A double game week, a top of the table clash plus the battle of the basement – it’s all kicking off this weekend in the British Premier League.
Hull, Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester are all playing catch-up on Tuesday and Wednesday but with numerous selection possibilities fantasy managers have a difficult task in trying to nail down those players who are expected to feature prominently. A lot could depend on this weekends’ results but typically Mourinho has ‘went with his strongest [available] eleven’ regardless of fixture congestion. The Blues have used the fewest number of players  in the league this season.
At the bottom, a draw is no good for either Burnley or Leicester; avoid defenders and adopt the entertainer’s philosophy by choosing attacking players all-round and make Super Kevin Keegan proud. I expect an open game with lots of chances; Leicester have the momentum and recent head-to-head history so the Foxes would be my choice although it’s only a matter of time before Danny Ings ends his goal drought.
Question: Can you name the top performing side of 2015 across the five major European leagues?
Answer: Arsenal - averaging 2.54 points per game.
Their run of 13-wins has taken Arsenal from potential Champions League qualifiers to title challengers and Arsene Wenger will be aiming to make it 9-consective victories to keep their slender hopes alive for just a few more weeks.
Southampton – vs – Tottenham
Toby Alderweireld should okay after a return to training on Thursday; the Southampton defender had his shoulder popped back into place following awkward fall at the Britannia and will be available “if there is no reaction,” Maya Yoshida remains on standby. Filip Djuričić has not recovered from an ankle problem while James Ward-Prowse is pushing for a start with Victor Wanyama suspended.
Hugo Lloris “has a chance” [late fitness test] but should the Frenchman fail to recover from a knee injury then Michel Vorm will continue to deputise. Only Kyle Walker [foot] is ruled out which means Danny Rose will be available after tweaking his hamstring at St James’ Park.
Burnley – vs – Leicester City
Sean Dyche will be forced into making at least one change as Ashley Barnes is suspended; Michael Kightly is the player most likely to be included although Burnley do have other options. Matty Taylor and Ross Wallace could be considered while Stephen Ward has played centrally which would push Scott Arfield out onto the wing. Danny Ings has not scored in 8 competitive matches and needs to find his goalscoring touch quickly if the Clarets hope to drag themselves out of the relegation zone.
David Nugent is rated as "touch and go” otherwise Nigel Pearson has a “relatively fit squad.” The Foxes boss will check on a number of players with minor “bumps and bruises” but none are expected to miss the game. Leicester made it 3-consecutive wins last weekend giving themselves a real chance of beating the drop. Marcin Wasilewski [dead leg] “should be okay” and Dean Hammond comes back into contention after playing for the Development Squad on Monday. Leonardo Ulloa scored the opener against Swansea and will look to lead the line once again.
Crystal Palace – vs – Hull City
Jordon Mutch is in line for a return along with Chung-Yong Lee who impressed for the under-21s this week although neither will threaten a start. Fraizer Campbell and Marouane Chamakh have returned to training but the pair are still working on their fitness and won’t be considered. Palace need to improve at home – ranked 15th in the division – and have the motivation of their highest finish and number of goals to aim for against one of the poorer away sides [Hull are ranked 17th].
Mo Diame will travel despite suffering a setback in training - knee swelling - but his participation remains uncertain especially with a midweek game against Liverpool coming up. Andrew Robertson [ankle], Curtis Davies [thigh] and David Meyler [suspended] are ruled out but Gaston Ramirez has recovered from a hamstring problem. Abel Hernandez will challenge Sone Aluko for the rite to partner Dane N’Doye and Steve Bruce must decide whether to recall Allan McGregor who was dropped at St Marys’ for Steve Harper.
Newcastle United – vs – Swansea City
Jonas Gutierrez has cleared the air with John Carver and will return to the United squad for the visit of Swansea while an impressive display at Aston Villa for the under-21s could earn forgotten man Facundo Ferreyra and perennial injury absentee Siem de Jong a recall. Paul Dummett is close to joining the main group and Rolando Aarons stepped up his recovery [hamstring] by taking part in a full training session on Thursday. A thigh injury has ruled Rob Elliot out for the season and with Jak Alnwick [wrist] also missing back-up duties fall to England U19 Freddie Woodman. Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sissoko are still banned.
No fresh injury concerns for Swansea who were disappointed to lose at the King Power in GW33 and while their problems aren’t massive Garry Monk is lacking in certain areas. With Neil Taylor suspended and Kyle Naughton [ankle] injured Jordi Amat could continue at right-back with Angel Rangel moving across onto the left. Bafetimbi Gomis is “getting there” and should return in around two weeks leaving Nelson Oliveira and Marvin Emnes to fight it out for a place up top.
Queens Park Rangers – vs – West Ham United
Leroy Fer isn’t 100 per cent but Chris Ramsey “might take a chance on him” although he won’t be risked unnecessarily “We're hoping at the very least he will be on the bench.” Defensively Rangers are looking much better with Richard Dunne back to full fitness – Darnell Furlong played for the U21s this week and Suk-Young Yun is also available. Armand Traore and Michael Doughty are close but Rio Ferdinand "Could be out for a little while [we're hoping he'll return] before the end of season." Adel Taarabt is back after missing the last 3-games because of a muscular problem.
No fresh injury concerns for West Ham who are still missing Guy Demel [calf] and Andy Carroll [knee]. Sam Allardyce confirms James Tomkins [shoulder] and Diafra Sakho [thigh] face a race against time to play again this season. Carlton Cole could spearhead the attack with Enner Valencia or West Ham may tinker with the formation and recall Kevin Nolan to support the lone striker.
Stoke City – vs – Sunderland
Peter Odemwingie hasn’t played since he ruptured his ACL at the Etihad last August but the striker “may feature” on Saturday, however Mark Hughes is unlikely to mess with his line-up too much after a return to winning ways. Charlie Adam grabbed the winner against Southampton and could keep his place despite Stephen Ireland recovering from a minor knock. Peter Crouch will have surgery during the summer to cure a persistent groin issue but the striker is capable of 20 minutes from the bench and will be included. A hamstring strain will keep Marc Muniesa out.
Dick Advocaat confirms Adam Johnson will be included on Saturday “if he feels okay.” The Sunderland winger has been charged with three offences of sexual activity with a child under 16 years old, plus one offence of grooming but the player did train with his teammates on Friday. Steven Fletcher is ruled out and will meet with a specialist in London after aggravating an old ankle injury; his absence could hand Danny Graham or Duncan Watmore a chance. Ricky Alvarez, Emanuele Giaccherini and Wes Brown are sidelined through injury while Sebastian Larsson will serve the second game of his 2-match ban.
West Brom – vs – Liverpool
Craig Dawson has recovered from a minor knee injury and Tony Pulis will have the same squad as last weekend with the exception of Andre Wisdom who is unable to face his parent club. Victor Anichebe is hoping to continue in place of Brown Ideye who has struggled with a knee problem for the past few weeks. Youssouf Mulumbu is suspended.
Adam Lallana confirms his availability "I'm back fit now, 100 per cent and have trained the last two days” but Brendan Rodgers will carry out a last minute check with a place on the bench probable. Injured trio Mamadou Sakho, Lucas Leiva and Daniel Sturridge remain on the sidelines but with a fourth place finish looking increasingly unlikely none will be rushed back. Jon Flanagan is being monitored after doctors cleared the defender to step up his recovery following knee surgery.
Manchester City – vs – Aston Villa
Martin Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala will continue in the heart of defence with Vincent Kompany missing “for at least two weeks more.” Kolarov starts at left-back as Gael Clichy struggles with a muscular problem and David Silva returned to training less than 48 hours after he was stretchered off “He is fit for this game." Frank Lampard will drop to the bench and with Samir Nasri sidelined the returning James Milner is set for a starting place. Wilfried Bony is also fit following knee and ankle problems but Pellegrini may stick with his preferred 4-5-1 with the form of Sergio Aguero picking up.
Philippe Senderos and Aly Cissokho make a timely return to the first team as Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker are ruled out for the season - Jores Okore and Ron Vlaar are expected to play in the heart of defence. Scott Sinclair can’t line-up against his parent club but Carlos Sanchez returns from suspension. Christian Benteke is bang in form [10 goals in his last 9 competitive games] and his goals could be the difference between survival and relegation to the second tier. Gabby Agbonlahor [hamstring] is rated as 50-50 and will have a late fitness test.
Everton – vs – Manchester United
Leon Osman [groin] will face a late test but there was better news regarding James McCarthy who has recovered from a minor ankle sprain. Martinez is unlikely to gamble on Steven Pienaar [muscular fatigue] but Romelu Lukaku is fully fit and pushing for a recall.
Daley Blind [ankle] could return this weekend [late fitness test] as Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Michael Carrick miss out. The quartet were injured during the derby win and have been joined this week by Adnan Januzaj [ankle] “not so heavy” and Rafael [fractured rib] who has been ruled out for the season. Jonny Evans is back after completing his 6-game ban. Robin van Persie stepped up his recovery from an ankle ligament injury by playing over an hour for the development side.
Arsenal – vs – Chelsea
Gabriel Paulista is primed for a start as Per Mertesacker struggles to overcome an ankle injury. Wenger has a number of decisions to make before the top of the table clash with both full-back places up for grabs. Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs started against Reading [FA Cup] but the Premier League is another level and Hector Bellerin / Nacho Monreal will want a recall - Olivier Giroud will replace Danny Welbeck in attack. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain [groin] is still not ready and Mikel Arteta [fitness] won't be considered. Jack Wilshere will do well to force his way into the starting eleven.
Didier Drogba "is fine" while Jose Mourinho remains coy on the availability of Loic Remy "not sure." The Frenchman had a better than 50-50 chance of featuring in GW33 so it stands to reason Remy will return on Sunday providing the striker has not suffered a setback. Diego Costa has trained and a decision on his involvement will be left until the last minute – regardless the Spanish international will be ready for the Leicester game on Wednesday. Willian has fully recovered from illness which restricted his involvement to a place on the bench against Manchester United.