World Cup hangover a factor as Premier League returns

The Premier League returns to action on December 26 for the traditional Boxing Day fixtures, just eight days after the FIFA World Cup final in Qatar, and that will affect the team selection of several coaches in the coming days.

Arsenal’s game at home to West Ham is the standout fixture, and all eyes will be on whether Mikel Arteta’s exciting side can continue the form that took them into the World Cup break with a five-point lead over Manchester City, reports Xinhua news agency.

The big worry for Arteta is the knee injury suffered by striker Gabriel Jesus in the World Cup, which will keep him out for a significant period of time.

Meanwhile, defender William Saliba is a doubt after forming part of the France squad that participated in the World Cup final on December 18.

The World Cup is also a factor for Liverpool’s visit to Aston Villa, with Villa’s first-choice keeper Emiliano Martinez ruled out after his heroics for Argentina over the past month.

The club hopes Martinez will be available for their next match, while Philippe Coutinho and Jacob Ramsey are also both doubts for the game. Liverpool is likely to be without Ibrahima Konate after his World Cup exploits.

Brentford and Tottenham get the ball rolling on Monday, with the news that Brentford coach Thomas Frank has signed a new contract until 2027. The southwest London club is sweating to see if striker Ivan Toney could face a ban for breaking betting regulations.

Tottenham will probably be without World Cup winner Cristian Romero, while Richarlison is also out with an injury he picked up in Qatar, and the club will wait to see how Croatian forward Ivan Perisic is after his month away.

Argentina’s Alexis Mac Allister will miss out for Brighton for their south-coast derby against Southampton, who sits second from the bottom with one point from the last four matches.

Everton coach Frank Lampard survived the World Cup break, but with his side 17th in the league after three defeats in five games, he needs a win over bottom side Wolves, who now has former Sevilla, Spain and Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui in their dugout.

Newcastle United and Leicester City were the two in-form sides going into the stoppage, with Newcastle winning their last five matches, while Leicester won four from five.

A win for Newcastle would lift them up to second with Manchester City not playing until Wednesday, and Callum Wilson will lead their attack after returning in good shape from the World Cup.

There are two matches on Tuesday, with Chelsea at home to Bournemouth, who made Gary O’Neil their permanent boss during the World Cup break.

Tuesday also sees Manchester United, now without the departed Cristiano Ronaldo, at home to Nottingham Forest. Forest is recovering from a slow start to the season before the break and has two wins and two draws from their last five matches. The round of matches ends on Wednesday, with Manchester City making a short trip to play Leeds United at Elland Road.

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