Nearing the home stretch with plenty of competition for places 2 thru 5. Arsenal host City and will need to shake off their recent form to keep their top 4 hopes in decent shape. With the Merseyside Derby kicking us off, here is Ben Dinnery’s Predicted Lineups.
Liverpool – vs – Everton
The Reds (4-3-3)
Predicted XI: Mignolet; Milner, Clyne, Matip, Lovren; Can, Wijnaldum, Lucas; Firmino, Coutinho, Mane.
• Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino came through Brazil’s WC qualifier with Paraguay unscathed before hopping on a private jet back to Merseyside to ensure they were fully prepared ahead of the derby.
• Jordan Henderson stepped up his recovery from a foot injury this week but the Liverpool skipper has failed in his attempt to make the game, and without Adam Lallana [thigh], Jürgen Klopp could bring Lucas Leiva back into fold.
• Daniel Sturridge didn’t travel with the group to Tenerife [warm weather training], choosing instead to remain at Melwood, in the hope of making the match day squad.
The Toffees (4-5-1)
Predicted XI: Robles; Williams, Jagielka, Baines, Holgate; Gueye, Barry, Davies, Barkley, Mirallas; Lukaku.
• Everton have had a disastrous break, and Ronald Koeman has been left to rue a mounting injury list.
• Seamus Coleman was released from hospital on Wednesday following surgery to pin his broken tibia and fibula, an injury which is likely to see him sidelined for the remainder of 2017.
• One potential replacement was Funes Mori, but the defender was stretchered off with a knee injury in Bolivia [playing for Argentina] and Everton expect him to miss the rest of the season because of damage to his meniscus. Mason Holgate looks nailed for a recall.
• James McCarthy “felt fine” having trained with the Republic of Ireland but the midfielder broke down again, and his ongoing hamstring problem will mean more time in the treatment room. Morgan Schneiderlin [calf] is a lot better than initially feared, although his involvement in the early kick off remains a doubt. Gareth Barry is poised to start.
Burnley – vs – Tottenham Hotspur
The Clarets (4-4-2)
Predicted XI: Heaton; Ward, Lowton, Mee, Keane; Barton, Arfield, Hendrick, Boyd; Barnes, Gray.
• Scott Arfield has been passed fit after picking up a knock late on during the 1-1 draw with Scotland at Easter Road last Wednesday.
• Steven Defour “is looking way fitter” but the Belgium midfielder lacks sharpness and he is expected to start on the bench again. Johann Berg Gudmundsson “is pain-free” and back in light training “but he could do with a game” to help build match-fitness.
• “All our players have come back [from international duty] in good shape.” Michael Keane is brimming with confidence after winning his first full England cap.
Predicted XI: Lloris; Alderweireld, Dier, Vertonghen; Dembele, Wanyama, Walker, Davies; Eriksen, Alli; Son.
• Erik Lamela will have hip surgery on Saturday and won’t play again this season.
• Vincent Janssen [chest infection] faces a late fitness test, although he is “improving daily.” His uncertainty should ensure that Heung-Min Son starts in attack.
• Ben Davies will continue to deputise for Danny Rose [knee] who is taking a lot longer than originally anticipated. It could be late April before the left-back is ready to play again.
• Harry Kane [ankle] has begun light training and the striker is not far from a return. The England international could be back within a fortnight.
Chelsea – vs – Crystal Palace
The Blues (3-4-3)
Predicted XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz; Matic, Moses, Kante, Alonso; Costa, Hazard, Pedro.
• David Luiz has trained throughout the break despite a persistent knee injury and Thibaut Courtois should be OK to face Palace after he missed Belgium’s friendly in Russia to have treatment on his hip.
• Eden Hazard [calf] re-joined the group on Tuesday and the Chelsea star is confident of being passed fit: “I have had a week of treatment with my club. I think I will be ready for the next match.”
• Diego Costa suffered an injury scare while training with Spain but tests, including an X-ray, came back clear. The striker is expected to line-up on Saturday. Victor Moses [calf] is back on the training pitches.
The Eagles (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Hennessey; Tomkins, Sakho, Schlupp, Ward; Milivojevic, Cabaye; Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend; Benteke.
• Patrick van Aanholt is progressing well, and his availability gives Sam Allardyce a selection headache, following another win and clean sheet against Watford.
• The Eagles could be unchanged with Jeffrey Schlupp keeping his place on the left. The former Leicester player offers a little bit more defensively, which may be enough to convince Allardyce when up against the Champions-elect.
• Scott Dann is struggling to regain his place in the starting XI as Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins have formed a mean central defensive partnership. On current form, the pair will take some shifting.
• Loic Remy is close to full fitness, but can’t feature due the terms of his loan agreement.
Hull City – vs – West Ham United
The Tigers (5-4-1)
Predicted XI: Jakupovic; Maguire, Davies, Ranocchia, Robertson, Elabdellaoui; N’Diaye, Clucas, Evandro, Markovic; Hernandez.
• Brian Lenihan and Greg Luer are closing in on a return after playing 45 minutes for the U23s this week. However, having missed all the campaign to date, neither is ready to step up just yet.
• Michael Dawson has returned to full training after being given the green light to rejoin the first-team following a calf injury. The centre-back may find it difficult to displace Ranocchia or Maguire who impressed during his absence. Curtis Davies is also back up-to speed and could play in a back five.
• David Marshall, who withdrew from international duty because of a hip problem, should be available to provide back-up on Saturday.
• No Tom Huddlestone who failed in his attempt to overturn the red card he received at Goodison Park. That could open the door for Evandro who is back to full fitness.
The Hammers (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Randolph; Fonte, Collins, Byram, Masuaku; Noble, Kouyate; Ayew, Snodgrass, Lanzini; Carroll.
• Robert Snodgrass is expected to return to the starting line-up in the absence of Antonio [hamstring] who has a chance for the midweek trip to Arsenal. The winger will be looking to open his Hammers account against his former employers.
• Pedro Obiang is targeting a return in pre-season after undergoing ankle surgery. Mark Noble should come back into the side after recovering from the thigh injury which kept him out the home defeat to Leicester.
• James Collins seems the most likely replacement for Winston Reid [groin] while there has been talk of Slaven Bilic tightening up defensively with Aaron Cresswell paying the price. Arthur Masuaku is in line for a start.
• Diafra Sakho is training with the main group but won’t be ready due to a lack of fitness.
Leicester City – vs – Stoke City
The Foxes (4-4-2)
Predicted XI: Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Albrighton, Ndidi, Drinkwater, Mahrez; Okazaki, Vardy.
• Craig Shakespeare made his first change of his short tenure last time out after Wes Morgan failed to recover from the back injury he picked up against Sevilla. But, the big defender is likely to return with Benalouane making way.
• Three Premier League wins on the spin has carried the Foxes away from the relegation dogfight, victories which have been built on goals from Jamie Vardy who has returned to form just at the right time.
The Potters (4-4-2)
Predicted XI: Grant; Pieters, Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi; Allen, Cameron, Sobhi, Arnautovic; Berahino, Walters.
• Mark Hughes more/less kept faith with the same side which drew 0-0 at the Etihad and the Potters were unlucky to lose to a late Gary Cahill goal at the Bet365 Stadium.
• Glen Johnson will replace the suspended Phil Bardsley if he can overcome a shoulder injury.
• Shaqiri returned for Switzerland during the break, but the diminutive forward has complained of a “little reaction” in his calf and the 25-year-old, who hasn’t featured in the Premier League since January, could miss out again.
• Peter Crouch and Saido Berahino will battle it out to lead the Stoke attack.
Manchester United – vs – West Bromwich Albion
The Red Devils (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: De Gea; Valencia, Rojo, Bailly, Shaw; Fellaini, Carrick; Mata, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Rashford.
• Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly will be paired centrally [if the Argentine returns from international duty unscathed] after Jose Mourinho confirmed Phil Jones [toe] and Chris Smalling [knee] would both miss out.
• Paul Pogba [hamstring] looks to be losing his race to make the game. Fit-again Wayne Rooney is an option in midfield with Ander Herrera suspended and Bastian Schweinsteiger now plying his trade in the MLS. Marouane Fellaini has been passed fit after recovering from a minor toe injury.
• Ibrahimović serves the final game of his ban. Marcus Rashford could be tasked with leading the United attack once again.
The Baggies (4-5-1)
Predicted XI: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Nyom, Evans; Livermore, Fletcher, McClean, Brunt, Yacob; Robson-Kanu.
• West Brom had something to prove against Arsenal following back-to-back defeats after hitting the 40-point mark and Tony Pulis’ men did just that with a well-deserved 3-1 win.
• However, the Baggies boss looks set to rotate at Old Trafford with one eye on the Watford game three days later. Salomon Rondon and Nacer Chadli are the two players most at risk given their minutes and airmiles during the break.
• James Morrison [ankle] and Gareth McAuley [foot] have been given the all-clear to resume full training following their return from international duty.
• Matt Phillips [hamstring] remains a major doubt having spent nearly two months on the sidelines.
Watford – vs – Sunderland
The Hornets (3-4-2-1)
Predicted XI: Gomes; Prodl, Kaboul, Britos; Holebas, Janmaat, Behrami, Cleverley; Capoue, Niang; Deeney.
• Watford are hovering precariously close to the drop zone but Walter Mazzarri will see this as an ideal opportunity to get some points on the board. Sunderland have won just once on the road [Crystal Palace] since early November and have taken just 6-pts since the turn of the year.
• Daryl Janmaat and Nordin Amrabat were involved last time out, but neither were fully match fit. The duo are better placed this time around following a fortnight of training.
• Christian Kabasele and Ben Watson are considered doubts.
The Black Cats (3-5-1-1)
Predicted XI: Pickford; Kone, O’Shea, Denayer; Oviedo, Ndong, Gibson, Rodwell, Jones; Januzaj; Defoe.
• John O’Shea [shin laceration] was lucky to escape serious injury following Bale’s high challenge in the World Cup qualifier against Wales last Friday. He should be OK to partner Lamine Kone [knee] who is also expected to recover from injury.
• David Moyes is hoping Lee Cattermole and Victor Anichebe can return to the fray for the season run-in, but neither is ready to start currently, after several months out.
Southampton – vs – AFC Bournemouth
The Saints (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Forster; Bertrand, Yoshida, Stephens, Soares; Romeu, Davis; Ward-Prowse, Redmond; Boufal; Long.
• Jeremy Pied is back training with the first-team but there are no guarantees the summer signing from Nice will play any part in the remainder after missing the last seven months through injury.
• Manolo Gabbiadini has been ruled out of the south coast derby but the Italian does have a chance for midweek. Shane Long is his likely replacement with Charlie Austin expected back “in about three weeks.” Martín Cáceres is working very well and he is available.
• Dusan Tadic has been “dealt with internally” after complaining about being substituted in games this season. Although he does have a point, the Serbian has been withdrawn in sixteen of his 20 Premier League starts. Puel may use this as an opportunity to recall Sofiane Boufal.
The Cherries (4-4-2)
Predicted XI: Boruc; Francis, Daniels, Adam Smith, Cook; Arter, Surman, Fraser, Pugh; King, Afobe.
• The Cherries are sweating on the fitness of Ryan Fraser who missed the Scotland internationals because of a swollen knee. If he fails to recover, then Junior Stanislas is the expected go to.
• Bournemouth have picked up of late and their 2-0 win over Swansea helped to maintain a healthy gap between them and those fighting for survival.
• Eddie Howe will make several last-minute calls which could affect how he sets his team. Harry Arter is one of those while Jack Wilshere is also pushing for his first start in over a month.
Swansea City – vs — Middlesbrough
The Swans (4-3-3)
Predicted XI: Fabianski; Naughton, Olsson, Fernandez, Mawson; Fer, Carroll, Cork; Narsingh, Sigurdsson, Llorente.
• Martin Olsson [ankle], Kyle Naughton [hamstring] and Gylfi Sigurdsson all took part in full training on Wednesday. The trio are in contention.
• Jefferson Montero ended three months of injury frustration as a late substitute in the qualifier vs Paraguay and the winger will be looking to force his way into the match day squad.
• Paul Clement revealed that all his international players are in good health, which includes Sung-Yeung Ki who has only just returned after nearly two months out.
The Boro (4-3-3)
Predicted XI: Valdes; Fabio, Gibson, Espinosa, Barragan; Clayton, De Roon, Leadbitter; Ramirez, Negredo, Downing.
• Daniel Ayala [hamstring] looks set to give Steve Agnew a timely boost following his return to full training on Thursday. Boro have been short defensively in recent weeks.
• However, it looks like Agnew must wait a little longer for Calum Chambers [foot] and George Friend [calf] who are thought to be a few weeks away.
• The league’s lowest scorers need to buck the trend if they hope to climb out of the bottom three. A return of just twenty goals from 28 games has seen Boro drop to 19th in the table, five-points from safety.
Arsenal – vs – Manchester City
The Gunners (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Ospina; Mustafi, Monreal, Koscielny, Bellerin; Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Iwobi, Sanchez, Ozil; Giroud.
• Arsenal will be looking to get back to winning ways [3pts from a possible fifteen] and where better to start than a victory over rivals Man City.
• David Ospina is set to deputise for the injured Petr Cech [calf] who has an outside chance of returning to face Palace in GW31.
• Alexis Sanchez [ankle] is fine “[it was] just a kick [bone bruising]” and Mesut Ozil comes into contention following his run out for Germany after overcoming back and hamstring problems.
• Laurent Koscielny has also been cleared following a clash of heads with Bayern midfielder Thiago on Tuesday.
The Citizens (4-5-1)
Predicted XI: Caballero; Sagna, Kolarov, Otamendi, Stones; Silva, De Bruyne, Toure, Sterling, Sane; Aguero.
• Raheem Sterling is expected to be available for the trip following his withdrawal for England due to a “minor” back problem.
• There are concerns over the fitness of Kevin de Bruyne [groin] and Pep may leave any decision regarding his involvement until the last moment.
• Guardiola anticipates that either Bacary Sagna or Pablo Zabaleta can shake off knocks, otherwise Fernandinho will be utilised as a makeshift right-back once again.