Premier League Digest: Can Chelsea slow City slickers

2018-03-02 19:46:15

Say a prayer of thanks for undersoil heating this weekend, as the Premier League looks set to save us all from a weekend devoid of meaningful televised sport.

Here we bring you all the team news and pre-match chat ahead of all the games.


Burnley take on Everton desperate to end an awful sequence of results that has seen them go 11 games without a league win. But despite not winning a league game since 12 December, Sean Dyche’s side somehow still find themselves in seventh place and three points ahead of the Tofffees.

Everton are still searching for real form under Sam Allardyce and suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Watford last time out and his future at Goodison Park beyond the end of this season is being speculated about.

Team news

Burnley: Dyche is set to have the fit-again James Tarkowski back involved. The defender, sidelined for the last four matches, stepped up his recovery from a groin problem by playing the full duration of a behind-closed-doors game against Preston on Tuesday.

Everton: The Toffees will be boosted by the return of Seamus Coleman to fitness , along with Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka.

However on-loan defender Eliaquim Mangala has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury.

Gaffer talk

Sean Dyche (Burnley): "I questioned a few things that happened last week, and we were below par against Swansea, but other than that, in the run we've had, we've actually delivered some very good performances I feel.

"So it's to not go too far away from the performance level, but, of course, add to it enough to get a win - and once you get one, we know that often it changes. We've done very well over the season but we want to get back to winning ways, it's simple."

Sam Allardyce (Everton): "At the moment we are in a very good position. I am slightly surprised about the situation (speculation) but you can look at the two differences between us: good at home and not good enough away from home.

"Style of play is only brought up by previous people making out from many years ago we were playing this type of football, which is 10 years ago past," he said. "People speculate on it with no complete information at all."


Leicester hope Okazaki will be ready for battle

Without a win in four matches, Leicester are four points away from that safety landmark of 40 points and could still have their eye on a Europa League place, with seventh likely to be enough for a spot next season.

Bournemouth meanwhile have found some real form of late, putting daylight between themselves and the bottom three and with just one defeat in their last nine games, will fancy their chances at Leicester.

Team news

Leicester: The Foxes hope to have Shinji Okazaki back in contention for the visit of Bournemouth.

The Japan international striker will be assessed ahead of Saturday's game, having missed the last three matches with a knee problem.

Okazaki resumed training this week and is the only injury concern for manager Claude Puel.

Bournemouth: Winger Jordon Ibe, forward Lys Mousset, defender Brad Smith, midfielders Harry Arter and Marc Pugh all featured in a Premier League Cup tie this week to build up match fitness.

Forward Jermain Defoe should be involved again after coming off the bench during last weekend's 2-2 draw with Newcastle on his return from an ankle injury, but defender Tyrone Mings continues his rehabilitation from a back problem.

Gaffer talk:

Claude Puel (Leicester): "A lot of teams come here with a strong defensive unit. We need to put them under pressure with good intensity. We've lost some important points. We had a good month in January but it was more difficult in February; we need more consistency."

Eddie Howe (Bournemouth): "In the last few games, we've conceded early. We conceded against Stoke, Huddersfield and the same again [against Newcastle].

"In the Premier League, when you give yourself a mountain to climb, it is a long way back in games. In two out of those three games, we've come back and got something but the challenge I'm going to lay down to the players is to start better obviously and try and go the other way."


Southampton welcome Stoke to St Mary’s for a real relegation six-pointer. Just one point separates the two sides with Stoke sitting second from bottom on 26 points and the Saints in 16th on 27.

The Saints have just one win in their last 14 league games while Stoke fared slightly better and claimed an important 1-1 draw away to Leicester last time out.

Team news

Southampton: The Saints will leave it late to check on Shane Long and Steven Davis who are both carrying knocks. Charlie Austin is out with a hamstring injury.

Stoke: Stoke have captain Ryan Shawcross and striker Peter Crouch available. Both players have had ankle injuries with Shawcross missing last week's draw at Leicester and Crouch the last two games. Danish goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard is likely to be on the bench with Lee Grant (broken wrist) sidelined.

Gaffer talk

Mauricio Pellegrino (Southampton): "We need togetherness from every single fan, from every single player, to be together, to try to play our football and to be brave in character.

"We have to think about us, about how we can improve in different aspects, and we have to go forward. We have to put everything on the pitch, try to finish empty with our energy and give 100 per cent."

Paul Lambert (Stoke): "Our form is really good. I can't fault the way the lads have played. Apart from individual errors we would have picked up six points from our last two games rather than just two.

"I don't have fear going into matches because of the way we are playing. We have shown we are more than capable of winning games."


Ayew could face West Ham after returning to Swansea in January

Swansea’s encounter with West Ham shows just how tight things are at the bottom. The Swans dropped into the relegation zone last week with defeat against Brighton but a win over West Ham could see them overtake the visitors who currently sit in 13th place in the table.

Team news

Swansea: Andre Ayew is set to make the first start of his second Swansea spell. Ayew has made a couple of substitute appearances since rejoining the Swans from West Ham in January, but he is now ready to start in attack alongside his brother Jordan.

Swansea have no new injury concerns following their FA Cup replay win over Sheffield Wednesday

West Ham: The Hammers have no new injury worries. Striker Andy Carroll and midfield duo Pedro Obiang and Edimilson Fernandes remain long-term absentees.

Wing-back Arthur Masuaku serves the fifth match of his six-game suspension for spitting.

Gaffer talk

Carlos Carvalhal (Swansea): "The advantage we can take is that we have come from the bottom and we are progressing. "The opposite is more harder if you are a team that was in eighth or 10th place in November or December and starts losing games to be in the battle to stay up.

"We were really bad and far away from the line of water. In this moment we are just below it, but we are progressing. We are winning more than we are losing, so we are in a very good way."

David Moyes (West Ham): "We want everybody together to give West Ham the best chance, and if we are to start competing again and challenging some of the top teams in the future then we need everybody to be together.

"We need the supporters with us. I don't know all their grievances but since I've been here I've really enjoyed the effort they have put in both away from home and at home, and I'm going to need them until the end of the season."


Spurs will be looking to move above Liverpool, who kick-off later and put real pressure on Manchester United in the race to finish runners-up to Manchester City.

The hosts are in a rich vein of form, having lost just once in their last 14 Premier League games and claimed big derby wins over Arsenal and Crystal Palace in their last two games.

Huddersfield meanwhile have moved out of the relegation with back-to-back wins for the first time since August and a result at White Hart Lane would go a long way to boosting their survival hopes.

Team news

Tottenham: The home side expect to welcome back Jan Vertonghen who missed last week’s game with an ankle injury, while central defender Toby Alderweireld is nearing a return to fitness as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Huddersfield: Philip Billing and Chris Lowe return to contention for the visitors. Midfielder Billing missed last week's win at West Brom through illness, while left-back Lowe has been sidelined for three games due to an ankle injury.

Aaron Mooy is expected to be back in full training next week after recovering from an infected cut on a knee and striker Elias Kachunga (knee) is closing in on his return.

Gaffer Talk

Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham): "Both our eyes are focused on the game against Huddersfield. That for us is the most important game. It’s an important three points for the battle for the top four. We cannot think of the game after.

We need to be focused and ready to compete because it will be tough. Huddersfield are in a position where they need points too. For us the most important thing is tomorrow."

David Wagner (Huddersfield): "We only have unbelievably positive memories when we think about Wembley. It's less than a year ago that we had one of the most successful days in the club's history. Now we are back.

"The problem is that it's against Tottenham, one of the best teams in the Premier League, or maybe in the world at the minute. We will fight for every single yard, and sometimes surprises happen in football."


If you are to believe media reports, this is Alan Pardew’s last chance to save his job at West Brom as the stumble closer and closer to relegation.

Pardew has not been able to alter the Baggies’ downward spiral and anything other than a win at Watford could see him sacked.

Watford meanwhile are six points clear of the relegation zone, sitting comfortable in 10th and are moving ever closer to that safety landmark of 40 points.

Team news

Watford: Expect to have midfielder Will Hughes available again following a hamstring problem. On-loan Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu, though, faces a spell out after suffering a stress fracture in his foot during the win over Everton.

West Brom: West Brom have an unchanged squad but Pardew has said he will make changes to his team. He could recall the likes of Gareth McAuley, Jake Livermore, Chris Brunt and Hal Robson-Kanu. On-loan striker Daniel Sturridge (hamstring) remains a couple of weeks away from a return to fitness

Gaffer talk

Javi Garcia (Watford): "I try to be concentrated on the next match and am focused on the next three points, because we need them.

"At this moment, they are the most important for us. I don't know what we will be able to do over the next 10 games. But it is the time towards the end of the season when every team is worried about the next few points, and what you need to reach your target.

West Brom (Alan Pardew): "I've always been questioned as a manager. Of course you get players coming into your office and saying why am I not playing? That's questioning you.

"Your tactical gameplan is your tactical gameplan and you can live or die by that. There's many times after a game I'll hold my hands up and say I didn't set ourselves up right. I didn't actually see a lot wrong with our set up on Saturday, if I'm honest."


Rafa heading back to Anfield

Liverpool welcome former manager Rafael Benitez to Anfield in Saturday’s late kick-off but are unlikely to be in a generous mood as they seek to overtake Manchester United into second place.

The Reds were convincing at home to West Ham last week, winning 4-1 and will be seeking a similar result against another relegation threatened side.

The Magpies sit just two points off the relegation zone and Benitez is likely to set his team up to frustrate Liverpool and hope to nick something on the break.

Team news

Liverpool: James Milner is a minor doubt ahead of the visit of Newcastle with a knock sustained in last week's win over West Ham.

Captain Jordan Henderson is likely to return to the starting line-up after being rested at the weekend while Danny Ings has recovered from a cold to rejoin the squad. Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and youngster Ben Woodburn are still struggling with illness.

Newcastle: The Magpies key man and former Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey will miss a return to Anfield as he struggles to recover from a knee injury. Midfielder Matt Ritchie and striker Dwight Gayle are fit, but loan signing Islam Slimani remains on the sidelines.

Gaffer talk

Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool): "We could draw all our games between now and the end of the season and nobody wants that so it is important that we continue to win games.

Newcastle are fighting, are organised and find ways to make it as difficult as possible for other teams to create. We have to make sure we can defend them and make chances when they come."

Rafael Benitez (Newcastle): "The main thing for me is to try to win. Always I say the same when I have these situations: all the best after this game. The relationship, the connection is so obvious, for us we just have to make sure we do our best in this game and then afterwards, wish them all the best.

"You have to have this confidence coming from the game against Manchester United, coming from the first half against Bournemouth. There are a lot of positives that we have seen and we have to make sure we replicate this at Anfield."


Arsenal travel to Brighton on the back of two defeats to Manchester City and with their hopes of a top four finish fading.

Fan unrest and apathy has led to a strange atmosphere at the Emirates of late, so Arsene Wenger will target an away game at a club embroiled in a relegation battle as a chance to draw breath.

Brighton sit four points clear of the relegation zone and with two draws and two wins in their last four games, they’ll be hoping to pile more misery on the Gunners.

Team news

Brighton: Chris Hughton’s side have no new injury concerns and could name the same team that claimed victory over Swansea last weekend.

Arsenal: Nacho Monreal and Alexandre Lacazette are both out for Arsenal while Jack Wilshere is a doubt with an injury to his ankle. Wenger could field a weakened side ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash with AC Milan, which may offer the Gunners their best hope of Champions League football next season.

Gaffer talk

Arsene Wenger (Arsenal): "[Defeat to Manchester City] has taken out confidence and brought big disappointment. In football, you lose confidence very quickly and you regain it very slowly and you always have to show strength not to give in.

"When that kind of disappointment comes it divides, it splits and our experience has to help us to stay together and focus on the next games.

Chris Hughton (Brighton): "I think most managers sitting here would say the say, when you are playing against a team with the stature of Arsenal who are on the back of back-to-back defeats, it doesn't happen often and what they want is a reaction.

"We have to take care of our business but most would say it is the worst time to play them, they will want a reaction."


The Champions elect have a real chance to kick-off their coronation celebrations when they welcome current Champions Chelsea to the Emirates on Sunday.

Fresh from a league win over Arsenal and lifting their first piece of silverware under Pep Guardiola, against the same opposition, the mood could not be better for City.

Chelsea meanwhile have lost three of their last four league games and are seeking to stop the rot after dropping out of the top four and those all important Champions League places.

Team news

Manchester City: Fernandinho will miss out through a hamstring injury while Kyle Walkers (calf) and Raheem Sterling are both doubtful.

Fabian Delph completes the last game of a three match suspension and will watch from the stands.

Chelsea: Midfielder Ross Barkley could return to the Chelsea squad. Barkley has returned to training following a hamstring injury and head coach Antonio Conte is yet to decide whether to select the former Everton forward on the bench.

Defenders David Luiz (ankle) and Ethan Ampadu (hamstring) and midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko (undisclosed) are out.

Gaffer talk

Pep Guardiola (Manchester City, speaking in September): "When I see Conte it’s like a team that he has to defend compact, 10 players, and after use the counter-attack like a machine with Pedro, Willian, [Eden] Hazard, [Alvaro] Morata, [Diego] Costa in the past. When they can attack, they can attack."

Antonio Conte (Chelsea): "In this moment they [Manchester City] seem unstoppable. "We must have great admiration for this team because they are having a fantastic path in this season. Sometimes it's very difficult to find a weakness in this team.

"Manchester City has the possibility to spend a lot of money. When you link this situation, good manager, much money to spend in the transfer market, the same ambition, this is the final result."

Follow all the weekend's Premier League action via live blogs on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now App.

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