The Premier League fixture schedule has been trimmed ever so slightly this weekend as the Capital One cup final takes place affording Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City the luxury of an extended break and the former have certainly took advantage with a trip to sunnier climes as Chris Ramsey whipped his squad off to Dubai.
Chelsea and Tottenham meet head-to-head on Sunday and the prospect of early silverware will add a little spice to this London derby. Mauricio Pochettino will need to rally his troops following their game in Florence on Thursday while it will be interesting to see how Tottenham cope with the quick turnaround – not just physically but psychologically following their disappointing Europa League exit. Jose Mourinho – for once – can relax ahead of the tie having had a full week to prepare.
Once again the fixtures will be coming thick and fast as March kicks off with a midweek set of matches [GW28] so make sure you stay tuned to the experts at Rotoworld for all the latest team news as we expect plenty of rotation with a little over 72 hours between ties.
West Ham – vs – Crystal Palace
New signing Anderson Luis de Carvalho will be included in the squad which takes on Crystal Palace in the early kick-off at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday. The Brazilian signed 9 days ago as a free agent and will “most likely be on the bench” as Nene continues to work on his fitness following his release from Qatari club Al Gharafa SC “he can play a big part for us, especially with Carroll and Cole out" confirmed Allardyce. Carlton Cole picked up a hamstring strain during the derby draw with Spurs while Andy Carroll is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery. Morgan Amalfitano serves the second of his three game ban.
Alan Pardew is facing a mini striker crisis with the news that Fraizer Campbell [6 weeks], Yaya Sanogo and Marouane Chamakh have all been ruled out of GW27 because of hamstring problems although the latter are targeting a return against QPR after the break. James McArthur is back in full training following a thigh injury and has been passed fit while captain Jedinak "has trained well” although the manager did hint that the Aussie international won’t just walk back into the team “we’ve had some outstanding performances in midfield, there’s a bit of competition there with Jordon Mutch."
Burnley – vs – Swansea
Matty Taylor joined the first team in training this week but after a long period out the midfielder will need “time and games” before he is considered for the match-day squad. However Stephen Ward is available but requires “another week or two” to be “really, really fully fit." Dean Marney successfully underwent ACL reconstructive surgery and has now started his rehab back at the club. The in-form Danny Ings is the Clarets main threat having scored 5 in his last 7 league appearances and Ashley Barnes will support his teammate after the FA decided not to take any retrospective action following his horror tackle on Nemanja Matic.
No fresh injury concerns for Garry Monk whose Swansea side will be brimming with confidence after they completed their first ever league double over Manchester United at the Liberty last time out and a win on Saturday would see the Jacks reach the 40 point mark in record time [top flight]. Marvin Emnes and Jefferson Montero are both pushing for a recall while Nathan Dyer will be hoping he can make the match-day squad – a deflected Bafetimbi Gomis goal from a Jonjo Shelvey strike could help the Frenchman get his season back on track.
Manchester United – vs – Sunderland
Robin van Persie is set for an extended spell on the sidelines after leaving the Liberty Stadium on crutches last weekend – his absence could open the door for Radamel Falcao although James Wilson has recovered from the dead leg he suffered playing for the under-21s on Monday night. The Dutch striker is still being assessed although Louis van Gaal did offer an update “an ankle problem takes a long time - it’s not one or two weeks [we need to] wait and see." Michael Carrick returned to training on Thursday but a month out has left the midfielder lacking "match rhythm" so his involvement will be minimal at best.
Gus Poyet has decided not to risk Jack Rodwell [calf] and Billy Jones [ankle] for the trip to Old Trafford instead the Black Cats boss will keep the pair for the midweek clash with Hull City. A knee injury will keep Will Buckley out and Emanuele Giaccherini [ankle] is expected to miss the remainder of the campaign after the Italian international went under the knife again. Patrick van Aanholt comes back into contention – the defender was a surprise omission for the West Brom match but following the return of Anthony Reveillere Poyet opted for a more physical presence to try and combat the Baggies size.
Newcastle United – vs – Aston Villa
After last weekends’ result at the Etihad John Carver “was desperate to get back on the training pitch” to work on a new tactical plan to “hopefully put it right this weekend.” A knee injury will keep Remy Cabella out for a second consecutive game but Daryl Janmaat “is fine” after he was taken off as a precaution during the [5-0] drubbing. Jack Colback picked up his tenth booking of the season which automatically generates a two match ban but Jonas Gutierrez returns to the squad for the first time in almost a year. Cheick Tiote is certain to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery in Qatar this week. Siem de Jong, Paul Dummett, Rob Elliot and Steven Taylor are all long-term absentees.
Tim Sherwood will be hoping to forget the disappointment of his sides last-gasp defeat to Stoke in GW26 as Villa slipped into the bottom three on goal difference. Despite a poor record on Tyneside the Villains have nothing to fear and with renewed impetus the Clarets & Blues will be confident of taking something away from St James Park. Nathan Baker could return in place of the suspended Ron Vlaar while Philippe Senderos is ruled out along with Kieran Richardson “who won't be fit” because of a calf problem. Aly Cissokho would be a natural replacement but the defender is also struggling with an unspecified knock but it is hoped he will train on Friday along with Alan Hutton who “is touch and go.” Matt Lowton or the versatile Leandro Bacuna remain on standby.
Stoke City – vs – Hull City
Ryan Shawcross has been given some time off to aid his recovery from an inflamed disc in the hope that surgery will not be required and his absence will ensure Marc Wilson and Phillip Wollscheid link-up for a second time on Saturday. Mark Hughes confirmed Erik Pieters returned to training on Wednesday – the defender is just back following a Hernia operation and has been told to expect pain as fragments of scar tissue breakdown under any physical duress “thankfully, it has settled down." Geoff Cameron is available again after missing last week through suspension but Marc Muniesa [hamstring] remains sidelined.
Steve Bruce had hoped Mo Diame would make an appearance this weekend but after a setback in training the midfielder is still not back with the group – it now looks like it could be at least another two weeks. No fresh injury concerns for Hull – Robert Snodgrass, Liam Rosenior and James Chester remain out – while the Tigers will want to make it four unbeaten. Strike duo Nikica Jelavic and Dame N’Doye have scored the winning goals in the two previous games helping to ease the pressure on under-fire boss Steve Bruce.
West Brom – vs – Southampton
James Morrison will have a hamstring injury assessed on Friday while Saido Berahino is also struggling after being “Cattermoled” at the Stadium of Light last time out. Tony Pulis confirmed the young striker was caught by the midfield enforcer during the first half of last weekends’ draw although the problem is not thought to be serious. Victor Anichebe has a chance but if tomorrow does come too soon then he will be back for the Aston Villa game on Tuesday. Jonas Olsson and Youssouf Mulumbu are pushing for a recall after the pair were unused substitutes at Sunderland while Stephane Sessegnon could replace Craig Gardner.
Toby Alderweireld [hamstring] will miss out on Saturday but the defender is "close" to a return and should be back on Tuesday. Other than long-term absentees [Rodriguez & Mayuka] Alderweireld represents the last of the returners after Sam Gallagher and Lloyd Isgrove played for the under-21s this week. Sadio Mané was dropped to the bench against Liverpool after Koeman had taken action following his late arrival prior to the game "I punished the player. After that day, it's like before – no problem," which could see a return for the player who has scored 4 goals from 5 starts. Elijero Elia will be assessed after receiving treatment this week on a leg injury.
Liverpool – vs – Manchester City
Mamadou Sakho has confirmed he will train on Saturday after a hip complaint ruled him out of the win over Southampton last Sunday while Glen Johnson [illness] and Jordan Henderson [ankle] are also expected to return. Brendan Rodgers could make a host of changes for Liverpool who were pushed to extra-time and penalties before losing to Besiktas in the Europa League on Thursday – Philippe Coutinho [rested] and Lazar Markovic [European suspension] should feature. Steven Gerrard [hamstring] remains a doubt while Jose Enrique, Brad Jones and Lucas Leiva are all ruled out.
After James Milner returned from a minor knee ligament injury to face Barcelona in the Champions League Manuel Pellegrini confirmed Manchester City have a clean bill of health "the whole squad is fit." David Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero were all hugely impressive during the win over Newcastle so don’t expect too much to change. With Stevan Jovetic seemingly out of the equation Wilfried Bony looks to be battling it out with Edin Dzeko for a place alongside Kun but with the Bosnian back to full fitness he won’t be giving up his place easily.
Arsenal – vs – Everton
Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini are due to train on Saturday but the pair will not be considered for Sundays’ game although they have a chance for the midweek trip to Loftus Road. Jack Wilshere "had minor" ankle surgery which will keep him out - Wenger confirmed “next weekend will be a bit quick, I don’t know exactly [how long] but its days, not weeks." Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta are still a “few weeks away” while Abou Diaby “is progressing.”
Everton eased past SC Young Boys on Thursday night in the Europa League and Martinez confirmed his side suffered no fresh injury concerns although Lukaku was withdrawn because “he was feeling a bit tired” however the Belgium striker did train on Friday morning and “I expect him to be available." Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley were both rested while Muhamed Besic, Steven Naismith and James McCarthy played to varying degrees. Leon Osman made a return following his recovery from a foot injury but he is probably a little short on fitness for the Premier League while Darron Gibson started his first game of the season [playing 90 minutes] - the midfielder will be nothing more than a substitute at the Emirates in-my-opinion “we need to make sure we look after him." John Stones and Aaron Lennon will be added to the squad in the only expected changes – Christian Atsu [illness] is out [back for the Stoke game] and Tony Hibbert “has damaged a muscle behind his knee and will be out for a couple more weeks."