Premier League returns: Liverpool’s Mane worry, Pogba’s comeback?

The ESPN FC crew hand out their grades for the season so far.
The ESPN FC crew hand out their grades for the season so far.
The ESPN FC crew hand out their grades for the season so far.
The ESPN FC crew hand out their grades for the season so far.
The ESPN FC crew hand out their grades for the season so far.
The ESPN FC crew hand out their grades for the season so far.

How has each of the top clubs in the Premier League fared over the international break? We asked our correspondents to give a health check.


City didn't have any players involved in the World Cup playoffs but did have 13 of their squad called up for international friendlies. Defenders John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi were the only two to play two full matches but the Argentinian is at least set for a rest this weekend when he sits out the game with Leicester City through suspension. Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus both started two matches but remained in Europe, which should curb the impact of fatigue, while Ilkay Gundogan will benefit form starting both games for Germany as he tries to get back to 100 percent fitness. Sergio Aguero will face tests after a dizzy spell with Argentina while Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling withdrew from call-ups with minor injuries.

Health rating: 8/10 — Benjamin Mendy's cruciate knee ligament injury was a major setback with Pep Guardiola short of options at left-back while a two-month setback for Vincent Kompany has restored questions about his reliability. — Jonathan Smith.


United had 13 players on international duty during the break. Victor Lindelof and Matteo Darmian were involved in the Sweden vs. Italy playoff while Romelu Lukaku became Belgium's record scorer with goals against Mexico and Japan. Nemanja Matic was allowed to miss Serbia's friendlies against South Korea and China and players not on international duty like Chris Smalling and Ander Herrera were given a week off by Jose Mourinho. Phil Jones is the only new injury concern after he limped off with a thigh injury during England's 0-0 draw with Germany. He returned to Carrington over the weekend and there is hope he could still be fit to face Newcastle at Old Trafford on Saturday. Paul Pogba, meanwhile, wasn't called up to the France squad as he continues his recovery after suffering a hamstring injury in September. He should be back soon.

Health rating: 7 — The injury problems that have dogged the last two months are beginning to clear. — Rob Dawson.

Paul Pogba is expected back soon following a hamstring injury.


Hugo Lloris (groin), Toby Alderweireld (hamstring), Harry Kane (knee), Harry Winks (ankle) and Dele Alli (hamstring) all missed the internationals but the England trio, at least, are expected to be fit for Saturday's north London derby. Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose and captain Eric Dier did play in England's 0-0 draws with Germany and Brazil, while Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Son Heung-Min, Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies also featured for their countries. Christian Eriksen was Denmark's hero with a stunning hat trick in the 5-1 win against the Republic of Ireland, clinching their place at the World Cup. Back at Hotspur Way, Victor Wanyama (knee) stepped up his comeback to training, while Michel Vorm has been struggling with his knee. Erik Lamela (hips) continued to train fully.

Health rating: 5 — There are at least four doubts for Saturday, which is too many for comfort given the magnitude of the trip to Arsenal. — Dan Kilpatrick.


Chelsea players experienced contrasting emotions in the World Cup playoffs. Davide Zappacosta was an unused substitute as Italy suffered the humiliation of being eliminated by Sweden, while Andreas Christensen started at right-back in Dublin as Denmark trounced Republic of Ireland 5-1 to book their place in style.

On the friendly front, on-loan academy prospects Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham both made their England debuts against Germany and featured against Brazil, while 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu earned his first caps for Wales.

Alvaro Morata, Willian and Antonio Rudiger were all in action for Spain, Brazil and Germany respectively, but Gary Cahill missed both of England's friendlies with a back injury and Eden Hazard sat out Belgium's friendly against Japan with a knock — though his problem is not considered serious.

Injured pair Victor Moses and Danny Drinkwater trained at Cobham along with big names not called up by their countries, including N'Golo Kante, David Luiz, Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta.

Health rating: 7 — Moses and Drinkwater appear to be making progress and Cahill (back), Luiz (thigh) and Bakayoko (knee) are the only fresh injury concerns for Antonio Conte ahead of Saturday's away clash with West Brom. — Liam Twomey.


Arsenal's main concern after the international break is Olivier Giroud's thigh strain suffered against Wales, which could put him in doubt for the north London derby. Otherwise the break has been good to the Gunners with no other new injuries, while Danny Welbeck is ready to return from his latest layoff and with David Ospina and Shkodran Mustafi possibly in contention as well. An added bonus is that Alexis Sanchez was given a rest for once. Sanchez is normally the last player back after exhausting qualifying matches in South America, but the Chilean trained with the rest of the team on Tuesday and should be raring to go on Saturday.

Health rating: 8 — If Mustafi is back, Wenger should be able to field his entire first-choice XI against Spurs, barring any new problems. — Mattias Karen.


Liverpool headed into the international break with fitness concerns over their two best players. As it turned out, Sadio Mane was sent home from Senegal duty early after he "slightly felt his old injury", but Philippe Coutinho appears to have come through a 68-minute appearance for Brazil against England unscathed. Judging from their social media, Mohamed Salah, Daniel Sturridge and Loris Karius all used the period to go on a short holiday, while Joe Gomez and Dominic Solanke made their England debuts.

Meanwhile, Simon Mignolet, Emre Can, Dejan Lovren, Marko Grujic, Danny Ward, Ben Woodburn, Andrew Robertson, Alberto Moreno and Georginio Wijnaldum all featured for their countries over the break.

Health rating: 6 — Liverpool are sweating over Mane and will now be without Nathaniel Clyne (back) for around three months, but Adam Lallana is close to making a comeback. — Glenn Price.

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