Sky announced their TV scheduling for Christmas on Friday and it’s fair to say that not all of the changes have been welcomed. Jürgen Klopp was fuming after his side were left facing the prospect of playing two matches with less than 48 hours’ recovery between games: “There will be injuries and then some Dutch guy [on Twitter] will say things.” He was of course referring to former Wales assistant manager Raymond Verheijen who has made it his business in recent times to call into question Klopp’s training methods following a spate of hamstring injuries during his short tenure.
Klopp was speaking ahead of Mondays north west derby, a typically feisty affair which is considered to be one of the fiercest rivalries in English football, although I’m sure many will disagree. The game is littered with subplots and will provide the perfect end to another exciting Premier League weekend, but before that, there’s plenty to look forward to in round eight.
Mike Phelan takes charge of Hull for the first time since his permanent appointment and all eyes will be on US coach Bob Bradley as the Swans look to make it four wins from their last five Premier League visits to the Emirates.
Tottenham are the only remaining unbeaten top flight side and a win for the Lilywhites could see them move into first place if City take their eye off the ball against the improving Toffees.
The international break and next weeks’ European fixtures are guaranteed to cause many a selection headache but the team will be here throughout to help ease the burden with all of the latest news.
Chelsea – vs – Leicester City
Antonio Conte confirms John Terry is available to face Leicester: "Yes, he has recovered from his [ankle] injury" and the former Italy boss must now decide which three defenders [from four] will line up in the early kick off. David Luiz and Gary Cahill look to be a shoo-in and if Victor Moses fails a late test then Azpilicueta could move onto the right with Terry earning an instant recall. Kurt Zouma is training with the main group but lacks fitness and will not be ready for this one. Willian is on compassionate leave following the death of his mother and his absence could open the door for Oscar or Pedro. The threat of suspension won't hold Diego Costa back [currently on 4 yellow cards]: "He must fight in the same way as previous games," said Conte.
"All my internationals are back. The last this morning," said Claudio Ranieri on Thursday. "Fortunately everybody is okay.” Nampalys Mendy suffered a recurrence of his ankle injury in training and will miss out: "Again the pain is very strong.” However, Danny Drinkwater has been passed fit: "He made a very good training session today.” Shinji Okazaki and Ben Chilwell are available after picking up knocks while away with their respective countries. Ranieri will consider his line-up with one eye on Tuesdays Champions League game: “We play seven matches in 22 days, I have to rotate a little more my players.”
AFC Bournemouth – vs – Hull City
Eddie Howe says one or two of his players came back from international duty with knocks but refused to elaborate: "I won't name them." However, some reports suggest that the Cherries could have up-to three missing for possibly two or more games, news which wasn’t welcomed by Howe. Josh King ‘may’ be one of those due to an ongoing hamstring issue. Harry Arter [groin] re-joined the group in training this week after missing the recent World Cup Qualifiers for Ireland.
Michael Dawson [ankle] will not travel to Bournemouth on Saturday. The Hull defender will instead play for the U23s on Friday to help build fitness after missing almost three months. Abel Hernandez is in line for a recall after Dieumerci Mbokani returned from international duty with an injury. Ahmed Elmohamady comes back into the squad after completing his ban - David Meyler is expected to make way. Brian Lenihan, Greg Luer, Alex Bruce, Moses Odubajo and Allan McGregor remain on the sidelines.
Arsenal – vs – Swansea City
No Olivier Giroud who only started running again on Thursday "he needs to build fitness." Aaron Ramsey will also miss out although he is "not far away." The Wales international has had "a few little setbacks" which have delayed his return and he will undertake a mini pre-season which could rule him out of game week nine as well. Arsène Wenger has "been impressed” with Carl Jenkinson and his “fantastic mentality," the defender is pencilled in to play for the development side as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury. No issues with Hector Bellerin [ankle] who came through 90 minutes for Spain under-21s without any problems on Monday. Mesut Ozil is "completely fit" after he was replaced at half-time in the World Cup Qualifier versus Northern Ireland for Germany. Francis Coquelin and Luca Perez will be available after overcoming minor knee injuries.
Those involved on international duty have returned "healthy" confirmed new manager Bob Bradley. However, Fernando Llorente [rib] and Jefferson Montero [ankle] are not training and progress has been much slower than expected. Ankle surgery will keep Nathan Dyer on the sidelines but everyone else is available which will include a return for Frederico Fernandez.
Manchester City – vs – Everton
Pep Guardiola says: "All the players are much better. Some will play tomorrow, some will not. We’ll have to think about it this afternoon." This wonderful insight will undoubtedly leave fantasy managers scratching their heads with the availability of Vincent Kompany, Kevin de Bruyne, Fabian Delph, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling hanging in the balance. For what it’s worth, I’d expect Kun to start, with Sterling and possibly De Bruyne to get some minutes as Pep will want to keep his big guns fresh ahead of an away trip to the Nou Camp on Wednesday. "Bacary Sagna went away with France and got injured. So now three weeks without him - it’s a pity." Pablo Zabaleta should retain his place.
Phil Jagielka, Romelu Lukaku and Leighton Baines are all fit for the trip to the Etihad. Darron Gibson may force his way into the match day 18 after recovering from groin surgery, but James McCarthy will face a late fitness test after he was "massively overloaded" according to Ronald Koeman during the international break. The Toffees midfielder played 90 and 81 minutes respectively [within 3 days] for Ireland after missing the previous six weeks. A late decision will be made on the fitness of Aaron Lennon.
Stoke City – vs – Sunderland
“Joe Allen is doubtful, but we are hopeful on him,” said Mark Hughes. “He has had a bit of discomfort, which is probably down to the workload he has put in - he has had a busy summer and is now playing week in, week out, which maybe he hasn't done for a while.” Fortunately, it's not a pull, his hamstring is tight so Allen has a chance. Bojan is poised to replace the former Liverpool player if he fails to recover. Glen Johnson is out for up-to four weeks due to a thigh injury he sustained in training. Jack Butland is targeting a return next month while Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay hope to be back in early 2017.
Jason Denayer [groin] is not as bad as originally feared but the Belgian defender will still miss between 1-2 weeks. Patrick van Aanholt will return following his goal against West Brom. Papiss Djilobodji could partner John O’Shea if Lamine Kone [tight hamstring] fails a late test. No Lee Cattermole who is struggling with a back problem but there was better news regarding Victor Anichebe who is definitely fit while Steven Pienaar comes into Moyes thinking. Long-term absentees Jan Kirchhoff, Seb Larsson, Adnan Januzaj and Vito Mannone remain out.
West Bromwich Albion – vs – Tottenham Hotspur
“The players are back from internationals,” and Pulis will continue to assess his squad. Salomon Rondon returned late and if he doesn’t make the starting XI then Hal Robson-Kanu may be the chosen ahead of Berahino. Darren Fletcher [dead leg] is a slight concern. Nacer Chadli will be keen to impress having arrived from Tottenham in the summer for a club record £13m.
Mousa Dembele [foot] suffered a setback and faces a late fitness test. Harry Kane has an outside chance of re-joining the main group in training next week and is on target to return in the north London derby. Pochettino says there are "a few issues" regarding players who were away on international duty. No specifics: “We need to assess them tomorrow. We hope it's not a big problem for them to be available." Erik Lamela and Heung-Min Son are among those.
Crystal Palace – vs – West Ham United
"Scotty Dann won't make this game. He's training, so should be available for the next one,” said Alan Pardew. “Other than that we're OK.” The skippers’ absence will ensure that ex-Hammer James Tomkins lines up in the heart of defence against his former employers. "No update on Pape Souaré. He's on a long recovery time.” Meanwhile, Chelsea loanee Loic Remy could be available from late November.
A few players will be assessed on their return from international duty. Aaron Cresswell "is back and looks sharp." He will be in Saturdays' squad "and a decision" will be taken on whether he starts. Andre Ayew and Andy Carroll "are still not fit, but they are getting closer." Harvard Nordtveit and Jonathan Calleri have returned to full training but Gokhan Tore is likely to miss between 4-6 weeks after suffering a thigh strain in training. Arthur Masuaku is progressing and will have his knee brace removed next week. Sam Byram suffered a significant hamstring injury in the early stages of the game with Middlesbrough: "He has seen a specialist and underwent an operation to reduce the risk of a re-injury and ensure he makes a full recovery as soon as possible." Dimitri Payet looked sharp last time out: "He produced that piece of magic and scored a great goal."
Middlesbrough – vs – Watford
Aitor Karanka reveals: "All of the players who have returned from international duty have come back really well." That includes the likes of Cristhian Stuani and Gaston Ramirez [both Uruguay], Viktor Fischer [Denmark] and Calum Chambers [England U21s]. Fabio da Silva should be better placed in terms of his fitness and James Husband is nearing a return following shoulder surgery.
Miguel Britos [thigh] and Isaac Success [dead leg] are expected to be available for the trip. Craig Cathcart is struggling due to an ongoing groin problem and will probably watch this one from the sidelines. Valon Behrami picked up a knock playing for Switzerland but Walter Mazzarri doesn’t “think he’ll miss out.” The Italian also said it is "very difficult to predict how long” Daryl Janmaat [shoulder], Stefano Okaka [hamstring] and Brice Dja Djedje [foot] would be out.
Southampton – vs – Burnley
Claude Puel confirms Soares will miss the game on Sunday: “He has a problem in his foot with the ligament. For Cédric, it is two or three weeks without training.” Shane Long will have a late fitness test: "Tomorrow we will see in the training session. He has a little pain," but the Saints manager says "he has a solution" to deal with all the injuries in his squad. Ryan Bertrand [hamstring] will be replaced by Matt Targett who has recovered from the knock which resulted in him leaving the England under-21 camp early. Jay Rodriguez and Sofiane Boufal have enjoyed a return to full training but it’s the former who is best placed and could return to the bench as Puel manages his summer signing with kid-gloves and eases him back gently. Forgotten man Florin Gardos is expected to feature for the U23s on Friday.
Sean Dyche confirms Ashley Barnes is training outside but after several months he needs time to regain match fitness. The niggling problems with his hamstring have subsided and the 26-year-old should be challenging Sam Vokes / Andre Gray for a place in the side by November. Incidentally the latter serves the third game of his four match ban on Sunday. Tom Heaton will be checked before kick-off after a calf problem cut short his time with England: “We’re very hopeful, it was only minor and hopefully that settles down.”
Liverpool – vs – Manchester United
"The fact we play on Monday is an advantage" said Jürgen Klopp during Fridays press conference. The additional time will help those returning from international duty plus the players recovering from injury. "We have issues" with Gini Wijnaldum [hip] and Adam Lallana [groin] "but they have not been ruled out yet." Dejan Lovren [groin] and Nathaniel Clyne [knee] "are in the race" for the United game. Joe Gomez is back in full training but is still some way off a return. Injuries could force Liverpool into a change of formation: “That's a nice opportunity to bring other players into the team."
All of United’s international players have arrived back fit and well. Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are both available but following good performances against Leicester and Stoke, Jose Mourinho could name an unchanged side leaving Wayne Rooney on the bench for the third successive game.