TEAM NEWS isn’t everything this weekend but it’s still good to see who’s missing who especially with players away to the Africa Cup of Nations.
It’s been absolutely vital the past few weeks with cup games and a packed schedule but on Saturday sides will field their strongest available line-up.
Here is some team news I’ve gathered from a variety of reliable sources.
Burnley v QPR
Burnley captain Jason Shackell could be back in contention after a calf injury. The centre-back’s return would ease defensive problems following the loss of Kevin Long, who has had successful anterior cruciate ligament surgery this week, and with Michael Duff (calf) probably not quite ready for action. David Jones is fit after a bout of sickness this week but fellow midfielder Matt Taylor (Achilles) and defender Stephen Ward (ankle) remain on the sidelines.
On-loan West Ham striker Mauro Zarate is expected to make his QPR debut. Rangers boss Harry Redknapp cannot yet call on Sandro, with the Brazil midfielder still several weeks away from fitness. Senior stars like Rob Green and Mauricio Isla should return to the starting line-up after the 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United.
Chelsea v Newcastle
John Terry, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas are expected to return for Chelsea after the trio were rested from the squad that defeated Watford in the FA Cup on Sunday. Thibaut Courtois is likely to return in goal after Petr Cech was given an outing against Watford.
Newcastle keeper Tim Krul is set to return having been out injured since November. Caretaker manager John Carver will bring back his big guns including Moussa Sissoko, Daryl Janmaat, Fabricio Coloccini and Jack Colback, all of whom were controversially omitted from last week’s FA Cup defeat at Leicester. Papiss Cisse and Cheick Tiote are on African Nations Cup duty.
Crystal Palace v Spurs
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew will be without Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak, who are on international duty at the African Nations Cup and Asian Cup respectively. Striker Marouane Chamakh has missed the last four league matches with a hamstring injury but could return, while midfielder James McArthur is also expected to be fit.
Tottenham will still be without both Ryan Mason and Erik Lamela. Mason had only recently returned from an ankle injury before picking up a hamstring problem early on in the 5-3 victory over Chelsea and the 23-year-old remains sidelined. Club-record signing Lamela is also out due to a calf issue while Emmanuel Adebayor is still not considered fit enough to be in contention for a place in Mauricio Pochettino’s squad.
Everton v Manchester City
Everton defenders Antolin Alcaraz and Leighton Baines return from suspension and injury respectively. Midfielder James McCarthy’s long-term hamstring complaint continues to be assessed after playing just twice in six weeks and he will miss out again. Centre-back Sylvain Distin (groin) is added to the already extensive injury list which includes keeper Tim Howard (calf), defender Tony Hibbert and midfielders Leon Osman (foot), Darron Gibson (knee) and Steven Pienaar (knee).
Manchester City have been boosted by the return from injury of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Vincent Kompany. Top scorer Aguero limped off in tears early on in City’s win over the same opponents a month ago with a knee injury and returns ahead of schedule but may not start. Fellow striker Dzeko (calf) and captain Kompany (calf/hamstring) have also been sidelined for around a month. City will, though, be without key midfielder Yaya Toure as he prepares for the African Nations Cup.
Leicester v Aston Villa
Esteban Cambiasso (hip), Kasper Schmeichel (foot), Jeff Schlupp (knee) and Riyad Mahrez, on African Nations Cup duty with Algeria, are all unavailable for Leicester, while Danny Drinkwater is doubtful with a groin injury. Dean Hammond and Andy King come back into contention after recent knocks, whilst Mark Schwarzer is also added to the squad following his move from Chelsea this week.
Aston Villa skipper Ron Vlaar has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a knee injury meaning the out-of-contract star is likely to stay at the club in January. Gabriel Agbonlahor has shrugged off a minor hamstring complaint which forced him to miss the 1-0 FA Cup win over Blackpool. Nathan Baker has started training again after a knee injury but striker Libor Kozak, who has been out for a year, continues to recover from a broken leg and Philippe Senderos is struggling with a thigh problem.
Sunderland v Liverpool
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has an almost fully-fit squad to choose from. Midfielder Lee Cattermole is the Black Cats’ only major doubt as he struggles to recover from the groin injury which has kept him out for the last two matches. Patrick van Aanholt could keep his place at full-back after an impressive return from injury when he scored the winner in the FA Cup clash with Leeds last weekend.
Midfielders Adam Lallana (thigh) and Joe Allen (knee), defenders Glen Johnson (thigh) and Jon Flanagan (knee), plus keeper Brad Jones (thigh) all remain sidelined for Liverpool. Striker Daniel Sturridge is back in the country but still a fortnight away from a long-awaited return from a thigh problem while defender Kolo Toure is on African Nations Cup duty with the Ivory Coast.
Swansea v West Ham
Swansea skipper Ashley Williams will make his 300th appearance for the club as manager Garry Monk brings back the senior guard. Williams’ central defensive partnership with Federico Fernandez will be restored after Monk named a makeshift team for the FA Cup victory at Tranmere and England Under-20 midfielder Matt Grimes and Portuguese loan striker Nelson Oliveira are included in the squad for the first time after January moves. Top scorer Wilfried Bony, who is on the verge of completing a £30million transfer to Manchester City, and Ki Sung-yueng are both away on international duty while Jonjo Shelvey (suspension) and Jefferson Montero (hamstring) remain unavailable.
West Ham duo Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate are ruled out. Kouyate has departed to play for Senegal at the African Nations Cup and Sakho was expected to join him but the striker suffered a recurrence of a back injury against West Brom on New Year’s Day and has remained at West Ham. Sam Allardyce has no other injury concerns for the clash at the Liberty Stadium, where the Hammers will be looking to register their first win in four league matches.
West Brom v Hull
West Brom head coach Tony Pulis almost has a fully-fit squad to pick from, with only Jonas Olsson sidelined for the Baggies after Achilles surgery. Joleon Lescott is likely to return after being rested for the 7-0 win FA Cup over Gateshead and Victor Anichebe is fit after a minor groin problem.
Striker Sone Aluko is set to miss out for Hull with a calf injury suffered in the FA Cup defeat at Arsenal. Michael Dawson will be back in the squad however after missing several weeks with a hamstring problem while fellow central defender James Chester (knee) should also be available after missing the Arsenal game. Andy Robertson (ankle), Liam Rosenior (hamstring), Gaston Ramirez (groin) and Mohamed Diame (knee) remain out.