Gameweek 8 preview

October 13, 2016

Chelsea v Leicester
Arsenal v Swansea
Bournemouth v  Hull
Man City v Everton
Stoke v Sunderland
West Brom v Spurs
Crystal Palace v West Ham
Middlesbrough v Watford
Southampton v Burnley
Liverpool v Man Utd

It appears most players have returned with a clean bill of health from their international travails, although there’s always a question mark over those flying further afield. Alexis Sanchez and Philippe Coutinho were rested on their return from South America last time and I guess it could happen again. Some teams can afford the luxury of dropping key players with plenty in reserve. That might be a particular annoyance to Sanchez owners with a home tie against Swansea this weekend and the potential for him to fill his boots. Serio Aguero was mid-suspension during the last international break. It’ll be interesting to see how Guardiola approaches the situation. And he did allegedly pick up an injury in Argentina’s first match against Peru, yet still played in their second against Paraguay. Kelechi Iheanacho looks more than a capable stand in these days, although he has been to Zambia and back himself in the last week.

The more serious injury concerns happened within the England squad. Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana are the in form English players of the moment. Neither played either international. Lallana was injured in Liverpool’s last game and Sterling pulled out of the squad. If you believe internet reports, it doesn’t look promising for either player, although Lallana does have a few extra days to prove his fitness. Tom Heaton was also withdrawn after the first qualifier. The competitions leading keeper picked up a ‘minor’ calf injury and is listed as 75% fit. God knows what that really means.

Stoke’s luck could be about to change. Despite the worst goal difference in the league, having scored the least and with only West Ham conceding more, their run of fixtures into December all look eminently winnable. They play seven consecutive games against teams in the bottom half of the table, starting at home against Sunderland this weekend. They’ve yet to keep a clean sheet, but crucially have stopped shipping threes and fours. Shay Given bore the brunt of their worst performances and was replaced by Lee Grant, who in the last two games has accumulated 7 points. He’s another £4 million reserve keeper with almost guaranteed game time. That is until Jack Butland returns – and that appears to be some time in mid November. He keeps a Premier League clean sheet one in every three games. Stoke could be mid table by Christmas.

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