Manchester City Vs Arsenal
12:45pm Saturday, 14 December Etihad Stadium
Premier League Preview
Another weekend packed full of top Premier League action kicks off on Saturday when current leaders Arsenal entertain bookies title favourites Manchester City at The Etihad in the first game of the day at 12:45pm. Arsene Wenger will hand full-back Bacary Sagna a late fitness test on a hamstring injury which was worse than initially expected, however the prognosis seems good and The Gunners are ‘optimistic’ that the French international will be available. Another player pushing for a place in the match-day squad is forgotten man Lukas Podolski who has been out since August, the German is back in full training but this weekend may come too early as the forward is lacking match fitness / sharpness. Better news however regarding Theo Walcott, Arsene Wenger hinted during Fridays’ pre-match press-conference that the winger could make his first start since his return from an abdominal problem “This week he has found back his normal level. It took him a while to get back to real sharpness. He has come from surgery; it took him a while to get back to full power.”
Manchester City will welcome back defender Gael Clichy who has recovered from a minor foot injury but the Sky Blues will have to wait another week before Stevan Jovetic and Matija Nastasic are available (both calf) although they have trained with the squad. Micah Richards is ruled out after picking up a hamstring injury in the Champions League win over Bayern Munich.
Steve Bruce is hoping to build upon a solid point taken from Swansea on Monday night with the Hull City manager having no fresh injury concerns for the visit of Stoke. Aluko (calf), Stephen Quinn (hamstring) and Dudgeon (knee) remain long-term absentees while the fitness of Robbie Brady (Gilmores Groin) will be monitored closely after his recent surgery.
Mark Hughes will be full of confidence after last weekends’ win over Chelsea, but may have to contend with the loss of goal-keeper Asmir Begovic who suffered a dead leg in the victory; Thomas Sorensen is on standby to make his first Premier League appearance since 2011. Matthew Etherington has recovered from an ongoing back issue but is struggling with fitness; the winger will play for the Development side on Friday ruling him out. Charlie Adam is expected to recover from a minor knock.
For Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert will be looking to get back to winning ways after a disappointing defeat away to Fulham last Sunday. The ‘Claret & Blues’ have doubts over a few players & will give fitness test(s) to full-back Antonio ‘Tony Moon’ Luna (groin) and striker Libor Kozak (toe). Influential captain Ron Vlaar is almost certainly out with a calf strain.
And just when David Moyes thought things couldn’t get any worse, the latest news suggests that striker Robin van Persie is likely to be missing for around a month “He picked up a thigh strain in taking a corner kick which led to the goal.” The Old Trafford treatment room is a busy place to be at the moment with doubts regarding the fitness of Fellaini, Evra, Vidic and Smalling although conceivably all four could be available after an assessment on Saturday. Michael Carrick (Achilles) and Darren Fletcher (Bowel Condition) the others currently out.
Tottenham Hotspur welcomed back defender Danny Rose on Thursday night in the Europa League; the full-back had been side-lined since September with a toe injury. The player however is unlikely to start on Sunday having only completed three full training sessions, Kyle Naughton the player to benefit. Jan Vertonghen continues to be assessed after an initial scan on an ankle problem proved inconclusive, severe swelling suggests a ligament tear ruling him out over the Festive period. Better news for Vlad Chiriches who responded well to treatment, the defender was suffering from a swollen knee which was drained this week. A subsequent scan showed no ligament damage, a place in the squad this weekend is possible. Younes Kaboul (thigh) remains out.
Finally across at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers had to content with mixed injury news ahead of their game at White Hart Lane. Tests confirmed captain Steven Gerrard could be out for a while after he pulled up with a hamstring injury in the win over West Ham, the grade two tear could keep him out for up to six weeks. On the other-hand Jordan Henderson has recovered from that Kevin Nolan challenge and after missing training during the early part of this week is expected to play. Daniel Agger (illness) is back but Daniel Sturridge (ankle) and Jose Enrique (knee) remain out.
Make sure to follow @physioroom for all the latest injury updates, news and views throughout this Premier League weekend.
Written by expert injury analyst @BenDinnery