Big players perform and big teams progress as October’s international break finally comes to an end with World Cup triumphs and tears in full flow.
Eden Hazard, Gabriel Jesus and Romelu Lukaku all score, but the half-time substitution of Sead Kolasinac prompts further concerns over Arsenal’s already threadbare backline.
Here are the notes from a big Tuesday night across the world.
Big names make big news
A week might be a long time in politics, but the last 24 hours has produced some seriously significant Fantasy developments.
Hot on the heels of the news that Sergio Aguero is back in light training for Man City just 11 days after his Amsterdam misadventure, his team-mate and fellow striker Gabriel Jesus was reminding us all of why he’s the second most purchased Fantasy Premier League asset ahead of Gameweek 8.
Jesus scored a brace for Brazil, one of which was set up by Willian’s industrious five-minute substitute appearance, in a 3-0 win that killed off Chile’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.
The result leaves Alexis Sanchez to concentrate on the league with Arsenal – or maybe City should he jump ship in the January transfer window.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Belgium’s 4-0 win over Cyprus came courtesy of a double from Eden Hazard as the 3.6%-owned Chelsea star bigged up his differential credentials ahead of a trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The match also confirmed the availability of Romelu Lukaku, who played the last 24 minutes and scored his 16th goal in all competitions since the start of the season. The striker powered through a hapless Cypriot defence, muscled his marker off the ball and struck a sublime low drive into the corner. It was the mark of a confident and fully fit player.
That will come as a huge relief to his 59.4% ownership ahead of Man United’s Saturday lunchtime trip to Liverpool, although the trend is to sell the big Belgian – 101,000+ have done just that his week, whereas just over 67,000 have brought him in.
Jesus, by contrast, is undeniably in demand.
Close to a quarter of a million managers have secured his services as Pep Guardiola’s men prepare to host Stoke City, although it will be a surprise if he lasts the entire match having put in two 90-minute shifts for Brazil over the international break. Indeed, he has yet to make it past the hour-mark at the Etihad this season.
The 16.7% who own Kevin De Bruyne will be feeling rather more confident of their man’s minutes as the midfielder only came on for a late cameo against Cyprus, replacing Hazard.
Thibaut Courtois, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Nacer Chadli all played the full match against Cyprus, with Simon Mignolet, Kevin Mirallas and Steven Defour unused subs.
Kolasinac sparks new Gunners scare
Sead Kolasinac was substituted at half-time as Bosnia and Herzegovina won 2-1 in Estonia.
There are currently mixed reports as to whether the move was tactical or in response to an injury. Thursday’s press conference with Arsene Wenger may well be the first opportunity to get clarity on that.
Shkodran Mustafi already limped out of Germany’s 5-1 win over Azerbaijan earlier in the international break, and with Laurent Koscielny missing the Gameweek 7 victory over Brighton with ongoing Achilles problems, an already-stretched Gunners’ defence can barely afford to lose Kolasinac.
Rob Holding is already looking highly likely to start the weekend trip to Watford, but Arsenal’s defensive resources are thin enough that should the big Bosnian be injured, Wenger might have to change formation, with Nacho Monreal moving to left-back in a flat back four.
Liverpool centre-half Ragnar Klavan started and finished the match for Estonia, with Asmir Begovic doing likewise for the visitors, while Muhamed Besic was an unused sub.
Key assets rack up the minutes and miles
The traditional end to an international break brings with it the guessing game of who might miss out domestically thanks to their gruelling schedule for their countries.
Top of the list might well be City centre-half Nicolas Otamendi, who played 180 minutes for Argentina, including last night’s 3-1 win in Ecuador – at altitude – which confirmed La Albiceleste’s place in Russia. However, with Vincent Kompany still to return to full fitness, Guardiola may not have the defensive options to preserve Otamendi.
Man United back-up keeper Sergio Romero also put in a full shift, while his team-mate Antonio Valencia had the night off as he was suspended for the hosts. Despite a long-haul flight, that should strengthen his chances of starting at Anfield in the early kick-off.
He will likely face Liverpool stars Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, who were both involved in the Brazil win, the former playing 87 minutes before being replaced by the latter.
The pair now appear likely to start against United now that Sadio Mane has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury.
City midfielder Fernandinho was given eight minutes at the end of the match, while team-mate Danilo was an unused sub and club-mate Claudio Bravo played the full 90 minutes in the Chile goal.
Among the other much-travelled South and Central Americans, West Brom’s Salomon Rondon started and finished Venezuela’s 1-0 win in Paraguay, David Ospina and Davinson Sánchez did likewise as Colombia drew 1-1 in Peru, but West Ham striker Chicharito had the night off as a much-changed Mexico lost 3-2 in Honduras.
Olivier Giroud started, finished and scored as France confirmed their World Cup finals place with a 2-1 win over Belarus.
Hugo Lloris also played the full match, Moussa Sissoko was given a 12-minute run-out from the bench, while Alexandre Lacazette was an unused sub.
Holland beat Sweden 2-0, but it wasn’t enough to stave off their World Cup elimination.
Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Aké and Daley Blind played the full 90, while Georginio Wijnaldum was given 71 minutes before being replaced by Davy Klaasen, with Daryl Janmaat coming on at the same time.
Maarten Stekelenburg and Wesley Hoedt watched from the bench.
Portugal consigned Switzerland to the play-offs with a 2-0 win in which Man City’s Bernardo Silva provided an assist.
José Fonte, Cédric Soares and Silva played the full match, while Swansea City’s Renato Sanches was an unused sub. Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri completed 90 minutes for the Swiss.
Brighton keeper Mat Ryan started and Huddersfield’s Aaron Mooy came on after 11 minutes as Australia beat Syria 2-1 to confirm their place in a play-off with Peru for a place at Russia 2017.
DeAndre Yedlin played 90 minutes, but Geoff Cameron stayed on the bench, as the United States crashed out of next year’s finals following a shock 2-1 loss in Trinidad and Tobago.
Spurs’ Son Heung-min scored a penalty and played 80 minutes of South Korea’s 3-1 friendly loss to Morocco. That offers some reassurance to Ben Davies’ owners concerned that Mauricio Pochettino may again elect to deploy Son at left wing-back, resting the Welshman with the midweek tie with Real Madrid in mind.
Finally, Palace’s Chung-long Lee played the full 90, though Swansea City’s Ki Sung-yeung was afforded just 28 minutes following his recent injury.
Ghana won 3-0 in Saudi Arabia in another friendly, with Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey captaining the visitors.