Game week 22 has a bit of an old boys flavour with a number of players returning to their former stomping grounds - but the question remains - how many will actually feature?
Jermain Defoe is probably best-placed having completed a straight swop deal with Jozy Altidore heading in the opposite direction. Gus Poyet can’t afford to face Spurs without the diminutive striker – the Black Cats average less than a goal a game this season [only Villa have a worse record] and find themselves precariously close to the relegation zone. A hamstring problem means Joe Cole is a doubt to face Liverpool – the former England international had a pretty miserable time on Merseyside following his move from Chelsea back in 2010/11 [only 9 starts] and would’ve gladly helped Villa to take all 3 points. Samir Nasri is always welcomed with loving arms by the Arsenal faithful but the City midfielder is a definite absentee - unfortunately for all concerned *shame* but don’t worry Bacary Sagna will happily share the love.
Elsewhere Rio Ferdinand could line-up against Manchester United but Mo Diame is non-runner for the Tigers’ who travel to East London and Victor Anichebe returns to Goodison looking to add to his solitary goal this season while opposing forward Romelu Lukaku did spend a year on-loan at the Hawthorns.
Now I’m sure some clever fellow will tell me how players perform much better against their former clubs, so if you’re looking for a differential to give you the edge then look no further ….. Follow the experts from Rotoworld throughout the weekend for all the latest news, views and insight ahead of another busy week @Rotoworld_PL
Aston Villa – vs – Liverpool
Joe Cole is likely to miss out against his former employers after picking up a hamstring strain during the defeat at the King Power last weekend - Andi Weimann could come in but Paul Lambert has other options with the return of Fabian Delph from suspension "which is a massive boost" plus new signing Charles Gil will also be added to the squad. Ciaran Clark serves a one game ban, however the timely return of Nathan Baker [knee] following his lengthy absence should put him in the heart of defence with Philippe Senderos and Ron Vlaar both still injured. Libor Kozak is expected to begin ‘light training’ at the beginning of next week but Chris Herd will return home early from the Asian Cup after picking up an Achilles injury in training for Australia “It has been determined it is in his best interests that he returns to [Bodymoor] for rehabilitation to ensure he can get back on the pitch."
Brendan Rodgers will check on a number of players ahead of the trip to Villa Park on Saturday - Glen Johnson is back with the group “He's not been training for long, so we'll see how he is after the session tomorrow [Friday]" while Adam Lallana has responded well to treatment "he is ahead of schedule and back in training,” both he and Steven Gerrard will be monitored closely – if the pair do miss out they are expected to be available for the Chelsea game in the Capital One cup. Raheem Sterling is back in the squad but Daniel Sturridge is “not ready to play as of yet” with no timeframe on his full recovery. Jon Flanagan is progressing but is still a bit of time away [from fitness] and Joe Allen should be back training within the next couple of days. Kolo Toure is on African Cup of Nations duty.
Burnley – vs – Crystal Palace
Jason Shackell “has a chance” after the defender was rested for the FA Cup replay at White Hart Lane – the Clarets skipper has trained on the grass and came through a fitness test. Kieran Trippier will also be checked – his withdrawal on Wednesday was more of a precautionary measure [tight hamstring]. Sean Dyche will make a late decision on Sam Vokes and Michael Duff – the pair came through 90 plus minutes against Tottenham unscathed but it was their first full competitive match for quite a while. Matty Taylor and Stephen Ward are progressing but Kevin Long has been ruled out for the season.
Alan Pardew confirms “everyone is fit and well” which includes midfielder James McArthur who suspected he may have fractured his foot against Spurs last weekend. Loan signing Yaya Sanogo "has an even chance of playing or starting" and is expected to give the Eagles’ the ‘chaos factor.’ Yannick Bolasie is away with Congo DR and skipper Mile Jedinak is still struggling with an ankle injury which has ruled him out of his country’s last two Asian Cup games.
Leicester City – vs – Stoke City
Nigel Pearson is "hopeful" of completing the paperwork in time to allow new signing Andrej Kramaric to play against Stoke on Saturday but Dean Hammond is "unlikely to be available,” the midfielder will be assessed on Friday. Team mate Esteban Cambiasso is also struggling and "has not trained fully yet," however there was better news regarding Danny Drinkwater who "is training and in contention." Matty James is unavailable through suspension and Jeff Schlupp "is making good progress” which should see a return next time out. The Foxes boss is unable to put a timeframe on the return of Matthew Upson and Kasper Schmeichel – the goalkeeper is still wearing a protective cast while the veteran defender is not able to play more than 60 minutes at the moment “hopefully pretty soon." Riyad Mahrez is away on African Cup of Nations duty.
Mark Hughes is sweating on the fitness of full-back Erik Pieters ahead of Saturdays' encounter against Leicester but he is expecting to have Steven N’Zonzi available for selection "Erik is a bit of a worry for us to be fair and we will need to check him out because he is still a little bit sore." Marc Muniesa is on standby to come back into the side while "Steven felt fatigued [against Arsenal] and was struggling to get around the pitch, thankfully that appears to have settled down. We're hopeful on him." Victor Moses could get some game time, Hughes confirmed he held his winger back following a return from injury “we didn’t want to put him at risk” but with another week under his belt the Nigerian international is good to go. Peter Odemwingie began “light training” on Wednesday and the striker is hoping to be back before the end of the season - Dionatan Teixeira [foot] remains out and Mame Biram Diouf is away with Senegal. Robert Huth may look to secure a loan move in an effort to regain his match fitness – Marc Wilson is managing an ongoing knee issue but should be okay.
Queens Park Rangers – vs – Manchester United
Sandro Ranieri [knee] and Yuk-Young Yun [ankle] stepped up their rehab this week and joined the main-group in training however GW22 will come too soon for the pair - they "should be back for the Stoke game.” A toe injury rules Armand Traore out but Adel Taarabt “is fine and back in the fold” after doing well last week. Niko Kranjcar hasn’t featured since Boxing Day but the Croatian has “trained well and is back.” Charlie Austin is brimming with confidence after winning the British Premier League Player of the Month award for December and will be looking to add to his 13 goal haul already this term. Rio Ferdinand [groin] returns to the squad after he was rested as a precaution last weekend because of muscular tightness.
Robin van Persie is rated as extremely doubtful for the trip to Loftus Road because of a minor ankle injury, his absence should provide the ideal opportunity for Radamel Falcao to return to the squad after he was “rested” in game week 21. Marcos Rojo is available although the Argentine defender was not selected in the squad last time out but Angel di Maria and Luke Shaw did return although they lacked “match rhythm.” Louis van Gaal must decide whether to risk Rafael [fractured cheekbone] after he successfully underwent surgery – Victor Valdes was involved for the first time last week but Ashley Young [groin] remains out.
Swansea City – vs – Chelsea
Jefferson Montero [hamstring] could provide Garry Monk with a welcome boost, the speedy winger has an "outside" chance of returning ahead of schedule but a place on the bench is likely after three weeks out. Jonjo Shelvey [suspended] is still a few weeks away and Sung-Yueng Ki is on Asian Cup duty with Korea.
Cesar Azpilicueta will miss out the trip to the Liberty "but should be back training with the squad next week," Felipe Luis will deputise. Jose Mourinho confirms Thibaut Courtois "isn't 100 per cent fit but is available for selection if necessary," while the Chelsea boss re-affirms his belief that he has the two best goalkeepers in the Premier League “I can decide with the keepers in the same way as I decide with the other players. My decision against Newcastle was a simple decision because a 100% fit Petr Cech is better than an 85% fit Thibaut Courtois.”
Tottenham Hotspur – vs – Sunderland
Federico Fazio and Younes Kaboul are both struggling due to illness and face a late fitness test while Vlad Chiriches was on the score sheet during Wednesday nights’ fight back win over Burnley – however the defender has a back problem “We’ll analyse the players and make a decision [on Saturday]." Erik Lamela [calf] and Ryan Mason [hamstring] remain sidelined while Nabil Bentaleb is on African Cup of Nations duty with Algeria.
Jermaine Defoe has completed his move from Toronto in time to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane and the striker is “desperate” to start against the side where he played for eleven seasons. Gus Poyet is working on ways to best utilise his new signing with a front two likely – paired with the returning Steven Fletcher [groin]. Lee Cattermole will have a late fitness along with Anthony Reveillere [calf] and Jack Rodwell [hamstring] – suspension sidelines Liam Bridcutt but Sebastian Coates is available again after missing the defeat to Liverpool under the terms of his loan agreement.
Newcastle United – vs – Southampton
Caretaker manager John Carver was able to provide a positive injury update ahead of the Southampton game as "Mehdi Abeid and Siem de Jong trained for the first time” on Thursday although the Algerian is way ahead of his Dutch counterpart in terms of fitness. Gabriel Obertan is also closing in on a return and is around two weeks away from joining in with the team “he's in great condition and has worked really hard." Sammy Ameobi managed to play 60 minutes and Davide Santon played 90 minutes for the development side this week although the latter was struggling with a tight hamstring. Jonas Gutierrez is "getting fitter and stronger” and is about 2/3 weeks away from pushing for a start in the first team but the Argentine is rumoured to be a target for Sheffield Wednesday and could leave on loan during the window. Adam Armstrong [ankle] and Jak Alnwick [shoulder] will be assessed while Rob Elliot [thigh] is close – Rolando Aarons, Ryan Taylor and Curtis Good could return in January but Steven Taylor is out for the season. Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse are on international duty.
Ronald Koeman is missing a number of key players for their trip to St James’ Park – Morgan Schneiderlin [groin] is expected to be out for around three weeks while a hamstring injury “12 seconds before half-time” on Wednesday [could mean] a month on the sidelines for Victor Wanyama. Add the loss of Toby Alderweireld for between 3-4 weeks and defensively the Saints are struggling with Maya Yoshida away on Asian Cup duty. Koeman experimented with a back three at Ipswich in the FA Cup – a formation which saw Ryan Bertrand slot in alongside Florin Gardos and Jose Fonte. Despite the loss of Saido Mane Southampton should be okay in midfield as Jake Hesketh and Jack Cork are both back in contention while Dusan Tadic is managing an abdominal strain but should be okay
West Ham United – vs – Hull City
Sam Allardyce could welcome back Guy Demel and Winston Reid following injury, the pair have started light training and “have a chance of being available.” Diafra Sakho remains out with Kouyate unavailable [AFCoN]. Enner Valencia will be hoping to partner Andy Carroll up front again but Carlton Cole done his chances no harm midweek with a goal in the FA Cup third replay against Everton. Alex Song was able to get a good hour under his belt following his recent bout of illness.
Steve Bruce has confirmed Sone Aluko [calf] and Gaston Ramirez [groin] will come back into contention ahead of schedule after the pair joined training on Friday morning. However the Tigers’ still have a number of absences for the trip to the Boleyn Ground with Liam Rosenior, Andrew Robertson, Nikica Jelavic, Abel Hernandez, Robert Snodgrass and Mo Diame all sidelined. Bruce is desperate to add numbers to his squad – particularly up front – but confirmed recent attempts have failed. Rudy Gestede "It's a non-starter. It's not going to happen" while Yaya Sanogo "either wanted to go to France or stay in London."
Manchester City – vs – Arsenal
A training ground calf strain will keep Samir Nasri from facing Arsenal on Sunday “I think he will be out for around three weeks to a month" confirmed Pellegrini. Captain Vincent Kompany is 100 per cent fit but City do "have some doubts about Edin Dzeko, we will see tomorrow." A late decision will be made on Sergio Aguero “we will see if he will start." New signing Wilfried Bony and Yaya Toure are representing the Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations.
Surgery rules Mikel Arteta [ankle] and Mathieu Debuchy [shoulder] out for the next three months after Wenger was left with no option following specialist consultation. Kieran Gibbs [heel] will train again with the squad on Friday "we will see how he goes from there" but is expected to be fine while Danny Welbeck [thigh] "is not ready yet, we will have to be patient," 10-14 days is realistic. Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil are all available for selection but the trio may have to be content with a place on the bench again - Serge Gnabry is also back with the main-group. Krystian Bielik "is having a medical today” after a fee was agreed with Legia Warsaw.
Everton – vs – West Brom
Kevin Mirallas is still managing an ankle problem which has restricted his game time recently but the Belgium winger will be available for Monday night “I think in 10 days I will feel 100 per cent. But for now, it is 90 per cent. The main thing is that I am able to play.” Roberto Martinez advised “there is no update on Eto'o. We will take a couple of weeks to make a decision. I wouldn't rule anything out at this stage" after the striker missed the FA Cup replay at the Boleyn Ground amid speculation of his impending move – Sampdoria are said to be the front runners. Everton will have the same squad as Tuesday night with the possibly of adding Tony Hibbert and Sylvain Distin - both will face a late fitness test. James McCarthy, Darron Gibson, Leon Osman and Tim Howard "are progressing well" but won't be available for Mondays' game. Aiden McGeady is suspended and Christian Atsu is on AFCoN duty.
Tony Pulis is "hopeful" everyone will be fit for Monday with the exception of Jonas Olsson who has been missing since December after undergoing Achilles surgery. The new Baggies’ boss confirmed “a couple [of players] are being monitored” which presumably includes the likes of Victor Anichebe [groin], James Morrison [knee] and Sessegnon [calf] who have all experienced problem recently.