Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus return for Man City’s win over Stoke City as Sergio Aguero misses out through injury.
Son Heung-min profits from a move up front thanks to Harry Kane’s early withdrawal at Bournemouth. Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford steers Manchester United to a home win over Liverpool in his first start since Gameweek 20.
After checking out the first ten teams yesterday, we turn to part two of Line-up Lessons, assessing the teamsheets and formations from Gameweek 30, with one eye on what’s to come over the midweek European encounters, weekend league and cup matches, and beyond.
Starting XI: Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, D Silva, De Bruyne; Sterling (B Silva 85), Jesus (Gundogan 90), Sane. Subs not used: Bravo, Danilo, Laporte, Stones, Toure.
- What we saw: Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho both returned from injury for the trip to Stoke City, while Gabriel Jesus started in place of the injured Sergio Aguero. The Brazilian played as the central striker in the usual 4-3-3 system, with Sterling stationed on the right of the front three. Fernandinho returned in his usual defensive midfield role, while the other change saw Vincent Kompany replace Aymeric Laporte in central defence.
- What we learned: City now face an extended break, with their next match seeing them travel to Everton in Gameweek 32. They will then play the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final on either the Tuesday or Wednesday that follows before playing Manchester United on Saturday April 7 in a match when they can potentially secure the title. The Toffees match-up could be a potential hot spot for rotation, then, with the likes of Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva pushing for starts at Goodison Park. Aguero is likely to remain doubtful for Gameweek 32, so Gabriel Jesus may retain his start in attack. Fabian Delph should be available and vie with Oleksandr Zinchenko or Danilo at left-back, though Benjamin Mendy is back in training and could even be considered for minutes by that point. Laporte and John Stones remain viable alternatives in central defence.
Current Status: Unsettled
Risk Areas: Central defenders, left-back, central midfield, flanks, central striker
Starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Young; Matic, McTominay; Mata (Lingard 88), Sanchez (Darmian 90), Rashford (Fellaini 70); Lukaku. Subs not used: Romero, Shaw, Lindelof, Carrick.
- What we saw: Paul Pogba missed the home meeting with Liverpool due to a knock, so Jose Mourinho switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford were handed recalls on the right and left of the attacking midfield trio respectively, while Alexis Sanchez was used as a support striker. The other change saw Eric Bailly recalled in central defence at the expense of Victor Lindelof. The introduction of Marouane Fellaini for Rashford saw Mourinho switch to a 4-3-3, with Sanchez moving to the left of the front three. The Chilean made way for defender Matteo Darmian late on as Mourinho looked to ensure that his side preserved their 2-1 lead.
- What we learned: The performance of Bailly on his return to the side, apart from his own goal, should ensure he returns as the first choice centre-back moving into the final months of the campaign. United face Sevilla in the Champions League tonight before facing Brighton in the FA Cup on Saturday. Their next league encounter is a home clash against Swansea City on March 31. Anthony Martial is fit to return in tonight’s tie, while although Pogba is still a slight doubt, he is expected to be in contention by the time Gameweek 32 comes around. With Fellaini back and Ander Herrera (muscle problem) also close to a return, Mourinho suddenly looks to have a wealth of options available to him. Defenders Phil Jones, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo could also be close to first-team returns. It is worth noting the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals take place in the week following the Swansea fixture, so that match may be a potential hot spot for rotation should United progress past Sevilla.
Current Status: Slightly Unsettled
Risk Areas: Central midfield, flanks
Starting XI: Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett; Ritchie, Shelvey (Merino 82), Diame, Kenedy (Atsu 78); Perez; Gayle (Joselu 69). Subs not used: Darlow, Clark, Murphy, Manquillo.
- What we saw: Rafa Benitez reverted back to a 4-4-1-1 formation after experimenting with a three-man defence in the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool. Paul Dummett returned to left-back, while Kenedy was stationed on the left side of midfield. Jonjo Shelvey started in the middle of the park following a knee injury, while Matt Ritchie and Ayoze Perez were handed recalls on the right wing and in the support striker role respectively.
- What we learned: Following the impressive 3-0 win, Benitez is expected to name a similar starting XI for Newcastle’s next match at home to Huddersfield Town in Gameweek 32. Mikel Merino and Christian Atsu are the main alternatives in central midfield and out wide, while Joselu provides cover in attack. The next few weeks should allow Islam Slimani the chance to fully recover from a thigh injury, and he could finally make his Newcastle debut either against the Terriers or in the matches that follow.
Current Status: Very Settled
Risk Areas: None
Starting XI: McCarthy; Cedric Soares, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand; Hojbjerg, Lemina (Sims 46); Ward-Prowse, Tadic (Long 46), Redmond; Carrillo (Gabbiadini 66). Subs not used: Forster, Romeu, Boufal, Bednarek.
- What we saw: Mauricio Pellegrino again rolled out his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation for the trip to Newcastle, although he did make a couple of personnel changes following the goalless draw with Stoke City. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was preferred to Oriol Romeu at the base of midfield, while James Ward-Prowse was recalled on the right of the attacking midfield trio in place of Josh Sims. But with his side trailing 2-0 at half-time, Pellegrino decided to bring on Sims and Shane Long at half-time, switching to a 4-4-2 system. Sims played on the right side of midfield, seeing Ward-Prowse join Mario Lemina in the middle of the park, while Long partnered Guido Carrillo, and, latterly, fellow substitute Manolo Gabbiadini up front.
- What we learned: The Saints face a trip to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend, before travelling to take on West Ham United in a crucial league meeting in Gameweek 32. After Pellegrino was dismissed on Monday night, several players who were out of favour are now likely to have more of a chance to get back into the side. Certainly, after failing to find the back of the net once again last weekend, changes are likely in the attacking positions. Long and Gabbiadini should push for roles up front, with Carrillo’s start under threat, though Charlie Austin (hamstring) is more likely to return later next month. Sims and Sofiane Boufal are viable alternatives on the flanks, while Romeu may come into contention for a recall in central midfield. The change of manager could also see Fraser Forster to return in goal in place of Alex McCarthy.
Current Status: Very Unsettled
Risk Areas: All Positions
Starting XI: Butland; Bauer, Zouma, Martins Indi, Stafylidis; Ndiaye, Cameron (Sobhi 88), Allen; Shaqiri, Jese Rodriguez (Crouch 63), Choupo-Moting. Subs not used: Haugaard, Johnson, Adam, Shawcross, Fletcher.
- What we saw: Paul Lambert was forced into making one change for the visit of Manchester City to the bet365 Stadium, with Jese Rodriguez his choice to replace the injured Mame Biram Diouf. The Spaniard started as the lone striker in the 4-1-4-1 system, with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting remaining on the left wing. The Potters boss switched to a 4-2-3-1 late on, with substitute Ramadan Sobhi joining Choupo-Moting and Xherdan Shaqiri in the attacking midfield berths.
- What we learned: Stoke face a quick turnaround, with a home clash against Everton looming on Saturday. Lambert has favoured a settled starting XI, and is unlikely to make too many changes this weekend. Crouch is an option to replace Jese as the lone striker, with Choupo-Moting another alternative, which would potentially allow Sobhi to start on the left side of midfield. Darren Fletcher, Ryan Shawcross and Erik Pieters have been out of favour of late, but if Lambert wants to freshen up his side, they could challenge for starts in place of Geoff Cameron, Bruno Martins Indi and Konstantinos Stafylidis respectively.
Current Status: Settled
Risk Areas: Left wing, lone striker
Starting XI: Fabianski; Naughton, van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson; Ki Sung-yueng (Carroll 89), King; Clucas; J Ayew, A Ayew (Abraham 73). Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Narsingh, Dyer, Bartley, Roberts.
- What we saw: Carlos Carvalhal stuck with the same starting XI that beat West Ham United 4-1 for the trip to Huddersfield Town. They lined up in more of a 5-4-1 formation, though, which became a 5-3-1 following the sending off of Jordan Ayew. Ki Sung-yueng moved across slightly to cover the right side of midfield, while Andre Ayew played as a deep-lying forward.
- What we learned: The Swans face Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend, before travelling to Man United in their next league encounter in Gameweek 32. Without the suspended Jordan Ayew, brother Andre could start as the lone striker in a 5-4-1, with Nathan Dyer coming in on the right side of midfield. Alternatively, Andre Ayew could continue in a deeper role, with Tammy Abraham operating as the lone forward. Other changes appear unlikely, although Renato Sanches (hamstring) may have an outside chance of being able to return among the substitutes at Old Trafford.
Current Status: Settled
Risk Areas: Right wing, lone striker
Starting XI: Lloris; Aurier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Rose (Trippier 80); Wanyama, Dembele; Eriksen, Alli (Sissoko 85), Son Heung-min; Kane (Lamela 34). Subs not used: Vorm, Dier, Llorente, Lucas Moura.
- What we saw: Mauricio Pochettino handed starts to Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama at left-back and in central midfield respectively against Bournemouth on Sunday. Ben Davies was rested due to fatigue, while Eric Dier dropped to the bench having been an injury concern pre-match due to an elbow injury suffered against Juventus last week. Son Heung-min retained his start on the left of the attacking midfield trio at the expense of Erik Lamela. But after Harry Kane suffered an ankle injury during the first half, Pochettino switched to a 4-3-2-1 system. Christian Eriksen dropped back into central midfield, while Son played as the lone striker, with Dele Alli and substitute Lamela occupied central attacking midfield roles. Rose was struggling with fatigue towards the end of the match and was replaced by Kieran Tripper. The former Burnley player was stationed at right-back, while Serge Aurier moved across to left-back. Alli was withdrawn late on after picking up a knock, with Moussa Sissoko brought on in his place.
- What we learned: Spurs now travel to Swansea in the FA Cup on Saturday, before heading to Chelsea for their next league match in Gameweek 32. Confirmation regarding the severity of Kane’s ankle injury should come over the next few days, but he is certainly an early doubt for the clash at Stamford Bridge. Should he be ruled out, Pochettino could again field Son as the lone striker, with Lamela and Alli, providing he’s fit as expected, in advanced midfield roles in a 4-3-2-1. Fernando Llorente provides a different option in attack. Dier will likely return in place of Wanyama in central midfield, while Davies should start at left-back ahead of Rose. Aurier’s performance against the Cherries means he may get the nod over Trippier at right-back. The next few weeks should allow Toby Alderweireld the chance to return to full fitness, but he might have to be patient for his opportunity to start in central defence.
Current Status: Unsettled
Risk Areas: Full-backs, central defenders, central midfield, attacking midfield, lone striker
Starting XI: Karnezis; Janmaat (Britos 80), Prodl, Mariappa, Holebas; Femenia (Hughes 63), Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra (Okaka 67); Richarlison, Deeney. Subs not used: Sinclair, Gray, Carrillo, Bachmann.
- What we saw: Hornets head coach Javi Gracia made one change for the trip to Arsenal, with Kiko Femenia recovering from illness to start in a slightly unfamiliar role on the right of the attacking midfield trio in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Richarlison moved into the No 10 berth, seeing Roberto Pereyra operate on the left flank. Then, after falling 2-0 behind, Gracia brought on Stefano Okaka, who joined Troy Deeney up front in a 4-4-2, with Richarlison moving back out to the left wing, while substitute Will Hughes was stationed on the right side of midfield.
- What we learned: Up next for Watford is a daunting trip to Anfield in Gameweek 31. It’s likely that Gracia could stick with Femenia in an attacking role on the right given the extra protection he can provide in front of right-back Daryl Janmaat. Miguel Britos offers cover in central defence and is another option should Gracia move to a three-man backline. Meanwhile, Hughes offers an alternative in the attacking midfield spots. But given the limited options available to the Watford boss, there aren’t expected to be many changes unless any of the injured contingent are ready to return.
Current Status: Settled
Risk Areas: Central defenders, right wing
West Bromwich Albion
Starting XI: Foster; Nyom, Dawson, Hegazi, Gibbs; Livermore; Burke (Robson-Kanu 83), Krychowiak (Field 59), Brunt, Phillips (Rodriguez 70); Rondon. Subs not used: Myhill, Yacob, McClean, McAuley.
- What we saw: Alan Pardew used more of a 4-1-4-1 formation for the home encounter against Leicester City, with Jake Livermore stationed in the defensive midfield role. Oliver Burke was handed a rare start on the right side on midfield, while with Jonny Evans missing out due to illness, Allan Nyom returned in the back four. Nyom played at right-back, seeing Craig Dawson move into central defence. Albion ended the match in more of a 4-3-3, with substitutes Jay Rodriguez and Hal Robson-Kanu combining with Rondon in attack, while Sam Field joined Chris Brunt and Livermore in a three-man midfield.
- What we learned: Pardew will hope to have Evans available for Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth, with Nyom expected to drop to the bench should the Northern Ireland international return. Grzegorz Krychowiak’s start looks under threat after his reaction to his withdrawal at the weekend, so Field may come into contention, with Gareth Barry another option providing he recovers from a knock. A formation change to a more attacking 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 would make Rodriguez and Robson-Kanu possible starters.
Current Status: Slightly Unsettled
Risk Areas: Defence, central midfield, flanks, forwards
West Ham United
Starting XI: Hart; Zabaleta, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Antonio; Kouyate, Noble; Joao Mario (Chicharito 71), Lanzini; Arnautovic. Subs not used: Adrian, Hugill, Evra, Cullen, Rice, Browne.
- What we saw: David Moyes opted for a 3-4-2-1 formation for the visit of Burnley to the London Stadium, using Marko Arnautovic as the lone striker. Joao Mario was handed a recall in the attacking midfield spots, while Michail Antonio replaced Patrice Evra at left wing-back. Angelo Ogbonna and James Collins both returned in central defence after missing the 4-1 defeat to Swansea, while Joe Hart was recalled in goal at the expense of Adrian. After falling 2-0 behind, Moyes made his only substitution of the match, bringing on Chicharito for Joao Mario. The Mexican joined Arnautovic up front, with Manuel Lanzini taking up the No 10 role in a 3-4-1-2 system.
- What we learned: Without a fixture in Gameweek 31, West Ham’s next match sees them entertain Southampton after the international break. Unless any of the injured players are ready to return, Moyes doesn’t look to have a great number of options available to him, particularly if he sticks with a three-man backline. Chicharito and Arthur Masuaku, who is available again after completing his six-match ban, are the players who could come back into the side. Masuaku could return at left wing-back, allowing Antonio to play in a more advanced role. Chicharito is the other attacking option, with Joao Mario the player most likely to drop to the bench. If the Hammers boss considers using a four-man defence, Cresswell or Masuaku would provide the two options at left-back, allowing Antonio to play further forward. Hart was at fault for Burnley’s third goal but, after making the decision to switch, Moyes may hand the England stopper a chance to redeem himself against Saints.
Current Status: Fairly Settled
Risk Areas: Goalkeeper, left wing-back, attacking midfield, forward