Cup, attention quickly turned to the transfer window as squads aim to strengthen and / or offload in a bid for glory or in the hope of avoiding disaster.
In truth, and dare I say, deadline day was a bit of a damp squib despite January spending hitting a 5-year high (£175m). There was no last-minute scramble for signatures, business generally had been concluded exactly the way most clubs’ would’ve wanted.
Winners include Newcastle United. In come proven pair Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend while Seydou Doumbia and Henri Saivet arrive with big reputations. However, Steve McClaren will be smarting as a deal couldn’t be done for Saido Berahino with the Tyneside club reportedly tabling a £21m bid.
Stoke City smash their transfer record to sign Porto midfielder Giannelli Imbula for £18.3million. The fee surpasses the previous record paid for Xherdan Shaqiri a little over five months ago. I know very little about the 22-year-old but Mark Hughes gets his man following a protracted deal. His arrival saw Chelsea loanee Marco van Ginkel end his agreement at the club with the Dutchman switching to PSV in Holland.
Only Leicester of those occupying the European places were pushing for a deal until the close, although ultimately they failed in their attempts to land a striker. Attention had switched to Loic Remy after CSKA Moscow refused to budge on a £23m asking fee for Ahmed Musa. But the Chelsea bench warmer preferred to remain in West London.
Maybe indicative of the rather sedate feel to the final hours was the fact that an impending managerial departure dominated the headlines. Manuel Pellegrini called to an end the speculation regarding his future by announcing he would be leaving at the end of contract in July. The club quickly followed up by revealing Pep Guardiola would be his successor.
West Ham United – vs – Aston Villa
Cheikhou Kouyate is expected to recover from the minor knock which forced him off during the first half at Anfield in the FA Cup but James Tomkins – who needed thirteen stitches in a head wound – is rated as a major doubt. Mark Noble should recover from the bout of illness which kept him out of that game but Tuesday will come too soon for Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini and Diafra Sakho although all three are close.
Libor Kozak (ankle) and Rudy Gestede (hamstring) haven’t progressed as hoped and it now looks like the pair will miss out along with midfielder Carlos Sanchez (hamstring). Ashley Westwood and Kieran Richardson (both calf) are struggling and will face a late fitness test. Alan Hutton remains a doubt despite making the bench on Saturday, the full-back is still feeling his hamstring. Gabby Agbonlahor can at least be called upon following his recovery from calf and back issues. No players in during the January window for Villa who look doomed at the foot of the table, the West Midlands side are currently 10-pts from safety.
Leicester City – vs – Liverpool
New signing Daniel Amartey lacks match fitness but Claudio Ranieri says the midfielder - who signed from FC Copenhagen - could be available to face Man City on Saturday. Ritchie De Laet would’ve been included in the Foxes squad after shaking off a minor groin problem but the defender has joined Middlesbrough on-loan until the end of the season. Jeffrey Schlupp (hamstring) will remain out until the end of the February. Matty James suffered a fresh setback playing for the Under-21s and will be monitored closely over the next 7-14 days. Shinji Okazaki is okay along with the remainder of the Leicester City side.
Martin Skrtel could return to training within the next 2-3 days while Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi are closing in on full fitness and hope to re-join the group on Thursday. All being well, Daniel Sturridge will step up his recovery on Wednesday although this weekend is likely to come too soon for the striker who hasn’t featured since December. Simon Mignolet was the only player to retain his place in the cup and expect Jürgen Klopp to make a host of changes once again ahead of another busy month. Jordan Henderson should be included after he was rested on Saturday due to an ongoing foot condition.
Sunderland – vs – Manchester City
Sam Allardyce has seen enough during his brief spell on Wearside to realise that changes are required if the Black Cats hope to avoid the drop. Costel Pantilimon and Danny Graham were among the first to leave Sunderland in January with Steven Fletcher, Jordi Gomez and Seb Coates following closely behind. Of those to arrive, Wahbi Khazri represents their biggest investment – believed to be in the region of £9m - from French club Bordeaux. The 24-year-old midfielder is likely to be thrust straight in at the deep end. Dame N’Doye has been granted his work permit and Lamine Kone will also be considered for the visit of title contenders Manchester City.
Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala and Wilfried Bony have been ruled out but all are on the road to recovery. The trio could be back into contention within the next 7-14 days. Samir Nasri is a long-term absentee and the Frenchman was joined last week by Kevin de Bruyne who will miss around 10-weeks after damaging knee and ankle ligaments during the Capital One Cup win over Everton. Aleksandar Kolarov has been passed fit but Manuel Pellegrini won’t risk Fabian Delph with a number of matches coming up: “He has a small problem from the last game. It’s just a kick in his calf - it’s not serious.”
Arsenal – vs – Southampton
Only Tomas Rosicky will be missing from the squad which faced Burnley on Saturday. The Czech midfielder needs a scan after suffering a thigh injury following his introduction from the bench during the FA Cup win. Arsene Wenger will assess one or two players including Laurent Koscielny who picked up a minor knock. Per Mertesacker returns after completing his one-match ban. Arsenal made nine changes at the weekend and expect more of the same on Tuesday. Mohamed Elneny and Alex Iwobi are certain to make way while a decision will be made on the fitness of Francis Coquelin following his return after a two-month absence. Wenger denied rumours of a setback for Jack Wilshere: "Overall, he is looking good, I have assured Roy Hodgson he is doing well."
Steven Davis hasn’t fully recovered from the knock he picked up against West Brom a fortnight ago. The midfielder is hoping to face West Ham this weekend. Graziano Pelle will be assessed in training as the Italian struggles to overcome an ongoing knee problem. Ronald Koeman hints that new signing Charlie Austin could start following his winner at Old Trafford. The 26-year-old scored on his debut to secure a famous victory for the South Coast side, taking his tally to four in his last five Premier League matches.
Norwich City – vs – Tottenham Hotspur
Alex Tettey is expected to recover from the bout of illness which kept him out of the dramatic loss to Liverpool in week twenty-three. Andre Wisdom will return to the squad having missed out due to the terms of his loan agreement. Gary O'Neil will serve the final game of his three-match suspension. Meanwhile, Patrick Bamford will be added to the Canaries squad following his arrival from Chelsea.
Alex Pritchard has joined West Brom on-loan which just leaves Clinton N’Jie (knee surgery), Jan Vertonghen (MCL) and Ryan Mason (ankle) in the Tottenham treatment room. N’Jie is pencilled in to return in March but Mason is expected to re-join the group in training this week. He could come into contention for game week twenty-six. There is no definitive timeline on Vertonghen currently after the defender strained medial knee ligaments after falling awkwardly having been struck by Connor Wickham’s elbow. Eric Dier could drop into the back-four to partner Toby Alderweireld.
Crystal Palace – vs – AFC Bournemouth
Yohan Cabaye will face a late fitness test after limping away from Selhurst Park on Saturday. The French playmaker was replaced at half-time due to an ankle injury. There were initial concerns of a serious problem when the 30-year-old was spotted on crutches but tests have since revealed: "It's not as bad as first feared. We're hoping it's just a swelling. There was a lot of fluid on it,” said Pardew. Joe Ledley won’t be involved but should be back this weekend. Emmanuel Adebayor is in line for a start after Dwight Gayle tweaked his hamstring in training on Friday and Connor Wickham received a three-match retrospective ban for his elbow on Jan Vertonghen in game week twenty-three.
Eddie Howe made a raft of changes in the FA Cup, as his Cherries side scraped past Portsmouth in the 4th round - Adam Smith the only player to retain his place. Captain Tommy Elphick made his first appearance since undergoing ankle surgery and Josh King was back following his recent hamstring injury. Prior to that, Bournemouth were unchanged at the Stadium of Light and expect a similar line-up on Tuesday after it was confirmed that Benik Afobe had recovered from a bruised toe.
Manchester United – vs – Stoke City
The return of Michael Carrick at Derby provided a welcome boost but United could be without the services of Bastian Schweinsteiger for another month after a second MRI scan revealed damage to his medial knee ligament. Fellaini could continue to deputise until Carrick is back up-to speed. Guillermo Varela will start at right-back if Matteo Darmian is ruled out. However, the Italian shouldn’t be sidelined for too long after Van Gaal confirmed the injury he sustained against Southampton was not serious. Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones are all pencilled in for a return later this month. Ashley Young requires groin surgery and remains a long-term absentee.
Marko Arnautovic, Glen Johnson and Jon Walters were all rested in the cup and Mark Hughes expects the trio to come back into contention on Tuesday. However, Marc Wilson could miss up-to three-months after sustaining a serious knee injury at Selhurst Park. Shay Given is still recovering from knee surgery and is yet to re-join the group in training. Ryan Shawcross will return a lot sooner than originally anticipated but tomorrow will come too soon. Meanwhile, Geoff Cameron isn’t too far away either although he will be a little longer than the skipper. Charlie Adam (calf) won’t return until March. Record signing Giannelli Imbula will not be included in the squad but could be available this weekend.
West Brom – vs – Swansea City
Boaz Myhill is on standby for the Baggies after Ben Foster suffered a rib injury. The goalkeeper missed out last weekend and will face a late fitness test. Darren Fletcher (knee) and Saido Berahino (dead leg) will also be checked during the build-up to Tuesdays’ game. Chris Brunt (calf) is expected to remain on the sidelines along with James Morrison (hamstring) and Callum McManaman who damaged ankle ligaments in training last week.
Following the disappointing home defeat to Sunderland in January, Swansea have bounced back with consecutive wins, the latest an impressive victory at Goodison Park ten-days ago. With a fully fit squad to choose from, expect changes to be kept to a minimum after Francesco Guidolin emulated predecessors Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk by winning his first Premier League game in charge of the Swans.
Watford – vs – Chelsea
Newcastle helped Watford stop the rot as the Hornets won for the first time since December in the league to end a run of four consecutive defeats. But, despite their dip in form Watford remain in the top half. New boys Costel Pantilimon and Nordin Amrabat started in the cup win over Nottingham Forest – a pretty dour affair – but Quique Flores will be happy to be in the 5th round of cup having made seven changes for the trip to the City Ground. Tommie Hoban has stepped up his recovery from groin surgery but Joel Ekstrand suffered a setback for the Under-21s and will be a few additional weeks.
Chelsea cruised past MK Dons in the FA Cup on Sunday but the victory was slightly marred by the news that standout player of the season – Willian – picked up a foot injury. Thankfully the problem doesn’t appear to be too serious and Guus Hiddink remains hopeful that the Brazilian can recover in time. Alexandre Pato has been added to the Chelsea ranks to help ease the burden on Diego Costa but the forward needs time to adapt. Meanwhile, Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao – both linked with moves away on deadline day – remain at the club although the pair lack fitness following their recent injuries.
Everton – vs – Newcastle United
Everton completed the £13.5m signing of Oumar Niasse just hours before the transfer window slammed firmly shut. But the former Lokomotiv Moscow striker will not be available for Wednesday as the player awaits international clearance. Kevin Mirallas (knee) will have a late fitness otherwise the Toffees are pretty healthy. James McCarthy and Tom Cleverley appear to be over their recent niggles but Mo Besic (hamstring) is still out.
Steve McClaren is hoping to welcome back a trio of players on Wednesday. Jack Colback, Paul Dummett and Siem de Jong all missed the defeat at Vicarage Road but are said to be close. Steven Taylor will have benefitted from another eleven days of training after the defender was thrust back into the squad having been out since August because of a defensive crisis. Papiss Cisse is progressing nicely and the striker should be given the green light to step up his recovery with a potential return earmarked in game week twenty-six.