Joe Allen’s injury is a turning point for Wales and an untimely blow for Stoke City. Elsewhere, a former Fantasy favourite comes to the fore to help Iceland make World Cup history, while Burnley assets continue their fine October form.
Here are the notes from a tense night of decisive World Cup qualifying action.
Allen joins international casualties…
Stoke City’s task of taming Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City attack may well have suffered a major blow following Joe Allen’s withdrawal for Wales last night.
Allen was an integral figure for the Welshmen against the Republic of Ireland prior to his departure – a turning point in the encounter which eventually saw the Irish prevail by a single goal.
Allen was withdrawn on 37 minutes following a head injury and will now be an early doubt for Stoke’s Gameweek 8 encounter.
Owned by just 2.3%, his relevance as a Fantasy asset is minimal. Nonetheless, his potential absence will surely be felt by Mark Hughes’ men, making their task of nulifiying City’s attacking threat all the more difficult.
A good break for Gylfi…
Helping your country to its first ever World Cup finals will have gone quite a large way towards persuading Gylfi Sigurdsson that this season might actually turn his way.
The challenge now is to bring his international form back with him to Merseyside.
The midfielder has endured a woeful start to his career with Everton, scoring a spectacular goal against Hajduk Split in the Europa League and…that’s it.
His goal and assist in a historic 2-0 win over Kosovo last night reminded us all of his talent and built on the signs of a personal revival hinted at in his most recent domestic outing.
Everton lost 1-0 at home to Burnley in Gameweek 7, but there was an improvement in both the team and Sigurdsson – the Icelander led the way with seven chances created and also had three shots on goal.
The Toffees still haven’t been revived following a cruel opening schedule, in which they played both Manchester sides, Spurs and Chelsea over four brutal Gameweeks.
But aside from a Gameweek 9 visit by Arsenal, the fixtures now fall favourably until the Merseyside derby on December 10.
Sigurdsson’s struggles, however, have reduced him to the role of a 3.2%-owned disappointment who has lost close to half of his managers, and 0.3 of value, since the season kick-off.
…and Burnley assets as well
Sigurdsson set up Iceland’s clinching goal last night, scored by Burnley’s Johann Berg Gudmondsson – his second strike of the international break.
The Clarets midfielder remains a fringe Fantasy option, though his Burnley team-mates also maintained positive form.
Jeff Hendrick set up the Republic of Ireland’s winner, from West Brom’s James McClean, that broke Welsh hearts in Cardiff, while team-mate Stephen Ward earned back-to-back clean sheets and an assist over the two matches for Martin O’Neill’s side.
Ward, with 8.1% ownership, is the most popular Burnley player in FPL, and only Spurs’ Ben Davies has enjoyed more transfers-in among defenders than his 106,000+ ahead of Gameweek 8.
Sean Dyche’s side enjoy favourable fixtures through to Gameweek 18, with a trip to Man City and a visit from Arsenal the only two sticking points. Beaten just once all season, confidence in his squad remains high ahead of West Ham’s Gameweek 8 visit.
The showdown in Cardiff featured a number of other Premier League players.
For the hosts were Wayne Hennessey, Ashley Williams, Spurs defender Davies and Aaron Ramsey, who all played the full match, while Hal Robson-Kanu was given 71 minutes before being replaced by Sam Vokes, and Liverpool starlet Ben Woodburn was brought on after 65 minutes for Leicester City’s Andy King.
Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark joined the aforementioned Burnley trio and McClean in playing 90 minutes for the Republic of Ireland, while Bournemouth’s Harry Arter was subbed off after 77 minutes.
A Marko Arnautovic corner set up Austria’s winner in Moldova.
The West Ham midfielder enjoyed a fine international break, also scoring in his country’s 3-2 win over Serbia last week.
Newcastle United striker Aleksandar Mitrovic provided an assist as the Serbians beat Georgia 1-0 to win Group D ahead of the Irish.
He played 77 minutes before being replaced by Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic. Man United midfielder Nemanja Matic lasted the full 90 and Southampton’s Dusan Tadic played until the 89-minute mark.
Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren overcame back and Achilles problems to turn out for 90 minutes for Croatia in their 2-0 win over Ukraine.
The centre-back is reportedly forced to take painkillers to get through matches and was omitted from Croatia’s previous qualifier against Finland.
He now looks well placed to form his regular central defensive partnership with Joel Matip against Manchester United on Saturday. Jurgen Klopp’s other alternative – Ragnar Klavan – is due in action tonight for Estonia against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Matteo Darmian could well be facing Liverpool in the United backline. He started Italy’s 1-0 win in Albania before being replaced by Chelsea’s Davide Zappacosta after 61 minutes. That could be significant given that Darmian is likely to be in Jose Mourinho’s plans for Saturday’s early kick-off at Anfield.
Regular right-back Antonio Valencia started against Crystal Palace last time out having been billed as a fitness doubt by Mourinho. The Ecuadorian may well be considered a risk by the United manager given that he is returning via a long-haul flight following his clash with Argentina in the early hours of tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, Southampton striker Manolo Gabbiadini’s international break consisted of an 89th-minute substitute appearance last night.
The Italians finished as runners-up in Group G to Spain, who rang the changes in a 1-0 win in Israel.
Nacho Monreal, César Azpilicueta and Pedro were given their first starts of the October break, with the latter replaced after 76 minutes.
Man United keeper David de Gea was on the bench, while Man City playmaker David Silva missed the match through suspension, surely making his starting role against Stoke City all the more likely.
Finally, Brighton striker Tomer Hemed, currently serving a three-match domestic ban, played the full 90 minutes for Israel.