Internationals are all well and good but nothing compares to the thrills and spills of a typical Premier League weekend so it’s always good to get to my bread and butter. Of course being a suffering Newcastle United supporter my build-up to GW31 has been dominated by Sundays’ Wear / Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light. Two poor sides in truth – in poor form – doesn’t instil much confidence of a decent spectacle but it all goes out of the window when the whistle blows. I’d happily take a draw now and halt a run of four consecutive wins for our bitter rivals.
Elsewhere the Gunners’ will be hoping to make it nine consecutive home wins against a Liverpool side who’ve only managed just 1 win in 18 away games at Arsenal while Manchester United will look to extend Aston Villa’s misery at Old Trafford – just 1 win in 38 – with Wayne Rooney hoping to add to his  goals – joint highest - against the visitors.
Whatever your team and whatever your fantasy selection have a great Easter holiday and remember to keep following the experts @Rotoworld_PL for all the latest news, views and updates throughout the weekend.
Arsenal – vs – Liverpool
The Gunners’ were boosted this week as Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby returned to action in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Brentford at London Colney but just how many of those will feature this weekend is questionable. Wenger was impressed with their level of fitness and performance but a step-up to the Premier League is a different matter although none are ruled out completely “Will I involve any of them? I don't know, I haven't decided.” Aaron Ramsey [groin] and Tomas Rosicky [illness] have both been passed fit after minor issues while on international duty leaving an UNPRECEDENTED two players in the treatment room. Danny Welbeck being one of those who is rated as 50-50 having “tweaked his knee” during the win over Lithuania and the other is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who "is back in training as well but won't be available."
Daniel Sturridge returned to training on Thursday and should be fine for the early kick-off at the Emirates on Saturday, the England striker was withdrawn from the recent internationals because of a hip complaint while Liverpool will welcome back a number of their players who have been carrying minor niggles. Adam Lallana [groin], Dejan Lovren [abdominal] will be included in the squad along with Raheem Sterling [toe] – Lucas Leiva also declared himself fully fit “I feel great. I was available for the Manchester United game, but probably wasn't able to play the whole game. Now I feel 100 per cent.” Jordon Ibe is the only expected injury absentee [knee] but the young winger should be available for the visit of Newcastle in GW31 however Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel will miss out through suspension "we are very disappointed our appeal [against Martin Skrtel 3-game ban] was unsuccessful because I felt it was unjust," revealed Brendan Rodgers during Thursdays’ press-conference.
Everton – vs – Southampton
Bryan Oviedo [hamstring] and Tony Hibbert [knee] "are definitely out" for the visit of Southampton this weekend but Roberto Martinez will need to check on a number of players who are closing in on a return. Kevin Mirallas [thigh] and Steven Pienaar [knee] both come into contention but "we'll see how they do in the next two days [Thursday / Friday]." Romelu Lukaku will have a late fitness test while Darron Gibson "hasn't joined the group yet but we're hopeful he could make it for weekend." Arouna Kone is "100 per cent fit” after the striker returned to training on Wednesday and England international Leighton Baines [knee] should be OK after missing Tuesdays’ match in Turin. Gareth Barry completes his 2-game ban but don’t expect too many changes as the Toffees look to make it three wins on the bounce. Everton have the “confidence and belief, and we want to continue that momentum” confirmed the Spanish coach as he targets the 40-point mark.
Ronald Koeman could be forced to make two changes from the side which beat Burnley last time out – goalkeeper Fraser Forster had surgery after rupturing his patellar tendon – an injury which can take around a year to fully recover although Southampton are reluctant to give a specific timeframe “we have to wait before knowing how long he will be out.” Veteran goalkeeper Kelvin Davis will step-up in his absence with the 38-year old starting his first league game in over a year. The Saints will also check on Steven Davis after the midfielder picked up a groin problem during the Euro 2016 qualifying win over Finland “we have to take that decision if he is fit or not to play on Saturday” but should the Irish international miss out then James Ward-Prowse or Victor Wanyama are likely to benefit. Graziano Pelle scored his first goal of 2015 on Tuesday for Italy [against England] and Koeman will be hoping the striker can repay some of his faith having failed to register a single goal or assist in his previous 13 matches. The Dutch boss was also able to confirm that Jay Rodriguez is closing in on a return and could still have a part to play this season – last seasons’ top scorer suffered a grade three ACL tear back in April 2014 but might be available for selection in around 4/5 weeks. Matty Targett has recovered from the minor problem which forced him out of the England under-21s game against Germany.
Leicester City – vs – West Ham
Matthew Upson [Achilles] has been ruled out after limping off at White Hart Lane which could see Nigel Pearson ditching his recent 5-4-1 formation for a more attacking set-up as Leicester need points on the board to stand any chance of survival. David Nugent is an option with Leonardo Ulloa or Andrej Kramaric in a 4-4-2 / Riyad Mahrez may earn a recall in a 4-3-3 to provide some width. However with 9 games remaining the Foxes find themselves 7 points from safety although the majority of those fixtures are at the King Power and confidence remains high. An ongoing calf problem will keep Dean Hammond out but Anthony Knockaert returns to the squad after missing the last two games because of personal reasons. Liam Moore is back from his recent loan spell at Brentford which is likely to see him make the 18 “I'm pleased, the intention was always for him to get some pitch time before the run-in” and Pearson will check on his international returners “We will have another look at them tomorrow [Friday]. Jeff played on Tuesday so he's not really done too much today. He looked very tired today but we will see how he is."
Diafra Sakho grabbed the only goal of a dour affair against Sunderland last time out and the win was enough to end a seven game winless streak – including three straight losses – to help ease mounting pressure on Sam Allardyce. Winston Reid [hamstring] will be available once again "the timing of the international break was okay because it allowed us to get him fit" allowing Cheikhou Kouyate to move back into his preferred midfield role with Kevin Nolan or Mark Noble the players most at risk of dropping out. Enner Valencia [lacerated foot] trained for the first time this week individually but the Hammers’ boss admits “I don't think he is going to make it,” which should mean West Ham opt for a 4-5-1 formation with Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis providing the support for Sakho. Andy Carroll steps up his recovery from knee [MCL] surgery but the big target man will not return this season “I’m feeling alright. It’s a lot better, getting off the crutches, out of the brace and being able to move more on the bike and do some work in the pool.”
Manchester United – vs – Aston Villa
Chris Smalling is “feeling unwell” but Marcos Rojo [groin] is back up-to speed and could be van Gaal’s only change following the win at Anfield. Saturday will come too early for Robin van Persie who is hoping to be back for the derby but Luke Shaw can be considered again after his spell out because of a hamstring strain. Wayne Rooney loves a goal against Villa -  in his career – which includes 8 in his last 6 appearances – the captain will be supported by Marouane Fellaini who is arguably in the form of his United career "I can't leave Fellaini out when he's playing like this" announced the boss. A man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool should ensure Juan Mata is starting but a decision needs to be taken on whether Angel di Maria makes a return to the starting eleven – Ashley Young is the player most at risk of dropping out.
Defensive problems are beginning to ease at Villa as Ron Vlaar can be called upon once more - a calf injury has kept the Dutchman out for almost six weeks. Roncrete could come straight back into the eleven to partner Ciaran Clark if Jores Okore fails a late test [knee] while Tim Sherwood also confirmed Joe Cole [hamstring] and Philippe Senderos are back in full training. However their involvement will be considered with Tuesdays’ crucial home fixture against QPR in mind with the pair unlikely to feature predominantly in both "A few of them are medically fit now but physically they are still a little bit behind. It's up to me to decide whether to throw them in at Old Trafford or wait for the games coming up. There are a few more bodies out on the training field that's for sure.” Tom Cleverley will miss out as he is unable to face his parent club.
Swansea City – vs – Hull City
Jefferson Montero is struggling with a hamstring injury after picking up the problem while he was away with Ecuador last week “we will see whether he is ready,” said Monk. “He is a bit sore, but he is a tough lad who is always eager to play.” However Swansea will be without the services of Tottenham loanee Carroll who suffered ankle ligament damage while captaining England under-21s in Prague last Friday leaving his season hanging in the balance “I’m disappointed for Tom,” Monk said. “He has had a problem for a few weeks but he has tweaked it more now and we need to wait and see whether he will be out for two, four, six, eight or 12 weeks, but we are looking for him to get back this season.” Leon Britton returned to training on Monday after his recent back problem and the midfielder will be pushing to be included in the squad that travels to the KC Stadium along with Kyle Bartley who has recovered from knee surgery.
Steve Bruce will welcome long-term injury absentees James Chester [dislocated shoulder] and Mo Diame [knee tendinitis] back into the squad "they will come into the equation for Saturday” although neither is expected to start. The Tigers’ were also encouraged to learn that the thigh injury suffered by Gaston Ramirez was not serious - the attacking midfielder is available for selection. Hull will take confidence from the performance against champions elect Chelsea last time out [if not the result] which is likely to keep changes to a minimum. Abel Hernandez will continue to partner Dame N’Doye in the absence of Nikica Jelavic [knee] in attack - Tom Huddlestone [suspended] and Robert Snodgrass are the only other missing players this weekend.
West Brom – vs – Queens Park Rangers
Injuries and suspensions are beginning to ease for West Brom who welcome Claudio Yacob and Chris Brunt back following their respective bans while Saido Berahino [foot] and Brown Ideye [knee] have benefited from the break – both players have been passed fit. Boaz Myhill will continue to deputise for the injured Ben Foster while out-of-favour loanee Andre Wisdom could come in for Craig Dawson [suspended] – alternatively Chris Baird is an option following his brief foray into midfield at the Etihad. West Brom have kept six clean sheets in seven games [all competitions] at the Hawthorns under Pulis and with Queens Park Rangers losing 17 of their last 19 Premier League away matches [W1 D1 L17] the home win looks to be a banker.
Queens Park Rangers remain confident that they can retain their Premier League status despite a run of poor results but manager Chris Ramsey admits his side has to start winning matches “4-6 points from the next two games is the minimum requirement for us.” In terms of his squad Ramsey will have the option to recall Darnell Furlong [calf] but the youngster has struggled recently – particularly against Crystal Palace – and the full-back may be kept out of the firing line while Suk-Young Yun is waiting to be assessed following his late return from international duty – Rio Ferdinand or Clint Hill are options should there be any issues. Otherwise it’s very much as you were "Leroy Fer and Richard Dunne are working really hard. They might be ready for consideration in the next few weeks" but Mauro Zarate has returned to West Ham for treatment on a knee problem "If and when he's fit, he will return here."
Chelsea – vs – Stoke City
Jose Mourinho confirms he has a fully fit squad to choose from on Saturday although the returning John Obi Mikel will not be considered “He's fine and working with the group but he's tired." Diego Costa has trained for the last couple of days but a decision on his involvement against Stoke "is yet to be made," although the manager maintains his stance on playing his strongest available side. "Only Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Thibaut Courtois played on Tuesday so the accumulation of fatigue was not so dramatic, I'm confident [they all be available]" revealed Mourinho. “Hazard is tired because he played two matches in three days, travelled and didn't sleep. We believe he can recover." Petr Cech should be fine following his early return from international duty because of a minor muscular problem.
You have to go back to 1984 for the last time Stoke took anything away from Stamford Bridge [1-1] or 1974 for a win [0-1] and Mark Hughes will not underestimate the enormity of the task. Victor Moses [groin] is back with the group but won’t feature under of the terms of his loan agreement, however Marc Muniesa will return after five games out because of a hamstring strain. The international break allowed Philipp Wollscheid, Erik Pieters and Stephen Ireland to get back up to speed following their recent problems with Jon Walters expected to be fine after picking up a minor calf problem in training – the Irish international will also continue to wear a protective mask as his fractured cheekbone continues to heal. Peter Odemwingie is still hopeful of playing a part again this season with striker partner Bojan Krkic targeting a return to light training in May.
Burnley – vs – Tottenham
Goal scoring at Turf Moor has been an issue for Burnley this season [14 goals from 15 games] but Sean Dyche will point towards Tottenhams’ record of just 1 clean sheet in 13 especially as the visitors will be without the services of French international goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Overall the Clarets’ squad “is looking good” although Matty Taylor is still having a problems with his heel “but he's training mostly and will start to come back into the thinking soon.” Kevin Long and Dean Marney will face at least another six months of rehab “but they're progressing and going to plan."
Michel Vorm will make his first league start of the season on Easter Sunday with 43-year old Brad Friedel taking his place on the bench after Pochettino confirmed a patellar tendon injury will keep Hugo Lloris out. Roberto Soldado [knee] remains a doubt “but we have two days to decide if it’s possible for him to make the squad," if the Spanish striker fails to recover in time then Emmanuel Adebayor will provide cover once again. Everyone is back fit [from international duty] "this is very good news for us" which presumably includes Danny Rose [hip and hamstring] but Ben Davies is an option should the full-back fail a late assessment. Eric Dier suffered a facial injury [black eye] during the 7-goal thriller against Leicester last time out but the defender is expected to be fine.
Sunderland – vs – Newcastle United
Wes Brown will miss Sundays' Wear-Tyne derby having failed to recover from a knee injury - the veteran defender is expected to return in around a month while Santiago Vergini could come into partner John O'Shea. Ricky Alvarez and Will Buckley are still recovering from knee problems but Dick Advocaat will welcome Lee Cattermole back from suspension confirming the central midfielder was the only player assured of his place in the side “I have told Lee – he was the only one I mentioned to at our team meeting that he will play, so he knows it. He is the controller; a player of experience for the team. It is good that he is back, both as a player and as a person.” Sunderland will be hoping to make it five wins in-a-row against their fierce rivals.
The good news for Newcastle supporters is that "All of our international players have come back in one piece,” John Carver confirmed. However “It's too early for Aarons." The winger has been sidelined for five months due to a combination of hamstring and thigh injuries and despite a return to training this week the game will come too early. The fit-again Mehdi Abeid [thigh] looks likely to be named in the starting eleven at the expense Vurnon Anita and Jack Colback could continue to deputise at left-back as the club confirm Massadio Haidara is out for the season after surgery to remove a cyst from his knee. Adam Armstrong will be involved although “the situation [will need to be] right for him,” the young striker has been rewarded for his impressive form of late which includes a spectacular goal for England under-18s last weekend. Papiss Cisse and Fabricio Coloccini are still suspended.
Crystal Palace – vs – Manchester City
Alan Pardew will hope to have the same squad which travelled to the Britannia Stadium in GW30 and took all three points in an excellent away performance. Joe Ledley remains the biggest doubt after the Welsh international picked up a hip injury in Israel although the midfielder is expected to join the group on Saturday. Mile Jedinak misses out through suspension while Jordon Mutch, Chung-Yong Lee, Fraizer Campbell and Jerome Thomas are all still struggling with injury – Marouane Chamakh has progressed well over the break and may be considered.
No major injury concerns for Pellegrini whose side will benefit from two additional days rest with the game at Selhurst Park taking place on Monday. “We were left with just seven players [during the international break]” confirmed the Chilean but fortunately the majority came back relatively unscathed "We will see [on Friday] but I don’t think we will have any problems for this next game." An ongoing knee complaint meant James Milner wasn’t part of the England squad which travelled to Turin while Yaya Toure featured in both of his countries matches following a minor Achilles injury. Wilfried Bony should partner Sergio Aguero up front again after the Ivorian opened up his account in GW30 while Martin Demichelis will challenge Eliaquim Mangala for a place in the heart of defence – Samir Nasri is hoping for a recall to the match-day squad.