As always seems to be the case over international breaks, the injury flags are stacking up in Fantasy Premier League (FPL).
The pre-Gameweek 8 press conferences on Thursday and Friday will hopefully tell us more about the condition of the Premier League players who have picked up knocks, muscle strains and illnesses over the international fortnight but for those Fantasy managers thinking of making early transfers, we’ll round up what we know already here.
Romelu Lukaku (£11.7m) played no part in Belgium’s UEFA Nations League third/fourth play-off against Italy on Sunday, withdrawing from his national team’s squad ahead of that fixture with “muscle fatigue”.
Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez said of the issue in his pre-match press conference:
“Romelu Lukaku is suffering from muscle fatigue, same as Eden Hazard. They’re not in best conditions to play. They’re leaving the national team camp due to these problems – I don’t know how long it will take.”
Antonio Rüdiger (£5.8m) missed Monday’s World Cup qualifier against North Macedonia with back problems.
The Chelsea stopper was absent from Germany’s final training session before that game but national team coach Hansi Flick had played down the severity of Rudiger’s injury:
“Antonio Rudiger didn’t train as a precautionary measure, he received treatment and was doing well today.
“It was a precautionary measure. The final training was more a matter of regeneration anyway. So it was okay for him in the hotel.”
Diogo Jota (£7.6m) missed Portugal’s win over Qatar on Saturday and has subsequently withdrawn from his national team’s squad.
Portuguese website SAPO Desporto initially reported that the Liverpool man hadn’t trained with his compatriots ahead of that international friendly “due to muscle problems” but comments from Portugal head coach Fernando Santos on Monday seemed to imply that Jota isn’t too badly injured:
“He trained a while ago, increased the intensity today with [the physio] but he didn’t train with us. The probability [that Jota will play] will be little. I’ll talk to him and see how he feels.
“If we see that he is in any condition to be on the bench and then he can come in, that’s fine. If we don’t, we won’t take the risk with a player who hasn’t been able to train with us for a long time. I’ll make the decision shortly, and if he can’t play, he’ll head back to Liverpool.”
Raphael Varane (£5.5m) picked up a muscle injury in Sunday’s UEFA Nations League final against Spain, limping off shortly before half-time.
The defender was subsequently pictured with ice on his right thigh and, on Tuesday, was ruled out for “a few weeks” by his club.
Owners of Jamie Vardy (£10.5m) will be watching with interest as Manchester United could be without both first-choice centre-halves for the clash with Leicester City, as Harry Maguire (£5.4m) remains a doubt for Gameweek 8.
Missing out on France’s Nations League final success altogether was Lucas Digne (£5.3m).
The Everton left-back had previously withdrawn from his country’s squad due to a minor hamstring injury, despite being on the bench for Les Bleus’ 3-2 win over Belgium on Thursday.
The last update from the Toffees on Friday said that he would “return to USM Finch Farm to be assessed by the club’s medical team.”
Vladimír Coufal (£4.9m) withdrew from the Czech Republic’s squad last week due to a minor groin injury – presumably the same problem that initially rendered him a doubt for Gameweek 7.
West Ham United’s Head of Medical, Richard Collinge, said:
“Vladimir has a slight groin injury that has caused him some discomfort. Both ourselves and the Czech Republic medical team agreed that it would be beneficial for him to get some rest during this period, and we will manage his recovery carefully with a view to him being available for selection again as soon as possible.”
OTHER INTERNATIONAL BREAK INJURIES/ILLNESSES
Kristoffer Ajer (£4.5m), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£5.5m), Josh King (£5.5m), Mathias Normann (£4.5m), Che Adams (£6.8m), Jonny Evans (£5.4m) and Kalvin Phillips (£4.9m) have also all withdrawn from their respective national team squads but haven’t yet been ruled out of Gameweek 8.
Francisco Sierralta (£4.3m) will miss the upcoming Gameweek with a hamstring injury that forced his withdrawal from the Chile squad, however, while Francisco Trincao (£5.9m) must surely be a doubt for Wolves’ trip to Aston Villa after testing positive for Covid-19 while away with Portugal last Wednesday.
Curtis Jones (£5.0m) recovered from groin tightness to be on the bench for the England under-21s’ clash with Andorra on Monday, while Kelechi Iheanacho (£7.0m) had shaken off a knock that he picked up against Central African Republic on Thursday to feature against the same opposition on Sunday.
As reported in our international break bible, there are 17 FPL assets representing South American nations over this two-week window.
Raphinha (£6.6m), Gabriel Jesus (£8.6m) and Emiliano Martinez (£5.5m) are among them.
Since that article, the head coaches of both Argentina and Brazil have confirmed that the Premier League contingent would not be returning to their clubs early and would instead be involved in World Cup qualifiers in the early hours of Friday morning, barely 36 hours before Gameweek 8 gets underway.
“There was never that possibility [of them returning to England early]. They were called up for the three games.” – Tite, Brazil manager
“We are not going to do the same as last time with the Premier League players. Before the game with Venezuela [in the September break] I said that they came to play all three games but the players raised a difficult decision for me and I understood it, I released them.
“Now the players are here to play the three games. Under no point of view, they will leave earlier.” – Lionel Scaloni, Argentina manager
RETURNING TO ACTION IN GAMEWEEK 8?
Thursday and Friday’s pre-match press conferences will be a must-watch not just for updates on the returning internationals but for the latest on the previously sidelined players who were earmarked for a comeback after this domestic football-less fortnight.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m), Richarlison (£7.4m), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.0m), Patrick Bamford (£7.8m) and Ilkay Gundogan (£7.2m) are among the more notable names who could be poised for a Gameweek 8 return.
Klopp previously said that he “expected” Alexander-Arnold back after the international break and he has indeed been pictured in training as of Tuesday, while Pep Guardiola was “hopeful” on Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.3m) likewise being available.
Bielsa’s timeline of a month for Bamford suggests he could be nearing a return in Gameweek 8, while Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison had already been on the grass around the time of Gameweek 7 so should be close to a playing comeback.
A raft of Newcastle players, including Callum Wilson (£7.3m), were also anticipated to be back on the training ground.