Round up of the press conferences from injury guru Ben Dinnery ahead of FPL Gameweek 29. All the latest team news for fantasy football managers to digest before making those all-important transfers.
Eddie Howe admits that Josh King was replaced against Chelsea following his recent muscular issues: "[At Burnley] around that time he felt his hamstring. You've got to be smart and try to keep players fit, which obviously from our side hasn't been great this season." There were also concerns over the status of Lewis Cook, but again, his withdrawal was purely a precautionary measure. Lloyd Kelly has come through several sessions, and the summer signing from Bristol City could be included in the travelling squad which takes on Liverpool at Anfield in the early kick-off. Arnaut Danjuma and Chris Mepham remain long-term absentees, but the pair are progressing while David Brooks is hoping to be integrated within the squad this month with a potential return in April. Harry Wilson must sit this one out under the terms of his loan deal, but the prospect of Jefferson Lerma picking up his tenth caution of the season – and subsequent two-match ban – will not dissuade Howe from picking his "strongest team".
Eddie Nketiah has scored three goals in his past four starts, and the young striker is making a strong case for his involvement against West Ham. Meanwhile, another academy product - Reiss Nelson - has been directly involved in five goals in his last eight starts, although none of those have come in the league this year. Pablo Mari made his first start for the club at Portsmouth on Monday, and Mikel Arteta can call upon the Spaniard if required; there were concerns after Shkodran Mustafi limped off in the Europa League, but he is not listed as injured and his absence in the FA Cup must have been a tactical decision. Lucas Torreira will meet with a specialist after further tests revealed he sustained a fractured ankle at Fratton Park; his season looks to be over meaning Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi could be paired centrally in holding roles. Kieran Tierney is back in full training, although Saturday is probably too soon. With Sead Kolasinac (shoulder) out until the end of March, Bukayo Saka will be asked to deputise again.
Despite the Carabao Cup loss to City at Wembley, Villa demonstrated the type of performance which needs to be replicated in the Premier League if Dean Smith's side want to remain in the top-flight. The usual long-term absentees remain – Jed Steer, Wesley and Tom Heaton – but John McGinn is close to a return after just missing out in the final. "He trained with us - non-contact - he's been involved in possession and shape work. He's getting to where we want him to be. He's had a CT Scan to make sure there's a full union of the fracture. He feels really good, which is the important thing. He'll be pushing me for Chelsea, that's for sure." Keinan Davis is back in the squad and challenging for a start.
Brighton and Hove Albion
The Seagulls are the only top-flight side without a Premier League win in 2020 (D5, L3) and a trip to high-flying Wolves doesn't promise much in the way of returns. At least Graham Potter can take a fully fit squad to Molineux – Jose Izquierdo is the only confirmed absentee - with Shane Duffy returning to the squad after missing out against Palace following a family bereavement. Alexis Mac Allister is edging closer to his first appearance as he continues to train with the team after his loan spell at Boca Juniors was cut short by Brighton having been granted a work permit.
The Clarets are unbeaten in six Premier League games (W4, D2) and Sean Dyche has a tough decision to make after Chris Wood impressed from the bench at St James' Park. The big striker was returning from injury, but in his absence, Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez had helped Burnley to their longest unbeaten run in over a year. Ashley Barnes has entered the final phase of his recovery, and although this weekend comes too soon, GW30 is a strong possibility. Johann Berg Gudmundsson has suffered a minor setback – this time calf – and frustratingly, the winger remains out of first-team contention. A clash of knees, which resulted in inflammation around the joint, is the cause of much concern for Matt Lowton, and the defender will be carefully managed by the medical department in the hope that the problem will not get any worse. Ben Gibson remains out of contention while he trains away from the club.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christian Pulisic featured in a behind-closed-doors game as the pair look to build match fitness; the latter could be a surprise addition to the Chelsea bench given the number of injuries Frank Lampard has to contend with. Tammy Abraham is hopeful of a return before the end of the month, but Callum Hudson-Odoi suffered a hamstring recurrence which is likely to set him back sometime. Mateo Kovacic and Willian both sustained Achilles injuries in the win over Liverpool, and only the latter has a chance of featuring here. Jorginho begins a two-match ban for accruing ten cautions, and N'Golo Kante (groin) is still at least a week away from a return. Andreas Christensen should be back, and Billy Gilmour could make the 18 after his starring role midweek: "He enjoyed it, but he is a determined lad, smart and understands that the hard work starts now."
Crystal Palace have won back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since December, and a third victory on the spin would practically guarantee their safety for another season. However, a London derby against a Watford side brimming with confidence is a tough ask at Selhurst Park where the home side have only won 1 in four. Christian Benteke has registered two-goal involvements in his past three Premier League appearances, and the big striker could be left to plough a lonely furrow following the news that Cenk Tosun has had his loan arrangement terminated. Turkish outlet TRT Spor were the first to report that the striker had returned to Finch Farm for tests following a training ground injury; imaging confirmed that Tosun had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament which is likely to keep him sidelined for around nine months. Mamadou Sakho played for the Under-23s on Monday, and Jeffrey Schlupp has returned to the training pitches. James Tomkins is injury-free but may lack fitness having missed the previous month, and James McCarthy has been cleared after he was withdrawn at the Amex as a precaution due to a slight hamstring niggle.
Since Carlo Ancelotti's first game in charge, only Liverpool (30) and Manchester City (19) have won more points in the Premier League than the Toffees (18) with Dominic Calvert-Lewin excelling under the Italian. The 22-year-old has scored more league goals (8) than any other player in the competition. Lucas Digne is working as normal after missing the last two, and Andre Gomes came through the game against United unscathed in what was his first start since recovering from a fracture-dislocation of his ankle. The Portuguese midfielder replaced Morgan Schneiderlin who faces a race against time to play again this season after undergoing knee surgery. Ireland boss Mick McCarthy believes "it could be four to six weeks" before Seamus Coleman is back which should lock in Djibril Sidibé until April, although Ancelotti would only go as far as to say that the Irishman would miss the "next two games".
Leicester have lost six of their last 11 Premier League matches (W3, D2) but the Foxes are still well-placed to secure a Champions League place. The run did coincide with the absence of Wilfried Ndidi, but the midfielder has returned to the fray and Leicester face a Bottom Half side having lost just one of their first 18 games of this kind under Brendan Rodgers. Jamie Vardy is on track to return on Monday, and the Foxes boss believes that they now have plans in place to protect their leading marksman following his third injury of the year. "We're hoping now that other measures in place behind the scenes can help him. Him being available for this last section of the league will be very, very important." Ben Chilwell will be assessed over the coming days due to a "slight twinge" in his hamstring. On the opposite flank, only one Premier League defender (Matt Doherty) has scored more than Ricardo Pereira (4), and the wing-back could be worth a punt with some nice fixtures coming up.
Liverpool ended a run of scoring in 36 consecutive league games when they failed to register a goal at Vicarage Road; the Reds' previous blank came against rivals Everton in March 2019. Adrian will start in the early kick-off following the news that Alisson suffered a training ground injury (hip) which could keep him out until April. Jurgen Klopp said the goalkeeper would be monitored, although he is rated as a major doubt for the Merseyside derby (GW30) and he hasn't been called up to the national team for the games versus Bolivia and Peru. Naby Keita is training normally, and though Jordan Henderson is running again, the skipper is targeting his comeback in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Kevin De Bruyne
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