Week 2 in the Premier League sees our first big clash at the top of the table with Manchester City and Liverpool squaring off on Monday. As you wait for the marquee match-up, you'll want to make sure your fantasy line-up is in good shape as players continue to make their way (slowly) back to fitness after a little time off in the wake of the World Cup. Keep reading to see who is in, who is out and who we really won't know about until the match they're supposed to play in kicks off.
Aston Villa – vs – Newcastle United
Paul Lambert will welcome back Joe Cole this weekend after the former West Ham midfielder came through 75 minutes for the Under-21s on Monday night although a start is unlikely; the Aston Villa coach also confirmed new defensive midfielder Carlos 'The Rock' Sanchez will be available with the tough tackling signing expected to play a part. Christian Benteke is progressing ahead of schedule following his Achilles rupture but the club are unwilling to place an exact timeframe on his return to action.
Newcastle are the only team in the Premier League yet to register a single shot on target and must improve on their opening day performance if they hope to continue their recent good record at Villa Park. Siem de Jong (calf) is in contention to make his competitive debut having trained all week but Alan Pardew must decide how to best utilise his new signing – de Jong hasn’t featured since the clubs tour of New Zealand back in July. Cheick Tiote – subject of recent transfer speculation from Russia – misses out once again; his hamstring injury will keep him out for at least another week. Remy Cabella on the back of a promising performance against Manchester City is confident he can “quickly adjust to the physical demands of the Premier League,” and hopefully “get an assist or goal,” for the shot-shy Geordies. Davide Santon suffered a setback in his recovery from a knee injury; the latest news suggests a return in November after his surgeon confirmed “the damage is worse than we first thought.” Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will face a late fitness test but Papiss Demba Cisse and Ryan Taylor are out.
Chelsea – vs – Leicester City
Ramires returns from suspension but will have to settle for a place on the bench; Chelsea have an embarrassment of riches and started brightly in their opener against Burnley. Man-of-the-match Cesc Fabregas displayed some exemplary touches and was described as the “maestro” by Mourinho dictating the speed, intensity and tempo of the game; his return to the Premier League was akin to the slipping on of a well-worn pair of slippers –comfort with consummate ease. Despite The Special One insisting “I don’t make decisions for the season; I make decisions for a match,” Thibaut Courtois will take some shifting in goal and I can’t see the number one spot being relinquished in the league anytime soon. Andre Schurrle should maintain his place after an impressive game and Felipe Luis will push to be included as he slowly regains fitness.
Midfield duo Danny Drinkwater (hamstring) and Matty James (shin) will both miss the trip to Chelsea on Saturday, the game comes a week too early for the pair. However Nigel Pearson did confirm Marc Albrighton (groin) and Jamie Vardy (thigh) have both returned to training providing a welcome boost for a tough game. Matthew Upson (foot surgery)remains out.
Crystal Palace – vs – West Ham United
Forgetting the off-field shenanigans Crystal Palace look to be in pretty good shape heading into Saturday’s game; caretaker boss Keith Millen will be hoping to forget the disappointment of their last-gasp defeat to Arsenal. Scott Dann who departed early last week has an “outside chance” as the thigh injury he sustained is not as bad as first feared. Adrian Mariappa (ribs)returned to training on Thursday and will be assessed while Jonny Williams (thigh) could return in place of the suspended Jason Puncheon. Jerome Thomas has “trained well” but lacks match-fitness so a place on the bench is realistic.
Defensively West Ham are struggling with James Collins suspended and James Tomkins (hamstring) a doubt; although the player will face a late fitness test. Joey O’Brien picked up a knee injury during the defeat to Spurs with Carl Jenkinson (hamstring) rated as “touch & go.” On a brighter note Matt Jarvis (thigh) could be involved with Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia improving fitness-wise which should see them take a place among the substitutes.
Southampton – vs – West Bromich Albion
Striker Shane Long will be hoping for his first start at his new club, the Republic of Ireland international is brimming with confidence following his big money move. Ronald Koeman is looking for a “good reaction,” from his side who were unfortunate to lose at Anfield. Saphir Taidar has staked his claim for a start this weekend with 90 minutes and a goal for the Under-21s while Koeman will make a decision on Friday regarding new defender Florin Gardos. Morgan Schneiderlin “played a fantastic match against Liverpool” prompting the new coach to reiterate his stance that the French international “will stay at Southampton” but goalkeeper Artur Boruc will play no further part after expressing his desire to leave. Gaston Ramirez (groin) is out for at least another week.
West Brom are improving and Alan Irvine confirmed all of his squad have trained fully with the exception of defender Joleon Lescott who continues on his own tailored program to address a knee issue. However Christian Gamboa will not feature as “we’re probably looking at him coming back after the international break,” with Ideye Brown likely to remain on the bench. Gareth McAuley is pushing for a start after recovering from a calf injury and James Morrison (knee) will have a late fitness test. West Brom confirmed the signing of Georgios Samaras on Friday morning but the striker will not be included in the squad to face Southampton.
Everton – vs – Arsenal
Seamus Coleman is ready for a start after his cameo last weekend; the full-back had just recovered from a hamstring injury. Darron Gibson is another player back amongst the ranks for the first time in ten months. Ross Barkley “has responded well to treatment” with no timescale on his return; the initial prognosis suggests between 2-4 months - swelling should subside over the next 7-10 days allowing for a more accurate assessment. Steven Naismith is ready to fill the void left by his teammate “I felt comfortable. I think that’s probably where I feel most comfortable. Towards the end of last season I played a lot in there and Ross played wider,” and I do like him as a potential points scorer. Aidan McGeady grabbed his first Everton goal last weekend and Martinez is confident that it is a sign of more things to come "I've seen Aiden coming back in really good shape this pre-season. We're really excited to see that he can produce." Arouna Kone (knee) and Bryan Oviedo (broken leg)remain out .
Arsene Wenger will check on his German trio before the trip to Goodison although the Arsenal coach has confirmed he will not include all three”because they lack competition.” Mikel Arteta is out after “turning his ankle” on Tuesday, the Spanish midfielder is awaiting the results of his scan but some reports suggest an absence of around three weeks. Yaya Sanogo missed the trip to Turkey with a little hamstring problem and may not be risked with full-back Kieron Gibbs is sidelined once again. David Ospina has a chance for next week and Theo Walcott is expected to return to full training within the next 10-14 days.
Swansea City – vs – Burnley
Garry Monk will be without the services of Marvin Emnes, Leon Britton and Jay Fulton (all knee) while Rory Donnelly is still recovering from ankle surgery. New signing Frederico Fernandez is awaiting international clearance and will not feature in a game they hope to win after three points at Old Trafford. "There is a concern (regarding complacency), which is why I've stressed (this) to them. We know how important it is to follow up but there are no guarantees.” Gylfi Sigurdsson impressed on his second debut for the club with a goal and an assist; the Jacks will be hoping for more of the same "He is a very clever player. He gives us that bit of quality with a set-piece or a finish.”
Sean Dyche has no fresh injury concerns heading into the game at the Liberty with Sam Vokes (ACL) the only long-term absentee. Despite concerns from the pundits regarding the Clarets 4-4-2 formation Dyche will keep faith in his traditional set-up which served him so well during his promotion season. Danny Ings is likely to partner Lukas Jutkiewicz up front; new signing Stephen Ward could be in line to feature for the first time.
Hull City – vs – Stoke City
With a midweek European competition to contend with Steve Bruce will be looking to rotate as much as possible in an attempt to keep his team fresh and injury-free. Prior to the trip to Belgium on Thursday the Hull coach confirmed a fully fit squad with the exception of new midfielder Robert Snodgrass; the unfortunate Scot dislocated his knee and damaged ligaments during the opener and will miss at least six months. Liam Rosenior (back) missed the win at QPR but played 90 minutes against Lokeren with defensive teammate Alex Bruce (back) rested although he could be on his way to Blackburn Rovers in a deal involving Jordan Rhodes. Yannick Sagbo completes the second game of his two match ban.
Stoke will be without midfielder Stephen Ireland who pulled a muscle in his ribs midweek; the injury is likely to keep him out for at least two weeks – no timescale on his return. Loanee Victor Moses arrived from Chelsea last week but after only 13 minutes of preseason "It's a little bit early.” Geoff Cameron and Peter Odemwingie will be added to the match-day after they missed the opener “They've been at the World Cup and we don't want to put them at risk. They haven't had a great deal of football themselves,” and the pair should start on the bench. Bojan will have another opportunity to open his Potters account.
Tottenham Hotspur – vs – QPR
Talk during the preseason focussed on a fully fit Erik Lamela but the Argentine disappointed against West Ham prompting some to question the quality of the youngster; however Coco came good during a twenty minute cameo in Cyprus on Thursday with former Spurs legend Ossie Ardiles claiming “He could be the special player we need this season.” Nacer Chadli, Jan Vertonghen, Paulinho and Mousa Dembele all returned but Vlad Chiriches and Kyle Walker failed to travel and look to be a week or two away from playing. Christian Eriksen was rested for the Europa League game; Kyle Naughton is suspended.
New arrival Leroy Fer will come straight into the QPR squad, the central midfielder will add steel in the middle of the park – an exciting prospect for Harry Redknapp "He's just an outstanding midfield player - great physique, fine ability, he gets box-to-box. I'm really looking forward to integrating him into the squad." On-loan defender Mauricio Isla has received international clearance but Eduardo Vargas is awaiting his work permit “He should be okay for next weekend.” Redknapp will continue with a 3-5-2 formation deploying Remy and Charlie Austin up top after a good performance during the loss to Hull City.
Sunderland – vs – Manchester United
Gus Poyet confirms Billy Jones has recovered from a hamstring problem and is expected to slot straight in to make his competitive debut for Sunderland; the Black Cats coach was forced to reshuffle against West Brom last weekend after Santiago Vergini picked up a minor knock but both players will return. Jozy Altidore is "working his way towards match fitness" and is not ready to challenge Steven Fletcher or Connor Wickham for a starting place but the American can expect minutes from the bench.
Mixed news from Carrington on Friday as Louis van Gaal confirmed "Robin is ready to play, so that is a big benefit for our team, I'm very happy.” He could be joined by Rafael (groin) who missed the defeat to Swansea due to his lack of fitness while Jonny Evans and Antonio Valencia were both pictured training with the main group. Danny Welbeck is also thought to be close amid rumours he is set to leave the club. However growing concerns as Jesse Lingard (knee) could be out for an extended period following his innocuous challenge on Ashley Williams; the midfielder joins a number of players ruled out - Marouane Fellaini & Ander Herrera (both ankle), Anderson, Carrick and Luke Shaw - "Rojo is fit and ready to play but he doesn't have a work permit.”
Manchester City – vs – Liverpool
At The Etihad, Eliaquim Mangala “needs more time” and probably won’t feature against Liverpool; the remainder of the squad are available with the exception of Alvaro Negredo (metatarsal). Aguero is likely to start from the bench again "Sergio needs a long preseason, that is why he is playing just some minutes" giving Dzeko and Jovetic the opportunity to shine once again. Pellegrini claims to have up to 14 players still in preseason, who could all “benefit from another week” of training. Frank Lampard, Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna are ready; Martin Demichelis and Vincent Kompany started against Newcastle and Fernandinho played some minutes.
Liverpool travel to Manchester and have “no fear” of facing the Champions with Daniel Sturridge hoping to add to his goals tally; the striker became the Premier League’s leading goal scorer this calendar year with 13 goals. Lazar Markovic “has been excellent in training” and re-joins the group; the game comes a week too soon for Adam Lallana who will train on Sunday but won’t be involved. Big things are expected from Alberto Moreno and Rodgers was keen to share his views on his new full-back "I expect him to show he’s a real attacking player that fits Liverpool perfectly. He's a young player that is very dynamic going forward giving us balance - he has got a great left foot, passes it well and sees the pass early. He gets forward on the outside and can penetrate on the inside. He comes in as a regular starter from Sevilla so I expect him to show over the coming years that he's a really attacking player that will fit Liverpool perfectly." Definitely food for thought! Jose Enrique (match fitness) will be checked with Daniel Agger and Jon Flanagan still some time away from a return.