The derby-weekend memories are still alive in our minds, but it is already a game week 17 that is kicking off just in couple hours. A Premier League horse race continues, despite the more and more obvious signs of Manchester City’s champions’ credentials. Liverpool paid a price of two points for Klopp’s scandalous squad selection, while resurgent Sam Allardyce’s Everton showed, how to snatch something out of “no shots on target” game.
We will enjoy three games already today and seven more on Wednesday. The spotlight will be on Burnley’s pursuit of yet another clean sheet (please, Pope!!) at Turf Moor against Stoke and a group of Premier League’s elite squads hosting a pack of relegation fighters (namely Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham against West Brom, Bournemouth and Brighton respectively).
I have run through the latest press conferences, Twitter posts and even Instagram (yes, that’s where Alvaro Morata’s big announcement came from) to give you the latest on the game week 17 injuries, rotation risks and players to watch:
Players to watch: Andrew Surman, Charlie Daniels, Callum WIlson, Asmir Begovic (might be up for a dozen of saves against Romelu Lukaku). Don’t get overexcited with Bournemouth in midweek though, as, in my view,they will be squeezed by Mourinho’s boys.
Injuries/rotation: Aaron Ramsey (confirmed out for the midweek, though a chance to return already for the weekend games); Shkodran Mustafi (remains out, should be back for the weekend); Alexandre Lacazette (I expect Giroud to start in midweek)
Players to watch: Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud (rotated in place of Lacazette), Danny Wellbeck, Jack Wilshere (should be deputizing for Ramsey)
Brighton and Hove Albion
Players to watch: Matt Ryan (facing Harry Kane & Co attacking crew), Murray, Gross and Knockaert for an unexpected star performance, when everyone benches them.
Injuries/rotation: Ben Mee & Matthew Lowton (both described by Sean Dyche as touch-and-go, so will be facing late fitness tests); Robbie Brady, Jonathan Walters & Tom Heaton are out.
Players to watch: Pope and Burnley defence in general, Chris Wood. Burnley’s squad is too thin to allow the rotation and not to lose the performance levels. Therefore, most of their assets are low to none rotation risk.
Injuries/rotation: Alvaro Morata (confirmed out for the midweek with a fatigue and back pain; on a good side of things - he will be a father soon :)); David Luiz remains injured; Alonso / Bakayoko / Fabregas / Zappacosta / Cahill are all rotation risks.
Players to watch: Eden Hazard (if Chelsea are to return to the winning ways, he must spark); Michy Batshuayi (should finally get a start with Morata being out); Willian / Pedro should both get a start and try to infuse some life into that slow Chelsea team (judgement is completely based on their performance against West Ham); Andreas Christensen is goal overdue as he has a chance in almost every Chelsea’s game (rotation risk though :)).
Injuries/rotation: Joel Ward & Mamadou Sakho are both out with the latter to be a long-time absentee. Cabaye was subbed over the weekend, but is back in the squad.
Players to watch: Wilfried Zaha (I wonder, where he sources all that energy), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (creative force), Scott Dann (should have had a brace against Bournemouth and is extremely dangerous on the corners), Benteke (he embarrassed himself and his head coach instructions, when he took the penalty and missed it in a horrible fashion. Nevertheless, he will score soon and Roy simply can’t bench him). Palace needs to win, so I don’t see Roy Hodgson rotating.
Injuries/rotation: Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley, Bolasie, Leighton Baines are all out. I fear a possible rotation for the attacking line of Wayne Rooney, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Gylfi Sigurdsson, but they need a win and this trio is currently their best bet.
Players to watch: Those three I mentioned above are at the same time the most probable to get on a score sheet. Toss a coin to guess if they all start.
Players to watch: Steve Mounie (is his stock now on a rise again?), Lossl (should be stopping tons of Hazardous shots).
Injuries/rotation: no fresh injuries, but there is a high rotation risk for some, namely Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell. Christian Fuchs and Okazaki are fit and pushing for the starting spot. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!
Players to watch: Mahrez (just enjoying his game these days), Jamie Vardy (his scoring record isn’t up to his standards lately, so he should be exploding shortly), Gray (he is enjoying it under Puel, but is a huge rotation suspect).
Injuries/rotation: Alberto Moreno & Joel Matip are both out. Klopp shocked his own supporters and probably team itself, when they realized that Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho are benched for the derby. I hope he learned his lesson and both will start on Wednesday. This makes our favorite and the latest 2017 African Player of the Year winner Mo Salah in a potential rotation risk situation, but he is simply a must have, even if rested tomorrow.
Players to watch: I expect a West Brom trashing, so fresh Coutinho and Firmino (especially if partnered by Salah and the least possible, but Mane) should preferably be in your squads.
Injuries/rotation: a defensive crisis continues with Benjamin Mendy, John Stones and now Vincent Kompany all out. There is a standard rotation concern for the City’s attacking line, but at least Sergio Aguero must be starting the game against Swansea.
Players to watch: Sergio Kun Aguero deserves a personal mention (I’m biting my nails that I don’t have him); Nicolas Otamendi (reminding me of a younger Kompany - threat in attack and solid in tackling); everyone in general, who starts in their attack :)
Injuries/rotation: Paul Pogba remains suspended (available for GW 19); Fellaini, Rojo, Bailly and Carrick are out.
Players to watch: Phil Jones is fit and is pushing for a starting spot (he goes right into my team if he survives 90 minutes today); Romelu Lukaku is a hit or miss pick and is equally capable of either exploding or simply losing his spot to healthy Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Players to watch: I struggle to pick someone in this Newcastle team. They are shambolic in defence, unconvincing in midfield and simply poor in front of goal. I will probably mention just these two: Matthew Ritchie should be back into the points sooner or later, but his struggles are directly connected with Newcastle’s weak offenders. And Christian Atsu has made it back from the injury and was a second half sub in Leicester’s defeat. He should start this game and can deliver.
Injuries/rotation: Cedric Soares and Shane Long will face a late fitness test, but otherwise there are no fresh concerns. There is a big rotation risk around Southampton, as they have a pretty solid roster. Be careful with jumping on Charlie Austin’s train, as he can get a rest with a healthy Manolo Gabbiadini on the bench.
Players to watch: Surprisingly enough, it is Charlie Austin (if he starts, he can prove to be a reliable third striker option after all); Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand have both been very efficient in attack lately and are long goal overdue.
Injuries/rotation: Bruno Martins Indi and Jese are out. Glen Johnson is almost match fit.
Players to watch: Stoke will be desperate to bounce back from the Spurs’ defeat over the last weekend, but they have the most hostile stadium to play at (speaking of Burnley’s Turf Moor). If they avoid rotation, Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting and Peter Crouch can test Nick Pope with some trickery.
Players to watch: Afraid to say it, but probably none. Only Wilfried Bony will try to frustrate his previous employer, but he can barely score lately.
Injuries/rotation: Toby Alderweireld (yes!!!, I spelled it correctly from the first attempt), Victor Wanyama and Davinson Sanchez are all out. No fresh injuries and great mood after a demolition of Stoke.
Players to watch: Harry Kane (he can’t be rotated and is a strong captain candidate yet again); Son was magnificent in the latest game, but I fear can get a rest to Lamela for example. Dele Alli is yet to reproduce his 2016/2017 form, so maybe it will happen this game week? Christian Eriksen looks like regaining his motivation and sharpness and can tear that Brighton midfield apart.
Injuries/rotation: Marvin Zeegelaar (I simply love his surname) lost his red card appeal and will miss three games now. Kiko Femenia will face a late fitness test.
Players to watch: Richarlison (he stayed mostly anonymous in the last couple of games, but those were against the strong opposition; I expect him to be back on a score sheet); Doucoure (I have a strange feeling that he can produce one of this thunderbolts his game week and still costs a penny).
Players to watch: none
Ok-ok, I will just say this: if I were the Baggies supporter, I would be really worried, whether they can stay in the Premier League. This is based on the squad they have, style they play and the manager they appointed. Period.
Injuries/rotation: Jose Fonte and Cheikhou Kouyate are out. They have a nice group of players for rotation, but I wonder, whether David Moyes would want to reshuffle his finally winning squad.
Players to watch: Marko Arnautovic (he needs to show us some consistency); Chicharito is fit and should get his chance; Manuel Lanzini’s goal is long overdue.
That‘s how I’m lining up for GW 17:
Ward / Otamendi / Christensen
Coutinho (V) / Salah / Hazard / Richarlison
Rooney / Kane (C) / Calvert-Lewin
Bench: Gross, Femenia, Mbemba
I have already been long frustrated with the constant Alonso’s and Morata’s failures, who not only costed me some invaluable points, but are pretty expensive in general. Therefore it looks like a good time to abandon the ship, as Morata is official out this game week and Alonso’s form doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Is he a one year wonder after all? So both are gone, adios amigos!
I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping to have fielded 11 starters.
Is your bench strong enough to sustain December’s FPL madness? Are you offloading Morata or just benching and hoping for his swift return for the next game week? Who is owning your captain armband?
Let’s chat in the comments and thank you for reading us!