Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! The festive fixture programme is in full flow, and with such a quick turnaround between games, managers and coaches are expected to utilise their squad to the max. There will be lots of rotation....
Team news can be scarce during the holiday period, so make sure you are following the entire Rotoworld Premier League team to help keep you up-to date with all of the latest news.
Fulham – vs – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Claudio Ranieri will be hoping to build on a well-earned point at Newcastle. The Lilywhites managed to keep their first clean sheet in 22 Premier League games on Tyneside, but they will do well to take anything from a Wolves side who have won three of their last four. Kevin McDonald and Maxime Le Marchand returned to the matchday squad on Saturday – unused substitutes – which means the home side should be close to full strength with Ryan Sessegnon (groin) closing in on his comeback. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is the only confirmed absentee and it could be the new year before he is back in action.
Diogo Jota is not expected to recover from the hamstring strain which kept him out of the 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool. Nuno Espírito Santo made a couple of changes on Friday, and following impressive displays from the bench, the Portuguese manager could start with the team that finished that game. That would see Ivan Cavaleiro and Morgan Gibbs-White come into the side. Adama Traoré is expected to drop out of the starting XI.
Burnley – vs – Everton
Johann Berg Gudmundsson (hamstring) trained ahead of the Arsenal game but failed to recover for the early kick-off. However, the extra recovery days could see the winger return along with Robbie Brady (knock) and Steven Defour (knee) who failed late fitness tests (GW18). Stephen Ward (knee) has stepped up his rehab in recent weeks but it’s unlikely that he will feature over the festive programme while Aaron Lennon is sidelined following surgery to repair a cartilage tear. Nick Pope (shoulder) continues to build fitness with the under-23s.
The Toffees will be smarting following their heavy loss to Tottenham at Goodison Park and they will be looking to bounce back quickly. Marco Silva will run the rule over André Gomes who limped off with a knee injury while Idrissa Gueye (groin) is taking part in training and could return. There was no place for James McCarthy on Sunday, but the midfielder is expected to feature over Christmas having missed the previous 11 months after suffering a double-leg fracture. Morgan Schneiderlin is another option but it remains unclear whether Ademola Lookman will be available after he missed out in GW18 due to an unspecified injury.
Crystal Palace – vs – Cardiff City
Palace pulled off the unthinkable at the Etihad on Saturday and Roy Hodgson could stick with the same XI which inflicted City’s first home defeat in the league since April. The Eagles boss said that Christian Benteke (knee) is the only player certain to miss out meaning the likes of Wayne Hennessey (back spasm), Martin Kelly (groin) and Cheikhou Kouyate (muscular fatigue) have a chance of returning to the matchday squad.
The Bluebirds were poor against Manchester United and Neil Warnock will be hoping that his side can arrest the slide away from home having lost six on the spin. Joe Bennett (hip), Danny Ward (knee) and Jazz Richards (hamstring) are all receiving treatment at present, but none are considered long-term and they will come under consideration over the next few games.
Leicester City – vs – Manchester City
Jamie Vardy helped the Foxes to a perfectly executed smash and grab raid at Stamford Bridge to help ease the pressure on Claude Puel. But the home side will have it all to do again against the wounded Champions. Daniel Amartey (ankle) is still around three months away from a return while Matty James is building fitness following surgery to remedy an ongoing Achilles injury.
Pep Guardiola was forced to defend his decision to play John Stones as a defensive midfielder in the defeat by Crystal Palace. There had been no mention in Friday’s press conference, but a thigh injury kept Fernandinho out of the squad and his availability is yet to be determined. David Silva (hamstring) is back on the training pitches, but Southampton away (GW20) is a more realistic target for the Spaniard who has missed the last four games (all competitions). Vincent Kompany won’t be too far away but Benjamin Mendy (knee) is out until early 2019. The fit-again Sergio Agüero is pushing for his first league start in over a month after overcoming a muscular problem and Kevin De Bruyne is nailed-on following his goal from the bench. Danilo has returned to the City squad.
Liverpool – vs – Newcastle United
The Reds will look to maintain their four-point cushion at the top of the league against former boss Rafa Benitez. Trent Alexander-Arnold (foot) has returned to training and Jürgen Klopp remains hopeful that Naby Keita will be available for Boxing Day despite being forced off during the 2-0 win over Wolves. The No.8 sustained a “proper cut on his foot” during a first half at Molineux, and then took another knock on the ribs which ended his night. “It should be good. Two things are a bit painful, but I don't [they’ll] be a problem for him." Adam Lallana is an option, while Xherdan Shaqiri is expected to play some part having been rested on Friday. Joel Matip (fractured collarbone), Joe Gomez (fractured lower leg) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) are all ruled out.
Federico Fernandez and DeAndre Yedlin returned to the matchday squad following injury and suspension, although only the latter was introduced from the bench in a brief six-minute cameo. Expect United to shut up shop and go with a back five which is likely to include the Paul Dummett - Ciaran Clark could miss out again with an ankle complaint. Jonjo Shelvey (thigh) is close and, if passed fit, he could return with Ki Sung-Yeung departing on Asian Cup duty.
Manchester United – vs – Huddersfield Town
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer couldn’t have asked for a better start in his first game in charge as United swept Cardiff aside. The Reds hit five for the first time since the Alex Ferguson era and will look to heap further pressure on the Terriers who find themselves joint bottom. The return of Luke Shaw and Phil Jones helps ease recent injury problems although Chris Smalling (foot) and Scott McTominay remain doubts. Romelu Lukaku (compassionate leave) is not expected to be available and a hamstring injury keeps Alexis Sánchez out until 2019.
David Wagner is hoping Jonathan Hogg will be “back next week” although it remains unclear whether that means a potential return at Old Trafford or GW20 after he sustained a knee injury in training. The loss to key players threatens to derail their season with Aaron Mooy and Danny Williams (both knee) missing for between 8-10 weeks. Club-captain Tom Smith (hamstring) is also out although Rajiv Van la Parra (back) has a chance.
Tottenham Hotspur – vs – AFC Bournemouth
Expect Danny Rose to replace Ben Davies at left-back from the side that thumped Everton 6-2 on Sunday. The England international was an unused substitute. However, on the opposite flank, Kieran Trippier looks safe for now as Serge Aurier continues his recovery from a groin strain. The return of Davinson Sánchez provides a welcome boost with Jan Vertonghen (thigh) and Eric Dier (appendicitis) ruled out. Mousa Dembele (ankle) is not expected to return until January and Victor Wanyama continues to work in the gym because of a persistent knee injury. The loss of Dele Alli (hamstring) at Goodison will be a slight concern, although Pochettino was quick to play down the severity of the injury post-match. “He didn’t feel a big problem. Maybe a little bit tired from Wednesday. I hope it’s not a big issue. It was a precaution." Moussa Sissoko should shake off a minor knock.
Ryan Fraser was only fit-enough for a place on the bench after picking up a calf injury in the Carabao Cup. However, the Scotland international was still able to influence the game following a pinpoint cross for David Brooks who scored his second and sealed three-points for the Cherries. Eddie Howe will assess his players but there are no obvious concerns – Adam Smith, Dan Gosling and Lewis Cook (all knee) are the three players known to be missing.
Brighton and Hove Albion – vs – Arsenal
Glenn Murray is expected to lead the Seagulls attack after Florin Andone was given the nod at the Vitality. Chris Hughton also brought in Jurgen Locadia and Yves Bissouma for Dale Stephens and Anthony Knockaert. There will be at least one enforced change following the dismissal of Lewis Dunk. It was a case of mistaken identity for the defender who was booked for a foul he didn’t commit on Saturday, but you can’t appeal a yellow card. Fortunately, Shane Duffy returns after serving a three-match ban. Alireza Jahanbakhsh is close after suffering a minor setback and José Izquierdo has been training with the group, however, the game comes too soon for the pair.
Unai Emery wasn’t afraid to ring the changes after losing to Southampton. The Arsenal boss made six for the visit of Burnley, a move which saw Mesut Özil return to captain the side. Mo Elneny, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles, Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette also came in to help the Gunners return to winning ways. Nacho Monreal suffered a slight setback. The Spaniard was making only his second Premier League start since recovering from a hamstring strain which had kept him sidelined for the best part of seven weeks and he will be assessed ahead of the trip to the Amex Stadium. “It’s starting to be a muscular problem,” Emery revealed post-match. “We decided to change [it] and not take more risks. But I hope it’s not big, and I hope he can be with us next week. I don’t know if he can play in Brighton.” Laurent Koscielny was rested on Saturday and the Frenchman will be in contention. Emery also confirmed Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring) is closing in on a return although GW19 may come too soon for the German. Rob Holding (ACL knee) will miss the remainder of the campaign but Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin) is back on the training pitches.
Watford – vs – Chelsea
Javi Gracia said that Will Hughes (hip) and Sebastian Prodl (knee) were the closest to a return of those currently sidelined. However, following back-to-back wins he may be tempted to keep the same side. Etienne Capoue was back after his recent ban while midfielders Nathaniel Chalobah and Tom Cleverley can only hope for a place on the bench as they slowly get back up-to speed following long-term injuries.
Álvaro Morata (twisted knee) returned to training on Friday and the striker is expected to be included in the 18 at Vicarage Road. Maurizio Sarri has a decision to make on whether to hand the stuttering Spanish star an instant recall or continue with Eden Hazard as a false 9. Olivier Giroud will, most likely, have to settle for a place on the bench. Andreas Christensen (hamstring) may not play again this year.
Southampton – vs – West Ham United
Two wins on the bounce could see Ralph Hasenhüttl name an unchanged side. Five players re-joined the group in training last week, but while Jack Stephens (knee), Mario Lemina (abdominal) and Michael Obafemi (hamstring) returned to the matchday 18, Cedric Soares (calf) failed to make the cut. Ryan Bertrand could miss out again after undergoing minor back surgery and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg must sit this one out through suspension.
Manuel Pellegrini reveals Fabián Balbuena must be assessed before deciding whether the defender will be involved at St Mary’s. The Hammers centre-back was injured on the half hour mark after giving away a penalty on Saturday. It was an innocuous challenge which left the Paraguayan requiring treatment and he was replaced soon after by Angelo Ogbonna. “Fabian has a problem with his [left] knee, we will see tomorrow. I cannot answer just yet what the problem is yet,” mused Manuel Pellegrini. Initial concerns suggest Balbuena may have tweaked his knee ligaments and he will be sent for a scan to determine the extent of the damage. If confirmed, it could see him miss several weeks of action. West Ham already have an extensive injury list which means there could be as many as ten first-team players sidelined on Thursday. Javier Hernández (tight hamstring) and Lucas Pérez (foot) face a test ahead of the game.