By: Karl Tippins
The final round of fixtures in the Euro 2016 qualifying group stage takes place tonight. There is little up for grabs and few opportunities for headlines, save the likely failure of the Netherlands to qualify for the first time since 1984 – if the Dutch are seeking solace they would come back to win the tournament in 1988 – but an injury cloud has been cast over the English Premier League during the last week of internationals.
Key players at a number of Premier League clubs have suffered injuries, while a small number playing this evening will have their managers looking anxiously at the television, particularly given the short turnaround of three days before the weekend.
Manchester City and Belgium captain Vincent Kompany is the most notable one to watch tonight. While City boss Manuel Pellegrini had already told Belgium counterpart Marc Wilmots that Kompany couldn’t play, it is expected the skipper will play at least 60 minutes in tonight’s fixture against Israel. City have not explicitly asked Belgium not to play Kompany this evening, but it is understood they are monitoring the situation with concern.
Wilmots told Sky Sports, "It is the last game at home and Vincent wants to play. I don't take a risk with Kompany, no club in the world can say I take risks with my players. It's not true, we don't take risks."
City’s concern is understandable considering two of their other key men have already been stretchered off in recent days playing for their countries. Argentina’s Sergio Aguero, who finally hit form as City thumped Newcastle 6-1 last weekend, was reduced to tears as he was carried off against Ecuador, while Spanish talisman David Silva was the victim of what at best can be described as a journeyman tackle against Luxembourg.
Aleksandar Kolarov also looked to be carrying a knock prior to getting sent off in Serbia’s bad tempered fixture with Portugal.
The Citizens are not the only Premier League club to have been hit with injuries during these recent internationals. Neighbours United saw Bastian Schweinsteiger sit out Germany’s defeat to Ireland with a thigh strain, while captain Wayne Rooney has played neither game for England, though both are expected to be fit to play this weekend.
Liverpool and new manager Jürgen Klopp will hope Phillipe Coutinho is fit for Saturday lunchtime after returning early from Brazil duty with an injury, though he has trained earlier this week. Klopp may however be looking to assess the fitness of all his players come Wednesday, which should be the first time he has all his fit players together for training.
Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul has been the most unfortunate victim, damaging knee ligaments in the Netherlands’ victory in Kazakhstan and subsequently being ruled out for the rest of the season.
Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic – another Serb – limped off in his country’s previous game against Albania, though given his form this season that could prove a blessing in disguise for the Blues.
Expect to see some depleted line-ups in the Premier League this weekend, though managers will be hoping nothing more changes between this evening and getting all their players together on Wednesday afternoon.