The Republic of Ireland squad received an unexpected boost in the wake of what Martin O’Neill described as his worst injury crisis in three years.
Already without the suspended Robbie Brady for the Group D qualifier against Wales, O’Neill’s squad has been decimated by injury after Wes Hoolahan, Harry Arter, Shane Duffy were confirmed absentees along with Newcastle trio Ciaran Clark, Rob Elliot and Daryl Murphy. However, after all but ruling James McCarthy out earlier this week, the Everton midfielder could make a surprise appearance at the Aviva Stadium. "He is improving very quickly," O’Neill said during Thursday afternoons press conference. "He's done some work. He's feeling much better so we'll assess it." Ireland currently top the group and another victory, against the unbeaten Welsh, would see them move seven-points ahead of their rivals at the midway point of this qualification campaign.
Xherdan Shaqiri denies his lifestyle and poor diet are at the root of his ongoing calf problems.
The Swiss international was quizzed ahead of his sides World Cup qualifier with Latvia on Saturday having missed the last seven games domestically, despite being passed fit twice [GW27 vs Middlesbrough and GW29 vs Chelsea]. On both occasions, Shaqiri was withdrawn prior to kick-off after complaining of muscular discomfort. In response to questions raised about his diet, Shaqiri said: "I am a professional enough to know what I have to do. Just because I work with Coca-Cola does not mean I drink cola every day. I know how to behave." Pierre Etienne Fournier [team physio] suggested scar tissue was the cause of his ongoing issues but national coach Vladimir Petkovic only served to add fuel to the fire by saying Shaqiri must be analysed to find a solution: "Every player is responsible for his fitness. No one is with him for 24 hours, so no one knows if he stretches at twelve o'clock at night, or is eating popcorn or mince."
Jeremy Pied took a step closer to playing again by returning to full training seven months after suffering a serious knee injury.
The French defender has been limited to just 11 Premier League minutes since arriving on a free transfer from Nice in the summer, but Pied is determined to show his "teammates and the fans, and everybody who believes in me here, my best." Pied started out life as a winger and initially flourished under his then boss, Claude Puel at Lyon. However, he quickly fell out of favour after Puel was sacked, and was left languishing in the reserves, before being handed a fresh start by his former manager at Nice. Pied eventually ended up as a right-back, helping his side keep 13 clean sheets while contributing three assists. The 28-year-old arrived in England to help bolster the Saints squad who were hoping for European glory, but his injury robbed him of the opportunity of any meaningful contribution. His return to fitness could literally be ‘like a new signing’ for Southampton who still harbour ambitions of a Top 8 finish.
Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said he is targeting the summer for his return from knee surgery.
The summer signing from Borussia Dortmund sustained a cruciate ligament injury in December that required surgery, with an expected recovery time of up to nine months. But Gundogan, on tour of the United States promoting the club's friendlies this summer, said he is hoping to take part in preseason training ahead of next season: "It is getting better. It is a little bit frustrating but injuries are part of football. Unfortunately my injury is a long-term injury, it takes quite a few months to recover, but I am okay with that. That is fine for me, I work hard. I just try to do the best every day and try to come back as soon as possible on the field. Hopefully I can start pre-season."
Manchester City could still have injured forward Gabriel Jesus back for the final weeks of the season if all goes according to plan.
Gabriel Jesus sustained a broken foot in mid-February, and the initial diagnosis was that he would miss up to three months with the injury. While there is no return date set, the Brazilian forward said he still plans to return to help the club in the final weeks of the season: "It’s my first injury. Not muscle injury, but it’s the first time something happens that leaves me out of games. So it was not easy. But I saw that, of course, no one wants this to happen, but it could be worse. So we operated soon, I decided to operate and give it time...I don’t know, I have no return prediction. But I hope I can still play some games this season."
West Brom officially announced defender Jonas Olsson has left the club to return to his home country.
The club agreed to terminate the final three months of Olsson's contract so that the Swedish international can join Stockholm-based Djurgarden IF before the start of the season. The 34-year-old defender has not featured since starting against Spurs in Gameweek 21 and has been an unused substitute in every game since. In total, Olsson has made seven starts in the Premier League this season. The move to Sweden ends a nearly nine-season association with the Baggies, where he accumulated 253 appearances. Said Olsson: "I'm really grateful to the club for helping me sort out this transfer. I still feel I have a few good years in me but such is the quality of the competition at Albion for places in my position, it was getting harder and harder to see a first team opportunity."
Alexis Sanchez is expected to line-up against Argentina in the early hours of Thursday morning after being cleared to play in the World Cup qualifier.
The Arsenal supremo was rated as a major doubt on Saturday after he was forced off because of an ankle problem at West Brom, an injury which manager Arsène Wenger described as "terrible" amid fears that he had sustained ligament damage. However, following ongoing tests in Chile, it now looks like Sanchez is ready to be patched up for the decisive game in Buenos Aires: "The last news I have is that it was only the kick. I don't know if his ligament was damaged or not - it was swollen so hard to assess after the game - but it looks positive," Wenger told beIN Sports. The news will come as huge relief for Arsenal supporters who had feared that their talismanic attacker would miss the remainder of the season, although they must now contend with Sanchez playing another 180 minutes before the Premier League fixture against Man City on April 02.
Phil Jones has arrived back at the Carrington Training Complex following his release from the England squad.
Gareth Southgate confirmed on Tuesday that Jones had sustained a foot injury in training and would be returning to his club for further tests. "It was an innocuous tackle and he caught the bottom of somebody's foot. We'll know more over the next 24 to 48 hours," the Three Lions manager confirmed. Initial reports suggest that the Manchester United centre-back suffered a broken toe in a challenge with club and international teammate Chris Smalling, and if confirmed, Jones is likely to miss around six weeks ruling him out of key FA Cup, Europa League and Premier League matches. With nine games scheduled for April, Jose Mourinho can ill-afford to lose a key member of his squad, but at least United are well-stocked in this area with the aforementioned Smalling, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly all capable of playing in the heart of defence.