08 April 2019
There may have been a reduced slate due to the FA Cup semi-finals this weekend, but there was no let-up following the news that several players will play no further part in 2018/19.
Florian Lejeune made a remarkable comeback from a serious knee injury before Christmas when he played 45 minutes for the Under-23 side against Norwich. The Newcastle United defender had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the eve of the new campaign, an injury which can typically sideline players for between 9-12 months, but the Frenchman was back within 140 days following reconstructive surgery in Italy. Lejeune waited another three weeks before re-joining the first-team, 90 minutes in the FA Cup (vs Blackburn Rovers) and has enjoyed a relatively seamless transition from the treatment table to being back in the spotlight.
However, the 27-year-old looks set for another lengthy stint out after he suffered what the club described as a “significant knee injury” during the 1-0 home defeat by Crystal Palace. Lejeune fell to the turf following a relatively innocuous looking challenge on former Mag Andros Townsend, and watching video replays; it clearly shows the left knee giving way.
“We don’t know. He had a problem with the right knee at the start of the season, and this was the left. We will have to see what the doctor says, but it looks bad,” mused Rafa Benitez in his post-match press conference.
I hope I am wrong, but I fear Lejeune may have suffered another ACL rupture.
There was mixed news from the West Ham camp this weekend as manager Manuel Pellegrini revealed summer signing Andriy Yarmolenko would not be back this season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in October.
“Yarmolenko is working very well, he has no pain, he is running and kicking the ball, but maybe it will be too soon for him to play before we finish,” the Hammer boss said.
“The Achilles tendon is one of the worst injuries you can have because you cannot go faster, you must exercise the ligament and then wait. To play this season, I don’t think would be good for him. It would be better to do a very good pre-season.”
However, on a brighter note, Carlos Sanchez could feature during the run-in as he continues to progress following knee surgery.
“I think he will work with the squad next week. I think he can be involved in some games before we finish.”
Jack Wilshere is closing in on a first-team return after playing 66 minutes for the Under-23 side against Leicester City on Sunday. The injury-plagued midfielder has been battling an ongoing ankle issue since September but finally looks to winning his race for fitness. Winston Reid Is not expected to feature until next season, and Andy Carroll seems to have played his last game for the club.
The striker has gone under the knife to remedy an underlying ankle problem which has restricted him to only three Premier League starts. Pellegrini laid down the gauntlet earlier in the season and challenged Carroll to earn himself a new deal, but once again injuries have curtailed his comeback, and it is likely that he will be released in the summer.
Saturdays’ win at St James’ Park will come as a massive relief for Roy Hodgson as it all but guarantees their top-flight status. However, the win was marred by the loss of centre-back James Tomkins to what appears to be quite a nasty muscular injury.
“He’s obviously damaged something in his groin area, but I don’t know what it is,” confirmed the Eagles boss.
“We’ll have to scan. If it isn’t good and he’s going to miss games, it’ll be a massive, massive blow for us because we’re already missing Sakho for the last five or six games. It’s not a minor knock, but we’ll have to look into it.”
That leaves Palace a little short on numbers defensively, particularly in central areas, not ideal with the current Champions rolling into town next weekend. Max Meyer should recover from the overnight fever which saw him sent home early from Tyneside.
Phil Jagielka proved the most unlikely match-winner on Sunday when the veteran centre-back was called upon after Michael Keane failed a late fitness test.
“Michael had some problems during the night,” said Marco Silva. “He tried to be ready, started to warm-up but felt a little bit fragile at that moment and we started Jags.”
It was Jagielka’s third league start of the season and his first goal in almost two years. The win takes the Toffees to within seventh place and a step closer to being crowned ‘Best of the Rest’.
Opponents Arsenal struggled to get to grips with their hosts, and with third-placed Tottenham Hotspur within their sights, the Gunners fluffed their lines. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had started on the bench against Newcastle after his build-up was disrupted by illness, but after impressing as a second-half substitute, the Gabon star was expected to return alongside striker partner Alexandre Lacazette. But fantasy managers were left frustrated once again as his minutes came as a substitute with Arsenal failing to overturn a one-goal deficit.
The Gunners have taken just two points (from a possible 21) against Top Half teams away from the Emirates and their last win on the road came at Huddersfield in November. Unai Emery’s men are back in Europa League action this week, and in terms of personnel, there are one/two concerns.
“I want to be positive for Thursday, but it depends how [Koscielny] is progressing. Xhaka is the same. They are doubts,” he confirmed as the pair struggle to shake off respective foot and groin injuries.
Ramsey could start as his game time was managed at Goodison Park due to recent thigh and groin issues.
“He was better, and it was his idea to play, but we spoke with the doctor, and we had a doubt over him playing 90 minutes. We decided for him not to start, then after we needed him to come on.”
One more match to come in game week thirty-three as Chelsea entertain West Ham United. Sides in contrasting form as Maurizio Sarri looks to take the Blues into a Champions League qualifying spot while the inconsistent Hammers go in search of their first away win of the year.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was withdrawn as a precaution (vs Brighton) after complaining of hamstring discomfort, and the England international will be assessed, although the additional recovery days should help. Sarri wouldn’t confirm whether Callum Hudson-Odoi would start despite his starring role last Wednesday – the Chelsea coach will select his team with one eye on the Europa game in Prague three days later. Marcos Alonso (hamstring) needed 3-4 days to rest after the win at Cardiff, but if there are still concerns, then Emerson will keep his place. Pedro Rodriguez should recover from a minor muscular issue.
Pellegrini could ring the changes after he described the loss to Everton (GW32) as his sides “worst performance of the season.” West Ham were comfortably beaten and with the likes of Ryan Fredericks and Felipe Anderson due to return; he has several options to consider ahead of tonight’s’ game. Samir Nasri (calf) is also back in contention while Marko Arnautovic has recovered from the knee problem, he picked up playing for Austria. But, I suspect, given his recent poor form, that he will drop to the bench with Javier Hernandez returning to the starting XI.