Premier League – Team news: Fabregas back
Click on the relevant links to see predicted line-ups, injuries, suspensions and players to watch.
All matches kick off at 15:00 UK time unless otherwise stated.
Saturday April 4
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce could be without strike duo Roque Santa Cruz and Benni McCarthy, who are struggling with knee and hamstring problems respectively. Australian Vince Grella is also touch and go with a groin strain, while his fellow midfielders Steven Reid and Brett Emerton remain sidelined for the rest of the season.
Spurs have a virtually fully-fit squad to choose from. However, Harry Redknapp is unlikely to have many options in attack with Jermain Defoe still injured and Darren Bent a major doubt following his withdrawal from the England squad in midweek with knee trouble.
Arsenal v Manchester City
Arsenal will be without strikers Robin van Persie and Eduardo, who both picked up injuries on international duty. However, those losses are well compensated for with the return of Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Adebayor. Fabregas has not played since injuring his knee against Liverpool in December, and the visit of City sees him back in the squad for the first time. Samir Nasri and Carlos Vela are also doubtful.
There is also mixed news for City boss Mark Hughes, who has strikers Daniel Sturridge and Benjani available again, the latter for the first time since December. Long-term absentees Michael Johnson and Martin Petrov are also close to returns. However, the Welshman is left sweating on the fitness of Craig Bellamy, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Shay Given, Valeri Bojinov and Vincent Kompany, who picked up knocks while on international duty.
Hull are still severely depleted in the centre of the park, with George Boateng and captain Ian Ashbee still sidelined along with Jimmy Bullard, who has played just 38 minutes since joining the club in January. However, defender Anthony Gardner may be fit in time to rejoin the squad.
Portsmouth boss Paul Hart still has a handful of missing players in Jermaine Pennant, Armand Traore, Papa Bouba Diop and reserve goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown, meaning that Glen Johnson and David Nugent may continue playing out of position.
Alan Shearer’s first match in charge of his hometown club could hardly be a tougher test. He has confirmed that Michael Owen will start if fit, likely considering the striker’s international snub. Winger Damien Duff should also be able to shake off a knock sustained in Italy on Wednesday to feature for his new boss, while defender Steven Taylor may recover from an ankle injury too.
Chelsea will be without Didier Drogba after the striker injured himself in training, but top scorer Nicolas Anelka has recovered from a toe injury and will play. Right-back Jose Bosingwa is a major doubt and, with Paulo Ferreira sidelined for the season, Juliano Belletti is most likely to fill in.
West Brom defender Abdoulaye Meite may rejoin the squad having recovered from a hamstring injury, but Tony Mowbray will likely stick with the central partnership of Jonas Olsson and Shelton Martis. Striker Ishmael Miller and defender Neil Clement are out for the season.
Stoke will also be missing a striker for the remainder of the campaign, with Mamady Sidibe out with cruciate knee ligament damage. However, defenders Ryan Shawcross and Andy Wilkinson could both be available for selection.
Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola will be without Carlton Cole for six weeks after the striker came off with a groin injury during England’s friendly with Slovakia last Saturday. Midfield duo Jack Collison and Valon Behrami are also sidelined, the latter for the rest of the season, but Savio Nsereko could return.
Kieran Richardson returns for Sunderland following his suspension. However, full-back George McCartney is a doubt after playing for Northern Ireland in midweek, while Trinidad and Tobago duo Kenwyne Jones and Carlos Edwards will face fitness tests after returning to the club on Friday.
Fulham v Liverpool (17:30)
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson has no new suspension or injury worries, giving him no reason to change the side that beat Manchester United last time out.
Javier Mascherano returned late from Bolivia following Argentina’s 6-1 mauling in La Paz but is expected to play. Yossi Benayoun picked up a hamstring strain while playing for Israel, but should be available, although Rafael Benitez will likely stick with the same 11 that beat Aston Villa 5-0.
Sunday April 5
Australia coach Pim Verbeek has stated that Tim Cahill is 100 per cent fit following the midfielder’s part in Australia’s 2-0 win against Uzbekistan. David Moyes is still missing several key players, including Mikel Arteta and Yakubu.
Wigan boss Steve Bruce has publicly criticised striker Amr Zaki as the Egyptian has still not returned from international duty, though compatriot Mido was back on time. Midfielder Lee Cattermole is serving the third game of his four-match suspension for his red card against West Ham, while Charles N’Zogbia is a doubt.
Manchester United v Aston Villa (16:00)
Alex Ferguson has been handed another selection problem as striker Dimitar Berbatov is a major doubt, meaning the Bulgarian will likely join the suspended trio of Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and Nemanja Vidic on the list of unavailable players. One piece of good news for United is that Gary Neville is available after turning out for the reserves.
Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill is likely to make changes following his side’s 5-0 drubbing at Anfield, but his one enforced change will be up front as Emile Heskey picked up an injury after scoring for England last Saturday.
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