Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 29
Welcome to Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 29. No Cup distractions this weekend, no teams blanking, it’s back to basics, the super ten, a proper two-day game-week. We kick off Saturday lunchtime as Arsene’s flops go to the flip flop wearing Baggies in a match the Gooners will feel they will need to win to keep alive their top four ambitions. Five matches follow at 3pm – Palace host Watford, Hull go to face the gauntlet of Lukaku’s and Everton’s home form, Chelsea can put more daylight between them and their nearest challengers as they go to Stoke, if you’re still awake then prepare to sleep as Sunderland face Burnley in a bore-off special and in-form(ish) Leicester go to out of form (ish) West Ham. Oh I do like to be beside the seaside on a Saturday evening as Bournemouth welcome fellow donkey riders Swansea. The Sabbath meaneth no resteth as Man Utd travel to Boro, Spurs welcome the Saints and finally Man City face off vs Liverpool in what we hope will be a goal feast.
Let’s go Around the Grounds to see what news the managers have for us this week.
West Brom vs Arsenal (Sat 18 Mar 12.30)
While the Baggies appear to have one foot on the plane to Benidorm, the Gooners seem to be hell-bent on making their own Europa appearance next season. Three losses in their last four, continual rumours of dressing room discontent, speculation rife on the futures of Wenger, Alexis and Ozil means Arsenal Fan TV makes tremendous viewing for the neutrals. And Spurs fans. West Brom meanwhile reached 40pts and the players decided it is more fun to plan some summer fun rather than push on as Tony Pulis claims his wants them to. Successive losses to Palace and Everton suggests the team has switched off mentally, something of course the Gooners have been accused of lately. Now Arsenal generally beat the Baggies, they have indeed been successful in ten of the last dozen meetings, but did lose at the Hawthorns last season. Much may well depend on the managerial skills of Pulis and Wenger and which one onvinces his side that they need the three points more.
Pulis says he and his team sat down on Monday and had a good meeting about their current form – the manager says part of the problem has been the absence of Matty Phillips as he gives the team good balance. Phillips has been named in the Scotland squad for the up and coming internationals which suggests he is close to a return for the Baggies. However, James Morriosn is a doubt for the game as he has picked up a knock on his ankle in training this week, which is a blow as Morrison has scored in two of his last three league games vs Arsenal at home.
A pretty dull presser from Arsene this week as he refused to take any questions on the fans’ protests or his future. He’s probably just glad that City got dumped out of the Champions League to take some of the focus off his own team and himself. So onto injury news then and even that is pretty boring – FPL nobody Mohamed Elneny has returned to training, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will have a fitness test and defender Kieran Gibbs’ fitness is ‘uncertain’ . There was no mention of Danny Welbeck who has been suffering from illness, poor love. Wenger is wary of West Brom’s threat from set pieces, though reports he has captained Gareth McAuley in his FPL team this week are unconfirmed.
Crystal Palace vs Watford (Sat 18 Mar 15.00)
Two wins and two clean sheets on the bounce has lifted the Eagles out of the relegation zone and has prompted delayed hopes of a Sunderland-type rescue act from Big Sam and his merry men. The visitors to Selhurst this week are Watford who are winless in three and have been victorious in just two of their last twelve matches. A win for Palace will lift them to just three points from their opponents and certainly increase the pressure on Walter Mazzarri as the Hornets run the risk of another horrific second half of the season. While Watford struggle, Troy Deeney is finding the back of the net for fun, having scored five in his last six matches – impressive form indeed especially when coupled with his record vs Palace which shows him scoring four goals in his last three meetings vs the Eagles.
Palace will be without PvA as the defender is struggling to shrug off the ankle injury he sustained in the win at West Brom. Big Sam says PvA is the only new injury and there is good news concerning Loic Remy who will rejoin first-team training over the international break. Palace will be hopeful that Christian Benteke can find some form – the striker has scored just one goal in his last 12 matches and Watford is one fo the few Premier League sides he is still to score against.
Early season sensation Etienne Capoue has missed training this week due to a fever and will need to be checked after training today to see if he can feature. Walter Mazzarri has no other fresh injury doubts, meaning Daryl Janmaat and Nordin Amrabat are back in contention, leaving Christian Kabasele, Ben Watson, Roberto Pereyra and Mauro Zarate as the only confirmed caualties. The manager knows his team are facing a Palace side with their confidence on the rise and says, ‘We have to go there and give everything in order to come out with a positive outcome’ and will hope that his team somehow find a way of continuing their run at Selhurst which has seen them win on their last two visits.
Everton vs Hull (Sat 18 Mar 15.00)
Everton can overtake Man United in sixth place with a win over releagtion threatened Hull at Goodison. A home victory would appear to be a formality for the Toffees who have won their last five at home with a goal difference of 18-3 – Romelu Lukaku has scored in all those victories and has notched 8 of those 18 goals and with Harry Kane now sidelined Big Rom will be looking to pull clear in the race for the Goldben Boot. Hull meanwhile scored an impressive and much needed win over Swansea last time out but remain in the drop zone, having not won on the road since their GW2 trip to Swansea and their away record since that summer trip to the Welsh coast reads: Played 13, Lost 11, Drawn 2. Not encouraging for the Tigers is it? There is however one crumb of comfort and this is that Hull are unbeaten in the last three clashes with the Toffees, drawing two and winning at home last season. The reverse fixture ended 2-2, with Big Rom not appearing on the scoresheet.
Ronald Koeman says Lukaku’s contract saga will not be a distraction and there is ‘no reason to take him out of the team’, prompting a huge sigh of relief from many a FPL manager this week! Leighton Baines has trained and should be fit, but James McCarthy is out with a hamstring injury and joins Yannick Bolaise on the treatment table, while Mo Besic is working on building up his fitness.
Marco Silva expects to have the same squad available as per last weekend’s win over Swansea minus Oumar Niasse who is ineligible to face his parent club. There is a chance that Markus Henriksen comes into contention but after missing the last two months a place on the bench is probably the best he can hope for. Evandro Goebel has failed to recover from a calf injury while Michael Dawson, Moses Odubajo, Ryan Mason, Dieumerci Mbokani and Michael Keane all remain sidelined.
Stoke vs Chelsea (Sat 18 Mar 15.00)
Already with a 10 point lead at the top, Chelsea go to Stoke knowing that another victory will put even more pressure on Spurs who play Sunday and Liverpool and City who play Saturday evening – everything is looking rosy for Antonio Conte as his team march towards not only a league title but a possible domestic double. Unbeaten since losing at Spurs in early January, we’ll soon be at the point where we are counting the points down to the Blues lifting another trophy. Have Stoke got anything that can halt that surge? Well, it’s worth mentioning that the Potters have beaten Chelsea in both the previous clashes at the Britannia, although both defeats came at the end of Mourinho’s second spell at the club where there was disharmony all round. It was the Potters who of course spoiled many a DGW27 for us, so one feels if they can keep out Man City, then they have a chance of keeping out Chelsea. Lee Grant has kept three clean sheets in four matches, while you have to go back to that Spurs defeat again for the last time Chelsea failed to score in a match.
Sparky is confident ahead of Chelsea’s visit and says his team pushed Chelsea close earlier in the season and acquitted themselves well at City in the DGW. Yeah, don’t we know it. Just Glen Johnson and Jack Butland are confirmed out for the Potters – Johnson is struggling with a shoulder injury while Butland is now training on the grass but won’t be rushed after being out for so long. Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri have both recovered but Wilfried Bony’s latest rant at Hughes suggests he may struggle to get much game time!!
Conte says he will need to check ‘a couple of situations’ before his team travel to Stoke – one of these is believed to be Eden Hazard who suffered a torrid time vs United on Monday. Probably all that falling to the floor and rolling around. Victor Moses also picked up a slight knock vs United but trained well today. If Chelsea are stuggling to break down Stoke then Conte will likely turn to Cesc Fabregas who has assisted seven goals in eight league starts vs the Potters.
Sunderland vs Burnley (Sat 18 Mar 15.00)
There are some things in life that are really dull. Like really, really dull. Being stuck in traffic is one. No internet is another. The Kardashians certainly make the list. And so of course does Sunderland vs Burnley. If one of the UK tv channels had decided to broadcast this one live, the disappointment would have compared to that phone call as a young lad telling you that this week’s game has been called off due to the rain or the oppo failing to get a team out. Fortunately the powers-that-be have decided to hide this feast of boredom amongst four other Saturday afternoon fixtures. I can’t even get excited to slag Sunderland off for being the worst team in the league or Burnley for being so useless on the road. Whereas 19% of you will be hopeful of a Tom Heaton clean sheet, please bear in mind that 81% of us don’t give a toss.
Poor old Moyesie. Just when he left he could welcome back Jan Kirchoff, the midfielder has suffered a recurrence of his knee injury and will be out for a minimum of four weeks. Darron Gibson should be ok to play however so that’ll please our Ginger Ninja. Paddy McNair, Lee Cattermole, Duncan Watmore and Victor Anichebe are all still out, while Steven Pienaar is a doubt. But of course none of you care – all you really want to know about is Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford and they are both ok.
Burnley will again be without Johann Berg Gudmundsson as the midfielder struggles to recover from his knee injury but Sean Dyche says Steven Defour has returned to training and is ‘touch and go’ for the match. There are no new injuries to report and Dean Marney remains a season long casualty.
West Ham vs Leicester (Sat 18 Mar 15.00)
It’s been a strange old few weeks at West Ham. After watching Payet slither back to Marseille, the team won three out of four, the togetherness was back, smiles were witnessed, the goals were flying in, Slaven wasn’t scowling, even Andy Carroll was fit. And then it broke. Carroll got injured of course, draws vs West Brom and Watford were followed by defeats to Chelsea and Bournemouth and the Hammers find themselves once again looking over their shoulders when in reality their safety should of already been guaranteed. They come up against the Champions this week, which in fairness is not the scary prospect the previous statement should imply. The Leicester story has been well documented and we are all aware of it. More importantly, the Foxes have found a couple of wins in their last two matches which has lifted them clear of the drop zone for now and of course they are somehow England’s sole representative left in the Champions League. Leicester go to West Ham with Craig Shakespeare confirmed as manager until the end of the season, which is a shame. Well for me anyway. For I had dreams of them appointing Pardew and I could lead with the line of ‘Pardew takes charge of the Champions…..’ I’ll never get to use that line now. West Ham’s fixture form vs Leicester is as scruffy as Slaven’s suit and beanie combo – the Foxes have won four of the last five with the other result being a draw.
Bilic says the players are aware of how unhappy he was with the performance at Bournemouth and they are ready to bounce back. Sadly the manager decided not to offer any injury news, which is a bit strange as he’s normally quite helpful. Michail Antonio picked up a shoulder injury at Bournemouth but said that he would be fine for this week and the fact he has been called up for the England squad suggests he is ok, while the same rule should I guess be applied to Scot Robert Snodgrass. Bilic did say that Mark Noble won’t be available this weekend – the captain has become the latest target for the fans and with Noble suffering with a slight dead leg, Bilic has told Noble to take some time out. Lovely club.
Buoyed after the midweek victory over Seville, the Foxes have no new injuries and could have Nempalys Mendy available – the midfielder trained on Thursday for part of the session and will be assessed after training today with Shakey ranking him as 50-50. The caretaker manager says the squad are focused on the Premier League and winning at West Ham and although he cannot put his finger on why the team hasn’t won away this season, it’s about time that changed.
Bournemouth vs Swansea (Sat 18 Mar 17.30)
Relegation rivals, seaside towns, teams that like to play football, likeable young managers, there is much that links Bournemouth and Swansea. What separates them at the moment is three precious points, courtesy of Bournemouth’s win over West Ham last week while the Swans were mauled by Hull. In reality most neutrals would like both teams to avoid the drop, after all there is so much more to dislike with teams such as Sunderland, Hull, Boro and Palace. The Josh King inspired win over the Hammers was Bournemouth’s first win since 31st December when Josh King inspired a 3-0 away win at…..Swansea! So the Welshies have revenge in mind as well as escape but their recent away form of three successive losses will need to be reversed otherwise Swansea will be staring down the barrel while the Cherries will be well on the way to securing another season of top-flight football. Of their only 3 meetings in the top-flight Bournemouth have won two and drawn the other, with the in-form King scoring in all three games. Dare you ignore him this week?
Expect very few changes for Bournemouth as they try and secure a second successive home victory. Head Cherry Eddie says it has been a good week and the squad is in good heart but recognises that Paul Clement has galvanised the Swans since his arrival. Howe talked up Jack Wilshire, Ryan Fraser, Josh King and Benik Afobe specifically. Harry Arter and Junior Stanislas will be assessed after training, while Andrew Surman is available after suspenison, but Tyrone Mings remains banned and Adam Federici and Callum Wilson remain unavailable.
There is mixed news for the Swans as they travel to Bournemouth – striker Fernando Llorente has been passed fit after suffering a dead leg at Hull and Kyle Naughton is also ok. However, Martin Olsson has not trained this week and is ruled out leaving Stephen Kingsley to deputise at left back. Jefferson Montero could make the squad after appearing for the U23s on Monday while Sung-yueng Ki is also available. Manager Paul Clement says he and the squad have reflected on last week’s defeat and ‘it’s very clear where we didn’t do so well. We need to improve defensively.’ So Clement looks to tighten up the Swans as Eddie Howe looks for his Cherries to turn on the fire-power again. Could be a fun watch!
Middlesbrough vs Man Utd (Sun 19 Mar 12.00)
If Sunderland vs Burnley was dull, then there is every chance that this match may not be too far behind it. United have had the schedule from hell these past few weeks, including Monday’s FA Cup loss to Chelsea and Thursday’s Europa victory against some jubbly outfit only the KGB has heard of, giving Jose every excuse he needs if his team balls up this one. Boro have the least victories in the division this season (four), have scored the least goals (19) and have the most amount of draws (10) with United. Only Chelsea and Spurs have conceded less goals than United. A thriller this won’t be, but you may nick a clean sheet or two with the right selection. Boro haven’t beaten United in the league since 2005 when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Gaizka Mendieta and Yakubu Ayegbeni scored – how Boro would love a fraction of that strike power as they aim to escape relegation. Boro decided enough was enough and on Thursday sacked manager Aitor Karanka – there has been chat of training ground rows with Alvaro Negredo and others, which while it doesn’t make him a bad man is not a great scenario within the club.
Karanka’s assistant Steve Agnew has been asked to prepare the team for Sunday’s visit of United and reports that George Friend, Calum Chambers and Dani Ayala will probably miss the game, while Rudy Gestede is close to being available and defender Bernardo Espinosa Zúñiga trained this morning. Agew denied reports of training ground rifts.
United face a Boro team with a new manager and if that isn’t enough, suspensions, fatigue and injuries are beginning to take their toll. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera are banned, Paul Pogba pulled his hamstring during Thursday’s Europa win and Wayne Rooney is very doubtful with a knock which has seen him miss this week’s matches with Chelsea and Rostov. Anthony Martial and Daley Blind are also carrying knocks while Marcos Rojo is suffering from fatigue. Oh well, in times of crisis, maybe it’s time for Marouane Fellaini to shine. Gulp. Expect many changes for United with the likes of Michael Carrick, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young and Marcus Rashford all likely to feature.
Spurs vs Southampton (Sun 19 Mar 14.15)
It was about this time last season that Spurs were proving to be genuine challengers for the league and would surely finish above Arsenal for the first time in like forever. Well, destiny played her hand and the season petered out. Now, Spurs may be unlikely to catch Chelsea this term but they have every chance of finishing higher than their nearest and dearest, given the state of their neighbours. Spurs come into the weekend in 2nd place and having lost just once in 12 league games. Their home form is extraordinary – 12 wins and 2 draws out of 14. Saints meanwhile are a complete mixed bag – a run of victories is followed by a sequence of losses, with little rhyme or reason to offer as evidence of any clear pattern. This will be the Saints’ 3rd away game on the spin and they scored 4 in both of the previous two in beating Sunderland and Watford – for anyone suggesting that run cannot continue, bear in mind that Southampton won 2-1 at Spurs last season, though that was when Spurs were wobbling in May. Dele Alli scored twice as Spurs won 4-1 at St.Mary’s in December. Looking at the history, the one thing that seems guaranteed is goals!
The issues are beginning to mount up for Spurs – Harry Kane is likely to miss between 4-6 weeks with his ankle injury, Danny Rose remains out with his knee injury and Erik Lamela is still out. All this of course you already knew, but Pochettino in his presser has revealed more problems. Kyle Walker suffered a minor ankle injury at home on Monday and Victor Wanyama has a neck injury – both are not thought to be serious but will need assessing after training. Of Walker, Poch says, ‘it is a private matter. After the day off on Monday he arrived here on Tuesday with a problem with his ankle.’ The mind boggles. There is some good news as Mousa Demeble is fit! On the absence of Kane and possible replacements, Poch is quoted as saying, ‘Now is a great chance for Sonny and Vincent (Janssen) to be more regular in the starting XI.’
It’s pretty much as you were for the Saints – no new injuries mean that Alex McCarthy, Matt Targett and Virgil van Dijk remain long-term absentees but Jeremy Pied and Charlie Austin are making progress with their recoveries.
Man City vs Liverpool (Sun 19 Mar 16.30)
Jekyll and Hyde Liverpool take the shortish journey across the M62 to the blue half of Manchester. Its 4th vs 3rd and the loser can likely wave goodbye to any faint hopes they had of catching Chelsea. City of course had an unsuccessful midweek jaunt to Monaco and how much that has taken out of them remains to be seen. But Pep will need to find a way of improving City’s recent record against Liverpool for they have lost the last four league meetings between the two. We are reminded on a weekly basis that Liverpool raise their game vs the big boys, though they somehow managed to find a way past Burnley last week. Herr Klopp will be wanting to see his talisman Philippe Coutinho rediscover some sort of form. It promises excitement, it promises goals and it promises to be a brilliant end to the game-week.
Pep says he will continue to tell his team to attack vs Liverpool, despite the horrendous defensive display in Monaco. One player who won’t be appearing vs Liverpool is Vincent Kompany with Guardiola saying ‘I would like more time with him to be sure, but we are happy with his progress.’ There are no reported new injuries from midweek though Pep may look to freshen up the defence and Yaya Toure was an unused substitute on Wednesday. Raheem Sterling is no doubt looking forward to welcoming his old mates.
No surprise as Klopp confirms that Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson have no chance of facing City – however it doesn’t end there as Divock Origi has missed training this week and is a doubt while Roberto Firmino hasn’t trained either but should be ok to train today or tomorrow, so he too must be considered a doubt. Dejan Lovren is fit though.
Suspension Report GW29
Any player who receives 10 yellow cards before the second Sunday in April will face a two-match suspension (Jose Holebas is on 12 already!)
Suspended for GW29:
Tyrone Mings (Bourenmouth)
Ander Herrera (Man Utd)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)
Thanks for reading Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 28. This article was written by Cookie
The Tracker in full…
Teams with DGW’s ahead… (with thanks to Rosco)