The football is coming thick and fast as the Premier League enters its busiest period of the season.
We’ve only just turned the page on matchweek 15 and the next round of fixtures is already upon us. Struggling Crystal Palace host high-flying Liverpool in matchweek 16’s opening game, while Saturday also brings a top-of-the-table clash as third-placed Aston Villa welcome leaders Arsenal.
As managers provide fitness updates on their squads ahead of the fixtures, keep updated with all the latest team and injury news below.
Saturday, December 9 (12.30pm GMT)
Crystal Palace team news: Tyrick Mitchell will be assessed after sustaining an injury during Wednesday’s defeat against Bournemouth but Roy Hodgson said he’d be “surprised” if the defender is fit for the visit of Liverpool. Cheick Doucoure, Jerusun Rak-Sakyi, Dean Henderson, Rob Holding and Eberechi Eze remain out.
Liverpool team news: Jurgen Klopp confirmed Joel Matip had sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury following their win at Sheffield United. Alexis Mac Allister will be assessed after suffering a problem during that game. Stefan Bajcetic, Andy Robertson and Diogo Jota remain out, while this game likely comes too soon for Alisson.
Referee: Andy Madley (VAR: John Brooks)
Opta omen: Since the start of last season, Liverpool have won just one of their seven Premier League away games kicking off at 12.30pm GMT on a Saturday (D3 L3), coming from behind to beat Wolves 3-1 in September.
Saturday, December 9 (3pm GMT)
Brighton team news: Captain Lewis Dunk and midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud are available again after their suspensions. Solly March, Pervis Estupinan, Julio Enciso, Danny Welbeck, Ansu Fati and Adam Webster are out.
Burnley team news: Luca Koleosho will be absent for some time due to a knee injury, with manager Vincent Kompany hopeful the winger will return this season. Jack Cork is likely out, while Josh Cullen is a doubt, but Jordan Beyer can return after his suspension. Lyle Foster remains out of contention due to mental health reasons.
Referee: Simon Hooper (VAR: Michael Oliver)
Opta omen: Burnley have lost each of their last four Premier League away games, last having a longer losing run on the road in the division between November 2016 and February 2017 (seven).
Saturday, December 9 (3pm GMT)
Man Utd team news: Erik ten Hag said Raphael Varane missed Wednesday’s win over Chelsea with a back injury. Amad, Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro, Tyrell Malacia and Christian Eriksen remain out. Jadon Sancho is still away from the team due to his dispute with Ten Hag.
Referee: Peter Bankes (VAR: Paul Tierney)
Opta omen: Since the start of October, only Arsenal (19) have won more Premier League points than Manchester United (18), with the Red Devils winning six of their eight games in that time.
Why is Varane so far down United's defensive pecking order?Raphael Varane missed Wednesday’s win over Chelsea but has fallen out of favour at Manchester United (Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)
Saturday, December 9 (3pm GMT)
Brentford team news: Bryan Mbeumo will be out for “weeks” after exiting Brentford’s loss against Brighton in the first half with an ankle injury. Josh Dasilva and Mathias Jensen are doubts, while Rico Henry, Kevin Schade and Aaron Hickey are out long-term. Captain Christian Norgaard can return after serving his one-match ban but Ivan Toney remains suspended until next month.
Referee: Stuart Attwell (VAR: Rob Jones)
Opta omen: Brentford have lost three of their last four Premier League matches (W1), as many as in their previous 14 games (W7 D4 L3). They’ve lost two games when scoring first this season, more than in their first two seasons combined (one).
Saturday, December 9 (3pm GMT)
Wolves team news: Jose Sa missed the win over Burnley on Tuesday after going off early against Arsenal last weekend. Gary O’Neil said earlier this week he hoped Rayan Ait-Nouri would be back for this game but that Jonny Otto is not being considered for selection due to a “training-ground incident”. Joe Hodge and Pedro Neto remain out.
Forest team news: Taiwo Awoniyi and Willy Boly are out.
Referee: Sam Barrott (VAR: Chris Kavanagh)
Opta omen: Nottingham Forest have lost their last four Premier League matches, their third run of four or more defeats in a row since rejoining the division in 2022, only losing five once in that time (August – October 2022).
Saturday, December 9 (5.30pm GMT)
Referee: Jarred Gillett (VAR: Michael Salisbury)
Opta omen: Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey has been involved in eight goals in his last 12 Premier League appearances (five goals, three assists), scoring the winner against Man City last time out. The Jamaican hasn’t completed 90 minutes in any of those games, averaging a goal or assist every 63 minutes.Takehiro Tomiyasu had started six games in a row for Arsenal before sustaining a calf injury against Wolves last weekend (David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Sunday, December 10 (2pm GMT)
Everton team news: Dele Alli is likely still out, while Andre Gomes and Amadou Onana are doubts. Jordan Pickford briefly needed treatment after appearing in discomfort following a goal kick, but finished Thursday’s 3-0 win over Newcastle.
Chelsea team news: Lesley Ugochukwu and Noni Madueke were added to Chelsea’s injury list before the defeat at Manchester United on Wednesday. Wesley Fofana, Carney Chukwuemeka, Ben Chilwell, Trevoh Chalobah and Malo Gusto are out, but Romeo Lavia and Christopher Nkunku may be available. Conor Gallagher can return after serving his one-match ban.
Referee: Michael Oliver (VAR: Stuart Attwell)
Opta omen: Everton have won four of their last five home Premier League matches against Chelsea, although they did lose 1-0 last season on the opening day under Frank Lampard.
Sunday, December 10 (2pm GMT)
Referee: Paul Tierney (VAR: David Coote)
Opta omen: Fulham are without a win in their last 11 London derbies in the Premier League (D4 L7) since a 2-1 win over Chelsea in January last season.Michail Antonio has not featured since mid-November due to a knee issue (Justin Tallis/AFP)
Sunday, December 10 (2pm GMT)
Referee: Tim Robinson (VAR: Jarred Gillett)
Opta omen: This is the first meeting between Luton Town and Manchester City since April 1999, a third-tier league meeting which was won 2-0 by City with goals by Paul Dickov and Tony Vaughan.
Manchester City are fallible and dropping points. How serious are their problems?
Sunday, December 10 (4.30pm GMT)
Tottenham team news: James Maddison, Manor Solomon, Mickey van de Ven, Ryan Sessegnon, Ivan Perisic and Rodrigo Bentancur are long-term absentees. Son Heung-min said after the defeat by West Ham that he had taken a knock on his back, having been withdrawn late on.
Newcastle team news: Nick Pope will undergo surgery on a shoulder injury, with Dan Burn, Jacob Murphy, Sven Botman, Callum Wilson, Elliot Anderson, Javier Manquillo and Harvey Barnes also long-term absentees. Jamaal Lascelles was substituted late on against Everton after taking a knock to the thigh but Eddie Howe hopes the defender only suffered a dead leg.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (VAR: Peter Bankes)
Opta omen: Spurs are winless in all four of their Sunday games so far this term (D3 L1), conceding at least twice each time.
How do Newcastle navigate four months without Nick Pope?
(Photos: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images, Alex Livesey/Getty Images, Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
Earlier today, we held our latest subscriber-exclusive Ask Ornstein session.
Once a week for an hour, The Athletic’s subscribers can ask me for my views on anything from the world of football. I have pulled together some of my favourite questions and my answers to them from this eighth edition below.
Want to ask me a question? Join us next Thursday.
Rafael F. asked: Hi David, can you give a breakdown of the situation at Chelsea? One match it seems like they’re building something close to great, then the next they put in a performance that’s close to relegation level.
David Ornstein: Hi Rafael, thanks for the question. I personally don’t think last night’s performance against Manchester United was close to relegation level but understand your frustration. There has been so much change at Chelsea since the takeover last year and so many new faces on and off the pitch that, irrespective of the heavy spending, it is going to take time before we can form firm judgements, and there will be bumps in the road.
What progress is actually being made at Chelsea right now?
Inconsistent displays are part of that and Old Trafford was below the expected level. Before that, they beat Brighton at the weekend. You may point out that they were soundly defeated at Newcastle but I don’t think that is a disgrace these days, nor based on where the two clubs are on their journeys. Previously, they put four goals past Manchester City in a creditable point and did the same in a win at Tottenham.
Generally, from what I’ve seen, they’ve played much better this season than last and often it has only lacked clinical finishing.
I don’t know of Mauricio Pochettino’s position being in doubt at all — to the contrary, the Chelsea hierarchy will want to be building into the future with him — but everyone knows this is a results industry and I’d expect them to review how he is doing in the summer, which will be a year into a two-year contract that includes a club option of a further 12 months.
Christopher Nkunku will be back soon having been out since pre-season, so that should be like a new signing with attacking versatility and goal threat. I don’t know the latest on Romeo Lavia, but I assume he is also close and has fantastic attributes of his own to help the side. Chelsea won’t want to rush them back and risk further damage, so patience is required. As for new signings, I’d expect an attacker (whether it be a striker or somebody who can play multiple positions around the front line) in January or the summer and likely a centre-back in the summer as I don’t think they’ll extend Thiago Silva again.
With Nkunku returning and Armando Broja back fit after his ACL injury last December, the need to recruit in winter might not be as pressing as it looked before.
Michael G. asked: How much money do Spurs have in their January transfer budget?
Ornstein: Like most Premier League clubs, not much. They spent a fair amount in anticipation of Harry Kane leaving and — as we’ve seen more sharply than ever of late — everyone is being extra vigilant to comply with profit and sustainability rules (PSR). So Tottenham and many of their rivals will have to be creative.
Let’s see if they can shift some of the players they didn’t manage to move on in the summer; depending on what they recoup there, that would create manoeuvrability — in terms of salary and squad space at the very least. I think ideally Spurs would like to bring in a centre-back and an attacker, but it depends on multiple factors, including the above.
There is the added complication of players such as James Maddison, Micky van de Ven, Rodrigo Bentancur and Manor Solomon returning from injury in due course and therefore signing replacements would leave them with too many players if/when everyone is fit… again, unless they can shift some out.
Marty B. asked: Which positions and profiles are Arsenal targeting in January, considering they are somewhat light in defence and midfield? Do they have a budget or will they have to loan?
Ornstein: Hi Marty. As things stand, I’m expecting a fairly quiet window at Arsenal. Things can always change — so please don’t hold me to this if they do! — but that’s my current anticipation. We know from the David Raya loan in the summer that they don’t have much breathing space on FFP (financial fair play) and once they are in a position to spend properly, the first outlay needs to go on turning that deal permanent.
Obviously, there is the Aaron Ramsdale situation; I don’t think Arsenal would allow a loan only a permanent transfer, and that would need to be at a level of fee that gives the proper finances to play with, and I’m not aware of any movement on that front yet. Of course, Ramsdale wants and needs to be playing but I hear, unsurprisingly, that he has been training well and being a model pro. Ideally for Arsenal, this would be addressed next summer.
The Takehiro Tomiyasu injury and his potential Asian Cup absence in January and February are a huge blow so perhaps some defensive cover is sought on loan, however if everyone else stays fit then once he returns, that new player won’t be needed. And would the options available in the market be to Arsenal’s liking? Complicated.
I think Arsenal would like to add a midfielder at some point but there would need to be a departure and right now it doesn’t seem anything is developing on the likes of Jorginho, Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe. We know they like Martin Zubimendi, Nicolo Barella, Pedro Neto and others, but again I don’t know of any movement of that. Ruben Neves is staying in Saudi Arabia, I can’t see Aston Villa letting Douglas Luiz go and, to my knowledge, Arsenal were not seriously looking at either of them for this winter’s window anyway.
It’s been well-documented that a striker is on the agenda, but I think that would be one for the summer. As has been reported in various places, there is admiration for players such as Evan Ferguson and Benjamin Sesko but Arsenal aren’t alone in that and getting them out of their existing clubs won’t be easy for any suitors. Of course, Ivan Toney, Victor Osimhen and Victor Boniface are also in the pool of front men being looked at by many clubs — but once again, I think we’re a long way off knowing a direction of travel.Boniface (Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Jake M. asked: Are the reports of the INEOS takeover at Manchester United being announced next week true, and if so, why has it kept being pushed back week after week?
Ornstein: We did hear ‘next week’ (which we’ve now heard on many occasions!), while Mike Keegan of the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper is reporting it will be the week after. Everyone you speak to suggests it is the Glazers taking their time, paperwork, legalities and the complexity of such a deal. Don’t forget, this is a club based in the UK but registered in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, listed on the New York Stock Exchange and majority owned by six American siblings… that leaves a lot to unpick and re-stitch!
Jeremy L. asked: Do you expect Mikel Arteta will drop Raya for Ramsdale after his recent errors?
Ornstein: No I don’t, Jeremy. Whatever we think of either player, Arteta has clearly decided Raya is his first choice and he appears determined to go forward with him. Let’s see if Ramsdale can change that view, and of course, injuries can play a part, too.
Whether at Arsenal or elsewhere, Ramsdale is a top ’keeper and character, who I’m sure will continue to have a great career. But Raya was the player Arteta originally wanted, he eventually got him and all public comments suggest the manager is happy with how things have panned out.
Ji S. asked: Any indication on if Jurgen Klopp will stay on longer and sign a new contract?
Ornstein: Not yet, and everything you hear suggests Germany still really want him to manage their national team (I’m sure many clubs would, too, if he was available), so we have a couple of interesting years ahead before Klopp’s current Liverpool contract expiring in the summer of 2026.
Hassan A. asked: The new Premier League rights deals were confirmed, with Sky Sports getting more games to show. Two questions: 1) How come Amazon and the big streaming players didn’t bid for Premier League rights? And 2) The 3pm blackout. How much longer does this last, do you think?
Ornstein: I’m no expert on this, Hassan, and I bow to the superior knowledge of colleagues at The Athletic such as Matt Slater. They point out that the package Amazon has at present was relatively cheap, something of a trial and wasn’t offered up for this next round.
As for the blackout, the feeling among many is that the end could well be coming… perhaps this may be the final deal before it arrives. We need to keep an eye on the direct-to-consumer model — there seems a good chance the Premier League moves towards that at some point. Doing so would have an enormous impact on the industry.
English football's 3pm blackout must be protected and maintained(Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)
Johnny J. asked: Hi, What are the chances of David Moyes being at West Ham beyond this season?
Ornstein: His contract expires next summer, and that is when West Ham intend to review the situation. They will naturally be surveying the market for options if Moyes isn’t to continue, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he does. He has done an amazing job in this second spell as their manager, led them to a European trophy and they sit ninth in the Premier League table.
It’s a massive game (away to Tottenham) tonight, of course.
Harry P. asked: Anything regarding Forest and Steve Cooper? The rumours are that Wolves away on Saturday is his last dance…
Ornstein: Despite the result against Fulham last night, Harry, I’ve not heard about any developments surrounding Cooper’s position. Sure, he’s under pressure. No doubt another defeat on Saturday could change things.
This felt like Steve Cooper's Forest farewell - he deserved far better
But as we speak, the expectation is he will be in charge for that match, and many fans will hope for a lot longer. Cooper has done an amazing job in difficult circumstances and whether he goes soon or not, offers from elsewhere will not be in short supply.
Lucas A. asked: Hi David, do you have any insight into Raphael Varane’s potential departure in January or in the summer? Has he been frozen out by Erik ten Hag?
Ornstein: Varane is among the players (Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial et cetera) who I would expect Manchester United to entertain offers for if they arrive. But that doesn’t mean they will leave, and I’m not aware of anything concrete developing yet. Clearly, Varane is out of favour at present and injuries have not helped that, but equally, he has a contract until 2025 and things can change quickly.
James P. and Si C. asked for Christmas dinner advice. James wanted to know whether to serve gammon, beef, chicken or pork, and Si was wondering if mashed potatoes were OK for Christmas dinner…
Ornstein: Beef and chicken, James. And mashed potatoes are a crime, Si. Roasties only — and the more burnt the better.
(Top photo: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)
The Netherlands international defender says all the players are “hurting” after it was confirmed that the former Cameroon international ruptured his ACL in last weekend’s win over Fulham.
Matip will now undergo surgery and the 32-year-old centre-back faces an uncertain future with his contract expiring next summer.
“It’s tough for everyone to take,” Van Dijk said. “I feel very sorry for him and his family. It hurts for all of us. I’ve reached out to him already.
“Joel is a fantastic player and has been for so many years for this club. As a friend, it’s difficult to see.
“Knowing what he will go through now over the next weeks and months, it’s tough. But we are here for him. Whenever he needs us, we will be there for him. First and foremost, let’s hope the surgery will go well and the route to getting back starts.”
Both Van Dijk and fellow centre-back Joe Gomez have previously had ACL surgery.
Gomez was out for over a year after being hurt playing for England Under-21s in October 2015, while Van Dijk was sidelined for nine months following a challenge from Everton’s Jordan Pickford at Goodison in October 2020.
“I spoke to Joe Gomez about it after we got the news. Me and Joey can relate. We know what he will go through and what his family will go through,” Van Dijk added.
“It’s not easy. But he will get all the support from us as a team — that’s the least we can do and we will do.”Matip is out for the remainder of the season (Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Matip’s absence leaves Ibrahima Konate and Gomez as the senior centre-backs vying for a place alongside Van Dijk during a hectic of matches.
There will also be more game time for academy graduate Jarell Quansah, who has kicked on impressively since being handed his debut in August.
Van Dijk said: “I think every time Jarell has had the opportunity so far he has done well.
“When the moment is there for him — like every other player who will come in when we rotate or have injuries or suspensions — they have to be ready. We still have Ibou and Joey, but Jarell is a very good option as well.
“For all the younger generation, if you are close to the first team and training with us, you have to soak everything in. He’s a good boy. He wants to learn and he is learning.
“If you told me at the start of the season he would be doing as well as he is doing, I’d say you were lying. We will see what the future brings for him but it looks quite bright.”
Liverpool have a void at centre-half - Ibrahima Konate, over to you
(Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)