Back to the Premier League this weekend and with the transfer deadline close upon us plus the African Cup of Nations and Asian Cup tournaments drawing to a conclusion there’s been no let up as we head into game week 23 where the headlines have once again been dominated by Chelsea. Firstly the Blues were able to secure their first Wembley appearance of the season – a Capital One Cup final in March – after an extra-time victory over Liverpool on Tuesday while an FA charge followed – violent conduct – for Diego Costa. Mixed in with all of that were injury doubts surrounding some of our fantasy superstars [across all formats] – Ivanovic [foot] and Fabregas [hamstring] while the Special One had the sheer audacity to cancel Fridays’ press-conference leaving us all in gaming limbo. Luckily though those clever people @Rotoworld_PL are here to help every step of the way so keep following for all the latest news and views relating to the British Premier League …… Good luck!
Hull City – vs – Newcastle United
Saturdays’ early kick-off takes us to the KC Stadium where Hull City entertain Newcastle and the Tigers’ really need to improve their home form with only two wins from last twelve. Scoring goals has been their biggest concern – 10 blanks from 14 – but the squad will be boosted by the return of strikers Abel Hernandez and Nikica Jelavic - the pair recover ahead of schedule from respective groin and knee injuries. Gaston Ramirez was an unused substitute last time out but with another two weeks of training under his belt the on-loan winger is ready for action while Hull can also call upon Andrew Robertson who hasn’t featured since New Years’ Day [ankle ligaments]. James Chester, Liam Rosenior and Robert Snodgrass are all long-term but Alex Bruce [thigh] has a chance. Mo Diame is progressing but there is no definitive timeline on his return – at least another month.
John Carver takes charge of his first official match for the Magpies after three defeats and a draw was enough to convince Mike Ashley that he was the right man for the job ……… "I'm so proud and honoured to be able to be head coach of a football club like this." Newcastle will be hoping for a repeat of last season’s performance [4-1 victory] and have a decent record – unbeaten in seven [3 draws & 4 wins]. Mehdi Abeid, Davide Santon and Gabriel Obertan were involved in a behind-closed-doors friendly midweek and they have been added to the squad but Siem de Jong – who grabbed a goal during the win – is a little short on fitness “this game may come too soon.” A hamstring injury keeps Paul Dummett out meaning Mike Williamson is the likely deputy with Steven Taylor [Achilles] out for the season. Rolando Aarons and Ryan Taylor are hoping to join the main group next week while Papiss Cisse [AFCoN] could be a part of the squad – Cheick Tiote is still absent.
Crystal Palace – vs – Everton
Jerome Thomas picked up a knock in training on Thursday which will keep him out of the contest at Selhurst Park and represents the Eagles’ only injury concern although Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak are away on AFCoN and Asian Cup duty. Dwight Gayle has scored 5 goals from just 7 shots on target this season but Alan Pardew could continue with Yaya Sanogo and Marouane Chamakh who were excellent in the FA Cup last weekend. New signing Jordon Mutch is available for selection and should be in the squad to face Everton while striker Shola Ameobi has also agreed a deal until the end of the season.
With penalty-gate nothing but a distant memory Roberto Martinez has confirmed Leighton Baines is back on spot-kicks and the [Kevin Mirallas] incident "has been addressed and is water under the bridge." The Belgium winger re-joined the group in training on Thursday after struggling with foot and hamstring problems. Following the confirmed departure of Samuel Eto’o [Sampdoria] Arouna Kone “is ready to offer a lot” so expect game time over the coming weeks while Everton do have other options in Naismith and Barkley for the number ten role. James McCarthy "has a chance of being involved” along with Sylvain Distin who has recovered from a groin problem – Darron Gibson also benefitted from last weeks’ warm weather training. Tim Howard is ahead of schedule but GW23 will come too soon for the American goalkeeper however Muhamed Besic has recovered from a foot injury - Aidan McGeady is available after suspension. Christian Atsu is still on AFCoN duty while Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman are long-term absentees.
Liverpool – vs – West Ham
Mamadou Sakho had a pain-killing injection in his back before Tuesday nights’ Capital One game at Stamford Bridge but the defender wasn’t able to complete the match – he missed training on Thursday but could be back today although Brendan Rodgers will undertake a thorough assessment. Glen Johnson or Dejan Lovren will step in if required. Much of the talk for the past week or so has been about the proposed return of Daniel Sturridge – the England striker was last seen in September [thigh & calf problems] but the news from the training ground has been very positive "Sturridge has been brilliant, back to what we've seen before - dynamic, fast and strong. He’s in top-class condition” so I’d expect a place on the bench against the Hammers. Kolo Toure remains on AFCoN duty.
Sam Allardyce has “a few knocks” to assess before the trip to Anfield - Alex Song, James Tomkins and Carl Jenkinson have all been on the treatment table this week “we're waiting to see how they are." Tomkins and Jenkinson are rated as “touch & go” but James Collins has recovered sufficiently from a back problem to be considered – Joey O’Brien has a minor hamstring complaint. Cheikhou Kouyate could come back into contention following his return from the AFCoN and expect big performances from Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing who will hoping to get one over their former employers. Diafra Sakho is available following a back injury but it may be too early for a start despite his winning goal in the FA Cup last weekend meaning Enner Valencia would partner Carroll.
Manchester United – vs – Leicester City
Michael Carrick ruptured a muscle in training this week and is likely to miss around a month but Ashley Young is progressing and isn’t far from full fitness. The injury blow is softened by the return of Daley Blind with many speculating whether United could afford to involve both players however that won’t be an issue for the next few weeks! Louis van Gaal is looking for a more clinical attacking style “to play more quickly, with high ball speed” to help disorganise the opponent as United continue to struggle in front goal. Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans will be assessed and at the time of writing Darren Fletcher was finalising a deal taking him to West Ham.
Matthew Upson is "more or less available” following another 90 minutes for the development side midweek – the veteran defender hasn’t featured since foot surgery in the summer. There was also good news regarding teammate Liam Moore [ankle] who trained on Thursday – the player was expected to miss around 10-14 days but comes back into contention. Chris Wood is "out for two or three weeks" but Dean Hammond [calf] is available once again. Ben Hamer is likely to return in place of Mark Schwarzer who became the oldest player in Leicester history after his appearance in the FA Cup in the fourth round last weekend – Kasper Schmeichel is still recovering from a fractured metatarsal. Matthew James is suspended and Riyad Mahrez is currently away with Algeria.
Stoke City – vs – Queens Park Rangers
Asmir Begovic is expected to return in goal after making way for Jack Butland in the FA Cup on Monday and with the exception of Bojan [ACL] – out for the season - and Erik Pieters [Hernia] – another 7/10 days - the Stoke squad is looking pretty healthy. Robert Huth is suspended for his social media comments – two games – but regardless the German defender looks set to join Leicester City on-loan for the remainder of the campaign to help his fitness and gain some valuable game time. Mark Hughes is hopeful Mame Biram Diouf will be available for the QPR game "he has flown back and has been in the building."
Queens Park Rangers are the first team since 1964/65 to lose ten straight top-flight games away from home and need to start taking points on the road if they harbour any hopes of Premier League survival. Suk-Young Yun [ankle] has trained this week and should be available along with Richard Dunne [groin] and Armand Traore [toe] but Sandro [knee] is still a week. Adel Taarabt will not be considered for the game – Alejandro Faurlin [ACL] is out for the season.
Sunderland – vs – Burnley
Gus Poyet will welcome back a trio of players from injury as Adam Johnson [calf], Anthony Reveillere [Achilles] and Wes Brown [knee] are once again available for selection although they will be assessed to see “if they are ready or not.” Lee Cattermole however has been ruled out against Burnley; the Black Cats midfielder had a knee scan on [Friday] afternoon. Jack Rodwell is suspended following his sending-off in the FA Cup.
Sean Dyche offered a positive update on his squad ahead of this weekend "we're good.” Stephen Ward “is making [encouraging] progress after his [ankle] operation" while Matty Taylor "is close and just missed the development game midweek." Sam Vokes is pushing for his first league start of the season while Lukas Jutkiewicz grabbed a couple of goals for the under-21s and looks to be over his recent foot problem. Kevin Long [ACL] is out for the season.
West Brom – vs – Tottenham Hotspur
Boaz Myhill could miss out for the Baggies’ this weekend after the goalkeeper damaged his finger during last weekends’ win over Birmingham – fortunately an X-ray revealed no damage to the joint but the injury did require stitches. Jonas Olsson joined the main-group on Thursday – the defender has not been seen since September and underwent surgery to address his troublesome Achilles, however this weekend will come too soon for the Swedish international. Callum McManaman will be added to the squad but Pulis remained coy when questioned [regarding a potential start] "I'm not sure about that, we'll have to wait and see." Jason Davidson and Youssouf Mulumbu are still on international duty but DR Congo captain is struggling with a hamstring injury.
Mauricio Pochettino has the arduous task of trying to name his 18 match-day squad members after he declared "everyone is fit” for the trip to the Hawthorns. Only Nabil Bentaleb is unavailable – the Algerian midfielder is currently on AFCoN duty. Nacer Chadli returns after compassionate leave.
Chelsea – vs – Manchester City
With no Chelsea press-conference many a fantasy manager will be sweating on the fitness of a number of players who were involved in a bruising semi-final encounter against Liverpool in the Capital One cup midweek. What we do know however is that Diego Costa will be suspended after the FA upheld their violent conduct charge relating to a stamp on Emre Can – three game domestic ban with immediate effect. Branislav Ivanovic should hopefully be okay; the defender completed 120 minutes of action on Tuesday but a lacerated foot may require stitches. Cesc Fabregas [tight hamstring] was removed as a precaution and although Mourinho will make a late decision on the Spaniard – who is the first player provide 15 assists in two different Premier League seasons – he was with the main group on Thursday. Felipe Luis [calf] is almost certain to miss out but Azpilicueta would come straight back and Willian will be assessed after he was seen limping towards the end of the match. John Obi Mikel [head] is expected to be available but Andre Schurrle has verbally agreed a move to Wolfsburg – Oscar is the inform player [3 goals & 2 assists] from his last three games.
Although a result at Stamford Bridge is not imperative, defeat would open up an eight point gap – not a title decider – but it would leave the Citizens with a lot to do. Defensively City need to tighten up – particularly during the second half of games – where Pellegrini’s men have conceded [64%] of their goals [the highest in the top-flight] but with Eliaquim Mangala struggling with a shoulder problem the Chilean will need to decide on either Boyata or Demichelis to partner captain Vincent Kompany. Samir Nasri [calf] has a chance of making the bench – the French midfielder spent a couple of weeks out but “has worked normally in the last couple of days, maybe it's too soon but we will see.” Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony will participate in the AFCoN for the Ivory Coast this weekend.
Arsenal – vs – Aston Villa
Alexis Sanchez is the big concern for Arsenal – the inform Chilean is struggling with a hamstring injury and Wenger says "he might be out for Sunday [as] I am unlikely to risk him.” The game will also come too soon for Danny Welbeck unless the manager decides to “gamble, gamble, gamble” although he does stress the England striker will definitely be back for the Tottenham match. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to struggle with an ongoing groin issue and his progress will be monitored over the next 7-10 days but here was better news regarding Jack Wilshere who should be back training with the main group within the next two weeks “he is doing very well and is a week ahead of schedule.” New defender Gabriel Paulista will be added to the squad "He has good pace, is good in the challenge and is tall, so he can adapt to English football. Maybe it will take some time to adapt completely, but overall it is very good to have him. I saw great quality. His level of concentration, he's quick, has great commitment and he's young." Definitely a player to watch over the coming weeks.
Paul Lambert believes Ron Vlaar is "touch & go" for Sunday while he thinks the game could come a little too soon for Joe Cole "we need to have a little look to see how they are." Gabby Agbonlahor "is fit and has trained [for the] last day or so - we will just make sure that his hamstring is okay," but Ciaran Clark is a doubt after injuring his ankle in training this week - Nathan Baker could deputise. Libor Kozak [broken leg] has returned to light training but the striker will still do well to play this season and loan signing Scott Sinclair will be assessed on Saturday “and if he comes through the session he will be in the squad for the match.” Fabian Delph [Achilles] is available.
Southampton – vs – Swansea
Ronald Koeman confirms Sadio Mané and Maya Yoshida will be available for Sundays' game but I expect both players to start from the bench. Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin and Toby Alderweireld are close but won’t be available, the Saints boss is “hopeful” for GW24. Emmanuel Mayuka "picked up a [groin] injury with Zambia and is due back on Saturday - we will look at him then," and Jack Cork will not be included as he looks to finalise a deal to opponents Swansea; however even if the terms of the move have been agreed he will not face his former employers. Two fractured ribs is enough to keep Shane Long out for around a month while a return date for Sam Gallagher and Jay Rodriguez is still unknown.
Garry Monk will have captain Ashley Williams back in the Swansea squad after the skipper missed last weekends’ FA Cup defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers – a game which saw both Kyle Bartley and Gylfi Sigurdsson get their marching orders meaning they miss the trip to St Marys’ on Sunday. Leon Britton [groin] is back in contention and Jefferson Montero will be hoping to make his first league start since Boxing Day. A calf injury keeps Wayne Routledge sidelined and Sung-Yueng Ki [Asian Cup] is still absent.