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In all my years of working within fantasy football and covering player availability. This game week feels like no other, with the possibility of over 120 Premier League players potentially missing out. COVID, quarantine, suspension, injury, fatigue, internationals, red list, amber list, late returners and even FIFA conspire to mess with our best-laid plans. If there was ever a time to keep following for updates, then this is it… Decisions on eligibility could go down to the wire!
BREAKING NEWS: FIFA has cleared players who were called up by Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Paraguay during the international break to play in the Premier League this weekend.
The international break came at a great time for the Gunners allowing Mikel Arteta to welcome several players back into the squad. "Hopefully, by Saturday, we will have a different team." Ben White, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah have all rejoined the group. "I'm really looking forward to having everyone available and to try to start the season the way we want." Mo Elneny (hamstring) and Granit Xhaka (COVID-19 and suspension) are the only definite absentees. Still, there are question marks over Sead Kolasinac and Emile Smith-Rowe, who was released from the England under-21 squad. "He's carrying an illness. He's not been feeling good. Let's see how he is in the next couple of days." The club faces a race against time to register new signing Takehiro Tomiyasu. "We need a work permit first. Tomiyasu has the ability to play anywhere in a back four. He gives us different qualities in that right-back position. He brings qualities that we didn't have in the squad."
After a knee problem, Ollie Watkins will be welcomed back into the fold, and Leon Bailey is fully fit after a niggling hamstring issue. "Bertrand Traoré has trained in the last couple of days," revealed Dean Smith. John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey have recovered from COVID-19, but Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez will miss out after playing for Argentina. "They're back in a green zone country (Croatia) and working hard to get ready for Everton next week." There was no word on the fitness of Ezri Konsa, although he has been spotted on the training pitches, albeit with taping around his left knee.
Frank Onyeka is back in the frame after recovering from COVID-19, meaning Thomas Franks has close to an entire squad to choose from. Mathias Jenson and Shandon Baptiste benefited from minutes over the break, while Joshua Dasilva and Mads Sorensen remain out long-term.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Graham Potter was still waiting for a few players to return post-internationals at the time of Thursdays' press conference, but "everyone else has come back well." Tariq Lamptey is targeting a return later this month in the Carabao Cup after coming through an internal 11v11 game. Solly March is available, but his involvement will probably come from the bench after a hamstring issue. Aaron Connolly hopes to shake off the glute issue that prevented him from lining up with the Republic of Ireland. New signing Marc Cucurella will be involved in some capacity after making a "good impression" since his arrival, and the Brighton boss confirms Jurgen Locadia is back after a spell in the MLS: "He's been training, and it's just about getting him up to speed. He's got his qualities and what he brings to the side, so he's competing for his place." Saturday comes too soon for Dan Burn.
Overall, Sean Dyche can be happy with his business during the transfer window, although there are some concerns over the availability of his new signings. Maxwel Cornet picked up a "bit of a dead leg" playing for the Ivory Coast, and Nathan Collins was released from the Republic of Ireland squad. "He's better than we thought. We'll make a decision over the next couple of days. He's on the grass already, and he's active with the physios. It's favourable news." Connor Roberts is slightly ahead of schedule after surgery to rectify a groin complaint, and the Welshman could return later this month. Dale Stephens and Kevin Long continue to progress.
Romelu Lukaku has trained following an injury scare with Belgium, but Christian Pulisic returned from representing USMNT on crutches. Fortunately, his ankle problem does not appear too severe, and the winger could be back within 10-14 days. Saturday is too soon for N'Golo Kanté, with the Champions League tie on Tuesday a more realistic target. Reece James serves a one-match ban, and Thiago Silva will sit this one out after Brazil invoked FIFA's five-day rule for his failure to attend the recent internationals.
Patrick Vieira reveals Jeffrey Schlupp returned from international duty with a hamstring injury. "Everyone else is back fit." Eberechi Eze and Nathan Ferguson are progressing, but it will be some time before either player is ready to train with the team. Michael Olise will be involved for the first time since arriving from Reading in the summer, while Will Hughes and Odsonne Edouard will add some much-needed depth and quality to the squad.
Rafa Benitez confirms the injury suffered by captain Seamus Coleman is "not very bad", and the full-back is expected to recover in time for Monday. The Toffees backline will be further boosted by the return of Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey. Fabian Delph (shoulder) is the only long-term injury with Tom Davies "very close" after missing the win over Brighton. James Rodriguez is training with the team at Finch Farm, although he isn't ready for a return to action. "Match fitness means that he will have to play games in a row, so, at the moment, he is a little bit behind the others." Richarlison is available despite missing Brazil's recent World Cup qualifiers: "I think that we are in a much better position than anyone because we allowed him to go to the Olympic games. We have a very good relationship with the Brazilian Federation." There was no mention of Dominic Calvert-Lewin on Friday, but the Toffees striker is taking part in full training following his withdrawal from the England squad due to toe and thigh niggles.
A pelvic problem continues to hinder Robin Koch, and he is the only definite missing player at the time of writing. There is still hope that common sense will prevail and Raphinha can be cleared. New signing Dan James could be a like for like replacement if the Brazilian misses out: "He's a player who can play on either side, that combines his ability to unbalance the opponent. It's been two years since the first contact I had with his game, and he's maintained these characteristics in a higher competition." Stuart Dallas, Júnior Firpo and Mateusz Klich are all available.
The Foxes treatment room is slowly beginning to clear. "We have most of our players now back and available; obviously, some are still short on fitness," said Brendan Rodgers. "Jonny Evans and Jannik Vestergaard are progressing very, very well. We've had a good international break with getting players [game time] and increasing their fitness level, so hopefully, all those players should be fit and available." James Justin and Wesley Fofana are the only players ruled out through injury, with Ayoze Pérez serving the second game of his ban. Ryan Bertrand will be hoping to make his debut, and Ricardo Pereira trained well on Thursday after recovering from the hamstring issue, which forced him off at Carrow Road.
Regardless of the FIFA ruling, Roberto Firmino will be missing on Sunday as he's still nursing the hamstring injury which forced him off in game week three. Compatriots Fabinho and Alisson are still hopeful that ongoing discussions can reach a positive climax. "We should not forget in this moment that the players wanted to play these games. The clubs wanted to let players go, but it was just not possible," said Jurgen Klopp. "It looks like the real punishment is for the players because they can't play." Virgil Van Dijk is fine after taking a knock against Turkey, and Harvey Elliott has been cleared despite his release from the England under-21 set up. James Milner may rejoin the squad after missing the last two.
Phil Foden had his first full training session on Thursday, which indicates that he is unlikely to be ready, having been out since suffering a setback with England at the Euros. Kevin De Bruyne could be back, though, having enjoyed minutes with the under-18s during the break. Ederson is currently ineligible, and with Zach Steffen (COVID) still in the US, veteran goalkeeper Scott Carson could start between the sticks. Riyad Mahrez is the likely replacement for Gabriel Jesus should FIFA rule against the easing of restrictions that see both Brazilians banned.
Scott McTominay has recovered from groin surgery and can be called upon if required, but Solskjaer may choose not to take the risk with other options at his disposal. Brazilian Fred could miss out on Saturday and in the Champions League next week. Ole was giving nothing away when asked if Ronaldo would start on his return. "He's been having a good pre-season with Juventus; he's played for the national team, he's had a good week with us here. He'll definitely be on the pitch at some point, that's for sure." Elsewhere in the squad, Jadon Sancho is over a minor knock, and Dean Henderson is no longer feeling the after-effects of COVID. Alex Telles is not 100 per cent and may not return until the end of the month.
"Callum Wilson won't make the weekend, unfortunately, with his thigh injury," mused Steve Bruce. "We're not going to put a timescale on it. It's really frustrating for Callum and for us. We've just got to give it as long as it needs." Ryan Fraser is also missing, although fears of a lengthy absence have been allayed after leaving the Scotland camp in a protective boot. "He's twisted his ankle, but it doesn't look as bad as the pictures of him on crutches would suggest - it's only precautionary." Newcastle have come to an agreement with Paraguay, meaning Miguel Almirón is available, and goalkeeper Karl Darlow has been training for the last ten days. "There's been a big improvement from him, which we're all delighted about. He's put himself in contention, but we'll make that decision in the next 24 hours. We're pleased he's back training and looks a bit more like himself."
Daniel Farke admits team selection "is a bit tricky" with many internationals delayed. "There will be some late decisions, but definitely out will be Christoph Zimmermann with an ankle problem and Dimitris Giannoulis with back and neck issues." Kenny McLean is in team training after complaining of a knee issue, and Christos Tzolis should be okay if his calf doesn't react in the final session. Josh Sargent is a significant doubt due to the quick turnaround between his World Cup qualifier for the USA and a niggling hamstring problem that may not be risked. Bali Mumba and Przemyslaw Placheta are poised for a return.
Everybody returned from international duty unscathed, except for Shane Long, who is self-isolating because of a positive COVID-19 test. Long-term absentee Will Smallbone has stepped up his recovery and will take part in aspects of team training, but Stuart Armstrong "will take a little more time" as his calf injury continues to hamper him. Theo Walcott is ruled out after suffering a minor muscle problem; otherwise, the Saints should be okay.
Nuno didn't sound confident on Heung-Min Son, although he wouldn't go as far as ruling him out completely. "He came with some issues. Sonny is not so well, but let's wait for the club to make the announcement and explain to you better what kind of injury he has." Giovani Lo Celso, Cristian Romero and Davinson Sánchez are now isolating in Croatia after playing in World Cup qualifiers for Argentina and Colombia, respectively. Oliver Skipp, Ryan Sessegnon and Steven Bergwijn need to be checked after picking up knocks, while Tanguy Ndombele could come in from the cold to bolster numbers.
The Hornets were still waiting on several players returning from international duty at the time of Thursdays' press conference, but for now... Striker João Pedro (knee), who has been out of action since mid-July, is back in full training, and he will be assessed ahead of the game against Wolves. A hamstring issue continues to hamper goalkeeper Ben Foster, and he will miss out again. The veteran stopper should return to the training pitches from next week. Defender Kiko Femenía is working with the medical team to recover full fitness following the groin injury he suffered at the end of last season. New signing Ozan Tufan reported for training on Wednesday after featuring for Turkey. Watford are involved in ongoing discussions regarding Francisco Sierralta's availability after the club refused to release him for Chile's World Cup qualifying matches against Brazil and Ecuador.
West Ham United
David Moyes was able to provide a positive update ahead of his sides trip to St Mary's. "I think most things are all good. Obviously, we've got new players in as well. It feels a bit like a fresh start actually, getting the boys back from international duty, but I think we're all in good shape." New signings Zouma and Vlasic will be hoping to make an impression. "Kurt is obviously a well-seasoned professional and is still young for a centre-half. His best days are still ahead of him. Vlasic is young, 23, on the up and hungry to prove himself, so I hope they both become really good additions to the squad." Arthur Masuaku is ready after building fitness with the under-23s.
Bruno Lage confirms Wolves have come to an agreement with the Mexican Football Federation over the availability of Raúl Jiménez: "I think it's a good decision for everyone, especially for Mexico." Willy Boly was handed minutes for the Ivory Coast to boost his fitness levels, and Daniel Podence is better for having another two weeks of training, having recently returned from injury.