As if Chelsea coach Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t have enough problems, his injury list for this weekend’s visit of Arsenal is still preventing him from fielding his strongest side. Cole Palmer returned from the England Under-21 camp with a dead leg but is hopeful for the game this Saturday. Armando Broja was selected for Albania but did not play as his damaged knee was causing him pain. Senegal’s Nicolas Jackson has worn protective strapping on his right hand for the past two games but is expected to be fit to face the Gunners. Mykhailo Mudryk says he will be ready to play although he was taken off the field playing for Ukraine. Pochettino has been encouraged by Reece James’ improvement and says his club captain might return to the starting line-up although an assessment will be made on Saturday morning. He trained alone this week and there are still question marks over his full fitness. Marc Cucurella wants to start and Carney Chukwuemeka could be available once more but there are also injury questions about him. Right-back Malo Gusto has returned from a three match suspension and is available for Pochettino. Wesley Fofana, Trevoh Chalobah (likely to leave for Bayern Munich in January), Christopher Nkunku and Ben Chilwell all have some way to go before regaining their fitness. Romeo Lavia was able to remove his protective boot last week but the news from the Chelsea Cobham training ground is that although he has a special light training programme, he cannot run and will be out until late next month. Sterling, Jackson and Palmer are likely to play a part.
The main worry for Mikel Arteta is Bukayo Saka who suffered a hamstring injury against Lens which stopped him from playing in the 1-0 win against Manchester City and he pulled out of England’s international match. His fitness will be assessed on Saturday morning. William Saliba also missed his match for France last week with “chronic” toe pain. If he misses the game against Chelsea, Takehiro Tomiyasu or Jakub Kiwior are ready to start. Leandro Trossard suffered slight hamstring problems but Gabriel Martinelli and Thomas Partey are back to full fitness. Ben White will play and Oleksandr Zinchenko is also available. If Saka does not play, Gabriel Jesus is likely to switch to the right wing position with Martinelli on the left and Eddie Nketiah leading as striker. Arteta has decisions to make on Saturday morning but the above are his training ground plans midweek.
Bitter rivals Liverpool vs Everton
Liverpool v Everton is one of the best derby matches in football. Geographically separated only by the River Mersey these two bitter rivals have given us some great performances over the decades. Everton are improving under Sean Dyche after a poor start but Liverpool are already flying once again. The good news for Liverpool is that Diogo Jota is back to start the match. However, it is once again Liverpool’s shaky defence which has to perform and if they do the Reds should win. (Sorry Everton fans but that is the general view). Jurgen Klopp’s problem is that Nunez, Mac Allister and Diaz had to make the long flight back from South America after World Cup qualification matches and they are tired. Consequently, Klopp is considering starting with Jota, Gakpo and Salah.
Everton will rely heavily on Calvert-Lewin and with midfielders who can move forward into the penalty box Everton have to be in with a chance. Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is one player who worries me. He can lose his temper at any time and if Liverpool’s attackers harass and are aggressive he will react badly. Losing Andy Robertson to injury is a bitter blow to Liverpool and he is unlikely to play until after the international break next month. This gives Tsimikas the chance to claim a regular place and he will be the defender Everton can expose if he lacks confidence against such talented forwards.
Radcliffe believes in football not just profit
There is no doubt that Manchester United supporters are 100% behind Sir Jim Radcliffe’s purchase of 25% of the club’s shares. However, the success might not be all they wished for.
There will be more protests next week by the fans who want the Glazer Brothers out of their club 100%…not 25%. The good news is that the Glazers have agreed to Radcliffe running the club while they concentrate on their businesses in America. Radcliffe’s deal gives him control of which players are bought and sold, staff recruitment, management, coaching and football staff. The main difference between the Glazers and Radcliffe should please the United supporters as it is the huge ray of light shining through this whole business. The Glazers concentrated on maximizing the brand to bring in more riches financially which increased their personal wealth. Sir James Radcliffe is more interested in building the world’s best football team with excellent performances. There will be changes in personnel at the club but Erik Ten Hag’s position is safe for the time being provided he produces results. There will not however be unlimited millions poured into buying new players in January. Financial Fair Play restrictions make it almost impossible for United to spend big in January and normally they do little business during that period and they save most of their cash for summer purchases. The Old Trafford ground needs a complete rebuild. Radcliffe wants to increase capacity to 90,000 and at the moment the infrastructure is old and crumbling. It is hoped Radcliffe’s purchase fee of £1.75billion will contribute to the rebuild and the Glazers take the profits for themselves.
Mac Allister still learning
Liverpool’s Alexis Mac Allister is still learning his new role as a deep midfielder. Following his move to his current position at Anfield his Argentine national team also moved him deeper. He played next to Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo De Paul and impressed as they beat Paraguay 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier. He said, “I played more or less as I do for Liverpool and it is a new position for me but I feel very comfortable.” Speaking to many Liverpool fans, I found them not happy about his deeper role. They want him moved back to his forward position and attacking defences. Coach Jurgen Klopp however believes that with Thiago Alcantara and Stefan Bajcetic currently missing from the squad and Waturu Endo taking longer than usual to settle into the team he has no alternative but to use Mac Allister in the deeper role.
Sancho’s last chance to save United career
The deal is simple: Either Jadon Sancho apologises to United coach Erik Ten Hag or he will be sold in January. Ten Hag says he is worried that the winger’s attitude will affect other players and United needs everyone to be upbeat at this difficult time. Sancho was dropped last month after criticising the coach on social media and has refused to apologise. Ten Hag wants him to say he is sorry in front of his teammates but nothing has happened so far and Sancho’s former club Dortmund are interested in re-signing him. Erik Ten Hag is well aware that he is gradually losing the dressing room with several players speaking out about Jadon being treated badly by the coach and with a new owner being added to the United board he has to tread carefully or risk being blamed for anything that goes wrong.