The Premier League moves pretty fast and if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it …..! And with GW28 a mere 48 hours ish after last weekends’ minefield another full fixture schedule is upon us before we know it.
Did City hand Chelsea the title on a silver platter following defeat at Anfield or will Mourinho and his band of merry men suffer a Capital One cup hangover at the Boleyn Ground.
Liverpool and Arsenal are the two in-form sides staking a claim for Europe but can Tottenham respond without the distraction of Europe. Southampton have turned all goal shy but Koeman is confident the Saints will go marching on all the way to a top 5 finish. The Premier League promises to deliver another exciting season finale …..
Aston Villa – vs – West Brom
Another game, another defeat and another blank has left Tim Sherwood searching for his first points as Aston Villa manager and the coach is putting pressure on his players to deliver the goods. Tuesday sets the perfect stage as success would be two fold – three points and bragging rights! Kieran Richardson [calf] and Aly Cissokho [groin] missed the trip to St James’ Park and once again the pair find themselves a little short on fitness with Matt Lowton favourite to deputise. Ron Vlaar completes his one match ban but a training ground calf injury leaves the defender sweating on his availability “touch and go.” Sherwood is suffering from a defensive injury “crisis” which includes Nathan Baker but the Claret & Blues need points not excuses heading into this crucial game.
Injuries to Saido Berahino [foot] and Brown Ideye [knee] could leave the Baggies without a recognised striker as Victor Anichebe [groin] looks set to miss out again. Tony Pulis admits the potential absence of his attacking trio is a “massive worry” although Stephane Sessegnon or Callum McManaman could help to fill the void. Berahino needed an injection prior to the game with Southampton in GW27 [and has a chance] but Ideye is awaiting the results of his scan after twisting his knee – the club fear he may have damaged ligaments. James Morrison [hamstring] passed a late test on Saturday and he will be checked again - Youssouf Mulumbu is ready to step in if required.
Hull City – vs – Sunderland
A “horrible” training ground injury left Robbie Brady unable to walk on Friday and his calf strain could mean “weeks or even months on the sidelines.” His absence was one of three changes for the Stoke match as an ongoing knee problem kept Nikica Jelavic sidelined and fatigue restricted Dame N’Doye to a place on the bench although Steve Bruce is “hopeful” after the pair trained on Sunday. Maynor Figueroa is a doubt after needing stitches in an ankle wound at the weekend and Mo Diame has been ruled out for another two weeks following a setback.
Sunderland quite rightly won their appeal against the sending-off of Wes Brown although his availability won’t guarantee any game time – the defender struggles to play consecutive games in quick succession. John O’Shea will not face any retrospective action and he could partner Santiago Vergini or Seb Coates in the heart of defence if Gus Poyet decides the risk with Brown is too great. Will Buckley [knee] and Emanuele Giaccherini [ankle] are the only injury absentees but Adam Johnson has been suspended pending a further enquiry into his alleged relations with an underage girl. Billy Jones, Jack Rodwell and Ricky Alvarez are back in contention.
Southampton – vs – Crystal Palace
Ronald Koeman feels a European place is still within reach although the Saints will need to improve upon their recent form – with 4 points from a possible 15 Southampton have dropped out of the top 5 for the first time since August. Graziano Pelle was last on the score-sheet way back in December and has now went 10 league games without a goal – Shane Long and Elijero Elia could both threaten the Italian for a place in eleven who may benefit from some time out of the limelight. Toby Alderweireld [hamstring] will return to the squad providing he suffers no adverse reaction following training on Monday.
Palace will be full of confidence having comfortably brushed West Ham aside but the Eagles are suffering from a striker shortage as Glenn Murray serves a one game ban joining injured trio Marouane Chamakh, Yaya Sanogo and Fraizer Campbell [all hamstring] on the sidelines. Dwight Gayle is likely to be the lone frontman in a 4-5-1 with Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie supporting but Shola Ameobi is available should Pardew prefer a 4-4-2 formation. Jordan Mutch [thigh] will miss out after limping off at the Boleyn Ground while his replacement James McArthur should retain his place. Mile Jedinak has until 6pm [GMT] on Tuesday to respond to an FA charge of violent conduct following his alleged elbow on Diafra Sakho.
Queens Park Rangers – vs – Arsenal
QPR arrive back from a week of warm weather training in Dubai fully refreshed following their extended break and the Hoops will be looking to end Arsenal’s seven game winning streak. Joey Barton [suspended] is out and with Leroy Fer sidelined until April Chris Ramsey may be tempted to throw the fit-again Sandro straight back into the fray. Nedum Onuoha and Mauricio Isla are close to a return but Darnell Furlong should retain his place after making his debut at the KC Stadium in GW26.
Francis Coquelin is a concern after the Frenchman broke his nose at the Emirates on Sunday following a clash with Olivier Giroud – the midfielder is being assessed and could wear a protective mask if surgery is not required. However Wenger won’t need to take unnecessary risks as midfield options are plentiful - Calum Chambers, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott are all waiting in the wings while Aaron Ramsey is approaching full fitness. Gabriel made his first league start since his move from Villarreal in the win over Everton with Per Mertesacker paying the price for his Champions League display against Monaco.
West Ham – vs – Chelsea
The pressure is beginning to mount on Sam Allardyce after a truly awful home performance against Crystal Palace – the Hammers lost [3-1] but in truth were outplayed for long periods. Brazilian Nene looked bright on his debut and was unfortunate not to score but his lack of match-fitness could mean a place on the bench as Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho lead the attack. Alex Song was singled out for his poor display and after contract negotiations broke down this week it now seems certain the Barcelona player will return to his parent club in the summer – this latest development could afford Kevin Nolan a place back in the starting line-up.
Chelsea managed to secure their first silverware of the season in the Capital One cup but Mourinho will return to the matter in hand knowing a win could stretch his sides lead to 8 points with only 11 games remaining. Expect changes from Sunday with Thibaut Courtois replacing Petr Cech in goal, Felipe Luis could slot in at left-back for Azpilicueta while Oscar for Willian and Juan Cuadrado for Ramires are all options. Nemanja Matic [suspension] has one game to serve while John Obi Mikel successfully underwent knee surgery last week – a procedure which will keep him out for a month.
Manchester City – vs – Leicester City
Pellegrini will be hoping to forget Sundays’ disappointment and get his title challenge back on track and realistically City can ill-afford any further slip-ups. Wilfried Bony is still waiting for his first start since joining from Swansea but with Edin Dzeko scoring in back-to-back game weeks the Bosnian looks to be the preferred strike partner of Sergio Aguero on current form. Other possible changes are likely to occur at full-back where Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna could be swopped for Zabaleta and Kolarov while Eliaquim Mangala may step aside for Martin Demichelis. In midfield Jesus Navas, James Milner and Fernando all have a case but realistically only Fernandinho is at risk unless the Chilean coach reverts back to his preferred 4-5-1 formation.
Leicester “more or less” have a fully fit squad after Kasper Schmeichel [fractured metatarsal] joined the main group last week, however the goalkeeper will not be ready for another 10-14 days. Zoumana Bakayoko [ruptured ACL] is the only definite absentee. Nigel Pearson has been working on a more solid shape which worked well against Arsenal and Everton so the Foxes are likely to stick with a back 5 with Matthew Upson, Robert Huth and Wes Morgan in the heart of defence. Andrej Kramaric could lead the line with Esteban Cambiasso, Riyad Mahrez and Jeffrey Schlupp supplying the bullets – David Nugent therefore would have to settle for a place on the bench.
Newcastle United – vs – Manchester United
Remy Cabella is hampered by a knee ligament injury and the Frenchman will not be available to face Manchester United on Wednesday while Massadio Haidara [knee] who stretchered off during the win over Aston Villa will be assessed - Ryan Taylor is on standby to fill in at left-back. Jack Colback will miss out again through suspension and Papiss Demba Cisse will be checked because of an ongoing knee complaint – Ayoze Perez could step in ahead of Emmanuel Riviere who was poor during his 70+ minutes on Saturday. Rolando Aarons has suffered another setback [thigh] delaying his return by a couple of weeks otherwise Newcastle remain pretty much the same.
Phil Jones [illness], Luke Shaw [tight hamstrings] and Victor Valdes were all late withdrawals for the visit of Sunderland last weekend but Louis van Gaal could welcome the trio back for the game at St James’ Park. Spanish international David de Gea also picked up a minor knock during the first half at Old Trafford on Saturday but he is expected to be fine. A brace from Wayne Rooney secures his place up front but Radamel Falcao and James Wilson will battle it out for the remaining slot. The form of Angel di Maria has been nothing more than average in 2015 and with Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj pushing for a recall the Argentine could find himself on the bench. Michael Carrick is back in the squad but lacking “match rhythm.”
Stoke City – vs – Everton
Defensively Mark Hughes with be without Marc Muniesa [hamstring] and Ryan Shawcross after the skipper was given time off away from football in an attempt to avoid surgery on his back – no return date. Stoke will also be without Stephen Ireland who is expected to miss at least a month after the midfielder needed 10 stitches in an open calf wound following a nasty challenge by Maynor Figueroa. Steve Sidwell or Charlie Adam are options while Peter Crouch or Marko Arnautovic could come in for Jon Walters if the Irish international is unavailable because of his ongoing knee problem.
Leighton Baines is expected to miss out after picking up a thigh problem in training on Friday and with Bryan Oviedo [hamstring] currently sidelined Luke Garbutt will continue to deputise. Long-term absentees Tony Hibbert and Steven Pienaar aren’t expected to be available for another 10-14 days while Aidan McGeady remains a doubt as he trains away from the group following his recovery from a bruised patella. Christian Atsu is back after illness and Martinez could look to Aaron Lennon, Darron Gibson and Steven Naismith to freshen his side after the Toffees tasted defeat at the Emirates on Sunday.
Tottenham – vs – Swansea City
Spurs will now focus their attention on the league after a disappointing few days which saw Tottenham exit the Europa League and suffer the heartache of a Capital One cup final defeat to rivals Chelsea. Pochettino will check on a number of players ahead of Wednesdays’ game with Kyle Walker being the biggest concern – Eric Dier could move across onto the right with Frederico Fazio coming into the centre. Ben Davies has a chance of facing his former employers although it would mean Danny Rose dropping to the bench but Michel Vorm is unlikely to trouble Hugo Lloris in goal and will have to be satisfied with a place on the bench having failed to start a single league game since his move from Swansea. Eric Lamela and Mousa Dembele were restricted to minutes from the sideline at Wembley so the pair will be hoping for a recall - Nacer Chadli and Andros Townsend are the two players most at risk.
There will be plenty of familiar faces at White Hart Lane on Wednesday as Kyle Naughton and Gylfi Sigurdsson return for the first time since leaving the Lilywhites and Garry Monk will be hoping Swansea can record their first ever Premier League win over Tottenham. Gylfi Sigurdsson is back in training after a tight hamstring kept him out of the clash at Turf Moor, the Icelandic international will come straight in for Tom Carroll who is ineligible under the terms of his loan agreement. Jefferson Montero is pushing for a recall having spent the last few games on the bench while Marvin Emnes could replace the out-of-form Bafetimbi Gomis up front.
Liverpool – vs – Burnley
A knee ligament strain will keep Jordon Ibe out for between 3-4 weeks which means Alberto Moreno will continue to play in a wing-back role on the left with Jose Enrique still out. Liverpool could welcome back one or two players for the visit of Burnley after Mamadou Sakho [hip] and Glen Johnson [illness] just missed out on Sunday while Steven Gerrard is “very close.” Brendan Rodgers is unbeaten in the league this year and after their win over Manchester City confidence is high - Philippe Coutinho proved the match winner once again and the diminutive midfielder has been in scintillating form. Jon Flanagan [cartilage] makes a return to full training this week and Lucas Leiva has stepped up his rehab as he recovers from a groin strain.
Sean Dyche may finally decide to ring the changes at Burnley following a disappointing home defeat to Swansea last time out - fit again Stephen Ward is challenging Ben Mee for the left-back spot while Michael Duff is available should the manager fancy a change at the heart of defence with Michael Keane or Jason Shackell the players at risk. Sam Vokes is yet to start a game since his recovery from a ruptured ACL but he will be itching to get involved – the striker had an excellent understanding with Danny Ings during their promotion season and the time could be right for a reunion.