With no Premier League fixtures scheduled for next weekend due to the FA Cup, those involved in European competition – Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal – will be looking to name strong line-ups safe in the knowledge that players can be rested before their domestic duties resume.
We’re two-thirds of the way through the season and only five-points separate the Top Three with Liverpool and Tottenham having played a game less than the current leaders Manchester City. The title race is beginning to hot up and with all three sides involved in the knockout phase of the Champions League it will be interesting to see how Messrs Pochettino, Klopp and Guardiola handle the pressure. Squad strength and depth is key during the run-in as managers prioritise matches in the hope of gaining an edge.
Fulham – vs – Manchester United
Andre Schurrle and Cyrus Christie have trained this week. Alfie Mawson is working his way back from knee surgery but won't be considered until next month at the earliest. Marcus Bettinelli is still injured while Timothy Fosu-Mensah is not available under the terms of his loan agreement. New signings Lazar Markovic and Havard Nordtveit "will be ready to play next week."
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer confirms Antonio Valencia is working his way back to full fitness and explained that the captain was pencilled in to travel with the squad this weekend before suffering a recurrence. "He's been training hard, really hard, then he got a setback, so hopefully in a couple of weeks he'll be back with us." Marcos Rojo is working with the group again but United have lost Matteo Darmian "through niggles" for at least a fortnight. "We’re still not bad. We’ve got 20-21 players training every day, so that’s good.”
Crystal Palace – vs – West Ham United
Cheikhou Kouyate hasn't recovered from an ankle sprain "so he's not available." Julian Speroni picked up a minor injury in training and Pape Souaré (dislocated shoulder) won't be back until March. A calf complaint will keep James Tomkins on the sidelines so Roy Hodgson will look to Martin Kelly or Scott Dann. "We're very lucky that we have two very, very good options at centre half. They're two players I can call upon to come in and do the job." There is some suggestion that Connor Wickham could miss out, although the return of Christian Benteke and the arrival of Michy Batshuayi will soften the impact of his absence. Wilfried is available for Saturday. "We have appealed and as a result the Football Association have suspended the ban. We find out if they [will] uphold [it] or if we have been successful next week."
Marko Arnautovic (foot) and Aaron Cresswell (dead leg) have worked all week without any problems. However, Samir Nasri needs some "more days" to recover from a calf injury. "Jack Wilshere will finish [his rehab] next week, the six or eight weeks that he needs for his ankle, he will return and then we will see how he is." Andriy Yarmolenko, Winston Reid and Carlos Sánchez have been ruled out for the rest of the season. "We hope that Manuel Lanzini will be ready for Fulham, at least for the bench, if he continues working over the next two weeks." Fabián Balbuena is working to a similar timeline.
Huddersfield Town – vs – Arsenal
Jan Siewert confirms Chris Löwe is rated as a doubt due to illness. Meanwhile, Isaac Mbenza will miss around "five or six weeks" with a calf strain. Philip Billing and Aaron Mooy are still working their way back to peak physical fitness after recovering from knee injuries. Danny Williams is on schedule to return next month and Jonathan Hogg (back) has trained well. He will be in contention barring an adverse reaction. A foot injury kept Eric Durm out of the game against Chelsea, but the defender is also back with the group. "He is okay now."
Shkodran Mustafi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are training normally, but Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee) and Granit Xhaka (groin) will be assessed ahead of the game. Sokratis (ankle) won't be available until later this month. Hector Bellerin, Danny Welbeck and Rob Holding have been ruled out for the remainder of 2018/19. There was no sign of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the training pictures on Friday and there are reports that the striker has not travelled despite Unai Emery’s optimism in Thursdays press conference. “He is sick, but I think he's OK for Saturday.”
Liverpool – vs – AFC Bournemouth
Jurgen Klopp confirms Joe Gomez's surgery was a success and the defender is hoping for a return to play within 4-6 weeks. Alexander-Arnold came through his first session on Thursday without any problems, but there has been no decision on his involvement after missing close to a month. Gini Wijnaldum (knee) and Jordan Henderson (muscular) have also trained and the pair are in contention to face Bournemouth. Dejan Lovren (hamstring) remains out. "No [timeframe], we work on the Bayern game, but we don’t know exactly.” The Liverpool boss moved quickly to quash rumours of an imminent return for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. “If we get to the semi-final [of the Champions League] I think he is available,” he told reporters. “I’m not 100 percent sure but he still needs time, that’s how it is. I wait for the green light of the medical department."
Eddie Howe reveals Jefferson Lerma is his only fresh injury concern ahead of the trip to Anfield following a mixed week of training. "He’s had a niggling ankle injury for a [while] so has been on and off with his training. We will wait and see whether he’s fit." Wilson and Brooks, knee and ankle respectively, will miss the next month. "They have pretty similar timescales. David has been to see a specialist and has had scans, so I think around the four-week mark for him. Callum had a clean-out in his knee so, again, probably around the same mark, but we are not going to be able to get them back earlier than that." The Cherries will be forced into making at least one change with loan signing Nathaniel Clyne ineligible to face his parent club. Dominic Solanke could face his former employers after recovering from a hamstring strain.
Southampton – vs – Cardiff City
Charlie Austin will be vying with Shane Long to lead the Saints attack with Ings (hamstring) injured. “Danny made a big step towards the ball and then a sprint after 20 minutes and then he had a problem with his hamstring. It may take 2-3 weeks until he can come back which is not good. We’ll miss him for sure because he’s a good player and a good striker." Pierre-Emile Højbjerg is back after concussion and Maya Yoshida is available following his return from the Asian Cup. However, the defender isn't a guaranteed starter this weekend. “He knows at the moment I don’t want to change the back five as Jack [Stephens] did a fantastic job last week so it’s normal he will play now.” Ryan Bertrand is finally ready after building fitness for the last few weeks and Michael Obafemi should return after the FA Cup fifth-round fixtures. "He's back in training. Next week when we go to Tenerife, then he's part of the team. Mario Lemina (abdominal) will stay at home because it's too early for [him]."
Harry Arter will be added to the squad. The midfielder was ineligible against his parent club. Víctor Camarasa has a chance, although Neil Warnock admits. “We have to be a little bit careful [with the midfielder].” Sean Morrison (appendectomy) is out until March.
Watford – vs – Everton
Abdoulaye Doucouré should be fit to face Everton after recovering from a knee injury. “He is training with the team and I think he is ready for the next game, but we’ll decide the line-up [on Friday]. He will be in a good condition to compete.” Femenía is also in contention following the injury he sustained against Burnley back in game week twenty-three. Pereyra is expected to miss out again. "It is something in his hamstring. He needs more time to recover. In a couple of days, we’ll see if he will be ready. It is always important not to lose one player like Roberto, but you know I don’t like to complain about players I don’t have. I prefer to focus on players I have available.” Isaac Success and Sebastian Prödl are “out of the team.”
Saturday comes too soon Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka. Yerry Mina (foot) is a little closer and the Colombian will have a late fitness test. Marco Silva made five changes midweek and the likes of Seamus Coleman, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson are pushing for a recall.
Brighton and Hove Albion – vs – Burnley
No fresh injury concerns for Brighton, although those players who were involved in the FA Cup on Wednesday night were still being assessed at the time of Chris Hughton’s press conference. "The two that come to mind are José Izquierdo - who we hope will train on Thursday, and Dale Stephens. We hope he'll train either today or tomorrow."
Sean Dyche reports that Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady are back in contention for a start after returning to the matchday squad last weekend. Matt Lowton is working with the team again after recovering from a cracked toe bone but Steven Defour (calf) is likely to miss out.
Tottenham Hotspur – vs – Leicester City
Dele Alli (hamstring) has commenced his on-field rehabilitation while Ben Davies (groin) continues his recovery. A knee injury rules Vincent Janssen out this weekend and Eric Dier has been laid low by a virus. Harry Kane (ankle) is ahead of schedule and Pochettino believes the striker is close to a return. "If you see him - he’s nearly ready to play, but we need to be realistic. I think he’s so close to being back - not for Sunday, not for Wednesday - but we’ll see after. Maybe the Burnley game, maybe."
Claude Puel confirms Marc Albrighton could miss the remainder of the season after suffering a "serious" hamstring injury on the eve of last weekends' game with Manchester United. The winger will require surgery to remedy the problem. "He gave the team good spirit, aggressiveness and hard work on the pitch. Of course, we will have to find other balance in the team. It’s a bad thing. But it will be an opportunity for other players to show their quality." Monaco loanee Youri Tielemans is expected to be included in the matchday squad and he could make his Foxes debut. “We will see [if he can start against Spurs]. I haven’t made my decision yet. He has worked hard in training.” Other than Daniel Amartey (ankle), there are no other injuries ahead of Sunday.
Manchester City – vs – Chelsea
The Citizens will be without Benjamin Mendy, Claudio Bravo and Vincent Kompany for Sunday’s game. Mendy continues to struggle despite making his comeback in the Carabao Cup three weeks ago. “He is injured and it's not easy. Meniscus. It is not easy. He needs to re-adapt,” Guardiola stated. “You can’t return and train for two days and you are fit. You have to be careful.” There is no timeline for the City skipper.
Maurizio Sarri reports there are a few minor issues with his squad ahead of Sunday. Callum Hudson-Odoi (illness) and Gary Cahill (back) will be checked after the final session on Saturday, but the Chelsea boss "hopes" to have all players available for the trip. Emerson is working hard after missing the win over Huddersfield and Antonio Rudiger could return in place of Andreas Christensen after resting his problematic knee.
Wolverhampton Wanderers – vs – Newcastle United
Ruben Vinagre has missed the last two matches because of a virus, but the 19-year-old is expected to return to the matchday squad on Monday evening. The additional recovery days will also benefit Diogo Jota who picked up a knock at Goodison Park. “He's improving but we made the decision not to involve him [in the FA Cup on Tuesday night]." No other concerns for Nuno Espírito Santo.
Ki Sung-Yeung and Paul Dummett (both hamstring) are back in contention. Mo Diame is also over his recent hip problem to hand Rafa Benitez a welcome selection headache. The Toon boss will make a late call on new signing Miguel Almirón who hasn't played competitively since 9th December. "I think he has adapted fine. Training has been OK. He is a fit, mobile and dynamic. People talk about the physicality, so we will see how he copes." The Paraguayan is undertaking extra gym sessions to get up to speed quicker. Rob Elliot and Jonjo Shelvey are the only two players missing through injury. "Everyone else is fit and available." Muto is back following his involvement at the Asian Cup. Karl Darlow will compete with Freddie Woodman to provide back-up for Martin Dúbravka from the bench.