The festive-season fixture flurry resumes, with six EPL teams coming into GW 17 after mid-week European tournament exertions. And next week, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester, Tottenham, and Bournemouth all have mid-week Carabao Cup obligations. I wonder if Premier League players look forward to the holidays the way the rest of us do?
The big match this weekend, though, is Liverpool vs Manchester United. Indeed, it is traditionally one of the most-anticipated matches of the season. Things look bleak for Jose Mourinho this time, as he must take an injury-depleted and out-of-form side to Anfield to face top-of-the-table Liverpool. Can “The Special One” defy odds that seem to be stacked against him?
A knee complaint forced John Stones off the pitch at halftime during City’s midweek Champions League match with Hoffenheim, although Pep Guardiola says it’s “no big deal.” Neither Danilo nor David Silva were fit to play midweek, and Silva reportedly will be unavailable for a few weeks. Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero have both been training without pain, so a last-minute decision will be made on their fitness to face the Toffees. With KDB in particular, a late cameo seems more likely than a spot in the S11 (if he even sees the pitch at all). Claudio Bravio, Eliaquim Mangala, and Benjamin Mendy remain long-term absentees.
Idrissa Gueye is Marco Silva’s only injury concern ahead of the trip to the Etihad.
Keep in mind that MCI v EVE is the early game tomorrow, so we will have confirmed lineups for those teams before the deadline locks.
Wilifried Zaha and James Tompkins will each serve a 1 match suspension for yellow card accumulation (‘tis the season!). Patrick Van Aanholt, Connor Wickham, and Scott Dann have all passed fit, but Christian Benteke remains unavailable as he recovers knee surgery.
Jamie Vardy has not featured since sustaining a muscle injury on December 1, but Claude Puel hopes that he can be cleared fit to face the Eagles. Daniel Amartey is rehabbing after surgery and will remain sidelined for many more weeks. Matty James continues to build match fitness.
David Wagner was dealt a hammer blow by the news that Terrier talisman Aaron Mooy sustained an MCL injury against Arsenal that will sideline the Australian until February. His absence means that Chris Löwe will inherit a larger share of set-pieces; the German could be a clever fantasy play this week. Wagner also revealed that Danny Williams suffered a knee injury in training that will sideline him for 10 weeks. Steve Mounie will serve the final game of a 3-match suspension, and Abdelhamid Sabiri (shoulder) and Tommy Smith (hamstring) will miss through injury. On a happier note, Terence Kongolo (knock) and Jonathan Hogg (groin) have been passed fit to face the visiting Geordies.
Rafa Benítez will be without Karl Darlow (arm), Fernández (calf), Isaac Hayden (knock), and Jonjo Shelvey (thigh). Florian Lejeune has recovered from knee ligament surgery and is nearing match fitness, but the Huddersfield game comes too soon. DeAndre Yedlin will serve a 1-match ban.
How’s this for some cryptic language from Spurs: Serge Aurier (groin) and Mousa Dembele (ankle) have begun “on-field rehabilitation,” while Kieran Trippier (groin) is continuing an “individual preventative and conditioning programme.” Davinson Sánchez (hamstring) and Juan Foyth (hamstring) have begun the “late stages of conditioning work.” Draw your own conclusions about what all of that means for the squad sheet this weekend. Mauricio Pochettino hopes to have Sánchez back before the end of the month, and Poch may be able to pencil Foyth into his GW-17 squad. Victor Wanyama (knee) and Vincent Janssen are still in rehab.
Johan Berg Gudmundsson, Greg Cunningham, and Steven Defour are doubts for Sean Dyche. Steven Ward (knee) remains unavailable, but Nick Pope has recovered from his shoulder injury and is back in training. He could soon push Arrgh Joe Hart Arrgh for a start between the sticks.
Javi Gracia had this to say about Andre Gray (leg), Will Hughes (hip), Sebastian Prödl (knee) and Adalberto Peñaranda (foot): “At this moment, these four players are out.” Étienne Capoue is also out: He is still in the midst of a 3-game suspension.
Greg Cunningham is struggling with a knock. Kenneth Zohore is training again, but he is not expected to be match-fit until the Manchester United game on December 22 — it will be interesting to see if he can dislodge makeshift striker Callum Paterson from the No. 9 position. Ashley Richards and Daniel Ward remain unavailable.
Jonny is Nuno Espírito Santo’s only absentee for Bournemouth’s visit, remaining sidelined with a knee injury.
Also unavailable due to knee injuries are Cherries’ Dan Gosling, Lewis Cook, and Adam Smith. Regarding Callum Wilson, Eddie Howe says “we’re hoping he can play, but we know we have to be careful with these kinds of injuries.” I’d avoid him for at least one more week.
Claudio Ranieri will have only two absentees this weekend. Zambo Anguissa will serve a one match suspension, and Maxime Le Marchand will miss out through injury.
Lucas Pérez is nursing a foot issue, and Andy Carroll is therefore likely to edge him out of the S11 this weekend. Apart from that, Marko Arnautovic, Ryan Fredericks, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid, Carlos Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, and Andriy Yarmolenko all remain sidelined.
José Izquierdo is struggling to recover from a knock, but Glenn Murray, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and David Button have been passed fit. Shane Duffy will have to sit out though, as he continues to serve out his 3-match ban for head-butting Patrick Van Aanholt.
Chelsea saw action in the Europa League last night. Álvaro Morata was forced off through injury late in the first half and was replaced by Olivier Giroud (who scored a fantastic free-kick goal to level the score). Morata did not train today, so Giroud looks set to lead the line against Brighton on Sunday. Pedro came in for Willian (who scored Chelsea’s other goal, also via free kick), shortly after the intermission, and Kepa Arrizabalaga, Marcos Alonso, Antonio Rüdiger, César Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kanté, and Eden Hazard were given the night off altogether. Those players are probably in the frame for the match against the Seagulls, but Gary Cahill, Victor Moses, and Mateo Kovacic are all struggling with knocks.
Southampton vs Arsenal
Ryan Bertrand (back), Cedric (calf), and Danny Ings (hamstring) have all been cleared fit. Shane Long (ankle), and Michael Obafemi (hamstring) are nearing fitness, but Sunday probably comes to soon for them. Sam Gallagher remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Ralph Hasenhuttl has revealed that Jack Stephens is also unavailable after suffering a knee injury.
Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny both returned to action in the Europa League last night. Koscielny put in 72 minutes before being subbed off, and Ozil lasted 83. Alexandre Lacazette started and scored the game’s only goal before being replaced in the 63rd minute. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did not feature. After the match, Unai Emery said “Every player who played today can play Sunday.” Aaron Ramsey is approaching fitness but has not yet trained, so Sunday would seem too soon for him. Danny Welbeck (ankle), Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin), and Rob Holding (ACL) will all miss out through injury. Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis are suspended for yellow card accumulation.
Liverpool vs Manchester United
Trent Alexander-Arnold is “day to day” after picking up a foot injury in the Champions League match with Napoli. Jurgen Klopp has suggested that the fit-again Nathaniel Clyne could deputize for him against the Red Devils, but James Milner is another option. Joel Matip fractured his collarbone in the same match and is out for 6 weeks. Dominic Solanke (groin), Joe Gomez (fracture), and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) all remain sidelined.
José Mourinho has significant injury concerns ahead of the showdown with Liverpool. Diogo Dalot (knock), Mateo Darmian (knock), Anthony Martial (hamstring), Scott McTominay (knock), Marcos Rojo (knock), Luke Shaw (knock), and Chris Smalling (knock) are all doubts, and Alexis Sánchez (hamstring) and Victor Lindelöf (muscle injury) will miss out.
HOW TO WATCH EPL GAMES THIS WEEKEND (in U.S.)
Dates: December 15-16
Available Broadcast TV:
NBC: Fulham vs West Ham, Manchester City vs Everton
Telemundo: Liverpool vs Manchester United
Available Cable TV:
Universo: Manchester City vs Everton
NBCSN: Tottenham vs Burnley, Brighton vs Chelsea, Liverpool vs Manchester United
NBC Sports Gold: Watford vs Cardiff, Crystal Palace vs Leicester, Wolves vs Bournemouth, Huddersfield vs Newcastle, Southampton vs Arsenal
How are your teams shaping up? Are you awaiting the confirmed early lineups? About whom are you worried? How’s the weather forecast for the weekend? Please join is in the comments below; let’s chat...