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Team News

Late Fitness Check GW21

by Ben Dinnery
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Not wanting to devalue the FA Cup, Premier League sides restricted themselves to a mere [126] changes last weekend at an average of over six per team. Only Newcastle resisted temptation [1] ahead of a double game week although Crystal Palace, Southampton and Man United kept it on a needs must basis opting for three changes a piece. AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool went the whole hog while Swansea weren’t far behind with ten – only the Cherries were able to secure a fourth round tie at the first time of asking.

 

Arsenal will be looking to maintain their two point lead at the top of the Premier League table. Leicester continue to defy the odds with City close in third just three points off the pace.

 

Palace are struggling to recapture their early season form as goals become harder to find than hens teeth: "We need our attacking players back," an exasperated Keith Millen said. As the cost of losing Wickham, Chamakh, Gayle and Campbell for large parts of the campaign comes home to roost.

 

Villa’s plight for survival would require the greatest comeback since Lazarus but Remi Garde is not willing to give up the fight just yet: “Unfortunately (this is) not a new situation (and) we have to find a solution.” Very, very quickly I’d suggest.

 

The storm clouds are gathering over Old Trafford. That despite, two wins and successive clean-sheets. Wayne Rooney's 93rd-minute match-winning penalty was only their second shot on target against Sheffield United but it all seems lost on Louis van Gaal. The Dutchman blamed traffic congestion on why the large majority of the United crowd chose to leave the Theatre of Dreams early on Saturday. Go figure!

 

 

Aston Villa – vs – Crystal Palace


Carlos Sanchez (hamstring) will not recover in time to face Palace on Tuesday but Micah Richards (ankle) "should be fit." Jack Grealish (tonsillitis) missed last weekends’ FA Cup draw at Wycombe Wanderers and the 20-year-old is expected to miss out once again. No Alan Hutton either will is recovering from a thigh injury while Gabby Agbonlahor (back) faces a late test. Adama Traore (fractured metatarsal) won’t be back until March at the earliest.

 

"We've got a couple of knocks, so we'll have to see how they are," confirmed assistant Palace boss Keith Millen. "Yohan Cabaye got a little knock and there's a couple of others. But he should be OK. They'll be travelling." Bakary Sako is slowly working his way back to full fitness. The summer acquisition from Wolves managed another 30+ minutes from the bench at St Marys’ and his attacking qualities add a different dimension to the Eagles attack. Connor Wickham is training and is likely to find himself back amongst the substitutes but Yannick Bolasie and Dwight Gayle are ruled out.

 

 

AFC Bournemouth – vs – West Ham United


Josh King (hamstring) was rested as Eddie Howe made it evidently clear where his priorities lie by opting for a complete change of personnel for the cup tie with Birmingham. But the alterations didn’t effect momentum as Bournemouth secured another win on the road. Tokelo Rantie will be assessed but is expected to miss out while the availability of new signings Benik Afobe and Juan Iturbe hang in the balance. Afobe is awaiting confirmation from the Premier League that his registration papers have been processed while Iturbe needs international clearance.

 

West Ham “have a couple of doubts” but those that were involved on Saturday came through the game relatively unscathed. Enner Valencia (hamstring) could return after a muscular problem forced him off in game week twenty while Cheikhou Kouyate is a minor doubt. Victor Moses is back training with the group but the Chelsea loanee lacks fitness and won’t be considered until the weekend. Manuel Lanzini is likely to miss “three, maybe four weeks” following his recent setback. Slaven Bilic confirms Dimitri Payet “is looking good and sharp” and the Frenchman is a certain starter at The Vitality.

 

 

Newcastle United – vs – Manchester United


Fabricio Coloccini was forced off at half-time at Vicarage Road having struggled during the build-up to the game due to a hamstring complaint. The Argentine is yet to train and faces a late test with Jamal Lascelles on standby. Florian Thauvin and Kevin Mbabu are also doubts but Jack Colback is poised for a return to the squad. Tuesday comes "too early" for new signing Henri Saivet. Rolando Aarons and Emmanuel Riviere are closing in on a return to action.

 

Schweinsteiger is ruled out of the trip to Tyneside: "Bastian is injured, that we know. We have to see if [other] players are still overloaded or not," said Louis van Gaal. Morgan Schneiderlin and Ashley Young missed out last weekend as they were in the “red zone” and the pair could return along with Michael Carrick. Adnan Januzaj will not be considered due to concerns regarding his fitness after his loan agreement at Borussia Dortmund was ended early.

 

 

Swansea City – vs – Sunderland


Despite the initial disappointment of a third round exit at Oxford United, the FA Cup was never a priority for Swansea which was reflected in Alan Curtis’ line-up. Jack Cork was the only player to retain his place from the side beaten at Old Trafford and their ten changes made it [25] from the previous three matches. Good luck naming that starting eleven. In terms of injury - Sunday marked the return of Franck Tabanou (thigh) and Eder (ankle) which effectively clears the Swansea treatment room.

 

Sunderland travel to Wales for a “stupid” midweek Premier League fixture and it is clear that Sam Allardyce isn’t happy with the “diabolical” scheduling of the game. In spite of a number of changes plus a formational reshuffle, the Black Cats made a good account of themselves at The Emirates before Arsenal stepped it up in the last twenty. Having lost Younes Kaboul for up-to two months recently, Big Sam was keen to protect his defenders. Wes Brown was rested completely, however, John O’Shea suffered a recurrence of a calf injury and the Irishman could miss out. New signing Jan Kirchhoff will travel to Swansea "but is unlikely to play" says Allardyce. Similarly, Dame N’Doye who joined for the remainder of the season on-loan from Turkish side Trabzonspor.

 

 

Manchester City – vs – Everton


Wilfried Bony took a kick to the calf against Watford forcing him to miss the two cup games but Manual Pellegrini is confident the problem is not serious and the Ivorian should be available. Sergio Aguero showed glimpses of his very best at Carrow Road and a superbly taken goal suggests the Argentine is approaching full fitness following his recent lay-off. Pablo Zabaleta started his first game since October while Martin Demichelis was back in the City team following an injury to Eliaquim Mangala (hamstring). However, the 35-year-old struggles to play games in quick succession due to a tendon complaint which means Bacary Sagna could partner Otamendi centrally.

 

Roberto Martinez is sweating on the fitness of leading scorer Romelu Lukaku who is managing an ankle injury. The powerful Belgium has responded well to treatment and his availability hangs in the balance. Tom Cleverley (Achilles) and Seamus Coleman (calf) are almost certain to miss out. The returning Bryan Oviedo switched flanks against Dagenham on Saturday to slot in at right-back while Martinez afforded rare starts to Darron Gibson and Mo Besic with Steven Pienaar playing his first competitive match in almost nine months. Ramiro Funes Mori will be assessed following a sickening clash of heads which left the defender requiring ten stitches, although the return of Phil Jagielka will help to soften the blow. Steven Naismith picked up an ankle problem in training on Thursday which explained his absence amidst speculation of a move away from Goodison Park.

 

 

Stoke City – vs – Norwich City


Mark Hughes decided not to risk Geoff Cameron (ankle) in the cup and following four games without change the Potters went all out with only Ryan Shawcross and Philipp Wollscheid being retained. Peter Crouch served a gentle reminder that he still has a lot to offer by scoring on 15 minutes while Jon Walters grabbed his second in three games. Stephen Ireland (hamstring) is close to a return but Shay Given will be a little longer after suffering a setback in training.

 

Norwich were hugely disappointing against City although Alex Neil had a free pass for this one following successive Premier League wins. Andre Wisdom made his comeback playing for the first time since early December but Matt Jarvis (knee) was not risked. He could make the squad midweek but new signing Ivo Pinto will need time to acclimatise and won’t be involved just yet.

 

 

Southampton – vs – Watford


A clear case of déjà vu at St Marys’ as the Saints started brightly before taking their foot off the gas which ultimately cost them. You fancy Koeman had one eye on a decent cup run having kept changes to a minimum – just three (one enforced) - for the visit of their Premier League counterparts. However, Southampton were beaten in the competition for the second year running by the Eagles. Cedric Soares was included in the match-day after overcoming a groin problem and he will challenge Martina for the right-back slot. Graziano Pelle is almost certain to miss out. His return, along with Jay Rodriguez, is still uncertain which could force Koeman into the January transfer market. Fraser Forster played for the under-21s last week and the England international is close to a return. Victor Wanyama serves the second of his 2-game ban.

 

Leading scorer Odion Ighalo was rested against Newcastle as Quique Flores made just four changes in the FA Cup. Obbi Oulare made his competitive debut and the 20-year-old is keen to build upon his first 45 minutes of action having arrived from Club Brugge KV for £6m in the summer. Valon Behrami was a notable absentee despite his recent calf issues. Flores cited a “technical decision” based on his observations in training. Nathan Ake remains out following his sending off against Tottenham Hotspur.

 

 

Chelsea – vs – West Brom Albion


Diego Costa is rated as “doubtful” after limping off on Sunday. His injury leaves Chelsea a little short in attack with Radamel Falcao sidelined and Loic Remy lacking match fitness. Reuben Loftus-Cheek could provide the answer after he impressed from the bench. Guus Hiddink will run the rule over a number of players ahead of the game – Oscar (toe) will face a late test and Nemanja Matic remains a doubt after he was struck on the back of the head by a ball in training. The midfielder is suffering from concussion symptoms (dizzy spells) and may not be risked. Gary Cahill is over his recent ankle injury but Eden Hazard won’t be rushed and could miss this weeks’ Premier League double header.

 

No fresh injury concerns for the Baggies who were pushed all the way by Bristol City. Saido Berahino popped up with a goal just four minutes after his introduction on Saturday but the want away striker is unlikely to make the eleven. Tony Pulis is “hopeful” that both Jonas Olsson and Victor Anichebe can recover from their respective muscular injuries in time for the game.

 

 

Liverpool – vs – Arsenal


“I think Kolo Toure will be available," said Jürgen Klopp as the current injury crisis begins to ease. Mamadou Sakho is also pushing for his inclusion but “we will see." At least it gives Liverpool options in the heart of defensive with Tiago Ilori and Lucas Leiva able to play centrally. Dejan Lovren "feels good" and the Croatian could be ready for an early return against Man United: “We have to decide if it's a risk we can try." Jordon Ibe has been passed fit after his recent injury scare and Jordan Henderson is progressing well and closing in on a return. Martin Skrtel and Philippe Coutinho are still a few weeks away.

 

Mesut Ozil, Mathieu Flamini and Per Mertesacker are all expected to return to the squad but back-up goalkeeper David Ospina (groin) will have a late test. Wednesday will come too soon for Alexis Sanchez. "Maybe he will be (ready) for Sunday," said Wenger. "He is always keen to play even if he is injured." Danny Welbeck, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere could all be back within the next month.

 

 

Tottenham Hotspur – vs – Leicester City


Mousa Dembele (ankle) is close to a return and the midfielder could be joined by Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard although match fitness (sharpness) or lack of may mean a place in the starting line-up is unlikely at the moment. Pochettino made seven changes for the game on Sunday which included resting the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli although they were introduced from the bench to help force a replay.

 

Claudio Ranieri confirmed Jamie Vardy is in contention following a small surgical procedure to remedy a niggling groin complaint which has hampered the striker for the past month: "Vardy is getting better and this morning he warmed up with the team.” New signing Demarai Gray had a lively debut and along with 19-year-old Ben Chilwell the Foxes impressed down the left hand side. No fresh injury concerns - only Matty James and Jeffrey Schlupp are expected to miss out barring any last minute problems.