The Late Fitness Check | Gameweek Twenty-two

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The early kick-off leaves us with a host of press conferences remaining, and I will be updating this preview throughout. So, remember to keep checking until the FPL deadline, as changes will be made once we receive official confirmation on player availability.

Late news: The game between Burnley -v- Leicester City has been postponed.

Arsenal

Mikel Arteta fails to rule out the possibility of Sundays' north London derby being postponed after the Gunners 0-0 draw at Anfield in the EFL Cup. The Arsenal boss said he had "nine or ten players" missing before the tie that saw Cedric Soares and Bukayo Saka forced off through injury and Granit Xhaka dismissed. Calum Chambers will also be assessed. Of those currently sidelined, Emile Smith Rowe and Takehiro Tomiyasu, groin and calf, will hope to recover, but Martin Odegaard (COVID) is out of the game along with Sead Kolasinac (hamstring). Nicolas Pepe, Mohamed Elneny, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Thomas Partey are representing their countries at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Aston Villa

Villa are winning the January transfer window with Steven Gerrard making a real statement of intent following the arrivals of Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne. However, having just joined this week, with limited training, I'm not sure whether either player will start given their lack of minutes with their new teammates. John McGinn is suspended, while Trezeguet and Bertrand Traoré are at the Africa Cup of Nations. Leon Bailey is progressing, but the winger may not return before the break, and Marvelous Nakamba is still around two months away. Ashley Young (broken toe) has a chance, although I suspect any time will come from the bench as he hasn't featured since his hour-long run out at Norwich.

Brentford

Thomas Franks is hopeful that Rico Henry can recover from a hamstring problem, and while Mathias' Zanka' Jorgensen is progressing, the game is likely to come too soon. Joshua Dasilva is also approaching a return; although having spent almost a year on the sidelines, his comeback will be carefully managed, and I don't expect minutes until next month. Charlie Goode and David Raya remain out with Frank Onyeka away on international duty.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Lewis Dunk hopes to rejoin the group in training on Sunday, which gives him an outside chance for Chelsea. Moises Caicedo has been recalled from his loan spell in Belgium with Yves Bissouma (AFCoN) and Enock Mwepu (hamstring) missing for the Seagulls. Jeremy Sarmiento is the only other known absentee.

Burnley

Nathan Collins, Dwight McNeil, Charlie Taylor, Erik Pieters and Matej Vydra all missed out in the FA Cup third-round after testing positive (COVID-19), and while they are expected to be cleared, in terms of the protocol, there are no guarantees given the virus affects the respiratory system. Jay Rodríguez will be looking to nail down a regular starting berth in the absence of Maxwel Cornet (AFCoN) and the now-departed Chris Wood. Johann Berg Gudmundsson should be okay, but Ashley Barnes will get minutes with the U23s before a first-team return.

Chelsea

N'Golo Kanté and Thiago Silva returned to the matchday squad on Wednesday following COVID, and Thomas Tuchel must decide whether either player is ready to start in the early kick-off at The Etihad. Ongoing back issues hamper Andreas Christensen and Jorginho, but neither player will want to miss this one. Ben Chilwell and Reece James are long-term casualties in defence, and Trevoh Chalobah (hamstring) is yet to fully train. Edouard Mendy is representing his national team in Cameroon.

Late news: Andreas Christensen has tested positive for COVID-19.

Crystal Palace

The Eagles kick-off game week twenty-two at The Amex and Patrick Vieira confirms there are two injury absences to add to the three players missing due to the Africa Cup of Nations – Cheikhou Kouyaté, Wilfried Zaha, and Jordan Ayew. James McArthur (hamstring) will be a few more weeks, but there is no current prognosis for James Tomkins, meaning Marc Guéhi and Joachim Andersen are locked in at centre-back for the foreseeable.

Everton

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (tight quadriceps) has returned to full training while Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Fabian Delph have only been involved in aspects of the sessions which suggests that Saturday will come too soon… certainly for a start anyway. Jarrad Branthwaite has an outside chance, but Alex Iwobi (AFCoN) and Tom Davies are missing. The latter has undergone surgery on his hamstring following a setback on the training pitches.

Leeds United

Marcelo Bielsa can add Diego Llorente (suspended) to their list of absentees, although fingers crossed, there could be one or two players back in contention. Patrick Bamford (hip) is poised to make his comeback after a severely disrupted first half of the season, and Rodrigo (Achilles) has a chance as long as he suffers no reaction in the build-up to the game. Firpo was forced off at West Ham last time out after taking a blow to the head, and if post-match assessments reveal a concussion, he would be forced to sit Sunday out. Tyler Roberts, Charlie Cresswell, Joe Gelhardt, and Jamie Shackleton should return after the break, but Leeds will need to wait a little longer before the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Liam Cooper, and Pascal Struijk are in contention.

Leicester City

The Foxes squad will be bolstered by the return of up to five players, although Brendan Rodgers admits that James Justin is only fit enough for the bench after months out with a serious knee injury. The game at Everton was called off midweek as Leicester only had eight first-team players, but Patson Daka, Çaglar Soyuncu, Luke Thomas and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall are back amongst the ranks to ease concerns. Daniel Amartey, Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi and Papy Mendy are out of the country for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Boubakary Soumare could return to training next week. However, the remainder, Jonny Evans, Ricardo Pereira, Jamie Vardy, Wesley Fofana, and Ryan Bertrand, will not come under consideration until February at the earliest.

Liverpool

Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson Becker were included in the starting XI on Thursday evening when Liverpool took on Arsenal in the EFL Cup semi-final at Anfield. The game ended 0-0 as Arsenal frustrated the hosts after going down to ten men following the dismissal of Granit Xhaka. But on the plus side, those involved came through the encounter unscathed, giving Jurgen Klopp lots of options for Sunday despite Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané being out of contention. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones, Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konate will all be fresh. Thiago Alcántara and Divock Origi are not expected to be back until GW24.

Manchester City

Assistant manager Rodolfo Borrell said his team selection in the FA Cup last weekend "was possibly one of the easiest line-ups to decide" after injury, and COVID ripped through the City squad. That said, there were only four changes at Swindon from New Year's Day, and they cruised through to the fourth round. The club did not name individuals, but local media reports confirmed Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko were amongst those that tested positive, while Raheem Sterling was also missing from the matchday squad. There is still no word on the severity of John Stones' injury, and Riyad Mahrez (AFCoN) will be absent for up to a month.

Manchester United

Cristiano Ronaldo is optimistic about returning after missing out in the FA Cup. "I'm good," he told Premier League Productions on Thursday. "You know, we have to feel some pain sometimes. It's nothing big, and I hope to be good soon. We will try on Thursday. I will try to train as normal. Let's see how the body reacts. Fingers crossed. I'm confident." Ralph Rangnick is also "hopeful" of having players back for the trip to Aston Villa. Harry Maguire, Phil Jones, and Jadon Sancho have all struggled with minor ailments, but they are well placed to make the matchday squad.

Newcastle United

Martin Dúbravka is expected to recover from the toe injury he suffered during the FA Cup defeat to Cambridge. The club still has a "few" COVID cases while there are some knocks, although "nothing serious". Javier Manquillo must sit this one out after accumulating five yellow cards, but new signing Chris Wood is "ready to play" following his arrival from Burnley. Paul Dummett and Jamal Lewis are edging nearer to a start after recovering from long-term injuries.

Norwich City

Billy Gilmour returned to Cobham this week to be assessed following an ankle injury in training. "[It was] quite an innocuous challenge in a small-sided game," revealed Dean Smith. "[The] injury puts him out for 3-4 weeks." Todd Cantwell was "still feeling unwell" when he came into the training ground on Tuesday, ruling him out of the West Ham game, and Josh Sargent also missed the defeat as his wife has just given birth. Mathias Normann is continuing his rehab. Lukas Rupp, Andrew Omobamidele and Christoph Zimmermann remain sidelined, but Milot Rashica and Grant Hanley returned midweek.

Southampton

Ralph Hasenhüttl confirms that Tino Livramento (meniscus) has suffered "no reaction" after returning to the training pitches. "[There] is no new fluid, so that gives us hope." Yan Valery is back after his ban, and Kyle Walker-Peters has a chance as long as he can train normally following COVID. The Saints scored four goals midweek at home to Brentford, and the Saints boss may be reluctant to change things too much after making it five games unbeaten across all competitions.

Tottenham Hotspur

Cristian Romero is "very close" to returning, although the north London derby may come too soon after two months out. "Today, Cristian, had a little part of a training session," Antonio Conte said on Tuesday. The Italian also ruled Heung-Min Son out until next month. "For sure, we have to wait until after the international break." There has been very little said regarding the status of Eric Dier, who was due on the training pitches earlier this week, and in a similar vein, Sergio Reguilón, who has missed the last two fixtures.

Watford

Ben Foster has resumed full training, and he will be included in the travelling squad despite not playing since November because of a groin injury. Emmanuel Dennis, Kiko Femenía and Christian Kabasele have all recovered from knocks to come under consideration, and Claudio Ranieri will look to include new signings Hassane Kamara, Edo Kayembe and Samir. Peter Etebo is working outside on the grass and hopes to rejoin the group in a couple of weeks. Nicolas Nkoulou continues to work in the gym. However, a setback will keep him out until April. Ismaïla Sarr is working on his rehab programme in Spain after meeting with Dr Ramon Cugat this week.

West Ham United

David Moyes would not name individuals ahead of the Norwich game, but Tomas Soucek tested positive, and the midfielder is expected to be unavailable. "Like all clubs, injuries and COVID are all around. It's a difficult time of year," he said. Kurt Zouma is progressing well, and local media reports indicate a possible return in GW23. Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal were passed fit on Tuesday, but the Hammers were without Mark Noble and Ryan Fredericks.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Updates to follow.