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International Break Review

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With this overexciting international break now finally behind us, let’s go over the latest goalscorers, absentees and players in and out of form.

Italy v Sweden - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg
There will be a new, strong Italian team soon, very soon... But they will miss next year’s World Cup finals, and we will miss them.
Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Have you been waiting for this international break to be over and not return until March as much as I have? If yes, here are the two statements that describe what happened:

As has been rumored, perhaps team USA can play Italy and the other big teams who were left out in an international competition next summer while better national sides vie in Russia for the world’s most coveted sports title.

With the formalities now covered, let’s jump right to the latest performances and team news to see if your fantasy selections are now at risk:

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Arsenal

  • It’s an interesting time for Arsene Wenger as both of his French hitmen found the net for their national team. Olivier Giroud did it once against Wales and Alexandre Lacazette twice against Germany. Shall he start both as one of my French friends suggests? Giroud is out.
  • Alex Iwobi scored two against Argentina and is growing in confidence.
  • Fantasy favorites Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey are fit and available for selection.

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Bournemouth

  • I tried hard, but no, there’s nothing to share for the Cherries team.

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Brighton

  • Duffy played in both games for Ireland, scoring one goal with a strong header.
  • Matt Ryan in net helped Australia qualify for the World Cup next year.

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Burnley

  • Chris Wood just played as far away as Peru and is a risk in my view to start on Saturday.
  • Stephen Ward played in both games for Ireland and was solid in the first game. He might have begun the Irish downfall in the second, however, when dispossessed 30 seconds prior to Eriksen’s first goal of the day.

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Chelsea

  • Alvaro Morata had a lively game against Costa Rica and scored one goal. He was rested for the second game against Russia and should be nailed on to destroy West Brom Albion’s bus on Saturday.
  • Eden Hazard scored once, starting in the first and sitting the second. Despite missing Japan’s game due to some kind of a knock, he should be fit and seemingly rounding into his best form. When will he explode?
  • Andreas Christensen played in both for Denmark and was solid. Strong appeal for a staring spot.
  • Gary Cahill was benched in both games for England and shouldn’t be happy with his current form.
  • Tiemoue Bakayoko suffered an injury in training and is now a doubt for the trip to the Hawthorns. We await Antonio Conte’s press-conference for more clarity.

Cesc Fabregas, Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta weren’t called up by Spain and had a well-deserved break.

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Crystal Palace

  • Ruben Loftus-Cheek started both for England, but managed only 34 minutes in his second game. He was subbed with a back strain and is a major doubt. I feel for him, having in mind his injury history this season. Check Roy Hodgson’s press conference to get the latest injury update.
  • Wilfried Zaha failed to make a difference for Ivory Coast, but at least he returned fit.

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Everton

  • Jordan Pickford kept a clean sheet in his game against Germany.
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson played 90 minutes in two games for Iceland and surprisingly didn’t score or assist.

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Huddersfield

  • Aaron Mooy started for Australia and recorded a solid display.
  • Jonas Lossl had no chance to start ahead of Kasper Schmeichel, but he traveled with the team.

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Leicester

  • Harry Maguire secured two blanks for England, so should be in a spirited form.
  • Islam Slimani reminded us of his existence with a goal for Algeria.
  • Riyad Mahrez was part of the Algeria’s squad, but didn’t put on a star show this time.
  • Kelechi Iheanacho scored in Nigeria’s heroic win against Argentina.
  • Kasper Schmeichel played in both legs against Ireland and recorded one clean sheet.

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Liverpool

  • Mohamed Salah was given some rest from Egypt’s friendlies and is a guaranteed starter unless there is some last minute emergency.
  • Sadio Mane is a serious doubt due to a minor setback of his hamstring injury while with Senegal. Word is he might still make it in time for Southampton’s encounter, but he will face a late fitness test
  • Simon Mignolet played the second game for Belgium against Japan and kept his goal closed.
  • Philippe Coutinho is a weird one. He misses ‘Pool’s games, but is always fit for Brazil. He started the 2nd game and lasted 68 minutes. Should be starting alongside Salah this weekend.
  • Roberto Firmino played a sorry 24 minutes for Brazil, so he should be fresh.

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Manchester City

  • Sergio Agüero scored in both for Argentina, but fainted during the break of the second game and was taken to hospital. He is now safely back to Manchester, but I don’t see him starting until they figure out what happened.
  • Gabriel Jesus played roughly 120 minutes and scored once for Brazil. He didn’t have to fly far for games played in Europe. With Agüero’s situation, Jesus should be nailed on as a starter.
  • David Silva continued his spirited season with two goals in 120 minutes for Spain. He is my season keeper.
  • Raheem Sterling & Fabian Delph both withdrew from England’s squad and are slight doubts for the weekend. Follow Pep Guardiola’s press-conference.
  • Leroy Sane was quiet for Germany and played only in one game.
  • Kevin de Bruyne (aka KDB) was in energy-saving mode (probably preparing for the Premier League Christmas period), but still played 107 minutes in two starts for Belgium.
  • Stones/Walker returned with no reported injuries and helped England secure clean sheets in both games.

Have in mind that Nicolas Otamendi will miss a trip to Leicester due to the suspension. Don’t drop, just bench.

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Man United

  • Romelu Lukaku was on fire for Belgium, scoring three goals in two starts.
  • Paul Pogba didn’t play for France, but visited the game against Germany and told his teammates that he is almost back. Official papers say that the Newcastle game might be just a bit too early for him.
  • Phil Jones picked up an injury (does he always do that when on international duty?) Jose Mourinho claims he is out.
  • Henrikh Mkhitaryan captained Armenia and scored twice, so should be fit to start.
  • Anthony Martial had a lively game against Germany and assisted Lacazette’s first goal. Still can’t consider him a starter in Mourinho’s eyes, though fit and seemingly hungry.

There is no news about the rest of the team regarding the popular picks such as David De Gea, Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and even Marouane Fellaini who are fit to start.

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Newcastle

  • Robert Elliot may miss an upcoming game as he was withdrawn from the Irish squad due to the loss of a family member.
  • Chancel Mbemba played for Congo, which proves the rumor of him falling out with Rafa Benitez.

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Southampton

  • Virgil Van Dijk played in the heart of Dutch defense and earned two clean sheets.
  • Manolo Gabbiadini got a surprising start in Italy’s crucial play-off game, but did nothing noteworthy.
  • No fresh injuries reported, only Mario Lemina is out.

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Stoke

  • Jack Butland should stop going to England’s camp as he is constantly getting injured while with them. This time it’s a broken toe.
  • Xherdan Shaqiri played in both games for Switzerland (90+80 minutes), but didn’t stand out.

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Swansea

  • Tammy Abraham played 74 minutes combined against Germany and Brazil, but didn’t do much. Expect him to be inspired for breaking into the senior ranks.

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Tottenham

  • Is Christian Eriksen now officially in the list of Top 10 midfielders in the world? For me he is. The creative Danish maestro scored a hat trick in securing his team’s trip to Russia next summer at the expense of sorry Ireland.
  • Harry Kane & Dele Alli both were withdrawn from England’s squad, but are reported to be fit for Arsenal.
  • Son Heung-Min scored two goals against Colombia and is in good shape.
  • Danny Rose & Kieran Trippier are both fit after playing one full game for England
  • Ben Davies did nothing special for Wales and should be fit, so be careful; good luck figuring out who starts.
  • Hugo Lloris & Toby Alderweireld are out, while Jan Vertonghen remains doubtful after not playing for Belgium at all.

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Watford

Calm break time for the Hornets as there are is no major news to date. Popular picks of Richarlison, Jose Holebas (aka Holevas) & Kiko Femenia are all fit and expected to start.

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West Brom

  • Nothing noteworthy happened with West Brom players. Why would there be when you play eight men in defense?

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West Ham

  • Javier Hernandez (aka Chicharito, aka Little Pea) got injured while fighting for Mexico and is now a major doubt for the struggling Hammers.
  • Argh Joe Hart argh started and kept a clean sheet against Brazil.

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Are you happy that Premier League is back? Was your team affected by the latest international news? Will Lukaku break his duck against Newcastle after his Belgium exploits? Will Pep now rest Kun after the midweek accident?

Let’s chat and thank you for reading!

Alexey