They say the world is changing at an unprecedented pace. So is the Premier League, as the game week 21 is just within 24 hours. Brace yourself, two game weeks in the next four days are coming.
Even though this is all around the Internet and my fellow colleagues already mentioned it in their articles, I would still like to mention that West Ham and Tottenham have already played their last games for 2017. They and all of their players will blank game-week 21, but their delayed match will give each a double game-week 22 (unless the weather changes dramatically; always look at the weather near each deadline this time of year).
Here is the list of fixtures and the latest news for the upcoming New Year weekend:
Saturday, December 30
Jermain Defoe, Junior Stanislas and Harry Arter are out. Charlie Daniels, Andrew Surman and Joshua King will face late fitness tests.
Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines and Gana Gueye are all out for Everton. Wayne Rooney and James McCarthy will have late fitness tests but can feature. Warning though (including myself), as both will struggle to complete full 90 minutes.
Chelsea will be pushing for yet another win in their pursuit for the second spot. No fresh injuries besides David Luiz and Charlie Musonda. Andreas Christensen had a full training session and should have a strong chance to start the game. Conte hinted he could rotate, but I can’t see him resting Alvaro Morata yet. However, in my view, Eden Hazard could find himself on the bench.
Stoke are struggling and have lost almost their whole defensive line: Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi, Kurt Zouma, Erik Pieters and Glen Johnson are all out. Jese Rodriguez remains out due to personal reasons. Stoke are suffering, but are in desperate need to get some points. It looks like an easy game on paper, but don’t get overexcited.
No real news from the Huddersfield camp. Collin Quaner (4,6m) was praised for his sharp fitness, but that’s really all of relevance from their head coach David Wagner.
Burnley’s James Tarkowski remains suspended, and Robbie Brady is injured. Wood and Ward will face late fitness tests. This will be a close game, but I bet on 0:0.
First and foremost, we have our first big signing of the transfer window: Virgil van Dijk made his long-expected transfer to Liverpool. He is still with Southampton as per the Official Fantasy website and won’t be available until the new year. Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge are out. Alberto Moreno is making a speedy recovery, but won’t be ready for Leicester’s game. Sadio Mane missed the latest game, so I expect him to be back into the squad. Jurgen Klopp has been a rotation mastermind so far, therefore I’m very cautious of the prospects of all his attackers.
Leicester have no fresh injuries, but rumours of renewed Arsenal interest suggest an uphill battle to keep their best performer Riyad Mahrez in the squad. Jamie Vardy has been quiet recently, but he likes scoring against the big teams.
Harry Maguire and Dejan Lovren are each one yellow card from suspension.
Karl Darlow will make an unlikely return into the first eleven, as Rob Elliot was ruled out with a thigh injury. I’m somewhat sad, as I was about to pull the trigger and cash out De Gea. Newcastle managed to escape with only one goal against the dominant Manchester City side, but don’t be fooled by this — they were rather poor. Christian Atsu was brought on late in the game and made some real impact.
No news from the Seagulls camp as they are struggling lately both in front of the goal and in defense. Anthony Knockaert, Glenn Murray and Lewis Dunk are each on four yellow cards, so will miss the next round if booked against Newcastle.
Kiko Femenia and Miguel Britos remain out, while Troy Deeney has two more games to re-think his violent behavior. Watford are struggling and will be desperate to get back on the winning rails against the relegation favorites from Wales.
Swansea will most probably miss Wilfried Bony, but he will face a late fitness check.
Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Eric Bailly are out. Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian and Anthony Martial are most probably out, despite the latter pair joining the latest training session. Mourinho confirmed that Romelu Lukaku is fatigued but, “He is extremely valuable for the team and worked well” and then ruled out a chance of him being rested. Marcos Rojo is now surprisingly available as his 5th yellow card came right in the middle of the League, when all of those suspensions are wiped out.
Southampton just lost their big defender in Van Dijk, and they have two more substantial losses: Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand are out, targeting mid-January returns. The Saints’ ace Charlie Austin remains both injured and suspended. They are struggling for any positive result lately, so I expect a well-parked bus at Old Trafford.
Sunday, December 31
Palace home games against the League’s mightiest continue as Manchester City is visiting. David Silva and Vincent Kompany are out. Leroy Sane sat on the bench the most part of Newcastle’s game, so expect him back and fresh for new records. Silva’s absence is another mystery, while Kompany was subbed as early as 11th minute. Fabian Delph and John Stones are on the verge of being fit, but both may find a Sunday game bit too early. Only notable concern from the yesterday Palace’s game against Arsenal is Yohan Cabaye. He will face a late fitness test. Joel Ward and Mamadou Sakho are out. Expect some rotation though.
Arsenal survived a late scare, but looked well-organized against the spirited Palace side. Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey & Nacho Monreal are all out. Granit Xhaka survived an injury shock, as he thought he had a bad hip/knee muscle injury. Turned out to be a stretch and he is only doubtful and will face a late fitness test.
There are no fresh injury concerns in the West Brom camp as they are searching for form under their new manager. Nacer Chadli and Salomon Rondon are out. Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sanchez and Johny Evans are all on the verge of suspension.
That’s it for now. Make your changes and have in mind a blank week for the Hammers and Spurs.
PS: Harry Kane has now caught some virus and is an early doubt for the tasty double game week (well, he probably partied too much after destroying my Fantasy hopes with his two consecutive hat tricks and beating the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the goals in the calendar year in all competitions).
Here’s how I line up for now:
Phil Jones / Nicolas Otamendi / Mbemba
Kevin De Bruyne / Raheem Sterling / Philippe Coutinho / Mohamed Salah
Roberto Firmino / Alvaro Morata (C) / DCL
Are you benching Kane for this week or letting him go? Are you planning to load up with West Ham’s and Spurs’ assets for the next double game week? And finally, is Morata an obvious captain for this week?
Let’s chat and thank you for reading us!