With less than 48 hours between the end of game week 18 and the beginning of game week 19 managers will hoping todays’ recovery session won’t spring any last minute injury surprises although plenty are a risk of rotation due to fatigue.
Don’t Believe the Hype
Much of the talk over Christmas has been about Alexis Sanchez but the Chilean was in inspired form at the Emirates on Friday and with a number of potential replacements sidelined it’s hard to see who Arsene Wenger could bring in - the same could also be said of Eden Hazard who was sublime against West Ham – the Belgium has played all but 39 minutes of this season’s campaign and his recent form would make it very hard for Mourinho to rotate especially with a tricky trip to St Marys’ lying in wait.
Tottenham – vs – Manchester United
Hugo Lloris will be okay to face United following a collision with Jamie Vardy on Friday – Mauricio Pochettino confirmed the goalkeeper only suffered a minor mouth injury and was NOT concussed. Danny Rose was preferred to Ben Davies at the King Power but the summer signing from Swansea is the current first choice and should return – no fresh concerns for Tottenham who have a full squad to choose from although striker Emmanuel Adebayor is lacking fitness. Kyle Walker could be rested following his return after nine months out – Kyle Naughton his likely replacement.
Angel di Maria missed the win over Newcastle because of a pelvic problem picked up in training on Christmas Eve – the Argentine is being assessed but remains a big doubt. Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj [both virus] have been ruled out but Luke Shaw has been involved in training and is very close – Ander Herrera is another who could make GW19. Rafael is ready following his return to the squad in GW17 but Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo are around 10-14 days away. Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao could lead the line with Wayne Rooney providing support from his new advanced midfield role.
Southampton – vs – Chelsea
Saints made it back to back wins at Selhurst Park but Ronald Koeman will be without his goal scoring full-back Ryan Bertrand under the terms of his loan agreement which will mean a defensive reshuffle – Jose Fonte is back after his one game suspension. Graziano Pelle and Steven Davis have both been suffering from fatigue recently and were replaced against Palace – Harrison Reed, Dusan Tadic or Shane Long could benefit.
Chelsea have won four straight games since losing at St James’ Park earlier this month and Jose Mourinho has the luxury of a full squad to choose from. John Obi Mikel, Andre Schurrle, Didier Drogba, Felipe Luis and Ramires are all waiting in the wings and the Special One could rotate. Eden Hazard has played every minute of league football since mid-October and could be at risk although the Belgium is in scintillating form – Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa should be okay having served bans in December.
Aston Villa – vs – Sunderland
Gabby Agbonlahor had his red card rescinded from GW17 but picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Swansea which rules him out of GW19 – Andreas Weimann should return. Kieran Richardson serves the final game of his three match ban but Joe Cole [hamstring] will have a late fitness test – Ashley Westwood, Nathan Baker and Philippe Senderos remain out – Aly Cissokho will be assessed following his early withdrawal at the Liberty.
Connor Wickham returns from suspension and Emanuele Giaccherini will be pushing for a start following his 30 minute cameo from the bench against Hull – the Italian midfielder was back after 3 months out. Billy Jones came through the game with Hull unscathed but is probably feeling a little stiff today – to be assessed – while Sebastian Vergini had a fitness test before GW18 and was replaced on 84 minutes putting his place in doubt.
Hull City – vs – Leicester City
A massive game at the KC Stadium on Sunday for Hull who will be hoping to make it back to back wins having took all three points from the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day. Goal scoring full-back James Chester is out after picking up his fifth yellow of the season but Jake Livermore returns following his one match ban which could prompt a reshuffle with Elmohamady dropping back. Nikica Jelavic was feeling a bit under the weather on Wearside but still managed a goal from the bench late in the game which means he should return to the eleven. Steve Bruce will have Tom Ince and Maynor Figueroa at his disposal after they were recalled from their respective loan spells. Andrew Robertson will have a late test but the Scottish international is rated as very doubtful because of a hamstring injury – Liam Rosenior is likely to deputise once again. Tom Huddlestone [suspended] and Michael Dawson [injury] both miss out.
Same old same old for Leicester as Nigel Pearson’s side showed lots of endeavour at home to Spurs in GW18 but lacked any clinical edge – the Foxes have now went 13 games without a win and find themselves marooned at the bottom of the league. Esteban Cambiasso and Dean Hammond are both fresh – having missed out against Tottenham – while Jamie Vardy is ruled out after collecting five yellow cards. On a more positive note leading scorer Leonardo Ulloa was back on the score sheet taking his personal tally to seven for the season. Chris Wood [illness] will be assessed but Matthew Upson is likely to miss out – Kasper Schmeichel is injured.
Manchester City – vs – Burnley
Stevan Jovetic made the bench for the game at the Hawthorns but was an unused substitute – however the striker should be ready for some game time after his recovery from a hamstring strain. The game with Burnley is likely to come too soon for Vincent Kompany who could return on New Years’ Day while Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero are out until mid-January at least - Pozo [illness] remains a doubt. Pablo Zabaleta is expected to return after he was rested against West Brom.
Sam Vokes was rewarded for recent performance for the development side with 10 minutes from the bench against Liverpool – the striker has recovered from an ACL rupture but Sean Dyche will manage his player despite the obvious urge to throw him straight back in. Matty Taylor, Michael Duff and Stephen Ward remain out.
Queens Park Rangers – vs – Crystal Palace
Harry Redknapp made five changes for the trip to the Emirates – Richard Dunne and Joey Barton were both struggling with minor niggles which ruled them out – although the pair have a chance of returning against Palace. Charlie Austin continued his impressive goal scoring form from the spot while Bobby Zamora will be hoping for a recall – Suk-Young Yun will be out “for a while” but Sandro is closing in on a return although Sunday will come too soon.
Fraizer Campbell picked up a knock on Boxing Day putting his place at risk on Sunday and with Marouane Chamakh already sidelined striking duties will be left to Dwight Gayle. Joe Ledley continues to manage an ongoing hip problem – the midfielder will face a late fitness test. Neil Warnock brought Adrian Mariappa and Damien Delaney back against Southampton and following a disappointing result Brede Hangeland and Martin will be hoping for a recall.
Stoke City – vs – West Brom
Jon Walters was fortunate to only pick up a yellow against Everton when the Irish international tangled with Leighton Baines at Goodison Park while Ryan Shawcross will be checked following a clash of heads with Romelu Lukaku which left him bloodied. Peter Crouch [neck] was only fit enough for the bench on Friday so he could return to replace Mame Biram Diouf up front – Marc Wilson and Robert Huth are able to provide defensive cover if required.
An ongoing groin problem kept Victor Anichebe out of GW18 and the striker remains a big doubt but Brown Ideye could start having scored from the bench following a Joe Hart mistake. Graham Dorrans [calf] returned to training this week but wasn’t risked against Man City and Georgios Samaras is available although he is lacking match-fitness. Jonas Olsson is the only definite absentee.
West Ham – vs – Arsenal
Carl Jenkinson will not be able to face Arsenal under the terms of his loan agreement – Joey O’Brien provides a natural replacement. James Tomkins is still struggling with a hamstring problem meaning James Collins could once again provide the cover. Alex Song and Diafra Sakho were rested at Stamford Bridge – Noble [returning after a month out] or Kevin Nolan could drop to the bench while Sam Allardyce must decide between Andy Carroll or Enner Valencia to accommodate his leading scorer.
Laurent Koscielny and Hector Bellerin have both returned to full training providing some much-needed defensive cover while Calum Chambers was rested at the Emirates [played just 7 minutes]. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain [groin] will be assessed but Tomas Rosicky will be hoping to retain his place following his first start – and goal - of the season. Olivier Giroud was sent-off for a head-butt on Nedum Onuoha ruling him out for three games – Danny Welbeck could be utilised in a more central role although Yaya Sanogo will be available following his recovery from a calf problem. Alexis Sanchez was outstanding once again and although the Chilean is “in the red zone” – at risk of injury – Wenger may have no other option but to play his star man and hope for the best.
Newcastle – vs – Everton
Sammy Ameobi missed out at Old Trafford and will be assessed before the visit of Everton –Jonas Gutierrez and Davide Santon are close to a return but New Year’s Day is the best the pair can hope for. Cheick Tiote returns to the United squad with Vernon Anita at risk of losing his place - the Dutchman was struggling with a hamstring problem [cramp] at Old Trafford and may not be fit. Adam Armstrong could drop to the bench in place of Papiss Cisse after making his first start of the season in the defeat to Manchester United.
Everton came through a bruising encounter against Stoke with a number of concerns heading into a crucial game at St James’ Park – Phil Jagielka [ankle] and Tim Howard [calf] were both replaced at half-time and remain major doubts – a scan will confirm the full extent of the problem(s) on Saturday. The returning Kevin Mirallas and John Stones were also fortunate to finish the game [both ankle] and need to be checked while Ross Barkley was left with a bloodied nose. Steven Naismith picked up his fifth yellow of the season leaving Martinez in dire-straits – Joel Robles and Antolin Alcaraz are on standby while Christian Atsu and Muhamed Besic could return.
Liverpool – vs – Swansea City
Simon Mignolet “indefinite absence” was prematurely ended when Brad Jones suffered a thigh injury during the first half at Turf Moor – the goalkeeper is being assessed but looks to be very doubtful with Danny Ward likely to be promoted from the development side. A groin strain is keeping Dejan Lovren on the sidelines and the defender is a major doubt – however his replacement Mamadou Sakho was outstanding against Burnley. Kolo Toure was replaced at half-time as Emre Can came on in his place – it’s unknown at this stage whether his withdrawal was tactical or enforced. Mario Balotelli was an unused substitute as Brendan Rodgers continued with Raheem Sterling up top who grabbed a second half winner. Fabio Borini will be available following suspension and Joe Allen [knee] faces a late test – Daniel Sturridge, Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson are ruled out.
Gylfi Sigurdsson made a goal scoring return for the Jacks after missing GW17 with a foot problem but Jefferson Montero suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury which will need a scan – the winger could miss the remainder of the Christmas period. Leon Britton [knee] returned to training on Monday so could come back into contention – Jonjo Shelvey is at risk of dropping to the bench.