Hello and welcome to another edition of the News Wrap. We took a short break for some cup competitions but we are back and raring to go for a big gameweek 23. Many managers will have activated their January Wildcard with the extra week to ponder decisions, so let’s hope this gameweek brings about some big scores. With the previously mentioned cup competitions been in action over the past week there is as always injury news to report on, as well as some key players returning to training. Let’s take a look ahead of this weekends fixtures!
- The biggest news that has emerged during the week is that Arsenal playmaker Alexis Sanchez has suffered a hamstring injury during the week and is now considered a big doubt for the game against Aston Villa this weekend. Wenger said during the week that the Chilean “might be out for Sunday” and that he is “unlikely to risk him’, which does not do his prospects of facing Aston Villa this weekend any good. He also confirmed that Danny Welbeck is nearing a return, saying “Welbeck is very close. He is really, really, really nearly there. He will be available for the Tottenham game.” Arsenal play Tottenham in the North London Derby next weekend so if Welbeck does not make the Villa game it is apparent he will be raring to go against Tottenham the following week.
- After missing the last two league games, Chelsea stopper Thibaut Courtois has returned to the first team over the break and has done so in astonishing fashion. The Belgian Giant put in two man of the match performances against Liverpool in the Capital One Cup Semi Final whereby he certainly helped Chelsea progress through to the final. Petr Cech was filling in for Courtois against Newcastle and Swansea but having recovered from his thumb troubles I would be expecting Thibaut to return against Manchester City this weekend. Cesar Azpilicueta missed out against Swansea in gameweek 22 but successfully returned during the week against Liverpool after recovering from a thigh injury. The Spaniard is now fully fit and is expected to be available against Manchester City this weekend, should Jose choose to play him over Felipe Luis who has been performing well of late. There was some injury news that emerged from the game against Liverpool during the week and that was to Chelsea’s midfielder Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard was forced off just after half time after suffering a hamstring injury, something he was not able to shake off over the remainder of the game. Jose Mourinho cancelled his pre match press conference this weekend after receiving a hefty fine for previous comments so the fitness of his midfielder is not fully known. Reports after the Liverpool game suggested that Fabregas will be given every chance to prove his fitness for the Manchester City game so at this stage a late fitness test is seemingly the go. Whether or not he will play against City is therefore obviously going to be determined by how well he responds to the testing. Toss of the coin at this stage.
- Stoke City have been dealt a massive blow during the week with star summer signing Bojan ruled out for the remainder of the season after rupturing his Anterior Cruciate Ligament. The Spaniard scored a wonder goal during their FA Cup win over Rochdale but later succumb to a knee injury that has consequently ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Initial reports suggest he will be sidelined for around 9 months. Shocking news for both Stoke and Bojan.
- Ronald Koeman is “hopeful” that Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin & Toby Alderweireld will be available for Southampton next weekend but unfortunately the trio have all been ruled out this weekend against Swansea. A return against QPR next weekend is seemingly going to be the case.
- Hull City will look to welcome back key quartet Nikica Jelavic, Abel Hernandez, Gaston Ramirez & Andrew Robertson ahead of their game against Newcastle this weekend. They were all set to face lengthy spells on the sidelines but with a good recovery program have come back earlier than first expected. Good news for Hull who are in desperate need of some good performances!
- Chelsea target-man Diego Costa has again landed himself in hot water after making several reckless challenges against Liverpool during the week. The striker has consequently been charged by the FA after being accused of stamping on both Martin Skrtel and Emre Can during Chelsea’s 1-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge during the week. Chelsea appealed against the decision handed down by the FA, however were unsuccessful and Costa will now miss the following 3 premier league fixtures for Chelsea. This now means he will miss games against Manchester City, Aston Villa and Everton. Definitely time to consider whether it is worth keeping the big fella in your team…
- Having been sidelined since September with a thigh injury, Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has finally returned to full training and, from all reports, is training the house down in a bid to get Liverpool’s season back on track. The Englishman was set to return against former club Chelsea in the Capital One Cup during the week, however Rogers felt his recover was not quite at the level that would see him put in a worthy performance. He was therefore not risked but has since trained strongly and is now every chance of a return against West Ham at Anfield this weekend. It would be ridiculous to suggest that Sturridge will start against West Ham but a spot on the bench could certainly be on the cards, with Rogers saying “We’ll give Sturridge another day and I’ll have another chat with him tomorrow, but he looks in top-class condition.” He will look to increase his playing time over the coming weeks and hopefully by the middle of February will be back starting for Liverpool once again. If so definitely keep an eye on him – may be just what Liverpool need to get their season back on track.
- Manchester City were quietly hopeful that Ivory Coast duo Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony would be available for their clash against Chelsea this weekend but a last minute winner during the week saw Ivory Coast remain involved in the African Cup of Nations. As a result the pair will still be required to serve their country on International Duty and therefore will not be available for an early return in the Premier League. They should however begin to become available over the coming weeks as the competitions nears closer to an end.
- Gylfi Sigurddson will be unavailable for Swansea’s next three league outings against Southampton, Sunderland and West Brom after the Icelandic midfielder was sent off in their 3-1 loss to Blackburn in the FA Cup last weekend. With many wildcards being activated over this gameweek, the fact his points scoring has been down of late, and the fact he will be unavailable for the next three gameweeks may mean it is time to say goodbye to Sigurddson once and for all. He has proven to be fantastic value since the start of the season but with so many other midfielders performing he may need to be shifted on. You’ve been a good servant Gylfi.
Well that wraps up another edition of the News Wrap. Feel free to post any selection queries or wildcard teams below as we embark on lockout for this weekend. Good luck and I’ll be back next weekend – cheers!