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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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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Man City keeper Ederson offers to play out of goal

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Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson has jokingly offered to play outfield for Pep Guardiola‘s rampant side as they close in on one of European football’s most prestigious records.

The Premier League leaders host struggling Bournemouth in their final home game of 2017 seeking a 17th consecutive league victory, which would be just two short of the current best for such streak in the five major European leagues.

Guardiola himself set that 19-game mark while in charge of Bayern Munich and, with relatively modest opposition coming up in the form of Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Watford, City appear well-positioned to set a new record.

Ederson has been one of the key additions to this season’s City team, having joined in a £35 million move from Benfica last summer, with his ability on the ball a vital component in Guardiola’s trademark passing game.

“When I started my career, I was actually a left-back and I do have some qualities playing with my feet,” said the Brazilian.

“It’s a huge responsibility to play at the back, there is no room for mistakes, so I must be constantly focused to give my best.”

Pep

“But if there was a situation where I was ever needed outfield, yeah, I’d definitely give it a go,” he added.

City are scoring so freely at the moment, but defence appears to be Guardiola’s one concern, with injury-plagued captain Vincent Kompany again a doubt for the Bournemouth visit with a muscular problem.

With John Stones still not quite ready to return from his own injury lay-off, that will probably leave Eliaquim Mangala to partner Nicolas Otamendi in the heart of the City defence.

Guardiola has hinted broadly that he will seek to sign established defensive cover in the January transfer window, with Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, West Brom’s Jonny Evans and James Tarkowski of Burnley all being linked with City.

In the meantime, it is still unclear whether inspirational playmaker David Silva, who has been in his native Spain for a week for unspecified “personal reasons,” will return for the start of the holiday fixture list.

Eddie Howe

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe admitted his side were left “heartbroken” by the manner of their midweek League Cup defeat to Chelsea, which denied the club their first appearance in a major semi-final.

Having equalised in the last minute of normal time, Howe’s side conceded a winning goal in added time and the manager’s task will be to lift his players after such a painful blow.

Defeat also came at the cost of injuries to Jermain Defoe and Harry Arter, with Defoe in particular expected to face a lay-off after damaging ankle ligaments following a challenge by Chelsea teenager Ethan Ampadu.

Provided by AFP Sport

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