As usual at this time of season, there are some very important games over the weekend. Ben Dinnery takes us through his predicted line-ups:
Tottenham Hotspur – vs – Watford
Predicted XI: Lloris; Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Walker, Davies; Dembele, Dier; Eriksen, Alli, Janssen; Son.
- Harry Kane [ankle] “is continuing with his individual work” and although some reports suggest a return this weekend. I believe GW33 is more realistic target.
- Danny Rose is progressing, but he is behind Kane in terms of his rehab, which means Ben Davies should be safe for a few more weeks.
- An ankle injury will keep Harry Winks out for the remainder of the season.
- Formation/set-up will be determined by the fitness of Victor Wanyama [back] who is being assessed ahead of the early kick-off.
- Son should be assured of a start after grabbing his 16th goal of the season and Vincent Janssen may come into the side for Mousa Sissoko who continues to disappoint.
- I’d expect Hugo Lloris to recover from a bout of illness.
The Hornets (4-5-1)
Predicted XI: Gomes; Cathcart, Holebas, Janmaat, Mariappa; Amrabat, Niang, Success, Cleverley, Capoue; Deeney.
- It’s probably easier to name those not in the treatment room after Walter Mazzarri reeled off an extensive list of players who could, potentially, miss the game.
- Watford are said to be “without a defence” as Kaboul [hamstring] is missing and defender Sebastian Prodl is recovering from a rib injury. Centre-back Miguel Britos is also suspended.
- Kabasele has returned to full training, and despite his obvious lack of match fitness [hasn’t featured since January], the Belgium international may be needed.
- Deeney, Cleverley and Doucouré are all “very fatigued” while the Hornets will run checks on Capoue, Behrami and Gomes.
Manchester City – vs – Hull City
The Citizens (4-5-1)
Predicted XI: Caballero; Zabaleta, Kolarov, Otamendi, Stones; Silva, De Bruyne, Toure, Sterling, Sane; Aguero.
- Chelsea ended any hopes of a late City title charge and Pep’s men must now focus on qualifying for the Champions League.
- Jesus Navas was once again the preferred option at right-back, although Pablo Zabaleta is better placed to come in, if needed. Bacary Sagna will be sidelined for another 2-3 weeks due to the groin injury he sustained prior to the international break.
- Raheem Sterling is struggling with a minor back problem and a decision on whether he starts will be left until late. I’d expect Yaya Toure to return to the XI after Fabian Delph made a surprise appearance at Stamford Bridge [named in the line-up for the first time this season].
- It remains to be seen how Vincent Kompany recovers after playing 90 minutes, but I suspect the City skipper will drop out for Otamendi.
The Tigers (4-5-1)
Predicted XI: Jakupovic; Dawson, Ranocchia, Robertson, Elmohamady; N’Diaye, Clucas, Evandro, Markovic, Grosicki; Niasse.
- Evandro returned to the fold on Wednesday and following an injury to Abel Hernandez, the Brazilian could start for the first time since February. Elabdellaoui is expected to miss out due to a back injury.
- Tom Huddlestone serves the final game of his ban which means Clucas and N’Diaye should stay in the centre of the park. Marcos Silva may prefer a more defensive set-up at the Etihad with a 5-4-1 or 4-5-1 although the former could depend on the fitness of Harry Maguire who has picked up a knee injury.
- Michael Dawson is poised to come in. No word on Curtis Davies who was not included in the match day squad midweek.
Middlesbrough – vs – Burnley
The Boro (4-4-2)
Predicted XI: Valdes; Husband, Gibson, Ayala, Barragan; Clayton, De Roon, Downing, Traore; Negredo, Gestede.
- Under FA guidelines Fabio will miss the game after suffering concussion at Swansea last weekend. That could see James Husband start only his second game of the season.
- Gaston Ramirez is improving and after he just missed out on Wednesday, the Uruguayan has a good chance of being available. However, Agnew may stick with a 4-4-2 deploying Gestede and Negredo up front.
- George Friend and Calum Chambers are running and progressing nicely “but it’s too early to say when they’re available.”
- Boro really need three-points if they stand any chance of staying up.
The Clarets (4-4-2)
Predicted XI: Heaton; Ward, Lowton, Mee, Keane; Barton, Arfield, Hendrick, Boyd; Barnes, Gray.
- Defour [dead leg] faces a late test. He was unable to train on Thursday and he could be replaced by Scott Arfield.
- Johann Gudmundsson is back with the group but lacks fitness/sharpness and Saturday will probably be a game too soon.
- Marney [ACL] “is coming along nicely” but he isn’t expected back until later this year.
Stoke City – vs – Liverpool
The Potters (4-4-2)
Predicted XI: Grant; Pieters, Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi; Allen, Cameron, Sobhi, Arnautovic; Berahino, Walters.
- Despite the availability of Glen Johnson and Phil Bardsley, Mark Hughes decided against a back four, instead he opted for three centre-backs as Marc Muniesa was handed a rare start.
- Jon Walters picked up a knock at Leicester and missed out midweek, but he could return. It remains to be seen how long the Stoke boss will persist with Saido Berahino who has blanked in his 8 appearances since arriving in January.
The Reds (4-3-3)
Predicted XI: Mignolet; Milner, Clyne, Matip, Lovren; Can, Wijnaldum, Lucas; Firmino, Coutinho, Origi.
- Daniel Sturridge returned to full training on Monday but the Liverpool forward was not ready for minutes from the bench, let alone a start, against Bournemouth suggesting he’ll have to settle for a bit part role again. Origi is the preferred option with Mane done for the season.
- A back injury meant Joel Matip was only fit enough to be named as a substitute on Wednesday but he is ready to challenge Klavan for a place in the XI this weekend.
- Philippe Coutinho felt sick at half-time “and we had to change him,” but the Brazilian should be fine to continue his recent run of good form.
West Bromwich Albion – vs – Southampton
The Baggies (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Nyom, Evans; Livermore, Fletcher; Phillips, Brunt, Morrison; Rondon.
- Tony Pulis says James McClean and Gareth McAuley were suffering from fatigue at Watford – the reason why the pair were replaced.
- Robson Hal-Kanu has started the last two, but Rondon is fully rested, and he looks to be in line for a recall following two blanks on the road.
- The Baggies boss told reporters to “wait and see” when responding to questions on whether Matty Phillips would start on Saturday. “It was very pleasing to get him back into action.” His return could see West Brom revert to a more familiar 4-2-3-1.
The Saints (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Forster; Bertrand, Yoshida, Stephens, Soares; Clasie, Højbjerg; Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Tadic; Long.
- “I don’t know if Gabbiadini can participate in this game,” said Puel. “But we will see this afternoon [in training].” Regardless, Shane Long should keep his place for this game at least.
- Oriol Romeu is suspended and Steven Davis is a doubt: “It’s an injury to his ankle and we will see with the doctor if he can participate.” Puel may call upon Højbjerg and Clasie to play in the double pivot.
- Sofiane Boufal faces a late fitness test after picking up a knock vs Bournemouth.
- Puel “hopes” Ryan Bertrand can make the game: “He felt something with his hamstring.” Sam McQueen will deputise again if the England international fails to recover.
West Ham United – vs – Swansea City
The Hammers (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Randolph; Fonte, Collins, Byram, Masuaku; Noble, Kouyate; Ayew, Antonio, Lanzini; Carroll.
- Arthur Masuaku will continue at left-back, with Aaron Cresswell ruled out, in a game West Ham can ill-afford to lose.
- Antonio was back in the match day squad following his recent injury, only for illness to end his evening early. He is feeling much better but Bilic does have other options on the bench if there are any concerns.
- Andy Carroll was withdrawn as a precaution: “He said at half-time he felt his groin [however] the medical department said he was OK, but I decided to change him.” Diafra Sakho gives Bilic more options in attack.
The Swans (4-3-3)
Predicted XI: Fabianski; Naughton, Olsson, Fernandez, Mawson; Fer, Carroll, Cork; Ayew, Sigurdsson, Llorente.
- Paul Clement will be hoping Fernando Llorente can recover in time after Swansea were dragged back into the bottom three. The striker has responded well to treatment on his ankle although Jordan Ayew has been impressive.
- Despite the 3-1 loss to title contenders Spurs, Swansea were excellent for the best part, succumbing only to a late Tottenham onslaught [3 goals during a six-minute spell].
- Nordfeldt is on standby after Fabianski was [almost] stretchered off – he did see out the game, but he was not moving freely.
- Kyle Naughton, recently recovered from a hamstring strain, is a doubt after he was forced off due to an unspecified problem.
AFC Bournemouth – vs – Chelsea
The Cherries (4-4-1-1)
Predicted XI: Boruc; Francis, Daniels, Adam Smith, Cook; Arter, Wilshere, Fraser, Pugh; King; Afobe.
- Bournemouth will do well to continue their unbeaten run [five without defeat] against the Champions elect.
- Andrew Surman “will definitely be out,” says Eddie Howe. “It’s hard to say right now, but that could be his season.” Harry Arter was back on Wednesday while Jack Wilshere returned at the expense of Dan Gosling who failed to make the match day 18. The Arsenal loanee clocked up another 90 minutes but given his history, Wilshere may not be risked with games coming in quick succession.
- Ryan Fraser should return in place of Jordon Ibe.
The Blues (3-4-3)
Predicted XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz; Fabregas, Kante, Alonso, Pedro; Costa, Hazard, Willian.
- Victor Moses faces a late test after suffering a toe injury while working his way back from a calf strain. His fitness could determine if Azpilicueta drops into a back three or whether he continues as a right wing-back. Another option is Pedro with Willian earning a recall.
- “Now we need to rest and recover as we have another game in two days’ time,” admitted Conte after the 2-1 win over City. Chelsea looked tired but they were able to grind out a victory, which places one hand on the Premier League title.
- Kurt Zouma was replaced in a tactical switch at the break: “We were suffering too much,” and Conte may look to recall Matic to help reinforce his midfield.
Sunderland – vs – Manchester United
The Black Cats (3-5-1-1)
Predicted XI: Pickford; Kone, O’Shea, Denayer; Oviedo, Ndong, Cattermole, Rodwell, Jones; Borini; Defoe.
- The Black Cats haven’t scored since knocking four past Palace [six games] at Selhurst Park and David Moyes’ men look doomed [10-pts from safety].
- Lee Cattermole and Victor Anichebe were included in the squad at Leicester, but neither made an impact, and the pair will take a while to get back up-to speed after long term injuries.
- John O’Shea should be back to face his former club following the death of his father.
The Red Devils (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: De Gea; Valencia, Rojo, Bailly, Darmian; Fellaini, Herrera; Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Ibrahimović.
- Paul Pogba is expected to start for the first time since injuring his hamstring against FC Rostov in the Europa League.
- I also expect Mourinho to recall Antonio Valencia who was rested midweek. Wayne Rooney remains a doubt: “I don’t know [if he will be ready], I don’t think it’s easy to recover in a couple of days.”
- Ashley Young will be assessed: “I am not sure yet [how serious his injury is]. Hopefully it is fatigue and some pain.” Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw are options but Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are considered “long-term” absentees.
Everton – vs – Leicester City
The Toffees (3-5-2)
Predicted XI: Robles; Holgate, Jagielka, Pennington; Baines, Calvert-Lewin, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Davies; Barkley, Lukaku.
- Romelu Lukaku “was not sharp” in last weekend’s derby due to fatigue and the striker was still feeling a little tired at Old Trafford.
- No Ashley Williams [suspended] and with Funes Mori [injured] Koeman may be forced into naming a back three.
- Morgan Schneiderlin is close to a return. Still no timeline on James McCarthy [hamstring].
The Foxes (4-4-2)
Predicted XI: Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Albrighton, Ndidi, Drinkwater, Mahrez; Okazaki, Vardy.
- Leicester face Atletico Madrid in the UCL on Wednesday and with their top-flight status all but assured, Craig Shakespeare may be tempted to ring the changes.
- Wes Morgan [back] has trained after missing the two previous matches and will pressure Benalouane for his place in the heart of the Foxes defence.
- Marc Albrighton done his chances of a recall no harm with two assists from the bench against Sunderland.
Crystal Palace – vs – Arsenal
The Eagles (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Hennessey; Kelly, Sakho, Schlupp, Ward; Milivojevic, Ledley; Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend; Benteke.
- Injuries are beginning to mount – Patrick van Aanholt, Scott Dann, James Tomkins, Pape Souaré, Connor Wickham, Loic Remy and Frazier Campbell. “We’re thin on the ground now.”
- Dann’s injury is “more serious than we first thought.” His knee is in a brace, and he may not play again this season. Tomkins calf injury “is not so bad” and PvA is “making progress”.
- Remy suffers ANOTHER setback: “He’s got a strained calf after just getting back from a groin [injury]. He has not even played a game.” Just one PL start since his arrival and 112 minutes.
- James McArthur is struggling for the Arsenal game.” Not played a huge amount since his back spasms,” but Joe Ledley returns after birth of his child.
- Yohan Cabaye picked up a calf injury: “We have to see how it settles down,” but he is expected to miss out.
The Gunners (4-2-3-1)
Predicted XI: Cech; Mustafi, Monreal, Gabriel, Bellerin; Xhaka, Elneny; Walcott, Sanchez, Ozil; Giroud.
- Laurent Koscielny [Achilles] is out and Wenger suggests the injury is serious. Season over if a scan confirms a small rupture. Gabriel will be his replacement.
- Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made the squad midweek but the pair may have to settle for a place on the bench following a comfortable Arsenal win.
- Danny Welbeck started both games [this week] so I wouldn’t be surprised if Olivier Giroud returns to the side. Alexis Sanchez is another option with Alex Iwobi being brought in from the cold.
- The extra days’ recovery will help those injured players. Petr Cech being one, who has a chance. Martinez will start if he and David Ospina are ruled out.