There were a number of key injury updates to emerge from a handful of pre-match press conferences that were staged on Wednesday afternoon.
Marcelo Bielsa was facing the media ahead of Leeds United’s trip to Fulham on Friday, while Mikel Arteta, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all held virtual conference calls a day before their respective clubs feature in the UEFA Europa League.
Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, of course, are two of just eight sides who have a Premier League fixture in Blank Gameweek 29.
Patrick Bamford has a good chance of recovering from a knock to the hip in time for Leeds’ trip to Craven Cottage.
Speaking to the media, Marcelo Bielsa said:
We think that yes, he will play on Friday. He has a knock on his hip that is painful but we don’t think that it’s going to make him miss the game.
Liam Cooper (illness) looks set to miss out on Friday’s match, however, while Leif Davis and Rodrigo are fresh doubts with minor muscle problems picked up in training.
Cooper is sick, Davis has a small articulation problem which is nothing serious. Rodrigo had a contracture yesterday in training which I don’t know if he’s going to be available for the game on Friday. Either way, it’s not an important injury.
Cooper had earlier been ruled out of Scotland’s forthcoming World Cup qualifiers by national team coach Steve Clarke, in doing so implying that he has little chance of featuring in Gameweek 29.
His absence would seem to boost the prospects of Pascal Struijk retaining his place at centre-half, with Bielsa confirming that the budget FPL defender had come through his earlier-than-expected return from injury against Chelsea unscathed.
Robin Koch is fit again, but after a lengthy injury lay-off and after only featuring for 45 minutes for the under-23s earlier this week, his manager said the Whites would “have to be careful” about a first-team comeback.
While there is optimism on Bamford’s fitness, there is still a lot of doubt surrounding the availability of Son Heung-min (muscle) for Gameweek 29.
Speaking ahead of Spurs’ trip to Croatia, Jose Mourinho said of the Korean’s timeframe for recovery:
I don’t know, I don’t know, but of course, no chance for this one.
The Spurs boss looks to be pointing us in the direction of a (potentially tactical) no-show for Gameweek 29, discussing Son’s chances of representing South Korea over the international break:
If a player is injured and cannot play, a friendly or official, it doesn’t matter the match it is. So if we arrived next week and Sonny is injured and we can obviously prove that to the South Korean Football Association, what is he going to do there? Nothing. So if a player cannot play for the club, he cannot play for the country.
Indeed, speaking to the club media later in the day, Mourinho added:
Sonny has no chance for this match, no chance at all. I even feel it’s very doubtful for the weekend. I believe he will need the international break to recover totally.
Giovani Lo Celso‘s availability means that Spurs otherwise have a fully fit squad for the rematch with Dinamo Zagreb.
That game will be a nervous watch for owners of Harry Kane, with Mourinho confirming that the England international would feature:
If one of you ask me is he going to play tomorrow or is he going to rest, I answer already: he’s going to play. The game is open, it’s an important game for us so he plays tomorrow.
Bukayo Saka limped out of the north London derby with hamstring tightness but his chances of recovering for the Gameweek 29 clash with West Ham United look fairly positive.
Mikel Arteta said on Wednesday:
He was doing another test and obviously, he felt something muscular. But he’s been much, much better and they’ve both been really well. So we’ll make the decision this afternoon on what we’ll do.
Everyone is more or less okay. We have a few doubts but hopefully everyone will be involved in the squad.
Arteta also provided the latest on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was benched last Sunday for disciplinary reasons:
We talked, everything has been resolved in a really positive way so we move forward.
The Arsenal boss was asked about the possibility of resting key players on Thursday but said:
It’s true that we have some players with some significant loads there, but our priority now is to win these next two games and then whatever happens with international duty. If anything, they will have to adapt to what we want. We’re not going to do it the opposite way around because we are the ones that have to look after our players here every day. But at the end, we’re the ones who pay our players so if anybody has to adapt, that’s the national teams and not us.
Unlike the teams mentioned above, Manchester United are without a Premier League fixture in Gameweek 29.
The injury news from the United camp will therefore be of little interest to FPL managers in the immediate future but there are a few notable returnees for Thursday’s clash with AC Milan, with Paul Pogba, David de Gea and Donny van de Beek back in contention.
Edinson Cavani had also been named in the travelling squad but had to withdraw later in the day, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saying:
We are happy to have Donny back, Paul and David. Big players. Unfortunately, it looks like Edinson has got a bit of a reaction to training today and didn’t feel ready to travel.
Eric [Bailly] is being assessed. I might be wrong there [in saying he was out]. He might have turned around and said he’s ready but he didn’t train this morning.
Anthony Martial (hip) remains sidelined.