Jose Mourinho short of depth as Man United battles fatigue

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Jose Mourinho will go into Manchester United‘s holiday programme without the experience of Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick as his squad battles fatigue following a midweek League Cup loss to Bristol City.

United, kicking off the congested festive fixtures with a visit to Leicester City, will also be without central defender Eric Bailly, who underwent surgery on an ankle problem on Friday and is out for two to three months.

The club had hoped the other three injury victims might be able to play some role in a period that sees United face five games in 14 days.

Valencia’s hamstring injury has proved more problematic than initially thought while Fellaini has been struggling with a knee injury sustained on international duty with Belgium.

Club captain Carrick will also be missed as he struggles to regain match fitness following a minor heart procedure earlier this season.

But the short-term fitness problems have been compounded by the club’s travel woes after Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final shock at Bristol City.

The team’s private plane was grounded by fog and United were forced to take a bus back to Manchester, and did not arrive until 0500 GMT the next morning.

Even players who had been on the bench at Ashton Gate, such as Juan Mata and Chris Smalling, were affected by the lengthy journey time and sleep disruption.

“Of course, for the game at Bristol we changed a lot of the players, so we managed to give a rest to many of them and especially to the lucky ones that did not travel,” said Mourinho.

“Because the ones that did travel, even some who did not play, arrived back in Manchester close to 5:00 am. People like Mata or Smalling, who were on the bench, had to travel back.” 

Mourinho said the defeat at Bristol would have no direct bearing on whether fringe players such as Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan would be allowed to leave the club in the January window.

“No. I don’t make decisions based on only one game or one feeling or one night, not at all,” said the United boss.

“I could be critical with my players but they did enough to win, they lost when they were the only team people believed could win. So we move on and we move on quickly because we have another match.”

Second-placed United reach the halfway stage of the Premier League season against Leicester on Saturday.

Although Mourinho was uncommunicative when asked to analyse the opening half to the campaign, he did point to the fact that his side had been difficult to beat, with all six of their losses across all competitions being by a solitary goal.

“The expectation is to go to every match and try to win, which is what we do and the matches we lost we fought until the last second, the matches we lost if I’m not wrong 2-1, 2-1, 1-0, so we really manage to fight in every match to try the best result,” said Mourinho.

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Premier League's Most Used XI: Man United's Lukaku, Liverpool's Salah feature

Tom White 22/12/2017

Romelu Lukaku has played the most football of any Premier League player this season going into the festive schedule that is troubling his Manchester United team.

A widely-discussed post on United’s website this week suggested they face a bigger problem with player burnout over Christmas than the league’s other leading sides, with only “six non-matchdays” between December 23 and January 1.

Manager Jose Mourinho has labelled Lukaku “untouchable” but may have to rethink that stance – the Belgium striker has played every minute of the league season, with a heavy Champions League workload taking him to 2,287 minutes in all.

Most-used XI

Lukaku spearheads a most-used Premier League XI which also features team-mate Nemanja Matic – though Manchester City (Nicolas Otamendi and Kevin De Bruyne), Tottenham (Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen) and Chelsea (Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso) also contribute two outfield players apiece.

Everton’s Ashley Williams and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah also feature and, while burnout is less relevant to goalkeepers, Chelsea can lay claim to a third representative or Everton a second.

Thibaut Courtois and Jordan Pickford are tied on the maximum 1,620 Premier League minutes and 630 in other competitions.

2312 epla

Europe takes its toll

The clubs dominating the list are those in continental action – Williams has played 1,204 Premier League minutes, less than 13 and a half of Everton’s 18 games, but a further eight full matches in the Europa League make him the third-most used outfield player.

Second-placed Azpilicueta – who played every minute of Chelsea’s title-winning campaign last season – has missed only November’s game against Swansea and 17 minutes of the Champions League group stage.

Nine outfield players have already broken 2,000 minutes in all competitions, with Otamendi 40 minutes short of the landmark.

Press Association Sport also filtered the data to look at players who have played the equivalent of the full Premier League season so far, at least 1,620 minutes.

United have five such players but pale in comparison to their rivals, with eight from Liverpool and seven apiece from City and Chelsea. Entering the Europa League at the qualifying stage puts Everton out in front with nine, while Spurs have six.

Klopp shuffles his pack

Jurgen Klopp 6

Looking at league minutes alone, Liverpool are the only team for whom not a single player has played for 90 per cent of the season – even keeper Simon Mignolet has missed two games.

Six Leicester players and five each from Spurs, Brighton and Huddersfield have achieved the mark, with United, City and Arsenal among six teams with four.

That tallies with the 23 Premier League ever-presents so far. Brighton contribute four in Mat Ryan, Lewis Dunk, Davy Propper and Dale Stephens, while Arsenal (Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal) and Leicester (Kasper Schmeichel, Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire) have three apiece.

Burnley are about to lose one of their two ever-presents, with James Tarkowski’s suspension leaving Jack Cork to stand alone. David De Gea joins club-mate Lukaku, while Huddersfield (Jonas Lossl and Mathias Jorgensen) and Swansea (Alfie Mawson and Lukasz Fabianski) also have two.

Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure and keepers Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Courtois and Pickford complete the list.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Chelsea coach Conte bemoans Morata absence for Everton trip

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Alvaro Morata

Antonio Conte says the loss of Alvaro Morata for Chelsea‘s trip to Everton is a blow to his side’s hopes of maintaining their distant pursuit of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Morata was booked after scoring the added-time winning goal in the midweek League Cup quarter-final victory over Bournemouth that set up a semi-final meeting with Arsenal.

The Spain striker, who had come off the bench, initially stuck the ball under his shirt in a gesture to his pregnant wife but he earned the caution for kicking the ball away as Bournemouth attempted to restart the game quickly.

It was Morata’s fifth booking of the season, earning the forward a one-game ban and leaving Conte with a decision to make about how best to replace his side’s leading scorer.

Michy Batshuayi is the squad’s only other recognised central striker but the Belgian failed to impress after being handed a rare start this week. Previously, Conte has preferred to fill the gap by employing Eden Hazard as a false nine and he is expected to do that once again.

Alvaro Morata is shown a yellow card during Chelsea's game against Bournemouth.

Alvaro Morata is shown a yellow card during Chelsea’s game against Bournemouth.

“For sure, Morata should have played against Everton,” said the Chelsea boss. “He would have started the game, for sure. But now I have to prepare a different plan.

“I have different options. I have a day to make the best decision ahead of the Everton game. At training everyone was in good form, and I have time to make a decision.”

Chelsea remain 14 points adrift of City in third place and the current priority is to maintain the four-point gap to fourth place.

“This match is very important for us, the last game before Christmas,” said Conte. “I’d like to spend a good Christmas with a good game, a good win.

“It would be very important to get three points, but we know very well that, in the last five games, Everton won four games.

“They are in a good moment of form. They changed the coach and are having good results. For this reason, we must pay great attention on Saturday.”

Sam Allardyce 2

Everton have picked up 13 points from 15 available since Sam Allardyce agreed to become their manager last month.

That run has lifted the club to ninth, with 11 league goals scored and only two conceded in that time.

Former England captain Wayne Rooney is also enjoying a revival, with six goals in his past five appearances, including one on Monday as Everton beat Swansea 3-1 at Goodison Park.

Winger Aaron Lennon suggested that Allardyce’s arrival has lifted the mood of the players.

“We all know Chelsea are a great side but we’re in a good run of form and at Goodison we fancy our chances against anyone so we’re looking forward to that one,” Lennon said.

Provided by AFP Sport

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