Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 34
Welcome to Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 34. The fun begins! Not long now folks, just about 24 hours until DGW34 kicks off, a true football feast that runs from Saturday until Thursday and includes DGWs for Crystal Palace, Boro and Man Utd. Weeks of plannning have been taking place for this – the business end of the season with so much still up for grabs. Chelsea’s lead at the top has been cut to 4pts, the scrap at the bottom between Hull and Swansea looks like going the distance, the Top 4 is far from certain and if all that is not enough we also have the FA Cup semi-finals taking place this weekend between Chelsea and Spurs and Man City and Arsenal. It’s relentless, it’s non-stop, it’s action stations, it’s time to go big, ladies and gentlemen.
Before we proceed, some incredibly sad news. RIP Ugo Ehiogu, the Spurs U23 coach who passed away last night at the age of 23. The defender was best known for representing Aston Villa and Boro and also gaining four England caps. So sad.
With so many games taking place, injury and team news is so important for these next few weeks – so let’s get going and go Around the Grounds to see what the managers have had to say.
Bournemouth vs Middlesbrough (Sat 22 Apr 15.00)
What the heck happened to Boro? They were doing ok, not great but ok, they were surviving – the odd win was mixed with the odd clean sheet and they looked good value to stay up. But then Christmas hit and BOOM they are now second from bottom, just 3 points clear of Funderland, 6 points from safety, without a win since December 17 and have the proud record of being the lowest scorers in the top four divisions of English football. Strange things can happen in the last few week’s of the season – we have seen in season’s past Wigan and Sunderland recover from what we thought to be impossible situations to stay up and if Boro are to replicate that then DGW34 will have to be big for them. They kick off at Bournemouth on Saturday in a must win game – in fact both their DGW34 games are must win for their final four fixtures are Man City (H), Chelsea (A), Southampton (H), Liverpool (A) – crikey!! They truly must win at Bournemouth! The Cherries are coming off two defeats in a row, but these defeats were against Chelsea and Spurs and previously Eddie Howe’s men had gone five games unbeaten – Bournemouth will feel they need at least one more win and will be keen to secure their safety asap, starting this weekend – not good news for Boro. Boro do have the comfort of having beaten the Cherries already this season, a 2-0 victory at the Riverside in October and a repeat will be demanded by manager Steve Agnew if his boys have any chance of surviving.
Jack Wilshere was doing so well, he’d played 1950 minutes this season, which is more than double the previous two seasons combined and is more than any season since 2010/11 – and now he’s crocked again, season over, loan spell at Bournemouth over, he returns to Arsenal with just a year left on his contract. Tyrone Mings is waiting in the wings if Chief Cherry Eddie decides to change things at the back after the mauling at Spurs, while Dan Gosling will be assessed before the game. Adam Federici, Andrew Surman and Callum Wilson are long term absentees.
There is bad news for Boro with keeper Victor Valdes being ruled out of the trip to Bournemouth – it’s especially bad if you witnessed Brad Guzan’s glue-like reaction to Alexis’ free kick on Monday. Grant Leadbitter has picked up a hamstring injury and also misses out, but there is more positive news of Fabio and Rudy Gestede who both have a chance of being involved – Fabio’s injury is not as bad as first feared and will face a late test while Getsede has had a kick to his heel but trained on Thursday. Calum Chambers is fit to return to the squad after recovering from a stress fracture of the foot.
Hull vs Watford (Sat 22 Apr 15.00)
Hull welcome the Hornets in what is a massive game for Marco Silva and the club. Hull sit two points clear of Swansea and safety and will pin all their hopes of staying up on their home form for the Tigers are unbeaten in their previous seven league matches at home, winning five of those. Watford meanwhile reached the 40pt target last weekend by beating Swansea and can now deal the Welshies a double blow if they go down at the KC Stadium. Hull should be wary mind you, for they lost to Watford at Vicarage Road in GW10, which was the first ever meeting between the two in the top flight. Despite their recent impressive form at home, the Hornets have lost their last three matches on the road and if Hull can make that four, the Tigers will go a long way to securing survival.
I know you’ll be devastated but Omar Elabdellaoui has been ruled out of the weekend clash with the Hornets with the manager saying the defender needs to do a little bit more work. Harry Maguire has two goals in his last two matches but while Silva says he is happy with Hazza at right back, ‘I could use the normal option of Elmohamady’ – good call Marco, then you could play Maguire up front. The manager says his team is ready for the challenge of the weekend.
Walter Mazzarri is expecting a tough afternoon at Hull but can at least welcome back Miguel Britos from suspension, but Craig Cathcart, Ben Watson and Younes Kaboul are doubts. Roberto Pereyra and Mauro Zarate remain sidelined.
Swansea vs Stoke (Sat 22 Apr 15.00)
Swansea have played in the Premier League since 2011 and have generally been a breath of fresh air during that time – they have been a team that have tried to play good football and they have provided many memorable moments – who can forget the sudden emergence of Michu, Brendan Rodgers’ passing masterclass, Ashley Williams trying to ‘kill RvP’, Siggy’s goals and free kicks? All the above and more will be distant memories if Swansea don’t get their act together and start winning some matches. Three defeats in a row and no wins in six has seen the Welshies plunge back into the drop zone after such a positive start under Paul Clement. Five matches without a goal or assist for Gylfi Sigurdsson has coincided with the poor run for the club and the Icelandic midfielder will be pivotal if Clement can raise one more big effort for his team over the next few weeks. Stoke are the visitors to the Liberty and the Potters have 39pts and a win for Mark Hughes’ men will guarantee their survival. So sadly for the Swans, Stoke do still have something to play for, mathematically at least. Stoke won the reverse fixture in October 3-1 but expect the Swans to be fired up for what Clement calls the biggest game for the Swans since their play-off win in 2011.
Clement says his team has ‘not reacted well to pressure over the last six matches’ and has therefore quickly slipped into the clichéd world of Premier League management by learning to say the bleedin’ obvious. Just to build up the pressure even more on his team, he describes this week’s game as a ‘must win’, so we’ll get a proper idea now if these Welshies have any bollocks or not – ‘They know how important this is for the club, for the fans and for the city’ – bloody hell Clemo, they’ll be more nervous than the sheep. On the injury front Wayne Routledge has a hernia and Jack Cork has an ankle injury meaning both are ruled out while Angel Rangel and Nathan Dyer are long term absentees.
Hughes is hopeful that Joe Allen and Glenn Whelan can both feature after both players trained on Thursday, while Jon Walters is expected to train today with Sparky saying Walters’ weeks leading up to games are being managed due to fluid on his knee. Saido Berahino is ‘getting stronger and closer to the level we know he is capable of’, but Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland are long term absentees. Hughes says that keeper Jack Butland has had another good week training and ‘it is fair to say he is in my mind’ (to play at Swansea). ‘We will see how he goes in training today – whatever my decision he will definitely be getting game-time over the coming weeks so we know he is going to be fully ready to go again next season.’
West Ham vs Everton (Sat 22 Apr 15.00)
Worrying times for the Hammers as they welcome Everton – Slaven Bilic’s men started the season at their new home, in the Europa League, their best player had enjoyed a successful European Championship and the future was bright. Or so we were led to believe. The European tour lasted less than a month, there have been numerous issues at the new stadium and the snake soon enough slithered back to his roots leaving the Hammers on 37pts and safety from relegation not yet secure. Everton come to town level on points with the Arsenal, albeit having played two games more and in decent form having seen off Leicester and Burnley in their last two matches, although a quick glance at the Toffees away form suggests a ray of hope for the Hammers – Everton have failed to win any of their last five matches on the road, although ironically their last away win came in the capital when they won at Palace in January. One player the Hammers will have to stop is of course the Premier League’s top scorer, Romelu Lukaku – he loves playing West Ham as he has scored in all nine of his previous clashes vs the Hammers. In fact while the Toffees’ recent away record is poor, their record at West Ham is great – they are unbeaten in the last 8 trips to the Hammers, winning 6 and drawing 2. It could well be another dark day for Slav and the boys.
BREAKING NEWS: Andy Carroll is injured and is ruled out for the weekend. Him and Jack Wilshere in the same week, who’d have thought it? I know you’re all shocked and this has come as a big surprise, so sit down and take a few deep breaths. Of course this is great news for those wanting the ‘excuse’ to buy Senor Negredo for the DGW With Michail Antonio ruled out for the season, it looks like it’s down to André Ayew to provide any scoring threat the Hammers may possess – since his return from injury, Ayew has scored four goals in eight appearances. It is understood that Slav and Diafra Sakho had ‘clear the talks’ on Wednesday following a row which saw the striker miss the trip to Sunderland….although the manager denies this – what a mess. Defender Sam Byram joins Mark Noble on the naughty step, with both missing out due to bans, but there is some good news for Slav – Winston Reid is back in training. The Kiwi, arguably West Ham’s best defender, has missed the last four matches through injury and the manager has to decide if Reid is ready to start.
Little change for Everton bar the absence of super-sub Enner Valencia who is ineligible to play vs West Ham, his parent club. There are no fresh injuries with Ronald Koeman selecting from the same squad as last weekend – James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes Mori, Yannick Bolasie, Aaron Lennon and Mo Besic all remain sidelined.
Burnley vs Man Utd (Sun 23 Apr 14.15)
Last week’s win over Chelsea has meant United still have a sniff of a top 4 spot and they enter a huge week for them with two local derbies away from Old Trafford. First up is a trip to fortress Turf Moor where Burnley have lost just four times this season – however, Sean Dyche’s men are going through a tough period and have won just one of their last ten league matches and could yet still be dragged into a relegation fight if they don’t find another win and if Hull and/or Swansea recover some form. The teams have only met five times in the Premier League with Burnley actually winning the first of those before losing two and drawing two, although United have not scored in the two meetings at Turf Moor and were indeed held to a 0-0 at Old Trafford by a masterclass from ex-Red Tom Heaton in October. Heaton has kept three clean sheets in the last five matches albeit vs Sunderland, Stoke and Burnley, while United, for all the chat about not scoring enough goals have scored in all but one of their last seven league matches. A win for the Reds would see them close to within a point of neighbours City, building up Thursday’s derby beautifully.
Dyche says Sam Vokes and Scott Arfield are ‘touch and go’ for Sunday’s visit of United – Vokes has picked up a minor hamstring injury, while Arfield is struggling to overcome a knee injury. There is some positive news as Johann Berg Gudmundsson has trained well and is in contention. Dean Marney remains a long-term absentee.
United are waiting for results of scans to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo, who were both injured in United’s Europa win over Anderlecht on Thursday. Mourinho’s immediate reaction after the game was one of pessissism. United are already without Chris Smalling and Phil Jones at the back, leaving Daley Blind at the obvious partner for Eric Bailly if Rojo is ruled out for a significant length of time. Although we are still awaiting the scan results, it seems an accurate guesstimate to forget about either player for DGW34 at the very least. Wayne Rooney was an unused sub on Thursday and Mourinho says of the fat, balding no-hoper, ‘we need Rooney’s experience and character even if he is not in the best condition and not in the level of sharpness we need’ – ah a ringing endorsement if ever I’ve heard one. Mourinho confirmed that Ander Herrera and Ashley Young will definitely play at Burnley and admits he may even have to call on reserve team captain Axel Tuanzebe in the coming weeks as Eric Bailly has played six matches in a row.
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace (Sun 23 Apr 16.30)
The first match of Palace’s DGW sees them travel up to Liverpool – just one loss in seven has propelled the Eagles to 35pts and within touching distance of safety – c’mon, what else were you expecting with Big Sam on the case? A win at Anfield would be huge for Palace, but Herr Klopp will have other ideas especially with his team needing to push on to ensure a top 4 slot. United are now threatening to derail Liverpool’s Champions League bid and that wouldn’t go down well on Merseyside now would it? So expect Klopp and the crowd to fire up the players, but Big Sam will have other ideas of course and after orchestrating wins over Arsenal and Chelsea, don’t rule out the Eagles. In fact, Palace have won on their last two trips to Anfield – a hat-trick of victories will see Palace almost across the line and will leave Liverpool nervously watching the Manc derby later in the week.
Troubling news for Liverpool as Klopp says that Joel Matip and Lucas picked up knocks in the win at Stoke and will need to be assessed – the pair in addition to Ragnar Klavan have not trained leaving Joe Gomez as a possibility to come in and deputise alongside Dejan Lovren. Adam Lallana should return to full training next week with a return at Watford in GW35 a possibility. The news is not so good for Jordan Henderson with Klopp not ruling out the possibility that the midfielder won’t play again this season. The quote re Henderson was actually, ‘We must wait. He looks really healthy but he can’t play football’ – ah, the gift that just keep on giving!
Palace will be without Mamadou Sakho, who is ineligible to face his parent club so it’s good news for the Eagles that James Tomkins is fit to return. Scott Dann and Pape Souaré remain out but PvA is back fit while midfielder James McArthur and striker Loic Remy also are able to return to the squad. Big Sam is confident that his team can get something at Liverpool if they are as clinical as they were against Chelsea and Arsenal and avoid the basic errors they made vs Leicester.
Chelsea vs Southampton (Tues 25 Apr 19.45)
How Chelsea approach Tuesday’s game may very well depend how their Cup semi-final with Spurs goes. Two defeats in four constitutes a wobble for the Blues and no doubt Antonio Conte will have been working hard with his squad this week as they prepare for Wembley and then to get their league challenge back on track. The visit of the Saints is hardly likely to cause nightmares, but the form of Spurs might and as we know the end of the season brings tension and Conte will have to be at his annoying best if he is to get his troops back on track. Southampton come into the game without a care in the world, at least that’s what it looked like when they lost 3-0 at home to City last week – they have nothing to play for and are lead by a Frenchman – laziness and a long lunch is guaranteed. Chelsea have won the last two vs the Saints including the 2-0 win at St. Mary’s when Diego Costa and Eden Hazard scored. Moody Diego has looked back to his angry worst of late and with only three league goals this calendar year, one of two things is brewing – either a return to the scoring charts or a massive blow up. Clearly the latter would be more entertaining, while the former would suggest that Conte has worked well this week.
Gary Cahill has missed training this week after being sent to hospital with a kidney stone – he is getting better but the manager says it will be difficult for him to play vs Spurs in the semi-final – however it sounds as if Cahill will be ok for midweek. The better news for the Blues is that keeper Thibaut Courtois has recovered from injury and Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses and Diego Costa have all shrugged off the sickness that affected them at Old Trafford.
Southampton welcome back ex-Chelsea legend Oriel Romeu from suspension and will likely come straight back into the starting XI after the Saints were clobbered by City. Virgil van Dijk, Matt Targett and Charlie Austin remain out.
Arsenal vs Leicester (Weds 26 Apr 19.45)
Now be fair to me, who really knows what will happen here? There was kind of an inevitability about Palace handing the Gooners a new one, while we all knew they would win at sad Boro. But this week the Champions come to town and how the Foxes fans will remind the faithful die-hard Arsenal fans about last season’s remarkable triumph. Arsenal of course need to win if they are to fend off Everton’s challenge for 6th, while Leicester and Shakey will want one more win to mathematically secure survival. With Monsieur Wenger adopting an innovative 3-4-2-1 formation vs Boro, we are witnessing the coming of age of the young manager and let’s just hope we get to see another two years of Wenger at the helm. Sorry, I digress – back to the game and the Gooners have fixture form, even last season they beat the Foxes at the Emirates – they have actually won the last nine clashes at home. Alexis Sanchez has scored four goals in the last five meetings between the two, while Leicester just have the Premier League to think about after bowing out of Europe in midweek.
Wenger’s presser dealt mainly with the Cup semi-final, with the news being that Shkodran Mustafi, David Ospina and Lucas Perez all remain sidelined for Wembley, while Danny Welbeck is a doubt for the weekend. Presumably Welbeck is close, suggesting he should be available for midweek, although in true Gooner style he’ll have probably picked up another injury by then.
Foxes skipper Wes Morgan is unlikely to be risked after limping out of the midweek draw with Athletico with a hamstring injury, leaving Yohan Benalouane as Robert Huth’s likely partner. Islam Slimani is a doubt with a groin injury while Nampalys Mendy remains out.
Middlesbrough vs Sunderland (Weds 26 Apr 19.45)
Every week there is one shocker of a game and this is clearly this week’s lucky winner. The difference of course is many of us will be hoping for a clean sheet for Valdes, Gibson or Friend, an assist for Gaston or Downing and of course a plethora of goals for top striker Negredo. Boro certainly couldn’t have asked for a better fixture to finish their DGW – Boro’s problem is that Sunderland have actually won more games this season. That of course is not Boro’s only problem – their biggest issue, Sunderland’s too, is the imminent threat of relegation, which seems like a certainty for both. Oh well, good riddance to both, you won’t be missed. Both managers will talk of not giving up until safety is mathematically impossible – blah blah blah. Boro have won the last two meetings between the pair, including the reverse fixture in August when two Cristhian Stuani goals were enough to clinch the win at the Stadium of Delight. What else can we say about these two walking Championship wannabes? Nothing. Just”‘C’mon Negredo”!
Moyesie will again be without the suspended Seb Larsson and they seemed to do better without him last week so maybe it’s not that bad. Jack Rodwell and Steven Pienaar are available to contest for a starting place although Ginge may retain the illustrious trio of Lee Clattermole, Darron Gibson and Didier Ndong. Decisions, decisions eh Moyesie? Paddy McNair, Jan Kirchoff, Bryan Oviedo and Duncan Watmore all remain sidelined.
Crystal Palace vs Spurs (Weds 26 Apr 20.00)
A good ol’ London derby to wrap up Palace’s DGW and assuming they win at Anfield at the weekend, then a win vs Spurs will seal their safety and Premier League status for another season. Of course, there is a chance they lose or draw at Anfield, in which case this match takes on added significance for them and of course for Spurs who retain hopes of catching Chelsea – the gap between the two is four going into DGW34 but could be seven by the time Spurs kick off if Chelsea beat Southampton on Tuesday. The top two meet first up at the weekend in the FA Cup semi-finals so maybe the victor will take a psychological advantage into the midweek games. Spurs have already beaten Palace this season and also won at Selhurst last season with Dele Alli and Harry Kane amongst the scorers and their record in London derbies so far this season reads Won 3, Drew 1, Lost 1, while Palace had lost all five of the derbies they had played before recent wins over Chelsea and Arsenal. It’ll be rocking down at Selhurst under the lights and it’ll be a proper test for Spurs.
One thing to bear in mind is that Mamadou Sakho is available for Palace after being ineligible to play at the weekend vs Liverpool, his parent club.
The Poch says that Danny Rose has now resumed training outside and ‘aims to progress further with rehab and training next week. For Arsenal in GW35, maybe.’ Maybe he gets some minutes off the bench at Palace to see if he can start vs the Gooners, we’re playing guessing games here but what is obvious is that Ben Davies owners may be disappointed very soon. Spurs will be hoping that Hugo Lloris stays fit and healthy as reserve keeper Michel Vorm has been ruled out until May. Aside from this it’s very much as you were for Spurs with Erik Lamela and Harry Winks ruled out for the season.
Man City vs Man Utd (Thurs 27 Apr 20.00)
The Manchester derby is always big, always competitive and always spicey. Add in to this Pep vs Mourinho. This is big. And it could even be bigger if United win at Burnley in part one of their DGW for then the teams will be separated by just a single point and the battle for a top four slot intensifies. City won the derby at Old Trafford in September but had not won any of the three before that, so fixture form is of no real use here. Just sit back, count your DWG points and enjoy the fun both on the pitch and on the touchline.
Pep says Gabriel Jesus has returned to training and will travel with the squad to Wembley – surprisingly the manager says he hasn’t ruled out starting the young striker, though that would be a surprise given the length of time he has been out. What it does mean is that young Jesus looks to be a viable FPL option for us, with Sergio Aguero potentially becoming a rotation risk once again. Jon Stones will miss the semi-final with a muscular problem with Pep saying, ‘he may be back for United, but I don’t know right now.’ Ilkay Gündogan is a season long absentee while Bacary Sagna is also ruled out.
Suspension Report GW34
The deadline for ten yellow cards is now past, meaning that suspensions for yellow card accumulation will only apply when a player receives 15 yellow cards. The closest to reaching this is Watford’s Jose Holebas who has 12 yellows.
Suspended for GW34:
Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland)
Sam Byram (West Ham)
Mark Noble (West Ham)
Thanks for reading Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 34. This article was written by Cookie
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