FA Cup outshines league play this weekend though for our purposes we’re perfectly fine putting together some teams without 4 of the top sides in action. While we await further news on Ibrahimovic, here are Ben Dinnery’s Predicted Lineups.
AFC Bournemouth – vs – Middlesbrough
The Cherries (3-5-2)
Predicted XI: Boruc; Francis, Mings, Cook; Daniels, Adam Smith, Arter, Stanislas, Fraser; King, Afobe.
• A second scan earlier the week confirmed Jack Wilshere fractured his left fibula ruling him out for the remainder of the season. The problem is similar to the injury which hampered him during 2015/16, but Arsène Wenger is confident the midfielder will be ready to return in the summer.
• Dan Gosling will be checked again but Junior Stanislas is back after his recent spell on the sidelines.
• Eddie Howe may be tempted to change his set-up after conceding four at White Hart Lane. Tyrone Mings was an unused substitute last time out but he could return in a back three against the league’s lowest scorers.
The Boro (4-3-3)
Predicted XI: Guzan; Fabio, Gibson, Chambers, Friend; de Roon, Clayton, Forshaw; Ramirez, Negredo, Downing.
• Brad Guzan will continue to deputise for Victor Valdes [ribs] who suffered a setback in training on the eve of the Arsenal game. The club are unsure whether he can be fit for the Wear/Tees derby midweek.
• Adam Forshaw is expected to replace Grant Leadbitter who is suffering from a “sore hamstring.”
• There was better news regarding Fabio [knee] and Rudy Gestede [heel] who were injured on Monday night. Neither is as bad as originally feared and they have a chance of being involved.
• Calum Chambers is fit and available following his recovery from a stress fracture of the foot but it remains to be seen whether Steve Agnew believes the defender is fit and sharp enough to start after missing the last two months.
Hull City – vs – Watford
The Tigers (3-5-1-1)
Predicted XI: Jakupovic; Dawson, Ranocchia, Maguire; Robertson, Elmohamady, N’Diaye, Huddlestone, Clucas; Evandro; Mbokani.
• It looks to be a straight shootout between Hull and Swansea on who will join Sunderland and Middlesbrough in the Championship next season. The home side must win their next two at the KCOM in-my-opinion.
• Despite a return for Tom Huddlestone and Harry Maguire last weekend, the Tigers were poor at Stoke and Marco Silva may look to freshen his side with the likes of Elmohamady, Mbokani and Hernandez waiting in the wings.
• Omar Elabdellaoui has a chance while Brazilian Evandro is hoping for a recall.
The Hornets (4-5-1)
Predicted XI: Gomes; Britos, Holebas, Janmaat, Prodl; Amrabat, Niang, Doucouré, Cleverley, Capoue; Deeney.
• The Hornets eked a narrow 1-0 win over Swansea to hit the magical 40-point mark last weekend and that could play into the hands of Hull with Watford taking their foot off the gas.
• Watford have been managing a pretty horrendous injury list all season and Mazzarri has done well under the circumstances. Miguel Britos returns after serving a two-match ban although Younes Kaboul [hamstring] and Craig Cathcart [knee] are expected to miss out – certainly the former who may not play again this season.
• Christian Kabasele is back in contention while Ben Watson face a late fitness test.
Swansea City – vs – Stoke City
The Swans (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Fabianski; Naughton, Olsson, Fernandez, Mawson; Fer, Carroll; Ayew, Sigurdsson, Ki; Llorente.
• Wayne Routledge [hernia] is unavailable which means Paul Clement will look to Luciano Narsingh or Jordon Ayew in a game the Swans cannot afford to lose.
• Saturday will come a week too soon for Jack Cork [ankle]. Jay Fulton was a surprise inclusion at Vicarage Road but I’d expect Tom Carroll to return to the starting line-up.
• Clement hinted at a change of shape last weekend, which didn’t materialise, but he may opt for a 4-2-3-1 with Ki playing alongside Sigurdsson in support of Llorente.
The Potters (3-4-2-1)
Predicted XI: Grant; Shawcross, Martins Indi, Muniesa; Allen, Cameron, Johnson, Pieters; Arnautovic, Shaqiri; Berahino.
• Jack Butland returned to the squad for the first time in over a year, but the form of Lee Grant has been excellent this season and Mark Hughes is in no rush to bring the England international back into the XI.
• Joe Allen [hamstring] is expected to make the squad while his sparring partner Glenn Whelan has a chance following his recovery from the virus which robbed him of a place last weekend and half a stone of bodyweight.
• Jon Walters made an impact from the bench and Shaqiri showed glimpses of what Stoke fans have been missing for the past two months which included a stunning strike. Berahino awaits his first goal for the club, but it’s not for the lack [or want] of trying, and Hughes is likely to persist with the former Baggy.
West Ham United – vs – Everton
The Hammers (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Randolph; Fonte, Collins, Reid, Masuaku; Fernandes, Kouyate; Ayew, Snodgrass, Lanzini; Sakho.
• The Hammers are just about safe having scraped four-points from their last two games. In defence, Winston Reid is back in contention which could see James Collins shuffle across to right-back with Sam Byram suspended.
• Bilic denies any rift with Diafra Sakho following his absence at the Stadium of Light and without Antonio [hamstring] and Andy Carroll [groin] he could make his first league start since November. Alternatively, Calleri is fully fit although the Argentine has not featured from the off in more than 5 months.
• No Mark Noble due to suspension so Fernandes could deputise again – Havard Nordtveit is another option for Bilic.
The Toffees (4-3-3)
Predicted XI: Robles; Holgate, Jagielka, Williams, Baines; Davies, Gueye, Schneiderlin; Mirallas, Barkley, Lukaku.
• Not much change injury-wise at Everton. James McCarthy is still not working with the group and Ronald Koeman doesn’t know if he will play again this season.
• Enner Valencia [ineligible] under the terms of his loan agreement. The Blues could name an unchanged XI following the win over Burnley.
• Mo Besic will play his second game for the Under-23s on Friday but there are no guarantees of a first-team return this season.
Burnley – vs – Manchester United
The Clarets (4-4-2)
Predicted XI: Heaton; Ward, Lowton, Mee, Keane; Barton, Brady, Hendrick, Boyd; Barnes, Gray.
• Sean Dyche is optimistic Scott Arfield can shake off a knee injury: “He [has] a small problem [but] we think it will settle down.” He faces a three-way battle with Robbie Brady and Steven Defour to start against United.
• Sam Vokes was withdrawn with a tight hamstring at Goodison, but even if he is passed fit, I’d expect Andre Gray to be handed a recall after he was surprisingly benched last time out.
• Johann Berg Gudmundsson is poised to return after featuring for the Under-23s in recent weeks to build fitness.
The Red Devils (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: De Gea; Valencia, Blind, Bailly, Darmian; Fellaini, Herrera; Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Rashford.
• It remains to be seen how 120 minutes of Europa League action will affect the United players. Expect a much-changed side from Jose Mourinho, especially with the derby just four days away.
• The big news from Thursday was of course, the injuries sustained by Zlatan Ibrahimović and Marcos Rojo. Although the full extent was not known at the time of writing, I can categorically state that neither will feature.
• Others to watch. Luke Shaw played for 30 minutes with cramp and Jose said Antonio Valencia will struggle to play games in quick succession due to an unspecified muscular issue. Captain Wayne Rooney can be called upon.
Liverpool – vs – Crystal Palace
The Reds (3-3-3-1)
Predicted XI: Mignolet; Gomez, Clyne, Lovren; Can, Wijnaldum, Milner; Sturridge, Firmino, Coutinho; Origi.
• Adam Lallana is in a “good way” and should be back with the group next Wed/Thurs. Danny Ings is running outside, but he is NOT expected to play again this season.
• Ragnar Klavan remains a doubt due to a knee injury and he, along with Joel Matip and Lucas Leiva [both muscular], are yet to train this week. Jürgen Klopp “may try” Joe Gomez who has impressed for the Under-23s in recent games.
• The news is not so good for captain Jordan Henderson: “At this moment, he cannot really train. He looks really healthy but he can’t play football.”
• Firmino continues to train away from the main group as Liverpool carefully manage their Brazilian star due to concerns over his increased injury risk. Tests show he is in the “red zone” but he still managed 90 minutes at the Hawthorns last Sunday.
The Eagles (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Hennessey; Kelly, Tomkins, Schlupp, Ward; Milivojevic, Cabaye; Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend; Benteke.
• The return of James Tomkins is a major boost as Mamadou Sakho can’t line-up against his parent club.
• Loic Remy will be added to the Palace squad but the best he can hope for is minutes from the bench if Sam Allardyce decides to bring Benteke off with one eye on the game vs Tottenham.
• James McArthur is back to help boost numbers, likewise Patrick van Aanholt, who will compete with Jeffrey Schlupp for a start. Tough call, but the former Leicester man MAY just keep his place for one more game due to van Aanholt’s lack of match fitness.