Team Talk Gameweek 30
After the relative quiet of last week, welcome to GW30 and a full set of fixtures to contemplate, plan for and take full advantage of. It’s a game-week where we can observe how midweek European exits have affected both Arsenal and Man City as they refocus back onto the Premier League. It’s a game-week that promises more doom and unemployment fears for Chris Hughton and Pepe Mel. It’s a game-week that will see Alan Pardew wandering around the streets of Fulham aimlessly looking for someone to head-butt. And just when you thought I wasn’t going to mention my old mate, it’s a game-week when dear old Davie Moyes gets a chance to finally endear himself to the Old Trafford faithful as the old enemy comes into town. Yeah, unlikely I know.
Well, all the fun starts at lunchtime as Man City travel to Hull for the early kick-off. Six 3pm games follow as Everton entertain Cardiff, Newcastle, sans Pardew, visit Fulham, Southampton welcome Norwich, the Happy Hammers travel to Stoke, Sunderland host Crystal Palace and down in the valleys the Swans meet the Baggies. Our Saturday evening feature is a Chelsea away day at Aston Villa and then it’s onto the main event – Super Super Sunday. And it’s a pretty damn good one this week as old foes Manchester United and Liverpool lock horns at Old Trafford, followed by the North London derby as Arsenal take the short, but quite unpleasant trip to Tottenham.
So without further ado, let’s get around the grounds and catch up on the latest team news.
Hull City vs Man City (Sat 15 March 12.45)
Hull welcome poor old Citeh to the KC Stadium on the back of the noisy neighbours being dumped out of both the FA Cup and Champions League in the space of four days – oh how my heart bleeds. You pay for peanuts, you get monkeys, or in City’s case Martin Demichelis and Joleon Lescott. A win for Steve Bruce’s Hull will take them onto 33pts and within touching distance of safety, but a loss would see them fall closer to the dropzone and help City restore their title ambitions. Hull have not lost to City at home in the top flight and will hope to continue that record, while Manuel Pellegrini will be trying to rally his troops to ensure that their season is not defined by their Capital One Cup success. League form is on their side as City are unbeaten in their last seven league matches on the road, whilst Hull won just one of their last seven at home.
Hull have no new injuries for the visit of City. Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long return to the team after being cup-tied last week, while Paul McShane, Robbie Brady and Joe Dudgeon continue to miss out. Jake Livermore has been passed fit after recovering from a thigh injury.
The unsurprising news from Pellegrini is that Sergio Aguero has been ruled out for at least a week. The club will receive the scan results tomorrow, where further news will become clear but the manager doesn’t think the injury is overly serious. Matija Nastasic and Stevan Jovetic have not recovered from injury, meaning Demichelis will get another opportunity to show us his silky skills and there should be increased game time for Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo. Micah Richards also misses out through injury.
Everton vs Cardiff City (Sat 15 March 15.00)
Everton welcome Cardiff to Goodison knowing that the next couple of weeks will likely determine if a Champions League spot is possible for them or not, while Cardiff will be looking to build on last week’s victory over Fulham as they plan their great escape from relegation. Despite this looking like a home banker, it’s worth pointing out that the Toffees have won just two out of their last six in the league, although both of their wins were at home, where their record is impressive, undefeated in 21 of their last 22. Cardiff, let’s face it aren’t very good and are even worse on the road, losing their last seven, so despite my best efforts I can’t really make a convincing case for them here. To top it off, Cardiff haven’t won at Goodison in the league since 1926 and if things turn out as expected that record is likely to last for a few more years yet.
Roberto Martinez has said that defender Phil Jagielka is recovering well from his hamstring injury, but did emphasise that he won’t be rushed back and will have a fitness test before the game – John Stones is standing by, ready to again replace Jags if he doesn’t make it. Steven Pienaar will need to be assessed after picking up a knock in the Cup defeat at Arsenal, while long-term absentees Darron Gibson, Arouna Kone, Bryan Oviedo and Lacina Traore are still out.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has promised to keep tinkering, depending on who their opponents are. The five man defence strategy that worked pretty well at Spurs was scrapped to a flat back four that won at home to Fulham. Ben Turner is a doubt after picking up a knock vs Fulham, but fellow defender Juan Cana is available after shrugging off a stomach bug. Matthew Connolly & Andrew Taylor are also doubts and will need assessing before the game. Club captain Mark Hudson is, of course, out for the season.
Fulham vs Newcastle (Sat 15 March 15.00)
The great thing about this game is that we won’t have to listen to Alan Pardew giving one of his “I’m so brilliant” press conferences after the game, as he his banned from the stadium following his head-butt on David Meyler. In fact, residents of Fulham, particularly young children playing in the local park, will be well advised just to hand over their ball if an arrogant nob with grey hair begins to approach them. The local constabulary has been notified and an extra police presence in the vicinity is likely, although it is understood that Newcastle’s vet has been asked to fit Pardew with a preventative measure. The Toon did, of course, triumph 4-1 at Hull on “headbuttgate” day, so will be confident going into this one and the players will no doubt enjoy their afternoon without having to listen to their manager’s “how good am I?” team talk before and during the game. Bottom club Fulham are desperate for points – languishing at the foot of the table, four points from safety, things are looking bleak for Felix “Penfold” Magath and his boys – the good thing for them is that they have a decent record in this fixture, having won their last four at home to Newcastle – but of course, in recent seasons, they have been a bit better than this. Expect goals – Fulham haven’t kept a clean sheet in fourteen games, while they have at least scored in every home game, except one.
Bad news for Mr Angry is that leading scorer Loic Remy has been ruled out with a calf problem, while defender Mathieu Debuchy misses out with a groin injury – it is understood both players will miss at least the next three games, ruling them out of DGW31. The significant part about Remy’s absence is that in the five league matches when Remy has been missing, Newcastle have failed to score any goals. Better news as captain Fabricio Coloccini returns to the side after his trip to South America on compassionate leave.
Well, Penfold has come out and said that his team don’t need a miracle to survive relegation, but just 100% willingness. Gonna have to agree to disagree on that one, Felix. Giorgos Karagounis will miss the game this weekend, while Ashkan Dejagah will have a fitness test ahead of the match. Matthew Briggs and Scott Parker continue to be ruled out, William Kvist is fit, while Damien Duff is out for the rest of the season
Southampton vs Norwich (Sat 15 March 15.00)
Another game that looks like a home banker on paper with Norwich struggling this season and hovering just above the drop zone while the Saints sit comfortably in ninth. The Canaries do not travel well and have taken just two points from their last six away matches, which will comfort a Southampton side who have surprisingly won just once in their last eight at St. Mary’s. Surely they’ll beat Norwich though? Well, you would think so – and last week’s hard-fought, if slightly dull 1-0 victory at Palace will have done them good. Interestingly, the last three matches between these two have all ended in draws.
Alex Tettey has been passed fit after picking up a knock vs Stoke, but defender Michael Turner and midfielder Jonas Gutierrez will not return to the match day squad this week, despite returning to training. Leroy Fer has also returned to light training, but is still not available, while Elliott Bennett should return to training next week after recovering from a long-term knee ligament injury.
Mauricio Pochettino says that defender Dejan Lovren was ill earlier in the week but should be ok for the game, but Jack Cork has been ruled out for a few weeks with an ankle injury, while midfielder Victor Wanyama is doubtful.
Stoke City vs West Ham (Sat 15 March 15.00)
I reckon that Sam Allardyce would have loved to have managed Mark Hughes, who in his time was a tough, combative, hard as nails striker, who didn’t mind taking a few knocks but loved giving them out too. Well the two meet as opposing managers this week and that last sentence was about the most interesting thing I could think to say about this match. Stoke struggled to get a draw at Norwich and there has just been a total of six goals in their last four matches, while the Happy Hammers have conceded just two goals in six games. What’s even worse is that Charlie Adam and Jon Walters are suspended and those two have either scored or assisted six of Stoke’s last seven goals. So unless Andy Carroll or even the more popular Kevin Nolan can find their scoring boots, this ain’t gonna be a classic. That’s it for this game, it’s dull and I’m getting bored just writing this.
With Walters and Adam suspended, Stoke have been hit with more bad news as Robert Huth had an operation on his knee on Thursday and has been ruled out for the season. Oussama Assaidi has restarted training this week, but Hughes suspects this weekend may come too soon for him to feature. There is growing speculation that clubs such as Real Madrid are interested in signing keeper Asmir Begovic, Sparky confirmed that his keeper would indeed play Champions League football one day – one can deduce from that, that either Stoke are about to be taken over by some rich Arab, or Asmir likes playing FIFA or he’s offski in the summer.
Big Sam has very few concerns in front of the match with only defender Joey O’Brien and on-loan striker Marco Boriello unavailable. Andy Carroll is likely to start after Carlton Cole was hauled off after 29mins at Everton, while defender Winston Reid is also pushing for a start.
Sunderland vs Crystal Palace (Sat 15 March 15.00)
Well, if you thought the Stoke/West Ham game is going to be dull, I’m not sure I’ll be able to lift the excitement level as Crystal Palace travel to Sunderland. Palace will sit deep and keep it as tight as possible for as long as possible and then when they fall a goal behind, Tony Pulis may just chuck on another striker in an effort to nick an equaliser, while ensuring they don’t concede again. Sunderland will, of course be looking to bounce back from two Cup defeats in a row and they need wins as they have fallen back into the drop zone, although a win here would take them level with Palace and they are unbeaten in their last five home matches’ vs the Eagles in all competitions.
Craig Gardner and Wes Brown have both returned to training and should be ok to feature, meaning that keeper Kieran Westwood is the only player still on the injury list. Even the team news is dull.
Pulis looked absolutely heartbroken when he revealed that striker Marouane Chamakh has suffered a hamstring injury and will likely miss at least a couple of matches. I’m serious, he said that Chamakh has helped them play some “really good stuff this season”. Ok Tony. Midfielder Barry Bannan has been suffering with flu this week and will need to be assessed while Danny Gabbidon hasn’t trained for a couple of days and looks unlikely to feature.
Swansea vs West Brom (Sat 15 March 15.00)
West Brom travel to Swansea looking like a team destined for the drop – one win in eighteen, yes EIGHTEEN matches is not just relegation form. Its close the stadium, end the season, give the punters their money back and send the players on their early summer holiday to Magaloof form. They make Fulham look respectable. Yep, they’re that bad. So this should be a regulation win for the Swans – and it’s not often we have said that this season, as they themselves are only four points better off than their opponents. They have, however, beaten the Baggies in their last two meetings at home and will be confident of adding to that run on Saturday.
If things weren’t bad enough for Pepe Mel, he now has to do without his captain Chris Brunt, who has been ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury, which he picked up in the loss to Man Utd. Yep, even United beat them. Stephen Reid and Claudio Yacob also picked up knocks in the game and have been ruled out of this weekend, while defender Diego Lugano is out for a month with a knee injury. Billy Jones is making good progress, but won’t be ready for the weekend, so Gareth McAuley or Craig Dawson could slot in as emergency right-backs. Nicolas Anelka remains suspended.
Chico Flores is suspended for the Swans, meaning Jordi Amat is the likely replacement at the heart of the defence. Meanwhile Michu has trained well this week and may feature at some point in the game, but don’t expect him to start. Pablo Hernandez is fit after recovering from a hamstring injury, but Jonjo Shelvey is unlikely to be risked, although he did return to light training this week. Nathan Dyer is battling to recover from a foot injury, but it is thought he will be ok to play.
Aston Villa vs Chelsea (Sat 15 March 17.30)
The Villains will aim to pickpocket the posh West London boys on Saturday evening as the league leaders and title favourites, despite what Jose Mourinho may have you believe, stroll into town. Seven points clear at the top, that gap could be ten points by the end of this game with both Arsenal and Liverpool not playing until Sunday. And it’s a fixture that has generally been kind to the Blues, who have lost just twice in ten visits to Villa Park and come off a comfortable, if gifted, 4-0 defeat of Spurs last weekend. But Villa also had a good win last time out as they thumped Norwich 4-1 and with Christian Benteke finding some of his form from last season, a threat is always there – the Belgian striker has scored in each of his last two appearances against Chelsea.
Paul Lambert has confirmed that midfielder Chris Herd is unavailable for selection until further notice due to personal reasons. Charles N’Zogbia, Libor Kozak and Jores Okore remain long-term absentees, while Ryan Bertrand is unavailable to face his parent club.
The Special One says that defenders Ashley Cole and David Luiz have been ruled out of the game, though there is more positive news of striker Fernando Torres, who he says is better after his injury and could make the match day squad but it depends on how he trains today. Listening to Mourinho, I would guess that Torres may be rested for the Champions League, with Samuel Eto’o to start and Demba Ba to be introduced late and nick all the bonus points again.
Man Utd vs Liverpool (Sun 16 March 13.30)
It really doesn’t get any bigger than this – Manchester United vs Liverpool remains the biggest fixture in British football, between the two most decorated clubs in England. 38 League titles, 18 FA Cups and 8 European Cups/Champions Leagues between them means the competition and rivalry remains as fierce as ever. But with history and success, the clubs also come together in terms of sadness, loss and disaster as we continue to remember such events as Munich and Hillsborough, which have very much helped to shape the legacy of both clubs. Unusually, this season it’s Liverpool who are having the better of things and start the game-week in 2nd place but seven points off leaders Chelsea, while United are struggling in 6th under the “expert” tutorship of Moyes. United have won each of their last six matches vs Liverpool at Old Trafford and a seventh win here would give the Red’s renewed hope that they can still achieve a Champions League spot (yeah righto!!).
Brendan Rodgers has revealed that midfielder Lucas and defender Mamadou Sakho are in contention to return to the first team having stepped up their training in the week. That leaves just defender Jose Enrique as the only injury to the squad as Liverpool look to complete a season double over United.
My old buddy Moyesie has been a bit more helpful this week, so as a result I will be more pleasant to him. He says that Nani has returned to training (nooooooooooooo) and Rafael, Jonny Evans and Javier Hernandez all have a chance of playing on Sunday. (Thank the dear Lord, young Tom wasn’t included in that previous sentence). Of course, RvP announced last evening that he’s really happy at United, wants to spend the rest of his career there (is he retiring in July?) and loves working with Moyes. Honestly, he said that. He also said that he really likes his team mates (again no mention of Tom), so hopefully we’ll see him and Wazza pass to each other after they kick off.
Tottenham vs Arsenal (Sun 16 March 16.00)
Well, what a week it’s been for both clubs. Spurs slipped and stumbled to an embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Chelsea and suffered a very public tongue lashing from manager Tim Sherwood, who described his team as lacking personality and fight. And then they crashed to a 3-1 home defeat to Benfica on Thursday evening. Well, the same cannot be said of Gooner outcast Nicklas Bendtner, as the words lashing, personality and fight were very much to the fore as the Great Dane enjoyed a night out in native Copenhagen, just as his team mates were being knocked out of the Champions League in Munich. Bendtner is accused of unbuttoning his trousers, “rubbing himself” against a taxi (bit weird, very liberal those Danes), kicked in the car radio, called the male cabbie a “little whore” and then, now how can I put this so it gets through edit, well, he in the words of the cabbie, “he shouted he wanted to f**k me”. Lol – this is brilliant, so much better than writing about Arsene Wenger or Mesut Ozil. This is the same Bendtner who described the tunnel at the Etihad as “stinking of piss”, proclaimed himself one of the best strikers in the world and has admitted ripping a wing mirror off a car so he could “check himself out”!! Well, Spurs have their own maverick, of course, in the shape of Emmanuel Adebayor who would love to score against his old club – the striker has only scored two goals vs the Goonies for Spurs and on both of those occasions he played with a strike partner, something Sherwood may be best inclined to think about if his team are to avoid a fifth defeat in seven games.
Arsene Wenger has revealed that Mesut Ozil is likely to be missing for between three and six weeks with a hamstring injury – this further decimates a midfield that is already missing Jack Wilshire, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey, who has suffered a setback, is still to resume full training and will not be in the squad for at least another fortnight. Kieran Gibbs faces a fitness test today, but Nacho Monreal is ok to play (it’s just his defending that is the problem), while Wenger will have to make late decisions on Yaya Sanogo. On-loan midfielder Kim Kallstrom is finally available. Wenger didn’t mention Tomas Rosicky, but there is speculation that the midfielder is maybe carrying a slight groin injury from the Bayern game. Bendtner is not thought to be in contention to feature.
Sherwood’s troops are falling by the wayside as their season threatens to peter out into a sense of nothingness. Saying that, their season rarely makes it to mid-March so hats off to them this year. Must be a North London thing I guess. Anyway, I digress. Spurs have issues in defence as Michael Dawson is injured and Kyle Walker is a doubt after picking up a knock vs Benfica – of course Vlad Chiriches is still missing. In midfield Erik Lamela and Etienne Capoue definitely miss out, while Sandro is a doubt but Mousa Dembele may return. Christian Eriksen returned to action on Thursday, rewarding those loyal (or crazy) managers who still own him.
Important Fixture Announcement:
This afternoon all the dates for the rearranged matches have been announced. They are as follows:
Arsenal vs West Ham (fixture moved from weekend due to Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final – this is NOT a DGW for either team)
Everton vs Crystal Palace (DGW for both)
Man City vs Sunderland (DGW for both)
Note – GW34 is a blank game-week for Man Utd & Hull.
Man City vs Aston Villa (DGW for both)
Man Utd vs Hull (DGW for both)
Sunderland vs WBA (DGW for both)
Thanks for reading Team Talk Gameweek 30, this article was written by Cookie