Saturday, January 29 2022

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This seemingly endless international break is finally over, and it’s time to shift our focus back onto Premier League matters. Quarantine guidelines, red-list countries, and World Cup qualifying matches being played a mere 32 hours before week eight gets underway is causing major headaches. So, make sure you’re following throughout for any late and breaking news.


“Everybody seems to be OK after the break,” Mikel Arteta said during Thursdays’ media briefing, although Gabriel Martinelli is a doubt after picking up a knock. “It’s a minor injury, and we don’t know if he’s going to be available.” The Arsenal boss also revealed that Granit Xhaka is “progressing well”, although his knee injury is long-term. “I’m sure that if you tell him three [months], he will be thinking two [months]. He will be trying to do extra work to try to minimise that time, that’s for sure.” Some players were still travelling at the time of the press conference, but there are no significant issues, and the additional recovery time will help with fatigue.

Aston Villa

Despite Emiliano Martinez and Douglas Luiz playing for Brazil during the early hours of Friday morning, Dean Smith confirms that both players will be included in the matchday squad. “We will assess whether they’re going to [start] or not.” Saturday comes too soon for Leon Bailey, but the winger hopes to be back on the training pitches after the Wolves game. “Unfortunately, Leon hasn’t ticked all the boxes for the medical department.” Keinan Davis and Morgan Sanson are working normally, although neither player is expected to make the squad. Bertrand Traoré (thigh) and Carney Chukwuemeka face late tests. “We’ve had players playing for Scotland, England, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe – so we’ve had players all over the world. We want them back, and then we’ll assess whether they’re ready to play or not.”


Thomas Frank believes Kristoffer Ajer (hamstring) and Vitaly Janelt (thigh) “should be fine” for the visit of Chelsea after both players missed the win at West Ham. In addition, there are no problems with those players who have been away on international duty. “[They] all came back well,” meaning the Bees have only three confirmed absentees. After dislocating his shoulder, Shandon Baptiste is ruled out, while Mads Sorensen and Joshua Dasilva are long-term casualties.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Graham Potter says the international break “has been good” for the team while affording Yves Bissouma (knee), Adam Webster (hamstring) and Enock Mwepu (groin) extra recovery time. All three players have trained and come into contention. “Everyone has come back OK [from the internationals], we’ve had time to recover, and we’re excited for the game. Bring it on!” Tariq Lamptey is “chomping” for a return, but following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, the wing-back must be managed. “It’s just about finding the right moment. We need to be careful, but he’s been training and is ready to help us.” Danny Welbeck is “devastated” after going under the knife to remedy a persistent hamstring problem. Meanwhile, teammate Steven Alzate reveals his setback will result in surgery and around three months on the sidelines.


Nathan Collins is expected to deputise for Ben Mee, who will miss out again. The Clarets centre-back tested positive for COVID-19 after recovering from the ankle injury that sidelined him in GW7. Maxwell Cornet has overcome a hamstring problem, but he may not be risked in the line-up with Johann Berg Gudmundsson back on the training pitches. Charlie Taylor picked up a knock but feels “quite confident” that he can recover while Matej Vydra is more of a worry following his injury with the Czech Republic. Burnley could be missing up to six players at The Etihad as they look to avoid a fifth consecutive 5-0 thrashing. “It’s important we keep players fit. I’ve said numerous times that I’ve been pleased with the teams’ performance levels, but we’ve got to make sure we keep as many players fit as possible to give us that adaptation to the game.”


Thomas Tuchel will be without centre-backs Antonio Rüdiger and Thiago Silva on Saturday. Rudiger was expected to recover from a minor back issue to play for Germany on Monday night, but he was omitted from Hansi Flick’s squad in Macedonia, and the extent of his injury is unclear. Meanwhile, a decision was made on Silva before the break with Brazil playing on Friday. “ThIago will be back in the afternoon, hopefully, safe from this match,” said the Blues boss. “We had our talk and tactical training; he missed all that. He played 90 minutes [plus] had 12 hours of travelling.” Christian Pulisic remains sidelined, and Hakim Ziyech will be a late decision after missing sessions with a headache. Although the pair have been working with the group, Reece James (ankle) and N’Golo Kanté (COVID-19) were not mentioned. Romelu Lukaku is “fine” following his early release from the Belgium squad.

Crystal Palace

There are no fresh injury worries for Patrick Vieira, with only long-term absentees Eberechi Eze and Nathan Ferguson in the treatment room. “All the players came back from internationals without any issues, and they are all fit and ready to go. Eze is fit and getting better. He is taking part in the collective [training], but we aren’t putting pressure or putting dates on when he could be ready.” Ferguson is working outside with the physios. “He is getting better as well.”


Lucas Digne has returned to training following “two or three days under treatment” on a hamstring problem, which saw the left-back released from the France squad. Seamus Coleman and Alex Iwobi are also with the group, but the availability of Yerry Mina hangs in the balance as Colombia played late on Thursday evening. “Fingers crossed, hopefully, everything will be fine, then we will see [if he is ready for West Ham],” said Rafa Benitez. The international break allowed Ben Godfrey and Salomon Rondon to build fitness after their delayed start to the season. “Every day when they train, they are improving.” Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are “getting better”, but neither will be ready for Sunday.

Leeds United

Robin Koch is set to undergo a “simple procedure” in the United States to resolve an ongoing pelvic issue. The German centre-back has not featured since picking up the injury on the opening weekend. Marcelo Bielsa confirms Luke Ayling is at the “halfway stage” of his recovery from a knee problem which is likely to mean he won’t be back until mid-November. Adam Forshaw and Crysencio Summerville will be available after injury and illness. Raphinha may yet feature despite his involvement for Brazil on Friday. “There’s no doubt it’s a short turnaround. The options he has to participate depend on whether he plays this final game, how many minutes, how he finishes the game after participating, how efficient the rest he can have in the next 36 hours. If there is any risk that fatigue can cause injuries, we won’t risk it.” Patrick Bamford is likely to miss out, but Kalvin Phillips has a strong chance despite missing the recent England internationals with a calf strain.

Leicester City

Jonny Evans could make a timely return to first-team action with Jannik Vestergaard doubtful due to a knock he picked up playing for Denmark. Wesley Fofana is slightly ahead of schedule and is targeting a return in early 2022, while defensive teammate James Justin is close to coming back after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament. “It won’t be too long; we can see him joining the group around about the next international break.”


Jurgen Klopp believes Thiago Alcántara will “probably” need a little longer to recover from the calf injury that has been hampering him recently. “[He] was not in team training yet – that’s always not a good sign for starting the next game.” However, there was better news regarding Alexander-Arnold, who has missed the last two games, and Jota, who was released from the Portugal squad due to a muscle injury. “So, it looks really like Trent and Diogo will be fine.” Goalkeeper Alisson Becker and midfielder Fabinho will not feature following their involvement with Brazil. “We have known it for a while, so we have decided that the boys would not be here, and they would go straight to Madrid [in preparation for the Champions League]. Curtis Jones is also sidelined after aggravating a groin issue with England U21s in Andorra on Monday night.

Manchester City

Ferran Torres will be out for “two-to-three months” after imaging confirmed he suffered a minor foot fracture during the Nations League final. “He has a bone injury, the metatarsal,” said Pep Guardiola. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ilkay Gundogan are back in contention, having trained this week. Raheem Sterling says he is willing to leave City in search of more game time, and Pep responded to questions during his press conference by saying no player can be assured of how many minutes they will play. “They have to show it on the grass.”

Manchester United

United will be without their first-choice centre-back pairing with Raphael Varane sidelined for a “few weeks” and Harry Maguire still recovering from a calf strain. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly are poised for a start. Ole Solskjaer will not be counting on Fred or Edinson Cavani for this game after their involvement for Brazil and Uruguay. “Marcus Rashford is in the squad. I can’t tell you if he will start, but he has worked really hard. [He] has been bright this week. He is fit and raring to go.”

Newcastle United

Jamaal Lascelles, Callum Wilson and Jonjo Shelvey will return for Steve Bruce‘s 1000th game in charge, and Karl Darlow will retain his place despite Martin Dúbravka training with the group. Joe Willock has recovered from the hip injury that forced him off at Molineux, meaning Paul Dummett (calf) is the only reported outfield player sidelined.

Norwich City

Daniel Farke reports no fresh injury concerns despite one or two of his players picking up knocks during the break. Milot Rashica struggled with knee problems, “but that all seems to be OK,” and Billy Gilmour was affected by illness. “[However] they seem to be all available.” Mathias Normann is over the abdominal issue that kept him out of the internationals, although it looks like Christoph Zimmermann “might” need surgery as his ankle complaint is not responding to conservative treatment. Todd Cantwell comes back into the managers’ thinking, but a lack of sharpness will probably mean minutes from the bench.


Che Adams returned from international duty with a muscle problem, and Ralph Hasenhüttl reveals the striker is ruled out. “It is not too serious, but he will definitely be out for the game this weekend.” Jack Stephens remains sidelined, and James Ward-Prowse will miss his first Premier League minutes since 2019 following his dismissal against Chelsea. The Saints manager was still waiting for players to return at the time of Thursdays’ press conference. “I have not seen everybody back so far, but the reports have been quite positive.” During the break, Will Smallbone returned for the Under-21s, having missed close to nine months with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

Tottenham Hotspur

Giovani Lo Celso, Cristian Romero, Davison Sanchez, and Emerson Royal were all travelling back from South America at the time of Nuno’s press conference. “The report that we have is that they finished their games well. Some of them played for 90 minutes. We are expecting them to join us, and then we’ll see.” Sessegnon is still out, but Bergwijn and Davies (illness) should travel. “Ryan hasn’t joined the group yet; he’s doing his physical work with sports science. Steve and Ben are with us now, working normally. They are much better, and it’s just a matter of time for them to get the right fitness levels.”


Joshua King has recovered from a minor knee ligament injury, and the striker will be assessed ahead of the Liverpool game. The Hornets will be forced into a defensive reshuffle after Francisco Sierralta, and Christian Kabasele picked up hamstring injuries against Leeds. Recent arrival Nicolas N’Koulou is not yet ready, and new coach Claudio Ranieri feels it could be around three weeks before the centre-back comes into contention. Following thigh surgery, Peter Etebo has returned to London Colney, with the midfielder sidelined for up to five months.

West Ham United

David Moyes is keeping his cards awfully close to his chest. “If I did have [any confirmed players missing], I probably wouldn’t tell you anyway! We might have some people who are not available.” Vladimir Coufal and Ryan Fredericks have been managing groin issues, but Michail Antonio should be fully refreshed. “I think he has been firing on all cylinders, and I hope he’s well-rested. He’s got some good training in; he decided not to go with Jamaica for the internationals in the end because he felt some of the logistics weren’t right, but overall, he’s back, and we hope he can continue in the good form he’s been in since the start of the season.”

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Trincao is the only fresh concern after testing positive for COVID-19 while away with the Portugal squad. “He’s OK. He started training, not with us, but at home,” said Bruno Lage. “He had two or three days where he didn’t feel well, but now everything is OK with him. All the players are vaccinated twice.” That opens the door for Daniel Podence or Adama Traoré, who have fallen from favour in recent game weeks. Jonny, Pedro Neto and Yerson Mosquera will not play again this year.


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