The FA Cup quarter-finals play havoc with the fixture schedule leaving game week thirty-one with a severely restricted slate of only five matches.
Liverpool’s Fab Three are attracting some serious interest as they pitch up against the league’s most porous defence while a home fixture against basement boys Huddersfield could be the perfect tonic for a stuttering West Ham side.
AFC Bournemouth – vs – Newcastle United
Adam Smith (hamstring) is ruled out of the game with Newcastle, and his absence should see Liverpool loanee Nathaniel Clyne return to the side. Steve Cook (groin) won't be back until mid-April, and Junior Stanislas is not expected to return until after the international break. Callum Wilson came through last weekend without any problems. "He played the full match and didn't look tired or fatigued at all. He's sharp, and in good form, so we were delighted to see him in the England squad." Ryan Fraser picked up a knock at the John Smith’s Stadium which caused him to miss sessions. "But he should be okay." No mention of Brooks as part of Fridays’ live broadcast, but Eddie Howe stated that his withdrawal (in GW30) was due to fatigue following his recent comeback from an ankle ligament injury. "David has a bit of fitness work to catch up on." Dan Gosling should be in “much better shape” after the pause in Premier League proceedings.
Jamaal Lascelles was pictured training with the group on Wednesday, but Rafa Benitez confirms he will take no chances with his skipper who was forced off with a knee problem against Everton. Ciaran Clark makes a timely return after injury, but Federico Fernandez is expected to deputise. Sean Longstaff (knee) and Rob Elliot (back surgery) are unavailable through injury, and Fabian Schär is suspended. Paul Dummett and Jonjo Shelvey are hoping to start after helping to spark last weekends’ fightback.
Burnley – vs – Leicester City
Sean Dyche confirms there are no fresh injury concerns for the Clarets who welcome Leicester to Turf Moor. Aaron Lennon is hoping to play again this season. The winger had knee surgery in December and has “got a chance” of being involved during the run-in. However, after going under the knife to remedy a persistent calf complaint, Steven Defour will miss the remaining games. “The others, just a few knocks and bruises, nothing too serious."
Only Daniel Amartey (ankle) and Marc Albrighton (hamstring) are currently sidelined for the Foxes who could be unchanged following their 3-1 win over Fulham. Brendan Rodgers says Matty James is training but admits it will be difficult for the midfielder to play any first team football in the remaining matches. Jamie Vardy is partying after scoring 5 in five - the striker is benefitting from a change in the style under the new boss.
West Ham United – vs – Huddersfield Town
Manuel Pellegrini confirms Carlos Sánchez, Andriy Yarmolenko and Jack Wilshere are all sidelined while the Hammers welcome a familiar face back into the treatment room. Andy Carroll suffered an injury recurrence (ankle) in training which threatens to end his campaign. “We need to wait for some medical examination. The rest of the squad is okay."
Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the league’s basement side who only had 15 senior players training this week. “Unfortunately, there [are] many injuries at the moment,” Jan Siewert confirmed during Thursdays’ press conference. Adama Diakhaby (hamstring), Isaac Mbenza (calf), Demeaco Duhaney (hip), Danny Williams (knee), and Laurent Depoitre (foot) are all out while Jonathan Hogg may not return until April. “He could be out for two or three more weeks. He had a big impact on his ribs." Erik Durm picked up a small muscular problem on Wednesday, although it was hoped that he could rejoin the group in the final session, along with Terence Kongolo, to put themselves in contention. “We will have a look at the squad in training before we choose our team.” Tommy Smith returns after completing a three-match ban.
Fulham – vs – Liverpool
No fresh injury concerns for the Lilywhites who are looking to arrest a slide of 9 defeats in their last ten. Andre Schurrle comes into contention after missing close to a month due to a virus, although a lack of fitness will probably mean minutes from the bench. Scott Parker believes Alfie Mawson may only be a few weeks away from a return. There were fears that the central defender would not play again in 2018/19 after undergoing knee surgery in January, although his comeback could come too late with Fulham sitting thirteen points from safety.
Jordan Henderson is ruled out of Sundays' game after picking up an ankle injury in Munich. The Liverpool skipper could also miss the upcoming England qualifiers, but the sprain is not as bad as first thought. "We know now that it's serious enough probably to rule him out for the weekend. The international break will be long enough hopefully to bring him back. It’s a little one with the ankle." A decision on Naby Keita will be made on Friday. He is hoping to rejoin the group after missing out midweek with a minor muscular issue. "We have to see if he can train today. [He had] a couple of checks - it was positive until now, but we have to see if it stays positive when he goes outside." Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be "100 per cent" for the beginning of April after suffering a minor setback (hamstring) playing for the Under-23s last Friday.
Everton – vs – Chelsea
Phil Jagielka and Kurt Zouma (ineligible) are the only expected absentees for Everton this weekend. The absence of the two centre-backs could see Yerry Mina make his return to the line-up alongside Michael Keane. Seamus Coleman has shaken off the bout of illness which forced him out of the warm-up at St James’ Park. Leighton Baines is also in contention after recovering from rib and back problems, but the veteran left-back has played second fiddle to Lucas Digne for most of the season, and the best he can hope for is a place on the bench.
Gonzalo Higuaín had a fever following the 1-1 draw with Wolves and did not travel to Kiev midweek. In truth, the striker was never lightly to be involved, and in his absence, Olivier Giroud took full advance with a man-of-the-match three-goal showing. However, despite his hat-trick, and the 5-0 scoreline, Maurizio Sarri is unlikely to be swayed, and most of the seven players dropped (rotated) on Thursday are expected to return… Which is terrible news for Marcos Alonso owners as Emerson will probably start at left-back.