Manchester City and Arsenal contest the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, meaning their Premier League clash, will not take place until Thursday March 01. Elsewhere, domestic duties resume following the FA Cup.
While those involved in the fifth-round were left to deal with variable winter conditions, others took the opportunity to fly off to sunnier climes for a touch warm-weather training. Contrasting fortunes meant Sam Allardyce was happy to extol the virtues of a trip to Dubai, but Alan Pardew was left ruing his decision, after senior players broke a curfew to take in a late-night trip to McDonalds.
Expect a bounce from those who enjoyed a few additional days’ rest.
Leicester City – vs – Stoke City
Wes Morgan is back in contention following his recovery from a hamstring strain. The Leicester skipper came through the FA Cup fifth-round tie versus Sheffield United without any problems and could retain his place alongside Harry Maguire. Shinji Okazaki [knee] is taking a little longer than expected although he should rejoin the group from next week.
Stoke have "one or two knocks" and players will be checked ahead of the game at the King Power. "If they don't come through we have a big enough squad to deal with it." Peter Crouch is "doing well" but he hasn't recovered from an ankle injury which kept him out of GW27 - this weekend comes too soon for Stephen Ireland who is struggling with a calf complaint. Bruno Martins Indi returns to the side after missing the last month. Paul Lambert is "delighted" with the effort his squad has shown in recent games but recognises that they need to win matches after slipping into the bottom three. "Fitness is getting there, although it won't change overnight. We train the way we play, which is how I've always gone about things."
AFC Bournemouth – vs – Newcastle United
Overall the Cherries are in pretty good shape, although Eddie Howe will need to check on a few players who have picked up knocks during their two-week break. Tyrone Mings is still out long-term and may not feature again this season - he's currently abroad working hard on a return. Jermain Defoe is back in full training, but it remains to be seen whether the diminutive striker, with a penchant for scoring against Newcastle, is involved. "It's a big lift for everyone. He's trained, and I'm pleased with what we've seen, he's a natural goalscorer. Will he be in the 18? You'll find out tomorrow!"
Islam Slimani suffered a setback earlier this week in training. The striker arrived at the club with a thigh injury and is expected to be sidelined for at least a fortnight. "We will have to deal with that,” mused Benitez. Except for Jesus Gamez [ankle surgery], and the aforementioned Leicester loanee, Newcastle have a fully fit squad. Ciaran Clark comes back into contention after recovering from a minor knee injury.
Brighton and Hove Albion – vs – Swansea City
Chris Hughton admits Saturday is another "massive" game for Brighton who sit just two-points above the drop zone. Tim Krul will be back on the Seagulls' bench after he was forced off at half-time [vs Coventry] following a collision which caused whiplash [neck injury]. Steve Sidwell [ankle and back] and Jiri Skalák [ankle] are the only players missing through injury. Leonardo Ulloa and Jurgen Locadia are pushing to be included in the starting XI after scoring their first goals for the club to help Brighton progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
Alfie Mawson is available after being cleared to resume duties following an MRI scan and a meeting with a specialist. The centre-back was a late withdrawal at Hillsborough last Saturday after his knee locked during the warm-up. Leon Britton [groin] returned to training on Thursday but the game at Brighton will come too soon. "If he improves he could maybe feature on Tuesday [in the FA Cup replay against Sheffield Wednesday]." Leroy Fer [Achilles], Angel Rangel [groin] and Wilfried Bony [knee] miss out after undergoing surgery. No Renato Sanches [hamstring] either who due back in March.
Burnley – vs – Southampton
Chris Wood and Dean Marney "could" come back into contention after playing in a behind-closed-doors friendly this week. Tom Heaton played 90 minutes in the same match, but Sean Dyche admits the goalkeeper is still several games away from being considered for the first team squad. James Tarkowski [groin] is rated as "touch-and-go" while Scott Arfield is a doubt due to a tight calf. Jon Walters, Robbie Brady and Steve Defour [all knee] remain on the sidelines. Phil Bardsley [hamstring] is closing in on a return.
Mauricio Pellegrino is expecting a "really tight game" against a Burnley side who have not won in 11 matches. Sofiane Boufal has trained all week and should be fit for the game at Turf Moor. Meanwhile, Shane Long and Steven Davis remain in the Southampton treatment room although there is hope of a return in GW29. Maya Yoshida and Charlie Austin are expected to spend another 4/5 weeks on the sidelines.
Liverpool – vs – West Ham United
Jürgen Klopp could have the luxury of a fully fit squad on Saturday although Nathaniel Clyne may not be quite ready as he works his way back from surgery. The Liverpool boss reported no major concerns for Liverpool ahead of the contest with West Ham, however there are a couple of "little things" which will be checked. "Little stomach [problem] here and there, but they should be OK.”
"It's good news," said David Moyes. "We've got a lot of players back training. We're [still] without the long termers Andy Carroll, Pedro Obiang and Edimilson Fernandes but in the main, we're close to getting the players back." Manuel Lanzini is training "and hopefully that's him fit for the rest of the season." Winston Reid will be part of the squad but Arthur Masuaku [suspended] won't be back until mid-March. Jose Fonte is on the brink of leaving the club. "I can confirm that he is close to going to China. He wants to get into the Portuguese squad for the World Cup and I wish him good luck. He's a good professional."
West Bromwich Albion – vs – Huddersfield Town
Pardew confirms Jonny Evans will return to captain the Baggies against Huddersfield. The defender was one of four players who missed a curfew on the warm-weather training week in Barcelona. "The players have been disciplined. We move on best we can." Jake Livermore and Robson-Kanu are in contention. Full-back Kieran Gibbs also returns after recovering from illness. Nacer Chadli and James Morrison are long-term absentees while Daniel Sturridge [hamstring] is hoping to be back next weekend.
Laurent Depoitre has trained while David Wagner was expecting Chris Lowe to be back with the group ahead of the game. Elias Kachunga [knee ligament] and Aaron Mooy [knee laceration] are the only confirmed absentees but Jon Gorenc Stankovic [match-fitness] and Sean Scannell [shoulder] are expected to miss out as well. Michael Hefele returns following illness.
Watford – vs – Everton
Javi Gracia could be boosted by the potential return of up-to four players for the visit of Everton on Saturday. Heurelho Gomes, Miguel Britos, Will Hughes and Kiko Femenía all returned to full training during the two-week break and the quartet are being considered for selection. "All of them have the possibility," the Watford coach said. "The team need them. [Friday] we will decide. They are not 100 per cent but they trained with the team." Stefano Okaka is available again and Troy Deeney is better placed in terms of his fitness after recovering from an ankle problem. Younès Kaboul, Christian Kabasele and Tom Cleverley are still under the supervision of the club's medical team. Nathaniel Chalobah may not play again this season. "He is injured, and he will be injured for a long period. I am concentrating more on the players who will be able to come back in the next days or weeks. I don’t know how long he will be out for.”
Sam Allardyce heaped praise on Oumar Niasse who has impressed in recent weeks. "His position at Everton has never been as good as it is at the moment. He has made it difficult for me to replace him.” A serious knee injury rules Eliaquim Mangala out and the club will seek a second opinion to determine the severity of the damage. "It's a very difficult thing to assess in terms of how long it will take at this early stage. We have to judge it week-by-week. It can be 8, 10 or 12 weeks. Each person has a different healing process. We shouldn’t put a figure on it." Seamus Coleman is struggling due to a thigh injury, but Leighton Baines has a chance of being in the matchday squad. Funes Mori will play for the U23s this week, but after that, the Toffees defender will be back in first-team contention. Idrissa Gueye has recovered from a minor knock.
Crystal Palace – vs – Tottenham Hotspur
Roy Hodgson is not expecting any returners this weekend.... "We have 12 players out now, 6 or 7 of them are first-team regulars. We may not have certain players back until the next international break [end of March]. It’s a very difficult period.” Martin Kelly and Jeffrey Schlupp are around 7-14 days away while Joel Ward is crocked again and Mamadou Sakho is still feeling his calf. "He doesn't feel confident enough to play yet, so we'll have to wait and see. I thought we would get him back, but it hasn’t turned out that way. We have to wait for him to let us know he's ready." Zaha is progressing well and the winger is much further forward in his recovery than he medically should be at this point. "Great credit to the medical staff and the player."
Toby Alderweireld picked up a small injury in training on Thursday and couldn't finish the session - the defender is rated as a major doubt – and will be assessed throughout Friday and Saturday. "We hope it's not a big issue." Lucas Moura will also be checked after playing 70 minutes against Rochdale in the FA Cup. No other fitness concerns.
Manchester United – vs – Chelsea
Marouane Fellaini, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones remain on the treatment table. No Herrera either who suffered a hamstring strain on his return in the Champions League on Wednesday. "Ander is out. I don’t know how long for – two, three, four, five, six weeks – I don’t know, but a few weeks for sure." Mourinho praised Paul Pogba for his "professional attitude" in Seville after being left on the bench.
No fresh injury concerns but Chelsea will be without Ross Barkley, Tiemoue Bakayoko and David Luiz for the trip to Old Trafford. Olivier Giroud has been working "very well" and Antonio Conte confirms the striker is in contention for a start on Sunday.