16 April 2019
With a big week of European football coming up, managers were tasked with finding the right balance between keeping their players fresh and navigating tricky domestic fixtures. Nowhere was this more evident than the games involving Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City who made thirteen changes all told from their last Premier League outing. The two sides meet in the second-leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Wednesday.
Fortunately, the fixture Gods were smiling on the Lilywhites who entertained basements boys Huddersfield Town, and after a bright, (ish), opening from the visitors, Spurs confidently strode to victory. Mauricio Pochettino decided against risking Dele Alli for the contest although he could return at the Etihad.
“We’ll see. He’s doing some training sessions with the protection. He needs to feel comfortable. It all depends on the time.”
Harry Winks was a notable omission after he aggravated an ongoing groin problem on Friday, however, barring another setback, he should be in contention for the second leg.
“It was the same as the past. He was training yesterday, and in the middle of training, he started to feel it. It’s a similar situation. We are optimistic,” Pochettino revealed in his post-match press conference.
Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld enjoyed an afternoon off while Danny Rose was introduced for the final five minutes to offer Jan Vertonghen a little respite. There was one slight concern, especially given that Harry Kane (ankle) is currently sidelined, with Fernando Llorente picking up a knock. And speaking of Kane, the England captain will meet with a specialist this week amid fears that his season is over. Initial reports suggest his injury is very similar to the one he suffered back in January which kept Kane out for 41 days.
City, on the other hand, had to avoid a potential banana skin at Selhurst Park as Palace were aiming for an unlikely double over the Champions. Pep made a massive seven changes from the win over Cardiff City; some enforced while others were rested.
Benjamin Mendy started at left-back and his involvement midweek will depend on his recovery having missed most the season with a persistent knee problem. If he does miss out, then Fabian Delph or the returning Oleksandr Zinchenko could deputise, but neither player is up to speed following their injury issues.
Pep opted for Vincent Kompany on Saturday to combat the aerial threat of Christian Benteke, but the skipper cannot be relied upon to play games in quick succession, and the fit-again John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi could play alongside Aymeric Laporte.
Guardiola confirmed Fernandinho was missing due to a “short term injury” and a decision on whether he plays will be made closer to kick-off. “We’ll see,” if he can be fit in time for Wednesday. The loss of the Brazilian would be massive in such a crucial game and would probably see Ilkay Gundogan tasked with the holding role as City target an unprecedented quadruple.
Sergio Aguero is not injured.
The Argentine was seen with an ice pack walking straight down the tunnel following his withdrawal for Gabriel Jesus but returned soon after. Aguero looked out of sorts on Sunday and is maybe feeling the effects of his return from a recent muscular injury.
Liverpool travel to Portugal with a comfortable two-goal lead, but the Reds will have their work cut out against the joint Primeira Liga leaders. Porto have been in fine form at home this season, but Jurgen Klopp will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s 5-0 demolition.
Jordan Henderson will be fine after he was replaced in the win over Chelsea.
“He got a knock on his ankle, that’s pretty much all,” he said. “He was fine after the game. A bit of pain, no problem, [he] didn’t twist [it]. It’s only painful, not a problem,” Klopp said.
Joe Gomez managed an hour, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played in the opening 45 minutes as the Under-23s swept Leicester City aside 6-0 at the King Power Stadium. The pair are targeting a first-team return during the run-in following long-term ankle and knee injuries.
United flew out to Barcelona on Monday with Alexis Sanchez and Nemanja Matic back amongst the ranks. Saturday came too early for the Chilean star who has spent the last month recovering from a knee ligament injury while Matic has missed the previous three games because of illness. Ashley Young is included after serving a suspension on Saturday, but Luke Shaw did not travel following his caution in the first-leg which triggered an automatic one-game ban.
Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford started Saturdays’ game on the bench, but both should feature prominently at the Camp Nou as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims to reverse a one-goal deficit.
Chelsea have a few extra days recovery before their Europa League tie with Slavia Prague, but the early signs for Antonio Rudiger do not look good after he went down clutching his left knee before being helped from the pitch.
“I hope it is nothing serious of course, but at the moment I am not able to say anything,” said Maurizio Sarri. “We need to go to Cobham and have another visit with the doctor, and probably we will need something else tomorrow to be sure the injury is not serious. I am not sure.”
Arsenal are also on European duty with a trip to Naples in the offing, but first, they face FA Cup finalists Watford at Vicarage Road.
Unai Emery said some of his players were suffering from cramp in his post-match interview on Thursday and that looks to be the case with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was seen limping down the tunnel after the win over Napoli. It was the strikers first start in a month following illness, but he has been working as usual. Granit Xhaka also comes into contention for the first time since last month. The midfielder has been managing a groin problem which was aggravated on international duty, but he has stepped up his recovery in recent days. Lucas Torreira returns after a three-match ban, but Sokratis is out after accumulating ten yellow cards. Laurent Koscielny is a like-for-like replacement having overcome a foot injury. No change with those out long term – Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding or Hector Bellerin.
For the Hornets, Jose Holebas picked up a hamstring problem during the semi-final win over Wolves, and the defender will not recover in time. A shoulder injury suffered in training on Thursday also rules Domingos Quina out while Tom Cleverley is no closer to overcoming the calf issue which has been hampering him since March. Isaac Success and Adalberto Peñaranda will be assessed, although Javi Gracia can count on Gerard Deulofeu and Kiko Femenía who are have been taking part in full sessions after recovering from minor knocks.
And some of this weekends’ other main injury talking points. Manuel Lanzini could miss the remainder of April after pulling up with a groin-related injury at Old Trafford. There has been no official update, although the Argentine seems certain to be sidelined for the game against Leicester.
The Hammers could welcome Aaron Cresswell (knee) back into the squad, but following an encouraging performance from Arthur Masuaku, he may have to settle for a place on the bench. There was nothing on Timothy Fosu-Mensah from Scott Parker in his post-match interview on Saturday. It didn’t look great for the United loanee who may have suffered ligament or cartilage damage in his left knee. Special mention also to Steve Cook after his surprise return at Brighton. Just a week earlier Eddie Howe had talked of his “hope” of getting the defender back before the end of the season, but the 27-year-old was included at the AMEX Stadium to help the Cherries to only their second win in ten games.
“Cook coming back was a massive thing for us, he led the team brilliantly, and his overall performance was top class. He’s got that defensive mentally we’ve been missing in recent weeks, so fair play because he’s had very limited training, but we needed him.”