Alejandro Garnacho’s last minute goal, rescuing 3 valuable points for Manchester United against Fulham on Sunday 13th November, was the last piece of Premier League action before the season took an unprecedented six-week mid-season break to make way for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
With the final of the tournament scheduled for Sunday 18th December, the Premier League season will remain on pause until fixtures resume on December 26th– a mere 8 days after the World Cup final.
Next Round of Premier League Matches:
Brentford vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Crystal Palace vs. Fulham
Everton vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Leicester City vs. Newcastle United
Southampton vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Aston Villa vs. Liverpool
Arsenal vs. West Ham United
Chelsea vs. AFC Bournemouth
Manchester United vs. Nottingham Forest
Leeds United vs. Manchester City
Arsenal currently sit top of the league with a five point gap to second placed Manchester City, while Newcastle, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Liverpool make up the rest of the top six. All of them remain in contention for the title with plenty of games left to play, but with the World Cup taking 133 Premier League players to Qatar, who will be the winners and losers when the season resumes?
Arsenal will be top at Christmas for the first time since the 2007-08 season, with their 37 points from 14 games marking their best-ever start. Previously, all seven teams to win 12 of their first 14 games have gone on to win the Premier League title.
Arsenal has 9 players in Qatar, and injuries to any of them will be a huge blow, especially their attacking Brazilian duo. But the Gunners can at least be grateful that their playmaker Martin Odegaard, who has been a big influence this season, did not qualify with Norway and will be raring to go when the season resumes.
Arsenal has a tough run of games in January with title contenders Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United all to come. If they get through that fixture list still top of the table and with their World Cup players back in the fold, it is likely that they will be odds on favourites for the Premier League.
Current champions Manchester City has lost the most players to the World Cup, with 16 members of their first team squad currently in Qatar. Only Erling Haaland and Riyad Mahrez are the big names who remain at home.
A trip to Elland Road to play Leeds awaits them on their first game back, and it will be a stern test of their title credentials in front of a passionate home crowd. Chelsea and United await them in January too, as the fixtures come thick and fast.
With so many players missing, City arguably have most to lose from this World Cup, with many of their players sure to go deep into the tournament and therefore ruling them out for several weeks. But buoyed by news of Guardiola’s new two-year contract and a rested Erling Haaland, City will push Arsenal all the way and remain many people’s favourites for the title.
For many UK punters, Manchester City is the preferred team of winning the Premier League and is the current favourite at most major online gambling providers with Arsenal following closely behind.
Key players in Qatar
Arsenal – 9 players
Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli (both Brazil), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan), Granit Xhaka (Switzerland), William Saliba (France), Matt Turner (USA), Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Bukayo Saka (all England).
Chelsea – 12 players
Mateo Kovacic (Croatia), Thiago Silva (Brazil), Denis Zakaria (Switzerland), Christian Pulisic (USA), Hakim Ziyech (Morocco), Kai Havertz (Germany), Mason Mount, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling (all England), Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly (both Senegal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Spain).
Liverpool – 7 players
Alisson, Fabinho (both Brazil), Ibrahima Konate (France), Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson (both England), Darwin Nunez (Uruguay), Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands).
Manchester City – 16 players
Manuel Akanji (Switzerland), Ederson (Brazil), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Ilkay Gundogan (Germany), John Stones, Kyle Walker, Kalvin Phillips, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish (England), Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva (all Portugal), Nathan Ake (Netherlands), Aymeric Laporte and Rodri (both Spain), Julian Alvarez (Argentina).
Manchester United – 13 players
Antony, Casemiro, Fred (all Brazil), Christian Eriksen (Denmark), Raphael Varane (France), Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford (all England), Diogo Dalot, Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Facundo Pellistri (Uruguay), Tyrell Malacia (Netherlands), Lisandro Martinez (Argentina).
Newcastle United – 5 players
Bruno Guimaraes (Brazil), Fabian Schar (Switzerland), Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Callum Wilson (all England).
Tottenham Hotspur – 11 players
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Denmark), Ivan Perisic (Croatia), Richarlison (Brazil), Ben Davies (Wales), Hugo Lloris (France), Eric Dier, Harry Kane (both England), Rodrigo Bentancur (Uruguay), Pape Matar Sarr (Senegal), Cristian Romero (Argentina), Son Heung-min (South Korea).
Along with Arsenal, Newcastle is this season’s surprise team, and find themselves sitting in third place in the league table. No doubt manager Eddie Howe would have liked the season to have continued and he’ll be hoping his key players return from international duty unscathed.
One big advantage for Newcastle, however, is that the bulk of their squad remains at home, allowing them to get a much needed rest. It also gives them time to get their big money signing Isaak, fit and healthy for the games ahead.
Can they kick on and maintain their early season form when the season restarts? A lot depends on key men Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes returning injury free, but with only Arsenal to face in January, the rest of their fixtures look like maintaining the Geordie feel good factor.
Spurs have lost 11 players during the mid-season break, and an early injury to England Captain Harry Kane vs Iran, will have had them sweating over their star striker’s fitness. Manager Antonio Conte was already complaining that Kane was tired before the World Cup started, so if England go deep in the tournament, Spurs potentially face losing their talisman for several weeks. With a small squad to choose from, Spurs can’t afford to lose their big players or they face slipping out of the top four.
With so many teams in with a chance of winning the title and a World Cup effecting some teams more than others, this season promises to be more exciting and unpredictable than ever before.
Founder and editor of Footiecentral. A voracious reader who loves reading anything and everything related to the history of football. He’s an ardent supporter of Manchester United and rarely misses a match.