FPL managers have a herculean task at their hands as they try to figure out which players to keep and which ones to sell as the international break creates disruption for all.
Premier League action returns following a two-week international break, with the final verdict on a potential five-day ban to be enforced on all players who weren’t released by their clubs by football’s governing body, FIFA, yet to be declared. Although, it’s still advantageous for the clubs as they’ll have to self-isolate for a shorter period of time.
Meanwhile, those who went out on their international duties now face a 10-day quarantine period upon arrival to the UK before they join their respective clubs and take part in training sessions. Teams like Leicester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford are likely to miss up to four first-team players for two Gameweeks.
With so much uncertainty around the coming Gameweek, let’s take a look at how the teams might shape up come Saturday, 5:00 pm (IST).
Please note: At the time of writing this, there aren’t any updates on players returning from their international breaks and the during of their quarantine period. So, I’m assuming the 10-day rule will be followed.
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Crystal Palace hosts Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park in the first game of Gameweek 4. Patrick Vieira’s side have drawn two games following their opening-day defeat – a cagey 0-0 draw against Brentford and a Conor Gallagher (£5.5m) inspired 2-2 draw against West Ham.
Palace under Vieira haven’t clicked yet, and against Spurs, Vieira won’t be having Jordan Ayew (£5.9m), Jeffrey Schlupp (£5.5m) and their talisman Wilfried Zaha (£6.9m), and let’s be honest here, the Crystal Palace attack is very poor without the services of Zaha.
Tottenham and Nuno Espírito Santo have had the perfect start to their 21/22 Premier League campaign. Three wins from three matches and top of the table; life couldn’t have been better for a Spurs supporter. However, they too will be missing some key players.
Giovani Lo Celso (£5.9m) and Cristian Romero (£4.9m) are in Croatia and training, which is also on the UK’s green list. But the pair are very likely to miss their Gameweek 4 fixture. Meanwhile, Davinson Sánchez (£4.5m) will have to undergo the normal 10-day quarantine and Heung-Min Son (£10.1m), who got injured during the internationals, is doubtful.
Prediction: CRY 0-2 TOT
Arsenal v Norwich City
After a dismal start to their campaign, one will give Arsenal some slack with the number of injuries and COVID-related issues they’ve had to deal with throughout the first month of the campaign. However, Mikel Arteta will have most of his first-team absentees back for the home game against Norwich City.
Gabriel Magalhães (£5.0m), Ben White (£4.4m), Thomas Partey (£5.0m), Alexandre Lacazette (£8.4m) and Eddie Nketiah (£5.4m) will all be 100% match fit and ready for Gameweek 4, though the Gunners will certainly miss Mohamed Elneny (£4.5m) and Nicholas Pépé (£7.2m) with the 10-day quarantine period. But from hereon, the magnifying glass will be firmly set on Arteta and his team: there are no more excuses to give.
Norwich, on the other hand, exceeded my expectations and gave a good account of themselves in their 1-2 defeat to Leicester in Gameweek 3. The Canaries will not be missing any players because of the the international break and the core of the side didn’t suffer any injuries in between.
Milot Rashica (£5.4m), Todd Cantwell (£5.5m) and Teemu Pukki (£5.9m) will have their chances against the Gunners. However, I still believe Arsenal should comfortably see out the visitors and register their first points on the board.
Prediction: ARS 3-1 NOR
Brentford v Brighton & Hove Albion
Thomas Frank’s Brentford are still unbeaten in the Premier League. Five points from three games is a very good start, and facing a Brighton & Hove Albion side who aren’t that strong offensively, Brentford will fancy their chances.
Ivan Toney (£6.4m) finally broke his duck against Aston Villa and the Bees forward will be brimming with confidence ahead of their Gameweek 4 fixture. The Bees, however, will miss the services of Tariqe Fosu-Henry (£5.3m), Frank Onyeka (£5.0m) and Yoana Wissa (£6.0m).
Similar to their opponents, the Seagulls have been solid at the back, but their potency in front of the goal has been found wanting ever since last season. Moreover, they’ll miss three key players in Steven Alzate (£5.0m), Yves Bissouma (£4.6m) and Enock Mwepu (£5.9m).
Brighton’s midfield will certainly be weaker with so many absentees and the Bees might just edge it with the crowd behind them.
Prediction: BRE 1-0 BHA
Leicester City v Manchester City
Leicester welcome the Champions at the King Power Stadium following the international break. And the Foxes will be wary of the task at their hands as the Cityzens embarrassed Arsenal 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium before the break.
And to pile on more misery on Brendan Rodgers, just as he was about to get one centre-half back in the shape of Johnny Evans (£5.4m), he will have two more spending ten days on the sideline as a mandatory quarantine rule; both Daniel Amartey (£4.0m) and Çağlar Söyüncü (£5.5m) will miss the game against City, with the attacking duo of Patson Daka (£7.2m) and Kalechi Iheanacho (£7.2m) and midfielder Wilfred Ndidi (£5.0m) all sidelined at least for Gameweek 4 with the same conundrum.
Manchester City, on the other hand, will miss the services of their Brazilian duo Ederson Moraes (£6.0m) and Gabriel Jesus (£8.4m), but the Blue Moons have enough depth in their squad to counter such situations with Zack Steffen (£4.5m) and Riyad Mahrez (£8.9m) the respective like-for-like replacements. Along with Mahrez, players like İlkay Gündoğan (£7.3m), Jack Grealish (£8.0m) and Ferran Torres (£7.1m) should seal the match for City.
Prediction: LEI 0-3 MCI
Manchester United v Newcastle United
The red half of Manchester has been in a festive mood ever since Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) put pen to paper and the party will carry on well into Saturday’s 7:30 pm (IST) kickoff.
However, the arrival of one Portuguese has resulted in the other one getting quickly discarded; Bruno Fernandes (£12.0m) owners didn’t even wait for the conclusion of the international break as they jumped at the first opportunity to swap the duo.
In the meantime, like most clubs, United too will miss some players, namely, Eric Bailey (£5.0m), Edison Cavani (£8.4m) and Fred (£5.0m).
Newcastle United have had a tough start to their campaign and the Magpies couldn’t have hoped for a worst fixture to resume proceedings. Newcastle’s backline issues have been a never-ending worry for Steve Bruce and containing United at Old Trafford, in Ronaldo’s second debut, looks implausible for the Magpies. I don’t see Newcastle getting anything out of this fixture.
Prediction: MUN 2-0 NEW
Southampton v West Ham United
The Saints somehow managed to leave St. James’ Park with a point after a 96th-minute penalty from James Ward-Prowse (£6.5m) in their last outing. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s team have managed to score two points from their opening three fixtures. Adam Armstrong (£6.0m), their £15m Danny Ings (£8.0m) replacement, has shown positive signs so far and is gradually developing a partnership with Che Adams (£7.0m). Moussa Djenepo (£5.5m) will be the only casualty from the international break as the Saints look to register their first win of the season.
West Ham United have scored 10 goals in their opening three games but have also conceded five on the other end. They are yet to keep a clean sheet, and against the Saints, I don’t see that changing. However, I do believe they have the firepower to outscore Southampton and win the tie.
Michail Antonio (£7.9m) and Saïd Benrahma (£6.4m) have been the star performers, but players like Pablo Fornals (£6.0m) and Jarred Bowen (£6.4m) have also produced excellent performances but have gone slightly under the radar.
Prediction: SOU 1-3 WHU
Watford v Wolverhampton Wanderers
After their opening-day 3-2 win against Aston Villa, the hype around Watford and their assets has dwindled significantly. They have lost twice since then without any reply, and against Wolves they will be without several players like Emmanuel Dennis (£5.2m), Peter Etebo (£4.5m), Francisco Sierralta (£4.4m), William Trost-Ekong (£4.5m) and Ozan Tufan (£5.0m). Xisco Muñoz will have to rely on the brilliance of his pacey winger Ismaïla Sarr (£6.0m) for any attacking output.
Wolverhampton Wanderers surely must be feeling the pressure of breaking their duck. Moreover, their attacking trio of Adama Traoré (£6.0m), Raul Jiménez (£7.4m) and Francisco Trincão (£5.9m) have had plenty of shots and chances that have gone begging. Willy Boly (£4.9m) and Yerson Mosquera (£4.5m) are the only absentees for Bruno Lage, which shouldn’t trouble him much with his team selection. A victory against Watford will certainly kick start their campaign.
Prediction: WAT 0-2 WOL
Chelsea v Aston Villa
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea are definitely title contenders following their 1-1 draw at Anfield. They played the entire second half with 10 men and Liverpool never looked like creating substantial goal-scoring opportunities. That speaks volumes.
Chelsea will be hosting an Aston Villa side who are void of ideas both defensively and offensively. Although nothing can be taken for granted, playing Villa at this time should be a walk in the park for Tuchel’s side. Romelu Lukaku (£11.5m), Kai Havertz (£8.3m) and Mason Mount (£7.5m) should all be in the thick of the action.
Villa, on the other hand, are likely to field a side without their Argentine stars Emiliano Martínez (£5.5m) and Emiliano Buendía (£6.4m), both of whom were at the centre of controversy and were deported to Croatia following a breach of quarantine rules. Without their star keeper, things could get really ugly for Dean Smith’s side. Their attack doesn’t have the fluidity and their defence has no structure; that’s a pretty dark place, something any footballer or manager would like to avoid.
Prediction: CHE 5-0 AVL
Leeds United v Liverpool
Leeds United will definitely miss their star player Raphinha (£6.5m) if FIFA decides to enforce that five-day ban. Apart from that, only Hélder Costa will be the other absentee from their Gameweek 4 team sheet.
However, even if Leeds did have both the players available for selection, overcoming this Liverpool side would be easier said than done. That doesn’t mean they can’t score or put up a fight; they can and certainly will. Players like Patrick Bamford (£7.9m), Jack Harrison (£5.9m), Mateusz Klich (£5.5m) and Stuart Dallas (£5.0m) will look to make life difficult for the Liverpool defence.
Liverpool, on the other hand, are already without Roberto Firmino (£8.8m) after he suffered an injury against Chelsea, and they are now expected to lose both Allison Becker (£6.0m) and Fabinho (£5.4m) for this Gameweek as the club blocked the players from representing their country. In such a case, a clean sheet looks unlikely. However, on the attacking front, it should be Diogo Jota (£7.6m) and Sadio Mané (£11.9m) doing the bulk of the work.
Prediction: LEE 1-2 LIV
Everton v Burnley
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s (£8.2m) injury will be a huge blow for Everton. Under Rafael Benítez, the 24-year-old has become the focal point of the Everton attack and his absence cannot be dealt with easily. The Toffees forward suffered a foot injury against Brighton and limped off the ground, which after scans turned out to be a broken toe. Moreover, Benítez will have to do without the services of Richarlison (£7.5m), who like the other seven Brazilians was blocked by his club from representing his country.
Burnley are the only side not to have any absentees following the international break. The Clarets, on their part, have played decent football with the limited resources they have. They earned a hard-fought draw against Leeds at Turf Moor with Dwight McNeil (£5.9m) shining for them, while Chris Wood (£6.9m) scored the equaliser to seal the point.
With Everton likely to miss some key players, Sean Dyche will be looking to mastermind a vital win against a top-half opponent.
Prediction: EVE 1-1 BUR