Fans and managers both must hate international breaks. Not only do they break the momentum of club football that fans are addicted to, but they also halt the momentum that a team has built over the past few games. And these are the best-case scenarios. If a team has poor luck, then these two are the least of its problems. Invariably such teams end up losing one or more of their key men in these international breaks, throwing huge spanners in their works.
Injuries can and do happen even when playing for the club, but in that case, it is the club’s responsibility. In the case of an international break, that kind of visibility to the club is missing. Jose Mourinho must be stressed right now that Romelu Lukaku might play on Tuesday night, despite not being fit completely. This despite Belgium having already qualified for the World Cup in Russia and Manchester United having a lunchtime kickoff game against their arch-rivals Liverpool on Saturday.
Hopefully, for Mourinho, Lukaku might still make it to the starting lineup at Anfield. But, several Premier League teams have already faced numerous injury scares in the current international break. This is a roundup of how those injuries will impact some of the biggest clubs in the Premier League.
If Lukaku becomes unavailable on Saturday, it is not Manchester United’s only problem. During this international break, they have already lost a defender and a central midfielder to injuries. Marouane Fellaini is crucial to Mourinho’s plans, especially defensive ones. But an injury he suffered on 7th October, might keep him out for three weeks. Those three weeks include matches against Liverpool and Spurs – exactly the teams against which the tall Belgian is useful.
Central defender Phil Jones could also be sidelined, at least for the Liverpool clash. He pulled out of the England camp at the start of the break. If on top of this, even Lukaku gets injured then Mourinho will be at his wits’ end. He might be forced to play a three at the back in the absence of both Fellaini and Pogba.
If Manchester United are not having a great international break, then their opponents on Saturday also do not have it much better. Till Tuesday evening, none of Liverpool’s internationals had been injured. But on Tuesday evening, their luck ran out. Sadio Mane, who by many is considered to be the best player in this Liverpool lineup, injured his hamstring on duty for Senegal. Sadio Mane’s absence really hurts Liverpool as his three-match ban in September amply showed the Reds. Arguably, Mane will be a bigger miss for Liverpool than Fellaini or Jones will be for Manchester United.
As the international break was about to start, Chelsea lost their primary striker – Alvaro Morata. The Spaniard injured his hamstring in the game against Manchester City. Then Antonio Conte got the news on 7th October that his team’s only functional midfielder – N’Golo Kante also got injured in France’s qualifier with Bulgaria. With Danny Drinkwater also unsure of a start versus Crystal Palace on Saturday, Conte’s midfield problems do not seem to subside at all.
Arsenal have now started to play the three at the back formation well. But just as they have got the hang of it, they have lost one of those three central defenders. Shkodran Mustafi got injured in Germany’s qualifier against Azerbaijan over the weekend, and his injury is termed to be a “serious muscle” injury by the German camp. This is bad news for Wenger who was looking to build on a successful September.
Of course, these are not the only teams whose players have been injured in the international break. But I do feel that the injured players mentioned here – rather their absence will hurt their clubs’ prospects of meeting their pre-season aspirations the most. All of them want to be at least top-four – Chelsea would love to defend their title, Liverpool stabilise in the top-four and Mourinho would love to win the title. Depending on how the replacements perform or how the managers alter their plans, these teams will most likely see a dip in their performances.