Vidic to miss the season - devastating news for player and club.
Afternoon all - there's a host of news to get through today ahead of the Week 15 deadline, with lots of it affecting some of the picks I recommended on Wednesday. Let's start by looking at the teams with the (in my opinion) stand-out fixtures this week.
Manchester United have been rocked by the news that Nemanja Vidic will miss the rest of the season with the knee injury picked up in the Champions League in midweek. With both Da Silva twins already sidelined that will more than likely mean a back four of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, although there's a slim chance Jonny Evans plays allowing Jones to push in to midfield. I don't thing there's any doubt that Nani keeps his place having been United's most impressive player in recent games, but I'm having doubts about Ashley Young, who could lose his spot to Antonio Valencia. Upfront it's being reported that Dimitar Berbatov has a chance of making it, but I'd guess that would be on the bench after a few weeks out, so with Javier Hernandez injured expect Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck to lead the line against Wolves.
Liverpool have had a host of bad luck in midfield, with Steven Gerrard struggling to recover from his ankle injury (and subsequent infection), Lucas out for the season with a cruciate injury and now Jay Spearing suspended for 3 matches. Jonjo Shelvey has been recalled from loan but I'd be suprised to see him feature against QPR, with Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson the most likely central partnership. On the wings it'll be between Maxi Rodriguez, Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt, with Craig Bellamy either on out on the left or upfront alongside Luis Suarez, who could be playing his last game before a possible suspension. Andy Carroll continues to be awful and could find himself back on the bench.
Arsenal have officially run out of of full-backs so Johan Djourou should play at right-back, with Laurent Koscielny or Thomas Vermaelen pushed out to left back and Per Mertesacker taking the final slot in the middle. Other than that it's likely to be the same front six that have helped lead the Gunners on their great run after they were rested in Greece; Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Theo Walcott, Gervinho and Robin van Persie.
Some big news coming out of Tottenham this afternoon - Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe are both doubts after picking up injuries during training, which means Rafael van der Vaart is far more likely to start at Stoke. My gut feeling tells me Bale will covercome his "knock", but Defoe's hamstring is more of a worry so VDV should come in. Ledley King is also a concern so I wouldn't expect him to be risked, meaning William Gallas should partner Younes Kaboul.
West Brom are rarely featured at the top of this column, but they face Wigan, so that makes their news very important this week. Roy Hodgson has suggested he is ready to partner Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie upfront for the first time since both men were injured in October, so that could change the shape of the midfield. Somen Tchoyi or Paul Scharner could come in, which I'm guessing puts everyone other than captain Chris Brunt at a slight risk of rotation (if there are any West Brom fans reading this I'd appreciate their input!).
Martin O'Neil takes charge of Sunderland for the first time and could make changes, but the first problem he has is a lack of strikers. Nicklas Bendtner is a doubt with a groin injury meaning Stephane Sessegnon could be pushed upfront once again, with Dong Won-Ji another option. I'd be surprised to see him make wholesale changes in defence, but Craig Gardner and David Vaughan could both be in contention for midfield spots.
I'm expecting Manchester City to field their full strength team every week now they're out of the Champions League, which means David Silva and Sergio Aguero are unlikely to be left out unless injured. It seem they will have to do without Micah Richards who Mancini says has a calf problem, but Pablo Zabaleta is ready to take his place, and Gael Clichy is in for the long haul at left back after Alexander Kolarov was ruled out for 4 weeks. Other than that it's just the usual battle between Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko, with Balotelli maybe slight favourite after Dzeko started in midweek.
Despite being roundly hammered by Spurs last week Owen Coyle isn't expected to change too much in terms of the Bolton starting line-up, with Gary Cahill available after his red card was recinded and Nigel Reo Coker the only slight doubt, with David Wheater still suspended. Just FYI their team last week was Jussi Jääskeläinen, Zat Knight, Gary Cahill, Dedryck Boyata, Paul Robinson, Nigel Reo-Coker, Chris Eagles, Fabrice Muamba, Mark Davies, Ivan Klasnic, Kevin Davies.
It's a similar story at Norwich, with the only realy decision for Paul Lambert being whether to bring in Grant Holt to partner Steve Morison in a 4-4-2. Other than that it'll be a similar team to the one that were well beaten by Man City.
It's less simple for Newcastle, with their paper thin squad starting to show the strain. Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson are definitely out and Fabricio Coloccini is a major doubt, so James Perch and David Santon could both start. Danny Guthrie and Cheick Tiote are also missing so Dan Gosling is being tipped to partner Yohan Cabaye in the center of midfield. The only bright spot is Jonas Gutierrez, who is back after suspension.
Swansea are almost at full strength, but midfielder Joe Allen is suspended, with Wayne Routledge in contention to replace him. Danny Graham is available again after an Achilles problem and Steven Caulker has recovered from a knee injury, so he could come in, with Garry Monk the most likely to drop out if changes are made.
Brad Guzan will make his first Premier League start of the season for Aston Villa in place of Shay Given, who is sidelined for a month with a hamstring injury. Captain Stiliyan Petrov and Stephen Ireland will be in contention to replace ermaine Jenas, who has been ruled out for the season after surgery to his Achilles.
Everton will be without midfielder Jack Rodwell due to a hamstring problem he picked up in training on Thursday. Fellow midfield men Leon Osman and Royston Drenthe will be assessed ahead of kick-off, as will Louis Saha.
There will be more news to add but I'm leaving work now, so please check back later for further updates.
My own team now looks like this:
De Gea, Boyata, Brown, Vermaelen, Bannan, Brunt, Silva, Nani, Adebayor, Suarez, Aguero
I really like it, but I'm hoping for a slight price swing in the morning to allow me to bring in Sessegnon for Brunt - other than that I think I'm set.
How's your team shaping up?