Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 14
Welcome to Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 14. Very occasionally I take a serious tablet and the intro this week is one of those times. Sorry if that’s not right or the “done thing” or if Around the Grounds is seen as the light hearted article of the week. Well maybe it is and fear not, normality will return in the match previews below. But for now, I’m sure most if not all of you will share the sadness of two events that have dominated our beautiful game this week. On Tuesday we were saddened to see the destruction of Brazilian team Chapecoense in a horrific plane crash in Colombia. The modest team, from the small city of Chapeco, were enjoying a fairytale season. They had returned to the Brazilian top-flight in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it to the final of the Copa Sudamericana – the South American equivalent of the Europa League. Two players survived the crash and three players who were suspended for the up-coming match were left at home. Some of those that passed away had been previous team-mates with players we can relate to, namely Sergio Aguero, David de Gea and Islam Slumani amongst others. One of those that was killed had just learnt he was to become a father. Our thoughts go to the survivors and the families and loved ones of the deceased. RIP and God bless you all. Secondly we have seen the development of the sexual abuse scandal that has been in our game – these were young boys and lads, away from home and promised international honours and large contracts if they “went along with it.” Sickening is not strong enough a word, but is probably the closest printable alternative. Let’s hope everything is uncovered and those guilty are brought to justice quickly.
Why the morose intro? Just remember when your FPL captain screws up or your transfer doesn’t work out or you lose the lead in your mini-league that we are just playing a game, having fun. For some, especially those affected by the aforementioned events, there will be little or no fun for them in the game we love, in the future.
Ok – that’s the serious part over. Let’s go Around the Grounds to see what team news awaits us.
Man City vs Chelsea (Sat 3 Dec 12.30)
Separated by just a point at the top, our game of the weekend kicks off our game-week Saturday lunchtime at the Etihad. Seven wins on the bounce has taken Chelsea from looking like also-rans to the top of the league and the best equipped to challenge City for the title. Antonio Conte quickly realised the formation which was required for the players at his disposal and has engineered them perfectly to the summit with the best defence in the league (along with Spurs) and the second best attack (alongside City and behind Liverpool). The match may well tell us more about City than it does about Chelsea – while Conte fits a system around his players, Pep attempts to fit his players around his preferred system. Will he have a Plan B is things don’t go according to plan vs the leaders? Well, only time will tell but with players such as Aguero, Costa, KdB and Hazard on the pitch, we may just be in for something special – let’s hope so. City won both league meetings 3-0 last season with Aguero scoring four of those – a repeat of that will see the division have a new leader come Saturday night and will bring Chelsea’s magnificent run to a sharp halt.
Pep reports no new injuries as his City team welcome the league leaders to the Etihad. Vincent Kompany remains out of course, but presumably Raheem Sterling has recovered from the knock he picked up at Burnley last weekend and Fabian Delph may also be available.
Now now Signore Conte we were getting along so well and then you came out with this… ‘I need to check the physical condition of one or two players tomorrow before deciding the line-up.’ Not overly helpful is it? So your guess is as good as mine – but one can guestimate that Conte would like to name an unchanged starting XI if possible as Chelsea look to put some clear daylight between themselves and City.
Crystal Palace vs Southampton (Sat 3 Dec 15.00)
So the Eagles went to bottom club Swansea and expertly smashed four goals past the Welshies – sadly, for the Lord and his disciples, Bob Bradley’s heroes scored five and wiped that stupid grin off Pardew’s well-tanned face. That is six losses on the spin for Palace and they are only kept out of the relegation zone by Hull’s inferior goal difference. Southampton meanwhile completed a narrow win over Everton to record their first win in five matches, lifting them to 10th and they will go into the weekend confident of a further rise up the table, especially after their League Cup win at Arsenal in the week. Palace won the corresponding fixture 1-0 last season, but let’s be honest it’ll be a minor miracle if Palace keep the Saints out on Saturday for Pardew’s men haven’t kept a clean sheet all season.
The Lord, in his wisdom, held his presser at 8am this morning, apologising for the early hour but and explaining that ‘we’ve got a bit more work to do’. Hahaha, it was a joy. ‘I’m a realist’ he said. ‘I am used to this situation, I’ve been in it before’ – correct pal. In 2006 as West Ham manager he became the first Premier League manager to lose five consecutive matches. In 2012/13 as Newcastle boss, the Lord almost led the Geordies to relegation losing nine games in eleven. In 2013-14 still, remarkably, as Newcastle manager, the team lost 4 home games in a row without scoring a goal – the first time in the club’s entire history that this has happened. And now at Palace, six defeats in a row, the Eagles continue to hold the worst points per game ratio of all the 92 football league clubs in 2016. So be relaxed Palace fans, your acclaimed manager (remember the ‘Pardew for England’ claims just a few months ago?) has been here before. And before that. And indeed before that. Our mate Pards then came out with the corking line, ‘It’s unusual to have this kind of run’. Hmmmm, I beg to differ in your case sir, history tells us otherwise! The gift that keeps on giving. Praise the Lord. I could go on, but I must stop and bring you some injury news – Connor Wickham has been ruled out for the season following ACL surgery, keeper Steve Mandanda will miss the next six weeks or so as he undergoes knee surgery and Yohan Cabaye is suspended. There is some positive news however as Joe Ledley could return in place of Cabaye and Loic Remy has returned to training and could reappear next week, which is a big boost with Wickham ruled out.
Southampton will again have to do without Dusan Tadic and Matty Targett but that didn’t deter them much at Arsenal on Wednesday evening. Manager Claude Puel says that Tadic will wear a mask when he returns, ‘but it’s a beautiful mask’ – great stuff, maybe he can get one for team-mate Oriol Romeu also. Young Josh Sims who impressed on his debut vs Everton last week was benched at Arsenal so is likely to get another start vs Palace.
Spurs vs Swansea (Sat 3 Dec 15.00)
Ah, the one we’ve all been waiting for – the start of a great set of fixtures for the Spurs. Last week’s loss at Chelsea saw the final unbeaten record disappear but surely, surely they will have no problem disposing of the Swans? The Welshies did of course triumph last week (see above) to lift themselves off the bottom of the division, but playing Spurs is a different challenge to playing Palace. Spurs have won the last eight meetings at home vs Swansea and there is little to suggest that this run will come to an end.
Spurs could welcome back Toby Alderweireld after manager Mauricio Pochettino says his defender has been training all week – Toby will be assessed after training on Friday to see if he is ready to return. In his absence, Spurs have kept just one clean sheet in five league matches. Danny Rose is available again after suspension which is good news as Ben Davies is still injured as is Erik Lamela.
Call me cynical, call me what you will but at least hear me out. Bob Bradley, manager of Swansea, says he is expecting a tough test at Spurs. Really Bob? Pretty bloody obvious isn’t it, given Spurs are in 5th and lost one game in the league all season while your lot are held up only by Sunderland. Still, you beat the Lord last week, so maybe we can find some forgiveness. Team news is pretty scarce apart from Sung-yueng Ki continuing to miss out with a toe injury and Leon Britton recovering from a calf injury Gylfi Sigurdsson will look to reward his ever-increasing FPL following by continuing his good form on his return to White Hart Lane.
Stoke vs Burnley (Sat 3 Dec 15.00)
Never have Joe Allen owners been so excited. The Welsh Xavi to some, Allen has, along with Etienne Capoue, been the bargain basement FPL wonder of the season so far. His absence last week didn’t stop Stoke winning at Watford but you can be sure that Allen will return to the starting line-up as they tackle the might of Burnley. The same Burnley who have only picked up a solitary point on the road so far and have now lost two on the trot, and conceded 13 goals away from home. But hold that thought for one second, could a surprise be on the cards? Last time Burnley were in the top flight they won at Stoke by two goals to one so maybe there is hope. Well maybe, but with Allen sniffing around, don’t bet on it.
It’s not only Joe Allen who returns for the Potters as Glenn Whelan should also be back which will mean Allen will be employed as a no.10 again. The return of the pair gives Mark Hughes a selection headache as the team performed well in winning at Watford last week. Geoff Cameron, Phil Bardsley, Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay are definite absentees, while Ryan Shawcross is a big doubt and will be checked after training today. Jack Butland continues to build up his sharpness by playing for the U23s this evening.
Sean Dyche only rates Tom Heaton and Dean Marney as “touch and go” for Burnley’s trip to Stoke, with both likely to be assessed late on. Marney’s fellow midfielder, Icelandic Johann Berg Gudmundsson is even less likely to make the game as his hamstring injury is worse than Marney’s. If Heaton doesn’t make it then Paul Robinson will again deputise in goal. Dyche is frustrated that his team hasn’t been able to replicate their home form to the road and implied that he may change things up a bit in an effort to improve results.
Sunderland vs Leicester (Sat 3 Dec 15.00)
The wonder that is our game throws up surprise after surprise. Leicester winning the Premier League was of course the biggest, but only a very close second is Moyesie getting the best out of a Defoe/Anichebe partnership, which has given Sunderland fans faint hope that perhaps, maybe, possibly relegation isn’t a definite. Where there is life there is hope and the forward partnership has certainly got the fans hoping that a Big Sam-less escape is not impossible. Last week’s loss at Liverpool coupled with Swansea’s win over Palace (have I mentioned that before?) condemned the Black Cats to bottom spot again. Leicester meanwhile are proving anything but reliable, unlike last season – winless in four the Champion Foxes are only two points above the drop zone. Last season was of course dominated by Ranieri’s men as was this fixture as they did the double over the Black Cats, which included a 2-0 win at the Stadium of Light courtesy of a Jamie Vardy brace…of goals that is, not for his teeth.
Let’s face it the only Black Cats you may have any cares about are Jermain Defoe, Jordan Pickford and possibly Victor Anichebe – well I have some good news for you, they are all fine! As for the rest, Jan Kirchoff is likely to be back in the squad this weekend, Fabio Borini has resumed training and Lee Cattermole, Lynden Gooch, Paddy McNair and Jack Rodwell are all unavailable.
Ranieri says he and his team ‘do not look at the table with fear because Foxes are fearless’. Brilliant. The manager says the only member of his squad not available is Kasper Schmeichel, with the keeper not guaranteed to return before Christmas. Nampalys Mendy and Ben Chilwell have both trained well and could make the squad but both are not fit enough to play 90mins just yet. Danny Drinkwater remains missing through suspension meaning Daniel Amartey and Andy King are likely to buddy up in the middle of the park.
West Brom vs Watford (Sat 3 Dec 15.00)
Now call me a pessimist but this ain’t going to be a classic encounter. Just read the fixture out loud – “West Brom vs Watford” – it just sounds dull. And there is little to suggest that I am wrong – Watford have scored just twice on the road in their last four outings and last season’s two matches between the two heralded just a single goal – scored by Ben Watson as Watford won at the Hawthorns. I’m sorry if I sound slightly negative but the only people who are excited by this are FPL experts with a Baggie defender or keeper or maybe the few who have been tempted by a punt on Matty Philips. Well, good luck with that one and let’s move on.
Baggies boss Tony Pulis says he has selection headaches this week – this presumably is related to Nacer Chadli who Pulis says is better placed to start after another good week of training. One player who looks unlikely to be dropped is Chris Brunt as his manager says ‘we’ve realised how much we miss Chris.” So maybe it’s James Morrison who will be benched if Chadli starts. Boaz Myhill and Saido Berahino remain sidelined, while Salamon Rondon has been suffering with tonsilitis and will need assessing though Pulis thinks he’ll be ok.
Defensive problems aplenty for the Hornets as they prepare for their trip to the Hawthorns. Suspensions and injuries are hitting hard with Miguel Britos and Valon Behrami banned, Craig Cathcart and Kenedy already ruled out and Younes Kaboul a doubt. Manager Walter Mazzarri may have to switch to a 4-4-2 and will need to utilise the full depths of his squad with the likes of Ben Watson, Adlene Guedioura, Adrian Mariappa and Abdoulaye Doucoure all dusting off their boots in case they are needed.
West Ham vs Arsenal (Sat 3 Dec 17.30)
Lovely jubbly, there ain’t nuffin’ better than a London derby under the lights on a Saturday night – especially as most of us will have some Arsenal exposure – or if you are Mitro and are trying to get five of the buggers in your team. What we are almost guaranteed is goals – at least that’s what history tells us. Just one goalless draw in the last 20 clashes between the two, last season’s clash at Upton Park ended 3-3 and there have been three goals or more in eight of the last nine meetings. The Hammers haven’t beaten Arsenal at home since November 2006 and sit just a point above Palace and Hull who between them straddle the final relegation spot. West Ham’s confidence was further dented by their 4-1 drubbing at Old Trafford in midweek. The Gooners also suffered in midweek, knocked out of the League Cup by Southampton, which was their first loss in 19 matches. Put your feet up and enjoy the action.
The Hammers will be without Michail Antonio and Aaron Cresswell who both limped off during the midweek loss at United – however Slaven Bilic is very hopeful that both will be available to return against Liverpool in GW15. Andy Carroll is fit but unlikely to be able to last the full 90mins – no shock there. Expect him to start on the bench…and if history is anything to go by, he’ll end the game on the bench also. Fellow striker Diafra Sakho has been ruled out until mid-January with a thigh injury, but Andre Ayew should be available.
Now I’ll hold my hand up and accept I can give Arsenal, Gooners and Monsieur Wenger a tough time on occasions. Some of it deserved, sometimes for just a cheap laugh as it is too easy and you must never look a gift horse in the mouth. However, today we praise Wenger for his forthright and clear injury news as he tells us that Olivier Giroud is unlikely to play vs West Ham but he should be available for the Champions League on Tuesday – the actual quote from the manager is ‘I thought Giroud would be available for tomorrow but he might not be’. Wenger also says that Gabriel will play right back if he is ‘in the right frame of mind’ – the Brazilian was visibly affected by the Chapecoense plane crash during the minute silence in midweek. Mohamed Elneny had to come off in midweek with illness and will need to be assessed today. There is bad news for Santi Cazorla, who will go under the knife and be out until March, while the returning Mathieu Debuchy didn’t last long and suffered a ‘sever’ hamstring injury which will keep him out for six weeks. Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck all remain out.
Bournemouth vs Liverpool (Sun 4 Dec 13.30)
“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…” sing the Liverpool fans on their way down to Bournemouth. Yet just a fortnight ago they were left frustrated on their last trip to the south coast when they held to a bore draw by Southampton. Luckily for Liverpool and our mate Jurgen, Bournemouth are no Southampton in the defensive stakes and it would be a major surprise if Liverpool were not able to breach the Cherry goal. Bournemouth have never beaten Liverpool, ever, in nine previous meetings. Liverpool have won seven of those including last season’s 2-1 victory at the Vitality Stadium, courtesy of goals from Firmino and Sturridge. It may be that pair that are required again with young Coutinho crocked. Since hammering Hull 6-1 at home, Bournemouth have just taken a point from home clashes vs Spurs and Hull and will need to be at their very best if they are to prevent Klopp’s charge to the top.
Bournemouth continue to have a doubt over keeper Artur Boruc with Eddie Howe saying, ‘he is improving. But we’ll have to wait and see on him’ – Adam Federici will again deputise if required. Midfielder Andrew Surman who has missed the last three matches has suffered a setback and won’t be available, while Howe says he’ll need to make a ‘late call’ on Charlie Daniels. Jack Wilshere is available after being ineligible last week while Junior Stanislas should be ok. The young manager sees Liverpool as genuine title contenders but says of his own team, ‘we’ll have to be at our best, but we’re going into the game aiming to win it. We have no fear, we are at home and we’re always competitive here – there’s no reason why we can’t get a result’.
No surprise as Daniel Sturridge is ruled out for Liverpool with a calf injury, but there is better news as Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana have both trained this week. Klopp says both will need to be assessed to see how they react to the return to the training pitch, but he seemed relatively hopeful on both. Philippe Coutinho is obviously ruled out and Danny Ings is a longer term absentee.
Everton vs Man Utd (Sun 4 Dec 16.00)
Both teams are going through tough times – new managers have arrived and have hit a rocky spell with Everton winning just one in eight, while United have won just one in seven in the league. Everton’s chief had the embarrassment of losing at his old home last week, while Jose seems to have returned to the norm of picking enemies by the week. So with both sides struggling to find any form in the league, history in the fixture suggests United should prevail as they have won the last three meetings between the two which include last season’s 3-0 victory at Goodison. With the teams separated by just a point a win for either may just ignite some belief that the season can be salvaged, for the loser it will be another depressing afternoon. United however should be buoyed by their commanding victory over West Ham in the week’s EFL Cup tie and will look to bring the positives from that performance into Sunday’s game.
Poor old Ronald Koeman spent as much time talking about his Christmas tree as he did about injuries after posting a picture which showed his tree with too much red decoration according to some Everton fans. Back to the injuries and it’s just Mo Besic who is unavailable – James McCarthy returns to the squad after missing last week due to a tight hamstring. Despite only winning once in eight matches, Koeman was quick to emphasise that his team are unbeaten at Goodison.
Jose reports another injury in defence as Luke Shaw is likely to miss the trip to Everton after picking up a knock in midweek – Shaw joins Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly on the injury list. The only other definite absentee is the suspended Wayne Rooney who misses the trip back to Goodison, but Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini are available after serving their suspensions against the Hammers on Wednesday. Daley Blind will likely deputise for Shaw at left back with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo continuing in the middle….should be entertaining at least and will give some hope to those managers who have held onto Romelu Lukaku!
Middlesbrough vs Hull (Mon 5 Dec 20.00)
I apologise. When I was writing the West Brom vs Watford intro, I forgot we still had this exciting encounter to come. Monday night football usually means excitement that maybe a game-week can be rescued or a small rise in rankings can be achieved. But Boro vs Hull? Oh please? Who the heck scheduled this? The producer of Corrie or I’m A Celebrity no doubt. Maybe it’s worth buying a Boro defender just to keep some interest alive otherwise I’d recommend switching over to see if Hilda Ogden is still bedding Ken Barlow or if Jack Duckworth can get it on with Maria. Ohhhh now there’s a storyline – sign me up Granada. Back to the match, briefly, and the last time these two met was in the Championship in March – Boro won 1-0. Didn’t see that one coming.
Boro go into Monday’s game vs Hull with just George Friend as a definite absentee – the defender remains out with a knee injury. Everyone else is available including the fit again Daniel Ayala. Last week’s hero, Alvaro Negredo, was very pleased with himself according to manager Aitor Karanka who has encouraged him to ‘keep going’ – yep that’s how interesting the presser got.
Micky Phelan says that Abel Hernandez and Shaun Maloney will be tested closer to kick off on Monday but will be given every chance to prove their fitness – if they don’t make it, “we’ll reshuffle the pack and not take any risks.” Sam Clucas and Ryan Mason come back into contention after missing the midweek EFL Cup win over Newcastle but Dieumerci Mbokani begins a 3-match ban after being sent off in that match. Alex Bruce and Will Keane remain unavailable.
Suspension Report for GW14
Any player who receives 5 yellow cards before 31st December will face a one-match suspension. There are a number of players on four yellow cards so we thought it prudent to detail those suspended and those nearing a suspension in case it affects your transfer decision.
Suspended for GW14:
Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace)
Dieumerci Mbokani (Hull)
Danny Drinkwater (Leicester)
Wayne Rooney (Man Utd)
Valon Behrami (Watford)
Miguel Britos (Watford)
One yellow card away from suspension:
Matthew Lowton (Burnley)
Dean Marney (Burnley)
Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace)
Diego Costa (Chelsea)
David Luiz (Chelsea)
Sam Clucas (Hull)
Robert Huth (Leicester)
Danny Simpson (Leicester)
Aleksandar Kolarov (Man City)
Nicolas Otamendi (Man City)
Antonio Valencia (Man Utd)
Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City)
Lynden Gooch (Sunderland)
Billy Jones (Sunderland)
Didier Ndong (Sunderland)
Steven Pienaar (Sunderland)
Kyle Naughton (Swansea)
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Craig Dawson (West Brom)
Michail Antonio (West Ham)
Pedro Obiang (West Ham)
Thanks for reading Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 14. This article was written by Cookie
Fixture Tracker – the next 6 games