11th August 2017 at 4:11 pm #115555
Watford v Liverpool
Liverpool will be without Philippe Coutinho for their Premier League opener against Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday.
Coutinho has dominated the headlines in the build-up to the clash, which is live on Sky Sports Premier League, with Sky sources reporting the Brazilian has issued Liverpool with an official transfer request following the owners’ statement that he is not for sale.
Liverpool denied receiving any such request but the speculation surrounding the 25-year-old, who misses the game with a back injury, is an unwelcome distraction for Jurgen Klopp and his side ahead of the season opener.
Meanwhile, record signing Andre Gray is in line to make his Watford debut this weekend with Troy Deeney’s availability in question owing to recent groin surgery.
The club captain faces a late fitness test as he bids to feature in Marco Silva’s first Premier League game in charge but he is a doubt given the procedure was only a month ago.
Craig Cathcart misses out because of a knee injury, as does Christian Kabasele due to a hamstring problem. Mauro Zarate, also knee, remains a long-term absentee.
Joining Coutinho on the sidelines is Daniel Sturridge, who misses the trip to Vicarage Road with a thigh issue.
Adam Lallana (thigh) and Nathaniel Clyne (back) are also out, while Danny Ings (knee) was set to play for Liverpool U23s on Friday as his rehabilitation continues.
Summer signings Mohamed Salah, Dominic Solanke and Andy Robertson could make their competitive Reds debuts.
11th August 2017 at 4:12 pm #115557
Chelsea v Burnley
Chelsea will be missing several key players when they start the defence of their Premier League title at home to Burnley on Saturday.
The Blues will be without injured trio Eden Hazard, Pedro and Tiemoue Bakayoko while Victor Moses is suspended and Diego Costa is in exile having been told he has no future under Antonio Conte.
Chelsea swept to the title last season with a league-record 30 wins, but it has not been smooth sailing since.
After losing the FA Cup final to Arsenal, they have had mixed pre-season results, lost in the Community Shield, again to Arsenal, and there have been reports that Conte has been frustrated by some of the club’s transfer activity this summer.
But the Italian says he is looking forward to the new season: “It’s a great challenge for us to try and retain the title and we are working hard. We want to be competitive and we want to fight for the title again.”
Burnley, who have seen striker Andre Gray leave for Watford, finished 16th in the Premier League last season and did not win an away game until April 29.
Manager Sean Dyche hopes the Clarets do not have to wait so long for an away win this time, but acknowledges they face a challenge to improve on last season.
“It’s just that win, if you get one win early doors it kills everything off,” he said. “There’s no grand statements from us. Are we looking to edge it forward? Yes. Is that the reality of our challenge? Yes. It’s unlikely we’re going to take huge jumps forward at a club like this.
“It’s a continuation of the things you’ve seen over the last four years. How far can we continue to take it and adjust it along the way? That’s the key, when to adjust it and how to adjust it. And now, it’s virtually always down to finance. It’s quite obviously not a level playing field.”
Pedro picked up an ankle knock in last Sunday’s Community Shield penalty shoot-out loss to Arsenal so misses out for Chelsea.
Moses is suspended following his dismissal in May’s FA Cup final defeat to the Gunners while Costa, Hazard (broken ankle) and Bakayoko (knee) remain out.
James Tarkowski and Jon Walters are likely to start for Burnley, with Michael Keane and Gray both sold this summer.
Jack Cork is also pencilled in for a debut in midfield but Phil Bardsley is not fully match fit and may be made to wait.
11th August 2017 at 4:14 pm #115558
Everton v Stoke City
Wayne Rooney is set to make his first Premier League start for Everton in 13 years in Saturday’s season opener against Stoke at Goodison Park.
It’s been a busy summer at Everton so far with business including bringing back Rooney from Manchester United and landing Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen.
Ronald Koeman is still targeting further additions as negotiations continue with Swansea over £50m-rated playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson.
However, with optimism and expectations rising at Goodison Park, Koeman is not making bold promises about breaking into the Premier League’s top six.
“First of all we have big ambitions,” said Koeman. “That is what we would like to show to everybody.
“Like everybody knows we are still working on some targets and that is difficult, but if we can do the business we want I think we are stronger than last season.
“But of course it is difficult with the big clubs. You need one or two struggling in this season and maybe you can make the next step. If all the big ones are really strong and doing what they need, it is very difficult.”
Meanwhile, Stoke have a handful of summer signings of their own ready to make their debuts on Saturday.
Darren Fletcher, Kurt Zouma, Josh Tymon and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting have been brought in by manager Mark Hughes and are in contention to play.
“Everton have brought good players in but lost key players too, like (Romelu) Lukaku. Clearly, Wayne Rooney has the ability to fill that space,” said Hughes, who had a brief spell at Goodison Park towards the end of his playing career.
“They’ve got a good side and they’ve spent money from letting good players go, perhaps similar to Southampton a couple of years ago.
“It’s always a close game when we play Everton – a draw and they won by a single goal last season. There is always a turnover of players at this stage and you don’t know until you start playing where you are. We are looking forward to getting started.”
Midfielders Ross Barkley and James McCarthy, whose futures have both been the subject of speculation this summer, are unavailable following groin and knee injuries respectively.
Winger Yannick Bolasie (knee) and defenders Seamus Coleman (broken leg) and Ramiro Funes Mori (knee) will miss the start of the campaign with longer-term problems.
Ibrahim Afellay (knee) and Stephen Ireland (broken leg) are the only absentees for Stoke as they continue to recover from long-term injuries.
11th August 2017 at 4:15 pm #115559
Southampton v Swansea
Virgil van Dijk has been ruled out of Southampton’s Premier League opener with Swansea at St Mary’s on Saturday.
Mauricio Pellegrino takes charge of Southampton for the first time in England’s top flight but will not be able to call upon Van Dijk, who has not been training with the first-team squad because of a virus.
The former Celtic star has put in a transfer request at St Mary’s, but Southampton are determined to keep the player and their stance has not changed, according to Pellegrino.
“My reaction is the same,” said Pellegrino. “But I said three weeks ago we are expecting him to come back to train with us because we need the player, we need all of them. Hopefully he can change his point of view because he is an important player and we need him focused on the club.
“The club was clear from the beginning with the player. We cannot control every situation. Virgil is part of the club, he has a contract, now we are waiting.”
Swansea have omitted Gylfi Sigurdsson from their season-opener at Southampton as the saga over his proposed transfer to Everton continues.
Clement insists no deal has been agreed as of yet, but hinted both parties are looking for a speedy resolution.
“At the moment no (Sigurdsson will not play this Saturday),” he said. “I think it’s in the best interest with everyone involved that’s not the case, and in my plans that’s the situation that Gylfi will not be involved in the squad this weekend.
“We’ve got a number of weeks to go and I don’t anticipate it going to the end of the window. Of course I would like the situation resolved as soon as possible, I’ve said that quite clearly.”
Summer signings Mario Lemina and Jan Bednarek could make their competitive debuts for Saints as Pellegrino takes the helm for the first time in the Premier League.
Fernando Llorente is absent after fracturing his arm while on a cycling holiday last month, joining Nathan Dyer (Achilles) and Ki Sung-yueng (knee) on the sidelines.
England Under-21 striker Tammy Abraham is expected to make his debut on a season-long loan from Chelsea.
11th August 2017 at 4:18 pm #115560
West Brom v Bournemouth
West Brom will be without experienced defender Gareth McAuley for their opening game of the Premier League season against Bournemouth on Saturday.
The 37-year-old is struggling with a thigh problem and looks like he will be absent for most of August.
The Baggies finished 10th in the Premier League last season and, after signing a new deal until 2019, head coach Tony Pulis says staying in the top flight is crucial as the club transition to a new ownership.
“We can never underestimate just how important it is to keep our place in a league that is now the most famous and the most followed in the world,” he said.
“Neither can we underestimate how difficult that is. You only have to look at the Championship in recent years to remind yourself how many clubs have fallen through the hoop and how many sets of supporters would love to be where we are now.”
Bournemouth have been in the Premier League for the last two years and finished a place above West Brom last season.
They will be without Junior Stanislas for the trip to The Hawthorns due to a groin problem. Although manager Eddie Howe says he will be a “big miss”, he added: “We’ve got a good squad this season and in my seat, you don’t want to disappoint people.
“It does give you some confidence though that we have a number of good players and over the season, everyone will have to play their part.”
McAuley and James Morrison will miss out for West Brom, with the latter hoping to be fit for the trip to Burnley on August 19.
Summer signings Jay Rodriguez, Zhang Yuning and Ahmed Hegazi are all in contention to make their West Brom Premier League debuts.
While Stanislas is out for the visitors, summer signing Jermain Defoe is expected to be available after joining on a free transfer from Sunderland.
Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and defender Nathan Ake are in contention following their respective moves from Chelsea, while forward Callum Wilson continues his long-term recovery from a serious knee injury.
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