Ben Dinnery

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Late Fitness Check GW1

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Following quickly on the heels of this summers World Cup, the new Premier League campaign is about to get underway…… and Manchester City have already laid down a marker in the Community Shield.   


The transfer deadline has now passed and despite a colossal £1.2bn being spent, the figure fell for the first time in eight years. Tottenham become the first club since the window was introduced, back in 2003, not to sign a player.


Only five press conferences took place on Thursday, so make sure you’re following the team throughout the build-up to week one for all of the latest news.


The Rotoworld Premier League team can found on Twitter: Neal | Steve | Andrew | Sean | Stag | Ben | Nik



Editor’s Note: Fed up with everyone in your league having Harry Kane up front or Hazard in midfield? Join a draft league where there can only be one!



Manchester United – vs – Leicester City

United are missing at least six players for the opener against Leicester on Friday. Sergio Romero and Diogo Dalot are still recovering from knee surgery. Antonio Valencia [calf], Ander Herrera [hamstring], Marcos Rojo [knock] and Nemanja Matic [abdominal] are also sidelined. Jose Mourinho will speak to those players who only arrived back late on Monday – Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young - following their involvement at the World Cup. "You can imagine they are not really fit and ready. But we have needs." Phil Jones, Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof are all well-placed having played against Bayern Munich last weekend while Eric Bailly has shaken off a minor ankle problem. “It's an important match. We would prefer to have a couple of more days, but the decision was [for us] to be the first to play and that's it. We are ready.”


The Foxes will be without Matty James [Achilles] and Nampalys Mendy [muscular] for the trip to Old Trafford but Jonny Evans stands a chance after a return to training. Claude Puel is also willing to consider Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire despite his comments from a week ago: "If we are serious I think [they] cannot participate in the first game, with just five days training with the team." When pushed on their involvement during Thursday’s press conference: "We will see," he replied. "Harry and Jamie are ready in their minds, but after I don't know if they’re ready in their body, with their fitness levels. We have another training session, and then we will see." James Maddison has been cleared and the Leicester boss will be looking at the former Norwich midfielder, and summer signing Rachid Ghezzal to help fill the creative void left by Riyad Mahrez. Kelechi Iheanacho could be a good low-cost option for the opening weeks after finishing pre-season with a flourish [4-goals in three].



Newcastle United – vs – Tottenham Hotspur

Rafa left it until the very last moment to get Frederico Fernandez over the line and the Newcastle boss could be tempted to throw the Argentine straight in for the lunchtime kick-off. Off-the-field, the players have resolved their bonus dispute and captain Jamaal Lascelles insists the squad are fully focussed on the task in hand, promising a good performance. Karl Darlow remains on standby as Martin Dúbravka battles the groin problem which kept him out the final pre-season fixture with Augsburg. Mo Diame is expected to be passed fit after taking a whack on the hip, but centre-back Florian Lejeune underwent reconstruction knee surgery this week meaning he will miss much of the upcoming season. Salomon Rondon arrived at the club on a one-year loan deal which saw Dwight Gayle travelling in the opposite direction.  


Victor Wanyama continues with gym-based rehab for his knee injury and will miss the trip to St James’ Park. Erik Lamela is also out of the equation due to a short-term muscle injury. With a host of late returners following an extended post-World Cup break, Pochettino was hoping to call upon some of his fringe / youth players to help boost numbers, although injury has stretched Spurs’ squad. Juan Marcos [thigh] remains a few weeks away while Cameron Carter Vickers [groin] is in the early stages of his recovery. Harry Winks [ankle] and Joshua Onomah [knee] have returned to the training pitches but Saturday is expected to come too soon for the pair. On a brighter note, former Mag, Moussa Sissoko, has overcome a slight hamstring strain. A late decision will be made on Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier, Eric Dier, Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Mousa Dembele who will have their fitness assessed: "The circumstances are different for each [player]. Some need more time to get fit. Some will be fit to start the game, some will be fit to be on the bench. Maybe some players will stay here to because maybe we don’t want to take risks. All players are fit but maybe we need to care for some players and not push them to compete."



AFC Bournemouth – vs – Cardiff City

Summer signing Diego Rico will miss the Cherries’ first three games due to suspension after receiving two yellow cards in his final La Liga appearance. The Spanish Football Federation increased his initial one match ban to three following his reaction to the sending off. Having been cautioned for a late tackle, Rico sarcastically clapped the match official before speaking out of turn to a linesman, earning him an additional two games. The 25-year-old will now have to wait until Bournemouth travel to Stamford Bridge on September 1st to make his competitive bow. The opening weekend is expected to come too soon for Junior Stanislas who failed to play a single minute in pre-season, Eddie Howe had this to say in July: "He is going to miss the bulk of training, if not all of it. It is going to be difficult for him to start the [campaign]." Nathan Ake should be okay after he was replaced against Marseille last weekend: "I think if it had of been a league game he would have possibly stayed on,” Howe said. “He's got a toe problem, we hope it's nothing serious." Jefferson Lerma won't be considered just yet due to a lack of fitness.


The Bluebirds are tipped for a quick return to the second-tier, but in Neil Warnock, they have an experienced manager who just loves to prove people wrong. Cardiff have bought wisely during the summer and the deadline day signing of Harry Arter could prove to be a shrewd move if the Republic of Ireland midfielder can stay fit, although he can't play at the Vitality. Expect a full compliment of players to choose from on the south coast.



Fulham – vs – Crystal Palace

Calum Chambers is in line to make his debut having joined on a season long loan. Slavisa Jokanovic worked hard during the summer to bring in defensive reinforcements following the loss of Ryan Fredericks [to West Ham] and Matt Targett [returned to his parent club]. The Arsenal loanee joins versatile defender Maxime Le Marchand and former Swansea centre-back Alfie Mawson who won’t be available until September after knee surgery. Manchester United defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah will also be a part of the squad for the duration of 2018/19. Denis Odoi serves the first game of his two-match ban having been dismissed during last season’s play-off final win over Aston Villa.


Scott Dann is still working his back from a ruptured ACL, but the defender has been seen on the training pitches, suggesting he isn’t too far away. Connor Wickham will look to end more than 21 months of misery having recently recovered from his own serious knee injury. Christian Benteke made a timely to return to action last weekend but the striker faces stiff competition for a starting berth with Jordan Ayew among the Palace ranks. Max Meyer and Cheikhou Kouyate will hope to plug the gaps left by Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Yohan Cabaye.


Huddersfield Town – vs – Chelsea

Erik Durm ended his injury nightmare with a cameo in Austria, but manager David Wagner admits the full-back will need more time to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League after spending several months out with ankle ligament damage. Jonas Lössl will compete with Ben Hamer for the number one spot with the latter better placed in terms of sharpness. Elias Kachunga is back with the group, but Danny Williams is still feeling the after-effects of last season’s surgery to repair a fractured fibula.


Maurizio Sarri will be forced into making a late call on several late returners although the International Champions Cup game against Lyon on Tuesday provided the new Chelsea boss with an excellent opportunity to get some much-needed minutes into his players legs. Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante and Gary Cahill were all afforded a run out and should be in contention to make the 18. Victor Moses and Willian are slightly ahead of their team-mates in terms of fitness and could be considered for a start. Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic arrives as part of the deal which took Thibaut Courtois to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Spanish starlet - Kepa Arrizabalaga - is the new Chelsea custodian.  



Watford – vs – Brighton and Hove Albion

Abdoulaye Doucouré has been passed fit for the visit of Brighton despite missing pre-season due to appendicitis: "He is fit and in a good condition to play,” said Javi Gracia, although a decision must be made whether last season's Player of the Year is ready to start. Stefano Okaka is not quite there, but the attacker, who had thigh surgery in May, should be back in contention before the end of the month. Saturday will come too soon for Gerard Deulofeu after he suffered a minor setback in training: "I think he will be ready in two, three, four or five days." Nathaniel Chalobah is with the group,” but he needs more time". 18-year-old defender, Ben Wilmot, has a little problem in his knee. "He will be ready for next week." Tom Cleverley is targeting a return in the Autumn after undergoing surgery to remedy a long-standing Achilles problem.


Brighton have a difficult start to the campaign - playing four of last season’s Top Six – and Chris Hughton will be hoping to get a result here. Glenn Murray has recovered from a minor neck and back issue which should see him lead the Seagull’s attack. Jurgen Locadia will return to the matchday squad after shaking off from a groin injury, but Florin Andone will miss out. "He’s still not quite there, but we expect him to train tomorrow [Friday] or Monday." Jose Izquierdo is another absentee after he was afforded another week on the training pitches: “Coming back from a World Cup campaign, it's just giving him that little bit more time to get up to speed." Winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh is available but the summer signing will probably be named amongst the subs: "There's a big question mark as to whether [he's] ready to start the first game. Having some involvement off the bench is more likely."



Wolverhampton Wanderers – vs – Everton

Molineux has been a hive of activity throughout the summer as the West Midlands club invested heavily in the hope of challenging for a top half finish. Wolves took their spending beyond £60m after splashing almost a third of that on club-record signing Adama Traore from Middlesbrough. He follows Diogo Jota, Willy Boly and Leo Bonatini who penned permanent deals after successful loan spells in 2017/18. Wolves were close to a £28m double swoop on deadline day, but Nuno Espírito Santo had to settle for Belgian defensive midfielder/centre half Leander Dendoncker from Anderlecht after Oleksandr Zinchenko chose to remain at Manchester City to fight for his place.


Alarm bells were ringing on Merseyside following a disappointing pre-season campaign and Marco Silva moved swiftly to bolster his squad. Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes arrive from Barcelona while Bernard [Shakhtar Donetsk] became the third signing in less than 30 minutes as the window drew to a close. Richarlison is the Toffees marquee signing and the man tasked with trying to elevate Everton to a European qualification place. James McCarthy [double leg fracture] and Mason Holgate [Achilles tendonitis] are the only notable absentees.



Liverpool – vs – West Ham United

Joe Gomez "should be fine" for the visit of West Ham after missing Liverpool’s final game of pre-season due to a minor niggle. The 21-year-old was a surprise omission from the side which beat Torino 3-1 at Anfield, but Jurgen Klopp was quick to play down the severity of the injury: "I think yes," he said when asked whether Gomez would be fit for Sunday. "It was nothing serious but for tonight it was not possible.” Ragnar Klavan [hamstring] and Dejan Lovren have been ruled out of week one while there are doubts over Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson following their late return. A decision on James Milner will also be made closer to kick-off following a sickening clash of heads [vs Napoli] which left the vice-captain requiring 15 stitches to close a gaping wound. Fabinho was seen leaving Melwood on Thursday with the club doctor and his involvement is in doubt. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may not feature during 2018/19. Joel Matip faces a late fitness test.


Manuel Pellegrini hasn’t been afraid to splash the cash since taking over from David Moyes, a summer of spending brings no less than ten new faces to the London Stadium. Arsenal old boys Jack Wilshere and Lucas Perez make the short move across London with Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko the two players which catch the eye. Habitual crock Andy Carroll is enjoying another stint in the Hammers treatment room and it could be October before the striker is back in action. Manuel Lanzini is said to be targeting a return in early 2019, but the reality, he could be out until March or April.   



Southampton – vs – Burnley

Maya Yoshida tasted minutes for the first-time last weekend to give Mark Hughes something to think about. Cedric Soares is also in contention despite illness hampering his belated pre-season. Steven Davis is fully recovered from an Achilles issue which ended his 2017/18 campaign prematurely leaving the Saints with a clean bill of health. Danny Ings will have a point to prove after arriving from Liverpool on-loan.


The Europa League schedule is already beginning to take its toll on the Clarets forcing Sean Dyche to bring in reinforcements. Shoulder surgery will rule Nick Pope out for a significant period and Tom Heaton’s persistent calf complaint left the Burnley boss searching for cover, which duly arrived in the form of Joe Hart. Steven Defour is taking longer than anticipated to recover from a muscular strain and Robbie Brady [knee] is not ready having spent more than 8 months on the sidelines. Chris Wood missed the midweek draw in Turkey following an adverse reaction to an insect bite and new signing Matej Vydra is a “bit behind the curve” fitness-wise and won’t be considered just yet.   



Arsenal – vs – Manchester City

Sead Kolasinac will be sidelined for between 8-10 weeks after suffering a knee injury during the International Champions Cup penalty shootout win over Chelsea in Dublin. The setback means that Unai Emery may be forced to start Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the left in week one with Nacho Monreal struggling because of the knee injury he sustained during the World Cup: "He has a little problem and he’s training everyday but not with the us," said the new Arsenal boss. "He’s doing work alone with the physical coach and running.” Aaron Ramsey [calf] re-joined the group on Thursday but he may have to settle for a place on the bench due to a lack of sharpness.


City were missing Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and David Silva for their comfortable Community Shield win over Chelsea, but, you would have hardly noticed as Pep’s men hit the ground running. And given the performance of the team, the trio may have to bide their time before returning to action. Danilo is still nursing the ankle injury which ended his World Cup and Philippe Sandler is recovering from knee surgery.

Ben Dinnery is a leading expert on Premier League injuries and the Founder of Premier Injuries. He is the man behind the PL Injury Table at as well as a contributor of injury commentary to The Huffington Post UK,, @MetroUK, @EurosportCom_EN, Fantasy Football Pundits, talkSPORT and @bbc5live. He can be found on Twitter @BenDinnery.
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