Hello everyone! I hope you’re enjoying the festive programme and ready for a double-quick turnaround. With less than 48 hours between matches, you can expect managers to rotate their line-ups quite heavily… In 2018/19 the Premier League average was four, and no starting XI remained unchanged from the Boxing Day fixtures. Be warned and set your subs accordingly.
Brighton and Hove Albion – vs – AFC Bournemouth
Graham Potter made five changes at Tottenham on Boxing Day which included a recall for Bernardo and a first Premier League start of the season for Ezequiel Schelotto. Leandro Trossard, Davy Pröpper and Neal Maupay were among those to drop out with the Seagulls boss prioritising the early kick-off on Saturday. Defender Lewis Dunk will be hoping to shake off a bout of illness which kept him out of the squad in GW19. Solly March is not due to return until early 2020 while José Izquierdo is hoping to be ready by February.
Eddie Howe was forced into two changes against Arsenal after Diego Rico picked up his fifth yellow of the campaign at home to Burnley, and Simon Francis, who was already nursing a head wound which required five stitches, injured his knee. While the full-back will return, probably at the expense of Jack Simpson, the status of Francis remains unclear. “He was very sore. We took him for a scan to make sure it was nothing more serious than bruising. Thankfully, that’s all it is, but whether he’s okay, for Brighton, I don’t know," said Howe. The Bournemouth boss doesn’t expect any of his long-term absentees to return until the new year – Nathan Ake, Adam Smith, Arnaut Danjuma, Charlie Daniels, Lloyd Kelly or David Brooks – but Callum Wilson came through 90 minutes unscathed after his recent hamstring strain.
Newcastle United – vs – Everton
Isaac Hayden, Jonjo Shelvey and Andy Carroll were among those sacrificed at Old Trafford as Steve Bruce looked to protect some of his key assets ahead of this weekends’ encounter. It was a gamble that backfired despite a bright opening. With Sean and Matty Longstaff paired centrally in midfield, the brothers eventually ran out of steam having played very little football over the past two months. Mistakes only served to compound matters, and Newcastle were well beaten. Paul Dummett (groin) remains a major doubt, while Javier Manquillo has a calf complaint which will be checked. Fortunately, Jetro Willems is back, and DeAndre Yedlin can provide cover. There are no other fresh worries with Ciaran Clark and Ki Sung-Yeung the closest of those sidelined to a return.
Seamus Coleman and Bernard were recalled to the side in Carlo Ancelotti’s first game in charge while Djibril SidIbe played in an advanced role with Alex Iwobi out for around three weeks due to the hamstring strain he suffered against his former club. Theo Walcott has returned ahead of schedule, and Morgan Schneiderlin (calf) should be close, but André Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin remain out long-term.
Southampton – vs – Crystal Palace
Although Ralph Hasenhüttl did say that Danny Ings would not be able to play in every game over the festive period, it still came as a big surprise to see the Saints top scorer benched. In addition, a knee injury for Shane Long meant that he wasn’t to play, so Che Adams and Michael Obafemi stepped into the Southampton attack and helped condemn Chelsea to their second successive home defeat. Yan Valery “maybe” coming back in January with Moussa Djenepo (hamstring) facing the prospect of a late test. Sofiane Boufal is also in contention as he is managing to train without any injections in his toe.
Mamadou Sakho returned following his three-match ban to help the Eagles to a much-needed and welcome win over West Ham. The central defender was handed an immediate recall after Cheikhou Kouyaté was used as a makeshift centre-half in the defeat at St James’ Park with Gary Cahill and Scott Dann injured. Defensive problems continue to mount, and the victory over their London-rivals was marred by the loss of Patrick Van Aanholt who looks to have suffered a recurrence of the hamstring injury that kept him out earlier this month. "He didn't seem to think anything had pulled or snapped, so I'm hoping it won't be long-term." With Jeffrey Schlupp also missing, Jairo Riedewald will be called upon to deputise until new players can be brought in next month. Christian Benteke suffered a muscle injury at Newcastle, and the Belgium international who had just returned to the side is set for a spell on the treatment table. "We hoped it was just fatigue, but the scans show there is a strain there which will keep him out for the next few weeks."
Watford – vs – Aston Villa
Ismaïla Sarr will be available after being cleared by the Watford doctor. The record signing collided with advertising hoardings at Bramall Lane and was replaced as a precaution due to swelling around his eye. However, he has responded well to treatment and comes into Nigel Pearson’s plans with the bonus that he only has 45 minutes in his legs. Abdoulaye Doucouré returns after his suspension, but José Holebas, Daryl Janmaat, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck are all due to miss out despite a positive injury update. “They’re all making decent progress,” said Pearson. “Janmaat should be back at some point in January, Cleverley hopefully towards the end of January or early February, and Danny Welbeck similar. Holebas trained today, he’s got his broken ribs, but he trained today.” There are one or two knocks from Thursday but nothing serious. “There’s been a bit of sickness going around, so we’ve monitored a couple of players who are a bit under the weather – myself included – but I don’t envisage too many problems.”
Manager Dean Smith made four changes to the side beaten by Southampton with Ahmed El Mohamady, Ezri Konsa, Marvelous Nakamba and Trezeguet all coming into the XI. The loss of John McGinn to a fractured ankle also saw Jack Grealish deployed as a No.10. “I felt it was a good option for us. He’s a terrific player, which you saw with the link-up for the goal. He can still get better.” With the turnaround between matches, Bjorn Engels and Frédéric Guilbert will be hoping to force their way back in while Connor Hourihane, scorer of the winning goal just eight minutes after coming on, should start at Vicarage Road. Tyrone Mings has trained ahead of the game, and Smith will make a judgement call on the defender.
Norwich City – vs – Tottenham Hotspur
The Canaries were unchanged at Villa, but with a much-improved injury situation, Daniel Farke does have options from the bench. Another decent performance went unrewarded, leaving Norwich seven points from safety at the halfway point. “I can’t ask the lads to do much more. We dominated the game from the first to the last second and were by far the better side, creating an unbelievable amount of chances,” the German coach mused. “We were unbelievably unlucky.” Grant Hanley, who was rushed back recently following an injury to Ben Godfrey, will be one to watch, and if there are any concerns, then Alex Tettey or Ibrahim Amadou could drop into the back four.
José Mourinho was unimpressed with Tanguy Ndombele following his omission from the matchday squad. "I can say that yesterday [in training] he told me he was not feeling in condition to play the game. Not based on injuries, based on fears of previous injuries that he has had since the beginning of the season,” the Tottenham boss raged after the win over Brighton. History tells us – think Phil Jones and Chris Smalling – that the Frenchman’s days could be numbered with that kind of attitude. Dele Alli will be assessed after pulling up with an apparent muscle issue late in the game on Boxing Day. "I didn't speak to him,” Mourinho revealed in his post-match press conference. “It was the same the other day with Moussa [Sissoko] who had cramp. I want to believe that, but at the same time Dele is a guy that the last couple of seasons had some hamstring problems, so I don't know. I hope that it's nothing." Heung-Min Son, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks are all suspended leaving Spurs short of numbers in midfield. Eric Dier is a certainty to start, while forgotten man Christian Eriksen who will leave the club it seems, could be called in from the cold.
West Ham United – vs – Leicester City
Roberto will be back between the sticks if Lukasz Fabianski and/or David Martin fail to recover from injury. The Spaniard has now conceded 21 goals in his ten appearances and was dropped last month following several costly errors. Ryan Fredericks returns from suspension, and the full-back is expected to replace Pablo Zabaleta. Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson are pushing for starts after injury and illness, respectively. Nothing official from the club on the availability of Andriy Yarmolenko but reports from his homeland suggest a hamstring injury which could keep him out for between 3-4 weeks.
Brendan Rodgers made a single change against Liverpool after Harvey Barnes managed to shake off an ankle injury. That came in the form of Dennis Praet who was preferred to Ayoze Pérez who has been mostly ineffective of late. With near enough a full squad at his disposal – Matty James is the only confirmed absentee – Rodgers may look to shuffle his pack with less than 48 hours between matches. “In terms of recovery, it is the second day after a game that is really tough for a player,” he said when speaking last week. “We're kicking off at 5.30pm at West Ham. It's just nonsense, really.” Rodgers went on to add that Jamie Vardy had “no chance” of playing in all four games over Christmas, and with Newcastle in GW21, the striker could be rested with Kelechi Iheanacho an option upfront.
Burnley – vs – Manchester United
Sean Dyche insists fatigue won't be a factor on Saturday: “It’s a quick turnaround, but the players should still be in good shape. Scientifically it’s not ideal, but you should have enough to know what your demands are. The players have support on every level now to enable them to recover." Jeff Hendrick comes back into contention after his ban, and Johann Berg Gudmundsson is ready to start after recovering from a hamstring injury. Ashley Barnes continues to manage an ongoing groin issue which restricted him to a role from the bench (GW19), but the striker should start here.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hinted that Paul Pogba could return versus Newcastle following his impressive cameo at Vicarage Road, but the United boss resisted the urge as it was “still too early” having spent most of the previous three months in plaster. However, an injury for Scott McTominay may force his hand. "He has done his ligament in the knee, but we don’t know how bad," Ole said. “He had the biggest heart of the lot. He got injured early, but he played until half-time.”
Arsenal – vs – Chelsea
Mikel Arteta said he was “pleased” with the attitude of his side at Bournemouth after they fought back from a goal down to earn a share of the spoils. The new boss promised a clean slate for everyone, and Mesut Ozil, one of three changes to the side, was influential throughout. “He worked and could have been the difference; we could have scored three or four goals from his balls through. The final product wasn’t what we wanted.” Sokratis was forced off due to a head injury, but having completed his ban, Calum Chambers may be in line for a recall. Alexandre Lacazette is poised for another start with Gabriel Martinelli struggling to recover from a niggling hamstring issue. Dani Ceballos and Héctor Bellerín are training with the group, while Rob Holding is said to be close, although Arteta does have other options in Shkodran Mustafi and Mavropanos. Kieran Tierney (shoulder) and Sead Kolasinac (ankle) are confirmed absentees.
Reece James is hoping to overcome the ankle complaint which kept him out of the Southampton game, and if passed fit, César Azpilicueta could make way to protect his hamstring. Marcos Alonso is expected to return in place of Emerson while Mason Mount, who was struggling with illness, and Mateo Kovacic, back after suspension, are well-placed to come into the Chelsea midfield. Frank Lampard has promised to “keep faith” in Callum Hudson-Odoi as a reward for his “hard work and performances” in training, which means Christian Pulisic owners may consider ditching the US international.
Liverpool – vs – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Liverpool are on a 35-game unbeaten streak, and the new Club World Cup Champions were at their imperious best at the King Power thrashing Leicester 4-nil to extend their lead at the top of the table. Jurgen Klopp made two changes from their last Premier League outing – but just one from the win over Flamengo in Doha five days earlier – a move which saw the fit-again Gini Wijnaldum replace the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. But looking ahead to Sunday, the Reds are likely to freshen things further with Klopp citing the success over Everton at the beginning of the month. “We made five changes, and they were absolutely necessary on one side, but really impressive performance-wise.” Curtis Jones, Neco Williams, Harvey Elliott and Rhian Brewster are all considered members of the senior squad and can be called upon if required. Fabinho, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip could “still take a while” to recover from injury.
Wolves completed a remarkable second-half turnaround against Manchester City to all but hand this seasons’ title to Sundays’ opponents. Trailing 2-nil after 50 minutes, man of the moment Adama Traoré pulled a goal back before robbing Benjamin Mendy and laying on the equaliser for Raúl Jiménez. Matt Doherty grabbed the winner as the game moved into time added-on to take Nuno Espírito Santo’s men to the brink of a Champions League qualifying spot. Wolves were unchanged in GW19 but will look to freshen legs with less than 48 hours to prepare. Willy Boly (ankle) and Morgan Gibbs-White (back) remain out.
Manchester City – vs – Sheffield United
Gabriel Jesus was a late withdrawal from the City squad at Molineux due to illness which meant Pep Guardiola was forced to deploy Sergio Agüero much sooner than initially anticipated. However, his foray back into the line-up was short-lived after Ederson was sent-off on ten minutes for a reckless challenge on Diogo Jota denying him a goalscoring opportunity. That will see the Brazilian banned for the next game with Claudio Bravo coming into the side. The status of John Stones (hamstring) is unclear despite working with the group, and David Silva won’t be too far away as he recovers from the injury, he suffered in the Manchester derby. Leroy Sané is on course to return in February while Aymeric Laporte could be back a little sooner.
Chris Wilder was giving nothing away in one of only two scheduled press conferences on Friday. “There’s a couple that we’ll look at today from an injury point of view, and there’s a couple that we’ll look at from a fatigue point of view,” Wilder said in one of only two press conferences scheduled for Friday. The Blades are unbeaten in their past four (W3, D1) but will do well to take anything from The Etihad as City seemingly fight for second spot.