For the second week running, the fantasy deadline shifts to a Friday, so don’t be caught out…
Game week thirty-four is sandwiched between two delicately poised Champions League ties and this weekend should give us a good indication of where each manager's priorities lie. City, Tottenham, Liverpool and United are all pushing domestically but with a Champions League semi-final place up for grabs, Messrs Klopp, Solskjaer, Guardiola and Pochettino may be tempted to spring a few surprises.
With a host of updates still to come, make sure you’re following the team throughout.
Leicester City – vs – Newcastle United
Brendan Rodgers confirms Harry Maguire is back in contention after missing the win at Huddersfield following the birth of his daughter. Meanwhile, Jonny Evans has trained with the group following his late withdrawal from the squad (GW33) due to a hip complaint. Amartey (ankle) is hoping to feature during the run-in. “Daniel is obviously with the medical and sports science team, so we’ll see how that goes between now and the end of the season." Albrighton (hamstring) is close to a return. "Marc has been training over the last week, so that’s very, very good.” Rodgers also played down injury concerns over Jamie Vardy. “He’s absolutely fine. He felt a slight niggle in his groin at the end of the game. Rather than risk it, we took him off, but he’s fine and as sharp as normal. He’ll be fine for Friday.”
Newcastle have two confirmed players missing - both long term knee injuries - Sean Longstaff and Florian Lejeune. Rafa is hoping the Frenchman "will be fine" in around 4/5 months after suffering his second ACL knee rupture within the last year. "To lose an important player is not good for us." The centre-back made his return for the Under-23s after 140 days having suffered a similar injury in pre-season. Mo Diame has been passed fit. "He had a problem with his hip but is fine now. He was training, and it’s OK.” Benitez says he is "tempted" to make changes at the King Power Stadium.
Tottenham Hotspur – vs – Huddersfield Town
Harry Kane has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after suffering a “significant” ankle ligament injury in the Champions League on Tuesday. Mauricio Pochettino could call upon Fernando Llorente who has proved an able deputy in the past if he wants to manage his players minutes ahead of the City double-header next week. Examinations also confirm that Dele Alli has broken a bone in his left hand, and the midfielder will need to be medically cleared to play any part, although he could wear in a splint or a protective cast. Eric Dier, Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela continue with their on-field rehabilitation, and none of the trio are expected to recover in time. Kyle Walker-Peters is an option if Poch wants to give Kieran Trippier a rest.
Jan Siewert doesn't rule out the possibility of Jonas Lössl, Philip Billing and Matias Jørgensen playing for the club again despite their absence in recent matches. "Why not? I have to look at everyone and that also includes those three." Demeaco Duhaney played for the Under-19s this week after recovering from a hamstring-related issue. "There are some small problems, mostly to do with illness at the moment," and a decision the squad will be made after the final session. Ben Hamer is poised for another start while Isaac Mbenza faces a late test. "At the moment he’s a bit ill, and I have to see how his body reacts. He hasn’t trained today [Thursday]." Laurent Depoitre (foot) has been working for over a week and will come under consideration. Adama Diakhaby (hamstring) is targeting a return to action later this month as he continues to build his 'endurance'.
Brighton and Hove Albion – vs – AFC Bournemouth
The Seagulls have close to a fully fit squad. “Everybody trained today, and we'll make decisions tomorrow," said Chris Hughton. Pascal Gross is back with the group. "The [hamstring] injury is now fine, which is a positive." Solly March (calf) is also in contention although he did miss part of the session on Thursday.
The Cherries are currently treading water. Just one win on the road in nine (vs Huddersfield Town), and with a growing injury list, I suspect Eddie Howe will be glad to see the back of 2018/19. Charlie Daniels was hoping to recover from a slight ankle sprain last weekend, but instead, the defender sustained a serious knee injury. Daniels has already had surgery to stabilise the patella after dislocating his kneecap during training and will spend a lengthy spell on the sidelines. And teammate Diego Rico suffered a similar season-ending fate against Burnley when tests confirmed he damaged ankle ligaments meaning at least six weeks out. Only Steve Cook of those currently receiving treatment has any chance of recovering. Howe revealed the 27-year-old is training on grass again although he is still some way off a return.
Burnley – vs – Cardiff City
Sean Dyche confirms Peter Crouch (appendectomy) is still unavailable while Phil Bardsley is rated as "touch and go" following a 'freak' training ground incident which left him with a deep laceration on his thigh. "They were messing around on a head tennis game, and he caught the edge of the table, and unfortunately cut his leg quite badly. We’ll make a decision on him probably tomorrow." Aaron Lennon could return before the end of the season. "He is coming along well and feeling good about himself and his injury," said Dyche. "He has a chance, depending on the next week, ten days, he’s not trained with us, but he’s out there running, properly running, not just trotting around, and usually that’s a strong sign." Steven Defour (calf) is in "good shape", but he won't play again in 2018/19.
Harry Arter is expected to recover from the ankle injury which kept him out of the Bluebirds’ last match (at Manchester City) 11 days ago. The enforced rest gave Neil Warnock a chance to ready his troops for the run-in with Cardiff sitting five-points from safety with only one game in hand on their hosts. This is a massive game for both sides. Matthew Connolly, Callum Paterson and Sol Bamba will not feature again until the new campaign, but Jazz Richards could make a rare appearance in the matchday squad after finally overcoming the hamstring problems which have blighted his year.
Fulham – vs – Everton
“Floyd Ayité has been back training, today was his first day,” Scott Parker revealed. “Alfie Mawson’s come through a couple of Under-23s games. He’s probably still a little bit short in the sense of being ready for the weekend, but he’s getting closer which is pleasing.” The caretaker boss confirms that the absence of Lazar Marković is due to injury. “I’m not sure [if he'll play again this season] to be honest with you. He’s still [sidelined] at the moment. He’s struggling with a calf injury, and it’s been a bit longer than suspected. He had a little bit of a setback, so we’ll gauge that one week by week, but he’s a little way off.”
Michael Keane is available after overcoming the late illness which saw Phil Jagielka play a starring role against Arsenal. Morgan Schneiderlin (ankle) has resumed training, but Yerry Mina (hamstring) may not feature this month. "He has started doing some [work] on the pitch. Let's see how he can recover the next few weeks."
Southampton – vs – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Ralph Hasenhüttl confirms Lemina (abdominal) is the only likely absentee from his squad this weekend, other than long term absentee Michael Obafemi. "[His rehabilitation] is going in the right way I think. We don't see him at the moment training with the group; he's just running and building up. Still, a way to go for him, so this season may be, I don't know if he's playing again. We have to be careful." Ings is in contention. "We have Danny back, or, he is allowed to play [ineligible last weekend]. Mario is still injured and can't train with the team. Vestergaard made a good step in the game against Liverpool and doesn't have any problems so far."
No team has performed better in terms of injury management this season, and Nuno Espírito Santo can once again boast a full complement of players. Wolves will be hoping to bounce back from the bitter disappointment of last weekends’ FA Cup semi-final loss to Watford.
Manchester United – vs – West Ham United
United travel to Barcelona on Tuesday in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie, so it will be interesting to see how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prepares his squad. The Reds are one-nil down, and however unlikely, they still have a chance of progressing while a Top Four finish is also within their grasp. Nemanja Matic only just missed out midweek and he will be assessed but reports from Spain suggest Ander Herrera will not recover in time. Alexis Sánchez is expected to be in contention for the first time in over a month and a place on the bench beckons. The home side will be forced into at least two changes as Luke Shaw (ten yellow cards), and Ashley Young (red card) are both suspended for the game.
"The players that have long injuries - Andriy and Carlos - are recovering. In a couple of weeks’, I hope they are ready to work with the squad." Sanchez could feature for the first-team, but Pellegrini said it would be better for Yarmolenko to focus on next season. Wilshere is closing in on a return. "Jack is almost ready. He played an Under-23s game last week, and he will play another one. Hopefully next week he will be 100 per cent with us." Andy Carroll will miss the rest of the season following ankle surgery, and Samir Nasri returns to the sidelines after feeling his [calf] muscle [during the half-time warm-up at Stamford Bridge on Monday night]. "Winston Reid is also still working back from his long injury."
Crystal Palace – vs – Manchester City
Palace have more/less secured their top-flight status, but the win at Newcastle came at a cost as James Tomkins limped off with 20 minutes remaining. The defender joins centre-back Mamadou Sakho in the treatment room, and there are no guarantees that either will return for the remaining games. Martin Kelly will probably be paired alongside Scott Dann centrally. Max Meyer missed out on Tyneside after falling ill overnight, but he should be fine.
City are still fighting on three fronts and find themselves a goal down in the first leg of their Champions League tie with Spurs. However, the squad is looking pretty healthy overall, and Pep can afford to rotate to keep his players fresh. Kevin De Bruyne was rested at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which suggests he will start here, and Guardiola was taking no chances with Benjamin Mendy midweek after almost five months out. He did not feature at all, and the returning Fabian Delph started at left-back. Oleksandr Zinchenko (hamstring) is close but may not be risked for this one - Bernardo is another as manages a minor muscular problem. Ederson limped through the mixed zone post-match on Tuesday, although there was no mention of an injury during the media briefing afterwards.
Liverpool – vs – Chelsea
Joe Gomez made his return to the first-team squad (vs Porto) on Tuesday, but Jurgen Klopp admits the defender still needs to build fitness after breaking his ankle in December. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is on schedule for a comeback later this month, and Adam Lallana should shake off a slight muscle complaint.
Maurizio Sarri made seven changes in Prague on Thursday probably with one eye on the game at Anfield. That included Eden Hazard dropping to the bench. The Belgium star single-handedly dismantled West Ham on Monday evening to take the Blues up to third in the table. Marcos Alonso played in the Europa League which means Emerson is likely to start at left-back for the second successive game.
Watford – vs – Arsenal
Gerard Deulofeu, José Holebas and Kiko Femenía will all be checked after picking up problems at Wembley last weekend. Fortunately, the additional recovery days will help Javi Gracia’s men who will be brimming with confidence following their extra-time win over Wolves. Isaac Success (knee) and Adalberto Peñaranda (hamstring) should be close, although you suspect neither will be included in the matchday squad. A calf injury threatens to keep Tom Cleverley out for the fourth game in a row.
Four of Arsenal’s six remaining games lie away from the Emirates, and with only five wins on the road all season, the Gunners must improve if they hope to finish in a Champions League qualification place. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is over his recent illness, and Unai Emery confirms the striker is back in contention to start. Laurent Koscielny has recovered from a foot injury, but Granit Xhaka is still struggling to overcome an ongoing groin issue which has been for the past few months. Lucas Torreira is available after completing his domestic ban, but after 77 minutes against Napoli, a game in which he scored, Matteo Guendouzi may be the man for Monday night. No change with those out long term – Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding or Hector Bellerin.