Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 26
Welcome to Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 26. The two week break from FPL has given us much time to mull over transfers, watch the price changes with panic and disbelief and pray that none of our number gets injured in any of the various Cup matches being played. Frustrating as it may have been, FPL now becomes intense, with every transfer valuable – a potential DGW next week is followed by a larger blank game-week in GW28 and then the fun of the rearranged games creating large DGWs comes into play. Due to Sunday’s League Cup Final between Manchester Utd and Southampton there are only eight Premier League fixtures with Arsenal and Man City joining the Cup finalists in missing GW26. With Man City not playing, leaders Chelsea have the chance to increase their lead at the top as they host Swansea at the Bridge. There is a relegation clash as Palace host Middlesbrough, Everton welcome Sunderland, Burnley go to Hull, West Brom entertain Bournemouth and West Ham take the short trip to Watford. Sunday’s match gives Spurs the chance to reclaim 2nd place as they host Stoke, before our game-week concludes on Monday evening as Chumpions Leicester welcome Liverpool.
To keep up with the latest injury and team news, let’s go Around the Grounds to hear from the managers. Sadly, one we won’t be hearing from is Claudio Ranieri who was sacked by Leicester on Thursday.
Chelsea vs Swansea (Sat 25 Feb 15.00)
Since losing at home to Liverpool in GW5, Chelsea have won every one of their nine league games at the Bridge with a goal difference of 27-4…pretty impressive stats showing just what a mountain to climb Swansea face this week. But they will at least go into the game with a semblance of confidence – not only have they won four out of their last six league matches to lift themselves clear of the relegation zone, they are also unbeaten in their last three matches vs the Blues. Whether this will be enough to derail Chelsea’s charge to the title remains to be seen, although Antonio Conte’s men were shown to be human last week as they were held by plucky Burnley. If Swansea are to get anything out of the game then they must keep Diego Costa quiet – the striker has scored seven goals in just four matches vs the Welshies and will feel due a goal having gone three matches without one.
Conte says he and his players are fully focused on the final 13 league matches as they attempt to close out the title. However, the Italian praised the impact Paul Clement has had at Swansea so far and is expecting a tough match tomorrow. Thibaut Courtois has recovered from illness leaving a fully fit squad for Conte to select from, though in all honesty, we should expect few if any changes. The biggest concern seems to be who will start between Pedro and Willian.
The Swans will again be without Ki Sung-Yueng, Nathan Dyer and Jefferson Montero as they go in search of a first ever Premier League victory at the Bridge. There is some good news though as Leon Britton is available after recovering from a back injury. Manager Clement knows his team will have to be at their very best to even be in with a chance of a point but knows with the pressure off his team have the freedom to perform as they did when they won at Anfield.
Crystal Palace vs Middlesbrough (Sat 25 Feb 15.00)
Just one draw and one victory is all Big Sam can show for his time at Palace, so far – certainly not what he or the Palace board had in mind when they waved au revoir to the Lord. It does seem a poisoned chalice mind you as it doesn’t seem to matter who is in charge, the results are the same – the Eagles have won just seven league matches since Christmas 2015. Big Sam will identify this match as a must win as the fixture list doesn’t get any better for the Eagles – they face trips to West Brom, Chelsea and Southampton and host Spurs and Arsenal all in their next seven matches. No more holding out for a clean sheet and trying to nick a goal, surely the mantra has to be to fully utilise the likes of Christian Benteke, Loic Remy and Wilfried Zaha if they are to have any chance of staying up. Boro won’t make things easy however but if Big Sam can’t get his clean sheet dream vs Negredo and co, they may as well take the leap to the Championship now for Boro are by far the lowest scorers in the league with just 19 goals from 25 matches. One crumb of comfort for the Eagles is that one of their league wins did come at Boro in GW4, courtesy of goals from….Benteke and Zaha. Zaha could be your man this week for a one-week punt – he has scored one and assisted three in his last two league matches vs Boro.
Big Sam is banging on about getting draws again – ‘if you’ve got a draw, hang onto it and make sure you respect the point.’ Hmmm not sure draws are going to keep you up pal. Surely you have to go for the win at home to Boro, especially as the Eagles still have to play the entire top 6. Still what do I know? I just waffle on here once a week – Big Sam is statistically the best manager England has ever had. Whatever. I’m just gutted I can’t do my “Sam wants more draws than Rolf Harris” joke anymore. Sam says that Loic Remy and Mathieu Flamini have picked up injuries – well there’s a shock. Scott Dann and Bakary Sako have resumed training but this week will probably come too soon for them. Listen to this from Sam – ‘the fans have been great. They even tried to encourage us in the 2nd half against Sunderland when we were 4-0 down’. Errrrrmmm, Sam mate – half the crowd had buggered off by then and the other half had to be restrained by the Old Bill from invading the pitch and kicking the sh*t out of you all. Should be fun – all down to Selhurst on Saturday – who’s up for it?
Boro have problems at the back so it’s lucky they are playing Palace. Antonio Barragan has already been ruled out while Calum Chambers and George Friend are doubtful for the game – both have missed training this week but boss Aitor Karanka is not overly concerned – ‘we have alternatives so I am calm – I don’t think it will be a problem.’ There are no other injuries.
Everton vs Sunderland (Sat 25 Feb 15.00)
It’s been another tale of woe for the Black Cats and they go into GW26 bottom of the pile, below even Crystal Palace who they beat so convincingly in GW24. That victory at Selhurst Park is their only win in eight and the humiliating 4-0 loss at home to Southampton in GW25 was their 16th loss of the season – one of those losses was the 3-0 reverse to Everton at the Stadium of Light in GW4 courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku hat-trick. The Toffees haven’t lost in the league since the derby defeat in December, a run of five wins and three draws. Sunderland’s record vs Everton is not quite as bad as you may think – they have won two and lost two of the last four but did suffer a 6-2 tonking at Goodison last season and with Ronald Koeman’s men hitting Bournemouth for six the last time they played at home, FPL owners of Lukaku, Barkey, Coleman et al will be hoping for more game-week making returns.
After missing the club’s training camp in Dubai due to a calf problem, Romelu Lukaku has returned from Belgium and has trained this week. Kevin Mirallas and James McCarthy has also recovered from injury and are available. Only Mo Besic, Dominic Calvert-Lewis and Yannick Bolasie are absentees for the Toffees and the manager spoke glowingly about Ademola Lookman and says his progress has been faster than expected.
Right let’s not beat around the bush – no-one cares about any Black Cats aside from Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford. Let’s do the easy one first – Defoe is fine. Moyesis says Pickford has resumed full training and will be checked in training today to see if he is ready – that implies to me that he will be selected ahead of Vito Mannone if considered ready. Elsewhere Steven Pienaar is out, Jan Kirchoff has returned to training but is not ready, Papy Djilobodji is still suspended and the usual set of long-term injured numpties that no-one bar their mother cares about remain exactly that.
Hull vs Burnley (Sat 25 Feb 15.00)
If this match is anywhere near the start of Match of the Day on Saturday then it would be a major shock. In fact it could only be made worse by the presence of Middlesbrough. Burnley’s deserved draw with Chelsea in GW25 has seen them reach 30pts and guaranteed safety is a realistic probability but at the same time Hull were somewhat unfortunate losers at Arsenal and remain marooned in the relegation zone. Marco Silva has certainly invigorated some bite in the Tigers but the fact remains that they have won just two matches in fourteen – Hull now go into a run of fixtures that will likely make or break their season for they face Leicester and Swansea in GW27 and 28. Lucklily for the Tigers, Burnley are horrific away from home and have only gained one point on their travels. The two drew 1-1 at Burnley in September – a similar result would probably delight Sean Dyche but Silva and Hull may feel it’s not quite enough.
Silva said the squad benefited from their training camp in Portugal which gave him the opportunity to get to know his players better – he also said there is a good spirit in the camp and the players are confident. Well the gaffer certainly sounds confident and if he can pass that onto his players then Hull have a great chance of achieving what we all thought was the impossible and stay up. The good news is that striker Abel Hernandez has returned to training and is available for selection. The bad news is that Evandro Goebel has picked up a calf injury and will miss out this weekend, while Sam Clucas is suspended following his red card at the Emirates. Michael Dawson, Curtis Davies, Moses Odubajo, Ryan Mason, Markus Henriksen, Will Keane and Greg Luer all remain sidelined,
Midfield issues for Burnley as Sean Dyche reveals that Johann Berg Gudmundsson has suffered a tweaked medial knee ligament and will miss the trip to Hull, while Steven Defour is unlikely to feature despite returning to training. Add to that Jeff Hendrick’s suspension and Dean Marney’s long term absence through injury and it’s bare bones time for the Clarets, who will be desperate to bounce back from last week’s disastrous Cup exit home to non-league Lincoln.
West Brom vs Bournemouth (Sat 25 Feb 15.00)
Six matches without a win has seen Bournemouth slip to 14th and Eddie Howe receive the dreaded vote of confidence. This is probably Howe’s first real crisis since he brought Bournemouth into the top flight and they face a tricky trip to the Hawthorns where the Baggies have won six of their last seven league matches. Howe will ensure his players are reminded of their 1-0 victory over West Brom in September and indeed that fact that the Baggies have failed to beat Bournemouth in any of their last four meetings. However, three defeats on the spin will have drained the Cherries of a lot of their confidence and it’ll take all of Howe’s managerial qualities to produce a win at the Hawthorns.
Pulis is being a dick again. “We’ve got 1 or 2 niggles – we don’t know yet if they will be ok.” That’s it. No names, no indications, no cryptic clues. Sorry, but he ain’t getting any more air time than this for he is no help. He’s Welsh by the way. Just like my ex-wife. I best stop.
Head Cherry Eddie is forced to rule out defender Simon Francis with a hamstring injury while a Jack Wilshere will face a late fitness test after suffering an ankle injury vs City. Sounds familiar? Jack is back! Defender Steve Cook describes the match as a must win for Bournemouth who have only collected two points this year – only Leicester have fewer, which probably has Howe sweating on his fate. The Cherries have also conceded the most goals this calendar year – great news for Gareth McAuley owners
Watford vs West Ham (Sat 25 Feb 17.30)
The Hornets welcome the Hammers with both teams sat fairly comfortably in mid-table, two or three wins away from safety but with inconsistency high on their list of attributes. Watford lost at Old Trafford last time out, but before that had won their previous two after going seven without a victory! The Hammers were held by West Brom last week which broke a run of nine games without a draw – six wins and three losses. It is worth mentioning that the Hammers have only lost once since Payet slid back to his logpile house in Marseille – and that loss was to City who they always lose to. So an interesting and unpredictable match is in store – Watford won 4-2 at the Olympic Stadium in September and beat the Hammers 2-0 at home last season, so they will feel relatively confident, though West Ham have won three of their last four on the road scoring ten goals in those three victories.
Walter Mazzarri has some fresh injury concerns at the defensive end of the field ahead of the weekend. Nordin Amrabat and Christian Kabasele are still injured and Sebastian Prödl, Craig Cathcart and Valon Behrami are doubts. Costel Pantilimon is now back at the training ground after spending a period of rehab in London but he’s still a fortnight away from being in contention to provide back-up to Heurelho Gomes. On the plus side, Camilo Zuniga has returned to full training.
Slaven Bilic refused to rule out Andy Carroll for the trip to Watford. The striker hasn’t trained since limping off vs Southampton three weeks ago, but the manager was hopeful Carroll could train today – “with Andy you never know. It is not a big injury. Whether he will be available for Saturday, that would be great but if not definitely Chelsea (in GW27)”. Aaron Cresswell has resumed training and will be available as will Arthur Masuaku and Andre Ayew. Only Angelo Ogbonna and Diafra Sakho are definite absentees.
Spurs vs Stoke (Sun 26 Feb 13.30)
Spurs would have felt the hurt of the loss at Anfield in GW25 – it would no doubt have brought back bad memories of the end of last season when they came so close before spooning things. So they will need to react and their home form suggests they should for Mauricio Pochettino’s men have won their last seven league matches at the Lane – in fact their home record this season reads: Won 10 Drawn 2 Lost 0. The other good news for Spurs is that Stoke don’t travel great and have lost six on their travels already including four of their last five. Spurs have also won the last two meetings between the two by 4-0, but my friends both of those wins came at the Britannia – the last two meetings at Spurs have ended in a draw and a Stoke win.
Tottenham’s tough run continued with Thursday night’s demise at the hands of the mighty Gent. Poch will need to pick up his wounded warriors as Stoke will not make things easy. The return of Jan Vertonghen is one positive, although Danny Rose will remain out for a ‘few more weeks’, meaning comedy character Ben Davies will continue on the left unless Poch can find an alternative. Any takers? Erik Lamela remains out.
Some good news for Sparky as Xherdan Shaqiri has recovered from a calf injury and is back in contention to face Spurs. More good news as Geoff Cameron and Jon Walters resumed full training today, though the trip to Spurs is likely to come too soon for them both. Guess what, Sparky must have been a good boy as there is even more positive news with the boss saying that Saido Berahino is looking very sharp and is close to being ready to start – the moody striker will certainly be involved at the weekend.
Leicester vs Liverpool (Mon 27 Feb 20.00)
There will be a strange atmosphere at Leicester on Monday evening as the crowd comes to terms with the loss of Claudio Ranieri – a sad but maybe inevitable departure with the team struggling to look vaguely interested in staying in the top flight, let alone defend their crown. The Foxes have looked dreadful for most of the season but since the turn of the year they have deteriorated even further – losing their last five matches, not scoring in six league matches and now just sitting a solitary point above the relegation zone, just nine months after lifting the Premier League trophy on that epic afternoon in May. Oh and being humbled out of the Cup by Millwall. They did show some impressive fight in the midweek defeat in Seville – leaving many to wonder why they cannot show that determination in the league. Liverpool come to town smelling blood and are well rested after an extended break due to their early exit in the FA Cup – last time out they saw off Spurs with embarrassing yet impressive ease, which was their first win since beating Man City on New Year’s Eve. You can see the trend here – Liverpool get up for games vs the bigger boys but can struggle vs those teams they should really steamroller – but while the likes of Hull and Bournemouth showed fight when beating Liverpool, one wonders if there is much fight left in the reigning Champions. We shall find out on Monday – maybe there will be a new man in charge by then and the players will dig out their fight. However another loss could well see Leicester drop into the relegation zone. In recent seasons these two have met five times and 16 goals have been scored – so don’t expect a 0-0, especially with the Foxes defence looking even worse than Liverpool’s!
It was left to Ranieri’s assistant Craig Shakespeare to hold the presser this afternoon. Shakey as we will refer to him said the recent Comedy of Errors has damaged confidence but also stressed that confidence can return very quickly and that the squad will be ready for Monday’s game. Our new friend says that the squad were behind Ranieri – most likely with a couple of flick knives if speculation is to be believed. Shakey says he likes his teams to play with flair but also to keep clean sheets – poor chap has had a very stressful few months then. The presser was obviously dominated with questions about Ranieri and while Shakey didn’t say it was Much Ado About Nothing he was obviously keen to talk more about the football side of things. After a tough few days, Shakey is looking forward to the visit of Liverpool and if the team can arrest their run of losses he’ll no doubt sit back, celebrate and take stock while puffing on a Hamlet and hope that All’s Well That Ends Well. Islam Slumani returned to training yesterday and he and Leonardo AUlloa, who vowed never to play for Ranieri again, could be fit to make the squad for Monday.
Jurgen Klopp says he and his team are expecting to face the ‘best Leicester City’ on Monday. He said he is not that surprised about Ranieri’s sacking, likening the news to that of the Brexit vote and DJ Trump’s election win. Thanks Jurgen. Back to the game and Daniel Sturridge and Dejan Lovren both rejoined the main group today. Poor old Daniel suffered a virus in La Manga and had to be sent home – I’m saying nothing. Just laughing. Oh yeah Lovren – well he’s missed the last two matches with a knee injury and will just be attempting light running today with a view to training properly with the squad tomorrow. Georginio Wijnaldum picked up a minor calf issue in training but is expected to be fit for Monday. Klopp is looking for a similar performance as per against Spurs and said the training camp has been a big help in allowing his team to play their best football.
Suspension Report for GW26
Any player who receives 10 yellow cards before the second Sunday in April will face a two-match suspension.
Suspended for GW26:
Jeffrey Hendrick (Burnley)
Sam Clucas (Hull)
Papy Djilobodji (Sunderland)
Thanks for reading Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 26. This article was written by Cookie
Fixture Tracker – the next 6 games