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Team News

Late Fitness Check - Week 3

by Ben Dinnery
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

As the summer transfer window nears closure clubs scramble to finalise a last minute deal in an attempt to bolster their squad in preparation for the busy months ahead.

 

In signing Baba Rahman and Pedro Chelsea have moved swiftly following their poor start to the campaign and Mourinho may not be quite finished just yet. The Blues will reportedly break the bank for John Stones and Paul Pogba to help get their title defence back on track.

 

West Brom increased their attacking options during the summer but face a difficult nine days as they try to retain the services of England under-21 Saido Berahino. The Baggies have already rejected a substantial offer from Tottenham with the Lilywhites expected to come back hard again.

 

Karim Benzema has been linked to Arsenal all summer and if the latest reports are to be believed then the French international is close after Real Madrid accepted a fee believed to be in the region of £48m.

 

And what now for Manchester United? The arrival of Pedro was seemingly a shoo-in before a last-minute U-turn. Either by the club or player dependent upon which media report you choose believe. In Schneiderlin, Depay, Darmian and Schweinsteiger van Gaal has invested well but Rooney has looked isolated and with limited viable options from the bench could United now target a striker?

 

Rivals City continue to invest heavily. Nicolas Otamendi pushed spending to almost £95m and the early pace setters will take some stopping this season. Captain Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure have started with intent while Sergio Aguero has hit the ground running. The Argentine averages a goal every 111 minutes - the best in PL history.

 

 

Manchester United – vs – Newcastle United


Phil Jones [illness] is the only definite absentee for United but the defender is “getting better and has done some running." Marcos Rojo needs more match-fitness which is likely to see the Argentine omitted from the squad but Bastian Schweinsteiger is very close to making his first competitive start "maybe tomorrow," revealed van Gaal. Marouane Fellaini serves the final game of his three match ban. Wayne Rooney has managed just 5-goals and 1-assist in 20-matches [during 2015] but Wazza does enjoy a game against the Geordies and could use Saturdays’ early kick-off as a platform to launch his season. Expect David De Gea to miss out once again. Louis van Gaal will evaluate his goalkeeper after 1st September [transfer deadline day]. Sergio Romero will retain his place between the sticks.

 

A groin strain means Sissoko is a doubt "Moussa is not as bad as we first thought. He might have a chance for tomorrow” revealed McClaren who “will leave it as late as possible" before deciding if the 26 year-old will be involved at Old Trafford. Should he fail to recover then new signing Florian Thauvin could make his debut "he may play tomorrow [but] he's only had one day of training." Daryl Janmaat begins a 1-game ban following his sending off against Swansea and Steven Taylor is expected to come for his first start since New Years’ Day. Siem de Jong [shin] re-joined the group in training on Wednesday. Newcastle have lost seven consecutive PL away games - their worst run since October 1999.

 

 

Crystal Palace – vs – Aston Villa


Alan Pardew admits it may take time before Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie are up-to speed "They have to be super fit in the modern game [and] they aren't there yet." The pair missed chunks of preseason due to respective toe and hamstring injuries and will be a rotation risk during the upcoming games. Bakary Sako will provide the back-up and the Eagles’ boss has hinted that his new winger could be involved this weekend "I think he's ready." Marouane Chamakh is a few weeks – possibly GW5 - as he continues his recovery from a persistent hamstring problem. The 31 year-old striker played for the under-21s on Monday and is expected to feature next week as well. Alex McCarthy is set to continue in goal but Julian Speroni is closing in “we don’t think he’s too far away.” Pardew believes Jason Puncheon and Scott Dann lead the way [for England call-ups] “I do think Punch is underestimated by a lot of people in the game. Both have their confidence. They are top PL players.”


As expected Jack Grealish recovers from a hamstring problem and will be added to the Villa squad although the 19 year-old is expected to start on the bench. Carles Gil has also been passed fit. The Spanish midfielder was a slight doubt after being replaced due to [groin] tightness on Monday [under-21s] but Gil has been given the all-clear. Jose Angel Crespo [groin] will miss out but he "is progressing” and “won't be too far away." Jores Okore is battling back following knee surgery and is currently in "very light training." Adama Traore is not ready for the first team as he continues to build his fitness.

 

 

West Ham – vs – AFC Bournemouth


The loss of Mauro Zarate is a massive blow for West Ham who have limited [experienced] attacking options available with Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll still out. The Argentine “felt his hamstring” while sprinting in training and will miss at least 2-weeks. Diafra Sakho and Modibo Maiga are available but Slaven Bilic may decide to tweak his formation or play Dimitri Payet in a more advanced role. Reece Oxford also picked up a problem during training this week and will face a late test however Pedro Obiang is poised to make his first PL start following an impressive second half display against Leicester. Darren Randolph will make his competitive debut after the FA rejected a claim of wrongful dismissal in relation to Adrian who will now serve a 3-game ban for serious foul play. Andy Carroll has suffered a minor setback. The striker rolled his ankle last week which is likely to delay his return by a further 7-10 days.

 

Harry Arter isn’t quite ready for the trip to the Boleyn Ground but the Republic of Ireland midfielder is doing well and could return to the squad in game week four. Eddie Howe confirmed "all players are training and fit" which should see Christian Atsu and / or Shaun MacDonald [toe] comeback into contention. Bournemouth will feel a little aggrieved to be sitting on zero points after 2-games but performances have been good and were it not for two controversial decisions at Anfield on Monday night things could’ve been so different.   

 

 

Norwich City – vs – Stoke City


Alex Neil confirms the Canaries have no fresh injury worries ahead of game week three. Kyle Lafferty [knee] is poised to return to training next week and Martin Olsson [shoulder] is already back in light training with the first team squad. Youssouf Mulumbu [fractured metatarsal] could return within the next month. Nathan Redmond is a player in form - scoring 5 in his last six appearances "The manager has given us license to express ourselves on the ball, and that's music to our ears." Wes Hoolahan has [3] assists already this term.

 

Mark Hughes will give his team selection some serious consideration this weekend. Both Stephen Ireland and Joselu “made major contributions” following their introduction at WHL last time out. Xherdan Shaqiri is also available after a serving a 1-game ban and will get some minutes "I would think so at some point. He has been very good in training." Bojan completed 90 for the under-21s last weekend but with a League Cup game coming up on [Tuesday] – and another opportunity to get some competitive time under his belt – Hughes may resist the temptation to rush the Spanish striker back "I haven't made a decision [but] he is progressing.” Jon Walters has been struggling with illness this week but re-joined the main group on Thursday and should be ready for Saturday. Marc Wilson [ankle] will face a late test but Peter Odemwingie [hamstring] has been ruled out.

 

 

Sunderland – vs – Swansea


Younes Kaboul has been ruled out after picking up a knock in training but John O’Shea will come in "He has leadership and quality. He is a real captain" confirmed Dick Advocaat. Emanuele Giaccherini is expected to miss out after the Italian expressed his desire to leave the club during the transfer window. The Black Cats held crisis talks this week following two hugely disappointing results -Sunderland have conceded seven goals after two games for the first time since the 1970-71 season.

 

Ki Sung-Yueng has returned to full training after missing the win over Newcastle as a precaution "he looks fit but a decision will be made on Friday" confirmed Monk. Jack Cork would be the player most likely to drop out. Swansea look to have picked up where they left off last season – Bafetimbi Gomis has now scored seven in 8 PL appearances while Andre Ayew has hit the ground running [2 in 2] including 5-goals in his last seven games. Monk dismisses talk of Jefferson Montero being linked to Bayern Munich – it would be “criminal” to break-up this current squad “no-one is for sale.”

 

 

Leicester City – vs – Tottenham


Matty James [ACL] is the only player expected to miss out this weekend after Mark Schwarzer recovered from the sickness bug which kept him out of last weeks’ game at the Boleyn Ground. Summer signing Christian Fuchs picked up a knock in training on Thursday but the defender should be fine for the visit of Spurs. £3m midfielder Gokhan Inler has been passed fit following his arrival from Napoli but the Switzerland international will do well to force his way into a Leicester side which has taken maximum points so far. The Foxes have won 28 points since the start of April 2015 - more than any other Premier League side – a run which includes nine wins from their last 11-games. Riyad Mahrez currently tops the PL goalscoring charts [3] while Marc Albrighton has already equalled his tally of [3] assists from the whole of last season.

 

Tottenham had won their previous 74 PL home games when leading by a 2-goal margin before an inspired Mark Hughes double substitution changed the game last weekend. Supporters will also point to the withdrawal of Harry Kane on the hour - precaution due to calf tightness - as a key moment in the match. Eric Dier grabbed his third career goal for the Lilywhites [all of which have been scored in the month of August]. Mauricio Pochettino confirmed Townsend will miss the trip to the King Power "Andros' shoulder is okay but he now has a minor problem in his ankle." There are no other injury concerns.

 

 

West Brom – vs – Chelsea


Other than long-term absentee Ben Foster [ACL] “everyone is fit” confirms Tony Pulis. “We've had 1/2 little niggles but we're hoping everyone will be OK. Plus 1/2 with a flu bug which was a concern but they’ll be assessed on Friday [in training]." Salomon Rondon "is getting close" [to being ready] for a start but Serge Gnabry may have to settle for a place on the bench as his fitness levels need to improve. The Baggies have only mustered two shots on target from their opening two matches and have failed to score in consecutive PL games for only the second time under Pulis.

 

Oscar and Victor Moses remain out through injury while Mourinho will leave everyone hanging over the involvement of left-back Rahman Baba and “one of the best attacking players in the world” Pedro "I don't know if the new players are available for Sunday." Thibaut Courtois will return in goal following his suspension. John Terry has trained "as well and as professionally as ever this week." The defender was substituted [against Man City] for the first time since May 2013 and for the first time under Jose Mourinho [177 PL games].

 

 

Everton – vs – Manchester City


Everton executed a perfect counter-attacking display at St Marys’ last weekend and fully deserved their win. The three points couldn’t have come at a better time for under pressure boss Roberto Martinez with many questioning whether his tenure should come to an end. Romelu Lukaku scored more than once for the first time in over 20 months and Arouna Kone took his tally to [3] assists for the season – more than in his previous 17 games. Ross Barkley has now scored twice in the opening 2-games. No fresh injury concerns for the Toffees although those currently receiving treatment [Baines, Pienaar, Gibson and Hibbert] are “making good progress.” Kevin Mirallas has fully recovered from the ankle problem which kept him on the bench against Southampton but expect Everton to retain the same starting eleven which includes John Stones who is subject to some intense transfer speculation from Chelsea. Aiden McGeady will be involved with the group.

 

Vincent Kompany scored in back-to-back PL games for the first time since December 2013 and despite the arrival of Nicolas Otamendi Pellegrini will stick with the same pair in the heart of defence “It's impossible to move [Mangala and Kompany] from their positions at the moment.” A knee ligament injury will keep full-back Pablo Zabaleta out for around a month but the Citizens do have Fabian Delph available again after he returned to full training. "The rest of the squad have no problems."

 

 

Watford – vs – Southampton


Watford have enjoyed a solid start on their return to the PL and remain unbeaten, however missed opportunities could’ve easily turned those draws into wins. Last week saw Odion Ighalo back in the eleven and it was the Nigerian along with his strike partner Troy Deeney who were among the main culprits after failing to convert numerous chances at home to West Brom. Almen Abdi impressed from the bench and could replace Miguel Layun. Miguel Angel Britos Cabrera and Giedrius Arlauskis are available having completed their respective bans. New signing Nathan Ake [from Chelsea] provides Quique Flores with another option at left-back while former Hammer Alessandro Diamanti offers further possibilities in midfield.

 

No new injuries for Southampton who came through Thursday nights’ Europa League match unscathed. Jay Rodriguez started against FC Midtjylland – scoring his competitive goal since March 2014 - but the striker could find himself back on the bench as he makes way for Shane Long. Ronald Koeman has "good hope" that Ryan Bertrand [knee] and Jordy Clasie [ankle] will return after the international break. Southampton have now gone eight PL matches without a clean sheet winning just one game in the process (L5 D3). Florin Gardos and Fraser Forster remain out.

 

 

Arsenal – vs – Liverpool


No fresh injury concerns for Arsenal who are expected to keep the same squad which won at Selhurst Park. Tomas Rosicky “is progressing nicely” while Arsene Wenger advised that Jack Wilshere “should be back first from those [injured] players.” However reports suggesting a return for England in September are a “bit too optimistic.” Danny Welbeck is hoping to be back in October.  Theo Walcott failed to get any minutes against Palace while teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can consider himself a little unlucky having made way for the returning Alexis Sanchez.

 

Jordan Henderson had a scan on his troublesome foot injury this week and although they came back clear the captain is yet to train. The 25 year-old took pain-killers before Mondays’ match with AFC Bournemouth but limped off early in the second half. Emre Can remains on standby should he fail to recover in time although Brendan Rodgers will give Henderson every chance. Daniel Sturridge is expected to be back at Melwood within the next 7-days as the striker looks to step up his recovery following hip surgery.