The waiting is over, GW12 is finally upon us after another international break, which has left most FPL managers bored out of their skin, trying to control their transfer trigger finger, while praying that those players in their squads who travelled away on international duty return safely and injury free.
What a game-week this promises to be as we have three big local derbies to enjoy, starting off at Goodison Park on Saturday lunchtime as Everton host Liverpool. We then have five 3pm matches to follow as high-flying Southampton travel to league leaders Arsenal, Swansea travel the length of the M4 to visit Fulham, Hull entertain Crystal Palace, Newcastle welcome Norwich and Stoke play Sunderland at the Britannia. Our second derby of the weekend is a London affair as west travels east, as Chelsea go to West Ham on Saturday evening.
Sunday sees Man City play Tottenham at the Etihad at lunchtime, before Man Utd attempt to continue their resurgence when they visit Cardiff. Finally, Monday Night Football is back to conclude GW12 and plays host to our third derby as West Brom take on Aston Villa at the Hawthorns.
So, plenty to get through – let’s get around the grounds to catch the latest news.
Everton vs Liverpool (Sat 23 Nov 12.45)
Everton will be go level on points with Liverpool if they can win this one, but they will be wrestling with form in this fixture, having won just once in the last nine games between the clubs. However, the Toffees have only lost once this season, away to Man City and have kept clean sheets in three of their last four – so it won’t be plain sailing for the likes of Luis Suarez, who struggled last time on the road when they were brushed aside at Arsenal. Both derbies last season ended in draws and with Everton’s last two games ending scoreless, tomorrow’s game looks like it will also be a tight affair.
Roberto Martinez reports the club have no fresh injury concerns after the international break, but welcomes back defenders Antolin Alcaraz and Tony Hibbert back into the fold – both are back to full fitness for the first time this season, but are unlikely to be risked at the weekend. Striker Arouna Kone and midfielder Darron Gibson are long-term casualties.
Liverpool left back Jose Enrique is poised for a lengthy spell out with a knee injury which the medical team are struggling to diagnose, but is likely to require surgery – Brendan Rodgers has said he is unlikely to play Mamadou Sakho at left back as he’d prefer more mobility and talks very favourably about Jon Flanagan as a replacement, although Aly Cissokho could also fill that role. The manager also has a concern over Daniel Sturridge, who has been playing with a dead leg for the last four weeks and is hardly training – he’ll be assessed before the game. The good news is that Kolo Toure is back training and in contention for the weekend and both Steven Gerrard and Suarez both came through international duty safely, although the latter has had a gruelling fortnight travelling with Uruguay and has spent the last couple of days resting up for the derby.
Arsenal vs Southampton (Sat 23 Nov 15.00)
Who would have thought at the start of the season when looking through the fixture list that the Saints could go top of the table with a win at the Emirates? But that is the situation they find themselves in and with the inform Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez having made their England debuts against Chile, confidence will clearly be high and this will be another test for the Gunners.
Arsenal, having looked tired in the defeat at Old Trafford, will be hoping for a repeat of the score line last season, when they trounced the Saints 6-1 and have not lost this fixture since 1987. The Saints now embark on a run of fixtures which sees them play not only the Gunners, but also Chelsea and Man City in their next four – it is only after these games where we’ll be able to determine if they are as good as their league position suggests.
Arsene Wenger is delighted to confirm that Theo Walcott will return to the squad tomorrow – the England winger has missed the last seven games and will offer the Gunners (and FPL managers!) more options going forward, although expect him to start from the bench against his former club. Fellow winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still a month away from a return while holding midfielder Mathieu Flamini is suspended. Wenger dismissed speculation that Jack Wilshire injured his ankle while with England, but did admit he needs to be managed over his persistent injury. There are no fresh injuries, meaning Lukas Podolski remains unavailable, but Thomas Rosicky should be ok.
Southampton have no fresh injury concerns, so the only absentees continue to be midfielders Jack Cork & Gully de Prado. Manager Mauricio Pochettino says he has been impressed by the Gunners this season and is expecting them to challenge for the title – his defence will need to be at their best if they are to stop Arsenal scoring for two successive games since August 2012, while Wenger’s men will be desperate to bounce back after the loss at Old Trafford and record their fifth successive home win in the league.
Fulham vs Swansea (Sat 23 Nov 15.00)
Hardly a game of two in-form teams this one! Fulham have lost their last three games, while the Swans have recorded just one victory in six. Swansea however have won on their last two visits to the Cottage, but Fulham and Martin Jol will be hoping that the arrival of ex-Man Utd assistant boss Rene Meulensteen will bring a change of fortune to the club. The Cottagers are stuck in the relegation zone, having lost seven of their ten PL matches thus far and scored just three goals in their last six.
Fulham defender Sascha Riether misses the game through suspension and fellow defender Brede Hangeland will miss his fifth consecutive game with a sciatic nerve problem. Better news of striker Brian Ruiz who is fit after a back complaint, while midfield maverick Adel Taarabt is hoping for a recall to the first team. Damien Duff misses out through injury, while striker Hugo Rodellega will return to training in a fortnight. Young forward Moussa Dembele will be in the squad for the visit of the Swans.
Swansea chief Michael Laudrup reveals that creative midfielder Pablo Hernandez has returned to light training and is not far away from being available, however, he won’t be ready for this weekend. Michu is not expected to recover from his ankle injury until early December at the earliest, while defender Garry Monk is out for at least six weeks after undergoing surgery on his knee problem. Keeper Michel Vorm returns to the squad after missing the 3-3 draw with Stoke through suspension.
Hull City vs Crystal Palace (Sat 23 Nov 15.00)
Two of the promoted teams meet at the KC Stadium with Hull the clear favourites, despite their 4-1 loss at Southampton in GW11. Bottom club Palace have picked up just four points this season and will be specifically targeting games like this if they are to at least give themselves a chance of staying up. But it won’t be an easy one for Palace as Hull are unbeaten at home this season.
Good news for FPL managers as Hull keeper Allen McGregor, midfielder Robert Koren and set-piece specialist Robbie Brady have all recovered from injury and are available for the visit of the Eagles, but defender James Chester, despite returning to light training, remains unavailable. Striker Sone Aluko is still struggling with an Achilles injury and midfielder Stephen Quinn has been ruled out for four weeks with a hamstring problem. Steve Bruce says all those that went on international duty are fine, except defender Maynor Figueroa, who has not yet returned.
Palace caretaker manager Keith Millen says midfielder Jonny Williams returns to the squad after recovering from an ankle injury, which has limited his game time to just 88mins this season, while Kagisho Dikgacoi, Mile Jedinak and Barry Bannon all came through international duty unscathed.
Newcastle vs Norwich (Sat 23 Nov 15.00)
Just as we thought Newcastle were set for another disappointing season flirting with relegation, they produce wins over Chelsea and Tottenham to lift themselves into the top half of the league and will be hoping to continue that form at home to a Norwich side, who will still be reeling from their previous trip on the road, when they were demolished 7-0 at the Etihad. They did bounce back however, in GW11, beating West Ham at home, but the bookies will clearly be favouring the Magpies in this one. The Toon have not won three successive games since the spring, which coincidentally started with a 1-0 triumph against the Canaries…hmmm, an omen I wonder. Norwich have just two wins from fifteen away matches in the league and have not won this fixture since 1988. Eight of the last ten matches between the two have ended in home wins and it’s difficult to see a different outcome in this one.
Chris Hughton returns to Newcastle and says that all his squad who were away on international duty have returned safely and there are no fresh injuries in the squad. Striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel will miss out again with a toe injury that he is struggling to shrug off, while Elliott Bennett and Alex Tettey also remain side lined. Anthony Pilkington could return from a thigh problem.
Toon chief Alan Pardew welcomes back Steven Taylor and Paul Dummett from injury, but fellow defender Mathieu Debuchy is suspended after collecting his fifth yellow card in the win at Spurs. Combative midfielder Jonas Gutierrez is back training and in contention to play after returning from Argentina, while play maker Hatem Ben Arfa is quoted as saying he will play anywhere for the team in an effort to regain a starting spot. Ryan Taylor remains a long-term absentee.
Stoke City vs Sunderland (Sat 23 Nov 15.00)
Sunderland travel to Stoke fresh from their impressive win over Man City and knowing another victory would put them level on points with the Potters. However, their form on the road is nothing short of dreadful, having collected just one point from a possible fifteen thus far, although they are unbeaten in their last four PL games against Stoke, keeping a clean sheet in three of those. Stoke’s form is not that much better – they haven’t won in the league since beating West Ham in GW3 and have conceded seven goals in their last three – at home they have only scored three goals in their last five at the Britannia.
Sunderland have no new injury concerns but Gus Poyet is missing midfielder Lee Cattermole & defender Andrea Dossena through suspension.
Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones could miss out on a reunion with his old club as he is yet to return from international duty with Trinidad & Tobago and there are also reports he has suffered a shoulder injury. There is also a doubt over Marc Wilson, who picked up a hip injury while on duty with Ireland while Andy Wilkinson is still struggling with a knee injury, but Robert Huth should be ok to start despite nursing a knee problem.
West Ham vs Chelsea (Sat 23 Nov 17.30)
The atmosphere should be rocking down at the Boleyn on Saturday evening as the Hammers welcome their West London neighbours, hoping for a repeat of last season’s 3-1 victory over the Blues. Chelsea’s Frank Lampard will be looking to put one over his old club, he has scored in three of his last four PL games vs the Hammers but has failed to score in his last ten matches this season, his worst scoring drought in a decade. Big Sam is still seeking his first win over Jose Mourinho and has lost all three previous home matches against the Portuguese manager. West Ham are struggling for form having not won any of their last four, while the Blues will be hoping to bounce back after taking just one point from their last two games vs Newcastle & West Brom.
West Ham have problems at the back – Winston Reid continues to miss out after undergoing ankle surgery and Razvan Rat has picked up a hamstring injury while on international duty with Romania and is doubtful for the game. The better news for Big Sam is that he is hopeful that Joey O’Brien and James Collins will be ok, while George McCartney is fit and just back to match fitness. With strikers Andy Carroll and Ricardo Vaz Te still unavailable, it’s likely to be a packed midfield again for the Hammers, with in-form Ravel Morrison pushing forward.
Mourinho says that Fernando Torres is not fit for the game, but Ashley Cole is “selected”, whether that means the squad or the starting XI is anyone’s guess. Chelsea have no other new concerns.
Man City vs Tottenham (Sun 24 Nov 13.30)
The league’s top scorers meets the league’s second meanest defence at the Etihad, with both clubs looking to recover from disappointing 1-0 losses last time out. City will look to preserve their 100% home record in the league this season and get their season back on track having lost two out of their last three, which has seen them fall to 8th place, just below Spurs, who have really struggled to find the net this season in the absence of Gareth Bale, scoring just nine goals in eleven games.
Christian Eriksen is out after suffering an ankle injury but has not suffered ligament damage, so first reports of him being side lined until February were false. Winger Nacer Chadli and defender Ezekiel Fryers have recovered from knocks and are available again, but unlikely to feature this week. Danny Rose is still three weeks away from a comeback, but is making good progress and when he is fit, AvB says he will be the first choice left-back with Jan Vertonghen returning to centre-back. The most surprising news is that the manager revealed Emmanuel Adebayor may feature against City.
Costel Pantilimon is likely to start again between the sticks as manager Manuel Pellegrini continues to say that England keeper Joe Hart still needs a break and will benefit from time out of the side. Meanwhile, City will continue to be without captain Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Stevan Jovetic, but defender Matija Nastasic and holding midfielder Fernandinho should be available.
Cardiff City vs Man Utd (Sun 24 Nov 16.00)
The Champions travel down to Cardiff for the first meeting between the two in the Premier League, seeking their fourth win on the bounce as they look to climb into the top four for the first time since their opening day victory, which was also down in South Wales at Swansea. Cardiff meanwhile, will be looking to push on in their maiden season in the top flight – having won just once in their last five, a win vs United would propel them up to halfway and having already dispatched Man City at home, a “Manchester double” would a great scalp for Malky Mackay’s men.
United midfielder Michael Carrick, who signed a new two-year contract with the club today, is ruled out for six weeks with an Achilles injury while Phil Jones misses out too with a groin problem. The better news is captain Nemanja Vidic should have recovered from concussion sustained in the win against Arsenal and RvP is expected to shake off a slight groin strain. Danny Welbeck continues to struggle with his cartilage problem, while Ryan Giggs will be hoping to make an appearance in his hometown.
Good news for Malky Mackay as striker and record signing Andreas Cornelius has returned to training and the squad after recovering from injury, while midfielder Gary Medel impressed for Chile in the international break and will be heavily involved again this weekend. However, Aron Gunnarsson will be need to be assessed after he hobbled off in midweek while playing for Iceland.
West Brom vs Aston Villa (Mon 25 Nov 20.00)
Our game-week ends on Monday evening as the cameras roll down to the Hawthorns for the Midlands derby. The two teams are only separated by the tiniest of goal differences in mid-table, so this is, without doubt, a very tough one to call. It’s worth noting that the last three matches between the two have resulted in draws, whilst there hasn’t been more than one goal separating the clubs in a match since 1998 – so expect a close encounter. Villa need to find some form in front of goal, having failed to score in four of their last five league games
The biggest headache for Steve Clarke is keeper Boaz Myhill who is a doubt with an Achilles injury – if he doesn’t make it, Luke Daniels will step in. Striker Nicolas Anelka and winger Scott Sinclair are thought to be close to be a return to the first team squad after injury, while defender Billy Jones remains out.
Paul Lambert has a few worries in front of the derby – he is hoping that Christian Benteke recovers from his knee injury which kept him out of Belgium’s defeat to Japan in the week – the injury is not thought to be too serious and it is understood the striker should make the game, especially with the game vs WBA being held on Monday, giving him an extra couple of day’s rest. Lambert is also banking on fellow striker Andreas Weimann and keeper Brad Guzan recovering in time for the game, but a return for Gaby Agbonlahor is unlikely this week. Defender Antonio Luna is also very doubtful as he too struggles to recover from a hamstring injury.
This article was written by Cookie